After our traditional Christmas Eve at home (last post), I gotta admit we got a little frantic about finishing the mad collection of supplies and packing up to get to Ecuador for the real-deal Christmas Eve.

We worked with the other family coming with us to pack and weigh everything we had gathered for the orphanage…supplies as well as requested Christmas gifts.

 …and we got our own little bags ready (we just packed little carry-ons for each of us…we like to pack light and we also needed to reserve our check-ons for the big duffels we were bringing).

In the few weeks before we left we had a deal that everyone needed to walk ten miles to get ready for this adventure.  Mostly our girl Lucy…we knew there would be a LOT of walking involved, and we wanted to be prepared.

When that girl has a goal you better watch out, because she’s gonna make it šŸ™‚  She had one more mile to go when we reached the airport so we walked and walked that thing around in circles until we checked that thing off the list.

…as we watched the sun set on December 23rd with a glorious sunset outside the windows.

 And then we were off.

All three of our flights were delayed…we were lucky to be able to make the connections…right through that red-eye.

This was our last flight…from Quito to Cuenca early on Christmas Eve morning:

We were all pretty excited.

 …and my Dad will be excited to see which book Elle was reading šŸ™‚

 Then finally we were there.

Made it with all those bags.

 Here’s one of the families we traveled with…you’re gonna see a lot of them šŸ™‚  They are the best.

The other family arrived two days before we did, and were already sitting mingled in with the branch on Sunday when we got there, bleary-eyed and scraggly after all that travel.

I told all the details of that Christmas Eve sacrament meeting back HERE.

Then it was off to meet the “kids,” get to know the other volunteers:

 …and figure out the volunteer house and how in the world to cook our Christmas Eve dinner:

 (We kind of made do with the food they had available, whipped up two pots of soup and Claire and I whipped up as much flatbread as we could.)

We ran out of bowls and spoons so here is my Christmas Eve dinner in a mug eaten with a fork:

It was awesome.

Here was our centerpiece:

Loved it.

After dinner everyone gathered for a little devotional…

…which we snuck out of since MAX WAS READY for our call.

My heart was racing with worry…would the Internet work?  Would we be able to connect?  I had been worried about this since the day we booked tickets to Ecuador.

So it’s hard to describe how my heart leapt when his face popped up on that screen.  We were SO incredibly excited.

It was such a a beautiful thing to be sitting in that little humble room in that orphanage in the middle of Ecuador talking to that boy, who is so earnest in trying to live up the end of this mission adventure.  He got to hear a little of what every sibling was doing and we were able to meet his companion for a second and really talk for the whole 45 minutes.

So much love filled up and overflowed in that room that night.

 So very, very grateful for that experience as a mother.

Then it was off to our own little “Santa’s workshop” to get everything ready for the kids in the orphanage that next morning.

 We all kicked into gear sorting and wrapping.

The kids put up the snowflakes we had brought from everyone who wanted to help from home…they were everywhere, which to me symbolized a lot of love.

Santa’s elves:

During wrapping breaks the kids stayed busy šŸ™‚

 And when we were done we went and situated all the stuff by the Christmas tree down in the main building.

 Us mama were so happy to have that all wrapped up and ready to go.

We had hoped to make it to Midnight Mass, but by that time we were all so tired we deliriously headed to bed…ready for a very unique Christmas the next morning.

(Christmas in Ecuador is HERE.)


    1. I can definitely see where many would feel that way. Like Max, I served a mission about 10 years ago and I can honestly say, as much as I love my family and would have enjoyed talking with them, it was life changing to be able to forget myself, my worries about home, and truly spend my time in the service of the Lord. There is something unique about having that distance – it helps you to turn to the Lord instead of to family to solve concerns or questions. I grew in ways I never would have if I'd always had access to my family like I had in the past. Ultimately, I appreciated my family, our bond, and love so much more – because we spoke only twice a year. In a perfect world, both being able to talk anytime and growing in incredible ways would be ideal, BUT I am grateful for the way it is set up. I felt it was inspired.

    2. I also served a full time mission for the Church- 25 years ago! Same rules for contact, and I agree 100% with Jessica. Beautifully said.

      Shawni- the pictures of your family gathered around visiting with Max radiates the LOVE you all have for one another. Your family is a light in this world. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

  1. Tabby, she alreadg went in the trip. She got told before the trip already about the concerns. At this point the comment seems mean.

  2. I worked with OSSO in Cuenca 15 years ago as an 18 year old. It was one of most amazing times of my life. I would love to go back and do exactly what you did. I would give anything to know how "my babies" are doing in the real world now as they would all be 15-20 years old. Im so happy you guys did this

  3. That huge painting of snow white Jesus surrounded by adorning, disabled, brown children kneeling at his feet is so problematic on so many different levels I don't even know where to start. The white savior complex is alive and well.

    That said, I am looking forward to your beautiful photos of suba diving, zip line-ing, waterfall swimming, rain forest exlporing etc. I'd love to go to South American some day.

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