|Francisco with (l-r) Katie Pugh, Will Pugh and Courtney Filizetti.|
(Aug. 24, 2012 - by Nate Dell) A team of 10 from First Baptist Church of Norway, Michigan, recently traveled to Quito, Ecuador, to work with HCJB Global cooperating ministry Pan de Vida (Bread of Life). Team organizer Jesse Hansen is the son of former HCJB Global missionaries and graduated from the Alliance Academy in Quito in 1994. The church’s pastor, Andy Filizetti, and his daughter Courtney were also part of the team that ran a two-week vacation Bible school (VBS) for about 50 children at Pan de Vida in the mornings while working on facility improvement projects in the afternoons. The trip was the small church’s first international short-term mission trip. HCJB Global Missionary Nate Dell helped lead the team during their time in Ecuador. Here are some of Nate’s thoughts about the group’s ministry at Pan de Vida:
After running VBS in the mornings, we went to work replacing some old rotten benches in the yard with a new style of benches made of cement and treated lumber in the afternoons. Pan de Vida’s main ministry is to feed some of the poorest people in Quito. The goal is to improve the lives of a select focus group of their main beneficiaries who’ve shown an ongoing, concerted interest in breaking the cycle of poverty they’re often trapped in. The kids who attended the VBS were the children of this main focus group.
|Francisco with Courtney|
One of the kids I met was Francisco. He was conspicuous because he obviously wanted to be loved so badly. Francisco wasn’t shy about initiating interaction with me and was the first to climb up into my arms—and the arms of most of the rest of the team members. It seemed like Francisco simply couldn’t soak up enough love! He wasn’t happy unless he was the center of attention. One of his favorite team members was 16-year-old Courtney whose beautiful blond hair garnered lots of attention all week.
One day Francisco got in this rut where he’d tap Courtney on the shoulder to get her attention and then point up into the sky. When Courtney looked up, Francisco would clumsily “tickle” her under the chin. Francisco would laugh at this hysterically. It was cute the first five times or so, but quickly crossed into annoying. But this didn’t deter Francisco who probably did this routine upwards of a hundred times, causing Courtney to—out of survival—avoid Francisco part of the day. I watched this and learned. When Francisco tried the routine on me, I let him get a laugh once or twice and then quickly set him down and went to do something else. I wasn’t nearly as patient with him as Courtney was!
Not that Francisco doesn’t deserve some patience. Like most of the kids at Pan de Vida, he doesn’t come from the best family situation. His mom is a harsh lady who likely has a sad story all her own. You can see it in her eyes that flash anger and fear with just a glance. His father wasn’t on the scene, and he had half siblings from other fathers. Love, when absent from a family, leaves all kinds of holes that get stuffed with poor substitutes. Abuse is common, and addiction is a close companion amongst these broken family lives. I’m sure Francisco’s love vacuum is huge and sucks like a shop vac.
|Patti Pugh and Courtney hold Francisco.|
Situations like Francisco’s aren’t an easy fix. That’s why the folks at Pan de Vida have plenty of job security as well as an abundance of situations to pray for. While food and assistance are a welcome gift, the real changed lives come when Christ shows up. Our team’s job was to pour out as much love into that group of love-sucking kids as we possibly could. Hugs, playtime and lots of attention with a loving touch were the tools we used as we tried to be the hands of Jesus to those kids. I pray that even though this group of Michigan gringos and myself aren’t there any longer, that our presence is now a fond memory, filled with love for Francisco and the other kids. I know they ate it up while we were there.
I stayed in Ecuador a few days after the team returned to wrap up the logistics and pay bills for lodging and transport. But it gave me some time to think. In the middle of the night before I left to catch my flight to Colorado, God kept reminding me about Francisco.
Finally I realized how similar I am to him. Just like Francisco, I tend to turn toward imperfect things for fulfillment and spend an inordinate amount of time chasing after poor substitutes for God’s love. I try to fill that “God-shaped hole” in my life with things like food, acceptance, material things and even ministry activities.
The real deal is Christ. He’s the one who can provide love and purpose. He’s the only one who can fill the void we feel as humans. Although Courtney and the rest of the team did a great job, God’s the only one who can love Francisco all the time—without losing patience. And He doesn’t run away when Francisco’s tricks get annoying.
For God so loved Francisco that He gave His only Son so that if Francisco believes in Him he won’t perish and will have eternal life. Deep down we are all a lot like Francisco. That’s what Francisco taught me.
Source: HCJB Global