Sat., Feb. 8, 2014:

Eleven people, 25+ bags and we were on our way to Ecuador. All was well as we boarded a pretty small plane to Houston (less than 60 passengers) until we found out that the plane was over it's weight limit. The flight attendant asked for just one person to volunteer to take a later flight and we would be fine for take off. That made us all a bit uncomfortable, but we did make it to Houston safe and sound. 

Once we landed there was no time to waste before they started boarding our flight to Ecuador. The flight was peaceful and filled with the chatters of team members getting acquainted. 

Christian (from Habitat Ecuador) and his wife met us at the airport and it was smooth sailing to the Hotel Dan. We received our room assignments and headed for bed.

It is amazing that just a few short hours ago we only knew each others' names and we know that by the end of this trip we will have experienced something so wonderful and meaningful together.

Sun., Feb. 9, 2014:
View from the Hotel at Breakfast on Sunday morning.

This is a picture of the group at a look out point above Quito. We took a cable car up to the highest peak, 13,000 ft. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Later in the day, after lunch, we went to a wonderful park, Ejido Park, in the center of Quito. I would compare it to a fair or carnival without the rides. There were so many people there with their families. It was a wonderful cultural experience. There were pick up games of soccer, families having picnics, food and art vendors, comedians, and children of all ages playing everywhere. A few of us even joined in a small game of volleyball with some of the locals. 

We left straight from the park to Pasto Calle to get settled in for the week and meet the maestro, his family, and the families (yes families... we will be finishing one house and starting another this week).

Mon., Feb. 10, 2014:
Today was our first day on the build site.

We started the day by digging nine 3 ft cubed holes that will serve as the foundation of the house. These were the prettiest holes that I have ever seen if I say so myself. We did them all by hand with only shovels. It was a lot of work but the finished product was extremely rewarding.

The rest of the day was spent tying rebar. It was a good group project, because we were able to all work on it together.

The evening was spent resting and after dinner we played cards and other games. We stayed up too late and will probably regret it in the morning, but it was worth it.

Tues., Feb. 11, 2014:
Today was filled with lots of hard work. We finished tying the rebar and then moved to mixing concrete. Most of the day consisted of shoveling sand and rock or wheel barrowing larger rocks. 

We worked later in the day in order to get all 9 columns set and filled with concrete. I was a mess by the end of the day. I am told that there are some good pictures of me after the concrete mixer splattered all over my face. 

The plan for the evening is to get lots of good rest and to play more games.  We have a rematch of Bananagrams (a scrabble type game) scheduled for tonight. We played a very heated game of it last night using only Spanish can imagine how that went.

Wed., Feb. 12, 2014:
Today was a wonderful day. 

It started with us visiting Lisa's Angels Daycare Center just 20 minutes further up into the mountains. As soon as we pulled up and the gate to their playground opened boys and girls rushed to greet us with big smiles and friendly "Holas". They were so excited to see our group. We were able to play with the children on the new playground that the ISC was able to purchase last year. Many members of their staff were there as well. They all spoke to the gratitude they have for the conference and all the time, work, and money that has been provided. It was quite emotional to hear the peoples kind and grateful words. 

Before we left the team was able to present the daycare with the vitamins, sweaters, and toys that were collected by the area churches. You can imagine the smiles on the sweet children's faces.

Once back at the build site the team continued mixing concrete and tying rebar. It was hard work, but the time was filled with laughter and fun. It is amazing the amount of energy we all have. It must be because we are doing God's work.

Thur., Feb. 13, 2014:
Today we started by visiting another daycare facility. We were able to provide this facility with the same types of donations as yesterday, but also provided them with cash donations. The gratitude from the director was tremendous. There were many tears on both her and our part.

At the job site we continued to mix concrete and hall rock to create the foundation of the floor of the house. After lunch it began to rain and continued until we left for the day. We stopped a couple of times when it was raining very hard, but we worked through most of the rain, thunder, and lighting.

Today was the first day the clouds were low enough for us to see the peak of the "Mighty" Cotopaxi volcano. We all got some great photos in the morning, but nothing prepared us for the sight when we got back to the hotel. With all the rain, Cotopaxi was covered in snow.

It is hard not to feel closer to God when you are in the presence of something so majestic.

Fri., Feb. 14, 2014:
Our day started with Christian, our Habitat leader, presenting each woman on the trip with roses for Valentine's Day. Ecuador is known for their roses. The country ships roses all over the world. After breakfast we visited the home that was built this past July by the ISC group. It was vary satisfying to see the finished product. The family was extremely welcoming and grateful for the work that was done.

Today at the build site we were actually were able to start putting up walls. The house really started taking shape. Eric, one of our volunteers from Ecuador, lead the Blessing in Blocks presentation. It was very nice. 

It was very emotional when we packed up to leave the work site. This evening we will have dinner with the maestro's families and the family for whom we built the home. The group will then head back to Quito. Saturday and Sunday we will visit the Ecuador and various other touristy things. I also will not have access to the internet until we land in Houston on Monday morning. I will update the remaining days at that time.

Sat., Feb. 15, 2014:
In the morning the team headed to Otavalo to the open air market. It was about a two hour drive and well worth the trip.  Once we got there we had lunch in a wonderful restaurant. There was a band playing traditional music of the highlands. I ordered steak and you should have seen the waitresses face when I ordered it medium rare. It was quite comical. After lunch we walked around and shopped and shopped and shopped. My first experience bartering was a little rough, but I got much better as the day went on. The market was a beautiful site with colors popping out everywhere. There were textiles, jewelry, wood works, spices, and fruit everywhere I looked. 

We left the market around five in the evening and drove back to Quito to meet Christian's twin brother and his family for dinner. We went to Pizza Hut, which was a nice change. We had a great evening. Christian's nephew, Mateas, was very entertaining. He did magic at the table kept the entire group laughing through the entire meal.

Sun., Feb. 16, 2014:

Sunday morning we went to church at Advent St. Nicolas in downtown Quito. It was a small church surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers. After the service there was a time of fellowship with coffee and breads. We stayed there mingling for about an hour before we changed clothes and headed to Mitad del Mundo, which translates to middle of the earth. The monument at the equator was quite massive and we had a great time taking many photos. There were many shops and restaurants, but the traditional dancers where very entertaining.

Once back in Quito, the group met with the Chuquiragua Kiwanis Club and a group of 15 year old girls that the ISC supports through a scholarship program. It was wonderful to hear these girls tell their story and share their gratitude for the opportunities that our area churches have provided for them.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel to pack and then go to the airport. It was quite difficult and emotional leaving our Ecuadorian friends that we had developed such a deep bond with over the last ten days.

Mon., Feb. 17, 2014:

Our flight left Quito at 12:55 a.m. on Monday morning. As much as most of us were not ready to leave 
Ecuador, once we got to the airport we were ready to be home. Once we landed in Houston we had a five hour layover. Most of the time was spent relaxing. Many of us could be found sleeping on the ground at some point.

We were back in St. Louis  by 2:00 pm. We said some quick yet emotional goodbyes and I was on my way back home to Dupo.

My experience was so wonderful. It is hard to put into words how grateful I am for this opportunity. The friends that I made and the things that I witnessed will stay with me forever.

Thank you for all your support and excitement. I can't wait to share more with my church family in the coming weeks.