Sunday, November 28, 2010

El Dia de Gracias

Thanksgiving was a normal Thursday here. But for all of the international students from the US, we remembered. We thought about our families and what things were like in the States. We missed home and it seemed strange that there was no recognition of this holiday here.
But on Friday afternoon, I found myself cooking up a storm with my best friends here. We had tried hard to track down the familiar foods of Thanksgiving and were overjoyed with what we had found. We cooked and laughed and talked for about two hours until we had finally readied the feast. And it was wonderful! Such a taste of home! It was so wonderful to spend time with good friends and eat familiar foods. I was so thankful for this time.
Here are some other things that I am thankful for...
* My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the salvation that He has given. He is the only One who satisfies. He has been my comfort and my joy!
* My family. I miss them so much but I praise God for their support and their prayers. Only 17 more days til I see them!
* My fiance, Jon. God has provided such a wonderful, godly man to be my best friend and my husband.
* The opportunity to study in Ecuador and my host family. I am thankful for this beautiful country. I have learned so much about this culture and about this language. I am so thankful to be here.
* My friends here. God has provided some wonderful friends. I am enjoying their company but I am also enjoying learning things from them.

I am thankful for so many things, much more than I have noted. But I am asking the Lord to give me a heart of thankfulness not just for these few days but continually. It is something that is not natural and must be cultivated. However, I am asking God to refine me by His grace. May I be constantly and consciously thankful.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The heights of the mountains are also His

