On Thursday and Friday, our team made the 7 hour bus ride into the jungle destination of Puyo. For most on our team, they had never experienced anything like this. This jungle is a part of the Amazon Basin and offered us the opportunity to experience God’s creation in new and fresh ways. After arriving, we took a nearly 4 hour hike throughout the dense jungle. About half way through our hike, we arrived at the river. We swam our way around a bend in the river to a hidden waterfall. It was breathtaking (mostly because of the experience and partly because of the temperature of the water). The students slept that evening in open air huts (under mosquito nets) next to the river. Clearly this stretched most of our students (and leaders) outside of their comfort zones but what impressed me is how everyone embraced the experience and saw the value in this incredible opportunity. I found that extremely encouraging.
The next morning began with a much shorter hike back to another waterfall for the baptism service. 24 members of our team made the decision to identify themselves with Christ through baptism. It was truly an amazing experience to hear each student share how them came to know Christ as their savior and now had come to a place in their faith journey where they wanted to follow Him in obedience. I have amazing opportunities as a Pastor to share in these significant moments with the students and each year this one proves to be both humbling and encouraging. I can hardly overstate the privilege it is to baptize these students and I thank God for the opportunity.
Our jungle trip concluded by facilitating a VBS program in a small town called Rio Negro. We had about 54 children show up for the program and our kids immediately jumped in and began building relationships. Our goal was to offer a glimpse of the love of Christ in the 2 hours that we were with them. The ministry for children that exists in this little town is primary facilitated by one woman who has a heart for these kids. Her commitment and dedication to these children was a testimony and challenge for our students and the partnership that we were able to offer was a blessing for her.
It has been an incredible couple of days. We arrived late last night and allowed the team to sleep in a bit this morning. Today the kids are participating in a 2 hour solo time. I wish that you could have heard them share the feedback from this. For most, it was the largest amount of time that they have ever designated for the specific purpose of meeting with God. Their insights and feedback have been amazing. Currently, we are divided into 3 groups, some are experiencing the programing that is offered to the Ecuadorians for leadership development and team building while the others visit the equator.
Tomorrow we will have the privilege of visiting with FBCG missionaries Brock and Nancy Lunginbill. They run a very unique ministry called La Roca Skate church that reaches reaches out to Ecuadorian youth with the gospel through a skate park. I am really looking forward to them sharing their story with our team.
Next week we will focus primarily on work projects and facilitating VBS with the Cala Cali community here at El Refugio. Thank you for your on going prayers. We look forward to sharing all that God is doing in and through this trip.