Recently, Debbie and I took the Casa Gabriel boys and Casa Adalia girls on a trip to the beach during the week of Carnival. The boys camped and the girls and babies stayed in a hostel. Coming along on the trip were two Youth World interns, Amy and Grace. These girls have been volunteering and getting to know the boys and girls. Amy has been giving piano lessons to David and both girls have been helping out with Sunday lunches. Below is their perspective on the camping trip (they actually camped with the boys, being great sports about "roughing it"). We are so thankful that they are investing in our boys and girls, joyfully making an impact for God's Kingdom.
Phil Douce and the Casa Gabriel Team
Crabs skittering across the coast. Smoke drizzling from the campfire as we gathered around to pray before a meal. Jammed together in a van, bumping down the road playing worship songs on the radio for hours.
Thereâ€™s just something about traveling â€“ and especially camping â€“ together.
I had the privilege and opportunity to travel to the coast of Ecuador for a four-day camping trip with Casa Gabriel and Casa Adalia. There were ten guys, three girls, two babies, one house mom, one amazing missionary couple (Phil and Debbie) and me and my roommate. The Casa Adalia girls stayed at a nearby place, but the rest of us roughed it right there beside the beach.
And Iâ€™ll never forget it.
When I arrived home, I was full of emotions, thoughts, learning, laughter, even some tears. So much stood out to me about that trip. Hereâ€™s some of those thoughts.
I am continually surprised by the gentleness these boys bring. They are tough, deeply tough guys who have been through a lot. Theyâ€™ve seen a lot, theyâ€™ve withstood a lot, and yet they speak and carry themselves with a gentleness that continually surprises and impresses me.
Some of them shared with me more about their stories and past, and I canâ€™t imagine being in their shoes.
And yet, here they are, strong and yet gentle, still in process but learning to seek Christ and make wise decisions. They are kind, quick to help, know how to laugh and are becoming leaders, servants, strong men of God. The Lord is using their toughness to make leaders who will stand and wonâ€™t back down when it is hard. Only Christ can do that.
I am constantly impressed at how Phil and Debbie interact with these guysâ€¦ one of the guys even told me that he hopes to marry someone with the qualities that â€œMommy Debbieâ€ has. That melted my heartâ€¦ what a life-changing thing to have an example of a godly woman in your life, whereas they probably have not had healthy family values modeled to them in the past.
Phil knows how to sternly lead and teach these young men, sometimes drawing the line and being firm and holding them accountable. Yet he knows how to laugh with them, watch out for them, care for them and side with them in a way that they know he always is fighting for them. Some of the boys call him "Phil", some "Felipe", some "brother Phil", and some call him "Dad".
We laughed, we had the most massive colored foam fight Iâ€™ll probably ever have in my life, we ate ice cream and swam and made a sand turtle and ate wild crabs and saw breathtaking stars. We had allergic reactions, got bug bites, didnâ€™t shower, and crawled into tents to suffocate through the night. It rained, the sun beat on us, the saltwater made your hair all wavy and maybe even your skin itch. We saw the most breathtaking sunsets, brush-stroked pastel pinks and sunburst colors spread across the clouds and bouncing off the shimmering water. We accidentally whacked each other playing sports (I had a bruise on my head for a whileâ€¦) and we collected big white sand dollars, pink shells, purple spirals, many â€œconchas.â€
Each night and sometimes during the day someone shared a message with the group. We talked about communication, worry, Samson, Job. My roommate Grace and I shared a message about healthy relationshipsâ€¦ what we look for in a healthy guy friendship, and what we eventually look for in a dating and marriage relationship. It sparked the most interesting questionsâ€¦ the guys were totally there and interested in the conversation.
â€œWhat would you do if you married someone thinking they had all the qualities you look for, and then you find out they donâ€™t?â€
â€œWhat would you do if your husband left you after a couple years?â€
â€œWhat if you never find the kind of guy you are looking for?â€
The questions poured in, and continued even after that night at the fire.
It sparked interesting thoughts, and an interesting exploration of what it means to be a man or woman of God.
What it looks like to love the Lord, to serve others, to respect the people around you. How to respond when you blow it, when you make mistakes or when you deliberately choose wrong. How to spend time in family, looking out for others and not just yourself. How to slow down, breathe deeply, and stand in awe of the Maker of the dazzling stars and a jet-black sky and an incomprehensibly beautiful sunset.
