HOW THE DARKNESS OF A DELAYED FLIGHT SHOWED ME THE SUNLIGHT OF GOD
by Dr. Erica Liebelt
My first trip to Ecuador was in November 2014 when I visited the Galapagos Islands and Quito for adventure, a cultural experience, and relaxation. I finally was settled in my seat on board the plane, eagerly awaiting the departure of the flight from Quito back to the U.S when I felt some little legs “playing the drums” on the back of my seat. Then the announcement came and we had to deplane. Ughhhhh…. more sitting and waiting, more airport food. Well, I met the family who was sitting behind me as we were deplaning—Joel (apologizing for their future superstar drum player), Kim, Simeon (the drum player), and baby Esther—and we continued talking in the airport. As they told me about their journeys in Ecuador with the Santiago Partnership and their commitment to serving Christ through their mission work, the frustrations I was feeling about our delayed departure and my missed connection quickly went away. After returning home, I continued to think about what they told me about the Medical Clinic, and the Home for At Risk Children, read their Blogs and the SP Newsletters and stared at the photos they posted of their mission work in Ecuador.
As a practicing pediatrician for the past 25 years, their child-focused mission resonated very well with my love for children. I wanted to go back to Ecuador, but in a different capacity. I was fortunate to be invited to be part of a pediatric medical caravan in April. I had never participated in a foreign medical mission trip and can say with certainty that this experience fulfilled every expectation, goal, and dream, I had, but also provided a gift from God that I could never have anticipated or asked for.
Our team which included Kim (my inspiration and medical consultant), Richard and Tara Euler (my support system), Dr. Hernandez (my teacher of Ecuadorian medicine), Mirian and Nancy (our nurses extraordinaire), Mirian (our Quechua translator), and myself worked hard, laughed hard and helped each other for one purpose– serving God through providing excellent healthcare and support to the children and mothers that came to us.
For our first three days, we drove from Cayambe way up into the Andes mountains and held a clinic in a church in a Quechua community which was a cement block with no heat or running water. Our last two days were spent seeing children in a Compassion Center and the new medical clinic in Cayambe that the Santiago Project had just completed building. Despite the cold temperatures and rain, the experiences I had with the team, my daily lunch of potato soup and rice with peas, and the glowing smiles of every child I evaluated, gave my spirit some of the most intense sunlight it has ever felt. We saw over 300 children during the week, some with complex medical and mental health problems, some with more straightforward issues, and lots and lots with “dolor de estómago”
We practiced excellent medicine as a team without fancy apps on our phones, without expensive tests, and without a complicated electronic medical record; rather with a good history, physical exam, knowledge, dedicated time talking with our patients, and prayer. These children do not have a lot– (materialistic stuff that is) but they have resilience, intelligence, maturity, love for their family and friends, and lots of laughter.
Our long days were made even brighter by the hospitality of Pastor Jose and his wife Magdalena –warm fires that welcomed us “home”, a comfortable bed where I collapsed every night, and scrumptious Ecuadorian breakfasts and dinners in a peaceful and beautiful setting.
For the past 10 or so years, I have questioned and struggled with my purpose in life. After this trip, I finally realized that the answer was much simpler than I had thought—My purpose is to do God’s will and help others. I now realize that there is no limit to what I can accomplish in helping others. God will help me in all good work because I know it is HIS will. The darkness of that night In Quito when my flight was delayed showed me the sunlight of God’s spirit through the Delp family and the Santiago Partnership. The opportunity they gave me to help children in Ecuador through the skills God has given me has forever enriched my spirit and relationship with God.
1 John 1:5 – This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Here are some more pictures from her time here: