The Changes They Bring Back: Ecuador Summer GO trip/Study Abroad 

Audrey Branham

Twenty-six OBU students left the United States for Quito, Ecuador for a month-long study abroad Global Outreach trip in July. They had the opportunity to explore the Galapagos Islands, engage in various volunteer internships in Quito, Ecuador and some had the opportunity to swim in the Amazon River or climb mountains in Cuzco, Peru.  

While most students left with set expectations or goals, all the students came back changed from how they lived prior to the trip. They returned challenged, with a wider understanding of people and with a greater appreciation for Christ and His sacrificial work on the cross. 

One of the students who joined the trip was Maggie Friesen, a 22-year-old senior nursing major from Kansas City. Since the GO team consisted of 26 students, there was a wide variety of volunteer interning opportunities ranging from providing medical care or child-care, working with Ecuadorian legislators, or being extra hands at already established Christian charity organizations.  

Maggie had the opportunity to work in a local urgent care clinic by helping provide affordable healthcare to low-income and vulnerable populations. Maggie’s daily routine involved serving and praying for her patients as well as getting to know her fellow nurses and doctors.  

Maggie said that some time into her volunteering internship, she unexpectedly realized the population she naturally related to and wanted to share the Gospel with was her fellow hospital workers. Even though she was caring for hurt patients, who needed physical healing and spiritual healing news through the Gospel, it is also people who claim to be ‘fine’ who don’t even recognize their need for the Gospel.   

In most cases, it’s the people who have convinced themselves that they are self-sufficient and don’t need any help that most desperately need the truth of the Gospel. Coming back from the trip, Maggie says that she’s seen in practice that “God can work through little things”. Just as she learned in her volunteer internship, Maggie says that you can truly see God work in the “small conversations and living life with the people around you”.  

As Maggie and all the other students return to Shawnee, OK, this understanding of evangelism is something they will take with them to every area of life: the Gospel is not just one conversation or an altar call, but it is a continual way of living and conviction that is shared through going through life with someone and showing your convictions and beliefs in practice.  

Another OBU student who joined the GO trip to Ecuador was Nic Stark, a 21-year-old senior musical arts major and Spanish minor from Howe, OK. During the greater portion of the GO trip, Nic interned at a local Christian charity organization Pan de Vida, meaning bread and life.  

Pan de Vida organizes grocery and clothing drives alongside Christian ministry geared towards local needy Ecuadorians, immigrants, and Venezuelan refugees. Nic says that his daily volunteering included manual labor in keeping up the grounds, organizing, and helping the ministry process all the donations in preparation for open houses and distribution.  

Nic’s experience volunteering with Pan de Vida was much different from other volunteer opportunities he had done previously. The differences in culture and language only added to the great need to be flexible. But the more Nic was called to stretch himself, he continuously found himself relying more on the Lord’s strength.  

Nic says, “when you think that you are flexible you have only just begun to bend, and then God makes you do yoga.” Nick realizes that instead of some great one-time obstacle that he had to overcome, the hardest part of the trip was the day-to-day challenges.  

Nic says, “God showed up every day that I was thirsty, tired, crying, when I didn’t want to eat rice anymore, or didn’t want to serve anymore, the Lord gave me strength to continue.” It’s true that it is only when you allow God to stretch you and bring you to a point when your own strength fails that God will give you His own strength. The intention of GO trips is for students to be stretched and pushed to the point of having to rely on the Lord’s strength, which brings the Creator of the universe closer than when you think you can live your life without Him.  

Simply by the testimonies of those who have gone, GO trips are concrete ways to learn how to live a life of service and learn tools that will help you live your daily life for and with the Lord.  

To everyone who is contemplating joining a Global Outreach trip, Nic encourages you to sign up!  

Nic says, “Go and get out of yourself, it’s not about you at all, the decision has already been made for you, it’s just up to you to accept God’s work in your life. I certainly was not in control of if I was going, all I did was say yes.” 

The Lord searches to deepen your relationship with Himself, and He loves to do that by giving you strength to do things you didn’t think you could do. Follow the Lord to the ends of the earth and endeavor impossible things only to be surprised at the miraculous intervention that happens when you rely completely on Him to provide. 

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