Buenas Tardes! Good afternoon from the Ecuador team. We are currently back on the Teen Missions base in Latacunga, recovering from our intense hiking trip on Mt. Cotopaxi. Our faces are all ruddy and windblown from the elements of the 2nd tallest active volcano in the world! The girls are making sure to share their face moisturizer with the team.
Thursday afternoon, after a few days of acclimating to the Ecuadorian Andes, we packed up everything we needed to spend four days on a volcano – a propane stove, twelve tents, numerous plastic tarps, two shovels, five crater jugs, and three hammers, including a tomahawk. We were prepared for Antarctic conditions and no bathrooms (which is why we brought the shovels and plastic tarps), but we were pleasantly surprised to find both facilities and a fire pit at our site. Some of the boys, including Nathanael Palmer, Jacob Hughes, James Bagans, and Christian Neils, with the help of leaders Maddie Burk and Wesley Gladd, were able to start a fire despite the harsh wind and literally being inside of a cloud. There was always a team member or leader standing by, praying that the Lord would help the fire catch. Often, one of the boys would take a plastic plate and fiercely fan the flame, switching off with a different team member when the smoke got to their eyes. It was a fun time to get the fire going in the morning before breakfast and in the afternoon once we returned from our hikes.
Every morning we would take down our tents so that they would not blow away when we went on our hike. The first night, Liz Coleman’s tent collapsed, so she moved to the Rachels’ tent (Rachel McTaggart and Rachel Han). They were all glad to have the extra warmth.
The hiking was strenuous, even for our most athletic members. However, there was not a single complaint. If one team member was struggling in particular, we would all huddle around and pray that the Lord would provide oxygen to our lungs (it’s hard to catch your breath at 12,000 ft!) and strength to our legs (after only a few steps uphill, the strain on our legs was unbearable). However, there was seldom a moment where someone wasn’t singing praise or shouting encouraging Scripture. The pain was all worth it once we were able to turn around and face the Lord’s incredible creation.
After lunch on our second day of hiking, some of the team (Liz Coleman, both Rachels, Ethan Gordon, Jacob Hughes) returned back to our campsite to rest and help with dinner. Maddie Burk and Wesley Gladd took the rest of those willing to continue (James Bagans, Kitty McKay, Allegra Decker, Nathanael Palmer, Nick Davis, Christian Neils, Lia Crumpton, Isaac Park, Noah Wiggin, and Joy Beam) farther up the mountain. We took small breaks frequently, to catch our breath, to encourage each other, and to pray. At three in the afternoon, we decided to head back to camp in order to make it back before dark. We stopped our hike just short of the parking lot, just beyond the snow line. We held a small Bible Study at our stopping point, where Wesley spoke about the name of God, and how it is present in everything, even our breath. It was exponentially easier to go back down the mountain than to travel up. Mr. Foy picked us up in the van, and we traveled back to the camp to practice our presentation. We invited some nationals to watch, and they said they would, but they ended up not coming. The team did not really mind – they were able to worship the Lord anyway!
Back at camp, the team members used everything that was at their disposal, all in good fun. Jacob Hughes took the piles of fire wood and created a log cabin – reminiscent of Little House in the Big Woods. The boys took tarps and wooden planks to insulate the hut, and were plenty excited to sleep in it that night. Noah Wiggin took a shovel and dug a little hovel in the ground. He wanted to sleep in there, with a piece of plywood to cover him, along with his sleeping bag, but he didn’t finish it in time before we left for the TMI base.
On the third day of our camping trip, we were completely immersed in clouds. We could see our camp site, but anything beyond that was white. Wesley and Maddie wanted to take a small group up to the Refuge, our ultimate goal on Cotopaxi, which at that point, we hadn’t been able to reach, but we were a bit worried that we wouldn’t be able to see the ground in front of us! Shonn Foy and Wesley drove a bit up the road to check out the conditions, and, praise the Lord!, the road was clear! Most of the team stayed behind to pack up, and a few volunteers (Joy Beam, James Bagans, Isaac Park, Noah Wiggin, and Nathanael Palmer) decided to go up the volcano with Wesley and Maddie. Benjamin Calderon, the Base Coordinator here in Latacunga, drove us up the mountain to the spot where we left off the day before. The wind was relentless, the oxygen was scarce, and the snow was plenty, but with much prayer and encouragement and stops and praises to God, we hiked up to the Refuge, 15,953 ft in elevation. After a quick chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) and lunch break, we studied Philippians, and then began to evangelize. We met a few Christians from Latacunga who had previously never heard of Teen Missions. We also met a few people who didn’t care to talk about Christ. Either way, the Word of God was spread, and we praised God for the opportunity and the privilege. It took us half the amount of time to get back down the mountain, once again taking stops to pray and sing praises to the Lord. We read through the entire book of Philippians on that hike, and we hope to dive in deeper soon. Once we returned to our camp site, we packed everything and everyone up, minus a few who had returned earlier that day (Kitty McKay, Ethan Gordon, Jacob Hughes, and Rachel McTaggart) to help with dinner and to rest and recuperate, and we headed back down to Latacunga. And here we are, safe and sound, working and studying the Bible, preparing the base for Boot Camp, and, of course, trying so very hard to find out who our Secret Prayer Partners are. That’s the news from 13012, a team full of smiles and nary a complaint. God bless!
Christian Neils – “On the 11th of July, we were blessed with the opportunity to go camping under Mount Cotopaxi for three days. Mount Cotopaxi is the [second] tallest active volcano in the world. On the first day, we hiked around a lagoon. We were able to see wild horses ambling throughout the park. It was so amazing to see God’s creation even though it was cold and windy.
That night during devos, one of our team members [James Bagans] gave [his] testimony. He talked about how in his life he would not be able to stand strong for Jesus when he was with unbelievers. He said “he would compromise his faith to fit in with the crowd.” Eventually he said he would do [things] and go places that a person who claimed to be a Christian should not go. When he finished, the Spirit just moved into the midst of our team. I felt the Spirit directly in my life. I don’t know how to explain it but all I know is that the Spirit was interceding as a mediator with my heart and Jesus. I felt the power of the Spirit moving and empowering the team. I felt the Holy Spirit empowering me with boldness to share the Good News of Jesus with every one, and not being ashamed about it.
The next day we were able to hike Mt. Cotopaxi. It was tough but we all as a team would pray every breath we took. We almost made it to the Refuge Base at the snow line but it was too late. I had the privilege of hiking and encouraging my team members to keep pushing on.
At the end of the trip, we grew and united together like never before as a team. God has been so good to me and our team.
John 13:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
P.S. Hope House Family, I miss you all. I hope you are having a great camping trip. I love you all very much.”
Rachel Han – “Over the weekend, our team camped out on Mt. Cotopaxi, the [second tallest] active volcano in the world. It definitely was not an easy weekend. We went hiking up the volcano and I had to ask God several times for strength and endurance. However, I think the most memorable event of out camping trip was when one of our team members [James Bagans] shared a very deep, relatable testimony. It got me thinking about a lot of things I regret doing in the past and a lot of hurt I’ve felt. I, as well as the majority of the team, prayed and cried out to God in a way that I haven’t done in a long time. Afterwards, I felt a lot of weight lifted off of my shoulders and I also felt closer to my teammates. Overall, this was a weekend I will never forget.