Archives For Ecuador

Can I Get a Witness?

July 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

Today, I’m excited to welcome my guest writer, Valerie Welsh.  A great mom many of us can relate to in following the strong parental instincts to keep her children safe at all costs.  She agreed to share her inspiring story of overcoming fear and stepping out in faith.

432143_3100030874224_458589427_n

The scene was sad and getting even sadder by the minute.  Our 17-year-old daughter, Sami, was sitting before us at the dining room table with reasons she should be allowed to join her youth group on their mission trip in just a few short months.

Sami had neatly outlined on paper the ways she had already served the Lord in her own neighborhood, her own peer group and her own country. This was a last-ditch effort on her part. This trip was so important to Sami that my husband Andy and I promised her that we would pray for two weeks about a decision whether or not to let her go. The final decision had been made. The deadline was that day, and she wouldn’t like our answer.

Here Sami was, making the case to serve in Ecuador and giving us evidence of the ways her faith had grown from the time she had given her life to Christ at age 7. I was distracted, thinking that she might make a good lawyer one day and felt both a twinge of pride at her maturity and a touch of shame that I knew our answer would be “no”.

IMG_3283

My husband and I purposely let the date for the informational meeting come and go. Mission trips were for other families, and they were certainly not for teenagers with severe asthma and allergies. Our reasons for not allowing her to go had everything to do with comfort – both hers and ours – and fear, which was a feeling I owned completely.

Sami took our answer with some maturity and lots of tears as she got ready for church that day. Andy and I reassured each other with slightly ashamed half smiles as she sobbed quietly in the back seat on the drive to church. All that mattered to me was that she would be staying right here at home, in my arms and totally safe from all the ways I could see her being ill or uncomfortable in Ecuador and out of my reach.

Sami sat at the end of the row next to her two siblings, head in her hands and praying deeply as the sermon began. We had been attending another church recently, different from the church we had attended for all of her life and in which Sami still remained active in youth group.

As our pastor began the sermon, I could hardly believe my ears! The title of the sermon that day was plastered on the front screen in front of the church:

“CAN I GET A WITNESS?  Acts 1:8 – ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’”

He explained how we should be ready witnesses for Christ in the comfort of our own home as well as to the ends of the earth.

Andy and I continued to exchange surprised glances throughout the sermon as Sami continued to pray silently at the end of the row. God’s voice was so clear to me during that sermon. It was convicting and gentle and saying, “Do you have faith enough to trust me to lead My own daughter?”

God changed our minds that very day. I was ashamed that I had called myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and yet couldn’t trust Him to know what was best for His children. I was basing my decisions on fear and comfort and not on His will. My fears had drowned out His voice as I prayed for guidance. I already “knew” the answer to be “no” and had really been praying for my own agenda.

IMG_588011

Sami seemed introspective for days after her return from a successful trip, and she soon sat us both down to tell us her heart. I wasn’t surprised at all as she explained how she felt a calling to become a missionary during her time in Ecuador.

When she asked what I thought of her praying and researching this path for her life, I quieted my heart for just a minute before I answered. Doubts and fears came in again, but they soon were drowned out by the gentle voice of the Lord, reminding me that He would have Sami in the palm of His hand for all of her days.

Every morning while I pray, I remind myself that my three teenagers are all His and always have been. In my mind, I am letting go as a parent just a little more each day as they grow older.

I don’t know if God will lead Sami to the mission field again. I do know that everywhere we look, we can find a mission field in which to serve. It may be in our own homes and not across the globe, but listening for God’s voice is the first step.

I pray that we will have faith enough to hear and to obey, whatever we are called to do.

You may also like:

A Scary Yet Amazing Trip

God’s Going to Fail Me

And We’re Waiting…..And Waiting……And Waiting…..

