Project Ecuador

Project Ecuador
Giving Hope and a Future

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How has living close to those who are in poverty changed my attitude to wealth?

I was asked how living amongst poverty has challenged how I see wealth. How should we live in a consumer society? How does seeing my neighbour living from hand to mouth affect how I spend the money I have?
I find 1 Timothy 6 v 17-19 helpful.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.” NIV
The first thing I notice in these verses is the heart attitude towards wealth that we should have. In the UK it is easy to put our hope in wealth. We have insurance for everything. We expect to live a long and healthy life. We expect free health care. We have a benefits system to protect us from abject poverty. It is easy to think we do not need God. My neighbours here in Ecuador start their prayers by giving thanks for another day of life. They see disasters often and people have to depend on their family to survive. They do not have insurance and often have to pay for medical treatment. They know their lives and destinies are in God’s hands.  I think we have a lot to learn about living each day depending on God, rather than ourselves and our wealth, living each day giving thanks to God for the multitude of blessings that He sends our way as He “richly provides everything for our enjoyment.” Instead of taking it all for granted, or even wanting more and more, and living discontent with our lot.
The second thing is a call to generosity. My Ecuadorean neighbours are very hospitable. If someone shows up at the house at a meal time, the meal is made to stretch. When volunteers come to visit from the UK, even the poorest will share what they have with the strangers. The amount of money someone has is viewed as destiny, largely. People are not generally jealous of those who have more, but those who do have are expected to share with extended family members in their times of need. People in a community give of their time in “mingas”; work parties where people come together to do a communal job such as clean up the street or paint the local school. How much more should we, who have been given abundantly more than we need, give and share generously with others. Do we view what we have as ours, or acknowledge that every good gift comes from the Father above? Naturally, this sharing will start at home with our own families, churches and communities. But in today’s connected world, it must surely extend to helping others further afield in the UK and abroad. It does not just relate to money, but to time and talents as well. We should be asking ourselves questions such as “How much should I be giving away?” Or perhaps more telling, “How much should I be keeping for myself?” “Do I really need to buy this …” Or maybe, “Should I work less hours in paid work and keep time for voluntary work too?” Or “Should I serve as a volunteer for a time?” Or “Am I using my God-given talents to help others?”
Sometimes, we are reluctant to give or share because we fear we will not be left with enough. God is a God of abundance. He loves to generously give. The more we practice giving, in whichever form that takes, the more we will experience the overwhelming generosity of God towards us.

The final verse reminds us that we need to keep in mind this present age is not all there is. An eternity is coming that is much longer and more important. Money, possessions, the latest gadget or convenience, is not true living. It is as we learn to live in a way that is laying up treasure in heaven, becoming more like Jesus, that we are “Taking hold of the life that is truly life.” We are set free from the worries and cares of consumerism. We learn to be content knowing we are truly loved. To live in peace. To live loving our neighbour and our enemy. To take care of the planet and the resources it contains. To be confident that God will care for us and provide for us. From this position of true security, generosity will flow naturally to those around us. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The impact of short-term mission

