Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hosanna - Ecuador, Day 1

"Be the church you long for." I've said it a hundred times.

I've typed that sequence of letters on a tiny phone keyboard, I've written it into the pages of my manuscript. I've papered the walls of my church-broken heart with its words, willing them to stick by force of repetition, up and down, side to side, be the church you long for, Shannan. 

Maybe I'm not always sure what it is I long for.


Calvin and I were the first off the bus this morning. The service had begun, the block walls of the building holding worship like hands hold water.

"Go, go!" Our in-country trip leader shooed us in.




Beautiful girls lined up on both sides, around Ruby's age, their long hair pulled back from their features, eyes shining, skirts swishing. They held out long-stemmed Ecuadorian roses while music spilled from behind them, Hosanna! Hosanna! erasing any space between us.

We'd heard about the preacher on the drive over, a man who had once raged at his family. A drunk who, on one bleak night, scared his young daughter straight to the open doors of the church down the street. "I knew a church could help me. I knew a church meant hope." Today, that man stood in a gold sweater, older now, clapping and singing along. "Hosanna!" I picked him out in an instant, because just as God's power and goodness know no limits in the face of desperation, the gratitude of the redeemed cannot be contained. I thought of my friends back home, the ones in rehab and the ones on the run. And all I could hear was Hosanna.

A little girl walked over, wedging into the pew between me and Brianne. She smiled shyly at first, two tidy rows of baby teeth, her jacket zipped up to her chin. Plucking the rose from my lap, she grinned. "Roja?" I asked. "Si!" She pointed to the leaves then, giggling, "verde!"

And so it began. She welcomed me to her table there on the front-row pew. I scooted my chair in.

We held sweaty hands and spoke only in colors.
She raised her arms. I scooped her up.

Too soon, it was time for me to say goodbye and head off to my first home visit.
Why was I even surprised when the translator told me it was her home - Zulema's home - we were to visit?

"Lindos! Lindos!" she said of every flower we passed, keying into my love language and quick to share it. We held hands the whole way home, past brick walls studded with shards of broken glass, past graffiti and a dozen stray dogs. 





Turning the corner, we entered a small, forgotten courtyard. "Papi!" Her father greeted us at the door, smiling, holding back the lindo rose-patterned curtain that serves as the door to their dirt-floored, one-room home, on loan from Zulema's grandma, shared between Zulema, her parents, and two siblings; the size of one of my bathrooms back in Indiana.

"Our home is humble, but our door is always open," her father spoke softly. His hopes are many - for a steady job, a better home, an improvement of his family's condition. For his three children, he hopes they one day become "professionals".

With tremendous pride, he pulled a file folder from a cramped shelf bearing the letters received from Zulema's Compassion sponsor. He pointed to the brightly-colored comforter still encased in plastic, curiously hanging as if a decoration on the muddy wall - a prized gift from the sponsors. "She has shoes. An education. They help us."

Zulema's parents do not attend church, so we invited them. Before it was time to go, I prayed for his wishes along with my own - that we would remember one another as family, that they would feel God's pleasure and love for them, that we would never lose our taste for daily bread or our faith that it would find us.

I told them how special their daughter is and how grateful I am to have spent time with her. I hugged her hard and walked away from her home, my left hand lonely.

It's Sunday, and I have a better idea of the church I long for.

I want a church of broken people who shimmer with the glow of redemption.
I want a boiled-down, universal language of commonality, a singular thread.
I want an invitation to dance badly and hug strangers.
I want a humble house of God with a curtain for a door, flung over the jamb, covered in roses.

I want a haven, a never-gives-up hope.

But if I really want those things, I have to first be willing to be them.

We have the opportunity to live as though we believe all lives are equally sacred. We get to be part of this. As a Compassion sponsor for over ten years, this gift has never been more clearer than today, squeezed into the home of folks on the far edge of the margins.

