Journeying Along Together: A Pilgrimage to Ecuador

Journeying Along Together: A Pilgrimage to Ecuador

Follow along two of our congregations as they travel to Ecuador to visit and work with our partners at FEDICE over the next week. We will have each blog post available in English and Spanish.

Blog 1 / Blog 2 / Blog 3 / Blog 4 / Blog 5 / Blog 6 / Blog 7

Blog 1:

Hi, I’m Neil Allen – Retired DoC Pastor living in Beaverton, Oregon, and I just wanted to invite you on a journey via a short blog as we travel with two Disciples groups to Ecuador to assist the great mission called FEDICE.

Fe (Faith) Dice (says)

Ecumenical Foundation for Integral Development, Training – Education, FEDICE is a non-profit and non-governmental organization in Quito, Ecuador. It was created in 1994 by Víctor Vaca (Ecuador) and Violet Groth Vaca (United States), an organization that works with the families of rural communities through productive projects that are managed especially by women, who have been historically relegated and have not had access to education and training.

Our mission for this trip is to assist in a “Minga” (working together) mission within the Otavalo region of Ecuador – mainly with some of the special partners living there to help “eradicate poverty” through a system of micro loans – predominately to women famers there.  We travel from our homes in Oregon and join up with a group from Kansas City’s Country Club Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and form a group of nearly 30 persons. As we packed our bags with information, they have requested on how to end domestic violence, assist with medical needs in these more remote settings, we also packed lots of supplies they need on a daily basis – toothpaste, tooth brushes and floss, plus all the soaps and shampoos.

Other gifts include lap quilts via a mission partner from UCC, games and toys for the day care centers and bibles in Spanish for our churches visiting, plus cash for the coolest part of our trip – buying items from local merchants.  Not only do we support the entrepreneurs of Ecuador but also reminding those who purchase the items of the work the people of Ecuador are doing. As the loans are repaid more farmers, daycares, and other projects created, evaluated, and sustained by the people of Ecuador through our ecumenical partners there.

FEDICE’s efforts are paying huge Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional benefits to the surrounding community!  Quality of life is dramatically improving among the often-marginalized indigenous people in rural areas. Infant mortality rates have been steadily dropping. Longevity has also been increasing too! That is fantastic news, but we are often told by many women there how they can give their girls an education through the extra funds they have from their farming efforts.  One money, in tears said, “For the first time, thanks to FEDICE, I have hope that my daughter will live a full happy life.”

“Thanks God” said Blanca Puma – Executive Director of FEDICE Ecuador, “we are making a real difference in their lives.”

We are off in a few days to travel back to meet with our mission partners there.  We will worship there shortly after a long day of travel (22 hours) so thanks for your prayers and support. We’ll send a new blog after some rest, to show you how things are going. 
Neil Allen

Blog Two:

Friday, June 16th 2023
Our first day in Ecuador was spent visiting the Semillitas Del Futuro daycare where we met Sonia the coordinator of the center along with the six lovely teachers. We were greeted with a very warm welcome that made us feel like we were friends from long ago. Sonia showed us what projects they’re developing and what work we will be helping them in the coming week.

Our first day was also marked by the abundant love we felt by the Ecuadorians. As we were traveling to and from the daycare we saw an incredible view of Imbabura as well as murals all along the road displaying the beautiful artwork of Ecuador.

The Poncho market in Otavalo was also a big highlight of our day. The Poncho market is the biggest indigenous market in all of Latin America where you can find handmade clothes, ponchos, jewelry, hats, wood carvings, and handcraft. We’ve also enjoyed the fresh food that YAMOR hotel has served us along with the freshly squeezed fruit juices.

We met David who is part of the Kansas City group. He’s from Nicaragua and is helping us understand the Latin culture as well as being an interpreter. We are trying to speak Spanish but we are also communicating through the Holy Spirit’s language of love. 

Blog Three:

Sunday, June 18th 2023
After breakfast at the hotel, we rode to Pijal church to worship. While we were there we shared three songs with the congregation one of them being “Somos Uno” sung in English, Spanish, and Quechua. Our own Pastor Bernice delivered a powerfully sermon to the congregation in Spanish. We also enjoyed the music groups that performed before and after the sermon with a variety of instruments including the pan flute and Ecuadorian flute.

Since it was Father’s Day they invited us to a celebration with delicious food. From there we drove to the Pijal daycare. We were greeted warmly by the staff and parents and heard a presentation from them. We were shown through the facility and were so pleased to see how much it’s improved from the last time we visited. They even built a new room in the building used for exercise.

From there we walked down the road to Margarita’s house. She is a FEDICE micro loan recipient. She showed us how she’s been able to grow her small business even through the pandemic. Margarita is the financial sustainer of her family. We were surprised by the high percentage of loans that are returned in full in a timely manner.

In the afternoon we returned to the hotel for lunch and then went on a hike to Peguche Falls. After a long day, we treated ourselves to some famous ice cream at Rosalia Suarez Heladaría. This ice cream shop has been in business since 1869. We returned for dinner and had just finished eating when the rest of our group finally arrived. We are blessed that they made it safely.

Blog Four:

This is one of those weeks where you learn that you can live in the paradox of being both “tired” and “wired.” At the end of the day, you can see it in everyone’s eyes: we are exhausted, and we are alive.

My name is Tyler Heston (he/him pronouns), and I am the Minister of Faith Formation at Country Club Christian Church. Among many of the meaningful things I get to do in ministry, I lead our international mission trips and our youth service-learning trips— which coincide with this week away with thirteen of our high schoolers who have traveled to serve, learn, and explore along with our wider group of Disciples from the Kansas City area and from Oregon.

This is my third time in Ecuador to work with FEDICE, but you cannot quite compare any trip from the other. Each day is new, just as this group with which we have gathered. Our Kansas City crew arrived late Sunday night after a nearly twenty-four-hour travel day, and after today (Day 2 for us!), we feel like we have found a new home.

At CCCC, we call this trip a “service-learning” trip to name our mission to serve, learn, explore— and so much more. These things we have already done. Today, we spent the day at Semillitas del Futuro (Little Seeds of the Future), one of the many daycare centers FEDICE supports in this part of Ecuador. We wrapped up the painting and grouting for the new bathroom building FEDICE has helped Semillitas support, but we did more than paint and grout.

While some of our joint team helped Jugo and other FEDICE leaders work on the construction, others ran around the courtyard playing games, dancing, reading books, and more with the dozens of young children who spend each day at Semillitas. In another building, some of our joint team led an all-day workshop with other daycare staff from the region and parents of daycare children about how to respond to situations of domestic violence.

Afterward, we made a pit stop on the way back to the hotel at Cascade de Peguche, an ancient waterfall here in Otavalo. We spent an hour exploring the beautiful, sacred grounds, before coming back to a delicious dinner and meaningful devotional times.

It’s only Day 2, yet like I said: this place feels like a new home. Friendships old and new feel more like family, and the work we’re doing has carved a meaningful space in our hearts. We’re tired— but we are wired with excitement as we will continue serving and learning and exploring the ways we are all wound together in some sacred interconnectedness, no matter where we come from in the globe.

We felt this interconnectedness when our Kansas City crew split up for an evening circle to check in and reflect on our first day of the trip. Someone mentioned a feeling of oneness when suddenly we heard the other half of our joint team start singing a song in the other room. “We are one in the Spirit…”

Indeed, we are one, no matter where come from, as we are discovering this week. We humans are a wildly diverse species, yet we are held by a God who has created us all in a connected source of love and wholeness. We’re excited to see this sense of oneness continue to unfold— and excited to share it with you as you read along.

Peace— Tyler

Blog Five:

Today we went to the Day Care Semillitas del Futuro at San Pablo. This center is on the edge of the lagune. In the morning while some of our joint team (Oregon and Kansas) finished the bathroom’s construction, Nora, Cynthia and myself delivered basic First Aid training for the Day Care coordinator. I was surprised for the high number of Day Cares supported by FEDICE, a total of 12. In the afternoon we did a Domestic violence workshop for the parents of the Semillitas and community members. During this session, Sonia and the staff presented a play with the topic. Linda, Tiffany, Abbey, and Duane played parachute games with the kids. Carol and Abbey taught songs and Lauris read books in Spanish and English.

Thank you, God, for this day and all for the planning in advance of these activities for such a special and unforgettable day.

Blog Six:

What a special Day!

This morning we returned to the Semillitas del Futuro “Seeds of the Future” daycare center for a dedication service of the completed minga – the work of updating the children’s baños (bathroom) facility. The work was begun by the local community  – FEDICE volunteers and families of the daycare students and teachers – and the final coat of paint was put on this week by our volunteer mission team of adults from the Oregon/ Idaho Region working side by side with youth from Kansas City. 

Speeches, songs, and blessings in English and Spanish were followed by cutting the ribbon to officially open the baños and an exchange of gifts.

Duane Hesketh, a member of FCC Portland, helped unload two very special cakes off the bus this morning. Duane has come to Ecuador before. He’s used to mission trips being WORK trips, with lots of time spent in hands-on construction projects. This trip has been a little different  – it is more a pilgrimage of accompaniment with the main “work” being our ministry of presence  – an opportunity to reconnect and deepen relationships with FEDICE partners after the isolation of the pandemic and for U.S. Disciples to see first-hand the faithful work of so many FEDICE friends. 

This “minga” truly is a shared work of the community. The presentation of gifts today included teaching quilts sent from North Dakota. Sets of these small quilts will be presented at every FEDICE daycare. Each blanket is made of squares of brightly patterned fabric and comes with an “I Spy” sheet in English, Spanish and Kichwa. Looking at each quilt, children will point and answer questions from their teachers learning things like the names of colors and different animals. 

From sharing cake with preschoolers to standing on the equator, today has been a most memorable blessing for all of us. 

– Rev. Cynthia Dobson McBride

Blog 7:

Multiplying the Gifts

Saturday, June 24th was a day of mixed blessings. The travelers from Kansas City – Country Club Christian Church backed up early and headed back to the States. With all their youthful energy gone things became quieter and slower for the mission partners from Oregon.

We slept in and had a later breakfast before heading off to the Otovolo Market, which is the largest outdoor market in South America.

We carefully divided our resources and the list of items we were intending to buy with our donated money with the idea we would bring these items back to our churches and sell them at a marked-up price. This process allowed us to multiply the donated money back with added value to the projects designated by the parent era in FEDICE Ecuador. The process took all day to implement and sort, but by dividing it up into smaller portions our four hundred twenty-five dollars collected would soon become $1,200 or more. With the average Microloans being around $800, that means we will fund 1 1/2 families with gifts to build for their future and deepen their resolve to build a strong Ecuador through the work created in their community.

As we walked around the market and interacted with the people we met two wonderful people. One of the people we met was just 2 months old. I hope her smile I captured expresses the hope the people of Ecuador hold in their hearts for this little one’s future.

The second photo is of a man who told us his son is living in Portland, Oregon and teaching at one of our colleges. He missed his son and had not had contact with him for years. I hope and pray you see the longing in his eyes and also the pride he has for a son that is fulfilling his dreams for a brighter future.

Our day ended with devotions and marking all the items we are taking back for resale in our churches. We pray that we will multiply the gifts God placed in our heads from our friends back home to go to the few friends we made on this mission trip.
Neil Allen – Retired Disciple Pastor, Beaverton, Oregon.