I absolutely love covering the cool things that God does on Johnson Ferry mission trips... it's one of my most favorite things that I get to be a part of. I've seen a lot, and I've seen God do some really amazing things through our short-term trips. In a hundred years though, I never thought I'd get to witness what I witnessed yesterday, our first day on the ground in Ecuador. Yesterday, I got to see the incredible culmination of what God is doing in two lives, manifested in a wedding! Our group leader, Ashlee Cribb, tied the knot with Walt Woliver in a picture perfect wedding here in Patate, Ecuador.
It was absolutely beautiful, and it's hard not getting emotional as I write this. To give you the smallest glimpse into this greater story, Ashlee and Walt both experienced what most of us couldn't even imagine in our worst nightmares, the loss of a spouse. The journey these two have been on has been difficult and long to say the least. But as Ashlee herself shared in our devotional time Saturday morning from Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
I'm positive these two would have never imagined the road the Lord has taken them down, but it's amazing to think about how God has orchestrated everything that they would meet, fall in love, and find joy in marriage once again. Knowing this made yesterday's wedding all the more beautiful. These two love Jesus and love each other, and I'm so excited to see what God has in store for them and their families in the coming days. It was wonderful to get to celebrate with them and their Ecuadorian friends they love so much. We ended the day yesterday with wedding reception on the top of the mountains, with picturesque views of the valley and other mountains in the region.
Today, Sunday, was an incredible day. We took a drive to Montalvo, where we will be working this week, to join the local church for a worship service. It was a wonderful time worshipping, sharing, and enjoying fellowship with one another. Being a part of worship in other countries will always be one of my favorite things... just a small glimpse of what heaven will be like with people of all nations joined around praising the Lord. Our team got to be a part of the service as well, with Laura Cribb leading us in "Amazing Grace" and Rick Taylor bringing a fantastic message.
After church, it seemed like the entire building crammed onto one bus and we took a short ride to one of the church member's houses. Our gracious hosts for the afternoon prepared a delicious pork roast and we got to put on a block-party-style family festival. Our team split up into groups: a women's, men's, and children's group. In each group, our team members got the privilege to pour into the lives of those who attended. Robbi Fernandes, for example, led the women's group, and it was awesome overhearing her speak to the women who attended, reminding them of their value and beauty in Christ but also encouraging them to always pursue being the Proverbs 31 woman.
After our groups finished up, we had a fun time simply playing with the kids and enjoying a full-family soccer match. There were way too many people on the soccer field... I think I counted over 30. But it didn't matter. It was awesome. Everyone had a fantastic time and it was so cool to see a church fellowship altogether.
This evening, we returned back to where we are staying this week, Camp Chacauco (run by our mission team hosts, Steve and Carol Thompson) and we got to be a part of another momentous occasion! Walt, in an attempt to pack as many life events into one week, got baptized! In all seriousness though, it was yet another incredible thing our team got to witness and be a part of. Walt has been a believer for a long time, but had not been baptized by immersion up until this point. Tonight, he responded to the call to follow his Savior's example by being baptized. The setting was serene as the sun set behind us over the gorgeous landscape (special thanks to Brian Smith on our team for snapping these great baptism photos while I took video).
To say the last two days have been eventful would be the understatement of the century. I'm absolutely amazed at what God has already done, and it makes me even more excited to see what he has in store for this week. Tomorrow we begin our ministry work in Montalvo with construction projects, VBS, among other things. We definitely covet your prayers and look forward to reporting what all is going on here in Ecuador.