So, a lot of you know I went to Ecuador for spring break in April. Ecuador…so much to say about such a small (yet awesome) country. Did I experience culture shock? Well, I adapt to my surroundings pretty well (thus, my current residence in Minnesota) because I’ve moved around so much. However, it was quite an experience and I still learned more in the two weeks I was there. I learned more about the culture than rice and bananas.
In America, we think we’re big shots. We think we have to convert everyone to our customs. “This is the way to live,” we think. However, we can’t go to a country with this mindset. Just because we eat with forks, knives, and spoons, it doesn’t mean eating with chopsticks is wrong and ungodly. The only thing we need to bring to another country is Jesus and the gospel. Customs and religion doesn’t get us into heaven. Only Jesus can save us. Only Jesus can save them.
Another thing I learned was how the people worshipped God. In America, we care so much about what people think. When we sing, we have to “sing well” in order to sing out. I sing like a dying duck sometimes and when I make mistakes, I wonder if someone heard. In Ecuador, I noticed no one cared how they sang. I remember telling Andres, my host “brother”, that he sang horrible (just as a joke). He didn’t react like most of my friends would, in embarrassment. They don’t care what people think as much as we tend to. They worshipped God because they loved Him. They didn’t worry about putting on a show for other people because it wasn’t for them and they knew it. Their love for Christ was made evident as they held nothing back in their worship.
Their love of family was also amazing. Family came first. They ate breakfast, lunch, and supper together. On Sundays, my family eats with their mother’s side of the family. Every Sunday. That amazed me because most families only see each other on holidays, if that. What if we respected our parents like they do? What if we included our siblings in our lives? Would life here change?
Time is extremely valued here in America. If you’re a minute late for a bible study, you’re stared at. In Ecuador, relationships with people are more highly valued. It’s not such a big deal if you’re late for an event. What if we stopped caring so much about time and valued relationships above it? I’m not saying we should all be late for school or work tomorrow (even though I’m late for class pretty much everyday…) but we need to stop being on constant edge because “I have so much to do”. God didn’t intend for us to be so busy all the time. Shouldn’t we value people and relationships first and make the most of our this life Christ has given us?
Ecuadorians love their country. Sure, they complain about the government occasionally, but their passion for life and their country is made evident. What if we loved our country and each other as they do? We don’t have to like everything about our government. We don’t have to like our president. Nonetheless, we are called to respect him. When we fight the battles within ourselves, within our country, then we will be equipped to fight the battles outside.
Random fact: Ecuadorians don’t like to be called Mexicans. It’s not that they hate Mexicans. They are Ecuadorian. Ecuador is an entirely different country than Mexico. We aren’t English just because we look English. Also, Spain Spanish is different than Mexican or Ecuadorian Spanish. As an Ecuadorian told me, “Spain Spanish is to our Spanish as England English is to American English.” Ecuadorian Spanish is also a bit different than Mexican Spanish because they’re close to Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken.
The hospitality in Ecuador was amazing. I’m from Texas so I constantly hear the term, “Southern hospitality”. However, in Ecuador, I was still surprised. My host mom kept saying, “Two weeks isn’t a very long time to learn about Ecuador. You need to come back.” My host dad said, “Come back anytime! Even if you’re married, bring your husband.” They didn’t even know me and yet they were so quick to offer their hospitality to me.
I bought gifts for my host family. I didn’t know how old the kids would be or if they were going to be girls or boys. Among the gifts were spider-man socks. Andres was the only son and he was 20 years old. It was the only gift I bought for him. However, he appreciated them. It made my day when he wore them the morning I left. They value gifts given more than Americans seem to. They don’t take their possessions for advantage. Most families work hard to keep food on the table. While we had fun comparing Ecuadorian prices to American prices, we have to realize that they don’t make quite as much as we make here in America.
All in all, the main thing I learned in Ecuador was that Christ doesn’t just dwell within us in America, but He dwells within everyone around the world who accepts Him as their Lord and Savior. God is everywhere. There’s a world much bigger than America. We need to open our eyes to see the hurting, the lost, those who need Christ. Tomorrow everything could change and our country could belong to someone else. Life isn’t all roses. We need to face up to reality. Life isn’t perfect and never will be. We can change our outlook on life and our attitudes. There’s a world outside of our peripheral vision.
Go out of your comfort zone. Always do the thing your scared of. Trust Him and let Him lead you to unexpected places. You may be surprised at how you can impact the world through Him and for Him. You may be surprised at how much you can be changed by something you wanted to change. Don’t live life thinking you’re way is right and everyone else should follow. Follow Christ and let them follow Christ.