So we made it to Loja on the evening of Tuesday August 6th. As was mentioned in our last blog, we had an apartment lined up here before we came. ( A Note on that; here they say “departamento” which is not the normal spanish word for apartment, “departamento” normally means “department”…very odd…. anyway, back to our subject) Surprisingly it is bigger and nicer then any apartment we have had together in the states. And MUCH cheaper!
Anthony and Aley dropped us at the “departamento” around 6, just in time to catch a beautiful sunset. You can see the pictures we took from the roof in our last blog ” Arrival in Ecuador- Part 3″. They introduced us to a witness family that lived above us, Darwin and Juanita Torres, and their daughter Joanna, who had offered for us to stay with them until we could get some furniture, and other necessary items for life. Once Anthony and Aley left it was immediately apparent the struggle we were going to have to communicate. The Torres family spoke no English and we of course speak little to no spanish, so it was a struggle to get any point across. I realized that our entire first week we had been around a lot of people that spoke english, even if they were Ecuadorian. Despite the communication barrier, their loving spirit came across in full. After an awkward Dinner, they were nice enough to lend us their sons bed, as he was away in Guayaquil. Breakfast, and lunch the next day was more of the same, but they were very kind, and the food was amazing! Juanita made some authentic Ecuadorian food that was very tasty. We made plans the next day to meet Anthony, Aley, and Zack in “Centro” that afternoon to see about getting internet, and they took us to look for a Refrigerator, and to a furniture store owned by a sister. The city is pretty clean, and feels very safe. Downtown is very busy, but you can find a store that sells, makes, or fixes just about anything you can think of. There are positively no gringos to be seen. I am the tallest person everywhere I go here… which is pretty awesome. We bought a mattress, and later that day it was at our house. When you buy something here, if it is too big to bring home in a taxi, or on the bus, they just deliver it to your house later that day free of charge.
That evening we told Darwin that we would be going back to Centro the next day, to continue our search for a refrigerator, and a stove. Apartments here come with absolutely nothing. He insisted on us meeting him at his business at mid day so he could help us out. He said that otherwise we would be taken advantage of because of being gringos. Darwin has a small mens clothing store in Centro. His shop is right next to a restaurant owned by a sister. The sister has a Grandson named Sebastian that accompanied us. Sebastian spoke about as much English as we do Spanish. It was a little help, and we really enjoyed his company. We found what we were looking for, and headed back at lunch to the restaurant. Turns out this little place is extremely popular. After eating there I can see why. Sebastian said you can find it on trip advisor. I have not checked yet, but when I do, if it is not on there, I will put it on there. I mentioned to sebastian my taste for old 4×4’s, and he told me his grandfather had one of the only International Scouts here in town, so after lunch we went to take a look!
They have a lot of cool old 4×4’s down here, including Land Cruisers, Land Rovers, Suzukis, a cool Daihatsu, and a Russian thing called a Lada Niva.
So Later that day we had our new refrigerator and stove top. Once again, it was delivered to our house. We spent the next few days doing more of the same, we got to know Centro pretty well, we bought other household items, and even a small dinning table. Later that week we returned again to the sister with the furniture shop. We spent some time looking at sofa’s, and eventually realized she could make us what we were looking for. So we ordered one. Most sofas here are very hard, and we wanted one a little more comfortable to actually sit on.
Once we got most of the stuff we needed to live, and learned where we could get our basic necessities, it was the weekend, and we were pretty worn out. We found out our meetings were on Friday night, and Sunday morning. Sunday the 11th we went to our first meeting here. We got there around 8:50, and were under the impression it started at 9. There was one deaf man there, and we struggled to converse with him. A brother from the Spanish congregation showed up, and told us the meeting started at 9:30. We waited, and conversed more with our new deaf friend. I was very scared because we were not understanding much of his signing. I thought ” Ohh no, either this language is more difficult then I thought, or he is not very good at it.” Turns out the later was true. The Meeting was actually at 10:00am, so finally people began to arrive around 9:45. We were very impressed with how much we actually understood. We got a lot out of it, and even commented during the Watchtower study. They do not yet have the Watchtower translated into Ecuadorian sign, so it is interpreted from spanish. After the meeting we were greeted by many wonderful people. There was probably 10 deaf in attendance, only one baptized brother, and they stuck around longer then anyone. We found ourselves conversing with them as the last of us left, and locked up the hall. We got invited to a sisters house later that evening for dinner and games .
We had a lot of fun that evening enjoying the company of many great people. We played a game in which people moved around a board, advancing by rolling the dice, and answering Bible questions. Afterwards we enjoyed a skit by a few sisters, and then watched the new “Prodigal son” video that had just been released here that day at the Spanish Convention. Thankfully we had already watched it a few times in English, but it was still very powerful. There were deaf there, but most of the conversation was in spanish. I felt a little taste of what they must feel, as everyone around them converses, jokes, and laughs, and your left wondering what is happening. But despite this, we once again felt the love from everyone, and recognized also why many deaf were associating with this congregation. It is clear Jehovahs spirit is here. All of this took place in a very small, and modest house. Another reminder how little we need materially to be happy, and enjoy ourselves.
The next day we went out in service for the first time. We ended up with a very nice pioneer sister named Karen, and a 12 year old girl named Paula. We had met Karen the day before, but we really enjoyed getting to work with her that day, and again on Wednesday afternoon. She drove us around in her red 1970 something Datsun. We were seriously impressed with the skill at which she operated that thing. Elena also spent a few afternoons in service with another great pioneer sister Andrea. She really enjoyed her time with Andrea. More about service in another Blog.
Sadly Karen informed us that that was her last week here in Loja. Her and Andrea had wanted to move to where there was more of a need. They were leaving for another city in the north named “Aumbato” that following Sunday. They had been wanting to do it for a long time, and when they found out that we were coming they knew that the congregation would be ok. These are two amazing sisters, with many responsibilities here including; running the visual/DVD stuff during meetings, Interpreting, and collecting money. That Sunday we heard rumors of a party for them, but they needed a place. We offered our apartment, as it is big and empty. Andrea actually ended up arranging most of it, and many of the friends showed up that afternoon at our house. Turns out the party had dual purposes. One was to say goodbye to the girls, the other was to welcome us! We had no idea! The friends that were there early stood on one side of the room, and they put the two of us in chairs and took turns telling us how happy they were that we were here. It was very touching. Someone cried. I won’t tell you who(E*ena)
After that more friends arrived, and we danced for a long time. Then we played a game similar to one I played at pioneer school where we had to mime out a bible character or event without using sign. Others would guess who we were. Then it was Karen and Andrea’s turn in the chairs. Everyone went around the room and expressed their love for them. Thankfully they interpreted it for the deaf, and us. It was quite emotional. These girls had obviously meant a great deal to the congregation. Almost everyone had an experience of one of them showing Christian love. One sister had been sick, on deaths door, and Karen had been there for her almost everyday.
It got to be quite uncomfortable, but we learned something. Sometimes we are afraid to show our feelings for others for a myriad of reasons. Not here. This congregation is a family, and everyone here expressed themselves, man, women, and child. Not many dry eyes. It is clear that those that follow the Bibles advice, and show warm christian love in whatever way they can, are rewarded with deep connections. Sometimes many of us tend to shy away from this for fear of losing those connections. Even though these girls were leaving, It was clear these connections will last them a lifetime because of the love they had poured out in behalf of the brotherhood. Big shoes to fill.