Big news, friends. I’M STAYING.
I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and finally settle on a idea thats been blooming in the back of my mind since September… I’ve decided to extend my contract with Manna for another year, which means I’m committing to the Valle de los Chillos and Manna Project International until August of next year. Part of me never really doubted that when I made the decision midway through my senior year of college to come to South America I would be staying for more than a year– everything I’ve lived since age 18 has pointed to something like this– but to make this decision still feels like a leap of faith and still feels like venturing into the unknown.
There arethings I don’t like about Manna sometimes, and there have certainly been moments of great frusteration. Its been a struggle working with an organization with limited funds, its been a struggle working with people with vastly different personalities, its been a struggle working on such a vast array of projects that I have had minimal prior experience with. But at the end of the day I go to bed every night happy, because I love it all despite its flaws. I love being here, I love serving people, I love striving to try to make something better for the sake of people that deserve the best.
Everything seems to have fallen into place to make this happen for me, and every minute I feel more and more affirmed in my decision. I desire to be even more a part of the community; I want to gain even more valuable experience in the non-profit sector; I have someone here that I love and I have really high hopes for what the future of our relationship holds; I want to become even better at Spanish. Haa.. I know I don’t have to justify my decision to anyone, but somehow it feels like I still do. It feels like I have to check off all the right boxes in a list of reasons in my mind to make this decision an acceptable one, or else I am doing something to myself that is somehow wrong, somehow misinformed and misguided, even foolish.
Do you want to know what led me to make this decision, really, after so much time contemplating it? On Wednesday after teaching English at church, I decided to spend some free time in the center of Sangolquí, eating ice cream in front of the big Catholic Church and people watching. The weather was nice and the shadows were growing longer as the sun was setting over the colonial buildings in the plaza. I sat on the church steps with my ice cream and prayed and observed the people– a mother playing hide and seek with her little girl, two brothers kicking a soccer ball around, teenagers leaving school in their pressed uniforms and tight black shoes. In the sea of Ecuadorian faces, I somehow felt a deep, piercing sense of home, a sense of belonging even in a place so far from what I spent more than two decades of my life knowing. “This is right, this feels right. I AM STAYING” I scribbled into my journal. Because it does, it feels right. For all of the reasons that I have to stay– and there are so, so many– the overwhelming sense of peace in making this decision is what is most important to me. In the past when I have sought God’s guidance in decision making, I have often waited for some sort of sign or for his audible direction, but sometimes God speaks in other ways too. To Elijah he spoke in a small, still voice; with me, he guided me in peace that surpasses all understanding.
The last seven months in Ecuador have been some of the hardest and some of the best. Whatever may come, I am so thrilled for the next eighteen (yeah, EIGHTEEN) months as well. I can’t wait to see what they hold.