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

 

Advertisements
buds smile little 100_5064 100_5076 100_5509 100_5658 100_5762 100_5765 100_5788 100_5864 100_5871 aplaceaftermyheart DSC_0341 DSC_0520 DSC_0529 DSC_0852 IMG_445811 IMG_517611 IMG_520311 IMG_527611 IMG_528911 IMG_529311 IMG_533411 IMG_539811 IMG_561511 IMG_579911 IMG_591811 IMG_598311 IMG_642211 IMG_666611 IMG_671111 IMG_673511 IMG_675111 IMG_680611 IMG_726911 IMG_786111 DSC_0238 DSC_0267

View more pictures at Susannah Cushman’s blog here.

You may also like:

“Chau” or “Adios”

And We’re Waiting….and Waiting……and Waiting…..

3 Surefire Ways to Live Your Priorities

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

aplaceaftermyheart

One of the first Spanish words we learned upon entering Ecuador was, “Chau.”  It means, “See you later.”  This is a bit friendlier than saying, “adios,” which means, “goodbye.”  “Adios” is used when people do not expect to see each other again.

On the last day of our Kid’s Club in Portete, we had a great time with the kids.  We laughed as they tried on and decorated the pipe cleaner eyeglasses we had made.  We had fun as we played games.  And we made funny gestures as we tried to communicate since we were unable to speak the others language.

Kids Club

Once club was over, Amanda and Chandra (the missionaries) asked our team to line up.  I turned and asked our youth pastor why and he simply said, “It’s to say ‘adios.’”  Those words wrapped around my heart like a vice.  It was at that moment I realized my time with the kids I had fallen in love with had come to an end.  And it was unlikely I would ever see them again.

Kids club1 IMG_3194

 IMG_3217

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tears began running down my cheeks.  I tried to gain control but the first child through the line squeezed my neck in such a loving hug that it only made the tears pool in my eyes blurring my vision.  The next child hugged me and I cried even harder.  It was a losing battle so I just let the tears fall.

The kids were concerned but also seemed to understand.  One little girl held on so long I knew she was experiencing many of the same feelings.

I hate goodbyes.

I not only fell in love with the kids of Ecuador but all the adults we met as well.  They are all wonderful people.  When people capture your heart, it’s hard to say “adios.”

DSC_0324Being a Christ-follower, I don’t want to say “adios” to anyone.  I want to say, “Chau,” meaning, “I may not see you in this lifetime but I’ll see you in heaven.”  Unfortunately, I will not see many of those I love in heaven.  Being a Christ-follower, I believe the bible when it says in John 14:6,

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Many Ecuadorians worship idols and believe praying to them will get them to heaven.  But God makes it clear that is not acceptable.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”  Exodus 20:4-5

I never want to say, “adios.”  My desire is to spend all eternity with my friends in heaven.  We have much more to talk about it.  Games to play.  Laughter to share.  So I will pray God will use our work and the continued work of the missionaries to reach the hearts of my friends and those friends I have yet to meet.  And I’ll support any way God desires including going and giving when He asks.

ecuador team 2013I will also continue to pray for my friends here and afar who have yet to accept Christ bridges the gap between them and God.  Spending eternity with me may not sound appealing to some of them 🙂 but living forever in paradise should.

“Adios” can just go “adios.”

Other posts in this series:

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

Disclaimer:  These blog posts and other social media activity contain my own personal views & opinions and may not represent the views, beliefs, or ideas of my teammates or the church I am involved with currently or have been involved with in the past.

 

Creating a Stir

June 22, 2013 — 1 Comment

DSC_0467DSC_0277DSC_0016

DSC_0330DSC_0209

Took a walking tour of Gonzanama yesterday. Since white people are a rarity around here, we created quite a stir. People were coming out of their houses, sticking their heads out of businesses, and stopping their cars to stare at us. It was quite funny.

The people are very friendly, especially the children. The children have a hard life. Many work during the day to help their families and then must attend school at night. As we drove through town at 9:00 last night, we saw children walking home in their school uniforms carrying backpacks. It was a strange sight to see after dark.

We’ve had the opportunity to visit a couple of family homes in Portete. Both homes were very primitive. The toilet and shower were outside. And they were equipped very sparsely. Most people in Portete do not own a refrigerator or have other items that we feel are a necessity in America.

Houses are tucked into the mountainside making them only accessible by rocky paths or steep stairways. Although they have challenges that would stretch the average American beyond imagination, they are joyful and make it work.

We were privileged to have one family invite us to their house and make us lunch. The dad cooked the meat outside. He used a pan that fit into a chair that was missing the seat. He then set up a blowtorch underneath the pan. The picture is above.

The blowtorch kept falling and at one point caught the “nearby grass on fire. The daughter calmly walked in the house and brought out a bowl of water to put it out. He then cooked plantains in the meat fat. It wasn’t the healthiest of meals but it was excellent!

We led another day of VBS and loved on many kids. They loved every minute of our time together. They especially enjoy having their picture taken so I can’t wait to share those with you.

Last night we attended a women’s bible study held in a family home. The hunger these women and children had to learn more about Christ was incredible. So many Christians have lost that hunger somewhere along the way and it made me realize how we need to be intentional about holding onto it. Loving the bible, loving to meet together, loving our leaders, loving each other, holding each other accountable, sharing it with others. That’s what I desire.

Today, we will lead our last VBS with the children. All of us are very excited to work with these kids again. Today, we will be explaining how to come to Christ and allow Him to bridge the gap between them and God. We want them to know God sent His Son to die for our sins. He took our place when our punishment was to be death. Our desire is for them to realize the unfathomable love God has for each of them to offer such a gift as His Son to die in their place.

They can have eternal life in Heaven with a Father that never fails them if they just believe and pray asking God to forgive them of their sins. If you have not prayed this prayer, have questions about God and this gift He offers, please message me. I would love to speak more with you.

Please be praying for us today as we work with the kids and as we visit the same family who fed us lunch the other day. A couple of people will be sharing what God has done for them with this family. We are here to be the hands and feet of Christ. Pray that He will use us in powerful ways.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” John 3:16-18 (The Message)

Disclaimer: These blog posts and other social media activity contain my own personal views & opinions and may not represent the views, beliefs, or ideas of my teammates or the church I am involved with currently or have been involved with in the past.

Long Road to Ecuador

June 20, 2013 — 1 Comment

We made it to Ecuador.

We left at 5:30 AM Tuesday morning and arrived in Gonzama at 10 AM Wednesday. Spent the night on the cold tile at Quito’s airport and took the very bumpy and interesting ride from Loja to Gonzama.

100_5076

We avoided livestock in the road, watched as cars passing other cars on blind curves, we got used to cars coming straight at us in our lane, swerved to miss a napping dog in the middle of the road (he apparently always sleeps in the middle of the road according to Amanda, the missionary), and hit the endless potholes.

All of it only added to our adventure.

We hit the ground running after arriving, painting at the Community Center. All the white people attracted the kids coming out of the school across the street and they eventually came over to check us out. The kids taught us some of their games so we got a nice little break.

Laughter and squeals are a universal language.

Amanda shared with me that 1 little boy asked if she cried in Spanish. Sometimes we just want to share an emotion with another person no matter what language.

It was a very busy day that ended at 9PM that night. Today, we will be leading a VBS for the kids in Portete.

I’m unable to upload pictures at this time but as soon as I figure out the problem, I will share photos.

Desire to be Weak!

June 18, 2013 — 5 Comments

91300442Today begins our long journey to our final destination in Ecuador.  We left at 5:30 this morning.  We will experience 3 planes and 2 layovers, one of which is 8 hours long.  If all goes well, we should arrive tomorrow at 10:30 AM.  Sleep deprived, we will hit the ground running with orientation, lunch, a quick tour, and then beginning our work project in Portete, a long drive from where we are staying.

Today and tomorrow, excitement will mingle with nervousness and sleepiness.  Meaning there may be times when we will be silly, emotional, confused, groggy, and comical.  We will likely feel quite weak when we arrive.  How will we find the strength to actually work?