We have had the privilege of receiving several short-term missionaries over the past few years. Some have been individuals here for a month, some for longer, and more recently a team of 9 people came to build a house.
There are some disadvantages to short term service. One should question the cost and environmental impact of air travel. Do the benefits outweigh these costs? Could a local person have done the task they did, and have benefitted from some income? Are the short-termers a help to those there long-term, or do they make more work? Is there a lasting impact from their time?
However, there are many advantages. Often, doing a short trip is a new experience. It helps the volunteer see for themselves the needs there are in a different part of the world. It makes them question certain assumptions they make when in their own culture, and see how a different culture, language and people live. Many times, we have seen volunteers surprised by the welcome and hospitality they receive from local people, and grow to appreciate the friends they make here. When friendships are born, volunteers and local people can learn from each other with humility and compassion.
Another advantage is that short term mission is often a stimulus to pray for and raise funds for projects. If the volunteers have a positive experience while abroad, they will often then continue to pray for, raise awareness about and raise funds for the longer term mission into the future.
Short term volunteers can also be a support to the long term missionaries. It is a boost to have someone to talk to and share with from your own culture, in your own language. It is also good when they are willing to pitch in and help practically with whatever needs doing, lightening the everyday burdens the long term workers face.  
Short term volunteers work best fulfilling a specific need. For example, those that have taught English in local schools have fulfilled a specific need that the schools have, and are not taking jobs from local people. There is an ongoing need for volunteers willing to teach their language. As they do so, they make friendships with the children and the teachers and have opportunities to share in other ways. Another example is house building. Coming to build a house is a stimulus to fund-raising, providing a house that would not otherwise have come about, and working alongside the local builders also allows friendships to form. It is a practical expression of love and concern for the family receiving the house that they never forget.
Having received volunteers in our home in Ecuador, it then makes trips to the UK easier. It is fun to be able to visit and catch up with the volunteers in the future in the UK. It feels comfortable being received in their homes, and the girls also consider them friends. They understand when my husband or children behave in an Ecuadorean way, without thinking it is weird! It is wonderful to be able to share with their friends and churches about the ongoing work of Project Ecuador.

So much of mission is about relationships: relationships with those from a different culture, growing in our relationship with God and each other. Short term mission can have a real role to play in helping people develop these relationships. 

Team who built a house

Monday, 21 August 2017

The monthly accounts

The end of each month, I need to put together the charity accounts. A mundane, if necessary, task, you might think. However, I find doing it to be an exercise in gratitude and inspiration.
First of all, there are the donations that come in each month. I have been in Ecuador for more than 12 years now, and God has never failed to provide for the needs of myself and my family. What a cause for thankfulness and a spur to faith. As I read the names of those who support us, I give thanks and ask God to bless them.
Then, there are the regular donations for 170 sponsored children. How wonderful to see so many people willingly partnering with us to enable these children to receive an education. As I have the privilege of witnessing the ongoing progress of the 13 young people who have already graduated from high school through the programme, I can see the amazing difference it makes in their lives. Instead of washing clothes in the river, swinging a machete in the fields, or struggling to feed a baby, while they are little more than children themselves, these young people are now in training to be professionals. They are working in jobs where they earn a decent wage. They are role models for those who are following in their footsteps.
Also, there are sporadic gifts for house building, often from a group or individual who have chosen to do events to raise money for this end. It is amazing to me to think we have now managed to build 23 houses for families who were living in inadequate shacks before. What a wonderful work to be a part of. I give thanks to all who make this possible.
As I enter the expenses for each month, there is more to give thanks for. I can look back and see what has been achieved with generous donations. Children now equipped with glasses, medicines regularly supplied to those who cannot afford to buy them, Christian literature given out, hygiene supplies given to children, Christmas gifts made and given out, craft supplies for the girls’ club and food for camps.

All of these things, and more, enable us to share God’s love in a practical way with those who live around us. I give thanks to God, and each donor for making this possible. It inspires me to keep serving, loving and praying.

A new house 

Sponsor meeting her children 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Zoo trip!

A zoo opened just outside Santo Domingo about a year ago. Only one of the girls in the girls' club had been, so I decided this should be our next trip.

We were donated some clothes, so we decided to have a jumble sale, along with some home made cakes and drinks, and managed to raise the money for the entrance fee.

On Friday, 18 teenage girls were excitedly waiting for the minibus to come and collect us.

The trip was a special treat for them, as they had never had the chance to see such animals before. It was also a day of fun, time with friends and a change from the usual routine. Such adventures lift the spirits and create wonderful memories. Before I left home, I prayed that as well as being a day to deepen friendships, it would be a day where they would enjoy Creator God.

The trip round the zoo was accompanied by many squeals, shrieks and exclamations of delight. I am sure you can imagine the noise 18 high-pitched squeals make! They ran from the ostrich, played with the tigrillo through the wire, and talked with the parrots. The crocodiles and giant turtles were greatly admired. But by far the most exciting were the monkeys. Some of them were allowed to roam free, and they caused endless entertainment. These cheeky monkeys loved to sit on heads, steal food, play with shoe laces and tease while hanging from tree branches. It was hard to drag the girls away.

