So I realise I said I would write this blog a bit sooner but I've had no time, what with going back to school, seeing the family, doing after school activities, exercising, seeing friends and sleeping! You'll need time to read this one, it's long!
Anyway let me tell you about Ecuador. I went there for two reasons. The first reason was to sort out my voluntary visa for Colombia…yes you need to leave the country to do this. Secondly I went for the Latin Link conference which happens every 4 years, and every Latin Link member is invited.
So I went early to Ecuador with Abi who is my mentor and the short term co-ordinator for Latin Link who lives in Bogota. We had an eventful time before we even arrived in Ecuador, as Abi had slightly forgotten to book a hostel and then when we arrived at the airport we were told that the tickets we had were oversold ones. The hostel situation was sorted before we got to the airport so that was a prayer answered. Now back to the tickets. Apparently it's quite common, so we were told by the airline staff, for them to oversell tickets, as they don't expect everyone to show up! So what they do is offer compensation of $180 and then put you on the next flight. So basically you get a free flight with that airline somewhere else. So Abi and I were waiting and had begun to plan where we would go for our free holiday, what we would ask for in the airline lounge whilst we waited for the next flight and had begun to get very excited. However, literally 5 minutes before the plane was due to depart an airhostess informed us that we were on the flight so to hurry up and get on it! Shellshock over, we made our way onto the flight and had to do the walk of shame to the back of the plane L. Anyway this flight was awesome. It was only 1 hour 10 minutes, but we got a full meal…amazing! You don't even get that on a 6 hour flight to Africa with some airlines! We arrived safely in Quito and were met by a taxi who would take us to our hostel. We were also met by Katie who is a Latin Link missionary, and apparently some wires had got crossed between her and Abi…ooops! Oh well not much harm done in the end. We arrived at our hostel after about an hour and were pleasantly surprised. A good sleep was needed and greatly received.
The next morning we woke up early, had breakfast and set out to find the consulate so I could begin the process of my visa. We got on the metro and asked where we needed to go and were told to go somewhere different to the address that we had. We thought we would take this advice and hopped in a taxi. When we arrived we discovered this was the old place, but it had now moved. Okay so back on the metro, back in a taxi and then we arrived. We went upstairs and asked for the paperwork to fill out to be told that it needed to be done online. We explained that I hadn't had the documents to do it online; nope it needs to be done online and there was a place around the corner where this could be done. So off we went to this place to get everything sorted. A photo was taken, the documents uploaded, and all sorted…so we thought. We were also told that we wouldn't be able to get an appointment to look through the stuff until the 12th…the day before we left! This would not do. Abi and I set about praying. Oh we also then had to go to the bank to pay the initial fee of $50. I had no money, tried to use my card, my card was blocked…woopdy flipping doo! Luckily Abi had money so this hurdle was easily dealt with. Off we went back to the consulate (oh the consulate is at the top of a very steep hill), informed the lady at the desk it was all sorted and asked for an appointment ASAP. Luckily we got one (prayers answered). A very nice man took us into an office and looked through the papers. He then told us that something was missing…a paragraph about the experience I have had in England that would permit me to work with the project UCU. Good job we had the appointment that day. So the head of UCU needed to add this into the letter and e-mail the guy at the consulate. Arrgh another thing. Off we went feeling a bit deflated, rather sleepy knowing that we now needed to get to the seminary centre where the conference was, as Abi had a meeting that evening. However, before this we went to the Artisan Market to have a look and bought some things to console ourselves. The people at the hostel had been lovely allowing us to leave our bags and return to use the Wifi. We returned to the hostel, did some e-mails (Abi e-mailed about the extra bit for my visa needing to be put into the letter), I skyped my bank and my card was unblocked. We then got a taxi to the seminary which was about an hour away. That was day one of Ecuador- I think I've missed out a few things- of course we ate lunch, had coffee and went to the toilet (they don't do these things in films/soaps or other like shows). I'll return to the visa saga a bit later.
The next day I had a free day, as the conference didn't start until Friday (odd day to start I know). Anyway, back to Quito I went with some other Striders (that's what I am) and we had a nice look around historic Quito. Most of the striders have been in Latin America for 4 months or so, so their Spanish was really good! It was a nice insight into how my Spanish could be if I continue to work hard. Quito is absolutely beautiful, much quieter than Bogota, is built on the hills and has an undulating landscape. We went to the Bastillica, which is a big church. You can climb right up to the clock tower and the views are simply astounding (see photos). Oh in Ecuador they use American dollars (sorry random place to put it but it literally sprung into my mind!). Anyway, after much climbing up the stairs, and having to hike up hills in the first place to get there, we went for lunch with the lunch of the day (soup, rice, meat, veg, plus juice) costing a grand totally of $2.50. After this we went to the Artisan Market- I was happy to tag along again, and then returned to the bus station to take a bus back to the seminary. Let me quickly tell you about the bus. The bus we took from the seminary to Quito cost just 40 cents and was more comfortable than the national express. The metro in Quito costs just 25 cents for any journey.
Okay on with the conference! The schedule was a busy one, breakfast at 8, worship, prayer and devotion at 9-10.30, coffee until 11.15, a session on something until 12.30, lunch until 14.00, training on something until 3.30, coffee until 4.15, workshops or something until 6.15, dinner until 8.00 then either a business meeting, a talent show type thing or, as I preferred card games with the striders. The sessions were either in Spanish with English translation or vice versa.
Prayer- the prayer for the week was structured around the different countries and areas involved with Latin Link. That meant praying for Europe, Central America, Andean Region, Cono Sur and Brazil. Each day we would pray for a different area with representatives highlighting the areas for prayer.
