JOHNNY'S JOURNEYS: Ecuador Methodist Missions Trip 2019

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South America » Ecuador
August 1st 2019
Published: August 1st 2019
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June 15, 2019 (Saturday)

An amazing week in Ecuador with my daughter is over. I tell her good-bye at the Quito airport at 9

p.m. Now, I await 14 Methodists from Mobile, Alabama for our missions trip. My home church, St.

Mark U.M.C., graciously provided the church bus to bring the crew to the Pensacola airport. Thanks...

Pastor Chris and Jack. I mentally shift gears as they find me, for I'm in the bright orange team tee-shirt.

All the luggage arrives and we take that as a sign for a good week ahead. We load the bus and leave

the capital city on our way to Tabacundo. It is called the Rose Capital of the World. An hour later we

reach the Hosteria Rancho Manabita. Settling into my room, I can finally telephone my wife, after one

week. I make it to bed at midnight, anxious to see what God has in store for us this next week.

June 16, 2019 (Sunday)

This is Father's Day... and I recall the quality time I enjoyed with my daughter this past week. We

hiked inside Pululahua Volcano, stood on the Equator and had an amazing 5 day Amazon adventure.

There is a devotional scheduled for 8:15. The theme was “watering the fields”. Jennifer said that we

would focus on where we saw God at work today. We would sing a few songs at each devotional

session, beginning with “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it”!

8:30 and it's time for breakfast. We have pancakes, scrambled eggs, fruit and coffee. As we walk to

the hotel section, I notice there is a swimming pool, a jacuzzi and a sauna. Maybe I can visit there.

The bus ride to Cajas takes about 20 minutes. Our group is warmly met by the local church people.

Hand-shakes and hugs abound. Including 25 children, it looked like there were about 75 folks at the

church service. Two young men who will be working with us on the construction crew with us speak

English. So, Daniel and Samuel will be our interpreters. After introductions and several songs, the

sermon focused on fathers. And since this is Father's Day, the dads were recognized with a pen. It is

inscribed: “Varon Valiente... Escogido por Dios”. It is translated as “Brave Man... Chosen by God”.

Wow, that was special.

At the conclusion of the worship service, we were given a snack. It was a bowl of yogurt, with

sliced bananas and fresh strawberries. Then we load onto the bus and go back to Tabacundo.

We have just a few minutes to wash our hands and come back to the restaurant for lunch. We're first

served a bowl of mushroom soup. Then we have a thinly sliced steak, rice and broccoli. Most of us then

walked next door to a small business that sells bizcochas. We will certainly return this afternoon when

they have opened. On the other side of that building was a small “green space”. There was a nice

framed poster from the Guiness Book of World Records organization. It was placed next to a large

hummingbird, as it was drinking nectar from a flower. The record is for the largest floral structure ever

built. The event occurred in July 2018 and 546,364 roses were used. The structure was a long ramp

leading up to an 8 level indigenous pre-Incan pyramid replica. Very impressive.

Our small group then walked in the opposite direction to see some unusual “sidewalk food”. Yes,

there was a pig's head and one pig's carcass hanging on hooks, a few feet from a busy sidewalk. Two

ladies were preparing sausage. I don't think I had witnessed that before. Interesting!

A short time later, our group is in the bus and we will soon visit a rose nursery. There are 22 acres at

this Boutique Rose facility. It features 80 varieties of roses, including thorn-less bushes. Ecuador is the

third largest cut flower exporting country in the world. And about 75 %!o(MISSING)f blooms shipped are roses.

After an order is received, roses are chosen, cut, wrapped for shipment and delivered within 72 hours...

anywhere in the world! We learned of the “Eternal” roses, which should “live” for 5 years. Yes, I

needed to buy a 6-pack of them for Janet.

Supper these evening was served at 6:00. It featured fish, rice, lentel soup, juice and cake topped

with black-berries. Well, just about all of us walk next door to buy bizcochos. These are buttery, flaky,

and sweet biscuits; sometimes called sponge cake. They are usually eaten with a caramel dipping sauce.

