For a part of my recent trip to Ecuador, I was able to spend a stretch in the village El Chontal – where the church is – with the community. It was in the middle of the fiestas for the local “mother village”, if you could describe it that way, and one day I found out that some tourists were in town to go on a hike up one of the mountains. I got invited to go, and so about mid-morning we set out on the trip.
I met up with the tour guide Jorge, who I had gotten to know already being in the community, and when the tourists from France arrived, we began to set out.
Well first, we were in a truck going a good pace as we scaled up the mountain. We clung to the side of the mountain as we passed along a road that fit hardly one car. Then, we got out and started to hike up the mountain. Through winding paths, up and up, under the hot equator sun. This took a few hours until finally we reached a house and some property with some guest rooms and stopped in.
That’s when I realized that this was a two-day affair. We were stopping for lunch and a rest, and then we were going to finish the hike to reach a magnificent waterfall, and then we were going to come back to the house for dinner and an overnight. The next day, we would go down the mountain. I realized that when everyone else took out their extra backpacks, their extra pairs of clothes, their toiletries, their towels for the shower. And all I had was a backpack full of oranges.
So after a little siesta, we head out up the mountain, and then through what looks like jungle, with Jorge sharing some information at stopping points along the way. I look on the ground, and there’s millions of ants running around under my feet, for whole long stretches. I had to walk like on eggshells. What’s up with the ants, I ask. Oh, this time of year, each colony sets out to go invade another colony and take over their nest. Great, ant wars going on under my feet.
Then, we get to the part with the slippery mud, and then the parts where there is only a rope nailed into the rock formation to help you stay on the narrow, muddy edge that you’re walking along. Stopping and going for a few hours wondering where this waterfall is … and then … something happened.
You could hear it.
You couldn’t see it, but you could hear it. We were still covered by the jungle-like brush, we were still moving cautiously along with hands on the rope … but we could hear it. And as we went along, it got louder, and louder.
Finally, at one point, we made a good descent, and arrived at a little landing, that opened out into the view:
Wow. I thought. I stood there for a while, staring at this waterfall that, at least I heard, was only discovered about 6 years ago. And when I stood there, what struck me the most was that this waterfall had been going for thousands of years. As I stood there, I just got the feeling of eternity.
Well, after we spent some special time there, we moved on, because, as Jorge said, there was another place a little downstream where we could actually swim. So a little further along, we reached a little spot where the water pooled, and, let me tell you, after a whole day of hiking in the hot sun, clinging to ropes, sliding on mud, clinging to the side of a mountain, and dancing over ants at war, I was so ready for that pool.
So I hopped in, and then swam my way over to the other side. See, over the other side was another little waterfall, and I wanted to get underneath it. So, I reached the other side, and crawled my way up on the rocks and sat directly underneath this waterfall. I laid back against the rocks, and cool clean water from I don’t know where poured down over me.
I have to tell you that in that moment, I experienced something that I can only use one word for: REST.
I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay forever.
God has given us a guide, His Son, to lead us to Him. Now, you may find that you’re not prepared for the journey, that it’s long and uncomfortable and dangerous at times. You can wonder if you’ll ever reach the destination, what it’s all about. But when you’re close, you’ll hear it. Maybe you won’t see it yet, but you’ll hear it. Trust your guide, and you’ll get to the place that you’ll never want to leave. You’ll reach the gift that God wants to give:
The people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the LORD appears to him from afar: With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. (Jer 31:2-3)