Today, I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.
The morning of our final day in Riobamba, we were all a flutter; in a manner of mere hours we would be holding our sponsored children, hugging their guardians, and showing love through more than letters. It was going to be an exciting day. Sensing that we’d be pretty useless as sponsors after meeting our kids, Compassion arranged for the “learning” portions of our tour to occur before our fun day; and they made use of every opportunity. Before we left Riobamba and began the four hour bus ride back to Quito, we were given the opportunity to eat breakfast and fellowship with four Leadership Development Program (LDP) Students. The LDP is an extension of the child sponsorship program for sponsored children who have aged out or graduated. Students must apply and undergo an extensive selection process before being accepted as an LDP Student. Once selected, they are paired with a mentor in their field of study, and available to be sponsored again. To learn more about the LDP program, click here.
During our time with them, they shared their dreams, hopes, and fears. Pictured above, from left to right: Luz, Rebecca, Dario, & Santiago. Both Luz and Rebecca are on track to be public health workers, Dario is an award winning software developer (with his own iphone app), and Santiago is an accomplished zoologist. It was awe-inspiring to hear their stories and their testimonies made me determined to make sure the my own Josué was aware of the LDP and had the guidance he would need should he decide to pursue the opportunity.
After our breakfast, we loaded onto the bus and began the long and exciting trip back to Quito. To give our kids time to get to the hotel, and make sure we ate, the tour leaders arranged for us to get a wonderful lunch at a great little restaurant along our route.
And pretty! (although by this point I was totally over potatoes… we had so many potatoes….baked, roasted, boiled, in soup, as a side, you can dream it we had it – all very yummy, but there’s only so much potato I could eat)
After lunch, we were treated to some beautiful views of the country; and I’m so glad I forced myself to focus on the moment and took in the countryside. It was easy to slip into the anxious rush of wanting to get back to Quito as soon as possible to meet Josué & Emily, but I’m really thankful for that long trip back; for the time it gave me to prepare, to collect my thoughts, and think of questions I wanted to ask my kids.
Once we were back at our hotel in Quito, we were given strict instructions to go straight to our rooms and not emerge until 6pm – approximately 2 hours away! And I’ll tell you, that two hours was the longest, ever!
All along I knew I wanted to write a letter to my kids while I was on my trip, and, given such a long break, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to write them one last time before I met them face to face. So, I pulled out a couple of sheets of Compassion stationary I’d packed with me and wrote love. For months I’d been teasing Emily & Josué, telling them that I had a very big and very exciting trip to take and asking them to pray for me. In these last pre-meeting letters, I finally explained that the big trip was to see them. I told them that I was so excited, and nervous, and couldn’t wait to give them a big hug. I let them know that it was ok if they were shy, or emotional, as I myself and a quiet person. Basically, wrote to calm my nerves and reassure my kids that I loved them no matter what. I had several of the other sponsors tell me that they didn’t know how I was able to write in that time, with all of the emotions; but honestly, it was just the right thing for me. It helped me pass the time – and was way easier than writing that first letter after I said goodbye to my kids.
I finished the last letter with just enough time to refresh a bit and head down to the lobby where we would be escorted into a large banquet room and finally see those beautiful faces in person. This was it, the whole trip was building to this one moment. I could not wait.