Thanksgiving is the year’s busiest travel time in the United States as millions hit the roads and airways to gather with family for a special meal. Included in those millions of travelers were eleven Crosspoint mission team members who left the U.S. on November 20th bound for Ecuador, South America, where Thanksgiving is not celebrated. Their intent was to share a holiday meal with people whom they had never met and to whom they were not biologically related. Why? FAMILY.
The team traveled to Ecuador from Valparaiso, Florida, to assist with a family building conference at Camp Pallatanga. While the aim was to teach others about family, team members had their conception of family broadened.
The Bible exhorts us in I Peter 2:17 to love the family of believers. It was fitting that our destination was the heart of Ecuador in the Sierra region, Chimbarazo Province. Our base of operations was Camp Pallatanga, an evangelistic camp nestled at the base of the Andes, outside the small town of Pallatanga.
Team Ecuador had several goals to accomplish during our short term mission trip. First, we wanted to love on our missionaries in country. That was easy to do with the Orellana’s who run Camp Pallatanga. We had plenty of opportunities for laughter, prayer, and shared experiences (like strenuous climbs to local waterfalls).
Since our trip occurred over Thanksgiving, we served our hosts an authentic American Thanksgiving dinner. This meal was a huge treat because Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Ecuador, and many of the traditional dishes eaten by Americans on Thanksgiving are not locally available or at least hard to find. Word of this feast spread, and missionaries based elsewhere in Ecuador traveled several hours to be present for this gathering. Our recently deceased turkey friends, Tom, Dick, and Harry, were the main dish, but eyes bulged at the four homemade pies for dessert.
Our teams’ second goal was to provide spiritual nourishment to participants in a family building camp for a church group from a very poor area of Guayaquil. Despite the language barrier, heartfelt communication occurred between our team and the conference attendees. Love was shared. Family members can be real with each other. Members of our team gave testimonies to the conference attendees about heartbreaks and difficulties we had experienced and how our family of believers had seen us through those hard times. “We are Family” Touched by these testimonies, the Ecuadorians spontaneously asked to share their own stories with us.
A third team goal was to assist with a church plant in the town of Pallatanga, Iglesia La Vina. Team members, advertised as Verdaderos Gringos (real live Gringos), put on three afternoon English classes for children at the small storefront church across from Pallatanga’s town square. The children’s program received activities and games brought from the U.S.team members. They also helped with children’s programming for the Wednesday night Bible study.
Team Ecuador returned home November 30th. During the ten day trip, the team accomplished its goals, but something else resulted from their mission. Team members came to know and love each other as a family. Communication has continued between us since our return. Team members know that they can reach out to one another for prayer, encouragement, and assistance. While we preached the value of the family of believers in Ecuador, we are now practicing what we preached back home. We are members of God’s family––related not by blood but because of Jesus’ blood.