At the Top of the World

The theme of week two of SST has been ascending and descending….  After a lecture on the history of the Catholic church in Ecuador, students visited some of the historic churches in the Centro Historico of Quito.  At the national cathedral they descended into the crypts below the church before ascending to the dome on the top for a spectacular view of the surrounding historic center.  One the weekend as strangely clear weather patterns continued in the start of the rainy season, students ascended the teleferico (gondola) to the 13,200 foot ridge below the Pichincha volcano.  The blue skies and clear weather provided breathtaking views of the full 40 kilometer expanse of Quito and the incredible panorama of the Andes stretching in all directions.  Some students ascended even higher to 14,000 feet above sea level to expand their view even further.  Given the significant bulge of the earth’s crust along the equator, students were closer to the sun at that point than any point they could reach in North America.  They truly were near the top of the world.

As we approach the end of week two, we began to get a glimpse of the incredible biodiversity found in Ecuador.  The rainy season rains finally made an appearance last night and continued today with some surreal cloud formations flowing in, over, and among the mountains around us.  Tomorrow we head to the cloud forest northwest of Quito and the students will get their first taste of a full blown rainforest environment.  With all the ascending and descending, students have also finally hit their emotional and physical limit and have begun to settle into the reality that they are living in South America and are not just passing through.  It is in these moments we embrace the beauty of the support that comes from family, friends, fellow SST’ers, leaders, and host families.  It is a beautiful reminder that we do not walk through challenges in life alone.  We just need to look around us to see the fingerprints of God at work in the human beings who are helping to carry us through….