At 7:15, we started our devotional. The key Bible verse was from Matthew: 28-18. Love the Lord

your God with all your heart, and with all your soul... and love your neighbor as yourself. Most of us

then shared where we saw God at work today. Our VBS leader, Cecy, who lives in Ecuador, shared

about a team that visited last year. It had a profound effect on the community. These Cajas people are

expecting God to work in a mighty way this week. And we all believe it will happen again this year. It

has been a good day. And we're all looking forward to tomorrow.

Tired... in bed at 9:15. And Auburn is winning their World Series baseball game. Why did those

barking dogs wake me up at midnight?

June 17, 2019 (Monday)

My telephone alarm goes off at 6:20 and I'm down in the lobby at 7:00. Anna leads the devotional

this morning, starting at Matthew 7. Judge not, or you too will be judged. And from Romans 2:17-24.

We sang a few songs, including my favorite from trips to Costa Rica “Here I Am, Lord”. Maybe it is a

coincidence, but as I look down on our little devotional guide and activities booklet, I see the line “I

will go Lord, If you lead me-2019”.

Breakfast will be served each morning at 7:15. There are fried eggs, a large, soft roll with guava

jelly and watermelon. Ronnie's daughter, Sofi, said grace for us in Spanish. At 8:00, we're in the bus

and on our way to the church work-site.

All of us, including kitchen and construction staff, gathered in a large circle. We sang “This is the

day that the Lord has made” in English and Spanish and then had a short prayer. I worked with a

wheel-barrow, moving several loads of rocks and stones. We then had to clear an area for delivery

trucks to bring a load of sand; then another supply truck came a little later.

I soon settled into the task of taking two pieces of wire; folding in two, them twisting them tightly.

Taylor and I needed to make 136 of these twisted, reinforced wire ties. They would then be used to tie

rebar to the steel reinforcement rods... at the eight columns.

When that chore was completed, I held the rebar in place, while other workers would tie and secure

them. Our team finished four of the eight columns by 12:15. Now it's lunchtime!

Three ladies of the church (plus one man) had been working all morning in the kitchen. We were

rewarded with fried steak, mashed potatoes, and a green bean / carrot salad. Yummy.

Another delivery truck arrives with about 75 bags of cement mix. Lucky!!!.. only 18 bags are for us.

I surprised myself when I joined in to hoist a 110 pound bag of cement mix on my shoulder. I toted it to

the storage building and decided one bag was enough for this 166 pound body of mine. I then did more

rebar work this afternoon. Afterwards, we attached 4 metal 2x2 foot interlocking metal sections around

the 10 foot columns of steel rod poles. We had to have 5 levels of these metal sections / column. We

met our goal of completing 4 of the columns. We can pour the cement tomorrow.

We left at 4:00 and saw a beautiful rainbow before we reached the hotel. A hot shower was very

much appreciated. After a little rest, I joined the others at 6:00 for supper. Tonight there's spaghetti and

meat sauce, plantains and strawberry juice. Dessert is a berry pie.

I led the devotional tonight. I wore an old missions tee-shirt from a Costa Rica trip. It read: “I have

come not to be served... but to serve”. So, this verse from Mark 10:45 started me off. Our focus, our

goal, our reason for being here in Ecuador this week is to truly... serve others! And from Mark 16:15

“He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”.

We are living the Gospel message. The local people can see the joy in our hearts, as we work to

serve their community. From Vacation Bible School, to leading a church worship service, to pushing

wheel-barrows and shoveling cement... we are God's hands and feet, each day, as we serve our new

Ecuadorian brothers and sisters. I concluded with lyrics from a hymnal “They'll know we are Christians

by our love!” There was a little discussion afterward, and I think it went very well.

We all stayed and worked on VBS preparations for tomorrow. We tied balloons, cut the opposite

side, then stretched them over a small toilet tissue roll. The kids will have fun with their confetti guns

tomorrow. See ya manana. There is a gorgeous full moon in view tonight. I'm in bed by 9:30.

