Impact Story: You Can’t Plan for Above and Beyond

CMI Fairhaven Youth & Puembo Youth Mission Trip

You wouldn’t envy Inge Lise. She’s staring down the barrel of organizing another trip for CMI. Inge Lise serves as part of the CMI team. She’s based in Quito, Ecuador and a member of the Puembo Church. Both her role at CMI and the ministry of Puembo Church have been made possible in large measure through the generous support of donors like you.

CMI’s vision has always been to reach influential urban centers through strong local churches. To that end, Puembo Church was planted in 2010. Now, just eight years later, Puembo Church is partnering with other local churches to reach the broader city of Quito.

CMI also connects Latin American city churches like Puembo with North American churches. And that brings us full circle to the stories behind this trip.

Now let’s get back to Inge Lise.

She has coordinated trips like this for North American partner churches for years. But still, the planning never gets easy. This kind of trip presents more challenges than most. Why? Because this one involves lots of teenagers. Some are just 13-years old. Also, those teenagers are from two different countries and cultures. Yep, it’s a lot to figure out.

Here’s the rundown. The youth of Puembo Church in Quito, Ecuador are set to host youth from Fairhaven Church in Dayton, Ohio. Thankfully, Fairhaven Church is experienced. Over the years, Fairhaven and Puembo have partnered several times—most recently, a medical mission trip of adults. But this time, 28 students and 10 leaders from Fairhaven land in Quito to join 18 students and 2 leaders from Puembo Church. Together they will serve 120 kids in the nearby community of Guayllabamba.

‘Guayllabamba’ is more than a mouthful. (It’s pronounced gwaya-bamba.) It’s full of needs. Situated 18 miles Northeast of Puembo Church, Guayllabamba is a farming district on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. There, needs can grow as plentiful as the produce on the farms. Poverty. Brokenness. Splintered families. These are only a few of the struggles many kids in Guayllabamba wake up to each morning.

So, that’s what Inge Lise is planning. In spite of all her diligence, she still has a laundry list of unknowns staring at her like a two-year-old on Saturday morning. Her past experiences tell her this:  She can make all the arrangements. Cover all the bases. Make all the preparations. Send all the email reminders. But in the end, she faces a choice.

She can either trust the plans she holds in her hands. Or trust the One who called her to plan. Turn the plans over to Him.

Her choice is obvious. So she plans and prays…hard. Even still, as the trip draws closer, she always has unanswered questions. Too many to number. Questions like…

  • Did she find the right host families for each of the Fairhaven Church youth?
  • What about their parents back in Dayton, Ohio? What will they hear back from their sons and daughters thousands of miles away?
  • Will the Puembo and Fairhaven youth groups get past their cultural barriers and serve together?
  • Will they be a blessing to the local Guayllabamba Church?
  • What impact will they actually make in the lives of the 120 needy children in Guayllabamba?
  • What unforeseen emergencies and surprises will pop up? (They always do!)

So what happened? How did her plans turn out?

Here are three short stories from the trip.

But first, let’s set the stage.

There’s Always a “First”

For every trip, there’s always a ‘first day.’ Beginnings are important. They can set the stage for what happens next–for better or for worse. The week began with a bang. Both groups spent the first day on team building. It was the first real test of Inge Lise’s planning. She looked on as both groups felt each other out, played games, and built trust. She witnessed Jesus creating a strong sense of community and unity between the youth of Puembo and Fairhaven. Jesus was working His plan.

Now the real fun. On day two, the team of 60 loaded up for the 45-minute drive to Guayllabamba. Over the next week, they would join Guayllabamba Church and serve 120 kids in need. Each day packed plenty of challenges. The schedule for the week?

  • Morning soccer camp (it was a World Cup summer after all)
  • Lunch served for 200 (120 kids + both youth groups)
  • Afternoon Vacation Bible School

Morning Soccer Camp

Fiarhaven & Puembo Youth lead a soccer camp

Lunch is served

Youth-led VBS

Here are three short stories capturing a glimpse of what Jesus did—above and beyond—the rest of the week.

Story 1: One Chance Encounter? Not a Chance!

Inge Lise knew several youths coming from Fairhaven made a similar trip two years prior. This is always an encouraging sign. But there’s a caveat. Will those past experiences lead to unmet expectations this time around? There’s no way for her to tell. Like much of the tip, the results are out of her hands.

Sophie was one of those returning youth from Fairhaven. Two years ago she served in the same area of Guayllabamba. The highlight of her trip was a Spirit-led connection to a nine-year-old boy named Hector. Since their encounter, Sophie has prayed for Hector time and again for two years. She arrived this week with one name on her heart, Hector. When the week kicked off, however, Hector was nowhere to be found. Day one rolled into day two. Still no Hector.

