I have been on several different service or mission trips since I was in high school, but I never expected how special this international trip to Ecuador would be to me. I have always been a religious person, but coming up to the trip, I found that my prayer life was getting stale; I needed something to give a spark to my faith, and God provided me with exactly what I needed.
My favorite memory from the mission came from visiting two different communities. We were staying in the town of Mishualli, which was about five or six hours from Quito, and the surrounding community was very poor, but very Catholic. Our job for the first three days were to go out to the houses around the Church and ask the people if they wanted to take part in a Census, as well as talk to them about their faith. Considering I had taken German in high school and couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, I was disappointed because I had felt so useless because I couldn’t communicate at all with anyone and felt as if I was constantly my fellow missionaries constantly asking them to translate for me. Then, we had come to a group of houses in Mishualli that, at first, looked like it had very few inhabitants and I was disappointed to be useless for yet another day. All of a sudden, there were a group of children that just seemed to come out of nowhere and start playing with us. We stayed there for three hours and played with them the entire time—running around, playing tag and soccer, and carrying them on our shoulders, and just simply laughing. My day went from sitting down on the steps of a house, upset I couldn’t help in any way to being absolutely exhausted and almost wishing I could have a break. When we left that block, I was so thanked to God for answering my prayers and helping me see where I could be useful on this trip.
On Sunday, we had the amazing opportunity to hike about two miles to this remote community and bring them Mass. Being an outdoor person, I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, getting dirty from all the mud and loving the challenge of hiking. Once we got the community, we stayed there for most of the day. It was such a blessing to be able to share Mass with them and discuss our experiences with God and talk about Scripture. After Mass, we played an intense game of soccer with the adults of the community…Americans vs. Ecuadorians. Obviously, they won. Being able to spend an entire day with one community was an amazing experience because I felt like I was really able to connect with them, more than a community that we would visit for a short period of time. I also loved playing with the children of this community and hearing them laugh at my feeble attempts to speak in Spanish. After an exhausting day of hiking to the community, playing with them, we had the challenging task of the hike back down. Although this seemed like such a daunting task, we were all able to complete the hike with a positive attitude. We ended the day so exhausted and sweaty, but it was that “good-kind of sweat” as the missionaries would say. I was so blessed to be able to take part in bringing God to that community.
One of the first things I notice in people I first meet, and one of my favorite things about people, is their laugh. No two laughs are the same and I love to see hear the uniqueness of a person’s God given laugh—it becomes a way for me to identify someone. While on mission, I struggled to communicate, but the one thing that transcended all language barriers was laughter. I could feel the love of God in the laughter; I could see the face of Jesus in their laughing, smiling faces; I could feel Jesus working through me, using my talents to touch the lives of these people, these children as the sound of their laughter touched my heart. I will never forget all those memories of laughter and joy. One of the most important things I brought back from this mission trip was the idea that joy is not dependent on material possessions. These people had so little, yet they were filled with such joy just because they had the companionship of their family and friends. I realized first hand that material possessions are not the source of happiness, but people are; people who have the same values as you and are real true friends, who are there for you through thick and thin. I became so much closer with all of my fellow Adelphi missionaries, and will cherish their friendships for a long time to come. God has blessed me so much on this trip with newer and closer friends and amazing memories of the beautiful landscape, but He really blessed me with this renewed sense of my faith that calms my entire existence. I notice myself so much less tense and nervous because I know that I have God on my side and no matter what, as long as I trust in him, everything will work out the way He has is planned.