Welcome To The Jungle

Well. I have been to the jungle.

OH YES MA’AM. I have been to the jungle.

But sadly, Axl Rose was unavailable to welcome us there.

And listen. I totally thought about making another map of our route from Quito to the Amazon, but I think that I’d need carpal-tunnel surgery after drawing that many swirly loop-to-loops in a row. It was sort of like riding a roller coaster, only it was a bus ride and way more bumpy and went all the way up to 12,000 feet above sea level and then lasted for five hours.

Also, it would seem that double-striped roads are more of a suggestion in Ecuador than any sort of hard and fast rule. I’m grateful that our bus driver got us to the jungle and back again, mind you, but he executed several passing maneuvers that were Talladega-worthy. To the point that I almost put on some cut-offs and a tank top and sat on somebody’s shoulders.

However, the good news is that once we made it off the raceway highway, the canoes and I did just fine. They were mercifully, blessedly covered, and given the level of sunshine and heat, those covers were a gift FROM THE SWEET LORD ABOVE. I told Melanie earlier today that if those canoes hadn’t been covered, the group would have had to leave me behind in the Amazon while I attempted to recover from a bout of the sun poisoning.

We actually had to take a canoe to get to the place where we were staying, and when we finally reached our destination and climbed out onto the rocky beach, relief washed over me since the canoe ride was the part of the trip I’d been dreading the most. But then I looked at what was right in front of me, and I realized that there were a lot of steps.

A lot of steps that we had to climb in order to get to the top of the bluff where the lodge was.

And I’m not gonna lie, y’all. I was exhausted, I was hot, and I pretty much wanted to turn around and climb back in the canoe and curl up with my backpack and call it a night.

But I climbed those steps. I also walked up a couple of ramps that, as best as I could tell, were built at about an 80 degree angle. We were all huffing and puffing as we tried to get to the top, and I wanted to look at Shaun and say, “I DO NOT REMEMBER SIGNING UP FOR ANY EXTREME HIKING.” Unfortunately, though, saying anything to Shaun would have required me to use precious oxygen that I was not of a mind to waste. What with trying to continue to breathe at a regular rate and all.

After we ate supper and spent some time visiting, Melanie and I went back to our room to try to get some sleep before our big day today. I was totally unsure about how the whole sleep thing would work, especially since there was no air conditioning, not to mention that there were a great many squawk-y jungle animals living outside of our window. But get ready for some irony, my friends: I slept like a baby. I DID. It was my best night of sleep on this trip by far, and this morning I halfway felt like patting myself on the back and then giving myself some sort of merit badge.

After breakfast we headed back to the canoes so that we could visit a couple of Compassion homes in a nearby village. It was an absolutely beautiful trip, and the river was so wide that there wasn’t any risk of snakes dropping out of trees and into our boat. It’s funny how your idea of what constitutes a SWEET MERCIFUL BLESSING FROM THE LORD ON HIGH changes when you’re outside of your normal comfort zone, isn’t it?

Eventually we made it to the village, and after a roughly ten-minute hike we walked into an absolutely surreal setting. We were still in the middle of the jungle, but there were houses on stilts scattered around us. Each house was made of wood, with thatched roofs and window openings – but no screens. We split into groups, with Amanda, Kelly and Melanie going to the first house while Ann and I went to the second.

And that’s where we met Jonathan.

Jonathan is fifteen, a high school student, and thanks to his Compassion sponsorship, he is able to attend a nearby Compassion child development center. At first glance, Jonathan looks like a fairly typical teenager. He greeted us wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, and while he was a little nervous about speaking to people he hadn’t met before, he had a kindness about him that caught me a little off-guard in the best possible way.

And while it would make such a nice story if this were the part where I could tell you that Jonathan’s mother welcomed us inside their home, that his father showed us the places where he and Jonathan like to fish together late in the afternoon, that isn’t Jonathan’s story at all.

Jonathan’s story is that his mother left his family when he was four years old. He’s only seen her once since then, but he’s heard that she has another family now. His father lived in the house for several years, but last year he decided to move to a nearby city in search of more work – and he didn’t want to take Jonathan with him. He opted to take “su hijo favorito,” Jonathan’s younger brother, instead.

So every single day, Jonathan’s reality is that his mother left him and his father doesn’t want him. Every single day – at fifteen years old – Jonathan wakes up to an empty house. He goes to sleep in an empty house. He cooks, he cleans, and he tries to find ways to bring in some money.

All by himself.

