Easter is upon us and the Christmas holidays of 2015 are a far distant memory. Yet, I would like to share a little of our Christmas cheer.
Glenn and I spent the end of year holidays with our “family” in Ecuador, having spent Thanksgiving in the States. We switch celebrations every other year. It is fortunate to be wanted, but difficult to be in two places at once.
Our Ecuadorian family gathers together for the nine novenas before Christmas Eve. The rosary is recited, and then a simple snack or meal is shared. In 2015, around 20 folks came each night for this nightly fiesta. Then, on Christmas Eve, we all worshiped together at an evening mass. On Christmas Day, we joined together for a meal of roast turkey (a special treat). What a way to celebrate Christ’s birth!
The family does not get together much during other months of the year (with the exception of 1 day at Easter). These Christmas gatherings, the prayers said together, the stories shared are a far cry from the frantic shopping, decorating, meal and cookie making that so often we experience in the United States.
Or maybe I’m just in denial. If one does not have a lot of extra resources, Christmas is just plain scaled down. One doesn’t buy much in the way of gifts or decorations. If one works 6 or 7 days a week, where is the time to make goodies to share with neighbors? Isabel decorated while we were gone over Thanksgiving. I shopped during our trip. My holiday was a spiritual affair, but likely it isn’t for all who live in Ecuador. In fact, for many, many children, their Christmas presents consist of one bag of different kinds of candies.
FEDICE raised funds to allow each of the pre-school children where they have helped with building and playground equipment, to receive a bag of candy and one gift. To me, it seems odd to ask for donations for candy. I would rather give a book or donate for another teacher or supplies. But, that is one of the cultural differences between my middle-class lifestyle and the day to day, month to month existence many of those we work with experience. Anyway, FEDICE was successful in raising funds for gifts for pre-schools in Caluqui, Pijal, Romerillos, and San Francisco.
OK, OK, it’s almost Easter and I’m supposed to be telling you about what is happening with FEDICE this year, 2016. Well, we are still collaborating with Bridging Cultures in Pusir. In fact, as I write this, a group from Texas is in Pusir (about an hour and a half from where we live) helping the community with their goats. The animals have run free in the past (which is not totally bad, except they run through the crops sold for their livelihoods, and they eat all the grasses making the village look like a concentration camp). The people in this African-American (you probably remember that Ecuador is in South AMERICA, right?) community are descendants of escaped slaves from the Ecuadorian coast. Before Bridging Cultures came on the scene and before FEDICE arrived to assist as well, there was not much in the way of a “community” and not a lot in the way of hope in the future.
Change takes time, but little by little, attitudes are changing. A group of women have become, well, a cohesive group. There is now a small garden with flowers in the center of town that was once only bare dirt. The community has a computer center and after this week, will have a machine shop to use to teach high school students new skills (before, it was perceived that the only way out of Pusir was through making it in sports, i.e. futbol (or soccer).
My pre-school English classes have resumed for the spring and early summer. Communicating in English is a key to a better paying job. But what junior high or high school student wants to work that hard on a new language? Well, there are some, but I teach the kids when they are “language sponges” and learning is fun when one sings songs and watches colorful videos in English and plays games with this gringa who towers over them. I am opening English nerve highways for their future in the hopes that they will be open and excited about the possibility of communicating in this different language and eventually making a better life for themselves.
And the groups in many different communities that FEDICE helped to establish continue to grow their crops and raise their animals while earning enough money to send their children to school and/or to college. They are earning because they are being successful after the training they have received from FEDICE staff.
I run on…. And I still haven’t gotten to Easter. Christ experienced in His last days, joy and expectation, confrontation, tests and traps, betrayal and denial, suffering and death. We experienced emptiness. But then, came Easter and hope, love, and a different way of looking at the world and its hardships. FEDICE does not bring the tough days of Christ’s experiences, but does try to help combat the feeling that no one cares, that life is empty. FEDICE brings hope to those less fortunate.
So there you have it! A little news of FEDICE and our work. May the joy of the Easter season rest profoundly in your soul.
Glenn Hebert and Marilyn Cooper work as volunteer missionaries with FEDICE (Ecumenical Foundation for Holistic Development, Training, and Education), which is based in Quito, Ecuador. We are also under the auspices of Global Ministries, the missionary arm of both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denominations. Global Ministries lends support to grassroots organizations such as FEDICE worldwide. Their appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.