Fast forward to a “chance” trip to a local pharmacy. On day three, Sharon, a team leader from Fairhaven, ducked out of the morning soccer camp. She took a few helpers along and made her way to the local pharmacy. They needed a few supplies. As she pulled on the door of the first pharmacy, it didn’t budge. The door was locked. The sign above her head read “Cerrado” (‘closed’). So they walked a few blocks further to another pharmacy. As they approached, one of the team member’s yelled, “Hey look!” There, across the street, standing with a group of friends, was Hector. They ran over and invited him to join them back at camp. Somehow, he had missed the news they were in town. In their invitation, they purposefully kept Sophie’s involvement in the trip a secret.

Soon they returned to the soccer camp. They pulled Sophie aside and said they had a surprise for her. In walked Hector. The second their eyes met, Sophie’s face lit up. Hector was in shock. Tears fell from Sophie’s cheeks as they embraced. The presence of God’s grace was undeniable. As they visited, Sophie soon discovered Jesus heard her prayers. Jesus had watered the gospel seeds planted two years ago. Hector, now 11, was walking with the Lord. Jesus was faithful. He locked one pharmacy door so he could open another for Sophie and Hector. This act of grace was nowhere in Inge Lise’s plans. She couldn’t dream it up, let alone make it happen. Jesus had answered a prayer she never thought to pray. He went above and beyond.

Sophie and Hector Reunited

Fairhaven youth and student reunited on mission trip

Story 2: A Three-Way Split?…Or…All-for-(Ninety) One?

Coming into the trip, Inge Lise knew there was only one way to affect change in the children of Guayllabamba. Three churches must work together. While she can do her best to plan for this, she’s learned she cannot force it. Here again, the Lord went above-and-beyond. When the week began, she wondered how the youth would handle so many kids each day—120 needy ones to be exact. First, she saw the teams from Fairhaven and Puembo churches love and serve the kids with “extra grace!” (Extra grace became the theme of the week. When a child struggled to listen, acted out, or shut down…the youth would give each child extra grace. This reflected Jesus as the Good Shepherd to each child throughout the week.) From soccer camp, to prepping, serving, and cleaning up meals, to VBS…extra grace. Time after time, Inge Lise witnessed Jesus pouring out his immeasurable grace through the youth. This set the table for what happened next…

All week long, the pastor of the local Guayllabamba Church, Jorge Lolin, served alongside the youth teams. Later in the week, on Thursday, the pastor of the local Guayllabamba Church shared the good news of Jesus. In each small group, he sat on the floor and explained the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to the kids that neighbored his church. He used a small wooden cross as he told the story (more on the wooden cross in next month’s Impact Story). By the end of the week, 91 children professed Jesus as Savior and Lord! 91! Indeed He is the author of extra grace.

But there’s more. Because Fairhaven and Puembo partnered with the local Guayllabamba Church, this is only the beginning. The pastor of Guayllabamba will now:

  • visit with the families of each child who professed Jesus
  • share the gospel with the parents and families of each child
  • provide ongoing discipleship as the local church in the community
  • solidify his ministry partnership with the Puembo Church

This fruit was born because individual churches walked together in unity. Unity born of the Holy Spirit. Three churches (little ‘c’) working as the Church (capital ‘C’). Jesus loves the children of Guayllabamba with an above-and-beyond kind of love.

Pastor Jorge Lolin sharing the gospel

Story 3: Call 9-1-1…Wait, We’re in Quito

The call came to Inge Lise. Nicole, a Fairhaven youth, was sick—so sick, Inge Lise cannot remember a trip with anyone this ill. Thousands of miles from Dayton, Ohio in a stranger’s home, what could be done? How could Inge Lise ensure Nicole received the care she needed? What could she do to reassure her anxious parents back home? As a mother herself, Inge Lise empathized deeply. This was serious. But in God’s loving providence, He had gone before Nicole. When Inge Lise planned hosts for Nicole and the others, it looked great on paper. But now, it looked like a miracle. Nicole “happened” to be placed in the Puembo home of a skilled pediatrician. Crazy, right? It was as if God answered the 9-1-1 call before it was made. If you think about it, the care Nicole received exceeded what she would experience back home. After all, how many pediatricians in the States take their patients home for around-the-clock care? Jesus, the Great Physician and Healer met Nicole in Quito. And He brought comfort to her family back in Dayton.

God not only worked through Inge Lise’s detailed plans, He worked above and beyond them.

Puembo families host Fairhaven youth

See More

Here are a few more pictures from the trip. Check out even more excellent pictures here.

§CMI has altered the names of the minors in this article for safety.