Today, after a long break from this space (my deepest apologizes, dear readers) I’m continuing my series of posts relating to my recent trip to Ecuador. For previous posts, click here.
After our hour-long bus ride, we arrived at a water/play park. Since it was Saturday, the park was open to the public, but Compassion had reserved a special area of covered picnic tables just for our large group – we even had our own swimming pool. Before I left home, I scoped out the end-of-season sales for swim/summer wear. I was fortunate enough to catch an amazing sale on swim suits, flip-flops, and summer dresses. Clearly, it was a bit dicy as to what sizes Emily and Josué wore. My thought process was buy bigger than you think – they can grow in to it. And, for the most part, that totally worked. (Emily got some shoes that were way too big, though. But, I’m sure there is someone in the family that can use them.)
I was more worried about the clothing size for Josué – he’s so tall! But, I stuck to shorts and t-shirts, and overall the sizes were perfect. The kids loved their new swim suits, and the water park in general. I was determined to have a day of “yes” not a day of “no” – so yes, I did go down the water slide. Yes, we can have ice cream. Yes, we can play baseball. Yes. Yes. Yes! And you know what, I have no regrets. We started the day in the pools, moved to the picnic area for a game of catch, and then went off on our own for the “gift” time.
Knowing that Josué is an award winning baseball pitcher, I wanted to buy him a new baseball glove – but I wasn’t sure if he was right or left handed…. so I took one of each. Turns out, he’s right handed; but there’s a boy on his team who is left-handed (so I had Josué take him the extra glove). You would have thought that I had given him a brick of solid gold. He was ecstatic.
I also took each of them (including the moms/tutors) an age-appropriate Spanish Bible – which they all loved. At the end of our time together, I wrote a quick note to each person in their Bible and my translator was kind enough to read what I had written in Spanish.
For Emily, I searched high and low for a Hispanic Doll. It was really important to me that she had a doll that looked like her, not a white doll with blonde hair and blue eyes. I ended up finding a Hearts for Hearts Doll at Target. I was also super happy to learn that when you buy a doll, a dollar of the purchase price is donated to programs that support children in that doll’s region.
Emily adored her doll, and I have a ton of great photos of her hugging the doll, smiling, and playing.
For more about Josué’s quilt, and his reaction, click here.
A few of the other items I took both of my kids include: Project Life photo albums from my stash, school supplies (pencils, markers, notebooks, folders, pencil sharpeners, colored pencils, crayons, and glue), clothing (shorts/dresses, shirts, swim wear), toothbrushes (for the entire family), family-sized toothpaste, Bibles, small toys (tops, kaleidoscopes), Filtered Water Bottles, hair supplies (bows, ties, combs, brushes, headbands), hand towels, kitchen items (pot holders, wooden spoons, oven mits), and a nice backpack.
Toward the end of our time together, the group of us headed over to the ice-cream shop in the park and enjoyed a nice treat. It was a wonderful time to fellowship and ask any final questions. Some of my favorite photos come from this easy time.
This 15-year old boy sat with his hand in mine, his head on my shoulder, for the entire photo time. Neither of us wanted the moment to end. All to soon the “goodbye” was creeping up on us, and we would have to part ways.
You’ve opened your heart to these precious kids and their families. You’ve learned so much about them – put a voice with a photo, felt their hugs, danced with them, loved them, and now – all of a sudden – you have to say bye. And you don’t know when or if you’ll ever see them again. And your heart can hardly take it.
Especially when the kids understand the gravity of it, too. That’s so much harder – you both realize that this might be a once in a lifetime thing and how do you end that? How do you just walk away? – You cry. You ugly cry. You sob the whole way to the bus. You don’t look back – because if you do, you’ll never leave – you’ll lose your nerve. Some do lose their nerve, some have to be escorted from their kids by the tour leaders. Every sponsor cries. You hug everyone. You sit quietly as the bus drives back to the hotel. You gather with other sponsors in impromptu therapy sessions. You share the stories you just learned, you process what you’ve been able to do, and you cry some more. You write your kids – tell them how happy those few moments with them made you – how you already miss them – how you now long to see them again one day.
Want to sponsor your own Emily or Josué? I urge you to check out Compassion International and change the life of a child forever.