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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