Once upon six months ago, dear pastor-friends of ours emailed with a crazy proposal: Our church is sponsoring a child survival program in Ecuador and we’re fixing to go meet the families. We need a photographer-writer along, so um, Nicki? What do you think?
What did I think? I thought it was the most far-fetched and wonderful idea, and that the odds of me going were zero to never. But somewhere between then and April God aligned all those impossible cogs until I found myself on a Nairobi to Amsterdam to Atlanta to Quito tilt-a-whirl of flights.
The face of the fellow checking tickets at Jomo Kenyatta creased deep with concern. “You are flying by yourself, Miss?” (PS I do not know when I will get to graduate to a Ma’am. Someone slapped ‘Miss’ on me eons ago and I can’t seem to peel it off.)
“Yep,” I told him. “Just me.”
“By yourself?” he repeated, like maybe this time I’d answer more appropriately. Even his eyebrows worried at me.
I smiled at him. “I’ll be fine.”
I thought about explaining that actually I’m not the tiniest bit by myself. I’m traveling with the God who fashioned and reigns over each cubic inch of airport and city and airspace between here and infinity, and also? He owns every one of my days.
Even if that plane goes down flaming, I’ll be fine.
Our planes turned out flame-free, and Ecuador was a beautiful experience. Those kiddos and moms and dads and grandmas and aunties–it was the best kind of everything to begin to know them, to stand in the dusk of their homes and listen to the lilt of Spanish unfurling their stories like open palms.
I loved the mountain roads spooling from Guaranda to Chillanes, the trickle-down towns, the clouds twisting over nooks and fields like fairytaled mist.
Also: our gutsy, funny bus driver. Community bowls of perfectly limey ceviche. The rush of damp and chill through the window, the drive-by photography and the nearly falling out. Gas station swing dancing. Boys spinning tops in the churchyard with lengths of string and luck. My hysterical, gifted, earthy, Jesus-scented teammates, and all those Compassion folks working daily with excellence.
I’ll be sharing more here in small chunks, one story each month for the next year or so. (My job is to connect folks at Epic Church in Indiana with families in Chillanes, but y’all are more than welcome to read along. Please do.)
Chillanes, you are my favorite. You’re treasure buried in clouds and moss, home to people so dear to God’s heart. It’s a wonder to see His love awakening in you.
So let it be.