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I Have Fallen In Love

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, 
than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

-Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

I have arrived at the last days here in Ecuador, and I am filled with so many emotions: gratitude for what I’ve learned this year, nostalgia for the life I’ve lived here, excitement to return home, but mostly a real sadness to say goodbye to the people I love here. Words fail me to express what this year meant to me, how the experienced has changed me in a very profound way. The best way I have found to explain my experience this year is to say that I have fallen in love.

I have fallen in love with the people of Monte Sinai. Their hopes and dreams seize my imagination. I get up in the morning so that I can spend time with them, visit them in their houses, learn from them, and love them. Their pain and tears break my heart daily. But their strength and undying faith amazes my with joy. Their overwhelming generosity fills me with gratitude.

I’ve fallen in love with the humility and generosity of the people here, a combination I haven’t quite found anywhere else. I love Don Raul who lives off $50 of monthly social security but whose great joy is make us popcorn every Sunday. I love Elsa, the mango woman on the corner who always greets me with a face of sheer surprise and thankfulness that someone remembered her and thought to visit her. I love walking into the Chichay’s house, hearing Juan call me his sister and Gloria offering me a plate of food that she has been cooking for hours with the baby in one arm.

I love God’s active and mysterious presence in the day to day here. I have found God in the eyes of those who have suffered greatly, and he has revealed himself to me in the undying faith of people who depend of Him more than I ever have. I love how Monica attributes every blessing and every challenge in her life directly to the hand of a loving father God, from rice on the table to the dirt floor she lives on. I love how Carolina can’t wait to share with us the latest verse from the bible that fills her with strength to minister to the gangsters of the neighborhood. I love that Blanca prays unrelentingly for her son as he relapses in his addiction to drugs over and over again. I love God in the many distressing disguises he presents himself to me.

I love my life here. I love how I have been challenged by the hardship and the pain I see around me and how I have grown in compassion. I love how I have been revealed to myself this year, how my insecurities and faults have emerged, and I have come face to face with a more authentic vision of myself. I love how my experiences here have shown me my ignorance and made me ask more questions than I ever have. I love being separated from modernity, technology, and middle class security, because here I have felt human, closer to those things that are really important in life. I love my community mates and the support they give me, the listening ears they lend me.

And the crazy thing about this all is that I do think my experience here will decide so many things for me as my life goes forward. I will leave the future for God to figure out, but I know that I will never quite be the same after this year. My presuppositions have softened and perspectives have shifted. As our director Brian Goonan always reminds us, this year will leave you ruined for life, and that’s quite how I feel.

I have fallen in love, I hope to stay in love, and I know this love will decide everything.

I have fallen in love with Nereyda, Auxillio, Ingrid, Jessica, Karina, Mel, Ivis, Frank, Brayan, Maria, Edison, Bolivar, Junior, Karina, Eli, Maria, Melanie, Solimar, Monica, David, Angie, Mauricio, Samuel, Juan, Gloria, Elsa, Anahi, Daisy, Geoffrey, Wendy, Noelia, Diana, Irma, Carolyn, Alfredo, Carolina, and so many others. My heart is full of names and faces.

Thank you for accompanying me this year in my adventure to find God in the people of Ecuador. Writing this blog has been very helpful for me to process and put into word my own experience. I hope that a little something in the stories I’ve told about these beautiful, broken people has touched your heart. Even though I am so sad to leave here, I am excited to be back in touch with you all. I return to the U.S. August 2nd, and I’d love to catch up, share more about my experience here, and to hear about the past year of your life. Until then please pray for me for strength and gentleness during this time of transition. Gracias por todo!

“The poor with whom I lived revealed to me the

treasures of a Christian spirituality that had been

hidden to me in my own affluent world.

While having little of nothing, they taught me true gratitude.

While struggling with unemployment, malnutrition, and many diseases, they taught me joy.

While oppressed and exploited,they taught me community.”

– Henri Nouwen