If you remember, the original plan was to run a youth camp for the middle and high schoolers that attend the school that our partner church, La Primera Iglesia Bautista de Ambato, runs. However, due to recent legislation passed by the Ecuadorean Government a week before we were to board the plane, that was no longer possible. We were sent into a tail spin, having less than a week to re-plan the entire trip, the lessons and themes of the camp, games, and activities, and small groups. Instead of a 5 day retreat, we were limited to working with the students during their school day, Monday through Friday, 1-6. During the mornings, we did community service as a bonding opportunity with students, and in the evenings, the two couples that went on the trip led marriage and parenting seminars that averaged 50-70 adults per night. As a result of these seminars, not only did several couples come to know the Lord, but many marriages were given second chances. On the weekends, we had the incredible opportunity to pass out Operation Christmas Child shoes boxes, once to the children of Ambato, and the second time to a local orphanage.
Even amidst the chaos and uncertainty of every aspect of the trip, God’s hand was apparent. A huge portion of the day was allocated to playing games on some concrete courts about a five-minute walk from the school’s campus. These were times that gave us opportunities to get to know the campers in our groups, and make relationships that will last long past our 10 day trip. I had thirteen 16-18 year old girls in my group, and my brother had twenty-five 20 and 21 year olds who were weeks away from graduating. (The school system is very different in Ecuador, and kids are in the equivalent of high school for 3-4 years longer than here in America.) These game times were an opportunity to break down barriers, and proved critical as we had such limited time with them to begin with.
When we woke up Thursday morning, with two days of camp still left, we were devastated to find that it was raining. In Ambato, because of the proximity to the Amazon Rain Forest, (a two hour drive) once it starts raining, it doesn’t stop for five to six days. The rain would make our game times impossible. We were already experiencing what Pastor Steve, a youth pastor of 20 plus years, described as the hardest trip he had ever been on. With nothing we could do, we were forced to our knees. Dan, a long time missionary to Ecuador originally from Atlanta, reminded us of a story of the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah prays to the Lord, and it doesn’t rain for 3 years. We only needed 3 days. Three more days of sunshine, something that seemed impossible.
But we serve a God of the impossible. At noon, it was still raining. But by the time 2:30 rolled around, the time we needed the courts, not only had it stopped raining, but the sun was shining so brightly that all the puddles and all the mud had completely dried up. Sunday morning, after we said our goodbyes at the church, we sat on the bus waiting to leave the city. Not 5 seconds after the door shut and we drove off, the first raindrops started to fall on the windshield. Dan received a call when we were about 30 minutes out: torrential downpour in Ambato. God gave us the three days we prayed for. It stopped raining, and didn’t start again until we were literally driving off.Later on that day on the way to visit the equator, we had to drive around the capital city of Quito. We were able to look down on the city from the mountain highway, and over the valley was a rainbow. Not only did we get to see the physical, visual reminder that God is always faithful and always keeps His promises, but it was over the capital city, the city that passed the original legislation that turned our plans upside down, that some said would ruin our trip. Months of planning went down the drain, and we were faced with difficulty at every turn. But God was in control. Lives were changed, and several families gave their hearts to the Lord. Because HE was the one in charge of our trip, because we fully relied on HIM, and put the trip in HIS hands, the trip was a success.
Thanks for your prayers, we felt them with every breath.
In and through Him,