Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Learning in Ecuador

Today, I am very glad to have Yujie guest posting today about her trip to Ecuador.  Yujie blogs at From Saskatchewan to Sodo.  I was blessed reading what she wrote and I hope you will too!

I think I had the stereotypical ideal picture of a missions trip in my mind: the instant I showed up to a church or Compassion project, the kids would be so happy to see me and would want every second of my attention. I figured I would be really awesome at relating to the kids right away even though we are from different cultures. I thought there wouldn’t be any awkwardness or tension at all and that they would all love me and I would feel really loved and appreciated. That’s probably a really selfish mental picture to have but I think a lot of people from North America fall into believing that about missions trips—kind of seeing themselves as the heroes.

My first experience at a Compassion project in Otavalo, Ecuador was very different in some ways than what I had imagined. It far exceeded my expectations as far as what I believed Compassion was doing for the kids and their families—no surprises there! A great ministry all around. But the other people on my team

had been on missions trips before, and knew a bit of Spanish, so all the children flocked to them. I didn’t know what to do or say since this unstructured play time was not originally in our schedule and we had not brought toys to play with. A lot of the time I stood around, feeling
lost and alone. Eventually I joined in a group game of hide-and-seek where they tried to find all of us each time, but I still felt as if I had been very useless on this visit. I wrote in my journal that day that I felt like a complete failure, and that everyone else (who were not even Compassion Advocates!) seemed to know exactly what to say and do and I thought they were being perceived as better and “more spiritual” than myself because of it.

After this initial day of discouragement, I started to see God at work. By the time we visited a family near Otavalo the next day, I was feeling pretty hopeless. Leidy, one of the girls in the family, came over to me and held my hand while we were standing in a circle, playing games with the entire family. Her older sister, Blanca, soon followed. These girls, whether they know it or not, were used by God to show me that He still loved me and had plans for me being there that day. For the rest of the afternoon I focused on spending time with Blanca and Leidy, hanging out and taking silly pictures. It is still one of my favourite memories from this trip! I spoke next to no Spanish and they didn’t know any English, and yet we were still able to communicate with each other and love each other in Jesus’ name.

I learned that I should not look down on myself and the way God made me just because I am not often the loud, bubbly person at the center of the group that has everyone’s attention. While it seems that almost everyone looks to them as the perfect example, there are other equally significant ways to lead and be an example of God’s love, especially in a mission trip context. One of the older ladies in this trip simply sat and watched everyone else play, and some of the kids would come up to her and just want to sit beside her. I found that in Ecuador, as in my home country, I thrive in one-on-one interactions or spending time with kids in small groups. The most powerful moments and best memories I have from this trip are when I was able to do this—with Leidy and her sister and with my sponsored child who I got to meet while I was there.

Even if we think we know it going into a trip, I think it is important to remember that we, the privileged, North American Christians, are not the heroes of the story. It’s so easy to think that us showing up in a foreign country will be the defining moment of those people’s lives because of how amazing it will be. And in some ways, it can be an amazing experience for them and for us, but not because of anything we do ourselves. As the Compassion motto says, The Difference is Jesus. Lives should be changed on missions trips because of His work, not our own. I was changed on this trip because God showed me incredible love through His children in Ecuador. And I’m sure my sponsored child’s life has also been changed for the better because one day on that trip she found out that Jesus had connected her to a sponsor from Canada who loves her very much. If we try to do good things based on self-centered things like trying to elevate our social standing within a group, we get in the way of what God really wants to do in us.

Back in September of 2014, over one year after my trip to Ecuador, I found a familiar face on Compassion International’s website waiting for a sponsor. It was one of Leidy and Blanca’s older brothers! I recognized his face, his name and all his information lined up with what I learned about him that day in January 2013. I had written his family one letter after returning to Canada, but had always longed to have a more permanent connection to them. I was given the gift of being his Correspondent Sponsor when someone saw my Facebook post about him and decided to sponsor him on my behalf. His family is not often far from my thoughts and prayers and I believe this is even further confirmation that God brought us together that one January day for a special reason. Faithfulness in writing to and praying for our Compassion kids, and other people you meet on missions trips, also has an incredible impact on their lives and should not be overlooked!


  1. I'm loving this series, Lizzie!! And Yujie, I absolutely love how God used your quiet time to connect you with a certain family. It's so true that we shouldn't be going to be the heroes. God is the hero and we are there to encourage our fellow followers. Beautiful post.

  2. What a wonderful post!! I really identify with this- having felt awkward and out of place my entire life, I felt the same way for the first little bit of my trip to Tanzania. And I love the part about not seeking to be the heroes here. And how wonderful that someone sponsored that child and Yujie gets to be his correspondent!!