Wednesday, 18 January 2012

What a day!

Today has definitely been “one of those days”. It has been so full. Non-stop. Now, at the end of the day, I am tired.
Playing games at Bomboli
The day began with a planned picnic on Bomboli. This is the highest point in Santo Domingo and you can see out over the whole of the City. It’s great. We planned to take the kids there, on a school trip. There is space to play games, have a picnic and say goodbye to Victoria, another volunteer who is heading home soon. However, we woke up to rain. At the moment we are in the rainy season. I have never seen so much rain!
In England, if it is raining when you have planned a picnic, you can put your coat on and see it through. Here, when it rains, you just get soaked through. We waited in the school for a bit and finished off some preparations for next week. When the rain finally stopped and it became really hot, we headed off to Bomboli. 20 of us squashed in a 12 seater minibus. Health and safety rules are “flexible” here. We had a great morning. The kids were happy, played together, ran about and had a picnic. Once we were home I was exhausted. School trips are tiring at the best of times, even more so with special needs kids and when you are talking in your second language. 
Parachute games

After this I read an email which actually made me cry. For several months I have been thinking about extending my time here. I have been looking forward to having more time here. I enjoy my time with my Ecuadorian family here, my work and was excited by the things I had in mind to do. However, this email told me I could not extend my time. It is something to do with the type of ticket I have. If I wanted to stay, I would have to buy another ticket home. To be honest, if I had that sort of money spare, I think I would prefer to just give it to the charity as it would be more use. It would be silly to buy another ticket just so I can stay for a bit longer.

So why did I cry when I found out I could be home in April, rather than waiting until July?

I think I had been mentally preparing myself to stay. Preparing to be away from friends and family for longer, living here without so many English friends, taking time to get to know more Ecuadorian friends of my own, excited by the new projects I could get involved with and thinking that is what God wanted me to do. It took me by surprise. So, after thinking about it, I am happy that I will be home in April. Writing this, and reading back over what I have written, it probably doesn’t sound like a very big deal. However, for me, it is quite a big thing.
Now, thinking that I will be home in less than 4 months, excites me. I have NO idea where I will live, what I will do when I return, or even if I can get a job. I don’t know why I can’t extend my flight. However, I do know that God has a bigger plan than my own. I just need to keep surrendering back to him, all my plans. God knows why I need to be home in April. I would like to think I could write a blog entry in June or July to tell you why I know I needed to be back in England for then. Watch this space!

So after all of that, I then headed to Laura Flores this afternoon. It is always so hot and airless there. It is tiring. The bible study didn’t happen this week as only one woman turned up. I spend 30 minutes with the kids, doing some basic work on big and small. They had a good time!
I rushed home and showered and went to a birthday party. I was invited to the party for 5pm. I felt bad knowing that I would not be home from Laura Flores in time. However, knowing more about Ecuador, I was reminded it would be an Ecuadorian 5pm. I turned up probably around 6:30 and that was just right! Ecuadorian birthday parties are different to the ones I am used to. In my family, if it is your birthday, we all go to your house for a cup of tea and cake and maybe a game. It is a fun evening. In Ecuador, in Christian families, it will be a time to share some words about that person; words to encourage them and thank God for an extra year of their life and for many more years to come. There is normally singing, food and cake.

What a day!

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?
35 Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.
Romans 11 v 33-36

With the view of Santo Domingo behind us
All the children in the special school

Monday, 16 January 2012


Sunday is a family day for me. When I was growing up, the 4 of us in our family would always have my Grandpa over for Sunday Roast. It would follow the same routine; all of us trying not to get Grandpa to tell the boys who won the Formula 1 motor racing, (if he had seen the news earlier in the day)  My brother and I split the jobs of stirring the gravy or laying the table, no-one ever wanted to sit too close to Grandpa whilst eating as he always put so much pepper on his dinner (and most of our dinners too). It would be a quiet afternoon but a nice one, together, When I moved out I still loved Sundays. It still was still a family day, but even though I did not live near my family, I joined other families. 
This weekend my parents visited one of my other “families”. A family that I feel part of and loved within. It is so strange not being there with them. I would love to be there, to join them for lunch, to hang out with them all on that Sunday afternoon. However, I am not. I have had several reminders this weekend that I am not at home, in England, with my family. 