Saul (later called Paul) was brought to a point of weakness during a life-changing moment on a road he was traveling.  Saul had been breathing out murderous threats toward Jesus’ disciples and His followers.  He hated Jesus’ ministry and was determined to crush it.  He was a man who struck terror in the hearts of the people.

However, on this day on the road, a bright light suddenly appeared that made him fall to the ground.  It was Jesus wanting Saul to answer for persecuting Him.  Jesus told Saul to go into the city and he would be told what to do.

Saul was then struck blind.  He didn’t eat or drink anything for 3 days as he waited for instructions.  All the power given to him by man did him no good during this time.  All of the strength he had built within himself failed him now.  He was brought to a point of utter weakness.

Finally a man named Ananias showed up and told Saul Jesus had sent him so he could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Saul’s sight was restored and he began eating and drinking which gave him strength.

He then began preaching telling others about Jesus.  (Acts 9:1-22)

It’s quite remarkable for a man who once hated Jesus to become one of His most effective leaders.  By making him weak, Jesus was able to change Saul’s heart and use him in many powerful ways.

Although each of us on this mission trip have followed Christ for a while, there are times we, too, must be brought to a point of weakness.  We must be completely emptied of ourselves and our own agenda so He can work effectively through us.

So even though it may seem disastrous to begin a mission trip so tired, we are being brought to a point of weakness for a reason.  We are trusting God to fill our weakness with His strength, fill us with His power, and do what He desires.

Please be praying for us!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Other posts in this series:

A Scary yet Amazing Trip

Does God Shop at Garage Sales?

God’s Going to Fail Me!

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

Disclaimer:  These blog posts and other social media activity contain my own personal views & opinions and may not represent the views, beliefs, or ideas of my teammates or the church I am involved with currently or have been involved with in the past.

 

It’s 4 days before my daughter and I join 13 other people from our church for a mission trip to Ecuador.  The reality of what we are about to do is finally beginning to sink in.  Although I’ve been to Ecuador before, there are still butterflies.

132077687Will any of us be detained in the airport?  Will we find ourselves in a difficult situation because we don’t know the language or culture?  Will I be able to keep my daughter safe?  Will we get sick from the food?  The worries are sometimes overwhelming.

However, even though we are nervous, we are also excited.  We get to meet new people, attempt to communicate when we don’t speak the language, try new foods, see beautiful landscapes we may only see once in our lives, and spread the love of Christ in the process.

I’m personally excited to share this experience with my daughter.  The last mission trip really changed my perspective on life and I know it will do the same for her.

Affecting me in a deep and profound way were the two home visits we made in Quito, Ecuador.

One was the home of a disabled couple.  We discovered this couple must maneuver a wheelchair and walker up a damaged walk, climb a few stairs, and navigate some tight corners just to reach their front door.  Once inside their 2 room apartment, we found it furnished with only a couple of plastic lawn chairs.  A clothesline was strung across the living area with clothes drying above the concrete floor.  They had very little food in their tiny kitchen with tiny refrigerator.  Apparently any refrigerator is a luxury in Quito so they were blessed by someone who donated it to them.

100_2410The 2nd home we visited belonged to a mom of 5 kids, one who has cerebral palsy.  There was a steep staircase from the street leading down to their apartment.  The 2 room apartment with a concrete floor was sparsely furnished similar to the 1st one.  The other room held two beds that all six shared.

The kitchen, big enough for only 1 person to stand in, had no refrigerator or stove.  The bathroom was outside and was shared with the woman upstairs.  When one of the kids needed to use the bathroom, the mom was forced to lock everyone else in the apartment while she took the one outside to use the facilities.  And to top off everything, the mom had to carry her child and her wheelchair up the steep staircase whenever she needed to leave the house.

The missionary who arranged the tour explained the dad abandoned this family and left them to fend for themselves.  The mom had recently been fired from her job because she was caught stealing food from her work’s kitchen.  The little money she made could not feed her children, so in utter desperation she resorted to stealing the food her children needed.  This explained the meager food in the house. 100_2425and1

I suddenly felt the need to escape this woman’s apartment.  Choking back sobs, I ached to be alone.