June 18, 2019 (Tuesday)

A local rooster woke me up again at 3 a.m. Then I'm up with a 6:20 alarm. There's plenty of time to

shave, shampoo and shower. I just appreciate so much having hot water in the shower each morning. I

recalled a missions trip to Peru two years ago. Cold river water was piped in for a quick cold shower.

And evenings were spent in a hammock, not a comfy bed.

We gathered at 7 a.m. And sang a few songs. Then Taylor led our morning devotional. Her theme

was about diversity. She concluded with a challenge for us today. Learn something new about the

Ecuadorians we will work with today.

At 7:15 we gathered around the dining tables. Breakfast is scrambled eggs, sliced meat and papaya.

I get my cup filled with 2/3 milk and 1/3 coffee and a little sugar. Not too bad. I'm getting used to this.

It's 8:30 and we've just arrived at the church work-site. Several school children greeted us as we

walked by. Ten of us volunteered to walk up by the strawberry fields to reach a wood-pile. Twenty long

and heavy poles had to be retrieved, then transported to the cement foundation. They will be used to

prop up and secure the columns, before freshly mixed cement is poured.

A little while later, a group of 6 or 7 team-mates left on a prayer walk. Okay, we're gonna work

those muscles again. Cement powder was added to a large pile of dirt. Two of us would shovel and mix

this combo; then shovel and mix several more times. Then, five wheel-barrow loads of rocks were

added. Finally, 6 buckets of water added. Now we will shovel and mix for another 10 minutes. And we

now have fresh, new cement. A bucket brigade was formed and our team poured cement into three of

the column enclosures before lunch.

I was asked to kick a soccer ball with one of the young boys. We both thoroughly enjoyed that. We

take another water break, then it's back to work. After awhile, the lunchroom ladies brought us small

bags of popcorn. There was more V.B.S. activities inside, led by Cecy and Ronnie's wife, Nanny; while

more cement mixing took place on the outside.

At lunch today, two of us sat with the local workers. We were immersed into Spanish lessons. Our

delicious lunch today included potato patties, diced beets, rice, and a type of local sausage. There was

orange drink available and and a congealed jello for dessert.

As I took my plate to the kitchen, it looked like a 20 gallon container was used to make a whole lot

of chicken soup. At 1 p.m., the children started to arrive. Jennifer asked for a male volunteer for VBS.

Yep, that would be me... she's looking at. So, I helped serve food to several tables, filled with hungry

children. After their hot meal, I helped serve dozens of cups of jello. Next, we sang a few songs and

prepare for a fun craft. The kids will make a rainbow with glue sticks and tiny pieces of colored paper.

The planned pattern was red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Then they glued white cotton balls

for clouds. I can't recall how many children needed my assistance. But it was fun. Up next was to bring

out the crayons. There were 8 different pieces of fruit on these papers for them to color. And one word

in Spanish helped show the “Fruits of the Spirit”. So, they learned of: peace, patience, meekness, love,

joy, kindness, faithfulness and goodness.

While working with and helping the children, there was a dog that came inside. I must have tried for

10 minutes to get him out. Finally caught him between tables. I scooped him up and out he went. Such

a surprised look on his little face.

And before I knew it, I was outside in the center of a circle. I was tossing a soccer ball to EACH one

of the 25 children out there. Fun! And for whatever reason, I picked up one of the little girls and threw

her up into the air. Screams of joy. What have I done??? Everyone of those 25 kids wanted me to pick

them up and toss them up high, also. Whew, they wore me out today!

Our work stopped today around 3:30 and we left for our hotel. After a hot shower, there was time to

rest awhile. Supper was served at 5:30. We had a pork chop with barbeque sauce, rice, broccoli, garlic

bread, french fries and coca-cola.

A special treat tonight is a trip to the nearby city of Cayambe. Chester gave us a devotional on the

bus. He read a verse from Psalm 118: 24. “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be

glad in it.” (That sure sounds familiar) God wants us to share our morning time with Him. And He will

richly bless us.

