Archive for the ‘Ecuador’ Category


Day Four ~ Last Day

   Posted by: Dean White


  • Escuela Enrique Ponce (Elementary School)
  • Shopping!
  • A Great Dinner

Purpose:  Travel to an ‘unreached’ community and enjoy our last day.

Tomorrow:  Heading home

Highlights from today:

  • A Forgotten Village
  • Some Misc Interesting Facts on Ecuador
  • Working in the Jungle  …hopefully my next stop!

Quote of the Day: “What about the poor children? Can’t we do something for them?” said by an impoverished boy who got a box and had compassion for others who have even less.

Today as we jumped on the bus and started heading out to our first destination, we were halted by a school parade.  The children were dressed up in all sorts of costumes and the band played in sync.  I think they were celebrating a children’s author, like we do with Dr. Seuss in the states but I am not positive.  You will love the photos below.

Forgotten no more!

Samaritan’s Purse will be sending 100,000 shoe boxes of love to Ecuador this year.  8.2 million boxes globally.  These shoe boxes are part of a yearly program where churches and organizations throughout the world collect boxes in November and December. 5.2 million come from the US and 3 million from other countries.  Some people just go to the website and send their box directly into Samaritan’s Purse.  This week our team had the privilege to hand out about 740 of these shoe boxes to children.  In some cases, the free shoe box is the open door to a closed off community.  There are those who want to help closed communities but often people are not trusting and are either ashamed of their community or the main person of the community doesn’t want to lose the power they have over the community.  In remote villages, this person is a witch doctor or shaman.  In rural Ecuador this person can be an older man or woman that the community sees as the wise one.

Today we were able to go into one of these forgotten communities.  A nearby pastor has wanted to bring in aid and it was the gift of the shoe boxes working through the school that opened the door.  The school put on a program (with clowns again …didn’t realize clowns and gift giving are synonymous here) and the pastor spoke about how he and his friends want to come in and help provide for this community.  The village looked like it had been a thriving small city at one time and now the dust blows through there like it is a ghost town.  The parents leave the area for work daily, and leave their children with the school.  Therefore, the school actually educates about 200 children.  We met only a few parents and there was no one in the streets.  Even the ‘wise woman’ could not be found today.  The school, though at one time had all the working plumbing, did not have running water.  There was a large container that gets filled with water and connects to the water fountain.

A good portion of the kids had on some simple jump suits …maybe they were uniforms of the school.  I am sure those who can buy their kids this uniform do so and many others are not able.  In some schools a uniform is mandatory.  If the parents can afford a uniform then the child gets free education, lunch, and child care.  This school welcomed all children in the area with or without a uniform.  Though I didn’t get to go up the river, into the jungle and dodge spears in order to bring in shoe boxes (I would have jumped at the opportunity to do so and hope to one day), it was extremely rewarding to know that our team got to be part of the solution for this hurting community.  And that this town will now have outside help from a pastor who has prayed for many years for them. He will work on providing food, water, health care, job training and the good news of Jesus.

Fun Facts

I have some miscellaneous facts that I wanted to toss in about Ecuador and this trip.  For one, I can now say that I have not only jumped from a plane from over 12k feet (I went sky diving some years ago), I have also jumped from bus from over 10k feet!  Quito has about 14 active volcanoes in its surrounding area.  I was able to see one of them from the hotel today.  There is a photo below.  Guinea Pig is a delicacy here.  I saw a picture of some people eating one on a stick.  Can’t say I had the chance to do the same but the picture of the guinea on a stick and someone biting in was …alarming.  Roses are everywhere.  You can buy a dozen for about $2.00.  They grow them in this area and they are a key export. We needed to call information to help a lost old man and found out that you must know the person’s two last names in order to get info.  It is custom to put popcorn and corn nuts in your ceviche (a Mexican dish where lime juice actually cooks the raw fish). They use American currency since the year 2000.  A village may not have electricity or running water but they will have a church or a school. Very few adult children live on their own.  For this reason even colleges do not have dormitories.  The seat belt law requires the driver to wear a seat belt …but you are allowed as many people in the car you can fit!  See pics below.

