I was standing outside the busy tourist market in Quito, Ecuador with my arms full of bags from the vendors inside. Scarves, nativity set, pretty rings made from carved sterling silver – all the usual souvenirs to bring home from another amazing trip to my favorite country. I was catching up with a co-worker when a little boy approached us asking if he could clean our shoes. The boy was about 8 years old and he was covered in dirt and black shoe polish. He was carrying a wooden bucket of his work supplies, and he looked tired. We used our broken Spanish to communicate with him. We asked him why he was not in school, where he lived, where his parents were, and why he was working. I don’t remember all his answers, but the bottom line is – he was helping his family make money.
He was 8, and he was expected to bring in income.
We asked him if he had eaten lately and he said no, so we took him to a nearby restaurant. The place was tourist-driven so they were offering more American-style food like sandwiches and juices. We asked him what he would like to eat and he said “chicken and rice”. It wasn’t on the menu but the sweet ladies working there had compassion on him and us, and made him what he wanted. After a big, hot meal we asked him if he needed anything from us. He said he could use some school supplies.
We went to a local shop and let him pick out anything he wanted. Notebooks, pencils, and other supplies… and it cost us less than $10 for it all. We loaded him up and sent him on his way after praying for him and telling him about Jesus.
I will never forget the sweet little boy who, given the chance to ask for anything, only wanted chicken and rice and school supplies.
I became a sponsor for Martha who lives in Ecuador some 13 years ago. For years, I received letters and prayed for her and her family. She would send me pictures on the back of her letters, always of a mountain and a little house. Sometimes flowers or other natural elements crept into the pictures. I knew her home must be beautiful.
During the time of my sponsorship, I began to travel to Ecuador for work and it became my favorite place on earth. I believe the Andes are where God kisses earth—they must be His favorite place.
I walked into the hotel lobby and knew it was her. She looked exactly like her pictures. There she was with her mother, her project leader, and his grandson. The ladies were dressed in traditional Quechua clothing. Long navy blue skirts and capes. The group had traveled for eight hours on the overnight bus to meet me.
Martha had never been to Quito before, the capital of her country.
I took them to the city center and we explored. We visited the Voto Nacional Basilica, the beautiful Catholic cathedral that looms over the city. We climbed to the very top and enjoyed the amazing view together. Then we went to the mall for lunch and shopping. Watching Martha’s mom trying to get on the escalator was hilarious and sweet! She was scared but brave, and some very kind Ecuadorian men grabbed her arms to help her on and off.
Martha chose McDonalds for her lunch, and ate only a few bites before packing it away, wanting to save some for later. Her mom chose pizza, same as me. She had never had pizza before and didn’t know how to eat it. I showed her how to pick it up and eat it from the end first, which she thought was a very funny concept.
As we wrapped up the day I told Martha I wanted to buy her something. Something she got to pick out—something she wanted. I had already loaded her down with tons of gifts. A tote bag filled with a Bible, a cross necklace, and all kinds of goodies. Martha said what she really wanted was a backpack. We walked around the mall and finally found the perfect purple backpack for her. She was so excited.
I will never forget my Martha, and her picking out that purple backpack as the one gift she desired. I hope she thinks of me sometimes when she uses it.
This story really belongs to my friend, but I was there to witness it, and the moment will forever be etched on my heart as well. We were in Guatemala visiting Cindy, a child that my friend supports.
She says “I was able to take a backpack full of goodies for Cindy and a tote bag of household items to her mom, Gloria. We had fun looking through the backpack and getting to know each other. But one of the most profound things that happened was in my last conversation with her mom. As I handed Gloria the bag of kitchen towels, wooden spoons, and toothbrushes, she began to weep.
She told me that she had been praying that God would provide a backpack for Cindy.
Gloria said that Cindy’s backpack was falling apart and that a friend of hers had recently gotten a new backpack. Cindy had been asking for one, but Gloria just couldn’t afford it. She said that the backpack and my visit were answers to her prayers.”
How amazing and simple that a backpack could be an answer to prayer.