Rev. Jen Lessard, Senior pastor at York Baptist Church in Up State New York, went on her fourth short-term mission trip to the Andes in Ecuador, to serve alongside one of IM partners, RECONPAZ. May you be moved by what she shares about her experience:
Back to the Andes: Doing less and experiencing more
This was my fourth journey to visit the women who lead the restorative efforts for Rio Blanco, the indigenous community of the Ecuadorian Andes. I had fourteen days with a very full agenda planned. A lot of “doing” on my mind.
The Romans passage carried me from the moment I tested positive for COVID upon arrival. I suddenly realized I must do less and see this experience through the spiritual lens of receiving the best of care from my beloveds in Ecuador while also making sure they were safe.
Once I was well enough, my primary contact Eloy Alfaro made sure I could proceed safely towards some of my remaining schedule. We began at the community of Otavalo, North of Quito, to witness not only the very sacred communal celebration of Day of the Deceased in the indigenous cemetery but also the markets and awe-inspiring natural wonders from mountains to lagoons to waterfalls.
Eloy arranged our travel to Cuenca, to meet with Elizabeth Durazno, leader of the women of Rio Blanco, and colleagues from the Catholic University of Cuenca, to align ourselves for presenting at the university and for the reforestation at the community. For me, the Amos passage speaks to walking together in a covenantal agreement. All those involved in this are in such a covenant, universities of Ecuador and the US, members of RECONPAZ Ecuador, me and our small church in NYS, and other allies, all called to walk with the community of Rio Blanco, under the community’s invitation and leadership. I presented my perspective at the university, yet I was more interested to hear Elizabeth’s words on behalf of the women of Rio Blanco, and to witness the commitment the university shared in these efforts.
About fifty of us traveled to 4,000km to plant 350 native plants at Rio Blanco, including community members, university students, professors, with financial support from people at home and resources from the university as well. We planted native species such as chilco (native fuchsia) which will restore community through land and ancestral medicinal practices; restoration after decades of predatory mining.
To read more in my travel blog, please feel free to visit the updates shown on: https://gofund.me/59b6183d. If you are interested in the January 2024 trip that is planned, you can also contact me through that page.
I have been at this commitment for less than a year and this “minga,” a community in covenant for a common purpose, is teaching me more every visit. Yet nothing compares to my companion Elizabeth inviting me to walk arm and arm, maybe doing less than planned this trip, but experiencing much more. I am convinced this is the gift God intends for all of humanity, to walk together in health and restorative justice. What could be more loving than this?”
If you desire to inquire about short-term mission opportunities, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
May we continue to walk arm in arm transformed by God’s mission.
May we continue to sit side by side delving into God’s truth.