Our first groups are coming out of Kumanii (Operation Ecuador's jungle ministry) after a week-long project there. They pass through the camp on their way to the airport. We sometimes feed these groups dinner and give them a place to shower and repack their bags before heading home (because who wants to get on a plane covered in sweat, sunscreen, and bug repellent?).
A group of students from Harding University arrives next for their spring break project. We are collaborating with Jake and Tanya Wilson (directors at the Hacienda of Hope Christian Academy) on some of their work projects. Rusty helps coordinate a roof-replacement project for a neighbor that the students work on throughout the week. They also spend time each afternoon helping at the camp's after-school program. They lead Bible lessons and fun hands-on science lessons with the kids. They are a great group, and several are from Central America and speak Spanish, which helps.
I stay busy running the kitchen -- we are serving the group breakfast and dinner each day, and they eat lunch at the school -- and keeping things running smoothly at the after-school program. Midway through Harding's time with us, two more spring break groups arrive, from LCU and Lipscomb University. We are only in charge of housing and feeding these groups; their work projects are being coordinated by the children's home. Still it is a lot to juggle -- for one night, all three groups are sharing space at the camp.
Harding heads home on Saturday. The following Sunday, the camp cooks a big dinner for both LCU and Lipscomb and all the kids, staff, and volunteers for the children's home, so they can all share a meal together. After dinner, they roast s'mores down at the firepit and have a devo. The last few days of the spring break groups are a bit easier. We are cooking just breakfast each morning, so I have time during the day for school with the boys (they had last week off while Harding was here) and teaching my English classes.
Alex attends the homeschool teen retreat over a weekend in mid-March. It is his first year -- since he turned 12, he is finally able to participate in the teen activities planned by a family in our homeschool group. He has a great time at El Refugio, an adventure camp just north of Quito. Meanwhile, I spend the weekend doing food prep and packing for our family vacation next week.
On Sunday, we leave for our vacation. We pick Alex up from the retreat, then head down to Machachi, arriving in time for their afternoon service. It is our first time to visit this new church; Rusty has been coaching and mentoring the young evangelist there. From Machachi, we head down to Baños. It is a long trip. We have a late dinner after we arrive, then head to our hotel.
Baños is beautiful! We spend the day exploring. We are thinking about bringing the Family Mission Trip here for their "fun day" at the end of their time with us in July, so we visit a few travel agencies and gather information on the various activities available and approximate costs. We also take the kids to a "Dinosaur Park," and after lunch we drive part of the "Route of the Waterfalls," stopping along the way to take photos and do a bit of hiking.
The next morning, we hit the thermal pools for which "Baños" is named. Then we head back to our hotel to get dressed, pack and have breakfast. We leave about mid-morning and drive the rest of the way to Atacames, a town on the coast of Ecuador, where we will be spending the rest of our vacation.
We try to take a little vacation time twice a year. Usually, we go in early May before things get too crazy-busy at the camp, and again in September, where we can breathe a big sigh of relief after the summer is over! This year, we are unable to take vacation time in May, so we have decided to come in March instead. For several years now, we have been renting our friends' condo for about a week at a time. It is a beach-front condo in a nice resort with a pool complex. Since we can come during the low season, we don't have to fight crowds of people and we often have the pools to ourselves. We spend the week in a lazy rhythm of playing on the beach, swimming in the pools, reading, playing board games, and watching movies. One day, we take the kids to a nearby water park with slides and a lazy river. They really enjoy that!
Our beach vacation time is soon over, and we head back to Tabacundo at the tail end of March. We arrive home to a fridge that is not working (hoo-ray), and lots to do to get ready for our Passover dinner and Easter, coming up in a just a couple of days.
Celebrating Passover has become one of our family's most meaningful Easter traditions. You can read more about why, as Christians, we choose to celebrate this Jewish holiday here. This year, the guest list includes several friends and my sister and her family. We have nearly 20 people in our home for the dinner and service. The Marcums stay the night afterwards. Passover and a sleepover -- a great way to wrap up the month of March!
March moments (clockwise from top left):
- Harding spring break mission team in front of the house they helped roof.
- Kids program science activity -- ice cream in a bag. A science experiment you can eat!
- Ben loves to help in the kitchen.
- Harding spring break mission -- the roof project in process
- Rusty preaching at the Machachi Church of Christ
- Baños -- this waterfall is called the "Pailón del Diablo" (Devil's Cauldron).
- Beach vacation
- The "haggadah" (order of service) for our Passover dinner