This past July, eight high school students and three leaders made the trek to Quito, Ecuador to partner with Youth World and two local churches in order to serve and bring others the good news of the Gospel. This adventure included a lot of fried bananas (also known as platanos) and freshly grilled grubs (large worms, a delicacy in South America). Don’t worry, we have pictures to prove it! But this missions trip was more than exotic food, in fact, High School Pastor, Nick Ranieri shares about his team’s adventure saying,
I think God really challenged our students with unexpected things. One day, the church we were serving needed people to play and sing worship music, this was something we didn’t plan for, but our students (some of whom had zero experience) stepped up and led worship. We were also asked to walk the streets of Quito and evangelize; which was another task we did not expect, but were called to do, so we did.”
Arbor Road high school students spent four days in Quito leading a program for local kids that provided new shoes for children in need and also gave them the chance to share the good news of Jesus. They then traveled to the jungle of Shandia and spent four days building a Bible Conference Center for the neighboring villages.
Sophomore Samantha VanWinkle, shared with me how nervous she was to board the plane and travel to what seemed like “another planet.” However, Samantha said that once she experienced Ecuador for herself she admits that she realized, “their society and people function the same as we do here and I didn’t really see the language barrier as a huge issue.”
Only two of the eleven members of the team spoke Spanish, so you can imagine the language barriers presented to the group! Daniel Pino, a senior on the trip, describes God teaching him about language.
[God taught me that] When I’m using my Spanish I don’t have to feel awkward about it. At the beginning of the trip I felt weird about speaking Spanish. I speak it well, but not often enough to be fluent in it. I do not sound like a native. I learned that sharing the Gospel is the same exact thing as just talking. I have the gift of evangelism and I enjoy sharing the Gospel, but it can still feel awkward when I am saying it. God taught me to speak truth comfortably, even if it is in Spanish.
While in the jungle, the team had the privilege of visiting Bart and Laurie Comstock and their daughters in a small village called Archidona. The Comstocks are Arbor Road Missionaries who have been living in Ecador for about a year now. Their story of faith, sacrifice and willingness, encouraged the Arbor Road team. Pastor Nick explains how his favorite part of the trip was spending time with the Comstocks.
I thought it was cool to see a family from Long Beach follow Gods call to move across the world. And now when I walk past that hall of missionaries they are no longer just a red light in South America, they are a family we know and have spent time with. On a personal note, I realized what a sacrifice it is as a dad to move your family of 4 daughters across the world. From So Cal to South America—talk about a big change!
As is the case with many missions trips, students and leaders each came home with different stories and specific ways God challenged each of them individually. After speaking with many of the students who attended the trip, it became clear that God really did equip this group of students to serve in the most unexpected yet simple ways.
Caitlin O’Donnell, a staff member, says, “I came home feeling so refreshed in knowing who God is and how to love others in a way that is easy. In Ecuador this concept was so pure and focused. I can quickly forget how easy it is to love others when I am caught up in my own little world.”
Senior, Solomon Riseley shared his greatest take away when telling parents and fellow students at a post- Ecuador meeting how God confirmed to him that he did not need to be the most qualified or most prepared- he simply needed to be willing.
How comforting it is to be reminded that Jesus uses the most under qualified people to do the work of his Kingdom, for His glory.
Written by: Jaci Ranieri