Yeah, Iâ€™ll never forget that trip.
The leaves crunched under our feet as we stumbled through the darkness in search of the perfect sticks to roast sâ€™mores. We chatted back and forth about the fire, the campsite and the qualities of the perfect marshmallow stick. He asked me about my family and I briefly talked about each of my three siblings. After I had finished talking he looked me in the eyes and said earnestly, â€œY yo, Yo soy tu Ã±aÃ±o.â€ (And me, I am your brother too). This struck a cord deep within me. He could not be more right.
Moments like these set apart this camping trip. Those of you who know me well know that I love camping and have camped numerous times. These four days were special. What made this trip distinct was not that I was Ecuador or that I was at the beach, though it was unlike any beach I have been to previously. The four days I spent in Canoa, Ecuador was incredibly special and impactful because of the people I was with.
Casa Gabriel, a discipleship ministry for former street boys, and Casa Adalia, a safe house for women coming out of the sex trafficking industry or other vulnerable situations, are lead by Phil and Debbie, a power couple whose lives are devoted to loving broken people and urging them on towards Christ. I spend time with the young men of Casa Gabriel weekly on Sundays after church. I join them for lunch and a discussion of the sermon and of course a game of soccer. Over the months I have built a friendship with the guys as well as with Phil and Debbie. Through this relationship I was invited to go on a camping trip with the couple and their ministries. A week-long break from school for the holiday of Carnival provided the perfect opportunity for a camping trip to the beach. Wednesday my roommate and I loaded up with ten boys, three women, two babies, one dog, Phil and Debbie and headed for the beach seven hours away.
Hours of swimming in the ocean, crab hunting, and conversations around the campfire provided opportunities to connect with my friends in a new way. It was incredible to see men and women who have been forced grow up so fast enjoy the power of the ocean, warmth of the sun, and crackle of the campfire as children. These things I had never thought twice about, but for some on the trip it was their very first time. I will not soon forget the sound of the girls giggling as the waves crashed over their bodies as they lie on boogie boards in the sand. I will not soon forget the shouts of celebration when the boys captured a large crab. I will not soon forget the conversations about our pasts and our families. I will not soon forget how the guys would poke fun at my accent and my attempts understand their quick jokes. But I will never forget Dario's reminder, â€œAnd me, I am your brother too.â€
I have been reminded how Christ uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. He uses camping trips to draw his children to himself. He builds his Body and his Church with seemingly mismatched pieces. I get to be a part of that. Despite our differences we are brothers and sisters. Though I have lived a privileged American life, have graduated college and have grown up not knowing lack; and he an Ecuadorian kid from the jungle who has been beaten, abused and sleeping on the streets, who is just about 20 years old and a junior in high school. Much sets us at odds with one another, but there is something much greater that binds us together. We are both broken people seeking to know Christ and become more like him. He is my brother and I am his sister. These ten boys and three women have been through more than I can imagine, I often forget how different we might seem from anotherâ€™s perspective. But truly they are friends; they are my brothers and my sisters.
Setting up the campsite, and relaxing in hammocks
Prayer Requests and Praises
If we could ask you to pray one word over Casa Gabriel, it would be this:
:: Trust in God as we open the bome to new boys for a probation period, determining if they are the best fit for our program
:: Trust as we seek wisdom to lead and disciple our current boys
:: Trust in God to always provide, financially and for all needs
:: Trust in His sovereignty, grace, redemption, and hope
We are working on two exciting new projects: Home Renovation Phase 2 and our Vocational Training Program. We are so excited to have Christian Fellowship of Columbia MO and The Chapel EFC of MI putting together a team which is coming this April! What a blessing that will be to have them here!
Would you be able to help us raise all the needed funds for these projects? Giving information is included below (just be sure to specify if the donation is going to a specific project). For more information, you can check out our Current Projects webpage. We are always so thankful for the prayers and support which make this ministry possible.
Mision Mundo Juvenil Internacional
Attn: Casa Gabriel
Pablo Herrera OE4-105PB Alvarez Del Corro
(DetrÃ¡s de Teleamazonas (Canal 4))