As Jonathan quietly shared bits and pieces of his story with us, tears welled up in my eyes. I started to worry that I was going to go into the ugly cry as I heard about his situation. But then – BUT THEN – I remembered the Hope that Compassion offers the kids that they serve. The pastors, staff members and volunteers look a child’s circumstances squarely in the eye, and they counter the despair with Truth. They know that there’s no wound in a child’s life that’s too big for Scripture to touch, to soothe, to heal.

So yes, Jonathan has a tough story. But God has His hand all over that story through the ministry of Compassion in Jonathan’s local church.

“My father isn’t here.”

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. (Psalm 68:5)

“I go to church on Sundays, and I rush home to see if my father has come to visit, but he doesn’t come to see me.”

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

“Sometimes I get very lonely.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

Jonathan, for lack of a better word, is broken. He is hurt. He feels rejected. He said that some nights, just to try to deal with the loneliness, he lies in his hammock and sings songs about God. He said that he looks forward to church every Sunday because it makes the days go by faster. He is a 15 year-old who has a whole lot of healing in front of him.

But the Gospel – as I’ve heard my pastor say over and over and over again – the Gospel is good. Compassion works through the local church to take the Gospel into remote places (like Jonathan’s village). The local church becomes a lifeline for kids like Jonathan because the Lord uses the local church – and the teaching there – to provide community, to provide family, and to show Jesus to children who might not know Him otherwise.

We stayed at Jonathan’s house about 45 minutes, and right before we left, we gave him a bag of groceries. Jonathan had almost no food in his house – only three lemons, some salt and some oil. As soon as Ann handed him the shopping bag, he sat down on his bed and began pulling out every single item and placing it on the floor.

And very quietly – almost in a whisper – he said, “I have no words to express how much this means to me. You have no idea.”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

After Jonathan finished unpacking the groceries, we asked if he’d like to travel with us to his Compassion child development center, which was just a little ways down the river (file the last part of that sentence under “things I never thought I’d say,” by the way). He said he wanted to go, so we all walked back through the jungle, got back on the canoe, and off we went.

We traveled about ten minutes downstream, and as we made our final turn, we could see them in the distance: children standing on the shore and waving palm branches to welcome us. As we got closer, there was big ole lump in my throat when I realized that those palms, touching end to end, reminded me of the shape of a cathedral.

Jonathan was the first one off of our canoe.

He ran through the cathedral of palms.

He ran into his community.

He ran into church.

And I will pray – and I hope you will pray – that the Lord uses His church to mend Jonathan’s brokenness, to speak Truth over the enemy’s lies, to make something beautiful from the ashes of a fractured family.

And to show Jonathan how deeply, how completely He loves him.

If you’d like to sponsor a child and be a part of being the church to a child in poverty, be sure to visit Compassion’s child sponsorship page. $38 a month makes a world of difference in the lives of kids all over the world.
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Photos courtesy of the lovely, talented, and oh-so-sassy Keely Scott

To read the rest of the blog posts from Ann, Amanda, Kelly and Melanie you can visit the Compassion Bloggers page.

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Comments

  1. Oh Sophie, such a beautiful post. Jonathan means “gift of God” and he is a gift, rejected by natural family or not. The Lord will use him and mend his brokenness, thanks to the local church. Amen and Amen.

  2. Oh my, Sophie. You have me a laughing, crying, everything-inbetween mess! What a gift you are. Thank you for your words here. I’m praying for this sweet Jonathan right this second…

  3. Read this aloud to Chris…well between the waving of my hand towards my face and verklmpt-ness, I read. And we wept. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus, my Sophie. I love you! And I am thankful for you. Praying for Jonathan–wish he could come here in our home.

  4. I thank God for you Sophie. You are a precious gift. Praying for your journey, for Jonathan and for your oxygen. Amazonian aerobics ain’t for sissies.

  5. My eyes are filled with tears as I try to type this. Thank you for showing us Jonathan. Thank you for using such perfect scripture to match each wound of his. My heart is broken. What a horrible pain he endures daily and thank you Jesus for the Compassion Center who once again encourages children to dream and hope.
    This post has pricked, no, STABBED at my hard heart. Thank you.

  6. Oh Sophie!

    I have claimed Isaiah 58:11 over and over for myself in the months since my Mark died. In The Message it says “I will always show you where to go; I will give you a full life in the emptiest of places” And God, He is so faithful. He has given me a full life in the empty place called widowhood, and I know He will do the same for precious Jonathan in the Amazon.

    Thank you for going. Safe travels home, friend.

  7. I hardly have words to write after I read this tonight on my comfy couch with a satisfied stomach in north Alabama. THANK YOU for pulling me out of my comfortable mindset with this story. I will be praying for Jonathan and for all of you as you continue on this journey.

