Before the sun came up on August 3rd, I arrived with Danny, Carolyn, Amy and Megan to the Guayaquil airport to catch our plane back to the United States, ending our very blessed two years as Rostro de Cristo volunteers. After checking our baggage, we had time to stand around and soak up the last moments in our beloved Ecuador with each other and with some of the beautiful people who had taken the time to come to the airport for one last goodbye. Among those who had made the very early trek to the airport were six teenagers, members of Hijo de David, the music ministry group in Bautismo de Jesús parish in Monte Sinaí. I could barely believe my eyes when I saw them walking toward me that morning. What teenager wakes up before 6:00 am for anything non-mandatory? Their willingness to get up so early just to wish us off is evidence of how incredibly special they are.
Spending so much time with the members of Hijo de David is one of the many ways I saw God’s grace just streaming down during my second year in Ecuador. The group is formed and completely run by youth, ages 14 to about 20. Many of them learned how to play instruments by teaching themselves or by just watching those who already learned from older friends. They are incredibly talented musicians and bring beautiful music to the Masses each Sunday. I think what I admire most about them are the choices that they make every day. Many of them do not have good adult role models, and they see that some of their peers haven chosen unhealthy or self-destructive lifestyles. These kids, however, spend their time practicing music together, teaching younger members of the parish to sing and play instruments, and playing at the Masses. Many of them are also active in the church youth group. Their dedication to their faith and willingness to share their talents has deeply inspired me. To top it off, they are of course just hilarious and so fun to be around. I often found myself just beaming around them, in awe of their big hearts. In fact, I had to be careful not to let my admiration show too much, because most of them are still teenage boys and don’t quite know how to deal with being doted on, haha!
In the airport, Ricky, one of the youngest in Hijo de David who became known as my hermanito, or “little brother,” handed me a brown sweatshirt that I have seen him wear throughout the year and said, “Here, señorita, it’s for the cold in your country!” I laughed and was at the same time deeply touched. “Ricky!” I said. “It’s not cold in my country right now. It’s hot there in August! Plus, I have a jacket at home.” Inside, I thought – I have probably 10 jackets at home. How many does Ricky have? My protests didn’t matter; he wanted me to have his jacket. I hugged him, knowing that I could not refuse such a gift. A few minutes later, I was waving goodbye and walking through the sliding doors to go through security with my three fellow community mates, tears rolling down my cheeks and my heart swirling with emotions: sadness to leave a place that is home, excitement to return to a place that is home, and profound thanksgiving for all I have lived in the past two years. Ricky’s jacket was slung over my right shoulder, a reminder of the generosity, warmth, and sincere human care that I encountered in the Christ-like people of Ecuador. Looking upon the faces of people like my friends from Hijo de David, I have looked upon His face.
A reflection written by former volunteer Tracy Kemme (’08-’10)