My Family

My God daughter turned 4 at the weekend. She asked if I could come to her party.  I was sad not to be there. I will be there to celebrate her 5th. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on lots of things; seeing children grow up, being there to support friends, going to a friends wedding etc. Although I am just the other end of an email or a skype call, it is not the same.
I could sit and grumble about how I want to go and visit my friends and family and how I can not do that now. I could grumble about the heat here or the heavy rainfall or the pollution or living so far from the sea. Or I can realise why I am here. As I walked to the Baptist church school today, I was reminded of that again. I was walking to the church to work with some children who find it difficult to speak and communicate. I am here to help the children to communicate better. I am here to share what I have learnt in England, with the teachers here. I am also here to share some of my experiences; to challenge, encourage and make others, at home, think outside their lives. I am blessed. I have been blessed with a degree. I have been blessed with jobs in England that have developed my skills. I have been blessed with friends and family who have helped shape me to be who I am now.  I am blessed to work in a beautiful Country here. I am blessed to know that I have a God who loves me and knows why I am here now and where I will go afterwards.

Psalm 142 v 2-3
"I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way"

Maths exams

My brain is really tired today. We have exams in the special school. I was helping the children do their exams today. It is hard work. Not only does it test my patience but also my Spanish skills. Today was maths. I helped 4 boys complete the exam. I found some of it a challenge.  I really struggle with maths. It was even harder in another language and explaining to the children what they had to do was a challenge. All 4 boys were at different stages in the exam. I had to help each one individually, depending on their need and ability. Being boys, they were not too keen to sit and concentrate for too long. It felt a long morning! I don’t want to be a teacher.   

Thursday, 12 January 2012

I love you, warts and all.

Actually, I haven’t met any children here with warts. However, there are many who are malnourished, smelly and have knit filled hair. On the outside, some children are more of a challenge to love. Those that burp in your face, the ones who smell because they do not get washed or have soap in their house, those that wet themselves, the ones who spill their lunch down you, the ones with knit filled, knotted  hair. There are malnourished children, overweight ones, bossy children and stubborn ones. I love these kids. At times they are not easy to work with. They test my patience. They often don’t listen to me. Despite all of these things, I love working with them. The poor in Laura Flores or the ones who clamber all over me even when I know that they smell. I do not judge them or want to push them away. I love them and try to see through the dirt, the hurt they have seen and unstableness of their family backgrounds. I know Jesus didn’t only hang out with those who were clean and presentable, those that had good manners or who were sociably acceptable. He saw through the outer appearances and saw their heart and loved everyone. The prostitutes, the drug users, the alcoholics, the tax collectors, the liars, the disabled, the diseased. He loved them all. I want to be more like him.

Child, I love you, knits and all.

To ponder

I recently received a magazine in the post and have enjoyed being challenged whilst reading it. I tried to write something interesting to combine it all together, but it didn’t take shape. So I leave you with the quotes to ponder.

“The bottom line is that we’re called to live by faith not by fear. If you look at most people’s decision-making in the West, we make decisions from a paradigm of fear. We often do something to prevent something from happening. Put our security in our house or pension, because we don’t really trust God. I don’t want to live like that“
Simon Guillebaud working in Burundi

“Deep end discipleship is “cruciform” it is cross shaped. It means emphasising responsibilities over rights, service over pleasure and contributing over consuming. To live this countercultural call in today’s world will inevitably involve sacrifice.”
“Deep end discipleship means doing what God says even when it is not convenient to us.”
“Inspired by the call of Christ and filled by his spirit may he give us grace to be deep end disciples with lives hallmarked by obedience, holiness, mission and sacrifice “
Greg Downes

“One of the greatest miracles of all is to see followers of Jesus doing ordinary and sometimes dishwater-dull tasks with excellence and faithfulness. It takes courage to live the ordinary life.”
Jeff Lucas

We are blessed

HEAVEN TO EARTH (We are blessed)

Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame.
You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not.
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed.
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success
In the broken, we shall see restored
the image of our King

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not.
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere

Breathe new life in all who gather here
New life in all who gather here

 ©2007 Andy Flannagan

 I really like this song. Today it encouraged me. The last few days I have been thinking a lot about the next few months. I am due to head back to England in April. However, over the last few months I have weighing up the idea of staying for an extra few months. It will give me a few more months in the special school and to do more therapy and maybe get involved with another project too. The charity is/will be changing a lot over the summer holidays (Feb/March) and will be very different in April when we start back again. I am excited by April, May and June to do more work and serve the children here in Ecuador. However much I know it is the right decision to stay, I still doubt. I wonder if I will have the strength to overcome the dull ache I so often feel, missing so many of my good friends and my family.  I sometimes doubt I have enough Spanish to be much use here. I am worried I will be lonely, with none of my English friends here in those last few months. I will have to make more of an effort to develop my Ecuadorian friendships which will be great, but is a lot harder. I wonder if I can adjust to all the changes that will come in April; new people, new work, different places.

