a vibrant and affirmative congregation and ministry
New Bedford, Massachusetts

Pilgrimage to Ecuador

Thursday June 29- Entire group traveled from Boston to Quito

We arrived in Quito where we were met by Manuel, our host and President of FEINE, the evangelical Indigenous Ecuadorean organization who hosted us in Quito.  A bus had been arranged for our transportation for the week. We got our luggage and made our way on board for the drive across the city of Quito.  We arrived at FEINE’s compound and were shown our bungalows of two bunk beds per room separated by a bathroom in the middle.  We were served a warm soup and made our way to bed.  A long successful day of travel, and a big adventure ahead!


Friday, 30 June – Capilla del Hombre

Our amazing bus driver drove us up the very step narrow up-hill streets of Quito to a public park at the top of a mountain looking out over the streets of Quito. On top of this mountain there was the home and museum of Oswaldo Guayasamín.  He had spent his life painting images of the struggle of native people of South America, and especially of the native indigenous Ecuadoreans.  His art told many stories of the struggles and oppression and difficulties for the Ecuadorean country.  In the stories were also acknowledgement of Ecuador’s strengths and beauty.  At the end we toured his amazing house and Lizzy Silva was invited to play piano on his amazing grand piano.  His residence, art collection, and museum have been left for the public to experience and be educated on Ecuador’s history.

We left the museum and returned to FEINE where we met their leaders and introduced ourselves, and learned about FEINE and their mission to help the Ecuadorean villages and their communities.

After a brief rest some of us traveled on the bus to a local park within the city limits known as Parque Metropolitano.  We walked on pathways that allowed us the opportunity to overlook the city, enjoy the smell of the Eucalyptus trees (not native to Ecuador), and play at the playground.

We returned to FEINE for dinner and check-in and compline.


The morning – Christopher Ng

I first woke up to a new alarm clock, a rooster, though very effective, this animal is beyond what I need for my mornings. It was around maybe 6 o’clock in the morning, me and Andy seldom got up from our loggings and began what our daily routine became of; athletic wipes and brushing our teeth with bottled water. While this made morning’s simpler, fast and easy, I did miss a good shower then. Now it’s maybe 7 o’clock and everyone is up, and breakfast began. This breakfast was probably my favorite food out of the whole trip, a crispy fried light dough that was filled with spices, chicken and guacamole. After there was check-in and compline. At 9 o’clock we were on the bus ready to begin a long bus ride over to the most amazing scenery. A crater with beautiful clear water like no other and surrounding it was wildlife. At 2:30pm local time we finally arrived, though windier and colder than most of us expected we didn’t mind since we were cooped up in the bus for more than 5 hours. We all rushed out of the bus in one giant mass and looked frantically for a bathroom. 50 cents each, that’s the price each of us paid for the bathroom and probably worth every cent too. Soon thereafter we went to a balcony overseeing the whole Crater, photo shoots of stray dogs and the scenery was due.

The afternoon – Kaitlyn Ng

Getting sick during this trip wasn’t what I was hoping for. I wanted to be able to do everything possible in Ecuador. Going on the Death Trail was one of them. I was not prepared at all for it. During some points of the trail it was steep so I would slip on the rocks and fall. But it was totally worth seeing the sights of the crater. The way back up was even better, while riding horse.


Sunday, July 2, 2017Claire and Trish Morck

We started the day with breakfast as a group at the church which we called home for two nights.  After breakfast we got on the bus and went to the weekly animal market in Pujili, where everything from rabbits to sheep to pigs are bartered and sold.  A distressing experience for some, as we heard animals squeal and complain and watch young separated from their mothers, but an authentic moment which many visitors to Ecuador do not experience.

While in Pujili, as well, there were stairs that went to the top of the hill, where you could look over down to the town. While the walk up was strenuous, with the altitude change making the walk even worse for some of us, the view at the top was worth it. You could see the whole town. We were able to see the main market where we had come from, and the surrounding homes.

Then we drove to Cotopaxi National Park, the second most visited national park in Ecuador.  Cotopaxi is an active volcano which most recently erupted a couple of years ago.  It historically erupts once about every 100 years.  It affords amazing views, when clear, of smaller surrounding volcanoes.  Most of the group did a walk that took about an hour around a small lake, Limpiopungo, while two in the group jogged around it – twice!  The lake sits at 13,000 feet above sea level.  Incoming rain mixed with the sun to create an amazing, complete rainbow which took our breath away – along with the 42-degree temps and strong winds which battered us as we made our way back to the bus!

