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Embracing suffering and hope in Ecuador

I’m still processing all the gifts and challenges received in Ecuador last week from participating in the course “United Against Human Trafficking” with North Park Seminary students and Mexican and Ecuadorian Covenant leaders, but I want to share three initial reflections from my time traveling in Ecuador with Maya…

1. “We can do hard things.” – Glennon Doyle Melton.  Besides addressing the very difficult topics of human trafficking, violence and abuse, imagine traveling for 10 days with a toddler on 8 different flights, several bus and car rides, staying in four different homes, breaking the normal routine and leaving familiar places.  This was all very, very difficult for me.  However, I am also convinced that it is good to leave our comfort zone once in a while and be challenged in new ways, especially if we are being led by the Holy Spirit, like when Jesus was led to the desert to be tempted by the devil (OK, so it wasn’t THAT hard).  As I reflected on this today, I was drawn to read some of my recent journal entries and was struck by this prayer I had written down from my Lenten devotions a few days before the trip:

Divine One,

Lead me into a place I do not know.

Give me your heart that I may choose to leave the comfortable for the unsure.

Hand me a new fast rooted in your vision.

Help me remove the tired garment of my expectations and stand naked before you.  Amen.

I saw how God had answered this prayer through my experience in Ecuador, and I was grateful.  One of the reasons we can do hard things, like enter into another’s suffering, is that we are not alone.  God is always with us, and He has given us community, and I experienced the gift of both of these things on this trip.

God provided wonderful people to help watch Maya on many of the days that I was with the group…

He also provided amazing families that hosted us…

And, Maya did such an amazing job adjusting to new people, places, food and a completely out of whack schedule!

2.  Richard Rohr talks about the need to recognize how truly important my life is here and now, the unique role I have to play in the Kingdom, and at the same time recognize that I am such a small, small part of the whole story of God, just a speck of dust in the whole of time and universe.  This trip allowed me to embrace this paradox, this reality.  Because it was such a difficult trip with a toddler, there were days I wondered if I had made the wrong decision in going to Ecuador, but God awakened me to His presence in and around me and affirmed my unique role in the larger group.  It was a role and gift I whole-heartedly embraced and throughly enjoyed.  Through the Spirit at work within me, and because of the community of Christ welcoming my gifts and using their own gifts, I was able to help lead this group into the presence of God through prayer and lament, creative devotional times and Bible studies that addressed the issues of abuse and violence head on.  I sensed the Holy Spirit at work in me, and at the same time was quite aware of the need for the larger church to join forces to work against the principalities and powers at work in the sex slave industry and in the generational cycles of abuse in our churches and families.

3.  I left Ecuador with a sense of immense gratitude and hope.

Grateful for the special times and conversations with missionary colleagues…

Grateful to be able to witness God speaking through my Mexican sisters from MAEM!

Hopeful because of the many wonderful women and men from different countries who are committed to and already working in the prevention, intervention and healing of abuse!

On  a walk with friends on my last day in Ecuador, I walked under this banner that says, Portal of Hope.

And, I am reminded of another verse I had written down in my journal just days before the trip,

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1).

In the midst of whatever difficulties in life we are facing, may we be filled with faith and hope knowing that God and God’s people are with us in the pain and that we must often walk through the valley of the shadow of death in order to experience new life.

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2 thoughts on “Embracing suffering and hope in Ecuador”

  1. Hebrews 1:1 is my favorite verse! I praise God for you and those who work with you! Beacons of hope for the hopeless! Thank you!! Martha Johnson-Svedvik.

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