Tag Archives: Ecuador

More on Ecuador

Wrapping up my thoughts on this memorable trip… I had a few more observations about the country and the culture that I was going to share, but decided instead to give a more personal reflection.

First, I love serving others in this way, so I was grateful for the opportunity to serve and felt enriched by the experience. As mentioned before, I have the tendency to not think of it in terms of sacrificial giving when I simply do that which I have gifting and talent for, which is of course, music. So when I do music, I tell myself that I’m not really serving, compared to something like living in a hut in the sweltering heat somewhere helping to build a dam or something. I am realizing that this type of thinking is utter nonsense! I have been given certain gifts to give away, and when I use them I am living according to my purpose, and it should be enjoyable, fun, rewarding. And it is!

It was cool to see God do his thing. We just show up and serve and create a space for people to take time out of their hectic lives and give their full attention to God.

I have been going through the past several years deconstructing my belief systems. What this means is that I have discarded professing to believe certain things that I used to “believe” because I thought I had to believe them if I were to call myself a Christian. Instead, I have become honest about what I really believe and have suspended the rest for further analysis.

Lately I have read things that have given language to my journey. The idea that faith in Jesus is more a “way of life” than a “system of beliefs”. Jesus taught that he only did what he saw the Father doing. Likewise, I am only interested in learning what it means to follow Jesus and pursue that as a way of life.

In an effort to keeps things really simple, I have put a lot of the Christian stuff on hold. I have been generally suspicious and non-interested in the excesses of charismatic and pentecostal spiritualism. I have seen so much weird stuff over the years that I have lost all taste for it while I’m trying to just sort out the basics.

But after the experiences of this trip, and also because of recent experiences of good friends, I realize that I have thrown the baby out with bathwater, the “baby” being the supernatural work of God, the “bathwater” being the aforementioned charismatic craziness that has sent me packing. I realize that my self-proclaimed “open” mind has been pretty closed in some ways, and I tend to file some things under the “I am not sure what I believe about this anymore” file.

We participated in a conference called “Naturally Supernatural”, which is a phrase coined by the late John Wimber. The idea is this: The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed has been a reality here and now ever since his arrival and is not some far off thing that only kicks in after we die, or in some new-heavens/new-earth dimension. The whole point about the Kingdom of God is that he wants to use us to make this world a better place: here and now. Part of that work involves the ongoing supernatural work of God which we get to participate in, what John Wimber described as “doing the stuff”.

It was very cool to see people “doing the stuff” once again. People’s lives were changed. Some were healed physically and emotionally. People overall were touched and blessed and left feeling a greater sense of God’s presence in their lives.

Prayer Ministry Time at Naturalmente Sobrenatural

Prayer Ministry Time at Naturalmente Sobrenatural Conference

So, I still don’t have a lot of stuff figured out, and perhaps I never will. What I do know is that I had a refreshing reminder of God’s love and power in the here and now. And I am very thankful.

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Ecuador – Part 3

I went to bed last night feeling sort of terrible. Someone gently pointed out to me that my 45% unemployment statistic was faulty. I remember someone telling me 45% and I took it at face value. I checked last night and discovered the real unemployment rate in Ecuador is about 9%, which is about the same or even a little better than what it is in the US.

But then someone else pointed out that the underemployment rate in Ecuador is quite high, anywhere from 48% to 58%, and this is most likely what I heard. Here is the graph for the three largest cities in Ecuador:

Ecuador Unemployment

We have a similar situation in US, but not as severe. The official unemployment rate is currently around 10%. But this number does not include people who have run out of unemployment benefits or have stopped looking. The “effective” unemployment rate is estimated to be around 16.8% and includes underemployed people.

A couple of important lessons for me: I should check my facts before I write something in a blog post. But more importantly, it is interesting how hearing a statistic like that influences my thinking about a country or culture. In this case, city life was viewed through a lens of “45% unemployment” and I drew my own conclusions. It turns out that I was not really far off in my assessment. People have to resort to additional work like street selling in order to make ends meet even though technically they are employed.