Today, I'm asking you to pray for Zulema's parents, who are on a path toward God's goodness, whether they fully realize it or not.

I'm also asking you to release a child from poverty in Jesus' name by sponsoring a child through Compassion. 

At the close of this Sabbath, here at the center of the world, I'm asking you to believe with me that we are messengers of hope and recipients of wild grace when we dare to be the church we long for, opening our eyes wide to the church already at work around us in every Zulema, every Papi, every child extending a long-stemmed rose.


http://compassion.com/shannan

Follow along with Ashley from Under the Sycamore.
Follow along with Ruth from Gracelaced.
Follow the hashtag #compassionbloggers on Instagram.

*Most images courtesy of @mikevarel

35 comments:

  1. this is beautiful - thank you for sharing

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  2. Amazing how you speak the other thoughts that didn't quite surface for me today, but clearly resonate here tonight. Love you and love being on this journey with you.

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  3. Yes, this.."if I really want those things, I have to first be willing to be them.." Yes! And that folder, with all the letters?!! Purposing to write my compassion kids immediamente!! Praying for you all and the important work you and your boys are doing. Sending much love tonight..xo

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    1. I can't agree with you more. I've been so inspired/convicted to be more of a presence in our Compassion kiddos' lives.

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  4. Thank you for your heart spilled out in your words. I am so glad I can follow along with you as you do this important work.

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    1. Thank you so much for this encouragement, friend!
      It means so much to know others care with us.

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  5. Sis... Here I sit with a few tears welling up in my eyes, no surprise of course. I'm so excited for them and the impact these children of God will make and on, Calvin and your dear friends from the states. We need them and they need us. We need one another in different ways, yet we're a team.
    Your lonely left hand is sure to be filled again in no time. I'm eager to see the face of who fills it, besides Calvin Lee of course. He's your #1 on this journey.
    I can't express how joyous I became when you said the father had a folder filled with their compassion supporter. He was so proud, so thankful, so touched by the handy work of our father and the tapestry in their lives. Little does he know, countless folks are praying for him. And the promise is God Himself is at work through the power of our prayers.
    Keep loving and living as a true sister to these made in His image. They need you. You need them. WE are HIS and He is ours.
    Many many thoughts of you each and every hour of the day. Keep the updates coming and know little H-D and myself are doing all we can to follow along.
    Love you. Love you too Calvin Lee.

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  6. my heart is full and yet hungry, and that is the gift of contradiction you so often send my way. there are people in that country i can't set words to, but i'm welling up like a fool here just trying to frame it all. they're family. they're me in a different context. i caution my heart, but it still runs out ahead of me, wild with the hope that i'll get to go back someday. all this to say, i'm glad you're getting to meet your people, and i'm extra glad i get to come along through this beautiful blog-portal.

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  7. I had to read this again this morning. These posts are making tears well because that part of the world...they are the people of my heart.....the ones I grew up with.

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  8. Oh, homegirl, you were the church to Zulema's family yesterday. You bring Jesus everywhere you go, my friend. Love that you and Calvin were able to go love on that precious family and spend time in their home. I'm praying for the LORD to do the work that only He can do in Zulema's parents. Love thinking about y'all spreading His love and touching hearts there today. Eagerly awaiting your next post...

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    1. Homegirl!!! I got your sweet card right before the trip. THANK YOU!
      You are such a gift.

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  9. I am a new reader ... I found you through Under the Sycamore. Your writing is beautiful, and it clearly reflects your warm and loving heart. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

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    1. Welcome, Tessa! I'm grateful you took the time to say hello.
      Thank you for the encouragement!

