By Rev. Tyler Heston, Minister to Youth

Last month, 18 of us traveled to Otavalo, Ecuador, for the high school mission trip. We spent a week partnering with FEDICE to work with a community center on renovation projects at their daycare, Mushuk Muyu (“New Seeds”). We spent the week with FEDICE’s executive director, Blanca Puma Martinez, whose spirit of love and service is contagious. On our first morning, she led us in our orientation featuring games, discussion about life in Ecuador, a history of FEDICE, and a brief Spanish lesson.

Blanca taught us a word that stuck with us throughout the entire trip: “minga.” Minga is a word Ecuadorians use to talk about “working together.” Blanca told us that our time in Otavalo would not merely be us working for others; we would all work together, and we would all grow. Indeed, our “minga” at Mushuk Muyu included more than our 18-person team. The community center paid for some people from Otavalo to paint and do other labor, and the projects began before we arrived and continued after we left. On our last day at the community center, we finished a large mural of a tree over the words “Toda una Vida” (“all one life”), designed by Lori Bennett. The leaves of the trees were made from handprints— the handprints of our team, the leaders and workers at the community center, and the kids from Mushuk Muyu. The artwork was beautiful, both aesthetically and in its representation of the minga that grew out of our time together.

This minga included many more than those whose handprints made it on that wall. A large portion of the funding for our projects came from our church’s Christmas offering this past Christmas Eve. Midway through the week, Blanca and I sat down with a couple other local leaders to look at the budget, and she showed me how and when the money donated from our Christmas offering to FEDICE was used, along with money pooled by the community, to buy the paint and supplies we used, to pay for labor and transportation, and more. We had over 1250 people worship with us on Christmas Eve; each of them became part of the “minga” that continued with our trip in June and will continue with the adult trip to Ecuador in October.

Is this not the beauty of what God calls us to? To participate in something so much bigger than ourselves, something so connected to so many people? Like the leaves of the tree we painted, God’s love grows and blooms as we put our hands together with many others, across space and time, to work together to embody God’s light, peace, and love.