I’ll start with my mother, though, first of all. Back in June, when Bob first told me he had planned this trip for me, he suggested I invite my mother to go with me. I jumped at the idea. Mom is so close to Laurie and her family and misses them a great deal, but also Mom has always loved missions and she has been a big supporter of the Naranjos’ ministry and others there in Ecuador. I knew she would love to go and that it would be the trip of a lifetime for her. She was sorely tempted, but the more she prayed about it, the more the Lord seemed to be telling her “no.” Finally she decided she’d better listen to the Lord, and though we were both disappointed, we had peace in the decision.
Throughout the trip and during my time in Cuenca I thought of Mom a million times. With each new sight or experience I would think, “Oh, Mom would love to see this! I wish she was here!” In almost the same heartbeat, though, I would think, “I’m so glad she didn’t come! She could never handle this physically!” The travel, although it went smoothly, was grueling. Our time there, although it was fantastic and I loved every moment of it, was hectic and exhausting. And never, ever in a million years could she have handled driving through Ecuador! She hates mountain driving, and she hates city driving, and multiply the “scare-factor” by about a thousand times to any driving she’s ever experienced in the good ol’ USA and that’s how the driving is in Ecuador. She would not have seen a single sight because her eyes would have been closed!
I called her every day, though, and tried to describe everything to her as it was happening so she could live it vicariously. She was excited and happy each time we called, so although there were regrets, we knew she had made the right choice.
The Lord reinforced that this week. Mom had a heart attack on Thursday night, just a few days after my return. She’d been having little transient signs all week that something was going on. All day Friday, as we sat in the hospital and waited for the diagnosis and angioplasty, it kept going through my mind how Mom most certainly would have had the heart attack in Ecuador, and it most probably would have been a lot worse and maybe even have killed her. We were at high altitude – sometimes extremely high altitudes. Perhaps we would have done things differently if she had been with us, but still I am sure it would have been too much for a heart that was laboring just sitting there at home in her condo. I kept thinking that if she had gone and something happened to her, I would have lived with guilt for the rest of my life for asking her to go along.
I am so glad the Lord told her no. And I am so glad she listened and obeyed, even though her own human desires were to do the opposite. I’m so glad I didn’t try to persuade her to change her mind. And I am so glad we have had this opportunity to chalk it up to a “lesson learned” and that it did not have to be the hard way. Mom is doing fine. It was a mild heart attack, with mild damage, and she is going home from the hospital today. The blockage was taken care of with a stent rather than open-heart surgery again – praise the Lord!
The lesson learned? When that still, small voice of the Lord says “no,” listen, trust and obey! Don’t try to force the door open or simply ignore it. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man [or woman] are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” God chooses the path that is best for us. We must choose to stay on that path.
The two weeks I was in Ecuador were a kaleidoscope of wonderful experiences. Just being with Laurie and Fernando and my beautiful grandchildren was the greatest joy of all and we treasured every moment. The weeks were filled with celebrations (my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas), family events (Fernando’s family welcomed me with open arms and the warmest hospitality), sight-seeing (I saw so much more of Ecuador – coast and Andes Mountains – this time than I did on my first trip), making new friends (some whom I will never forget), learning more of their different culture and language (yes, I did my best to converse in my broken Spanish) and most exciting to me, being able to minister in my own small way in love to the people there.
Ten years ago, on my first trip to Ecuador, the Lord had opened my eyes to the need of the very, very poor people in this third-world country. I had vowed if I could ever return, I wanted to do something for the children. I spent weeks before I left on this trip gathering and preparing for the little opportunities the Lord had opened for me to minister. One of the things I really wanted to do was to take some sort of treat to the Indian children out in the country who had nothing. No one helps them. They are forgotten, pretty much, by the outside world. Just to take some goodies and a few little toys would mean the world to them.
Several people in my church helped with the expenses to buy the goodies. I bought the bags and some of the little toys here in the States. The bags were huge! I had ordered them from a catalog and liked the cute Nativity picture on them and didn’t pay attention to the size. It would take a lot to fill those bags even halfway! I bought 25 kilos of animal cookies (I think that is close to fifty pounds) and candy after I got there, and Laurie had more toys to donate for them.
The Naranjo girls and I formed an assembly line one day to fill and tie them. All the girls enjoyed it, but little Katie especially was beside herself with joy! She loved putting her three or four pieces into the bags and passing them down the line to Melissa, and then on down the line to Sara and Gabi. Besides the five big handfuls of cookies, and the candy we put in each bag, there were also six or seven small toys, a children’s Gospel tract that told the plan of salvation in Spanish and also a children’s tract that told the Christmas story.
“Will they be able to read these tracts?” I asked Laurie. I knew some of them spoke their own Indian dialect or perhaps did not read at all. “If they can’t read it, they’ll find someone who will,” she assured me. “The adults will be reached with these tracts, too.”
We tied each bag with brightly-colored ribbon and planned to give each child – boy, girl or baby – another larger toy with their bag. We ere all tickled with the 87 bags we had filled. “These are probably the nicest bags that have ever been passed out here!” Laurie pronounced.