After arriving in this city of 40,000 our first stop was a grocery store. I came across a wet spill on

the first aisle. Being a good Wal-Mart employee, I stood watch over it for several minutes, keeping

shoppers from slipping in it. And then an employee came to clean it up. I felt like a good citizen. Most

of us found a few items to purchase. Then we walked a few blocks to the town center. There was such

an unusual statue for the back-drop of our group photo. It is called Metallic man monument over a

metallic planet. We soon reached our destination, La Vaca Loca, which was the Crazy Cow. This was

my first time to enjoy a Nutella milk-shake! Good times with my missions team-mates.

I shared an amusing story on the way back. In 1903 children at a Methodist church in Franklin, TN

read Bible verses from the pulpit. This was helping emphasize a stewardship campaign about tithing for

the next year. My grandmother was six years old at that time. She was to recite a passage from II

Corinthians 9:7... “for God loves a cheerful giver.” However, she loudly and proudly proclaimed “for

God loves a chicken gizzard!” Lots of laughter! We're back at the hotel by 9 and I'm in bed by 10:30.

June 19, 2019 (Wednesday)

Once again, I awoke to flapping wings and the crow of a rooster... at 2:50 a.m. He sure gets an early

start to the morning. The routine is now a phone alarm at 6:20. Our devotional starts at 7 o'clock. Pastor

Jennifer reads from Ephesians 5:15... “Be very careful how you live- not as fools, but as wise.” The

main point was to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Today, let's try to “break out in song!”

We gather for breakfast at 7:15. We have scrambled eggs, rolled cheese and meat, French toast and

pineapple. Again, I had 2/3 cup of milk with 1/3 cup of coffee. Sofi said grace for our group.

8:30 and we're at the work-site, taking a group photo. A snow-capped Cayambe Volcano is in the

background. Beautiful! After an opening prayer, we are all pleased to see that the 2x2 foot metal

interlocking plates had been removed from five columns. The cement has dried.

The metal plates needed to be cleaned, for the cement had dried on them. A few men cleaned them.

Then my job was to paint diesel oil on them, one by one. With 96 of these metal plates, it took quite

awhile. But, another job well-done. The 9th and final column had to be made ready. So, 17 rebar squares

had to be wired into place. I would grab two small pieces of wire, bend them in the middle, then twist

them for double support. I had done lots of these on Monday morning.

I joined 6 others on a prayer walk. We prayed specifically for eight nearby people, as we stopped at

3 different houses. There were 3 generations of people living in that first house. They were growing

beans in a nearby field. The grandmother had a prayer request for medical help for her hurt hip. There

was a young man at the next house we went to. At the third house, a 14 year old girl, who suffers from

Lupus, was looking after her younger brother. After praying for relief from her condition, we were let

into their little store. There were a few snacks, and I bought a bag of Ruffles potato chips. As we left, I

glanced inside their modest house and saw the rainbow paper from yesterday's VBS activities. On our

way back, we stopped and spoke to the father of the young man, He had been on a business trip and

was eager to talk with us. I was asked to pray for this gentleman, slowly, in English. It was then trans-

lated into Spanish. This has been quite a humbling experience. As we walked by a pasture of potatoes

and a few pigs, I kept thinking of a Bible verse from Matthew 18:20. “Where two or more are gathered

in my name, there I am with you.”

We had about 15 minutes before lunch to put on the work gloves again and hand the 2x2 metal plate

squares to the local workers. They were finishing the 9th and final column. Another delicious lunch was

served around 12:20. We had a pork chop, rice, beans and a guacamole / cucumber salad. I had an

apple drink, then sliced pineapple for dessert.

It is now time to make more cement; shovel it into buckets; pass the buckets down, via 7 workers;

swing a bucket up to Mateo; pour cement inside a column; drop the bucket to a teammate; pass it via 4

workers back to the cement circle. There are 18 of us in this very efficient bucket brigade.

At last, all four remaining columns have been filled with cement. Now it's time to tidy up this place

and return the shovels, rakes, wheel-barrows to the storage rooms.

Our bus arrives at 3:30. We're all proud of our accomplishments today as we go back to the hotel.