Another evidence of perception versus reality: I have heard that Ecuador is one of the poorest of countries in South America. So I decided to check this out. This is most definitely not the case. Of course, it depends on which statistics you look at. A list which combines several critieria lists Bolivia, Paraguay, and Suriname as the three poorest countries in South America, and in some lists Ecuador is not mentioned.

So, this whole subject leads me to question my own attitudes about prosperity versus poverty. Here I live in a country with such boundless resources that, apart from western Europe and parts of Asia, it is common to think of the rest of the world as poor by comparison.

But what is “poor”? I heard it said that “‘Poor’ is a state of mind, while ‘broke’ is a lack of money.” In my travels to the “poorer” countries, I realize that many people who lack resources are not really poor because they don’t have a poverty mindset, they just lack resources. Contrast those in our “rich” country that, despite an abundance of resources, never feel that they have enough. Now that is a poverty mindset.

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Ecuador – Part 2

Here are more thoughts about Ecuador. To keep my blog posts short, I am splitting things up. They are not in any particular order, as is apparent by the following reflection on my departure from Ecuador.

On the flight home from Ecuador, at the departure gate in the Quito airport, the airline employee who inspected my baggage was very kind and gentle, quite a contrast to what one can expect when going through US Customs. The additional inspection at the gate is now standard procedure ever since the heightened security protocols have been put into place (thanks to the “Lap Bomber”). 

I was touched that the man took the time to refasten the clasps on my book bag, even though they were not clasped to begin with, since I figured they would be going through my stuff. (Courtesy is such a rare thing these days.)  It then occurred to me that because of the new security procedures, this man, an Ecuadorian, now has a job where one before probably did not exist. With an unemployment rate of 45%, he is probably grateful for the work and quite happy to be courteous. (Or perhaps he is just a nice person.)

The streets abound with people wanting to sell you this or that, usually very little things like gum, candy, a piece of fruit. When stopped at a light, people start to wash your windshield unless you wave them off. They get a few coins in return, I am not sure how much, but less than a dollar. Women walk down the street between car lanes with bags of fruit to sell.

Fruit Vendor Ecuador

As I would encounter women and children trying to sell candy or small trinkets, I would respond with a polite “no gracias”. But I was told that by simply not ignoring them, I was encouraging them to keep trying to sell me, so eventually one needs to ignore them to get them to move on. I don’t like ignoring people, something I did for years at home when street people would ask me for money. I try not to do that anymore; it doesn’t mean I’ll give them money, but I will at least say something to acknowledge they exist.

Our host told us the street peddling is worse in Colombia, where they will not let up even if you do ignore them. I have heard that this is true in many other countries. It makes me wonder what I would do if my very survival depended on me being able to sell little things for five cents here, a quarter there. What a priveleged life I lead.

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Ecuador – Part 1

Ah, finally getting to writing about Ecuador. I am one of those people who needs time to process, especially when it comes to writing and having serious conversations with people. Occasionally serious discussions are necessary, and it takes me a while to process in order to prepare for them adequately. If you know me personally, you know that it takes very little thought or processing to have non-serious conversations. I find inane chatter to be quite relaxing and entertaining–from the the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between.

I never really understood the word “sublime”. I just looked it up. I definitely hang out at the ridiculous end of the spectrum. Like, for sure. Word.

But enough about me. (Who am I kidding? This blog is all about me.)

Ecuador was fun, fulfilling, educational, enlightening…all the things I like about a ministry or missions trip. I am not sure whether to call this trip a “ministry” or a “missions” trip. Perhaps a little of both. When I think of a missions trip, I think of doing things to help people that don’t make use of my gifting, like when we helped kids renovate their school in Acuña, Mexico. I am not very gifted at “handy” work, and I was very thankful that we had someone to show us how to do things.

On the other hand, when I think of a ministry trip, then I am employing my gifts, which are primarily musical and worship music oriented.

