Our week on the Nurses for the Nations (NFTN) Service outreach trip could not have begun in a better way. Sunday’s church service in Bolivar, after arrival on Saturday, was wonderful. Carlos’ sermon was inspiring and we were all moved by the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit! That evening, God’s rainbow appeared resting on the beach and a stunning sunset completed the day, with beautiful bows on top of an already amazing sky and day.
I will admit, during the first 24 hours, after I settled in, I experienced doubt and fear, as the mission trip was way out of my “comfort” zone. What God made clear to me was: “When God calls you and you obey, He provides a way, He calms your fears and provides the help you need in ways that can only be explained as miraculous.”
Phil, my husband who accompanied me on the service team, can attest to all of the little comforts I ‘thought’ I needed to enjoy life–no bugs and a dark room in which to sleep! My physical aches and pains from my anti-cancer medication added another level of concern for my comfort. Yet, God’s amazing miracles were daily, and a gift to me. His presence allowed me to sleep peacefully, despite bugs and bright lights (lights kept on keeping bats from coming into our upstairs area at night), and enjoy refreshing cold showers each morning with not ONE day of ache or pain from my medication.
I was also able to (99.9% of the time) keep up with our much younger team members! On Thursday afternoon though, God made me acutely aware of my need to rest and cool off to prevent heat exhaustion after a wonderful morning in Sitio Nuevo (just prior to spending more clinic and dental education time back in Bolivar). The best part of my rest followed a decision to hold off participating in the dental education class on Thursday afternoon.
I explained to my husband Phil, “Honey, you will have to lead the class!” He replied, “No. I can’t! I have never done this before.” I prayed, encouraged him and reassured him he could do it. He did, without a hitch! Jeannette and Stephanie volunteered to work with him. The entire dental education skit, given to three large groups of people, was priceless! It could not have gone better!
The people of Ecuador are so beautiful! Their gentle hugs and cheek kisses touched my heart every day. Their welcoming smiles were the most beautiful I have ever seen. Sincere gratitude radiated from every person God allowed us to help. I truly left part of my heart in Ecuador.
Renee is wonderful as a mission leader. God worked through her in ways that were needed and perfectly timed. She listened, advised, encouraged, prayed, taught, laughed and course corrected when needed; all the while working right alongside each of us–just as hard–if not harder. She is a precious woman and friend, who exhibited God’s love to us each day, in every way. Meeting, and spending time with Jeannette and Carlos, along with NFTN’s partners, was a tremendous blessing. Their love for the people groups they serve in Ecuador in addition to their help with our service team, was a blessing. It was an honor to be a part of God’s work though them, as they continue to love and serve the people of Ecuador as their primary mission.
Each day for me held a new set of large and small experiences. Each adult and child’s mouth I examined caused a heaviness in my heart. I was amazed, that most of the men, women and children we served, were not experiencing pain, despite the serious condition with their teeth. I can only imagine there dental pain, experienced daily for so many years. Their pain, after a while, obviously proved to be an accepted part of their daily lives. As we prayed with each family, I asked God if He would open doors and provide a way for Phil and me to help improve the future oral health through dentistry, with the peoples in Ecuador.
When we were invited to the new village (on Wednesday and then Thursday, in the AM), I thought we had seen the poorest of the poor in Ecuador. I was mistaken. Sitio Nuevo proved to be an almost forgotten village. The dental needs we identified were as great or even greater than in Bolivar. Yet, the need for Jesus was greatest. I was amazed how God worked through Stephanie and Jeanette again, as they boldly asked the citizens of the impoverished town; “Do you have Jesus in your heart?” It was a blessing and honor to be part of and witness the miraculous salvation of so many in Sitio Nuevo. I will never forget!
Is there a need for dental care in Ecuador? Yes! Is there a need for JESUS in Ecuador? YES!
Thank you, Mary, the Founder of NFTN, for listening, and remaining faithful in answering God’s call for your life. Thank you for your prayers of support, and for the opportunity to be part of a marvelous mission trip. My experiences were a life changer! I look forward to God’s future leading, work and calling in my life. We serve an amazing God!
– Ellen Patridge, 2017 NFTN Ecuador Team Member