I woke up that morning thinking, "I did not come to Ecuador for this." And yet, I was packing my bag and heading to the Ecovia to meet Kimberly and go to the agency for our trip to Cotopaxi. Not just to Cotopaxi, but to summit Cotopaxi. There is something about the mountains that captivates me. And this mountain in particular has captivated me. This gigantic active volcano sits about a two to three hour drive outside of Quito. On a clear day, it is hard to miss this majestic 5,897 meter giant, even from the city of Quito. Hence my obsession with this mountain. On my bus rides to school, as well as numerous other trips, I have not been able to keep my eyes off of its perfect volcano shape and beautiful snowline. The urge to get up that mountain just grew over time.
In order to go up Cotopaxi, you need the proper gear and a guide. It is best to get both in one when you go with an agency. That is what we decided to do. So we met at the agency at 8:30am on Friday morning, loaded the gear, and got started in the car. We stopped in Machachi, a town that sits at the base of Cotopaxi for food and batteries. Then, we continued on our way.
As you approach Cotopaxi there is a flat grassland. All of the sudden you see huge rocks lying scattered all over this grassland. Some were bigger than the SUV we were in. These were from the 1877 eruption of Cotopaxi, where these rocks were launched kilometers and kilometers from even the base of the mountain. It was fascinating yet somewhat eerie to drive through.
We hit the snowline very quick. This area (including Quito) has been having very bad weather for this time of the year. It has rained for almost two weeks now and the temperatures have been frigid. And they say that conditions will not improve until January. Therefore, needless to say, there was a lot of snow on Cotopaxi. It was difficult to get the SUV up to where we needed to park. At one point I was sure that I was going to die in the SUV as it slide down the mountain. But, we were able to get it securely parked. From there we put on our snow boots and grabbed all of the gear and started to ascend to the refuge. The pace was nice and we felt great. We reached the refuge without a problem and the guide was impressed at how in shape we were. We unpacked our things and headed out to train in using the crampons and the icepicks. By this time it was snowing pretty hard. We finished our training and went inside to get ready for dinner. We talked with the other guests at the refuge. It is always so much fun to see where everyone is from and where they are going. I have met people from all over the world just in the two times that I have climbed and I really enjoy that part.
After we ate we talked with the guide. The weather conditions were bad. They had been bad for the past few days. He told us that even if the weather was perfect the following day we would not be able to summit. Too much snow had fallen and it would be too dangerous. Cotopaxi is usually not a dangerous mountain. There are crevices that you have to watch out for. But the most dangerous thing is avalanches. These conditions with a lot of snow that had not been melted and compressed by the sun made for conditions right for avalanches. Most of the guides at the refuge were not going to climb past the glacier because of the danger level. We went to bed disappointed but still with some hope.
Sleep actually came easy for me. I was able to settle my breathing and drift off til 12am when we were to wake up. We got all our gear on and headed down to a breakfast of bologna, cheese, bread, and coffee. Refuge's in the morning are so much fun because its everyone walking around with headlamps. Some groups are gearing up and some groups are leaving. Our guide gave us the choice: we could go back to bed and wake up at 6am to see the sunrise and take pictures or we could walk a little ways then. We decided to walk a little ways then. We looked over the dark landscape and lamented that we could not go to the top. Two groups went up and tried only to come down saying that conditions were far too dangerous. We took pictures and breathed in the night air which was surprisingly not that cold. We went back to the refuge and talked for a bit then headed back to sleep for a few more precious hours.
I awoke at 5:30 and ran outside to see the sunrise. The mountains looked blue in the stillness of the morning. I hiked a little ways to see a piece of the sun peak from the side of Cotopaxi. Soon, the mountains came alive with the light. It was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen. I named the mountains in my head as I saw each of them shine in the morning. They are so amazing.
The guides decided to take us on a short hike to see the glacier. The sun was beating down on us as we hiked a little ways across the side of the mountain. At times, the snow was up to my knees. But the hiking was so much fun. We took pictures and laughed. We even slid down part of the mountain on our bottoms using our icepicks as our brakes. Upon returning to the refuge we packed our bags and went back down to the cars.
There were so many mixed emotions running through me as we rode back to Quito. My dreams of getting to the top of the mountain were not able to come true. I was frustrated because we were in the physical shape to summit, just the weather was not good. It was sort of sad driving away. But there is this verse:
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
Psalm 95:4
My God is the Creator of those mountains. My love for those mountains are not for the mountains themselves; its that my God, who fashioned those mountains, is so much more majestic and so much more glorious. The mountains are in His hands, so is the weather; He is sovereign over all things. In Spanish, you use the verb "conocer", to know, to say that you have been somewhere or you are familiar with it. That verb is usually used with people and places. People would use this verb to ask me if "I know" the summit of Cotopaxi. As I came down from the mountain, I was frustrated that I would not be able to say that I know the summit of Cotopaxi. But I am reminded that I know the God that fashioned and made that summit. I intimately know the Creator and Sustainer that allows that mountain to stand and hold its form. And I realize that I do not need to know the summit to be complete. I am satisfied in the One whom I do know, for He alone is everything.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So I decided to do this blog in a series of Facebook statuses since we are all so addicted and accustomed to reading about peoples' lives in this form anyways. Enjoy!

Katelyn trying to recover from her Tena trip the weekend before and get herself in gear for the exam that she has tomorrow... study session (ie. freakout session) at the apartment with some friends. Really helped, ladies,...I sure remember what a "sinverguenza"(a shameless person) is...not Amish.

Katelyn Rhodes... is trying to regroup after the Spanish grammar exam. This is probably the hardest grammar class I have ever had in my life.

Katelyn Rhodes...saw a taxi run over a guy on a motorcycle as she was walking to the park this morning. So thankful that the man lived.

Katelyn Rhodes...just finished her presentation on machismo in Ecuador. It is sobering to read the data that says that 8 out of 10 women in this country are abused in some manner.

Katelyn Rhodes...went to a bookstore and drank a chai tea in a coffee shop. God provides seemingly small but significant comforts and I am astounded by His goodness.

Katelyn Rhodes...feels to small for this city. She sits eating her double hot dog and watching the cars go by.

Katelyn Rhodes...was walking back from church and thinking about the great gospel-centered message when a guy rides by her on a bike...with a dog riding on his back. Distraction, yes. But isn't God glorious! He created us in His image and created this dog with the unique ability to ride piggy-back style.