Some Venezuelan Christian musicians came along with us, with whom the church in Pujili had a relationship.  Their stories about what they had left behind and what their hopes were for their futures and the future of Venezuela were compelling and moving – so much so that we had a time of prayer in a circle the following morning before we left Pujili in which we prayed for them and their home.

Our final destination was an Indigenous Evangelical Church in Pujili. This church was different, but very welcoming to people who are different – like us, an American visiting group. It was also extremely long; we were there for almost two hours. But it was all worth it in the end. We learned new experiences and had a long, but eventful day.


Monday July 3- Radio Runatacuyaj in Latacunga-Illuchi

Maggie Boyce, Jean Pitcairn, Sydney Webb

We were invited to view the Evangelical Christian Radio station that had been established by American Evangelical ministries in the 70’s and 80’s.  They had brought transistor radios only able to receive one signal and distributed them to the Native Indigenous Ecuadorian villages.  These villages could then receive the Evangelical message.  These Evangelical missioners left the country when they lost their non-profit status, leaving the radio station behind.  The lead preacher of the radio station had originally been Catholic and was recruited and trained to sabotage the Evangelical missioners- slashing tires, etc.  He eventually got to know the missioners and left the Catholic church and became trained as an Evangelical minister.  The Radio station interviewed Chris live on air in Spanish, and Abby Luth as well.

The second most eventful part of the day involved our bus tour of local Indigenous Ecuadorian Villages. We drove up and down mountainous terrain in our bus viewing villages and local farms being tilled by hand, and some areas that were no longer able sustain the village communities.   We saw large greenhouses growing flowers and even larger tracts of land growing broccoli.  What we learned was that these corporate agricultural businesses would illegally tap into the water supply just below the reservoirs on the top of the mountain and take all the water to irrigate their farms, so that there would not be any water for the villages below to grow their own crops and they would run out of drinking water as well.  So the villagers were left with no other choice but to work for the farms for indecent wages.  Pour bus driver had worked for a floral farm and was paid about $180 for 2 weeks of work involving working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day.  The situation at the broccoli plantations was no better.  Often people working on the plantation would be laid off and never receive their wages at all.  Despite organizations like FIENE and local government officials, they have been unable to help the Ecuadorians receive fair treatment and fair wages.  It made us aware once more that the choices we make when we buy our food matter.  Broccoli is not a native crop and all that is grown is for export only!  So we need to find out where our food comes from and how it is grown.  We hope to come together in our Grace community and find ways to integrate our faith and our food in intentional ways for better health for ourselves and our world.

We ended our tour at Café de la Vaca where we ate great lunch, celebrated Isabel’s 10th Birthday and enjoyed some zip-lining.


Tuesday July 4th, 2017- Andy Sylvia and Mia Morgan

The day dawned cool and clear like many on our trip, and we were greeted that morning with a breakfast of fried plantain and cheese, along with excellent coffee.  Then it was time to get our hands dirty.

We had the opportunity to work on the FEINE building where we helped to prep the rooms by cleaning, and work with local builders to begin installing flooring so that the rooms could be used for office space or additional guests.

Working alongside Juan, many of our youth had the opportunity to showcase their talents including planning, measuring, and more.

We had our 4th of July cookout cookout and was it delicious!!  Maria and Blanca cooked chicken in a most wonderful marinade and everyone was very happy!

In the afternoon, we visited downtown Quito beginning with the Virgin of Quito.  This enormous statue oversees the city and is said to be standing victorious after battling a dragon — i.e., Satan, with the apple of original sin in his mouth — she has trampled and subdued the beast with a heavy silver chain which she holds loosely in her open hands. She has been given silver wings for escape.

A walking tour of the city took us through beautifully architected churches and a visit to the outside of the Presidential Palace.  We snacked again before a quiet evening back at FEINE compound


 Wednesday July 5-  Minga and Iñaquito Market    

Morning prayer and breakfast- ceviche!

