Airport pick-ups. You can ask anyone on our Ecuador team and you will hear a plethora of different opinions on these middle of the night airport runs. Some, craving their uninterrupted sleep, aren’t quite as energized by the idea of hoisting up our “Living & Learning'' sign awaiting students’ 2 a.m. arrivals. Some, like me, love the initial greetings and the late-night adventures where you step onto a bus alone and step off of a bus with five pairs of footsteps and 20 suitcase wheels following. This semester, as I stepped foot into the airport to pick up our last group of students, I glanced up with sleepy eyes at the sign that read “international arrivals'' and couldn’t help but think about all that happened in the past 10 months.
I thought back to March when, after countless airport drop-offs of our Spring 2020 cohort, I stepped out of those airport doors with grief so heavy I didn’t know how to explain it. Now, I stood, sign in hand, and thought about how contrasting my current emotions were - hopeful, excited, deeply grateful. I thought back to how hard we as a team prayed over this semester. I thought about this bold group of 25 students who had just made the brave “yes” to come. I thought about all the people that played a role in these 25 students’ decisions. And I thought mostly about the true honor we feel to partner in the work the Lord is doing in the lives of these individuals.
So here we are...Spring 2021 is happening!! With 25 eager students (can you believe it!) on the ground and 8 overjoyed staff members, we are thrilled for what is to come. Thrilled for the deep relationships, the academic learning, the engagement with Ecuadorian culture, and more that our students will experience.
These 25 students are brave, flexible, generous, and oh so fun. They crave community and it has been wild to see the sheer desire they have to connect. Zoom, FaceTime, texting, and social media have only provided us with a certain degree of depth the past 10 months and it has been a breath of fresh air for everyone to remember what it can feel like to be surrounded by a physical community (masked, of course :)). Kitchen conversations, a good game of Rummikub, and a dance party here and there have all helped quench our students’ thirst for community.
All in all, I hope that when students step back onto a plane in May, they will walk away from this experience with deep gratitude; deep gratitude for study abroad and the unique role it played in their development. Deep gratitude for the relationships and memories they made. I pray that Spring 2021 will be remembered as a season where they grew to know and love the Lord more deeply. And when they step back foot in their home, they will allow this experience to shape the way they live.
If you are reading this, I encourage you to partner with us this semester. Pray over these 25 students. Encourage a staff member. Celebrate with us. We are grateful that as we begin Spring 2021, we know we have an “equipo” (team) who is in our corner cheering us on. So cheers to Spring 2021, cheers to the work the Lord is doing, and cheers to late night airport pick-ups.
About the Author - Meg van Rijn
My name is Meg van Rijn and I am a Resident Coordinator in Quito, Ecuador. I spend my days discipling students, planning events, and creating spaces that welcome students to this new place they will come to call home. You can often find me around a dining room table surrounded by friends; usually laughing, listening to music, or playing cards. I absolutely love what I do and who I get to do it with.