Can't wait for another hot shower. I called Janet and we both got caught up on the daily news. I'm

missing home, right about now. As I look out my hotel window, this is the first day I don't see

children on the nearby soccer fields. Surprise! There are two cows grazing in the green grass.

6:00 is suppertime and we start on cream of carrot soup with popcorn. Next we have chicken with

cream of mushroom soup, rice, potatoes, green peas and carrots. After coca-cola is brought by, they

bring cake for dessert.

At 7:00 we start the evening devotional. Janece read from Mark 8: 1-9. It was about feeding the

multitudes. She summed it up pretty well: Blessings seem to multiply! The funniest event that one of

our members spoke about tonight was when she tried communicating with one of the young girls from

Ecuador, who was about 8 years old. She tried her best to speak a little Spanish to the young VBS girl.

Not having much success, the young girl rolled her eyes said simply “speak English!” What memories!

At the conclusion of the devotional, we all stayed around to help with VBS crafts. We worked with

yarn and popsicle sticks. I made my exit a little while later. Went to the room and got on my swimming

suit. Unfortunately, the swimming pool and hot tub were way too cold to enjoy. I did spend some time

in the sauna. Glad that was working properly. In bed by 10:00

June 20, 2019 (Thursday)

A neighbor, about 3 blocks away, decided that everyone needed to hear his radio at 2:20 a.m. Of

course, that woke up the roosters. I got up at 6:20, then go down at 7:00 for the devotional. Wanda

reads to us verses from Isaiah 26:3 and 2 Corinthians 4:18. The main thought was not to worry about

everything on our human check-list. Focus on what God wants us to do.

The 7:15 breakfast featured scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit with yogurt, and a large roll with guava

jelly. The bus left promptly at 8 and we're at the work-site at 8:30.

The first of many chores today was to haul 20 heavy poles back uphill. They had been used to

secure the columns in place as they dried overnight. Yes, it's time for the first water break.

Next, we completely dismantle a small mountain of rocks. From small to medium to large sized,

these rocks were placed inside the semi-circle. This will be the pulpit area of the new church.

Before the cement is mixed, we gather 4 bags of cement mix (110 pounds / bag), 6 wheel-barrow

loads of dirt, and 6 wheel-barrow loads of small rocks. We combine the dirt and rocks, add cement mix

and stir in thoroughly with a few buckets of water. Another water break.

45%!o(MISSING)f the pulpit foundation is completed when we break for lunch. I help out by placing napkins

around, then bringing plates of food to the tables. Lunch today was filet mignon, rice, potatoes and a

corn-carrot-broccoli salad. Five of the Ecuadorian kitchen staff came onstage and sang a few songs,

while one member played the Andean wood-pipes or pan flute.

After lunch we mixed another batch of cement; then took another water break. We tried to be well

hydrated. We raked, shoveled, pushed wheel-barrows, toted buckets of water. We all just helped where-

ever there was a need. Okay, we are about 85%!f(MISSING)inished with the pulpit area foundation and will finish

that tomorrow. Wheel-barrows and equipment are returned to the storage area and we leave at 3:30.

There is a beautiful rainbow that seems to follow us home. This particular one stretched from one

horizon to another horizon. After a hot shower, I got all the cement dust / powder and dirt off. Clean!

We load onto the bus and leave at 5:30 for a special dinner. We ride for 30+ minutes to the city of

Otavalo. Our destination is the Puerto Lago Restaurant. We saw a few grazing llama. At the edge of a

large lake was a light-house. Our tables were near a large window for gorgeous views of Laguna de San

Pablo. On the far side of the lake was Imbabura Volcano. Not active for about 14,000 years, it reaches

an impressive height of 15,121 feet.

Three different entrees are offered. Yesterday we chose from chicken cordon bleu, filet mignon or

trout. We started with a cream of potato and cheese soup. I kept looking out the window for gorgeous

views of the lake and volcano. Ronnie and I decided to swap half of our entree meats with each other.