Minga (co-operative work) with FEINE

We all helped to clean and then lay laminate flooring in the office building on FEINE property that needed to be finished for lodging and meeting space.   It turns out that the youth are great at laying flooring and Chris and Andy are awesome at making it all come together.

Iñaquito Market visit and lunch-

After cleaning up from out work efforts we met Michelle Fried, who is a nutritionist who has been living in Ecuador for forty years.  She came with us to the local market where we purchased vegetables and fruits that we had never seen before, and ate lunch.  When we returned we shared what we had bought and tasted them all!  The food was delicious.  We continued our time with Michelle discussing sustainable and local nutrition.  We learned that many of the foods we buy in America are grown in foreign countries and exported for our consumption often at the detriment of the native people.  We learned a lot about the importance of sourcing our food locally, the effect of large agriculture on the environment and global warming.  We also learned that until 2 years ago there were no GMO’s allowed in Ecuador, but do to a loop-hole in their Constitution they had just recently been allowed into Ecuador.  In the end we were even more sure about the statement that you are what you eat!

Late in the day after a little rest, we boarded our trusty bus and went to South Quito and to FIERPI (Indigenous Churches of Quito).  Sadly, it grew quite late and we were unable to worship with them, so we got dinner and headed home.


Thursday July 6 –Abby and Michelle Luth

On our final day in Ecuador, we made our way to the famous market of Otavalo. But this time, we had some friends with us on the bus as many of the FEINE members and three of their children came alone with us. We first drove to a church that some of the FEINE friends were helping to build. In the church, members of the congregation sang songs for us with their own instruments in the native language of Quechua. Hearing them sing was fascinating.

We then arrived at Otavalo around lunch time. We ate a small restaurant and then finally got to explore the market. The market sat in a huge town square. But, on Market Day, it extends down all the streets! The vendors were selling everything from t-shirts, sweaters and blankets made of alpaca fur, bracelets, rings, necklaces, and handicrafts. About an hour later we got back on the bus and made our way back to FEINE.

We stopped at the Equator, aka “Mitad Del Mundo” and then ended the night by eating with our friends at a restaurant that overlooked the old city. We talked with the kids a lot that night. Even though we did not speak the same language, we found ways to communicate by trying to speak each other’s language. (We also used charades a lot). It was a special end to a truly amazing trip. 


Friday July 7

We left very early in the morning and traveled home safe and sound and exhausted!




Thursday, June 29th to Friday, July 7th 2017

The Grace Church pilgrimage to Ecuador will be hosted by FEINE (Ecuadorian Federation of Indigenous Evangelicals).   

Through this trip, we will have incredibly unique opportunities to work alongside and build relationships with indigenous Quichua Ecuadorians, while also learning about issues such as food sovereignty and Andean indigenous spirituality. We will contribute in some way, both financially and with our work together, to our own well-being as well as supporting an indigenous Ecuadorian community. And we will have time to pray and play together, while experiencing something of Ecuador (maybe a large craft market or glacier-topped volcano, for example).

 

We will fly in and out of the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), about 45 minutes from Quito, Ecuador’s capital. We will have time to get settled before gathering for our first group meeting. In order to acclimate to our new environment, the first day’s schedule will be light, with activities ranging from resting to visiting different areas of interest. 

The schedule for the week will include Morning Prayer and Compline, time for worship and socializing with our Ecuadorian brothers and sisters, educational chats, and work and/or activities with children (this depends on the wishes of the community which we visit.

The next planning meetings are scheduled for May 7th, June 4th and June 25th.


Suggested reading on Ecuador, for real or armchair travellers:

  • The Villagers (Huasipungo), by Jorge Icaza
  • Ecuador and Galápagos Handbook (Footprint), by Robert and Daisy Kunstaetter
  • The Panama Hat Trail, by Tom Miller
  • Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, by Eduardo Galeano
  • The Queen of Water, by Laura Resau
  • 1491, by Charles Mann

ECUADORIAN PILGRIMAGE FUNDRAISER AT NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE’S: Have lunch or dinner (take-out included) at Not Your Average Joes, 61 State St, Dartmouth, on any Monday in May to help fund the upcoming pilgrimage to Ecuador! Print a flyer or pick one up in the back of the church, show the flyer on a mobile device, or mention the fundraiser to your server, and 15% of your bill will be donated to Grace Church for the pilgrimage.