It’s the beginning of our fourth week in Ecuador! It’s a strange feeling, as though I can’t believe it’s already been 4 weeks, but at the same time, I feel I have been here for longer than a month. Each day is a new adventure, every moment beautiful. Within the first few days of my orientation here, I already felt part of the Mount Sinai community as my new family, myself and the former volunteers celebrated a neighbors 18th birthday with a surprise party! It was some of the most fun I have had at a birthday celebration. What a wonderful way for my new family and I to jump into the community here and really feel part of it!
Life in Ecuador is very different from my life in NY. Though I miss a lot of home, I am fully taken and made whole by the life I live here. I live with 7 beautiful people who have become my brothers and sisters. Even more, my friends. We share a lot of laughs and it has been a wonderful blessing sharing the road of this beautiful journey with such wonderful children of God. I’m excited to spend my days with them. We are here for one another. I have never quite experienced intentional community living as I am now and the reality of it is really something special. When I think of my family, I hear the song “We Are One Body.” I see us as one body in Christ. We do not stand alone and we came that Christ might have life. Christ is most certainly alive in all of us. It is a truly wonderful experience watching Him work through my family, bringing us closer to Him, to one another and to our neighbors in Mount Sinai.
God’s light also shines brightly through our neighbors. I have received some of the most kindness, hospitality, and patience from my neighbors in 3 weeks than I possibly ever have outside of my own home. They remind me of my parents in a lot of ways. Beautifully caring, generous, kind, and always want to feed you. They welcome my new family and I with open arms warmly and lovingly. They tell me not to worry about Spanish. That I will learn “poco a poco” (little by little) as they like to say and can practice with them anytime. I am definitely learning, slowly but surely and am practicing self patience as I understand I will not become fluent or even conversational in just a few weeks. I’m staying positive and practicing often! I’ll get there!
Our second week of orientation in Ecuador was discernment time. We had to decide where we would work and was drawn to the women’s shelter, Casa de Acogida, a new placement for volunteers this year, immediately. After our tour of the shelter, I had a really good feeling that stuck with me after visiting all other placements. All our possible placements were wonderful programs that I would be honored to be part of, but Casa de Acogita was where I felt most called. Now I know why.
I have been working there for 3 weeks now and each day has been nothing short of beautiful. I have met many wonderful women who, like my neighbors, show me patience, openness, and kindness. Many of the women have come to the shelter for a a place of peace and safety. I know I cannot take away any pain of their past, but I hope to be a small light in their days, working towards a brighter future. Getting to know the women is a true joy. Seeing their smiles, hearing their laughs, getting excited about singing or dancing. My community mate Scott also works there with me and does a good amount of translating for me which I greatly appreciate. Together we have been deciding what our schedule at the shelter will look like. So far, we have been singing and playing instruments with some of the women, helping out in the kitchen where lunch is made each day, helping out in the bakery which caters to a nearby prison, and playing with the children who love their newly discovered game of Uno. Scott and I are planning to start a garden soon since he enjoys gardening and I would love to be involved and learn with the other women. We may also start having dance classes since so many of the women talk about how they love to salsa, and I was thinking maybe I would teach a zumba class once a week! I look forward to being with those women each day and I cannot wait for the days where I can have a real conversation with them (without the dictionary in hand) and understand everything they tell me and in return, be able to share more of myself with them.
After just a few days of living here, and especially after 3 weeks, I have felt so at peace with where I am. This is what I took the leap for. What I jumped out of comfort and into uncertainty for. I am where God wants me to be. My heart is filled with life, love, reality, peace, patience, gratitude, hope, excitement. This is my new home in Ecuador.