Before returning home due to COVID, I spent two amazing months in Ecuador and I am excited to tell you all about the partner I worked with, the amazing people I met and made connections with, and most importantly where I’ve seen God at work during my time and what I have learned from my experiences. First, I’ll talk about our amazing partner FEDICE.
- What is FEDICE and what do they do?
FEDICE is an ecumenical nonprofit organization in Ecuador that offers microcredit loans and educational workshops. It’s mission is “to realize social justice and peace, build sustainable livelihoods, encourage self-sufficiency and significantly enhance quality of life for indigenous and marginalized rural communities in Ecuador, while upholding the dignity and unique attributes of local cultures.” Projects are generally focused in four main areas: agriculture and livestock, microfinance, fair trade, and construction work with mission groups. They strive to ensure that all the projects are effective and sustainable.
- How does a mission co-worker fit into FEDICE’s mission?
Global Ministries has been partnering with FEDICE for many years and over those years a strong bond has developed. Depending on the situation, a mission co-worker might have many different roles within the organization and communities. During my time at FEDICE I was able to help with visiting mission groups, I translated documents including first aid manuals for the community, and I also helped to organize the groups planning to come later in the year.
I was so happy to start our time of service with a mission group because it took me right back to the root of why I volunteered in the first place. In 2017 I went on a mission trip with my own church and felt the need to do more and learn more about Central and South America. With Country Club Christian Church, I helped with remodeling activities for a local daycare center during their annual mission trip to Ecuador. This group also set up first aid and hygiene workshops to help educate the children and their parents. It was a great experience to connect with other Disciples and it was a really heartfelt start to our time in Ecuador. In addition to this mission group, several others visit throughout the year. Depending on the skillset of the group, they might offer dental clinics, medical clinics, art projects, or construction projects.
- Powerful personal connections made in Ecuador:
In addition to the connections I made with the community members, the mission group, and the team at FEDICE, I was fortunate to meet and make memories with our wonderful host family and their close friends. Together, we made dinner together, talked about differences in our cultures, and shared in the beautiful mountains and scenery of Quito, Ecuador. These are some of the moments that I had hoped for when I volunteered: deep, lasting personal connections.
- Where I’ve seen God at work:
We didn’t travel anywhere where we weren’t overwhelmingly welcomed with open arms and kindness. We were fortunate to stay with a host family in Ecuador and I’ve never seen hospitality at work like I did there. It was truly amazing and reminded me every day of the kindness and welcoming nature of God to anyone who would come into his home. Our boss, Blanca, also demonstrated an overwhelming sense of service to others. She always goes above and beyond for others. During a church service I was witness to a woman who claimed she had received a vision from God to heal a man in a wheelchair and I was astounded at her courage and conviction to obey God’s call even though she was scared and unsure about what would happen. In our language school, we also saw the kindness of strangers toward each other and a willingness to learn about each other’s culture. It is this willingness to just listen and observe that is so crucial in creating peaceful relationships with people who are different from yourself. It is also crucial in order to see and hear how God is working in the world and how He wants you to be a part of it.
- What I’ve learned in Ecuador:
Since being in Ecuador, I have learned many things. Things about myself, things about society, and different aspects of the world. I have learned to be more resilient, persistent, and faithful. I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it means to fully trust in God and to know that He will give aid or whatever it is that you need in the perfect moment. I’ve learned that forming a community and working together is essential in order to achieve all aspects of success on a personal, familial, and global level. Communities in Ecuador often come together to provide aid and services to those who are most in need. I’ve also learned what a difference, a blessing, and an example of God one can be when we focus on serving others to the best of our ability. I have never seen as much grace and thoughtfulness in a single person until I met and had the pleasure of working with our boss Blanca Puma at FEDICE. She is always going out of her way to make someone else feel special, loved, and cared for. I was truly amazed to see her at work and she will always be an example of how to live one’s life. Lastly, I’ve learned what amazing things can happen when you risk your own comfort by saying “Yes” to God. Everything that I’ve experienced and learned has happened because I chose not to play it safe and to say “yes” to what God was asking me to do. What is God calling you to do?
Kelsey Riebel serves with the Ecumenial Foundation for Integral Development Training and Education (FEDICE) in Ecuador. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, and your special gifts.