A picnic lunch followed, and then a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. The girls all had a wonderful time.

Later, when they were posting their photos on Facebook, one of the girls wrote, "Perfect Creator God, precious animals."





Saturday, 25 March 2017

Finishing School

This year Lorena, Leonella and Milena have all graduated from secondary school, with the help of sponsors. Let me tell you a little about their stories, so you can see what a HUGE difference their sponsors have made in their lives.

Lorena's father died of cancer when she was 13. She is the youngest of about 8 children. her mother was already 60 and dependent on her siblings to provide for her. Lorena could only continue school because we gave her a sponsor and helped her with sewing work to pay her bus fares. She calls her sponsor her "angel" . Lorena's ambition is to be a nurse. To get there, she needs to find a job now, and begin University part time. This dream is now within her reach. If she had not finished school Lorena would probably have a baby by now, and be at home struggling to feed her family. What a difference having the opportunity to study has made in her life!

Leonella is the middle of 3 sisters. Her older sister had her first child aged 14, and only finished primary school. Leonella loves clothes, fashion and sewing. Now she has finished school she can look for work in a clothes shop and maybe one day achieve her dream of having her own small business. Go for it Leonella!

Milena is the youngest of 6 children. Her mother is already too old to work. Her father is not around. They are dependent on her older brothers who work in the fields for a pittance. Milena now has secondary school education and can find better paid work than her brothers. She hopes to do a short course to learn to be a beautician. She could then have her own business.

Many thanks to all who sponsor children and give them this opportunity in life.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Unfinished Business

Recently, I was given a suitcase of material left behind by an elderly lady who was now no longer able to stitch with them. Amongst the remnants and scraps I found cut out skirts, which had never been stitched together, and half-done patchwork.
It reminded me of a book, Rhythms of Rest, I have been reading. The author reminds us that work is never complete. There is always more to be done. There are always dishes to wash, clothes that are dirty, unfinished projects and deadlines looming. We will never finish it all.
She urges us to down tools and take a Sabbath rest. Despite the work, the unfinished list, the dishes in the sink. Rest is important. We need to recharge. We need to listen to God, to re-establish priorities and see what is important to do, and what is not. We need stillness and silence to hear His voice. When we do not rest, we are doing more than God wishes. We are doing it in our own strength, not from his abundant love.
I gave the skirt pieces to a friend to make into skirts for her daughter. She was delighted to be able to be creative with the beautiful fabrics and make something special for her girl.
I sewed the patchwork pieces into cushions to go on our new swing seat on the balcony. They look magnificent.
I am grateful to pick up the work left unfinished and have the joy of completing it.
I am grateful to be used by God and have work to do, for my family and the wider community.
I am also grateful to have comfortable cushions to rest on, and to know I am not indispensable. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017


Recently, Tio (great uncle) Roman caught a baby rabbit on the farm and brought it to the house for the girls to see. He was tiny and cute and the girls loved having a cuddle.

“We had 2 wild rabbits as pets once,” Tio Roman reminisced. They used to go wandering in the day and always came home at night to sleep. It was great having them around. They were two brown rabbits. Very friendly they were.”
I nodded, imagining this scene of domesticity and love.
“Then, one day, one of the rabbits didn’t come back,” rugged Tio Roman continued. “We couldn’t bear to see the poor rabbit left all alone, so we ate it.”
I blinked in shock at the sudden dramatic ending to his tale. And then I could not help laughing to myself. It was such an Ecuadorean thing to say! People here are always talking about “Accompaňamiento”, doing things together, the horror of being alone. Doing things with other people definitely trumps efficiency. People generally try to avoid spending time alone. And after all, guinea pigs, rabbits… they are all ultimately meat aren’t they?!

We let the wild rabbit go, and have acquired two pet rabbits… that are not destined for the pot.