Hey friends! What a crazy 3 weeks it has been since I returned! I’ve been so busy getting settled back in and working with the girls but I’m finally taking a minute to update everyone.
So in case you haven’t heard or noticed from all of the Facebook pictures, I’m back in the jungle working with Jungle Kids for Christ and the girls for another year! My last year was such a great experience so I’m overjoyed that the Lord is not yet finished with me here. I arrived in Quito on August 24th and traveled to Misahuallí on Sunday the 25th. I immediately got to reunite with several of my friends here on my arrival day, which made for the warmest welcome back. The first few days were full of cleaning and organizing the house and reconnecting with everyone here. Then on Thursday my girls arrived!
First Nataly, then Karen and Fernanda, and finally Jessica, Jeimy, and Anahi. The first 3 jumped back into my arms like they had just been home with their families for a long weekend and nothing had changed. The other 3 took a little more time to readjust, which was normal for them. I have honestly been surprised at how quickly everyone transitioned back into life in the house and our routine, and how much of their English they still remember. I feel like all of our progress from last year hasn’t been lost like I worried it might’ve been, and that’s such a blessing!
Our first few days were so much fun. We sorted all of their new clothes, shoes, and things for school, went to the river, pool, and park to play, and just enjoyed being all reunited in the house once again. They arrived on a Thursday and started school the following Tuesday. This year they are in grades 3rd, 4th, & 5th, which is United States 2nd, 3rd, & 4th. They are a little behind their classmates academically (although ahead in speaking and understanding English) so this year we hope to continue closing that educational gap. These girls are so much fun to live with and love on and I’m so happy I’m able to be involved in their growth this past and coming year. It’s obvious how much they’ve physically grown and changed this last year just comparing first day of school pictures. Emotionally they are growing out of the shyness that is normal in their culture and community little by little. We’re about to get into double digits this year! In upcoming birthdays, Karen will turn 9 this month, Anahi will be 10 in October, and Fernanda will also be 10 in November! I should have lots of fun party pictures to post in the next couple of months.
So just a refresher for those who may not know exactly what I do or how I got started, here’s the story. I’ve always thought that missions might be something I could be interested in since around age 12-13, but I also thought that was just me being a little crazy and that it wouldn’t be what God actually has planned for my life. During my first year of college I applied for a short term mission trip through the Freewill Baptist denomination’s College Mission Program. I got accepted but they told me that since I requested a medical mission trip and their program didn’t have any going that summer that I would go to Ecuador with The Hanna Project (THP). So in May 2018 I came down to Ecuador with THP and spent the week with the medical team setting up pop-up clinics in a few indigenous communities and hearing from the missionaries here about the different aspects of Jungle Kids for Christ. I was kind of interested in the student resident home (SRH), and because of that Kelvin (he and his wife founded and direct the SRH here at Antioquia) suggested that I come with them to Jessica’s house as they were shooting a video and I could see firsthand the girls’ sacrifice in their travels to come to the school and also ask more questions. It was a great experience and I got so much information on the girls, the purpose of the SRH, etc. I went home so excited and nervous to see if this was really something that I could do. I prayed about it, talked to my family, fundraised, and came back to start my new journey 3 months later in August.
My position is a caregiver in the student home for our 6 precious girls. The girls are from indigenous communities in the jungle and would be geographically unable to attend Antioquia without living in the home. They live with Mami Laura and I during the week and return home to their families every other weekend. I focus on helping improve their English, school work, day to day routine, house rules, health, spiritual growth, etc. Mami Laura is the most wonderful Ecuadorian woman who is on her 3rd year here with the girls. She is a constant in their lives while their living situations at home and caregivers like me may change over the years. She is an amazing woman of God, incredible cook, and does the cleaning in the house as well. The girls and I love and respect her so much. Laura is the best teammate I could have taking care of these girls and I’m excited to continue learning more from her this year!
This last year has been filled with so many memories, experiences, and new friendships. I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been giving being able to work here and form relationships with my girls, their families, the missionaries, my church, the students in our school, and all of the other friends I’ve been able to make outside of all of that. The past 3 weeks have need so drastically different and so much more fulfilling compared to my first 3 weeks in the jungle last August, and this is only the beginning of year 2.
Please continue praying for me, the girls, their families, JKC, and our community.
Thanks so much for your continued prayers, support, and reading my update!
To support my work in Ecuador financially please visit www.junglekidsforchrist.org/donate