Dinner & the Jungle

After our stop to the ghost town and a long drive back, we went shopping in Quito.  I love the whole bartering for the sale system.  If you have never gone to Mexico and bartered for something you are missing out.  They expect you to barter and in fact, really respect you if you are good at it.  I know enough Spanish to help others and I had a blast going back and forth talking the sale down from $28 to $15.  But it was here that the shoe shine boy spotted me.  He swore he recognized me from a TV show and when he asked where I was from and hearing California, it was just enough to confirm his suspicions.

We then headed back to the hotel and for our evening programs.  We met up with the other teams and shared our adventures. There were so many amazing stories.  For instance, a lady who put a box together with her kids back in November and sent it into Samaritan’s Purse, saw it pop up on this trip, in her distribution! What are the odds?! There was the kid who got the box full of dinosaurs and wondered, ‘what in the heck are these?’ and the volunteer that just happened to be in that distribution, whose son wants to be a paleontologist and happens to know every name of every dinosaur. And then there was my favorite.  A little boy who came from a very impoverished area got a shoe box.  Feeling the sense that he now has more than others, said to his mom, “But what about the poor children, how can we help them.”  How is it that those with nothing often are the most generous?

We had a wonderful dinner at the hotel and heard how Samaritan’s Purse is partnering up with Mission Aviation Fellowship to reach villages that are deep within the jungle.  They showed pictures and the ‘grandfather’ of one of the village spoke about his encounter with the ‘white man’ for the first time many years ago.  He spoke how his people knew there had to be a God but really didn’t think much about it.  But now they know God and His Son who died for their sins. There are a few movies about this story, one is called “at the end of the spear” the other is “through the gates of splendor.”  I got a picture with ‘grandfather’ and will be posting it as soon as they send it to me.   This is the Jim Elliott story for those who have heard.  Grandfather spoke in his native tribal language and through an interpreter he said, “You may not have a feather in your hat but God wants to give you a mansion in Heaven.  His way is full of life and full of blessings.  To be free from the penalty of sin is the greatest gift of all.”

Thought for the day:

Where is your contribution?  Where do you see your greatest thumb print on this life?  What will you be remembered for?  These words are a constant battle for me.  For some, their greatest contribution in this life will be their children, for some it will be their work and for others it will be how they gave a little so others could have much.  A simple box of love.  Giving just a little so others can have much.  That is what Samaritan’s Purse is all about.  People from all around the globe giving a little time to run to the dollar store, filling a shoe box with toys, school supplies, prayer, and love, just so a child can feel they have won the lottery.  8.2 million children will be blessed this year.  Many will find more than just toys and school supplies in their box …many will find salvation and a reason for life.


Thank you to all of  those who made this trip possible for me: Samaritan’s Purse & Steve Rutenbar for getting me on the trip;  those who financially supported me: Jane Lamar, my wife Kerri, sisters Debra and Dori, Pat Campbell, Helen Lind, Stephanie Koontz and Cheryl Moranville;  and for the countless people who have prayed for this trip and have read my blog.  I have appreciated your comments, thoughts and …tears. In many ways we have traveled this week together, sharing the same heart for these children, wanting more for them as we look deeper within ourselves.

¡Hasta pronto, Te extrañare!



Day Three

   Posted by: Dean White


  • Escuela Tumbaco (Elementary School)
  • Igelsia Buen Pastor  (Good Shepherd Church)
  • Hotel Meeting

Purpose: To pass out shoe boxes and learn more about Samaritan’s Purse.

Tomorrow: Heading to a tough area to pass out boxes and shopping!

Highlights from today:

  • It’s Christmas …like never before
  • The Purple Team Unite
  • A Free House?  What?

Quote of the Day: “We sure had fun today!” said by a little boy after everyone opened their gifts.

What brings you the most joy?  For me is to know that what I did made someone smile.  It just fills me more than anything. Today I saw hundreds of little children and their parents smile so much their mouths had to hurt.  Needless to say, my joy is overflowing!