So, I got half his chicken and he got half of my filet mignon. Glad we did it. I learned about their pro-

environmental commitment to reducing excess plastic. So, instead of a plastic straw, we had a noodle

for a straw for our beverages. The noodle had not disintegrated into my lemonade when I finished the

last of the cheesecake. Interesting concept.

On the bus ride back to Tabacundo, I wanted to speak to our group. I spoke about our closeness and

how we sorta seemed like a family. I wanted to share about the night that I was “born again” at a youth

church camp. So I recited a poem that I'd written years ago, entitled “August 2nd, 1972”.

This is our last night at the hotel, so we start packing our luggage. We've got to be ready to leave

Friday, when we return here. I hope the roosters and dogs sleep well tonight. In bed by 11:00.

June 21, 2019 (Friday)

T.G.I.F. Up at 6:20 then I'm in the lobby at 7 for the devotional. We sang a few songs before Mark

shared with us. He told of a story from Europe during WWII. He ended with “you are the arms of

Christ.” Then he read the parable of the mustard seed from Mark 4:30. Then Cecy read a few verses

from Revelation 3:7 and Ephesians. She summed it up with “we are created to do good works”. Then

concluded with God is not in the circumstance, but in the response to the circumstance.

Breakfast is served right at 7:15. Today we have scrambled eggs, rolled cheese, bizchocos with

caramel, and my last cup of 2/3 milk and 1/3 cup coffee. Most all of us are 95%!p(MISSING)acked as our bus

leaves at 8:00.

We have our traditional “this is the day” song and a prayer at 8:45. It's time to retrieve the wheel-

barrows, shovels and pick-axe so we can prepare the cement mix. We do lots of shoveling dirt and

rocks. Then we mix in cement powder and add water. We finally finish pouring the foundation for the

pulpit area. But our work is not complete. I must have picked up a few hundred small, loose rocks, as

we tidy up the grounds. Then I took several loads of trash and rubbish to a pile, where it will be burned


We alternated turns at shoveling dirt, then rocks, then taking it to the cement mixing site. At this

high altitude, we all took several water / rest breaks. Umberto and his crew was so pleased with the

quantity and quality of our work this week. He could not thank us enough. (Makes it all worthwhile!)

A closing ceremony takes place where gifts were exchanged. Women from one Mobile church had

handmade 5 prayer shawls for the Ecuador ladies. Then, the men were blown away when presented

handmade (Peruvian or) Andean wooden flutes. What a keepsake!

Now it's time for a good lunch. Our last meal at the church is a pork tenderloin, rice, potatoes, green

beans, carrots and an apple drink. I again sat with the Ecuadorian workers. Afterwards, many of us left

some clothing. I decided to leave my blue jeans, Auburn cap, tennis shoes and work gloves. They will

find a good home in the Cajas community.

Everything gets packed or placed in its slot. We take several group photos; then get in lots of hugs!

These good folks are certainly going to miss us. And I know we will think of them everyday. Our bus

leaves the final time about 2:00.

We return to the hotel in Tabacundo to retrieve our suitcases, duffel bags and luggage. And a few

hours later, we arrive in Quito. Check-in goes smoothly at the Hotel Amaranta. And Ronnie is my

roommate for the night. There is a little time to walk 4 blocks to a large market-place for souvenirs.

For supper in the hotel restaurant, we are seated at 4 tables, in what looked like a Florida room. We

start with a small bowl of fruit, then a bowl of potato soup, and finally glazed pork chop, potato, rice,

broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

We took a 6 block walk to a lively area of the capital city, Plaza Foch. And on this Friday evening,

Ecuador was playing a soccer game. Seems like all restaurants and sports bars had the big soccer game

on their large-screened televisions. Toke's restaurant cleared out when the game was over. We passed

by a heater going up the steps. Yes, it is a little chilly tonight. A few in the group ordered chicken

wings, while most of us get ice cream. I thought I needed an Oreo milkshake! Fun times as we talked

about the previous week. And I saw the Virgin of Quito statue, lit up at night, as we went back to our

hotel. I'm in bed about 10:15.

June 22, 2019 (Saturday)

The devotional is held this morning in the penthouse area. Dr. Bishop will lead us today. Our Bible

verse is from Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will

be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We concluded

with a communion service. This was very touching and moving... a mountaintop experience.

