I pull a faded black suitcase, it’s wheels rumble over the sidewalk, a grey path between verdant green. The rhythm of smooth concrete broken by lines reminds me of the clickety-clack of a train moving down its tracks.
“Take a right at the llama.”
There they are, two hairy mowers in action, keeping the hotel’s grass shaved.
I turn right at the sidewalk crossroads, the hum of my rolling carry-on follows, just out of reach of a tethered llama. His brown and white speckled face turns toward me for just a second and then nonchalantly he resumes chewing for his living.
Ecuador. Surrounded by the brightness of it, it’s colors, its sounds, I am reminded of rich heritage and obedience. The path goes on between red flowering bushes and graceful trees. Birds sing unfamiliar melodies.
“Go,” Jesus commanded his disciples on a mountain in Galilee, and they did. The fledgling church expanded.
In 1892 Avant’s first overseas missionaries left behind virtually everything, setting themselves apart from loved ones, and stepping away into an unseeable future but with certain purpose. They suffered illness and persecution. Some gave their lives, leaving small stone tombstones pocked about the Ecuadorian soil. National churches today spawned from those years number more than a thousand.
“…make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB).
I wonder if the impact of a shared salvation, of going beyond borders, of all nations, was fathomable to the first disciples? Had they pictured reproducing faith, baptizing and teaching outside of their own people?
The Messiah was after all the King of the Jews, promised to them through the ages, their own private Redeemer, custom made for them, exclusive.
Jesus fed the hungry, cast out demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. Yet, as Master of the universe He urged “the poor you will always have with you,” (Matt. 26:11; NIV); and before His ascension he gave the radical command, “Go, therefore…”.
Jim Elliot, speared to his death in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956 famously penned, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
I see the fruit of the faithful as I approach a bright kiosk filled with colored ponchos, alpaca scarves and leather hats. A woman, shorter than me, black hair pulled back at her neck into a long tail moves aside and welcomes me. She wears a white blouse embroidered in bright threads, outlines of tropical flowers tucked into a long black skirt.
“You have a Bible,” I say in Italian, pointing to where one lies open on the counter. Her face lights, her fingers caress the pages of Revelation.
We talk like newly discovered sisters. My Italian tongue flows with her Spanish like two rivers joining into one muddy mess.
I climb the tour bus and rest my weary head against its smudged window. Scenes of poverty and scenes of intermittent wealth glide past. We come to a rolling halt, and outside, like a picture in a frame, stands a peeling cement building with brown hand painted words. Iglesia Evangelica. Evangelical church.
A random teenager on the street asks, “Are you Christians?”
He is seventeen, far too young to remember, but living proof that the names of mission’s history were once flesh and blood.
“Thank you,” he nods at us. “Thank you for coming and freeing us from slavery. Thank you for bringing freedom in Jesus.”
My husband turns to me and neither of us can speak. The experience is too deep. Too humbling.
Around the Thanksgiving table next week, as I enjoy the presence of those I love and see too seldom, I will stop and remember a long line of people attached like a cord to the shaping and forming of my life. I plan to breathe in those blessings and exhale gratefulness.
“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Pilgrims under God’s commission have followed tortuous paths through generations. His tap on the shoulder and His grip on the heart still compels to journey where He is not named.
Pilgrims under God’s commission have followed tortuous paths. His grip on the heart still compels to journey where He is not named.
“Go therefore…to all the nations” echoes, authoritative today as to those first disciples.
The llamas moved to another corner, apparently the grass really was greener on the other side. I found a new landmark to keep me on the path, and a reminder of an unmovable truth.