Christmas in March…why not?!

Today we headed East of Quito. Our first stop today was at a school for nursery age up to 3rd grade (2 – 8 yrs old).  The school was founded by a lady named Patty who had a heart to educate the kids in this area and give them a chance that their parents may not have had.  The school began in 2004 with 10 kids and today the school has 167 students. The school was organized, clean, and well thought out. You could easily tell that the teachers put their entire hearts into the education and love it. Today, Patty was dressed up like a clown and put on an ensemble for the kids.  Her energy would put most kindergartners to waste.  The kids played games, sang songs, saw a skit put on by the teachers, and there was even these two little boys who sang and rocked out.  I am hoping to upload the video.  To see the boy on the left rocking and ‘Jesus’ in the background playing the guitar was …awesome! (the video file  was too large for the blog… bummer,will have to YouTube it later).

From the school we went out to a rural area.  They warned us that this stop would be much harder with the hardest stop being tomorrow.  It is in this rural area men work for $2 a day if they can find work.  When they do find work they could be gone from home for many days.  Then they come home, drink and …beat their kids.  Today I saw many children with cigarette burns on the top of their hands and up their arms.  The church is the only refuge the children have in this area.  Here they are fed, loved, and safe.

And today they felt like kings and queens!  I had so much fun playing with the kids.  They all wanted to be hugged, tickled and they soaked in every ounce of attention our team could pour out.  When we passed out the gifts, it was almost like they didn’t know how to receive it.  For many, this was the only Christmas gift they may have received.  I went around and sat down next to many just so they, one by one, could show me what they got.  Often they would ask me in Spanish, what is this?  I then would show and tell them how play dough works, or show them how to make their glow in the dark bracelet work.  So many of the toys just amazed them.  One girl got a bag of ring pops.  I told her they were very popular in the US and she put one on and smiled from ear to ear.

But no one smiled more than this little boy who got a little white lamb in his box.  He ran all around showing everyone the lamb he got!  I swear it practically brought you to tears.  Two little boys were saying in Spanish, “We sure had a lot of Fun today!”  Wish I could give Christmas gifts out every day of my life!

My Team

The purple team consists of 12 people.  10 from the US and two interpreters. Of the ten, 2 won the trip in a contest (Paula & Kim), 2 are from large churches (Anita & Linda),  2 work for a large retailer that supports Samaritan’s Purse (Cindy & Bob) and 3 work for Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC (Ross, Becky & Stacey).  If you just counted don’t forget to add me in the mix.  The two interpreters are Mariela and Jose.  Jose has become a great friend.  He says people call him the Robin Williams of Quito because he resembles him so much.  I have been happy that the team has worked so well together.  We truly have been there for each other in so many ways.  Especially when you give your heart out many times a day and you are exhausted because of the altitude and little sleep, it is important to have the right team around you.  And I do.

I have to tell you a bit more about Jose.  His mother just passed last week.  In fact he buried her on Monday and joined our trip on Tuesday.  On Saturday and Sunday last week, all his family came over to his house.  And, as it is custom in Ecuador, the family parties all night long with no sleep for two days.  It is like business as usual in the day but as soon as the sun goes down it is time to celebrate the person’s life that has passed.  On Tuesday morning when I met Jose, he had a smile and joy in him that beamed.  His mother lived a good, long life but he was rejoicing since she was now in Heaven.  He is the type of person who has joy at the core of his soul and can’t help but let it overflow onto others.  He fills my ears with story after story and facts upon facts on Quito.  I will miss my time with him.

Samaritan’s Purse

When we got back to the hotel in the evening, we met up with all the other teams that are out here.  The 7 teams and 50 people filled a conference room and got to hear all the amazing things Samaritan’s Purse is doing in Ecuador.  They include: feeding programs, disaster relief, HIV Aids treatment, building playgrounds at orphanages, developing schools, wheelchairs, refugee help for those escaping Columbia, emergency response to Boliva, Haiti, Turks & Cacaos, medical caravans that have helped over 80K people, and a surgical clinic to help people with back and feet deformities be able to walk and live normal lives.   But the story that will stick out most in my mind was a lady who was gifted a free house from Samaritan’s Purse.