The shame I felt was overwhelming.  Just a few days before leaving for the trip, I had complained about our carpet and countertops.  The stress of getting ready for the trip made me snap at the kids and my husband.

The appalling need in front of me was making me come to terms with the overly blessed life I was taking for granted.  Even more distressing was their joy in contrast to mine.  By their standards, I had it all and yet lacked joy.  By my standards, they had nothing but had unmistakable joy.

My longing for more rather than being content with what I had was stealing my joy.  When my family didn’t meet my expectations, they were subjected to anger and frustration.  In comparison to the Ecuadorians, the love for their family superseded all other needs.  Somewhere between the altar, the delivery room, and now, I had allowed that joy to turn to stress.

I came home a different person.  My family comes first (after my relationship with God).  Time with them is protected as much as possible.  All requests for time already spoken for on my calendar receives the same response, “I already have something on the calendar for that time.”  I have found this garners more forgiveness than the unwillingness to sacrifice time with family.  And since I use it regularly, nobody knows when my time is filled with obligations or family.

And when the “I wants” threaten, I turn off Pinterest and pull out photos from these home visits.

I can’t wait to see how God uses the experiences on this upcoming trip to change my daughter.

We may be nervous at the unknowns.  But we are also eager to get there and do what God has asked of us.  To learn the lessons He has for us.  To experience the culture and scenery.  And hopefully make a lasting impact on the people we serve all while God is at work changing us to become more like Christ.  It’s going to be an amazing trip!

You may also like:

Perfect Mom?  Hardly!

Can Anger Be Controlled?

Finishing Last

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

87823077Rain and cold made it a miserable weekend for a garage sale.  But I pressed on anyway with our “Pay what you want” garage sale to raise money for mine and my daughter’s mission trip to Ecuador.  I was a bit worried nobody would show up to shop.  And I was also concerned with how people might respond to paying whatever they desired.  It was entirely possible to empty the garage and only have $10 to show for all my effort.

Throughout the two days of the sale, there was a steady stream of people.  Some paid much less than what some items were worth but most paid more than I would have asked.

Throughout the two days, as I huddled near a space heater, I sat amazed at the generosity.

One family came in and the mom explained to her children they could choose their own price and the money would be going toward a mission trip to Ecuador where little kids would be helped.  Her four children, ranging in ages 4-9, brought their own money to spend.  Choosing small toys, without any prompting from their mom, each gave generously because they wanted to “help the kids in Ecuador.”

One woman came in, looked around, read the sign about the trip, and began talking with me.  She shared she and her husband would soon become missionaries to Papua, New Guinea.  We had a nice visit and at the end of our conversation, she handed me $20.  She bought nothing but simply wanted to support our mission trip.

The sale was surprising on another level also.  Throughout the two days, items I thought would be popular were still on the tables and racks.  Due to friends donating merchandise to the garage sale, there were many cute girls and boys clothes, baby clothes, and shoes for boys and girls, none of which were selling.  It was baffling.

139970264I had so much left when it was time to wind down the garage sale at 1:00 on Saturday, I chose to make all remaining items free.  It was a bit selfish on my part because it would save us from having to cart all of it somewhere to donate.  However, I prayed people would come in that had a need and would be blessed by whatever they took.

An older couple came in and were completely shocked to hear everything was free.  The husband and I visited as the woman filled bags with toys and clothes for their grandchildren.

In talking with this gentleman, I discovered he lost his parents at a young age so he and his brothers grew up in an orphanage.  As we talked, another couple came in.  When I explained everything was free, the woman became extremely excited.  She was like a kid in a candy store, filling bags as fast as possible.

