Sunday, April 15, 2012

Shandia - back to the jungle

A week ago a team from our church left.  It was so great having them here - what an incredible bunch of people.  Most of the group were non-repeats from last year, except for the Wurzbachs.  They have been a bit of a "fixture" and we are awfully glad for that!  The newbies were seven high school students (including Maddy's friend who surprised her!) one lady from the church who grew up in Bolivia as an MK (Jodie - so helpful to have a fluent Spanish speaker - and a wonderful woman) and another great girl the Wurzbachs met in Mexico who works with the kids there.
After the team had a day in Quito, we all headed off to the jungle.
The main thing we did was rediscover why they call it the rain forest.  Yes indeed..... there was rain.  In spite of a whole lot of water, we still managed to get some stuff done.  Like hack bunches of bananas off of trees.
The three guys went out into the jungle and came back with some sustenance.  I think they were pretending that they were on Survivor.
We also did a little shopping.  Every time a team comes the ladies bust out their handicrafts to sell.  They have some beautiful things that they make.  Lucy's purchase was a Christmas ornament made out of a dried gourd type thing.  She's a girl after my own heart - never a bad time to think of Christmas!
Zip lining was also a highlight.  Most of the team went on the zip line that was right outside of our hostel.  The Wurzbachs and I were watching our kids while commenting about what we'd do if something happened to them while on the zip line - all the while being very thankful that it was safe.
Well...... the next day:
It might be hard to tell what is going on from these pictures, so let me explain.....
We were sitting eating lunch the very next day and we all hear a very loud crunching/crashing noise.  We jump up to discover that a large tree fell over and knocked the line down.  That picture is of the remaining stump.  The weight of it took down the concrete pillar that held the cable on the other side of the river:
Once again - hard to tell what is going on, but let me just point out what I believe to be the most startling issue here....  There is no rebar in the concrete pillar!!!  This is the thing that is holding people up on the cable and that's all it is.
Now there is plenty of rebar in this country, so that is not the problem.  In fact you see it sticking up out of buildings all over the place - they seem to leave it out there in case they want to build another floor on the building later or something like that.  But apparently there was a shortage when they build a structure for human entertainment.
Needless to say we were very glad we had gone the day before and there was no tree shaking around while our kids were on there!
Okay, so we did really do some ministry stuff as well.  It wasn't just play and risking our lives.  The two main pieces were doing bible lessons with the kids and working on a building project.
The team was very well prepared with their lessons.  They had games and crafts to work with the lessons and of course the kids gravitated to the crafts.  Let me rephrase, the kids mauled and grabbed to get at the crafts.

Several times when the rain cleared, we headed to the river with the kids.  It is a daily part of their lives, to hang out at the river, but it was pretty novel for us.

It seemed like the kids were doing some kind of treatments on each other.  Unfortunately, I think this might have been a de-licing treatment:
We did some of our own treatments - rubbing the clay all over our skin and then rinsing it off.  The kids were quite convinced that it made their skin super soft.  I think it was more just fun to smear mud all over ourselves.
Cade could have used (and still could, in fact) a treatment of his own. 
Poor guy - those bugs just adore him.
Cade was a pretty happy camper most of the time, though, in spite of his condition.  We brought his bike along - one we recently bought from our friends who left - so he spent a good deal of time riding all over the place.  We were so proud of him as he was very generous with his bike.  He let many of the kids in Shandia ride it.
At one point a few of us did the hike to Jim and Elizabeth Elliot's house again.
On the way, our guide stopped to give us some cacao.  It is very plentiful in these jungles and man, it is so tasty.  Definitely one of my favorite tropical fruits.  And I'm a big fan of the products made from the seeds as well.....
You just pull out some seeds, which are covered by this white somewhat slimy stuff and suck on it.  Seriously delicious.  Then you just spit the seed out.  Or of course, you could let the seeds dry on the side of the roads like you see all over the place (the more fresh ones stink like crazy - the flesh part seems to cook and ferment in the sun before they get dry.... not the most pleasant sight nor smell).
Last year when we went to the house, we got to spend a fair bit of time inside.  Now however it has been completely overtaken by bats.  There were plenty of bats last year, but nothing like this.  So a few people stuck their heads in, but the exploration was limited.
Well, back to work.  The building project we worked on is one that our church has been involved in funding.  It is also the same project that we worked on last year.

It is going to be a "bible school" type place where leaders from various jungle villages can come and learn the bible and also learn how to teach the bible to others.  Then they can go back to their areas and grow their churches and believers.
Everyone worked hard but we were most proud of Cade.  He worked hard and made friends with some of the men.  They all loved him, especially after, when one of them asked him something and he replied, in perfect Spanish (they told us this after) "A mi, no me gusta hablar en Español"  which means "I don't like to speak in Spanish."  They thought it was pretty hilarious that he spoke so well, telling them that he didn't like to speak.
He did end up speaking to them however, and they all seemed pretty taken with our blond-headed boy.  Cade was most taken with two kitten he watched being born (they are down by his shoe).
Unfortunately we don't think those kittens made it - the mother took off right away after they were born.... they kept trying to root on Cade's shoe.
Time off was mainly filled with playing cards.

The highlight of the trip for probably most of us women/girls was the last day.  It started out with some good hanging out/informal conversation time on the side of the road.  Then later that evening Jodie led a bible study for the ladies.  We had a time of just talking and sharing at first.  They told us what a typical day was like for them and generally what their lives were like.  I asked them how the changes and "advancements" were affecting them and their village (the hostal just outside the main part of their village, the just paved the main road into the village, etc.).  
This question had been on my heart and in my mind for a while..... I was somewhat sad to see the road paved.  While it seems like these would all be good things - progress and all that - I often feel that what is seemed to be progress can often be a step back.  That's another whole blog entry and one for which I may need a soap box to stand on.
Anyway, the ladies said that it was good in terms of materials things - more money coming into the village and with that come improvements (they just recently got running water).  In the same light, they noted that it has had a negative effect spiritually, particularly with the young people - even more specifically with the guys. And this was the reason for my sadness..... but I won't go there.
After this time of getting to know each other, Jodie taught a great lesson about how different events of our lives - some good, some bad - are all like threads.  In the end, God takes all the threads and is using them to weave a beautiful tapestry of our lives.  She gave each lady a thread and later a piece of tapestry fabric to remind them of how God works in our lives.
We then had a time of prayer - specifically for a lady who has breast cancer.  
It was a powerful time - prayers in three languages at the same time.  I think it was a time where anyone would have been able to feel that something different, something powerful was going on.  And that some thing powerful was God.  It was an incredible time.
After the event was over, all but Jodie, myself and one lady were left.  Jodie and I walked her to her house and had a great time talking with her.  She was fairly new to the village and seemed like an incredible women.  Her three teenagers hung out with us and they obviously loved and respected their mom.  She was a strong, God-loving, hard working woman.  Just as we were about to say goodnight, she asked if we could pray for her.  She explained that she was 8 weeks pregnant with twins but her pregnancy was tubal.  That next Saturday she was going to have surgery for it.  She was calmed and obviously was trusting God in the situation - for her safety, the babies and financially.  It was a blessing to be able to pray with her and share the burden with her.
My heart has been with her many times since that night and I would love to know how her surgery went.  I hope that I'll be able to find out soon.  She had an impact on me - her faith was great.  A woman with a difficult life who worked hard, did her part, and trusted God with it all.
We were done with the rain and the mud, we were done with the bug bites, but we were not done with Shandia.  It was hard to leave.

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