  8. Jonathan has captured my heart, through your words, Sophie. We will commit to praying daily for him. Bless you for going on this trip and being used mightily by God!

  9. Steve Jones says:

    Wow. Thank you for telling Jonathan’s story. So we can pray for him and so we can remember there are a lot of Jonathan’s out there who need the love of Christ. What a beautiful image of him running to his church. Thank you.

  10. Sophie,

    *Thank you* so much for going on this trip to Ecaudor. It has tremendously impacted my life… expanded my vision, enlarged my heart, and dared me to acknowledge that God is for *so much more* than my comfort. HE is it…Christ in me. I type it, and yet, beg for the reality…. that HE would be more real than my comfort, and my possesions, and my routine, and my life. Oh, for Him to live HIS life in mine.

    *Thank you*
    Taylor

    • Taylor,
      This is the cry of my heart as well! You just dont know how much your words echo my prayers…

  11. Carolyn Fodel says:

    Sophie, that was lovely. I first found you through the Uganda trip, and you and Shannon brought me to my first sponsored child. I have a correspondence child in Ecuador, and I’m hanging on your every word this trip.

    God bless you.

  12. I was laughing so at the beginning of this post. Now I’m crying. What a sweet blessing to be able to meet these people and extend compassion to them. Thank you for introducing us to Jonathan. Your verses are such an encouragement. I pray Jonathan feels that comfort and encouragement in the days to come.

  13. I am sitting here, wondering if Johnathan is sponsored… And if he is, I am praying fervently that he’s been blessed with they kind of sponsor that write once or twice a month. I can just imagine that the loving words from a sponsor might bring some relief to the loneliness he feels.

    (If he doesn’t have a sponsor, I’d like to know… We have ten CI kids in our family already, but I know that God would provide for us and I’d like to sponsor him to be sure he is getting lots and LOTS of love and support though letters!)

    • Hey Michelle – I sent you an email, but I just wanted to clarify here, too. Jonathan does have a sponsor. In fact, the only photos on his bedroom wall are photos of his sponsor family’s children. Very sweet.

      • I just read Ann’s post from the visit and shed happy tears. A sponsor who sends love and encouragement….so thankful!

        (Pardon my typos above, so hard to type through tears!)

        Thanks for coming to share this with me. Travelling mercies for you all!

  14. Oh Sophie! I have a daughter close to 15 and cannot fathom Jonathan’s pain. How absolutely beautiful that he finds his comfort in God. Despite all the physical blessings my daughter and her friends have, I can’t help but feel that he is somehow richer, despite the pain and loneliness, for having discovered the truth of a life dependent only on One.

    I will be adding him to our prayers.

  15. Sophie,

    I was weeping, Jonathan, to be facing so much at so young an age. I wonder with Michelle whether he has a sponsor who writes to him, encourages him, loves him. Praise God that Jonathan finds comfort in the church and that the family of God takes care of him. That bag of groceries made me weep all the more… will be praying for this young man.

    Thank you for sharing! and thankful no snakes were encountered!

  16. I have to say, I’ve been skimming through most of the Compassion posts. But this one? This one made me cry and pray and love the Father of the fatherless more.

  17. Thank you, thank you, Sophie, for bringing these stories to us. I cannot tell you how Jonathan’s story has moved me today. How can we live the same way, knowing that these children, lost and lonely, are out there? I can’t.

  18. So powerful, thank you sharing this so beautifully. I am broken, looking into the eyes of my teenager and my almost teenager, and their many younger siblings, imagining them having to handle such circumstances… alone… it is too much, but yes, the Gospel IS good, and He is a Father to the Fatherless, and I will be praying for him, for his heart, and for his future…
    Again, thank you.

  19. When I saw the palms tears filled my eyes as I thought of the children welcoming Jesus, because that is Who Compassion represents. Y’all were Christ in a canoe instead of on a donkey.

  20. Many posts from this trip have given me tears in my eyes, but this is the first where tears are running down my cheeks. Thank you for telling us Jonathan’s story. I’m sure Jonathan isn’t the only one with a story like this. I’m so glad he has Compassion – and I’m hoping he has a sponsor.

  21. My daughter just asked why I was crying. We will be praying for Jonathan and the other children all over the world who need healing from these hurts. Our own Compassion child wrote us that her mother left her father and siblings, and it broke my heart. I’m so thankful for Compassion and all the people who serve with willing hearts. Thank you for sharing these stories.

  22. Ugly cry? Check.

    Thank you for sharing Jonathan’s story. I’m praying for him right now.

