Our Return to Puca-Chikta: Part 2

[Read Part 1 of Our Return to Puca-Chikta here: http://soallmayknow.org/our-return-to-puca-chikta-part-1/]
We sit on a bench in front of her home — a hut, really — and catch up while I paint faces.

“You were so young when you first visited our village,” Evelin says. “You’ve changed a lot.”
I have changed. Our family had just moved to Ecuador when we visited Puca-Chikta for the first time. [I actually wrote about the experience here: http://soallmayknow.org/voy-un-paso-mas-im-going-one-step-further/]
“You’ve changed too,” I remind her. “Viejita, you’re old now.” She’s thirteen… in a few years, she’ll be old enough to get married here.

Our little conversation continues, and I debate inwardly on whether I should ask about school.
“So, Evelin, how’s school?” I probe.
Her eyes shift away from me.
“School?” I ask again.
She won’t look at me. She won’t answer.

There she goes, breaking my heart into a million pieces.
I assure her that it’s fine, and I change the subject as fast as possible.
But inside? I’m screaming.
Children receive such little education in remote villages like this one. Government funding is minimal, and the teachers aren’t equipped to do their jobs. Many of them haven’t been well educated either.
And now it appears that Evelin’s not getting any of it. None of the classroom learning at all.

It’s not fair.
And it’s not just the school thing — it’s everything.
It’s not fair that Evelin’s family of seven is living in a tiny, three-walled, dirt floor shanty.
It’s not fair that her little brothers’ teeth are rotting away, because the can’t see a dentist to figure out what’s the matter.
It’s not fair that her little sisters have worms eating away at the insides of their eyes, and they can’t see a real doctor.

Evelin wakes up to either unbearable heat and stench, or rain soaking her through the roof. She goes to sleep at night with an empty stomach and an unsaved soul.

Evelin lives a simple life. It’s filled with many horrible things, and it’s missing the most important thing. That’s a harsh reality I have to face. And I can try to imagine… but I will never understand.

I don’t claim to understand just because it’s simple.
I’m aware of her great needs, small hopes, and no idea of the world outside her village. But I don’t dare claim to understand her life until I’ve endured the same impoverishment and affliction.

She has nothing. Pray that she accepts Christ.
Because then she will have everything.

So All May Know,
Madeline Studebaker

Our Return to Puca-Chikta: Part 1

Dusk. The sun has stopped beating down on us and the shadows are starting to fall. 
We unload the car. Boxes of paint, bracelets, tracts, jump ropes, and a soccer ball from our friends in the States. It’s not long before a dozen children surround us, consumed with curiosity. 
Genuine smiles light up their faces, shining through the filth and grime that covers them.
Dad, Derrick, and Elijah untangle a jump rope and initiate a game. Abigail and I open the containers of face paints. Mom draws some stragglers out from behind a clump of bushes. 
A group of six wanders toward the small crowd around us, and I recognize them instantly. Over two years since our families lost contact, but here they are, by whatever miracle. 
And yes, I chose to believe that it is a miracle. 
Evelin, the oldest, extends her hand in a traditional Kichwa greeting. A smile spreads across her face. 
She’s grown up so much. This was the little girl who guided her siblings from one side of the jungle to the other… just to spend the day with us. Both of us remember those days — the ones we spent drawing with chalk, playing soccer, eating rice and beans. Those days meant a lot to my family, but they meant even more to Evelin’s family. 
Our home was a safe place for them. Not because our roof didn’t leak as much, or because we had enough food to share, but because our home was filled with love. And that’s not something they had much of. 
But now, it’s something they’re being exposed to again.
[Read about how we met Evelin’s family here: http://soallmayknow.org/something-special-about-babies/]
One by one, the children sit beside me to get their faces painted. No one seems bothered by my obvious lack of artistic skills, or language skills. I ask each child their name and try to remember it… trying, but not exactly succeeding.
There’s a lot of wiggling around, and giggling, and trying to communicate across the language barrier that, unfortunately, still exists for my family. 
Fortunately, there’s no translation needed for the universal language: laughter.  
Because there’s laughter too. Laughter that rises up and breaks through the clouds and is audible in Heaven. 
This opportunity — it’s something to be truly grateful for!
We’re impacting this village with the love of God, we’re being His hands and feet. 
They come for the face paint and games… but they leave a little closer to getting to know Him. 
So All May Know,
Madeline Studebaker

