Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 7

Written by: Martin Angus

Photos by: Sofia Bodniza

Today was our rest day, if you can call it that! Our coordinators skipped no steps when it came to planning out an exciting day of shopping, eating and traveling around Ecuador. We began our day with an hour long bus ride to enjoy breakfast at the beautiful Cafe de la Vaca (Cafe of the Cow) where we ziplined as we waited for our meals to be prepared. That’s right, we ziplined as we waited for our food! The restaurant was way in the hills of Cayambe surrounded by cow farms, banana farms and rose grow houses. The scenery was breathtaking.

After breakfast we headed to Ovatalo to the flea market to grab souvenirs for ourselves and our loved ones. The handmade hats, textiles, trinkets, jewelries, and leathers were exquisite! Following the flea market we hiked our way to a beautiful waterfall where we took photos with Llama’s, visited a small Inca museum and absorbed the wilds of Ecuador.

For dinner, we capped the day off with an enchanting meal at Puertolago, a lake on the outskirts of Quito. Ecuador showed us it’s brilliance today in full majesty! God is good!

We are thankful for the opportunity to have seen more of Ecuador and look forward to getting back to work tomorrow!

Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 6

Written by: Nicole Picon

Today consisted of another beautiful day of community, hard work, clear sky, hardships, and home cooked meals. Throughout the day, we continued our fence work in front of the church  from yesterday, where we got our hands (and clothes) dirty. We created a flow of operation of: mixing cement with water, pouring cement, laying bricks, pouring cement to cover, and repeat along the line.

While some of our team struggled with sickness, each team member acted as a team player demonstrating God’s talent within them. Some of the highlights include:

Glenda lovingly ran around the site making sure everyone was well hydrated and taken cared of.

Jorge and Hector enthusiastically taught a lesson to the kids, utilizing the puppet.

Marty and Kevin shared laughs and fun while playing soccer with the kids.

Pastor Bob and Jerry painted the outdoor second story of the church.

Carlos, Byron, Armando and some others assembled the fence structure.

Peter, Ceci, Lucy, Maria, and Miriam demonstrated resilience and courage in the face of adversity.

Kris, Sofia, Ashley, Emily, and Nikki shared fellowship with kids during crafts.

Mike continues to act as a grounding and voice of reason, which is a key essential component to the                                     group dynamic.

Jen offered smiles, assistance, and light-heartedness in times needed most.

The kitchen, from breakfast to lunch and then dinner, was consistently filled with loving hands in preparation for the meals. Breakfast consisted of freshcut tropical fruit, scrambled eggs, platano and peanut butter balls, and lots of prayer for the group and community. Lunch was equally as special that was followed by a 5 minute nap under the giant tree in the backyard. As dinner approaches, the sun was shining and reflective of our prayers, kids (and Marty and Kevin) yelling and playing soccer in the yard, the smell of the kitchen escapes through the cracks of the windows, and continued informal fellowship with local church goers can be witnessed here.

While each day begins with a plan, we have all come to accept and welcome flexibility as it best serves the needs of our group and the community. We all send you our gratitude for your continued love and support during this mission trip.

“Whatever it takes!”

Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 5

Written by: Martin Angus

Today was our first day spent predominantly at the church. Pastor Jose, his wife Theresa and other members of their fellowship greeted us warmly as we exited the bus. Dog’s barking, cats slowly creeping out of their hiding places, young children holding on to their elders hands – all curious. After salutations we enjoyed a wonderful spread of homegrown granola mix, eggs, toast, tea, coffee and a vast assortment of  fruit including: bananas, apples, yellow dragon fruit, granadillas and watermelon. It was delicious and love was felt in every bite.

After breakfast, work was to be done. Today’s objective was to complete the foundation of the fence that will surround the church grounds. That includes mixing and pouring cement, lifting, lining up and laying large brick as well as correcting any imperfections along the way.  Both the men and the women got to together to complete these tasks as we knew that it would be a strenuous and time intensive project. The way in which we were collaborating was something out of a novel. “Coming in hot! More cement! More water! More rock! I need someone to hold this while I…..” It was incredible.

