¡Estamos en casa! We’re home!
I can’t believe it. After fifteen weeks of mountainous landscape, continuous classes, countless adventures, and a world of new food, we are back in the States. God’s love we carry with us, now amplified with fond memories of friends and family in another country, doing God’s will and waiting for us to return someday.
I think we have experienced just about every emotion there is. God is molding and sustaining us, but it’s hard to say goodbye, navigate the culture change, and pick up the pace like we were never gone.
Before we left, the NILI family showered us with love and despedidas (goodbyes). On Wednesday we took our last outing with our ñaños to an upscale barrio (neighborhood) in Quito. After browsing the artisanal markets, we visited two cafeterías, ordered postres (desserts), sipped coffee, and took pictures.
Both Thursday and Friday we spent as much time with our families as possible, knowing that our time was short. My people invited me to the movie theater, immediately after which we bought donuts and I was whisked off to Hannah’s house to celebrate her (early) birthday with her family and Emma.
We ate, sang, and danced in true Ecuadorian celebration. It was a lovely time to honor a special girl.
Our very last day in Ecuador was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Our parents and siblings were invited to attend our final project presentation, a creative representation of our development in the Spanish language and our time abroad. About twenty people gathered in our aula (classroom) to hear our reflections, watch video slideshows, and answer trivia questions.
Afterward, we exchanged many hugs, notes and regalitos (little gifts), final words, and God’s blessing over our lives.
Then we ate lunch in my family’s home. Lucy made her highly esteemed tacos one last time, we shared one more cake, and presented a gift and video collage to our beloved Lucy.
That afternoon we soaked up the remaining hours in our homes. Some of the girls played games, threw mini parties, or ate dinner with their families. Katherine celebrated her birthday early as well, and my family took me out to Wanna Wings, a corner restaurant we’ve wanted to try since the doors opened earlier this semester.
Lucy and I walked around, making last-minute purchases and offering final goodbye’s. As a family, we called our departing reunión (meeting) at the kitchen table and tried not to cry more than we already had.
Then we slept for two hours (the rest of the girls and their families did not sleep at all) before loading the van and driving to the airport in two separate groups according to our flight times.
For me, five hours of sleep within forty eight hours combined with the pain of leaving and the emotion of going home, plus a complicated flight situation, made for a long day—but one so blessed by the Lord.
The flight from Quito to Miami went smoothly, but we diverted to Indianapolis enroute to Chicago. Due to severe weather, we got delayed five hours and had to change planes. When we finally landed in Chicago, we discovered our luggage was on another flight coming from Miami. A few more hours of waiting and driving, and we finally got to sleep at 3 AM.
It is incredible to me, that in moments of impatience and inconvenience, still God is sovereign and gracious, on standby to provide for our needs and bless us richly a pesar de (in spite of) the circumstances.
Being back with my family is incredible. We went to church Sunday morning, where God’s people welcomed me home with cake and balloons. We ate lunch with our friends, talked with my Ecuadorian family, and looked at pictures from my trip.
This week, we are making up for the time we haven’t been together, visiting family and hanging out with friends. I don’t have an agenda, which is freeing and refreshing.
As I reflect on my time in Ecuador, it feels like a dream. I am beyond-words thankful for God’s love for me, that He would give me far more than I could ever deserve or even imagine wanting.
He has filled my cup. I have new friends, another family, refreshed priorities, precious memories, and a higher nivel (level) of Spanish. I know for certain I can survive without air conditioning or heat, and I can eat without drink or napkin. I love avocado even more than when I arrived, I gained tech experience at church, and I now have a bug to try new things and visit new places.
More importantly, God has molded my life. I value my family more than ever, have renewed ambition to balance my schedule, and am determined to stay tranquila, even when responsibilities pile up. I want to serve God with my life and live every moment fully, because the next one isn’t promised.
Most of all, I want to serve with true character and eternal perspective, applying the profound lessons I’ve learned: All things work for good because God takes care of those who love Him. Not much goes according to our plans, and that’s okay, because it’s part of the adventure and God’s sovereignty. Finally, I’m me, nobody else, and God has given me unique gifts to contribute to His Kingdom.
God’s Provision: The day of our OPI was long and heavy. We took turns, encouraging one another in between and detoxing afterward. While I am not pleased with my performance, I trust it is God’s answer to our many prayers and His way of teaching me to trust Him. He has given me faith and peace, no matter the result, to continue following Him and rejoice always, come what may.
Palabra de la Semana (Word of the Week): Eternidad. Eternity. As believers, we live with the hope of eternal life. Therefore, every goodbye is only “see you later” and what we live now is only a shadow of what is to come. My experience this semester has eternal repercussions, and I have the great comfort of seeing everyone again. For eternity.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3, ESV).
To close, I would like to thank each one of you for your prayers, encouragement, and enthusiasm for my trip. I have felt the power of your petitions to God and enjoyed every opportunity to share His work. Thank you for supporting me as a true family of faith. May God bless you richly, and keep carrying us toward new adventures of growth and service!
¡Gracias por todo! Thanks for everything!