I’ve been in Ecuador less than two weeks, and today I had my first state-side visitors! Well, honestly, they didn’t come to Ecuador JUST to see me – the real draw is the kids at the orphanage that they fell in love with when they were here for six months last year. But still, I am grateful that their last minute trip (booked just before I left) just happened to coincide with my arrival, so they were able to visit me here and our stories could come full circle.
Geoff and Jamie Carroll are the brother and sister-in-law of my sweet friend Caryn, who was in my home church for a few years. I first heard her make mention of them in 2009 in the context of Geoff’s passion for taking groups on tours to Israel. Geoff has studied in Israel and under some well known mentors to learn to open up the scriptures and help make a visit to the “land of the Bible” more than just a tour, but a living story (click the link to visit his website/blog to learn more about “Travel the Text”). Although my trip last December was with a different (and wonderful) group, I hope and pray God will bless me with an opportunity to return to Israel on one of Geoff’s tours.
But the real connection began in the summer of 2012, after the recent events of my life started my new journey. Most of us in my former home group had gone different directions, so we were having a “girls reunion” one night for dinner. It was shortly after I had prayed another, “God, is it still Ecuador?” prayer. Near the end of our time together (there were seven of us) we asked Caryn (who is a speech therapist in a school) what her summer plans were. Her answer – “Oh, not much – I’m just going to hang out, visit my family in Abilene – oh yeah, and go to Ecuador.” WHAT?! She then proceeded to say that her older brother and his wife had just decided to sell everything and move to Ecuador!!! No definite plans, not sure how long they would stay – just felt led to go – you think that didn’t get my attention? Caryn told me they had a blog, so I got the address and began following just as they were getting settled – thus began our (one way) relationship. I devoured every post of their Ecuador experience, believing at the time that they would be a future “on the ground” contact for me. Alas, God had different plans. Although they thought they would be here long-term, a glitch in their visa only allowed them to stay six months and then they had to leave for at least another six. The amazing thing was, just as they discovered that, God provided an opportunity to fulfill a long-time desire for them to live in Israel together, while Geoff worked on a six month project helping develop an online curriculum about the Temple Mount.
I had commented on their blog a few times, so they knew who I was. We hoped to meet when they came back, but ironically I went to Israel just as they returned for a short U.S. visit, then when I got back, they left for Israel (sigh). But then I voraciously followed their six month Israel adventure as well. Jamie is a wonderful writer and following her blog stories is a big part of what inspired me to write mine (see her blog at this link – “Carroll Crossroads”).
They returned stateside this past summer and we were finally able to meet for the first time. It was a bit awkward for me, because after a year of reading their blogs, I felt I knew them, and yet they barely had a clue about me! In a few short hours I did my best to tell them my story of why I felt called to Ecuador (and the part they had played as a signpost along the way). Since then I’ve continued to follow their journey – one of the many things I love about them is that they embrace the adventure of not knowing about tomorrow, but following wherever the Lord leads. So it was so sweet that their much longed for trip back to visit the orphanage they fell in love with last year (which is on the coast about an hour south of where I am) would coincide with my arrival and an opportunity for them to visit me here and bring our overlapping journeys full circle. Our three hours together went way too quickly, but we enjoyed a walk down the beach for them to see my development (they were very impressed with the way my house will be constructed and these guys know house construction & renovation!) and the wonderful beach/view of this sweet little town. The tour and mile stroll down and back ate up all our time and I didn’t even get to feed them lunch as I had planned (but my sweet neighbor Elaine sent them away with some banana bread!) They needed to get back to visit the kids in the orphanage for one last afternoon before they head towards Quito for their last few days. I am thankful and blessed they made the TWO HOUR bus ride each way to see me and I look forward to when they might return for a longer stay – thanks again Geoff and Jamie and Vaya con Dios!