The day we passed them out was beautiful. We drove out of the city and past two or three villages. When the Naranjos had first started doing goodie bags eight or nine years ago, no one else was doing them. In the years since, though, several other groups were doing it within the city and those villages that were nearby. We drove further out – way up, up, up in the mountains and out into the country. We passed Indian women out in the fields on the steep mountainside trying to plow with a pair of oxen and a wooden plow. Others were hoeing their gardens with wooden hoes. Tiny old women walked along the road bent nearly double with huge burdens on their backs, or led a cow or goat by a rope. Women walked by with babies on their backs. The houses we passed were tiny shacks, often pieced together from bits of scrap wood, tin and whatever they could find to fill in a hole. We could see in the open doors that there was next to nothing inside.
At first we saw no children, but gradually we began to see them out in the fields or near their houses. “Feliz Navidad!” we would call out, and hold the goodie bags out the window. You should have seen them come running with huge grins on their faces, running so fast down the mountainsides I was afraid they would break their necks! Parents would come running with their little ones, calling to others to bring their children, as well. Some of them had little snotty noses and chapped cheeks. Most of them looked poorly clothed. All of them looked happy! “Thank you, thank you!” they exclaimed. “Please come back,” they implored. “Please don’t forget us!” I had all I could do to fight back the tears many times. Tears of sorrow for these poor, poor people, and tears of joy that the Lord had allowed me this tiny bit of ministry.
“Are you having fun?” I asked my grandchildren at one point. It was a dream-come-true to be able to do this with my grandchildren. I wanted them to have a love for helping others, too. “YES!” they answered from the heart. All except for two-year-old Matthew. He had fallen asleep in his car seat and woke up just in time to see one of his toys go out the window. “My toy!” he exclaimed in dismay. “That boy – my toy!” He may not have understood, but he got over it when we offered him a little Happy Meal toy he had never seen before.
I thought of Jesus as my heart was moved with compassion for these poor people. Mark 6:34 says, “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.” May we always have such tender hearts that we not only weep and feel for those in need before us, but we reach out with whatever we have within our power to help.
My other opportunity to minister came with the women in Laurie’s church. I was asked to speak to them at a special ladies meeting they had while I was there and for weeks I prayed that God would show me what to say and how to say it. It was as I wrote this blog the last time back in November that the Lord finally showed me exactly the message He wanted me to bring, and I want to share it with you here. (Some of the verses may be a repeat of what I wrote in “Gracias a Dios” on November 15th,, so please forgive the repetition.)
Let me say a couple things here before I share that message. I took with me thirty-two cards from women in my church and among my friends and family. These were notes of encouragement and friendship to the ladies in the Naranjos’ church from their sisters in the Lord. You cannot imagine the joy and blessing it was to those women to realize that women in the United States cared about them and were praying for them! Many of them wept as they read their cards. They treasured them and somehow they wanted to thank the women who had thought of them and sent these little tokens of love and Christian sisterhood.
Those were not the only tears that were shed. I almost immediately began to cry as I spoke to them. I was just so thrilled to be with them, having the opportunity to share with them from my heart the message I truly felt was from the Lord Himself. I managed to compose myself, but as I shared with them the riches that we have together as daughters of the King and sisters in the Lord, many of them began to weep, as well. What a blessing and a privilege it was for me to be there among them that day! How I am looking forward to seeing them again in heaven someday, if not again on this earth!
Here is that message. In the weeks to come, perhaps I will share more of what happened in Ecuador. It was life-changing for me. I hope as I share with you, it will be a blessing to you, as well.
Daughters of the King
I feel very blessed to be with you today! You are my sisters in the Lord and it is so exciting to me to be able to meet you in person at last. I have been praying for you! I have been praying for your church! It is a blessing to hear how the Lord has been working in your church and in your lives.
I bring you greetings from the ladies in my church in the United States! They, too, are excited that I could come and meet you and they have, in fact, sent you each personal greetings! I have here cards with little notes from sister to sister in the Lord. They wrote these notes to encourage and bless you and to let you know that they are thinking of you and praying for you. Your sisters in the United States love you in the Lord!
(I passed out the cards here and let them open and read them.)
Someday in Heaven we will meet again and we will share in a feast to celebrate all that He has done for us. We will sit together at the banquet table as sisters in the Lord, and daughters of the King. What a day of rejoicing when all the nations and tribes of earth gather at His throne and we will sing praises to Him in one voice and one tongue! I am thrilled to be here with you today! Can you imagine our joy when we meet again and we can speak together heart to heart?
I wanted to do a little craft with you that will remind you of all the riches we have as daughters of the King, so we are going to make these little bags and fill them up with some of the blessings we spoke of today. The next time you are feeling very poor, or distressed or lonely, I want you to take out these little slips of paper one by one that will remind you of the riches and privileges you have as a child of God and know that in his eyes you are His beloved daughter and heir with Jesus Christ. May you have joy and comfort and feel His great love!