Working as a missionary in Duran, Ecuador last Easter had a profound effect on my life. I traveled to that poverty-stricken country hoping to make a difference in people's lives; however, they made more of a difference in mine. The experience changed my outlook on faith in God, on love for fellow man, and on the value of things.
The people in the community had so little, yet they were content. In absolute poverty, these people put their will in God's hands. Because all they had was their faith, they had utter trust in God. Instead of complaining about what they did not have, the people were grateful for the gift of life and each other. Through my experiences with these people, my faith has grown. Each day I thank God for everything I have.
Through the people of Ecuador, I viewed what love for fellow man was truly about. Not only did it mean to give and to nourish, which is what I believed, but also it meant to be willing to starve and to die. I witnessed older siblings giving their only food to younger siblings; a father risking his life in a flood to bring his child to safety; parents laboring in the fields to provide their family with food; young children giving up the opportunity of an education in order to work to provide money for their family, and a boy giving his sister his shoes so that she would not cut her feet on a rocky path.
My experience of living with these people has taught me to value everything I have. By observing the children of Ecuador who played with fireflies and plastic bags, I learned how unimportant material things are. Furthermore, I learned to appreciate basic needs such as food and shelter which I never had to worry about at home. Yet, in Ecuador I often wondered: when was the next time I was going to eat? When was the rain going to stop seeping through the roof? When was the war between the bugs on my bed going to end? When was the enormous puddle that formed on my floor going to evaporate? Who was going to travel to the market to buy our food? Who was going to get up at 6: 00 a.m. to buy the bread for the day? Who was going to carry the bottled water up the hill? Who was going to clean the rice by picking the bugs out, and who was going to behead the chicken and clean out its insides?
My trip to Ecuador was a life-changing experience. It affected my view of my faith in God, on love for fellowman, and on the value of things. This experience influenced what I believe and who I am today. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.