However, I am starting to realize that helping people is helping people is helping people, so it’s time to dispense with the terms “ministry” and “mission” and just say that I went to Ecuador to do my thing and help people in whatever way I could, using the gifts that I got. When I help people, I am at my happiest. At one point toward the end of our trip, I asked someone how to say “I’m happy.” To say that in Spanish, you say “estoy feliz”. This makes sense. We are used to hearing Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad” (or “Happy Christmas”) during the holidays.

I haven’t really told you much about my trip, other than to say that I was happy to do it and I was happy while doing it. I just love doing these sorts of things. Our stay was made particularly enjoyable and comfortable by our hosts, Bennie and Patty Gonzales, along with their cute kids, Ashley (14) and Trinity (8). Bennie Gonzales is the pastor of the young Vineyard church in Quito that he helped start. We stayed in their spacious apartment and I had a room with a view, as in the picture below:

View of Quito from our flat

Much more to write about, but that’s it for now.

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Getting Off the Pot

So perhaps you are intrigued by my title. No, I don’t smoke the wacky tobacky. I am referring to the fact that I haven’t blogged since I got back from Ecuador.

And I feel bad about it.

Sort of like when you haven’t called a close relative for a while. Weeks go by and then you get the dreaded phone message: “Hi, just wondering if you still walked the earth” or something equally shamecastic. Once you realize you’re in trouble, it makes you even less motivated to call. You know you are probably going to get an earful.

So, here I am, getting off the pot… or am I pooping? I am not sure how the metaphor applies. Perhaps because I am writing this blog, I am now pooping instead of getting off the pot. I’m confused. But at the very least I was able to work poop into my blog, so I have something to feel good about. Sort of like after… oh, nevermind…

They (whoever “they” are… the blog experts, I suppose) say that you shouldn’t write posts that have more than 200 words. WordPress even provides a handy little status bar letting me know how many words I have typed. I’m now over the limit. And I’ve said very little other than refer to shame and poop.

Speaking of, have you ever noticed when you’re at the office building, you’re walking down the hall and a co-worker emerges from the restroom. They usually have this embarrassed look on their face, as if to say, “Yep, you caught me. I was going to the bathroom.” For some inexplicable reason, it embarrasses them to know that you know what they were doing. Like, doesn’t everybody have to do that at some point or other? Like several times a day? Maybe it’s just a guy thing. Ladies, please put in your two cents.

Perhaps it seems rather incongruous that while they may project godlike hubris in the conference room as they endeavor to build their empire, guess what, they have to go number onesies and twosies just like the rest of the mere mortals down here. How humiliating!

Here’s a thought: Have a little fun. Next time you see a high-powered VP/Director/GM come out of the john give them a little wink as if to say “I know what you were doing!”. It would also probably be a good idea to have your resume updated and your exit strategy in place.

Okay, I’m pushing 400 words. Now I am in serious trouble.

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OOF

I have worked at Microsoft for most of the past six years. I say “most” since I have not been around much for the past six months due to the hand thing. Microsoft is the land of acronyms. Every group, every department has their own acronyms. Whenever you move from one group to the next, you can blissfully sit in the first few meetings hearing unfamiliar acronyms being tossed about, enjoying the fact that you have no idea what anyone is talking about. Like I said: bliss.

The fact that I wholeheartedly embrace the “ignorance is bliss” concept is one of the many proofs that I am no longer cut out for corporate life.

One acronym that is universal and yet mystifying is the acronym “OOF”. OOF stands of “Out of Office”. Who came up with that? I can see why “OOO” would work, although it is not something you would hear people say. But rarely do I hear someone say “oof” either, unless someone just punched them in the gut. (There is a bit of that at Microsoft, but we’re usually using that term metaphorically, kind of like when we say someone has been “thrown under a bus”.) Rather than saying “oof”, people just say “out of office”.

You may be wondering, “Hey Kelly, what is the point of all this OOF stuff and Acro-speak? I am already into your fourth paragraph and I have no idea where you’re going. What am I getting myself into to?”

Well, reader beware: I am not really going anywhere with this blog post other than to say that I will be OOF for the next week. I am going to Ecuador to participate in a conference at the Vineyard church there. I am not taking a computer with me. I most likely will not be posting to this blog during that time. But I will be back.

Have a nice week!

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