Service visits to Manta

Week 10 of Fall 2019 SST began with visits of all students at their service locations in Manta on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.  Jan Bender Shetler, International Education director at Goshen College, joined SST leaders in the visit to Manta to cap her visit to Ecuador which began in Quito earlier in the week.  On the way to Manta, SST leaders observed Ecuadorians throughout the country celebrating the day of the dead holiday which includes the tradition of eating the favorite meal of a deceased relative in the cemetery where they are buried.  The majority of the time leaders spent in Manta was during a series of national holidays that included festivities throughout the city.  Parades, concerts, and food vendors were a constant presence.  As mentioned in previous posts, Manta is a large fishing port with one of the largest tuna processing plants in the world.  It also hosts a deep sea commercial shipping port as well as a cruise ship port.

One of the critical elements of “service” on SST is understanding of what service means in this context.  In the North American mindset, an understanding of service is often associated with the concept of productivity.  On SST, and perhaps more generally, productivity is not an appropriate lens through which to view service.  Serving others in almost any context is founded in relationships.  Relationships in a service context communicate to those you are serving that who they are matters and that they are valued.  Service is about humility and honoring human dignity.  It requires you to give of yourself and present yourself humbly to others with the openness to learn from them and share life with them.  It was clear in visiting the students in Manta that these types of relationships are being developed, with both difficult and beautiful moments along the way.