Worship- always had the lyrics in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Swiss (there are a lot of Swiss involved with Latin Link). The band would sing in different languages. It was great to have the option to worship God in English or Spanish and was really helpful having the Spanish to help learn and pronounce new words.
Devotions- these were on 2 Corinthians and each day a different chapter from 1-5. It was great to have teaching on this and be able to explore each chapter individually. The Chapter that stuck out the most for me was Chapter 4 and I felt the guy who led this did a really good job at it. He highlighted how Paul says that God has entrusted us with His message yet we are like Jars of Clay (v7) - fragile, easily broken and unimpressive as containers. He likened it to a typical supermarket plastic bag. He said that the glorious life of Christ is being displayed in fragile, unimpressive messengers (v7-12) and that the power we receive is from God and not from ourselves. He went on to say that it is vital that we fix our eyes on Christ in all things. For me verse 17 stood out "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all". I think this just reminded me that in everything- language learning, culture shock, work, friendships, family, it is so important to get strength from God and seek Him in it all.
Sessions- Global trends and mobilisation- even in English I didn't really get this! Basically he was explaining the importance of changing the way we do mission in accordance to the way the world is changing and how we "mobilise candidates for mission" being a key issues for the Latin American Church.
- Inclusion of people with disabilities- 15% of the world's population live with a person experience of disability- it was highlighted that the population of people living with disabilities is not represented in our churches. We looked at Biblical texts to "discover the most important principles with which we can begin to work".
- Resilience in Mission- psychological, physical and emotion resilience and what the Bible says.
- Creating missionary projects that are sustainable- this was really interesting actually and looked at why some projects don't last, the do's and don'ts of setting up and sustaining a project.
- Biblical justice as imperative for cotemporary mission- I missed this one, as I was back in Quito- visa story part 2!
There was also training, which had 4 sessions, so you chose one and stuck with it through the week- freedom in Christ, Making it stick (communication) and Crisis Management. I did the freedom in Christ course which did a Biblical overview of it and then went through the steps. Again I missed the final one- visa story part 2!
Finally there were workshops covering so many different topics from Child sexual abuse, single on the mission field, Third Culture kids, The Sabbath, Children's ministry, Global Justice and A people God. I did the Global Justice one, which gave a theological overview of Justice and personally I found it really interesting. I was meant to also do the single on the mission field but again, visa story part 2.
So how did I feel about being at the conference? I loved it, but was also challenged on a lot of levels. Over the course of the week I felt on top of the world, but also found I was struggling emotionally. I cried a few times in worship and in prayer feeling that I'd never get to grips with this language and questioning whether I was cut out for mission. God reassured me so many times, as did the people that I met. I was encouraged daily that language learning is a process and that I need to give myself a break and stop being so hard on myself. It was great to be with people who have been in the field for years, and also meet people who have only been out a few months. I got to see the girls I did Allnations Bible College with and share our experiences. I also got to make some good friends, and see old friends. Best of all I got to meet people who know my dad and hear their stories. It made me feel a bit closer to home at a time when I think I needed it. Isn't it amazing how God provides things even when you don't consciously think you need them. I had the chance to go out running with some people- oh Quito is 3000m high- yea you try running at that height! Anyway God answered a prayer here to. Basically I was running with another lady and there were these dogs that were always very aggressive. This occasion they came too close for comfort so we walked past them. Later on as we turned around I prayed asking God to silence the dogs and asked that they wouldn't move or even notice us. On our return not one dog barked, moved or even looked in our direction. God is good. It was also a stark reminder that God hears even the smallest of prayers.
I mentioned earlier that I played card games with some of the other Striders. Our favourite games were…Mafia, Spoons and Irish Snap. Most nights we played these games, crying with laughter as we did so over things that weren't even funny. I love how God brings people together and how after only a day or two you feel as though you've known someone years. I have to say that the conference came at a great time for me and was a time to re-connect with God and remember why I'm here.
Okay visa story part 2! So Abi and I returned to Quito having being informed that my visa had been accepted. So the letter with the additional information was written, signed and sent off- I'm not going to divulge exactly how, but it was done. We left after worship and prayer and told everyone we'd be back for lunch at 12.30. We arrived at the consulate, got a code you need to pay for the visa, went to the bank- back down the hill, paid and walked back up the hill to the visa. We then waited until the nice man was ready. He approached us about 20-30 minutes later (in this time Abi had done some question and answer sessions with me in Spanish, very helpful) and he told us that the man who prints the visa's to go in the passport was at an appointment and they could not find the key to the cabinet where the slips were kept. Could we come back tomorrow? Our answer- NO! He asked if we could come back a few hours later, so we agreed. Off we went for lunch in Quito, another trip to the artisan market, a mini shopping trip in a shop where some clothes and other items were bought and back to the consulate. This time, few, my visa was ready and in my passport. I wanted to hug the man but thought this a bit inappropriate. Anyway Abi and I then headed back to the bus station to head back to the seminary. By this time I think it was after 5pm. We had no way of contacting anyone so everyone was in the dark about where we were. The bus journey back was lovely and for 40 cents we had a comfy coach and a film J. We got back in time for dinner and I delighted in showing everyone my visa. Now all I need to do is go to a place in Bogota, and register for my Cedular (ID card). For this I need to give my fingerprints. This is my task for next week.
The following day was our Colombia team meeting. It was great to spend time praying for one another and getting to know each other better. There are 4 people in Medillin, 5 in Bogota and one in Santa Marta who I didn't meet. There is also Santiago who is a famous Christian musician in Colombia who was there and knows the team in Medillin. I felt a bit emotional again, as most of the day was in Spanish, but God got me through it. Fiona has taken over as team leader and I feel that she is going to do a great job.
Okay enough for now. Anyway questions just ask.
Lots of love xxxxxxxxxx