Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local Churches Team Up to Serve Children in Ecuador


Even in the midst of the greatest recession our country has seen in over 70 years, local residents from the Cypress area are still finding the compassion and means to help out those far less fortunate. This summer, members of Cypress Church have teamed up with organizations in Ecuador, India and New Orleans to help bring the message of love and hope to children who could easily feel they are forgotten, but who are finding out they are not.

In late June, members of Cypress Church and Calvary Church in Santa Ana teamed up with others from Canada, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador to spend time with the children of Zancudo, an Ecuadorian village of 400 people. While there, the group of 90 used English, Spanish and sign language to communicate to the children the message of Christ's love. Over 100 high school age students from Zancudo and neighboring villages came to five-day Bible camps, while a separate camp was held for the younger children of Zancudo. At the same time, some of the 90 volunteers traveled to two other villages teaching the same lessons.

The camps are the realized dreams of two men from Zancudo who started the ministry of the camps. It is through the help of people who have traveled from not only outside the village but from outside the country that the men hope to become established as missionaries in their own home towns.

Excessive heat, thunder storms and bathing in a river used for waste and garbage were just some of the challenges the group faced, but they were inconveniences willingly accepted. One of the group's leaders, Susan Peterson says: “It is a life-changing experience for all who are blessed to go and participate.”

Upon arriving in Zancudo (after a plane ride and seven-hour bus trip), Peterson and the rest of her group canoed for three hours through the jungle to their destination. As their canoes traveled along the rivers of South America, they passed wood huts with thatched roofs that were immersed in a variety of green plants. With people waving at them, Peterson says she was thinking in amazement, “I get to do this!”

While the main objective was teaching the children about God's love through songs, crafts and games, essentials such as a hot meals were also offered to the children. Over 300 breakfasts, lunches and dinners were prepared by team members every day. In addition, a small number of volunteers carried water from the river to the camp where it was filtered for safer drinking. “After dinner and hand-washing all the dishes, our North American group would usually walk up the muddy hill to the block-cement building where we stayed, debriefed about our day and slept soundly on our sleeping pads covered by mosquito nets,” Peterson says.

As the week progressed, the group found themselves making friends in some unexpected places, in ways they could not have planned. For Peterson, a highlight of the trip was making a connection with a villager who was washing, scrubbing and beating her family's clothes with a wooden paddle in the river. With her limited Spanish, Peterson was able to ask the woman about her children and life in the village while the woman was able to ask a few questions of her own.

“She asked if I liked bananas,” says Peterson, who answered positively. “She carried up a basket of her clothing and came back with a tray of bananas. She, who had so very little, shared some of her very best freshly-picked bananas. That act really touched my heart.”

Along with her husband, Lance, Peterson states that she definitely plans on returning to Ecuador next year, which will be her 5th and Cypress Church's 6th year of working with Adventure Missions, a branch of an organization called Youth World. Though she says she doesn't know what the group will be doing, whether it will involve working with children again or carting lumber to help build a new church in the village, she knows the work they will be doing will be just as meaningful.

"Each year has brought a new experience and a different place in the jungle to visit and work in,” says Peterson. “Yet we are also able to see most of the same people each year, creating some precious, eternal relationships.”

In addition to the Ecuador trip, Cypress Church has planned two other journeys this summer, attempting to carry their message to children around the world. Earlier this month, a separate group left for India and hosted a day camp for a group of orphans from Jane's House, a non-profit organization that cares for children whose parents have either died or abandoned them. And this past Saturday a group of teens, along with their pastor and chaperones, left for New Orleans where they will present a similar type of Vacation Bible School for the children of New Orleans, most of whom are still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The team from Cypress Church that went to Ecuador is planning to share their experiences with the public on Sunday, August 22 at 7:00 p.m. The Cypress Church campus is located at 6143 Ball Road just east of Valley View. The public is welcome at Sunday services and Bible studies that are held at 8:45 and 10:30 a.m. as well as many other activities throughout each week. Information about the church is available at (714) 952-3001 or online at www.cypresschurch.net. The public may also interact with the Cypress Church community on Facebook, Twitter and Livestream.

Photo Caption: A group of North American volunteers spending time playing jump rope with children from the Ecuadorian village of Zancudo.

Cypress Church - 6143 Ball Rd. - Cypress, CA 90630 - Phone: (714) 952-3001 - http://www.cypresschurch.net/

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