 

Around 3pm, the women left to present gifts to the children at a local school. They sang, they danced, they played games.

 

As the day comes to a close, the team is beginning to feel the fatigue – but what we’ve accomplished so far has been amazing. We knew that there would be challenges, and we were ready for them. God has been preparing us for this our entire lives. Looking forward to tomorrow to finish the fence!

 

Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 4

Written by: Martin Angus

Photos by: Sofia Bodniza

There are some days in your life that shift you. Days where each moment stands alone like a statue in a town square or a hilltop monument erected in praise to a king. Where every interaction is a flash of lightening captured in a bottle – and each breath is a song of gratitude to the one that came before it. Days where the impossible Is the most probable and the unanticipated is the most gratifying.
Today was one of those days.
As a full missions team (men and women), we completed and handed Daniel and Johanna the keys to their new home. Keys to safety for themselves and their two young daughters – to cover from storm and malice. Keys to their sanctuary.
I’ll never forget watching Johana and Daniel walk down the hill hand in hand with cousins, nieces, nephews and dogs in tow, anticipating the unveiling of their new home – knowing that what once felt impossible – was being granted – to them.
After prayer and blessings, we departed with our hearts humbled and lifted – but this was not the end of our trip. This was not the end of our mission.
At 6:00pm we departed our housing in Quito to begin the second half of our journey in San Carlos but on the way, there was an important stop, Johanas job – the city dump of Quito.
At this particular dump – men and women use their hands to dig through the garbage and roughage for recyclables that they then get weighed and are paid for. The shifts are 12 hours long and unrelenting. The average pay here is $70 a month. It was our job to love these people. To feed them, to gift them and to perform a skit for them, but it was they who gifted us. They gifted us their presence. It was them who masked their cold bodies with warm faces for these visitors. It was them who through their struggles, found it in themselves to smile for us. To say ‘buenos noches’ and mean it with every fiber of their being.
A piece of each of us is still at that dump – hugging the men and women every 12 hour shift. Without pity – for they are hardworking and god loving – but with honor, respect and love.

Ecuador’s Mission Trip: Day 3

Written by: Kristen Bodniza

Photos by: Sofia Bodniza & Ashley Silva

Sunday is a day for gathering and connecting and that is exactly what this day was about. A Sunday Fun Day! We attended the San Carlos church in which we’ve contributing to building in the past years, and wow what a transformation since! Their church audience is abundant, the walls are painted, there is furniture, and instruments for the choir to praise the Lord in the most beautiful way.

Upon entering the church, we introduced ourselves to the church family, greeting them with hugs and handshakes. Everyone was filled with loving smiles and energy. Along with our missionary team, we were joined by a missionary team from Pennsylvania. This allowed for both our teams to share testimonies, songs, and a skit throughout the entire service of about four hours.

Jorge and Jerry played out a skit in which exulted the power of Jesus’s love for our remaining present throughout the journey of our lives. In the skit, Jorge read a few verses of the bible, closed the book, and then Jesus (Jerry) appears in his physical body. Jorge is utterly surprised “Wow! Jesus?!!! Jesus???? That’s really you? It’s you! Oh my God, I can’t believe it. Can I offer you something to drink? Do you want to watch tv? What can I do for you? What do you want to do?” Jorge is so excited to see Jesus, he almost loses control. As he is expressing his gratitude to him, Jorge receives a phone call from his friend getting invited to a party where there will be many beautiful women. He attempted hiding this phone call from Jesus, and explains he needs to go help out a friend at his house, that he will be right back. Jorge walks away, and Jesus follows to join. Jorge explains “no, no, no Jesus. I will be right back. You can stay right here!” Each time Jorge said this about three times as Jesus repeatedly followed despite Jorge had said to stay. Finally, Jorge pins Jesus down to a cross with needles on his wrist, and as he is finishing up Jorge breaks down with sadness and tears. Jorge is ashamed for his dishonesty and attempts to keep Jesus out of his journey. Jesus is forgiving, and they hug; Jesus ends up going to the party with Jorge! Overall, it was a touching message for us all to keep us encouraged to include God in the picture always.

