I arrived by plane in Quito last Tuesday evening. Now, the new airport in Quito is about an hour outside of the city center, so I got my bags and bought a ticket for a bus to get to the old airport. When I finally got to the old airport, I got a room in a hotel across the street.
The next day I got a 20-minute cab ride to the bus terminal in Quito, and then I caught a 2-hr bus trip to the city of Santo Domingo. Darwin, who manages the property in the parish I was going to, came and picked me up at the terminal to go to the parish. On the way, we stopped at his house, and I met his family, his wife and two sons, his nieces and nephews. Later on, he drove me to the parish and I was able to drop my stuff off.
Well, the very next morning, he gave me a ride back to the bus terminal, as I headed out to another province, to visit Chontal where I go every time I come to Ecuador. That’s where are the first people I got to know here in Ecuador, and where the church is built in memory of my mother. So, I took a 3 and a half hour bus ride to a town called Nanegalito, where I ate lunch, and then caught an hour and a half bus ride to Chontal. I got out and walked across the street to the family who has a hotel where I usually stay. They took me in and fed me and got me a room.
So, while there that day, I was able to meet with people and families, and also with the parish priest. He liked my idea of coming back every few months for a parish mission. He also gladly received the chasuble gift from my friend’s family for the church.
Well, that night, it just so happened that the community experienced the greatest crisis in its history, as the torrential rains brought down the mountains on every side. Houses were destroyed. The roads in and out of the village were covered with landslides. Water and electricity were cut off, as we used candles and rain water. People were scared, running, crying, working. And helping each other and praying. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But the mayor came, emergency response teams. It made the national news it was so bad.
But in the evacuation plan, I was able to leave. One of the soldiers and a few of the government workers helped us out. After walking about 20 minutes over and through landslide muds, we got to some vehicles. I got in the back cab of a pickup truck with 5 other young adults from Quito who had been visiting. As we took off for the town of Nanegalito, the skies were darkening. It was about 4:15, just about that time that the rains begin…
So finally I got out of the back cab of the truck in Nanegalito, drenched to the bone and cold. Someone pointed me to a bathroom where I changed into dry clothes. Then I went back to the bus stop, and waited. Then I asked someone about the buses, “Any going to Santo Domingo?” Apparently the road had just opened after a landslide had closed off that road as well. I was in luck. After about 45 minutes, a bus came – destination: Puerto Quito.
So I get on the bus for a 2 and a half hour bus ride to Puerto Quito, with the plan that I’ll know someone there I can stay with. (I didn’t mention that my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket way back at the beginning of this trip to Chontal, in my friend’s car?) I get off at the center and make the short walk to the house of the Franciscan sisters. The gate is locked, that’s something new. So I call out a few times into the night … until finally a light turns on …
I stayed a little over a day and then took another bus for an hour and a half to reach Santo Domingo. There, Darwin’s brother picked me up on a dirtbike, and we rode about 20 minutes to Darwin’s house. I put on some boots and spent much of the day accompanying Darwin walking through his farm, crossing rivers and passing through banana fields, checking on the long hose chain that brings water to his house.
After that, he drove me about 20 minutes to the parish house, where I took a quick shower, and then we went off about 30 minutes to visit a village where we were received for a celebration of the Word of God, and where I got to do a little preaching. We got back a little later at night. That is the beginning of this year in mission.
Now why did I share all that?
Because that story is all about being received. And that is what the our mission in life is all about. Receiving. And being received.
Let me ask you, how is it that Jesus was going to reach that ticket agent at the airport, or the high school student on the plane. The taxi driver in Quito? The poor farm worker and his family? Or how about the woman who served me lunch in Nanegalito, or the school children I sat next to on the bus to the remote village of Chontal? And how was Jesus going to reach Chontal, its pastor and all the families, for its most critical and darkest event in its history? How was it that Jesus was going to be received by the soldier or the government workers who gave me a ride, by the mayor, or the drenched young adults from Quito? How about the young single mother at the bus stop who helped me with directions, or the sisters in Puerto Quito? How was He going to hug the disabled young adults in the therapy center?
It’s because He’s got someone willing to bring Him. It’s because He’s got someone who’s received Him, and is willing to be received.
Everyone has a mission in life, and we Christians have a special one. But it’s not about changing or fixing or helping people. It’s not taking up our strength and resources and getting control of what is going on in the world, in the town, in the house, or in our head. It’s just one thing: to bring Jesus to people. And there’s only one way to do that.
First, receive Him.
Just be received.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Jn 13:20)