Life changing experiences

One Mission Trip To Ecuador, Changed My Life Forever

Summer of 2016 not only allowed me to travel to somewhere new but rather find my purpose

Angeles Cuevas

Sweaty palms and the face of confusion fill the atmosphere. The lack of ability to understand what the other person is saying becomes frustrating and overwhelming. Suddenly, I hear someone call my name, and as I turn my head, I see the face of distress slowly turn into a smile. I am that bridge that they have been longing for. I walk over to them and there are always three words that fill my face with joy and my heart with purpose: Can you translate? The day that I finally decided that I was truly passionate about translating was during the summer of 2016 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.

However, before I tell you about the wonders of Ecuador and its people you must know how I got here. You see being in Ecuador for the first time wasn't the hard part, the hard part was making sure I got the chance to finally go. The fundraisers and meetings were all hosted by my teacher who didn't seem to want me to go to Ecuador in the first place.

He always told me what a bad idea it would be and how I wouldn't be able to contribute to the group dynamic. Maybe he didn't like me because I refused to let into his ideology. He is a Pastor of the Catholic Church and I am a rebellious Catholic with a non-conformist mindset. I never let him tell me how to praise nor did I like it when he judged others. He thought it was funny to spray kids with holy water but I never saw the humor in it so I called him out on it.

I didn't let him disrespect me nor did I care about his title. I treated him just as I would treat any of my other teachers but he had a problem with that because my theory is he believed he was higher than us all. Anyway, it had always been my dream to go to Ecuador ever since I heard about it and so when I was finally old enough I signed up because I would never allow for a bitter old guy to take my dreams away from me.

During this time of struggle and constant disrespect, I was able to realize why it was that so many people around me found the Catholic church counterproductive because while he preached about Solidarity and acceptance, he spewed his hate in my direction by using my mental health as a cushion, whilst still not speaking one word about the others who hadn't helped with fundraising and who didn't attend meetings and those that had similar health problems to mine. However, regardless of the obstacles, I went to Ecuador on a mission trip and the trip gave me much more than I gave it.

I had never been here before, it was so different than how it was at home. Everyone was so friendly, the air felt fresher, the community felt warmer and the way they spoke felt more like home than English ever did. Maybe it was because this place reminded me of Mexico where I would go to let go of all of my troubles or maybe it was because the people here didn't look at me differently or maybe it was the fact that I felt like I fit in rather than feeling like a tourist.

You see, that's what sucks about home for me, while everyone else feels welcomed and accepted, my home, where I was born, always made me feel like a tourist and an outsider. I may have been born here but it sure doesn't feel like home half of the time. Maybe that's why this place was different, maybe that's why I formed so many relationships and maybe that's why I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.

On the first day, we had some plane troubles so there was delays and such but once I arrived, once I stood face to face with our bus driver and breathed in the fresh air it was like my lungs had just been opened into a whole different world. Once we settled into our rooms, it was time for dinner. And although I don't remember exactly what we had had for dinner, I do remember the way it made my taste buds dance around my mouth and how it imprinted its savory richness into my stomach. I had missed that taste, that taste of a home cooked meal and the warmness of it. A good home-cooked meal always has the power to make you feel right at home.

Then, we went to sleep and the next day we awoke, got on the bus and rode to the village. This was my home for now and it felt more like home than I would have imagined. I was the translator and helped all of my friends communicate with the people to ensure we were able to finish the church by opening day and see all of the smiles fill the room.

So, we put in hard work and I made friends whom I will never forget. There was a guy I will always remember, he had one hand and yet, he was the manager of the entire work crew. He changed my life, if he can work and manage a team with only one hand whilst feeding his entire family, then I am sure I can get through college.

Ecuador was more about the people than it was the church. But my favorite part of the trip was the grand opening ceremony. We were all gathered around to pray and as I sat there, I heard my name being called. The bishop had just requested me to be the translator. I was about to put my gift into action and build a bridge between two worlds.

I stood there and translated the sermon and the speakers and I nearly burst out into tears because something changed that day, my path. I was no longer an undecided major in the rough but a Spanish major who would one day become a professional translator and interpreter. I went to Ecuador to change the lives of the people there but to my surprise, they changed my life more than I could have ever imagined so now I'm in college and I am a Spanish major and I will graduate and become the voice of the misinterpreted.

The purpose of this mission trip was to build a church for a third-world community in the Sierra Mountains of Ecuador. During my stay, I joined many of my Ecuadorian friends in solidarity, ranging from the poor villagers to the Ecuadorian college students. Whenever my group would meet someone new in Ecuador, my fellow classmates would always ask me to tell them something on their behalf.

Seeing the smiles on their faces and feeling the appreciation in their hearts through that simple gesture made me believe that I had somehow connected these two worlds. I felt as though my words had built a bridge that allowed them to connect in an unforgettable way they would never forget. I was no longer just a simple translator but rather a bridge between two worlds with two different tongues.

It was truly a life changing time for me because not only was I able to open my eyes to the issues that third-world countries face, but I was also able to find my passion and how I wanted to leave a mark in this world. I do not feel that I chose translating, but rather that it chose me. I feel called to be the bridge between two worlds. My path change from a simple "Would you mind translating?" in Ecuador. These interactions would have never happened if I was not bilingual, and I am ready to take on the job of being the bridge between two worlds.

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