Diocese of Rockville Centre

DRVC blog

2011 Mission Trip to Misahualli, Ecuador

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.

 

- Kyle Blackmer

It has been about one month since our team returned from our mission in Ecuador and the fire is still blazing within us. We are continuing to spread Christ’s love, but now, to people in our own communities. As you have read, Tina recently spoke with her young students about missionary work. KK and Justin have attended several youth group meetings at Holy Name of Mary Church in Valley Stream, NY, to spread their missionary zeal. A small group of us are even kick starting an effort to encourage young people – junior high and high school students, youth groups, confirmation classes, etc. – to set Long Island ablaze and to do God’s work.

Last night we brought the love of God to the streets of New York City during our “Midnight Run.” A group of ten students and four adult volunteers (including Marianne and Matthew) packed a van full of warm clothes, toiletries, and hot and cold food and drinks, and trekked into Manhattan to care for the homeless of the city. This night would come to remind me so much of our work in Ecuador and really showed us all that poverty is very real in our own country.

We made three stops over the course of the night. Our first was near some midtown public housing buildings. There we served five very gracious and friendly men who had been waiting for us to arrive. We handed out “slammin!” hot soup, sandwiches, and drinks, as well as clothing and shoes – all of it generously donated by our university and local communities and sorted by several incredibly caring individuals from Adelphi’s Resident Student Association.

-Kristina Viscariello
-Photos by Caitlin Stamm and Kristina Viscariello

Mission work does not end when the mission trip is complete. We have all been called to be missionaries where we live. We have been called to be lights of Christ and to spread His word.

Being the Light I had the opportunity to be the light to a group of second graders this past Friday. I worked with a second grade class at the California Avenue School in Uniondale this past semester and when Mrs. Chaplar, the permanent teacher, heard I had gone to Ecuador she asked me to speak to the students about it. I had the chance on Friday to give a talk to 18 second graders about what I had experienced in Ecuador. I was not going to give up that opportunity. Since it was a public school, I was unable to talk about the religious aspect of our trip, but I showed them a world that they did not know existed. I made up a slide show of pictures of the school buildings we were in since Mrs. Chaplar’s class has recently read a story about schools around the world. Most of the students in the class did know that there were schools where there was only one classroom, there weren’t enough chairs, and there weren’t enough books. The second graders were silenced at what I showed them. Even though the students found that the children of Ecuador have very different things, I showed them that the children were also very similar to them. I showed them pictures of the mission team playing games with the children, and I told them stories of the children we met. I told them that the children of Ecuador still like some of the same things they do. They have the same wants and needs as them. 

After I finished showing the students pictures, I asked them, “How are the schools in Ecuador different from the schools here?” One student said, “We have more than one classroom.” Another student answered, “They don’t have desks.” Many others answered in similar ways. Then I opened it up to questions. I have never seen so many hands raised. The students were so curious about these kids who they didn’t even know. I got asked if the people had shoes, if the people had jobs, if they wanted to live where they did, and so many more. I had to stop them from asking questions because we ran out of time! Then one of the students asked if we could raise money for them. He immediately wanted to jump right in and take action.

- Kyle Blackmer
- Photography by Alyssa Smith and Claire Flynn
 

On Sunday I overheard our group leaders discussing our itinerary for Monday. I was incredibly excited to hear that we would be hiking to a remote village called Tres Hermanos (Three Brothers). This kind of work was what I had been waiting for! We were going to trek into the jungle, cross rivers, encounter some physical hardship, and bring Christ to a small village - this was what I thought missionary work was all about. Though I came to Ecuador without many expectations, in an attempt to be ready for anything, Monday's mission was beyond anything I could have anticipated.

hikingThrough my years adventuring in Upstate New York as a Boy Scout, I had done much hiking, climbing, and almost every other wilderness activity you can think of, and several of my teammates are avid outdoorsmen as well. Nothing in the U.S., however, could have prepared us for our journey to Tres Hermanos. It was an adventure like none other.
 
We set out bright and early, rising at 6:30 to eat breakfast and pile into a couple of trucks at the Church with the nuns and Mercy - the sister of one of the nuns who amazed us all by giving so much of her time and energy to the people of Napo. During a 45 minute truck ride, we passed through Pununo and Palmeiras until we were greeted by a small boy on horseback at the head of a sloppy trail. We should have taken the filth covered horse as a sign of things to come, but nothing was going to dampen our spirits this early. We got off the trucks, passed out lunches and gifts to be carried up to the village, and started on our way up the muddy path. We had rented boots from a shop in Misahualli before leaving - some of us doing so reluctantly believing that our own boots would suffice - and I can remember thanking God over and over again on the trail for those tall, tight, rubber galoshes.

The hike started out very pleasantly; we were laughing when Will fell, making jokes about Madre riding on the horse way ahead of us, and generally ignoring the mud as much as possible while still being attentive as to where we stepped. But soon those laughs would turn into gasps, the jokes into envy, and the ignorance into a preoccupation. There didn't seem to be a place to step where we weren't deterred by a sinkhole of mud, impenetrably thick jungle brush, or a rancher's barbed wire; yes, there are cows in the jungle.  Our hike was as mentally fatiguing as it was physically exhausting because as our bodies tired, it became increasingly important to watch our every step, lest we create more work for ourselves by losing a boot in the muck.

Alyssa Smith

It's funny Lord how you show yourself to me
It's in ways I cannot explain
Your love penetrates my heart and my heart burns with your beautiful light,
my Lord.

Basilica Nacional EcuadorYou created me in your likeness
You created me as your own
You created me so that I can go out into the world and give my light to others who don't posses it.
That's what you want from me
You want me: As your vessel, as your instrument.

In this silence, I hear you. You are telling me to do, to be, to LIVE.
To spread your love.
How come my Lord, is it so hard back home? I search for you and, yes, I must say I'm the one at fault, but here, you are SO clear. Like a diamond in the rough.

Trusting you my Lord, is key. You will provide and I'm SURE of that. Can you tell me this? Are you calling me for something greater? To be greater than just your child of God, but to be one of your Saints?
I feel you burning my soul.
I feel you calling my name.
I feel you holding my heart.
I feel you on my lips.
I feel you everywhere.
You make me whole.

 

Complete.


You were nailed to a cross for me and looking up at your broken body,
my heart burns.
It burns for you.