Riding in the taxi Friday morning I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The night before was a bit of a different story. Granted, we didn’t arrive at our hostel until close to Midnight, or was it 1am?, after 48 hours of sleepless travel. And in the dark, after a somewhat unsettling cab ride, the place didn’t look like much. I recall lots of exposed rebar, locked gates and dark, unsettling, decomposing, quiet streets.
However, in the morning things looked much better. Plus, we didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on our surroundings, we had a 9am appointment. You know how people say, things happen for a reason? Well, after our first morning in Quito, I am convinced.
All we knew was that Don and Marion Holec from Texas were finishing up a week of volunteering in Quito. A former colleague of Cory’s gave them our email, they emailed, we responded and now we were trying to tell a cab driver that we needed to get to the Sheraton Hotel. Apparently pronunciation and word order matter.
What came next, is almost unbelievable. After our initial hellos in the lobby, while we were ordering our coffees, Cory asked Don where he was from. Don responded, Minneapolis. What a coincidence, that’s where we lived before moving to Texas. Cory then asked what part of Minneapolis – when people say Minneapolis or Chicago or LA, they rarely are from the city. Then Don tells us the unbelievable. He was born and raised in New Prague, Minnesota! I mean, what are the chances that Don was born in the same obscure Czech community of about 1800 people, where Cory was born and his family is from?! Furthermore Don knew my uncle Bob from St John’s University, albeit by name only.
Things were definitely off to a good start. But then Madre Cindy arrived. I’m not sure what I expected when Don told us he had invited one of the nuns from the center to meet with us. Growing up Lutheran, I had little exposure to nuns. Well, Madre Cindy drove to the Sheraton through busy Quito in a little red pick-up truck and wore blue jeans. Her smile was infectious. Her hug surprising, but perfect for that moment. Cindy is warm and to the point, after we asked how we could help, she let us know that only 2 of the 14 volunteers showed up so the opportunities are endless.
We all talked and shared stories like old friends. And we learned about the Center for Working Families (http://www.c4wf.org), where Don and Marion had volunteered and where Madre Cindy is undoubtably its most valuable advocate. Once Cindy told us the mission, and put my mind at ease that Lutherans are welcome, high church and all, we knew we wanted to be part of this. In his mind, Cory had already developed a business plan for the kids who, as a way to make money, make and sell candles.
We understand our hearts will be broken and that we will fall in love with the families. A fellow traveler asked us, “how will you know when it’s time to leave?” We hadn’t considered that question before. We don’t know the answer yet. But we’re excited to be faced with that dilemma.
So, after a short 12 hours in Quito, it seems our lives have already been changed. We will be visiting the center on Friday the 30th. What happens next will be just as it should be.