After a lengthy church service, we are all hungry and ready to explore! We hop on the bus and head to the mall for lunch. Mike gives us each ten dollars to spend and instructs us to meet back in an hour. It is a large food court with over fifteen different restaurant vendors to choose from. To my surprise, I recognized a place called Freshii which is also located in Wynwood, Miami, Fl. I am extremely grateful because there are many vegan options here! I got a baja burrito with a green juice and a vegan brownie; yum! Ashley and a few other members of our team also chose this vendor in attempts to choose a healthier option to what we have been consuming. To top it off, the whole team meats at a coffee vendor downstairs and many of us get our midday pick-me-up.

After a great meal, we drove to El Teleferico which took us about 13,000 feet up! We could see the entire city from above and it was the most gracious view my eyes ever saw. I felt closer to God in these moments. Each flying cart fit six people, and I went up with my siblings Kevin, Sofia, and Peter, and my cousin Nikki too. We all met at the top and hiked once we were up there. There was an oxygen bar available for people who could not handle the altitude.

Fun activities all throughout the day can sometimes be tiring, but we kept it going! On this day, we celebrated my mother’s birthday, Glenda. We went to a town  called Geranios and enjoyed a beautiful dinner there with the entire team. We drank juice, ate wonderful ceviche, and enjoyed the town’s scenery. We also ad a great waiter who provided much patience with our team and all of the vegan requests. We danced, sang happy birthday a million times, and ate exotic fruits.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Thank you mom, Ceci, Mike, Bob, and the team. You are appreciated.

 

 

 

Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 2

Written by: Kristen Bodniza

Photos by: Sofia Bodniza

As we are finally settling in, the agenda and team begins to flow more smoothly. We wake up, a few people make breakfast for the team, we pray, and then we have a devotion for one of our team members to offer their insight inspired by their own life experiences and journey here on the mission’s trip. 

Today, it is Miriam who offers her lesson on encouragement. Through the obstacles that come our way, may we deliver our actions with the presence of God each step of the way. This message resonated well with our team as the women and I visited four different families throughout the day. Meanwhile, the men are working on finishing some final construction work on the house!

Each family we visited, we prayed, donated a thirty pound bag of food staples, and got to gain some perspective through the stories they shared. Family #1 is the sister of the home-owner dealing with much hardship between working at the dump to make end’s meet, and just living in a small home being a family of four. Family #2 had many family members residing in the home including a mother, father, grandmother, and three children; one of the children could not breathe properly and her nasal pipe would expand making it extremely difficult. The daughter with this breathing problem is on an extremely lengthy waiting list just to have a doctor’s visit. Here in Ecuador, it is quite a challenge to receive medical assistance.

At the home of family #3, it was a bit larger and seemed more comfortable to live in comparison to the other homes. Emily led us in prayer at this home, at first trying to speak it in Spanish, and then at her great efforts could only lead the rest in English. Nonetheless, it was a grounding prayer that allowed the gratitude between us and the family to flow abundantly. The last family #4 was a family of four and offered their hearty energy upon our arrival. What each family shared in common was great faith in our Lord God. 

After such touching visitations, we went to the mall for lunch and to gather supplies and decorations to finish the last touches on the home for Joanna and Daniel. Some hours go by, and before we could blink an eye it was dinner time at home! Many people from the team gathered in the kitchen to prepare a super delicious dinner: rice, lentils, green beans, chimichurri, fried plantains, and steak for the meat-lovers.  

Following a wonderful dinner filled with laughter, love, and full stomachs, we gather again to debrief our day. Jorge takes the mic for about ten minutes speaking about how great it is to create memories with the children here. The memories shared with them is what will create a long-lasting catalytic flow for them to continue evolving in God’s love. He explains that this is the primary factor he is here for; not only are we building a church and home for the communities here, but to create change we must also provide our abundant love.

It was most definitely a memorable day that I will carry in my heart for a long while. Seeing the families and the way they live here has humbled me beyond words. The fact they’re also so open-hearted and filled with joy to share and connect with us, is a beautiful act of God’s presence in their lives.

