A year ago this week I was finishing up raising $37,000 and leaving the United States on a grand adventure. I say that I cannot believe it has been a year, not because it has gone by fast for me; but rather because I can’t believe so much could possibly happen in a year. In many ways it seems like three years all wrapped into one, but I am thankful for the time I have had so far in South America.
In this past year, I moved to Arequipa, Peru and met the 3 other NorthAmericans that would be on my team. Together we went through language school and were a part of the ministry at the Cercado church plant.
Then in January, the four Ecuadorians, Peruvian pastor’s family, and the NorthAmerican cluster support family joined us in Arequipa for 40 days in the desert, a program of intensive classwork and spiritual disciplines. It was quite an experience for all of us. Leaving Peru was sad, but we were ready to move on to the next step.
In March, we moved to Cali, Colombia for three weeks of training at the largest Church of the Nazarene in the world. We learned about the Master’s Plan and were trained in how to establish the program in the church that we would be planting. I had a crazy Holy Spirit experience in the living room of our hosts’ house. Then we left Colombia to start working our way toward our final destination: Ambato, Ecuador.
After spending some time in Quito and Riobamba, we arrived in Ambato at the beginning of April and began to move into our apartments. We started outreach and hosting events in order to make contacts. At the beginning of May, we launched our inauguration service, started online seminary classes, and moved out of our apartments and into a house all in just a few days. Now, we have been in Ambato for five and a half months and had the church going for four and a half months. Yesterday, we had 80 people present in the church service. We are preparing for our second Encounter weekend. Crazy to think that we only have a year and five months left before our contract runs out and our lives change once again.
While it is true that my purpose in coming to Ecuador was not about me, it would be crazy to not acknowledge that God has done a great bit of changing in my life. When I first came to South America, I was very shy, self-conscious, insecure, and in many ways, unhealthy emotionally. Once someone has walked through an experience like 40/40 (my title in Extreme), it is impossible to not come face-to-face with all of those things. In our job, we are expected to know how to do and be willing to do every type of thing. My shyness has almost completely gone away, I am not self-conscious anymore because I have now made a million mistakes in front of people and lived, I am very confident in who I am in Christ and who I am called to become, and through constant iron-sharpens-iron experiences, I am able to emotionally deal with situations in a much better way than in the past. However, we all know that there is always room for improvement in these areas.
There is something about living in community and that brings out the best and the worst in you. I know myself so much better now, because I now see myself through the eyes of 15 other people who are very different than me. I am constantly working on improving my communication, because it really is central in all aspects of ministry and family life. I am learning the importance of being grounded in who I am and what I need, and I am learning how to explain that to the people around me. Most of all, every day I am learning more and more about what I don’t know. I am learning that no matter how much you think you know someone, they can still surprise you, and that I really do need each and every single person on my team. It is humbling to be accountable to others, especially people that you spend 24 hours a day with. I think I realize more and more each day how self-centered I have been and still am. It is a constant process of leaving behind more and more pride every day for the sake of the Kingdom and for those around me that I have come to love dearly. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is going to be like in a year and five months when we all go our separate ways.
Evangelism and discipleship were really not things I had done before, but rather things that I had learned about in my college classes. Putting it into action is both challenging and rewarding. It is challenging because it causes me to live the part before I can tell others to live the part, and rewarding because I get to see God literally transform people’s lives. I have seen simple faith move the heart of God to action, and I’ve seen more miracles take place in this one year of learning and ministry than I ever have in my entire life. I read the Bible with brand new eyes and the words of Jesus cut me to the core like they never did in the past.
Even with all of these things that I have learned, I know that this coming year will hold even more. I am forever grateful to God for calling me to be a missionary in Ambato, Ecuador and I am thankful to my many sponsors for not only helping me to achieve the money to be here, but also being attentive and active throughout the journey and being willing to give even more. I love you all so much! Thank you for making a world of difference in my life. I pray that your investment in me will be in turn a huge blessing to you and to the Kingdom.