Pain, Brokenness, and Holy Moments

Whew…….what a week in Ecuador. Typically, our more eventful moments together are interspersed with travel around the country during the study portion of SST. However, this week, although our activities were mostly in and around Quito, it was a time of wildly diverse experiences that brought us close to both deep human suffering and great beauty.

Our week began with a trip to one of Quito’s largest open-design marketplaces where products from around the country converge in a customer experience very different from a U.S.-style grocery store.  Huge sections of unpackaged fruits and vegetables where customers can barter with the vendors, lead into sections of seafood, pork, and beef with parts of animals students had not previously considered edible.  We even saw a whole chicken with unhatched eggs inside waiting to be cooked together in a unique Ecuadorian dish.

After a tour of the market, we headed back with our local chef to our favorite restaurant in the neighborhood where we live (Casa Goshen).  She guided the students through the preparation of their own personal dish of fresh ceviche along with some patacones (fried green plantains).  Students enjoyed their freshly made meal together and were awarded official certificates for the successful completion of the dish.

Our week continued with a tour of a flower farm that is one of many north of Quito that ships hundreds of thousands of roses to the U.S. and Canada weekly.  It was a fascinating look into how Ecuadorian roses end up on the shelves in the U.S.

In one of our final Casa Goshen meetings of the term, we discussed the concept of “Holy Moments”, which we defined as times in which we become acutely aware of the Holy Spirit of goodness and beauty in our world.  These Holy Moments include witnessing stunning natural beauty, hearing music that stirs something deep inside us, deep belly laughter that leads to weeping, encountering human compassion and kindness, and most of all experiencing true self-sacrificial love.  It is memories of these Holy Moments that we challenged students to keep at the forefront of their minds and to be on the lookout for new moments happening all around them.

As our week marched on, we had the unique opportunity to meet with some refugees at the Quito Mennonite Church and hear their stories.  It was simultaneously deeply painful and beautiful to share that space with them as they recounted stories of unspeakable violence that caused them to flee their homes.  One of the leaders of the Mennonite Mission Network team that works with them said that our time with them was an opportunity to draw close to those in deep pain, not to feel pity for them, but like Christ, to express deep compassion for them.  It was both heart-wrenching and life-changing for all of us to wrestle with how to confront these elements of the human experience.

As our week drew to a close, students had the opportunity to experience a different kind of Holy moment as they learned how to dance to the Latin American staple of Salsa rhythms.  One of the workers at the dance studio commented to us, “They may not know what they’re doing, but wow look at the joy on their faces….”.

Thinking back over these moments as leaders is simultaneously deeply fulfilling and challenging as we continue to walk with these young people in both beautiful and difficult experiences.  It is good and holy work as we wrestle together with how to make sense of our beautiful and broken world.