Service Learning: Transformation in the Garden

Perhaps you remember reading my post about Lili and Edwin (posted February 3rd), and how they were such a huge answer to prayer for a class schedule for the semester, for friendship, and for a faith community. They are the leaders and business owners of their organic produce business, named Nativo, located in Lumbisí. The joy and peace I felt when I met them at the end of January has continued to be so abundant, throughout the duration of the semester.

For a bit of cultural context, Lumbisi is a small community with indigenous heritage and is a neighboring community to where I live in the valley of Cumbayá. It is an area of families who own land and cultivate their own crops, but would be socially considered lower class. What differentiates Lili and Edwin’s business from the rest is that their product is all organic and they have enough family land to produce enough for their household, and to sell.

I have had the opportunity, through IES Abroad, to take Service Learning as a class this semester. I feel so blessed by my placement with Lili and Edwin! They have the kindest hearts for service to their community, and the neighboring ones as well. They make organic produce affordable for those who would otherwise never bother to eat healthy, and they teach their clients the importance of caring for their bodies. They are the most genuine people I have ever met and their faith is what guides them through each and every day.

I truly admire Lili and Edwin for the work that they do for their community, and for the faith they continue to display, no matter the situation. They live in a community where they are “weirdly different.” Lili and Edwin both had the opportunity to study at universities in Ecuador, unlike many in Lumbisí, and they want to share their knowledge for the benefit of the entire community. Also, they don’t have friends in their community that are Christian, so it is difficult at times to develop deep connections with their neighbors. Despite these challenges, Lili and Edwin have each other and their families to help them continue to choose to serve, and be disciples to those around them.

This semester I helped Lili and Edwin prepare for their weekend sales, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Some days we would sort chocho for 3+ hours. Other days we would package the produce for the weekend, and we would go to their land to harvest produce such as avocados, lemons, limes, blackberries, and guava. I think IES Abroad and Lili and Edwin would admit that this placement was a bit of a gamble, at first. Lili and Edwin had never had a volunteer before, and IES Abroad holds high standards for the Service Learning class. This placement surely surpassed any requirements and the experience has been valued by Lili and Edwin, my IES Program Leaders here in Quito, and me. Lili and Edwin are always prepared for they days I come. They are always teaching me new things and health benefits of the plants/produce. In the repetitiveness of the tasks, I learn more about Ecuadorian culture by talking with them for hours on end.

My favorite moments of every week are with Lili and Edwin. When I am with them, I feel peace, joy, hope, needed, and so very loved. They care for me as if I am their child they and invite me to their special holiday meals. I am trying not to think about having to say goodbye to them yet. This past week, I introduced an IES Program Leader and a fellow classmate at my placement site with Lili and Edwin. After Lili mentioned how much they were able to develop as a business over these past couple months by having a set of extra hands, my program leader asked, “So, what are you going to do when Morgan leaves?” Lili just said, “Cry, we are going to cry.” Half jokingly because of the positive life view that Lili has and her continual trust that God will always provide. But, seriously in the reality that it will be hard to say goodbye to our weekly conversations and relationships.

I am thankful my original schedule didn’t work out when I got here, despite the stress I felt in January because of it. I know God hand-picked Lili and Edwin to show me, through their daily love and encouragement, how to live a life of joy and peace and friendship. A life that is selfless and fulfilling, no matter the circumstances thrown our way.

 

 

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