Ecuador Mission’s Trip: Day 1

Written by: 
Kristen Bodniza (Intro + Our Women's section)
Martin Angus (Our Men's section)

Photos by:
Sofia Bodniza 
Ashley Silva

Waking up exhausted from a five hour flight and going to bed past 2 A.M., you would think we were out of energy for this new day ahead. With a little cafecito, loved-filled breakfast made by the wonderful kitchen team, and prayer guided by Byron’s devotion, we were beyond ready to take on the first day of our mission’s trip!

Byron led us in prayer by offering his gratitude of being in the presence of his homeland. 

His words of encouraging words allowed us to feel energized by God’s guidance into the divine mission taking place.

 

Our Women

Our first activity of the day is arriving at the location of the home being built for the family that we have sponsored. We are introduced to the beautiful family of four: a husband and wife, and two young girls. Our Extreme Response director, Mike, acts as a translator for our partner Teresa, the wife of the pastor from the church we are working with here in Quito, who is explaining the story of the family and how they have been blessed as the chosen family receiving the home. 

This family has been through ample challenging times from living in a small studio room (being a family of 4) that has no door, to rats eating their hard earned food as they sleep. While they are still struggling, their faithful attitudes have led them to the great blessing of manifesting this home and partnering with The Bridge Church for a better home and an abundance of prayer from our missionary team and beyond. 

I leave with the women as we travel to the Women’s Center while men continue to finish building the home. We arrive and are grateful to join the women who have experienced years of working at the dump, working over fifteen hour days, to earn a living (about $70 a month) to help sustain their children. Glenda and Lucy guide the space of about 30 women into a teaching and devotion of Jesus Christ, following a fun arts and craft activity. Their comforting energy allowed for all the women there to feel safe and nurtured by our team as well. We were able to pass out self-care packages to them with some essentials and pray with love, ending with hugs and more blessings. 

A few hours later after the women have left, the children of those same women arrive and we got to joyfully connect with them! We play a few games, create a cool Jesus themed art lantern, Emily performs a puppet skit with Ceci, and they leave happily with a fun-filled care package as well. 

To end the evening, the team debriefs at an Ecuadorian restaurant with delicious food. We share prayer and have live music played for us by an Indeginous band whom carry many gifts! Overall, it was a wonderful first day and it is all thanks to God! Amen. 

 

Our Men

Upon our arrival to where the house will be built, we were greeted by smiling little faces with sun kissed skin and the songs of their hearts on the edges of their eyes. We’d slept no more than four hours the night before, after more than half a day’s travel to a new continent, but it was these faces that mustered the energy of titans within us. Our first objective was now completed – we arrived. 

 

Daniel, Johanna, and their two daughters. For 10-15 minutes, we hugged, we smiled and we exchanged pleasantries. In that moment, we knew that everything was as it should be – all that was left to do was to recognize God’s presence. Within 20 minutes of our arrival, we walked into what will soon be Daniel and Johana’s living room. The housing structure Johana, Daniel and their family will be living in is integrated into the side of a hill at roughly 9,000 ft. elevation. When you look into the distance it feels like you can see all of God’s earth. Rolling hills, mountains that weave in and out of each other like the bird that inhabit them. To say the view is incredible, is an understatement. 

 

Johana and Daniel began to tell us their story. They told us of their struggles. They spoke of the challenges their relationship faced and they told us what is was like when they committed to God. After some tears, and thank you’s we all knew what needed to be done next- the continuance of God’s work. Soon, the men said our farewells to our women’s mission team and started building. We blended, stirred, poured and laid cement. We lifted, broke, aligned and laid brick. We dug, compiled, mixed, and shoveled dirt. No, it was not easy, but it wasn’t about being easy. It wasn’t about being hard. It was right, and we all knew it.  

 

After 6 hours in the sun, smiling, working, collaborating and laughing we had completed about 40% of the second floor wall structure. Johana and Daniel worked with us the entire time. We could feel the progress and we could feel God’s love. To us there was no difference.

 

At the end of the day, we enjoyed our work and God blessed us with a full missions team meal at a restaurant 150 feet from the equator. From the center of his earth. God is good.