As the woman worked, she shared she was from the Philippines.  She married an American and moved to the States but her family still lived overseas.  She went on to tell how the flooding in the Philippines had taken everything from her family and their entire community.  Many kids run around in their underwear because they have no clothes.  To help, this couple looks for clothes and sends as many packages to the Philippines as possible.  The woman works at a second-hand store because they allow her to take the items that don’t sell so she may send them overseas.

152987306This couple had come to our neighborhood garage sales hoping they could find some good deals on clothes.  I told them their timing was a God-thing.  I explained I had prayed all the items at our garage sale would be a blessing to those receiving them.  I also shared how most of the clothes and shoes had failed to sell and I could not understand it until that moment.  All those items were meant for this couple.

We filled the back of their truck with clothes and shoes that would soon be headed for the Philippines.  They thanked me profusely.  I waved them off telling them they had blessed me way more than I blessed them.  When I walked back in the garage, the man I had been visiting with before looked at me and said, “That was beautiful.  Growing up as an orphan, I can’t tell you how much that scene touched me.  I used to love it when the Lutheran truck would roll into the orphanage because I knew I would be getting some new-to-me clothes.”  He then opened his wallet and gave me what was left, $20.

Two women came in as the man and I talked.  Hearing us discuss the couple sending clothes to the Philippines and about our mission trip to Ecuador, one of the women walked over and handed me $20.

There are some truly wonderful people in this world.  So when world news discourages, criticism crushes, or daily life overwhelms, look past the bad.  You will always find people who are willing to display incredible generosity, astounding kindness, and impressive courage.  They not only encourage us but they make us feel as if everything is going to be okay.

And by the way, our garage sale was a success and brought us within $200 of our mission trip goal.

Does God shop at garage sales?  He may not shop but He certainly shows up.

You may also like:

How Should I Pray for Myself?

A Marriage Beyond Hope

10 Ideas to Show Love to a Stranger

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

 

stk33345binI have very little faith.  My default setting is worry.  It would be reasonable to think I would have unshakable faith after recording pages and pages of answers to prayer in my prayer journal.  However I always seem to wonder if God is going to fail me “this time.”

In a recent post, I wrote about God clearly speaking to me at a retreat where I decided I was no longer going to speak.  Playing bible roulette landed me at a passage meant specifically to say “keep at it.”  The retreat was a success and I left the weekend feeling elated.

As I made the long drive home, my euphoria quickly turned to apprehension as I thought of how much money still needed to be raised for mine and my daughter’s upcoming mission trip with a group from our church to Ecuador.  We still had $2640 out of $3200 to raise.

Although support letters were sent, we didn’t have many people to send them to and most had already contributed.  The only other possibility on the horizon was the garage sale we planned in which all proceeds would go toward our mission trip.  But in all reality, I knew a simple garage sale would not bring in all the funds needed.

I prayed half-heartedly and wondered how in the world God could come through.  Two days later, I received a call from the church secretary.  She informed me a check came in for our trip.  It was from a couple we are friends with but haven’t seen in 2 years.  They have 3 young children.  When I inquired how much it was for, she nonchalantly said, $2000.  I was stunned speechless.

I asked her to repeat herself and then immediately began arguing it must be a mistake.  To convince me, the secretary sent a picture of the check to my phone.  It took about 10 minutes for the reality to sink in and then I just melted to the floor.

So many emotions were warring within me.  Deeply moved by our friend’s generosity, I felt shame that I’m not that giving.  I was also feeling serious regret for doubting God.  At the same time, I was incredibly relieved at the weight taken off my shoulders.  All these emotions became so overwhelming I ended up bawling.  And once I started crying I could not stop.  I cried all day long.

Before the week was over, another donation came in bringing our need down to $615.  I no longer doubted the rest of the money would be raised for our trip.

Blessings always follow obedience.

Psalm 24:4-5, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.  He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Is there an area where you are fearful God will fail you?  Allow us to encourage you by sharing in the comments below.

Stay tuned when I share the story of our amazing garage sale tomorrow.

You may also like:

Finishing Last

Burned!

Physician Soldier Fights More Than One Enemy

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson