What do you get when you have 8,600 grounded flights, 10,000 feet altitude, and 74 people on a mission trip in Ecuador? A very interesting Parent Vision Trip.
When we were settling into our seats in Atlanta, our pilot came over the intercom saying there was a problem with our plane. They were going to try to patch a leak, but if that didn’t work we would have to change planes. Relief came when his voice returned a bit later to explain how to go about changing planes. Disembarking, traveling about a mile down to another gate, was no problem knowing the aircraft we were loading was safe. It did, however, put our arrival a couple hours behind and our bedtime at about 3 a.m. Fortunately for us, the parents and racers weren’t set to arrive for another 24 hours, so we slept in before going into preparation mode.
Word came about the grounding of 737 Max flights sometime during the day. My colleague in the home office, Sarah, was scrambling to find all the parents who were stranded in cities on their way to Ecuador. Our one trip to the airport, an hour away from our lodging, turned into a multiple day, multiple trip affair in an instant. No problem, we had another couple with us who were training to lead PVTs, so we split up the trips to the airport over the next three days. Due to the confusion and delays the first pickup with two buses was delayed. (most flights come in at either 10:30 or 11:30 p.m. with delays that moved to 1:30 a.m. plus an hour bus ride.) Once most of the parents arrived and the reunions were finished we hit the bed, again at about 2:30 a.m. For one reason or another this bedtime pattern would continue for the first five days of our trip.
The first day was spent watching racers and parents catch up on the last 6 months of life together, then after lunch, we headed to our first day of ministry. It was an hour ride up a mountain, to 13,000 feet. Eleven acres of views and rolling hills that has been set aside as a refuge for girls 9-17 who are coming out of sex slavery. The house will see its first residents next month, but there was still much to be done to prepare for their arrival. Completing a cinderblock wall to prevent pimps from coming to retrieve their “property”, painting the inside of the house, and shoveling dirt into bags to make retaining walls. Hard work when dealing with jetlag and adjusting to altitude, much less the curvy bus ride up and down each time. Parents were troopers working alongside their Racers, but by day two they were dropping like flies. Altitude sickness is no joke, so we added a sick bay at the site the second day, and hospital rounds into the rotation between midnight airport runs.
In the meantime, at our lodging site, several parents were without towels and rooms were without hot water. We scrambled, between all the Uber rides to the airport and hospital, to get those things fixed. The hosts at the place we stay are always gracious and willing to help, if they can understand what we need. Unfortunately, this is a language barrier issue which requires waiting on our ministry hosts to explain to the lodging office during the week. Sunday is not a good time to get things done.
In addition, the pin number for the prepaid card leaders take to the field didn’t work. (I think I forgot to set it. Yikes!) No problem I had Bill take money out of our account until we could get the other card fixed. That worked beautifully, until his wallet was left in an Uber car after a trip to the hospital. We stayed back from ministry on day four to get our cards cancelled and the prepaid card fixed, as well as the water/towel issues resolved…and a nap to try to get back on schedule sleep wise.
By day five of the seven, we had all the parents retrieved from the airport, all the sick ones healed up, the water/towel issues resolved, and the bank card fixed. Yet, in the midst of all of this crazy logistical stuff, parents and Racers were having a wonderful time together. They had some serious talks, and some funny ones. The parents were amazed at the growth in their Racers. They were moved by the ministries and their work. Camp Hope a ministry for special needs kids was painted. COVI a ministry for before and after school care for at risk students was cleaned and the garden weeded. Pan De Veda an urban ministry and soup kitchen was cleaned and painted. This time, all of the ministries needed labor. Other times, our participants are working with the kids. Our main partner ministry Inca Link, got a new stove and funds for a new security wall to protect the teenage mothers they work with at Elizabeth House.
The word I got this trip was Big Vision. Every ministry we work with while we are on these trips has a big vision. The needs are huge, but these missionaries trust that God will provide for his work. They are right. Their level of trust is through the roof. I am always amazed to see parents and Racers catch the vision of what is at stake. It is such a different view than what I see here in the States. All are working together to help the kids. There are no territories, only teamwork between all the ministries.
I can tell you this was a crazier than usual PVT. The logistical challenges were constant, yet they got resolved, as they always do. This group of parents truly understands the flexibility it takes to be World Racers and to follow where God leads in the midst of crazy circumstances beyond your control. These parents and racers have stories to tell, of how God used the circumstances to put them in places where they were needed.
I had the opportunity to hug and pray with a woman in the ER waiting room who was weeping. I have no idea what happened to this family, but they came in together, all crying. My trainee mom, Robin, offered tissue to them and somehow, despite the language barrier, our eyes conveyed mutual understanding of human grief. The mom, received my hug and prayers with a look of gratefulness. The family nodded their thanks to Robin for the tissue. We were all united in sorrow beyond words. No language is needed to express compassion. There will be more stories like this one from this trip I am sure. It was a wonderful chance to experience the World Race…but must say I am glad to be home.