It has been a good week. God has been so gracious to me every day. I am amazed by how He is working in my heart as well as in the hearts of those around me. Oh how He loves us...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

River thoughts

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Saint Augustine

When we stepped off the bus we immediately felt the humidity and exclaimed, "Ah! Too much oxygen!" Yes, we were in Tena, the jump off town for jungle excursions and missionary ventures to hard to reach people. We were in "el Oriente." We had barely missed one bus that morning so we had decided to eat bagels and sip coffee while we waited for the next one. And we were so glad that we had eaten something before that four hour bus ride. However, the bus ride was probably one of the best since we could watch the terrain change and the clouds clothe the mountains in a mysterious manner.
We arrived in Tena just in time to pay for the next day's rafting excursion and find a hostal close to the river. Because it was later in the afternoon we decided to walk around town. We found an ecua volley game tournament that was going on and decided to watch some incredibly athletic older men play some of the best volleyball I have seen. Although we were the only gringas, we felt part of the culture and thoroughly enjoyed simply being a part of the Friday night activities.
The next morning we got up bright and early to eat breakfast and head out to go rafting. We met up with the rest of the group at the rafting office and piled into pickup trucks to head to the launching point. Kimberly and I were placed in a raft with the guide, Lucho, who only spoke Spanish, as well as with the cutest couple from Spain who spoke perfect English and continually made us smile at their Spanish lisp. We were given a safety briefing and a review of paddling commands. Then, we were off down the river Jatunyancu, which means "big water" in Quichua.
The river was perfect! It was Class III rapids but the rapids were not continuous. We went through rapids and then pools, rapids and then pools; this allowed for swimming. The river was frigid but fun to float down alongside the raft. The guides encouraged us to get in, and even pushed us in several times. They wanted us to enjoy the feel of having our bodies be carried by the strength of the river. And the rapids were great too. Sure, we flipped several times but we enjoyed every minute of it. We rode rodeo style on the front of the raft and were continually laughing at each others surprised faces. It was a great day on the river, admiring its beauty and enjoying time spent with one another.
I think what was most captivating about the day were the people we saw along the river. There are many Quichua communities that still live along the river. We passed people looking for gold under the rocks on the river banks. We rode alongside half-naked children swimming with water bottles to stay afloat. Like us, they were enjoying the pull of the river's current. Their smiles were enchanting. Suddenly, I cared not about the rafting experience. Seeing the different peoples was the greatest pleasure.
While admiring the amazing beauty of the landscape and the people, I was reminded that not too far from where we were, five men were killed in 1956. These men gave their lives to reach people like the ones I was floating by. They were not living for the experience of a fascinating and beautiful land. They were living with a passion for people. They had a heart for those who had never heard God's name and had never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were willing to give everything for this. Jim Elliot, one of the men who was killed once said, "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Indeed, he gave what he could not hold onto anyways to gain Christ, whom would never leave nor forsake him.
I asked myself on the river, "Have I been giving to gain? Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ the most important thing to me? Am I living it, sharing it...?" I was passing beautiful people on the river and for two months I have been passing beautiful people in the city in which I live. Sure, I stop to admire the mountains. Yet, have I stopped to admire the people? Have I stopped to think that they need Jesus? Have I stopped to think that I pass so many image bearers of God, however, many will never see His face? Do I have a passion for these people or am I simply passing the time gazing at mountains and "gaining" experiences?
God loves people. We were created for Him, to be satisfied in Him, to glorify Him. He had a relationship with himself designed for us. But we sinned; we rejected Him. Not just Adam and not just Eve; all of us. But, even though we rejected Him, He loved us enough to make a way for us to be restored! There is no other way besides denying that we cannot make it on our own and trusting the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made on the cross. We deny everything we thought would make us happy and fulfill us for what we were created for, to praise our gracious Creator and live for His glory. God's heart is that all may know Him, have a relationship with Him, be satisfied in Him... God's heart is for the nations. For those of us who know God and have a relationship with Him, this should be our heart as well. However, I must confess that I myself have been sidetracked. I have gone after experiences and sites and bucket list points. But please join me as I pray for a change in my heart; that I may have a heart like my Savior, one that loves the Gospel and loves people.
Another quote by Elliot: "Surely those who know the great passionate heart of Jehovah must deny their own loves to share in the expression of His."