As any of you who have experienced a traumatic life event know, you process it in waves. I am very grateful to my dear friend, Rissa, who gave me three hours of her time this morning, while I spilled out all of the random facts and realizations I’ve been hit with in the past 24 hours.
From a personal perspective, as I’ve said before, Manta was my nearest go to “civilized” city for shopping and necessities. It is now decimated. Just last week, I was there and among other things, dropped off Nadine’s photo at a shop to have it printed. I have no idea if the store will even be there when I return. Reports continue to trickle in of the damage and devastation. The modern grocery store SuperMaxi is open again, but the lines are around the block, with people being allowed in one by one. The mall is closed because of too much damage. The open market/bazaar area known as Tarqui is flattened. One friend said today the smell of dead bodies in that area is so bad, you have to wear a mask. Manta was an hour’s bus ride away for me. Now the nearest place to get anything beyond basic items (most specifically Charcoal’s food and cat litter) is Guayaquil, which is three hours away.
But all of that is a mere lifestyle adjustment, as I still sit in my quite comfortable and intact house. Many other people’s livelihoods and lives have been utterly destroyed. What you need to understand is that, unlike the U.S., most people here are not employees, they are entrepreneurs. They own a restaurant, a bakery, drive a taxi, have a vegetable stand, a hardware store, sell peanut butter or coconut water on the street, have a coffee plantation, a dry goods store, sell chickens and eggs, repair cars or appliances, etc. The list goes on and on, but most of the people here are making their own way, day by day. I think about all those little stall owners in the Tarqui market area. If they are still alive, what little they had to make a living with is totally gone. Even if they still have something to sell, where will they sell it? The same is true for the city of Portoviejo. And that doesn’t even count the smaller towns farther north of these on the coast that were even closer to the epicenter. I’ve heard the town of Pedernales is 80-90% gone. So many people who already had so little, now have nothing.
Multiply the devastation suffered here, with all the other crisises in places all around the world right now, and it is easy to feel quite helpless and overwhelmed. But I am always reminded in times like these, that all God asks us to do is our small part – to help “one starfish” at a time – and He will take what we do and multiply it.
So I’m asking you to help me to help my friend Edwin. Edwin and his family live in the Tarqui area I described above. I met him a few months back and immediately discerned him to be a man of faith. He is also a helper of people. Because he previously lived in the U.S., he speaks fluent English and makes his living as a driver, translator and “go-to” guy for local ex-pats in various ways. Just last week, in fact, he helped my new friends, Jeff and Kelley, navigate buying a car (a very complicated task in Ecuador for many reasons). He came to pick them up here in their development and actually gave me a ride in with them to Manta exactly one week ago today. So when I messaged Edwin the day after the earthquake, to see if he and his family were OK, his response was, “Yes, we are alive. My car is destroyed, but we are all fine – I am blessed and thankful.” When I asked what he would do about his car, how he would make a living and did he have insurance (which is very uncommon here) he said no and he did not know. He texted me a picture of his car – the one I rode in just last week – and it was crushed. I immediately contacted my friend Sigrid, who is also a friend of Edwin’s and a former non-profit fundraiser. She worked quickly to get a GoFundMe campaign open to help Edwin and his family. Please, PLEASE go to this link – Help Edwin – and read about the work he does, not only to support his family, but to serve his church and community. And please give whatever you can – nothing is too small and God will multiply your efforts. Also, please share the link on your own social media sites. In all honesty, the amount we are trying to raise is still not complete enough to fully replace what he has lost, but it is a good start.
As you can imagine, there is much more for me to share as I continue to process through the aftermath of what has happened. But in case you are wondering whether I am questioning my move to Ecuador, the answer is a resounding “No!” I am more confident than ever that God has brought me here “for such a time as this.”