This song encourages me. I have totally been blessed in my life. I have amazing friends and family who support me, encourage me, affirm me and who have helped me get to where I am today. I want to give some of that blessing away. I am loved by God and want to share that with the children here. I am not sure I can change much here. However, I know God is powerful and can do amazing things through ordinary people, just like me.  

“You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come”

That’s cool.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things (life, food, drink, clothes) will be given to you as well. For do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6 v 33-34

Things to smile about

Recently there have been some great times with the children. Times that have made me smile. A few of the times I have managed to catch a photo of. It is these funny times that make me realise how much I love my work here.

2 Laura Flores children in the minibus. They LOVE it!
They love to pretend they are on the real big buses
and pretend to be the bus conductor!

LF kids working on Wednesday. They had to sort the objects into 3 groups.
Transport, body parts and food. Everytime i names an object
all 3 of them shouted "That's mine!" Everytime.

One of the children in the school "hiding" from me in a shoebox

Working with Geovanny. This day tested my patience as we
revised for a maths exam together and it made me smile. Both us of find maths really hard.
Geovanny can't recognise numbers and i can't do maths.
We had a great morning!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I seriously need to realise that I can never plan things here. No day ever goes to plan. I had a whole “to-do” list for Thursday and I think I have only ticked off one thing. Although it leads to an exciting day, never knowing what might happen next, sometimes it is annoying to not feel you have achieved all you want to do. Today I have had some good chats with people that I did not expect. That was really nice. However, one chat in particular has stayed in my mind. Learning more and more of Laura Flores really touches my heart. Today I learnt a bit more about a family who live there. 

Laura Flores. Washing hanging on barbed wire, tin roofs,
plastic sheeting roofs, concrete walls, no running water,
no where to put your rubbish.
The mother, who is no longer with her partner, has 4 children. They live together in a “house”. I’m not sure if you can call it a house. What is a house? Is a house a place with 4 concrete walls, a plastic tarpaulin roof, which only stretches over your sleeping area? There is no-where to cook, no running water, no toilet, no-where to put the rubbish. Visible fumes rise from the rotting rubbish. The mum is sick. Not surprising. The mum can‘t work because who would look after the children. I do not know all the details about the family. I do not know for how long they have lived like this. I do not know how they ended up in Laura Flores or if they have always lived there. I do not know if the children will ever get out of Laura Flores. I might have some of the details wrong. But what I do know is that it is not right that people have to live like that. With the increasing amounts of daily rain and wind, the “roof” on this “house” will not last long.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


On bank holiday Monday, as a family we bought live crabs, cleaned them with a toothbrush, cooked them in a soup with peanut butter and verdes and ate them. Yum!
A great way to start the New Year!

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Years Eve

New Years Eve was spent with my Ecuadorian family here. It was a really great time, very different to what my English family were doing. I had a great Skype chat with all the family in England as their party began. It was good to feel part of it in a small way.
Here, I went to church with the family and then went to see the Ano Viejos. In Santo, these are men mainly made of paper mache, painted and varnished. People have them outside their houses or shops. In the centre of town, there was a big parade and you could go and see the best ones in town. There were so many people around and fireworks going off. Every child seemed to have a firework. It made sparklers seem very boring. I so hope none of the children got burnt hands. I'm not sure on the health and safety! The Ano Viejos represent the year past. At midnight it is burnt, symbolizing that the bad things are put behind us and we're looking forward to the year to come with hope and expectancy. At the end of the evening I went with my family to another families house for a meal and then we lit (tried to light) our ano Viejo.

Trying to set it on fire with newspaper.

After ours did not light, we added it to the pile next door...
a bit of petrol and fireworks made sure they burned!

The evening was really nice. A time spent with family. I am thankful for some much in 2011. God has been good and has blessed me with many good friends and family. I am excited by what the New Year brings.