A few years ago, a volcano erupted and wiped out hundreds of homes.  The combination of fire and ash completely engulfed a huge area leaving many families without anything.  Samaritan’s Purse responded quickly.  In addition to disaster relief they normally provide through churches and schools, they started building homes.  They built and gave 102 homes away.  Not only were the homes free but a volunteer attorney went to work and was able to get the government give each home owner the deed to the home.  Most deeds are owned by the government out here. The government was so impressed with Samaritan’s Purse that they then started to build homes on the same plot of land modeling the homes after the ones SP built.

Well one of the people who got a free home gave her testimony today.  With tears in her eyes she thanked Samaritan’s Purse and all those who give to the organization.  She told us, through an interpreter, how she felt so desolate and scared after the volcano took her home away.  She didn’t know where go to.  Her and her children were hopeless.   But today she has a 3 bedroom home and each of her kids have their own room.  And …she owns the home!  In addition, Samaritan’s Purse taught her how to sew and sell scarfs; now she has a little business that provides for her family.

Thought for the day:

One of the gals in our group told me of a story where she went up in the hills of Jamaica to deliver shoe boxes.  She thought, ‘Jamaica …this will be a simple trip.’  Little did she know that the trip would take her up mountains and little roads to the most remote area she could ever imagine.  She told me the little children came to a little school, barefooted in old clothes.  One school for the 25 kids and one teacher to teach them all.  After they gave out the shoe boxes, the teacher grabbed her by the arms and looked straight into her eyes and said, “You don’t understand …no one comes up here …no one ever comes to help us.”   She responded, “Until now.”

I got a gift today
It made me smile
The only gift
I will get for awhile
I will keep the wrapping
And the shoe box too
Share the candy with my friends
And always wonder who
Who gave me this gift?
Was it a girl or a boy?
How can I say thank you to them?
I wish they could see my joy.



Day Two

   Posted by: Dean White


  • Driving to the southern part of Quito
  • La Victoria School
  • Dulce Regufio Church

Purpose: To understand the culture of Ecuador, work on a school and pass out shoe boxes to children.

Tomorrow: Going to another school and a church to distribute more shoe boxes!

Highlights from today:

  • Catching a glimpse of Quito, Ecuador
  • Working in my element
  • Gifts, gifts and more gifts

Quote of the Day: “Quito es el balcon del Ceilo.” Quito is Heaven’s Balcony.”

Throughout the day I am writing down notes so I won’t miss anything to comment on in my blog.  Yet each day is filled with many emotions, dozens of stories and hundreds of faces.  How does a painter choose what colors to add to his pallet? How do I capture the thrill and the joy and leave room for the touching? By the time I sit down to write and edit pictures, it is about 11pm my time, which is 8pm in California.  I wish I could just transport everyone here … it would be worth it.

Driving through Quito

Quito is what I would describe as Ecuador’s Grand Canyon.  Picture the Grand Canyon, then slam it together so you have many steep mountains right next to each other.  Add deep forest green all around and pour a bucket of housing in the valleys.  Ok … now for the interesting part, …add housing that looks like different bright colored Legos up and down the sides of the slopes of the mountains, now stack those Legos 4 stories high.  Colors you should choose are orange, purple, yellow, red and green.  All bright.  Draw a few windy roads through the valleys so you can get from point to point.  And there you have it, Quito.

They natives call Quito, Heaven’s Balcony because it is surrounded by mountains.  When driving you can’t help but look out and up to see the many eye catching mountain tops.  But you have to look quickly; the view will be blocked by another mountain before you turn the bend.  There is a huge stature of the Virgin Mary stepping on a dragon on one summit and a huge Roman Catholic Cathedral on another.  Then you blink and you are looking at an active volcano with steam coming from its top wondering if that is a cloud.