After breakfast, the bus picks us up and we travel to Mitad del Mundo... the Middle of the World.

We will visit the Equator! This looks familiar, as Bethany and I were here 7 days ago. We viewed a few

exhibits, then went and straddled the red painted line. This is so cool, being in both hemispheres at one

time. The highlight for me and 4 others in the group was to balance an egg on the head of a nail. Yes...

I was successful and received a souvenir certificate. We could also pull out our passports and get an

Equator stamp! There was a native dancer who performed for us. Then, about 20 tourists got into his

conga line and danced with him. It's been an enjoyable morning.

We are riding back into Quito and Ronnie points out a volcano to us. It was quite a ways off, in the

distance. Clouds covered the peak and I'm not sure which volcano it was. The bus dropped us off at a

Super Maxi grocery store. I purchased a few items, including a couple bottles of vanilla extract. We

walked 6 blocks back to our hotel and rested a little before lunch.

In a short while, we boarding the bus and go to Crepes & Waffles. I decide to order crepes and stro-

ganoff. Bananas foster flambe with caramel seemed to be the perfect dessert. Back to the hotel for a

little rest.

Just about all my stuff is packed, as we fly back tonight. A large group of us make a return trip to the

local market (Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal-1999). I shopped with two teammates for a few hours. I

took a photo of a bag of COCA + MARIHUANA leaves. I did not think that would make it through

Customs in Miami. We are all pleased with the souvenirs we've found. I do believe I'm finished now.

There are a dozen murals on the walls, leading into the marketplace. They depict rural scenes of life in

the Andes, and artisans at work. On the walk back to our hotel, I enjoy one last look at trees with:

beautiful yellow flowers, pink fluffy flowers, maroon colored berries, and a plant with green leaves and

its red border.

Our last supper at the hotel restaurant and we're served a hearty portion of pork chops and gravy,

rice, potatoes and a vegetable medley. And at 7:00, the bus is fully loaded and we're on our way to the

airport. There is a nice little wait until the American Airlines desk opens. And then a few hours more to

wait until the 11:30 flight to Miami.

At 10:45, we start hearing announcements about random luggage or back-pack checks. Well, Ronnie

had alerted us that this was a real possibility. In all, 25 passengers were called out and had to wait for

an intense baggage search. We kept looking at the clocks and hoped we would not miss the flight. My

teammate, Katelyn, also was selected for a back-pack check. The patience of the fellow passengers

was being tested. When it was my turn, the back-pack check went smoothly. And I happily boarded the

plane just 15 minutes before take-off. (Cutting it close there, folks.)

11:30 and we're flying out of Quito. All is quiet on this dark plane until 12:45 a.m. Dinner is served.

There was beef, rice, green beans, salad, roll and pie. I tried to rest, but don't think I had any quality

sleep. Just tried to be comfortable for 4+ hours.

At 4:40, Welcome to Miami. Hello U.S.A! Each person or family group had to check into Customs

at a kiosk, to declare items. I'm pleased with how smoothly it went. I picked up my duffel bag at the

Baggage carousel. Then have to turn it in again at the American Airlines desk / conveyor belt.

I had TSA pre-check (got to keep my shoes on). However, two of us were randomly chosen to

have our back-packs checked. Okay, let's wait another 3 hours for our 8:40 flight to Pensacola. For

whatever reason, there is a 45 minute delay... And the jet finally leaves around 9:45. I enjoy the view

from my window seat as I look out across the vast Everglades. I thought of the photo I took at the

Miami airport a little while ago: “Experience The Everglades!” 16 days ago, Bethany and I had truly

enjoyed our Everglades adventure.

It seems like all the luggage arrived in Pensacola. Outside was the St. Mark United Methodist

Church bus. Mike would be driving us back to Mobile. It's been a long week, but the VBS activities

for the children and the construction work we did at the EMANUEL MISION CAYAMBE will help

touch lives for generations. And that is what it's all about! God is good! Life is good!


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