Friday, February 24, 2012

Put away the's time for Lent...

The word Carnaval comes from the Latin word carneval which means to put away the meat. Carnaval is a festive season, immediately before Lent, traditionally held in Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox societies. During Lent, these societies do not eat meat, giving the time of Carnaval it’s name (when you actually "put away" as much meat as you can into your bellies before it is time to give it up). Protestant areas usually do not have Carnaval celebrations or they have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events. In New Orleans it is well known as Mardi Gras.

Children playing with water, eggs, flour, foam and car oil are just some of the things you will see in Shell during Carnaval. The practice of throwing or dumping water, eggs, flour or smearing car oil on unsuspecting victims is especially revered by children and teenagers, and feared by most adults.
There are parades in Puyo and small concerts at the Dique in Shell to celebrate Carnaval. The Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the days known as Carnaval) are vacation days from work.
Pre-Muddy Water

The last three years, as a part of school, the kids participated in their own Carnaval activities. Egg races, egg toss, bobbing for apples (this year bananas), obstacle courses, and water fights. Every year it is a lot of fun seeing the kids race through all the games trying to get their teachers back for all the school work that has been given them. Unfortunately, the kids are getting bigger this year and I was helpless as they picked me up and carried me to a big muddy hole in the ground and threw me into the water. Anything on me that was white had most definitely turned to brown.

Begining the Obstacle Race
Trying to climb through the tires as fast as they coul to reach the end!

Bobbing for Bananas
Friday was such a fun day of games. However, I think that my favorite part about Carnaval this year was the Wednesday after. When we got together for Chapel in the morning, Marcela (our school director) explained to us all what Carnaval was: where it came from, what it meant, why people celebrate it. It is said that the purpose of Carnaval is to have as much fun (or in some cases sin as much) as you can before you have to be “good” during Lent, a time that you work really hard on your relationship with God. Marcela reminded us that we shouldn’t only work hard at becoming closer to God during the 40 days of Lent, but all year long. Some people spend 325 days not even thinking about God and 40 days of “behaving” themselves. They are “good” for those 40 days and then go back to the way they were living before, unchanged. The same as Christmas, we should remember Christ’s birth all year, not only at Christmas time. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son; every day, for us to talk to, for us to confide in, to trust in, to love, to worship, to listen to, and follow. Every day, not just 40 days out of the year or 41 including Christmas. It doesn’t mean that our lives have to be boring. Following Christ, by all means, is not boring, but the most exciting, life-changing thing that has happened to me. Look what he has blessed me with!

Friday, February 3, 2012

God never changes in this ever changing world...

So we’ve been back in school for about a month. It seems that, after vacations or breaks, a new season of life begins. After getting back from Christmas, things went pretty much back to normal. A little had changed but it wasn’t like the usual sense of change that I had experienced before. Then, this past week, one of my roommates moved back to the States. She left around lunch time on Monday and that night there was already a difference in our house. We don’t know the next time we’ll see her. The hardest thing about living here in Shell, in a mission community, is saying goodbye. There is a huge number of missionaries/volunteers doing different projects here in Shell and it is always changing. People come for a few weeks, a few months or a few years. Every year that I have been here has been completely different from the last. You never know who’s going to be here or for how long. So it’s nice to take comfort in the fact that our God never changes. He will always be here for us. He is the one thing that remains constant in my life and with everything always changing around me, even here at the orphanage, kids coming and going, it’s refreshing to know that I have Him and that I can count on Him to never leave or change.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8

Thursday, February 2, 2012


            I was hoping to bring in the NEW YEAR with the kids at Casa de Fe.  There was going to be a bonfire, the burning of the old man (almost like a scare crow) and many more festivities. However, as always, I had problems with my flights. I was already a little stressed out from a busy, emotional, Christmas break so when I got to Dallas and my flight was delayed 3 ½ hours, I was trying to stay calm and prepare myself for the fact that I would miss my last flight into Quito from Miami. Finally, when all the mechanical issues with 2 different planes were fixed, we were on our way from Dallas to Miami. We got to Miami just as my plane to Quito was backing away from the gate. I had JUST missed it. I had to stand in a long line of other people who had missed flights to reschedule. I was so upset knowing that flights only leave at a certain time each day and knowing that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get from Quito to Shell in enough time to bring in the New Year with the kids. Luckily the airline paid for my dinner, breakfast and lunch along with my hotel room. I would be spending the night and most of the next day in Miami. It was actually relaxing and the room I had was nice and included a balcony! I got some much needed alone time with God and wondered if that was His reason for allowing me to get so delayed. He’s jealous for our time like that J so it was hard to be upset for too long. Also, He had a rather comedic day in store for me following the restful time at the hotel…….

            I woke up New Year’s Eve day at the hotel in Miami, rested and excited to spend breakfast and a cup of coffee on the balcony with God. When it came time to check out of my hotel room, I asked the guy at the front desk when the next shuttle would be leaving for the airport and he responded “probably in about 10 minutes”. I said thank you and started walking towards the door where I saw a shuttle parked and people waiting with their luggage, I assumed that was the shuttle that would be leaving for the airport in 10 minutes. After a few minutes the driver came out and started helping people get their things into the back of the shuttle. I only had my small carry-on bag so I pointed to it and then to the door at the front of the shuttle and he shook his head yes and I took my seat on the bus with my bag. As we started driving through downtown Miami, I was becoming a little confused because I knew that was not the way that we had taken from the airport to the hotel the night before, but I reassured myself that he maybe had to make multiple stops along the way. As we pulled into the cruise port, I kept reassuring myself that after he dropped the people off for their cruises that he was headed to the airport. WRONG. When all the people finally got off the bus I explained to him that I thought we were going to the airport. He pretty much told me he could not break the rules and that he was not allowed to take anyone off of the cruise port property of or he would be fined a large amount of money. I didn’t know what to do. He told me to take a taxi but I didn’t see any taxi’s and I didn’t have extra money to spend on a taxi taking me to the airport when I should have already made it to Ecuador! I started crying and I picked up my bag to get off of the shuttle and try to find a taxi wherever one might be found. The driver began to feel bad for me, so he told me to go to the back of the shuttle and duck down until we got past security. I was really confused and not so sure what I should do but I definitely didn’t want to have to find and pay for a taxi so I did what he said. When we passed through security he told me it was ok to sit up and kept telling me not to cry because he would take me to the airport. When he dropped me off at the airport he said, “this is my gift to you, please do not cry anymore” so I thanked him and wished him a happy new year and got off of the shuttle. Then I couldn’t help but laugh the rest of the day at what had happened! I couldn’t believe that something like that happened in the States! (granted, it is Miami). I thought things like that only happened in Ecuador! Either way, I was thankful to end up where I needed to be and that I could laugh about it. It sort of made the whole trip better and seemed more funny than horrible.

I didn’t end up getting to spend that night with the kids but I did get a good laugh. I also got to spend the night in Quito with a friend and although we didn’t do much, it was very nice to go onto the roof top at mid-night and watch the millions of fireworks around the city (the neighbor was even lighting fireworks off of their balcony?!?!). It will definitely be a time that I will not forget when looking back on all the things I have done to celebrate the coming year!

I am looking forward to the new season God has for me and all of the blessings of this year. I can’t wait to learn and see and grow in unexpected ways! God is so good and His plans are bigger than we can expect! I can’t wait to be a part of whatever He is doing here this NEW YEAR!