Our driver took to the twisty roads as if he was the designer of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.  Quito is also filled with ½ built buildings.  I think this is typical of Mexico in general and 2nd & 3rd world countries.  Though they say the recession of 1986 really put Quito in hardship and left many things undone.  All buildings are built with cement bricks.  Most are not painted but when they are, they are bright.

Some facts:

  • You are 2 pounds lighter in Ecuador.
  • Quito is 45 mins away from the equator.
  • Time actually last longer here … just kidding.
  • 3 million people live in Quito.
  • They natives say the city is female because the weather is moody.  It may start out beautiful but can change at a moment and begin to rain for no reason.  I don’t think the ladies on my group appreciated hearing that.

La Victoria

La Victoria is a school in southern Quito and provides education to approximately 400 children in the nearby area.  Southern Quito is semi-rural.  In fact, most people still grow corn on their property.   It is hear that many families live on less than $200 a month and some even live on less than $2.00 a day. When they figure a lunch is about 2 bucks, you can see how poverty has truly struck over 38% of the inhabitants.

La Victoria is a project where two churches and Samaritan’s Purse have come together and are building a 4 story school (3/4th finished!) to aid this community.  Our job was to paint, install ceiling tiles and fix some electricity.  We also got a few minutes with the ninos in between classes.  One person in our group said, “Wow, even though I don’t speak a lick of Spanish, all I did was sit down and all the kids came around me and wanted to play…one even gave me a cookie from her snack.”  Children here are truly wonderful.  They share, appreciate the smallest thing, and just want to spend time with you.

My job that I quickly agreed to, was to climb the scaffolding and paint the middle portion of the building.  I took to this like a clean pig takes to warm mud.  One, I love heights and two, I love a little danger.  This scaffolding was on a slope, supported by misc pieces of odd cut brick to ‘even it out’ and then you got to walk on planks that wobbled when you shifted your weight at all.  Needless to say I had a blast scaring everyone.

Magic and Gifts

After leaving La Victoria we drove to the ‘Dulce Regufio’  which I found out translates to ‘Sweet Shelter Church’ … that made a bit more sense.  But before we got there we stopped for a bit to eat in the bus alongside of a community street.  A public school had just let out and a number of children were walking past our bus shouting and waving.  Four stopped and started asking me a few questions from my window.  I decided to pull out some magic from my backpack and did a little impromptu magic show… still in my seat, just hung out the window a bit.  Before you knew it there were around 50 kids watching!

We arrived about a half hour later at the two story church …bright orange of course.  Upstairs we went with approximately 250 shoe boxes.  We originally planned for only 180 kids but word got out and the children came from everywhere.  The small room was packed to the max.  Comfortably you could sit about 140 people, today there were well over 300!  We had to be in that little room for about 3 hours.  The humidity level was so high I think I saw water droplets begin to appear on the ceiling.  We sang songs with the kids, some were chosen to go on stage and compete in a few games, I did some magic, the pastor gave a message to the kids and their families, and just when you thought the first victim would pass out, we began giving out the shoe boxes.  All the kids had to wait to open them …they were so good and patient, until each child had one and then all at once they opened their gifts!

The boxes were filled with all sorts of gifts.  I saw silly puddy, slinkies, a telescope, crayons, dolls, candy, and everything else one could imagine.  The children and their parents were so extremely appreciative.  Afterwards, a man gave a hug to one of the volunteers. The pastor noticed it and told the volunteer that to receive a hug from that man is extremely rare and better than any words he could have expressed.

Thought for the day:

It is amazing to see the value of a gift.  One that nothing is expected in return.  To give a gift like that fills ones heart.  I know, it is just a simple shoe box.  The contents are not worth all that much.  Yet the right gift in the right hand reaps fortunes we could never imagine.  A kind word, a little bit more patience, a smile, a card, a hug and yes, even a shoe box, may just mean all the difference in a person’s life today.



Day One ~ Just Arrived

   Posted by: Dean White

Well I made it!