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32 / 147 million

Mom’s rocking a sleepy baby, Abigail’s helping the girls with homework.
I’m holding onto a very rambunctious little fellow who’s trying to eat crayons.
I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I’m starting to wonder why I’m even here.
Then I hear it: “Yo tengo gozo, gozo, gozo, gozo en mi corazón!” Juan Carlos singing. Not just any song, either, a Jesus song. Mom hears it too. She smiles.
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That’s a Jesus song! We taught him that! 
I want to jump up and down, screaming and flapping my arms around like a crazy person. Instead, I smile so big and hard my cheeks start to hurt and my eyes water.
It’s these little victories. 
It’s every time they hand me sheet of paper with multi colored scribbles and say “para vos, pues.”
It’s when they reach up with their chubby little hands and want me to lift them out of their crib.
It’s those days I get them to talk about how school’s going and why they love science.
It’s watching their faces when we get there each week… and when we tell them we’re coming back next week, too.
It’s this stuff that seems insignificant, that makes it worthwhile.
It’s these kids, and their trust and their love, that show me just how important this is.
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With 168 hours in a week, two hours every Friday doesn’t seem like much.
And in a world filled with 147 million orphans, thirty-two kids don’t seem like a lot. 
It’s impossible for us to make a difference on our own. But with God…
He’s going to change their lives. In big ways, in ways we can’t understand.
We’re just his hands and feet.
So maybe thirty-two is just a few.
It still leaves a huge percentage of orphaned children unreached. Of the 147 million orphans in the world… we’re reaching less than a millionth of one percent.
But guess how many God is willing to reach, by working through any of us?
Yeah. All of them.
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Collage, 7/4/15

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If there is no road at all…

Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11

But They Had Families

Moses. Abraham. Noah.

 

I bet you’ve heard their stories.

Amazing men with incredible faith who did what God told them to do. Who trusted God with their whole hearts and did his works.

One defied a king and delivered his people from bondage with God’s direction. Another left his country and traveled across the map to a land God said would show him. Yet another built a boat in the middle of a desert and trusted God when He said it would rain.

But they had families. And whether or not their families heard God’s voice, whether or not they liked the idea, whether or not they thought it was crazy, they did what they were told.

They obeyed.

They trusted.

 

“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

And so Abraham packed up and headed to Canaan (and he didn’t even know where it was, just that he was going to get there eventually). And his wife, his nephew, and a bunch of people from Haran, came with him. ‘Cause he said to. And ’cause God said to.

 

“Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.” (Exodus 4:20)

Moses had a wife and two kids. I mean, can’t you see their happy little family? “Behold, Gershom, get ye on this donkey and let us depart for the kingdom where the Pharaoh will probably want-eth to kill-eth us.”

 

“Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” (Genesis 4:16)

And I can see his sons, “Right, dad. Let’s make a boat… in the desert… and let’s just go ahead and tell everyone it’s gonna rain (whatever that is) and make fools of ourselves because you’re going through a mid-life crisis. Uh-huh.”

 

I’m not saying I know what it’s like to be a Bible-time teenager with parents going off the deep end.

What I am saying is that I know what it’s like to be modern day teenager with parents saying you’re going on the mission field. Not just that, but,

they don’t know what country,

they don’t know what mission board,

they don’t know the language,

they don’t have any training.

It makes ya feel weird, people. Really, really weird. Kinda like the world is ending, but maybe worse.

You don’t want to believe it. So you don’t.

You don’t want to see the signs God’s providing all along the way saying, Yeah, this is Me. I’m in control of this situation. I know what I’m doing. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

That’s what He’s saying… but it’s not what you want to hear. So you ignore it. And you continue to doubt.

I told my parents it was crazy.

And it was.

And it is.

It was embarrassing and scary and the best thing that could ever happen to me.

 

It was the ultimate trust fall. (Which, I admit, didn’t sound like such a good idea in the airplane.)

It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s helped me grow so much over the past 3 years. It’s shown me what trust is.

That’s not to say I’ve mastered the art of trust. “Trust and Obey” is still not my favorite hymn.

I still doubt sometimes. I also scream and cry and throw temper tantrums.

Sometimes I’m scared. Sometimes I’m angry. And it still seems crazy.

But in my heart, I know it’s what’s right.

I’m not in Egypt. I’m not in Canaan. I’m not on the Ark.

I’m in Ecuador.

And I’m learning to trust.

 

~Madeline Studebaker

The Gospel Is Only Good News If…

Psalm 91:4

Psalm 91:4

Matthew 25:40

Mattew 25:40