Yesterday (Thursday), we spent the full day at Puertolago (our hotel) while we finished up the class material on holistic child development. There’s so much to be processed in my mind and hopefully in days to come I’ll be able to do that. The conversations around the meal tables have been rich as well.
Last night we had the privilege of meeting two students in Compassion’s LDP program (Leadership Development Program). These two, Ephraim and Anita, are first year university students who have been sponsored in the regular Compassion program since childhood. When they turn 18, they leave the regular Compassion program and have opportunity to apply for the LDP program but the selection criteria is very strict. Only one or two out of a hundred applicants are chosen! LDP students are sponsored just at the children between ages of 3 and 18, but the cost per month to sponsor the student goes up to over $300/month (compared to $41 per month for a regularly sponsored child).
Both Anita and Ephraim shared their testimonies with us of the challenges of university life while also continuing to serve heavily I leadership and service in their local church. Eprhaim is in an engineering program and is a gifted speaker. Anita is a beautiful young woman who is enrolled in a business administration program. This is quite amazing since both came from impoverished situations to where they are today. To be sure, their testimonies of their faith in God were inspiring!
After a good night’s sleep, our last at Puertolago, we headed off this morning for a two hour drive back to Quito to visit a CSP project. CSP stands for “Child Survival Program.” In this program, pregnant mothers are taught how to have a healthy pregnancy, and basic hygiene and life and spiritual skills for raising a baby. The mother and child are eligible for the program until the child reaches age 3. Each week, the mother receives a visit in her home from one of the local Compassion volunteers, who leads the mother in a lesson on hygiene, in a short Bible study and prayer time, and who does a check both mother and child.
Today we were able to observe a CSP visit in action in what was one of the poorest sites we’ve experienced. Because this was in the city, the area was much more of a real slum and the menace of poverty hung in the area. The area smelled like a garbage dump, and everywhere we look was garbage and the sound of wild dogs barking. Chickens were running in and out of the house and the door (if you can call it that) had panels missing so that there was no real way to close the door. There was, in other words, something qualitatively different, in my opinion, between the poverty of the city and the poverty of the more rural areas we visited early in the week. The mother seemed less healthy and there was much more a feeling of hopelessness in the air. Nevertheless, as the Compassion volunteer taught her lesson and prayed, it was hard not to feel hope again. The smile on this mother’s face spoke volumes.
After sharing a snack with the mother and children (this time a tamale wrapped in a banana leaf), we returned to the Church where the project is based. We were served a lunch of rice, chicken, carrots and potatoes and heard more stories about the CSP program. It was heart-wrenching once again–and I found myself wiping away a tear as I heard a mother testify of her challenges, but again, also of her faith in Christ.
Now I’m writing this post back in Quito at the Suissotel where we started the week. We have a few hours to shower, to rest and prepare for our overnight flight tonight leaving at 12:30 am. Already, I feel like I’m stepping back into the “other” world where I live. The incongruity between what I experienced only hours ago and right here and now is already striking: From utter poverty in what was practically a garbage dump to a coffee maker, TV, showers, and a king size bed, all in less than 2 hours. All I can say is, Praise God from whom all blessings flow! But then again, what these people have taught me this week is that a hot shower apart from Christ is no blessing at all. Better no shower and to have Christ than all the hot water in the world and to be separated from him. The truth I need to grasp, however, is that somehow, I have been privileged to have both.