As I’ve made aware by the excessively sentimental posts on social media this past week about the end of my Ecuador semester creeping up, the dreaded moment has finally arrived: I have officially left Ecuador.
The dread lies deeper than being upset in the simple fact that I have to leave an incredible country that has so deeply captured my heart. Rather, it lies in the acknowledgement that this group of eclectic students and staff will never be fully reunited again on this earth. It lies in the fact that I now must face the realities of what I left behind in the States before this semester.
I can no longer hide behind the safety of being in a different country (as backwards as that seems) and put what I’ve learned into application. It lies in the fear of going back to old habits – the fear that the life-giving discipleship I’ve experienced in Ecuador will be limited only to my time there. Rational and irrational – I realize that I am experiencing emotions of both calibers. In this frenzy of change and movement of life, it is natural to see its stresses take an emotional toll on oneself.
So I wept. I wept in my apartment in Quito. I wept in the food court of the airport. I wept as my plane ascended from the city at sunrise. I wept the silent tears that roll down your face without bringing on the sniffles or red eyes. I may or may not be silently weeping now, but at the rate I’m at, that comes as no surprise.
Sure, the United States has so much to offer in terms of growth and spiritual renewal. I have come to terms that it is time to continue my journey in Portland and Azusa now, for God knows how long. However, this doesn’t lessen the feeling of my heart in the bottom of my stomach as I’m leaving a place that has been such an arbiter of personal development and healthy rhythms.
Should I dwell on this pain? Of course not; that would just be unhealthy and impractical, pathetic even. In spite of this, it is necessary for my heart to address its resounding aching that I simply cannot ignore.
So within this aching I shall not dwell. My time in Ecuador may be over now, but the journey does not end here. I learned and experienced far more than I had ever expected to have, and I know that the impact they made will continue on for the rest of my life.
God willing, I will not have to say adios to Quito for too long. My hopes of returning are just that: hopes. However, that is not a means for discouragement – that it is a far-off dream that is foolish or not noble. A wise friend once told me that God is the giver of hopes, dreams, and desires. I will not take that lightly. Whether or not I do return, I hope that the joy and peace that I came to terms with while in Ecuador will overflow into my life in the States, poured out into the lives around me.
I don’t doubt that it will be difficult to get back into things at home. Culture shock can be quite the asshole, and I fully expect that there will be moments of pure frustration, confusion, and bitterness. And with all that, I say “bring it on”, knowing that my experience during these past 3.5 months was not done in vain. For that, I am extremely grateful.