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  10. Just beautiful and you told the story just as beautifully. You inspire me so much. The story and pictures brought tears to my eyes. I have no expendable income or I'd be sponsoring right now. I hope to have the opportunity in the future to travel with a friend and co-worker to Nepal where our work with the Maheela Foundation through HICIC (Humans in Crisis) has partnered to help with the sale of scarves and wraps by women suffering in domestic and political stress. I want to see - first hand - the very people that I have tried to help from afar. You are a lucky woman and in a position to do some great good. God bless you. Karen

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    1. Hi Karen!
      Thank you for your sweet words. I so hope you get the chance to go to Nepal! I've never been there but a dear friend of ours works with Tiny Hands International and travels there often.

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  11. This has made our compassion child so much more real to us. I am following everyday. Cal you will be changed forever (in a wonderful way) by this adventure. I see a world missionary career in your future. The country is so beautiful and the people even more so. They could teach us in America so much about gratitude and being content. It isn't things, it is family, and Jesus. We will be praying every day for you and all the beautiful people you meet. Don't forget to journal each day so I won't miss a single thing when you come back home Cal. love you both so very very much.

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    1. I've thought of you often and your little guy.
      Thanks for the comment, Mama. We love and miss you!

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  12. Thank you for posting these. We read this from Colorado. We have a girl in Ecuador that we sponsor. Blessings to all of you!

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    1. The Ecuadorian people are so gracious and welcoming. Thank you for following along!

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  13. Were you in Atacucho? Mama Yolis house?? That place holds a huge piece of my heart. Our church worked with SIFAT to help build the buildings there. It's how we fell in love with Ecuador wnd the people. Seeing the Big Collective church at work. I know compassion works with other churches so quite possibly not. As I mentioned before we visited in 2010 when adopting our little G. God used Ecuador to teach me so much. Keep up the beautiful writing,

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    1. We have been in Quito only so far.
      Thank you for the encouragement and for following our journey!

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  14. Loved this post, love your heart and love seeing your journey there! Thanks!

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    1. Girl, I adore you.
      Thanks for following along.

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  15. GOD BLESS YOU ALL IN ECUADOR!! MY LITTLE CHILD IS THERE IN EL SEMBRADOR CENTER
    IF YOU SEE SANTA MARISOL PLEASE TAKE SOME PICS WITH HER AND SAY TO HER THAT I AM PRAYING FOR HER
    AND I HOPE EVERYTHING FOR YOU IN ECUADOR BE A BLESSING

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    1. I don't think we are headed to that are but I'm happy to hear you sponsor in Ecuador! The people here are just wonderful.

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  16. Wow! A call to just relentlessly pursue the heart of God. To love Him above all else and to most certainly love others the way we love ourselves. Very very beautiful. A passionate pursuit! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, lady! It's hard to know how best to capture all we're seeing. I just want God to move in hearts and bring more of these kiddos under the loving care of a sponsor.

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  17. I hope you guys make it to Ibarra....we sponsor a little 9 year old girl there. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and seeing all the pictures. Nanyas birthday is Valentines Day...if your paths cross, please send her a hug from Arkansas.
    S.Givens

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  18. Hi Shannan, I found your blog on Compassion's website as I got on to print my receipt for taxes. So amazingly beautiful are your words! I couldn't help but ponder how much more you see in every moment than I do. As I've been reading, my heart has been praying...Lord, give me eyes to see you, your work, and your beauty in each moment you give, and help me to see how I can be a blessing and instrument of your Love to all those you bring me into contact with in each of those moments! Thank you for sharing the eyes, thoughts and beautiful words the Lord has given you to see so much in each and every tiny moment! God Bless the rest of your trip! Paula, a sponsor from Washington State

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  20. I want to go straight home and write my Compassion kids!

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  21. Thank you for letting us follow along! What an experience! Praying for Zulema and her family right now! We sponsor a little girl from Bangledesh and this has definitely set fire to my heart to be more involved in her life -- even from afar. Safe travels...can't wait to read the next few posts!

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  23. Nice post and right saying. You shouldn’t depend on a dishonest lender in case of building our church. Building a church is such a great job which is like serving for the God. So we should take loan from a reliable church loan provider.

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