My flights were great and I just had carry on, so no luggage worries.  Today four different groups arrived from around the US.  So far, I believe I am the only California person.  There are a total of 76 people which will split up into 7 teams.  I am on the purple team.  In total we will be visiting 29 locations and distributing about 5000 shoe boxes.  Its now 1am here and I am exhausted but also so pumped up about being here I doubt if I am going to get any sleep.

First Thoughts on Ecuador


  • I have been on mission trips to Mexico before but this doesn’t look like the Mexico I know.  For one, it is cleaner than Seattle.  The stores look like upscale Tijuana stores, so you get the Mexico feel but the streets don’t have an ounce of trash.  Even the airport is spotless.  The airport by the way looks just like the airport in India.

The People:

  • Height:  For one, the indigenous people are lucky if they get 5ft tall.  I took a picture with a cute older couple in the airport (photo below).  It doesn’t look like it but I am actually bending down a couple of inches!  Finally a place where my 5’8″ is tall!
  • Eyes: I don’t know how many of you have paid attention to the eye color of the actors on Smallville, but most of the actors have grey/blue eyes.  I am sure it adds to the mystique of the show.  Well, besides the dark brown eye color you would expect to see in people who live in this region, many also have very cool grey/blue eyes.


  • Active Volcano: They said there is an active volcano that I can see from my hotel room in the morning!  Sweet!
  • The Distributions:  We are heading to La Victoria and Dulce Regufio (which sounds like it translates to Sweet Refugies, but doubt it).  I was hoping for a tribal destination but it looks like the purple team will be working mainly in the outskirts of Quito.  At La Victoria I believe we will help work on the facility that helps serve the community in the area in addition to pass out the shoe boxes to the kids.  At Sweet Regufio I am thinking we are doing some type of program for the kids.  I brought some magic just in case.


Leaving for Ecuador Today

   Posted by: Dean White

Today I will be leaving to Ecuador!  Heading to Quito, which is the capital.

I don’t know much about what I will experience but I do know this:


To deliver shoe boxes that are filled with toys, supplies and hard candy to children who live in primitive villages that are not accessible by plane.  The shoe boxes were part of a project that churches participated in throughout the country called Operation Christmas Child. During December each year, churches and other organizations pass out shoe boxes and people fill them and bring them back to the collection centers.  About 10 million shoe boxes are collected each year and then distributed throughout the world to about 100 countries.  Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritan’s Purse, one of the most successful relief organizations in the world.  The comment has been said many times, “You want to give to a trusted organization where your money will make a difference …then give to Samaritan’s Purse.”

Because Samaritan’s Purse has already made contacts in countries throughout the world through delivering ‘Christmas’ gifts, they are often one of the first organized in response when a natural disaster hits like the earthquake in Chile this past week or the earthquake in Haiti.  Here is a statement from the organizations website, “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

What I know about Ecuador:

Ecuador is right on the equator and hence where it got its name.  The Galapagos Islands (of which I will not be going) are located in Ecuador and Quito was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The country has many diverse species making Ecuador one of the seventeen mega-diverse countries in the world. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights.  About 38.3% of the people live below the poverty line.

What may happen:

Here is a story of one of the previous trips:

“Many of the children we visit are in villages where airplanes cannot land. One such place is the Amazon rain-forest in Ecuador. Last year, Samaritan’s Purse workers traveled four hours up the Rio Napo River with a motor canoe loaded with gift-filled shoe boxes for children in a primitive tribe in the rain-forest. This tribe had once been savage warriors.

The river was flooded and swift, but the Samaritan’s Purse workers docked the canoe and began their work. While the workers where delivering the shoe boxes, the fierce current slammed a big floating log into their canoe and sank it –right after they had unloaded all the shoe boxes!”


Needless to say I am extremely excited about the adventure.  For some reason, I am not at all worried about the 9K+ elevation, high humidity, hard to breathe air, potential jungle fever, amazon forest, aftershocks from the Chile earthquake or the bird size mosquitoes I may encounter.  I am solely excited to see the smiles of the little children who will be overjoyed receiving their gift.  Day in and day out, they live in slums, forgotten streets, dirt villages, diseased filled garbage dumps … but for a moment they will feel like kings.