(This is a reflection shared by Jess Delp who volunteered with the Santiago Partnership for two weeks in July 2015)
First off, I want to apologize for the embarrassingly late post. Unfortunately a few things came up that had to take priority over writing this; new schools, new friends, new ambitions. And now we’re on the brink of a new year (hope you have a lovely one!), a time when everyone reflects on the old and nurses hope for the future. So it feels right to finish this blog now, to look back and thank Abba for all the undeserved blessings He’s given me through Ecuador, to thank Him for exposing me for who I was, for showing me how far I was from who He intended me to be. Plus, there’s no homework breathing down my neck now, which is always nice when something like this needs done. But fair warning, this is going to be a long post- for now, I’m going to share one of my college essays with you;
I don’t like granadillas. They are the most malicious and deceptive little fruit I have ever encountered, hiding their acrid, gel-encased seeds until you’ve already pierced the shell and condemned yourself to hours of bitter aftertaste. Eating them takes willpower, pushes you way out of your comfort zone. The first time I had one I was in my cousin’s living room, waiting to catch the plane back home, a place without granadillas. And I didn’t want to leave.
Before Ecuador I was very much your stereotypical, melodramatic seventeen-year-old at ease with her lukewarm life. I was an okay sister, an okay friend, and, worst of all, an okay Christian going through the motions. My faith was threadbare, wavering in the face of even the most insignificant troubles. I mistrusted God so much that I planned to turn from my faith once I began college. Nothing I did carried any worth, and the world revolved around me.
Then my kind parents surprised me with a volunteer trip to Ecuador, a land of snarled jungles and breathtaking mountains (literally breathtaking-those mountains are steep). I had the honor of being privy to its beauty for a time, a beauty not half as remarkable as the people living in it. They are among the boldest, most compassionate people I have ever met. They embraced me, a total stranger, with ardent love, and showed me that the life I desperately wanted was still within reach.
A kind-hearted Ecuadorian, a friend I had known for less than a day, paid for my lunch despite the money already in my hands, leaving me fumbling for words beyond “gracias.” I was called “little sister” by a church-full of loving strangers. I saw poverty there, in the form of an sweet, emaciated twelve-year-old who loved soccer. And I met the people who devoted their lives to helping those like him. Most of them live in a world of chronic poverty, of tarp houses and trials more bitter than the granadillas they sell along the road. In spite of it all, their faith is unwavering. Despite the little they have, they do their utmost to lift each other up. They earnestly follow God, even in the face of the vices we share as human beings.
Their bold lives stressed the paleness of mine, made me so sick of surviving and so ready to pour my life out for my God and finally leave my complacency behind. I’ve never experienced anything like Ecuador before, never felt so convicted, so loved or so challenged that far from home. Simply living alongside them forced me to encounter who I was and to compare myself to the person I wanted to be. I encountered my self-pity after seeing the devastating effects of a landslide on the community of Oyacachi, and saw the Christian I wanted to be reflected in the ever joyous and unshakable faith of its inhabitants. I encountered my pride every time I met another incredible, faithful Ecuadorian christian, humbled knowing that, despite my privileges, they were my superiors. I encountered my insecurities after comparing my hollow life to theirs, and saw how utterly inconsequential mine was.
Acknowledging those characteristics was difficult for me, harder than swallowing granadilla seeds. Ever since I’ve been fighting those traits in me, and, though I still stumble and fall, I think I’m drawing closer to being the “Jess” God wants me to be, and doing my best to draw others close to the Father who adores them, just as the Ecuadorian church did for me. Nothing can stop me from seeking out God and His plan for me now, for finding the next granadilla He has in store for me—I want another so badly.
He worked through so many people during my time in Ecuador, so many passionate, God-loving Christians. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for them and the lessons they taught me-for reminding me of the power of prayer, the essential nature of hope, for serving as role models. I don’t mean to idealize or generalize the nature of the people I met-they’re all human, and I’m sure they’ve all struggled with vices or doubts or misgivings at some point. But they go on anyway, fighting for the beloved children of Ecuador in the face of poverty, doing what they can to stay in God’s will. Someday I hope to rejoin them, if that’s God’s will for me, to have a servant’s heart as full as theirs. I can never thank them enough for showing me what a reckless, ardent life of faith looks like.
I think about Ecuador every day now, thanking the Lord for the person He’s challenged me to become through my time there. Admittedly I’m still nowhere close to being her, but I’m getting there bit by bit, day by day, year by year. I hope to come even closer in the upcoming one, and give Him as much glory as I can-we’ll call it my New Year’s resolution. In fact I’d like to ask anyone reading this to hold me accountable to that, to feel free to give me a heads up if you see me straying. On that note, I’ll do all I can to support your resolutions (especially since you’ve read this much of my post), what ever area of your life it may be in. As for me, I want to re-devote myself to Abba, I want to chase after Him, give Him my life. He arrested my heart through Ecuador, and I don’t want it back.
Simeon quote of the day:
“How many minutes until you come back?”