On May 20, 2018, I graduated from Cabrini University. I wanted to embark on one last adventure with Cabrini to participate in service, learn about another culture, and to grow my faith. On May 23, 2018, along with eight other Cabrini students, I departed to the Rostro de Cristo Experience, in Ecuador. I had many fears before leaving. I questioned whether I was making the best decision for myself. I worried about the challenges I would face with the heat, flying, food, and most of all, missing my family. I quickly realized all those fears were selfish and I needed to trust that this experience was God’s mission for me, which I fully embraced.
Rostro de Cristo is a Catholic program and non-profit organization, located in two communities of Ecuador. The mission of Rostro is to see the face of Christ in others and ourselves while living with the core values of service, spirituality, simplicity, community, and hospitality. Rostro encourages retreaters to focus more on being and not doing.
The community we lived in for a week was called Arbolito. Many of the community members live on less than two dollars a day. We lived in a similar way through food options, such as bread and bananas for breakfast, meatless options, simple lunches like eggs, rice, and vegetables, and very well prepared dinners.
We learned the value of simplicity, with no electronic devices for the week, simple fashion, and conserving water. We took part in meaningful conversations with neighbors, went to afterschool programs, and visited a hospital for people with Hansen’s disease. The values of Rostro were evident throughout the trip. We were unaware of the activities that would be taking place next, to be present. Rostro helped me to see the face of Christ in all of the individuals we met and myself.
Many people that I met, tremendously impacted me. We had the opportunity to meet Sister Franny and Sister Gladys. Sister Gladys and Rostro volunteers work in a health center where Sister Gladys provides natural health treatments based on things she makes. The Sisters also play a large role in an afterschool program down the street from the health center. This afterschool program recently moved to a larger area, so the children could have more space to play. The program serves an underdeveloped community. Adults provide individualized instruction to the children based on their level.
Sister Franny developed a women’s sewing group for women, in this community. She teaches women the trade and then they have opportunities to sell their work. Sister Franny focuses a large part of this group on building self-esteem. Many of the women are victims of domestic violence or have never been shown their value. Sister Franny constantly reminds the women of their worth, has positive quotes around the room, and truly expresses love. Her program has grown substantially over the past years and is still much needed in this community. The Sisters left better off families to help the poor in other parts of Ecuador. The Sisters lived in this community for five years to show their solidarity with the neighbors. Both Sister Franny and Sister Gladys are active in the community and working to understand the challenges families face and how they can help. Living this mission by God makes the Sisters truly happy. They encourage us to also live a happy life. Sister Franny and Sister Gladys are truly humble people who live by God’s will and challenges injustices every day.
Don. Oscar is a father and husband, who was interested in our opinions and thoughts on difficult topics, like gun control and race. We shared our thoughts, opinions, and fears. Don. Oscar was authentic with our discussion. He admitted he made mistakes in the past but his mom, wife, and God have taught him to be a real man. God leads Don. Oscar to be a faithful man. We also met Ivan who lives in a cane house. Ivan faces many struggles with her son, having to care for her elderly mother, and having financial difficulties. Despite all of this Ivan was so sweet, kind, and welcoming to our group. Ivan was also a very faithful individual that has all trust in God. Two different times our group was able to play soccer with some of the kids in the community. One could clearly see this brought the children true happiness on their faces. The children were fully engaged and had no concerns over technology. Despite the language barrier, we all felt united.
“It’s hard to know your faith inside of your comfort zone.” This quote resembles my experience in Ecuador. When I was in Ecuador I felt Christ through myself, others, and Rostro de Cristo. I often struggled with faith growing up, questioning the point of Christ. Through Cabrini and my experience in Ecuador, I have a deeper understanding of faith and Christ. Through Christ, I can do all things, love all, be kind, and know there is always hope. God is there in all things—the good times and bad. To me, living a life by God means trusting his plan for you, treating others equally, and remembering we are all on this path together. As a white female, raised in the United States, I will never truly understand all the challenges and struggles Ecuadorians face every day. However, I will pursue and ask for a better understanding, so I can live in solidarity with the Ecuadorian people.
As the reader of this blog, I challenge you. Please do not just read this. Instead, take the values and lessons of this reflection and use them in your life. Live a simple life, look past materials and get to know people. Love above all. Express love to all who you meet. Be humble, but do not be proud of being humble. Occasionally, put down your cell phone, it can wait. Recognize your privilege and help those who are not so fortunate. Realize we are all God’s children and deserve to be treated equally. Live a life of happiness. Strive to see the face of Christ in yourself and everyone you meet.