  23. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. So glad you survived that canoe trip, otherwise you would have missed all of this.

  24. Words fail me right now — but God never fails and never ceases to amaze me. May Jonathan continue to walk in the sure light of His love. I, too, will be praying for him.

  25. Oh my goodness, this is all so sad and beautiful at the same time! Praying for Jonathan and for all of you travelling with Compassion. What a wonderful picture of God’s hope amidst some real despair. Bless you all for going there and showing the rest of us these stories!

  26. SO BEAUTIFUL! You crack me up & having me cry all at once! Praying for Jonathan’s family & for your safe travels home. You amaze me!

  27. Such a powerful and heartbreaking story. Praying for you and Jonathan.

  28. I cried reading Jonathan’s story. Will continue to pray for God’s healing in his life. Thank you for sharing. You have my laughing one minute and crying the next. Thank you.

  29. MagnoliaMiss says:

    Dear Sophie,
    I read your blog but don’t comment but once a year or so when the mood strikes.

    This is the most beautiful story you have ever written. The similarities of the palm branches and cathedrals is amazing, and I will always think of this.

    I pray that Jonathan will do big things in his part of the world, and that he is healing from your visit. And may his Father in heaven bless and comfort him when he is sad.

    God bless you and the other girls on this trip, as well as the Compassion workers.

  30. I have enjoyed reading all of your posts about your trip for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, I love the reality check they give me. My “huge” problems aren’t so earth shattering. Jonathan has helped a 30 year old gal quit acting like a 3 year old throwing a temper tantrum. Safe travels, and bless you, Sophie!

  31. Oh my goodness, Sophie. I just don’t even know what to say. I am so thankful for everything you have shared and for the work Compassion does. I know someone above mentioned that it’s so wonderful that you share these stories so that we may pray for these children and that is the truth. I pray that the healing comes quickly and wholeheartedly for sweet Jonathan.

  32. Dearest Boomama,

    Just wanted you to know I have LOVED reading about this trip, and I feel changed. I have sponsored a little girl, Evelin, and can’t wait to be part of her life.

    Pam
    Clearwater, Florida

  33. Out of all the posts from this trip, this one was IT. I’m sure if you could have, you would have just packed Jonathan up in that canoe and brought him right on home with you. What a heart-wrenching and incredibly moving story that he has. I hope he will stick with Compassion and see it through until he is trained in some sort of trade or college. What an amazing kid with an amazing story. Is there some way that Compassion can denote children like Jonathan on their website? I know every child on there is need of sponsorship no matter what. But the orphans, supporting themselves? I would sponsor many of them because I can’t stand to think that they don’t have atleast someone to whom they can correspond with and to pray for them and encourage them.

  34. Oh man. I wish I could just hug Jonathan right now.

  35. Precious and so perfectly written. My heart reams for Jonathan…praying for this young man and that Christ would heal his broken spirit!

  36. Oh, BooMama! The tears. Thank you so much for stepping WAY outside your comfort zone (By the way, I’m right there with you, sister. I really do love me some A/C.) to share with us the real stories behind the amazing work that Compassion is doing.

    And I’m so excited to say that I really think I’m going to get the Christmas present I’ve longed for for years now, the opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion. In the past, my family hasn’t been able to financially commit to sponsorship, but this is going to be the year for me. I’m so excited!

  37. Sophie – I sat here and read parts of this post out loud to Gary and we are both squalling. Our youngest son is Jonathan and we love that name – God’s gracious gift. My heart hurts just thinking about this Jonathan in Ecuador not having a momma to love him and a dad that is gone – I just can’t bear the thought. The scriptures you posted blessed my soul. Isaiah 58:11 is my blog header…

    I’m so grateful that you got to go on this trip. I so want to go on a Compassion trip one day. I got a letter in the mail today from Iduar who lives in Colombia – we have sponsored him for almost 3 years now!

    Bless you friend,
    GJ

  38. I have a child I sponsor and a correspondence child. I would love to write to him.

  39. Thank you for this story – and the scripture Truth to counter the lies. Beautiful. Jesus be near Jonathan, and bring him a friend or mentor like that he can call as close as the Jonathan and David of the Bible. Be his Father, his Provider, his Protector and his Healer…

  40. This is breaking my heart into a million pieces and I am squawling. I just want to go to the jungle and snatch that boy up and bring him home to show him the love of a family and His Father. I hate that he has ever felt an ounce of lonliness or hunger or any of it at his age. Bless him… ;( Thank you Lord, for Compassion and His provision through them.

  41. You tell the story beautifully! It was a honor to be with you for the week.

  42. Like many others I was so deeply moved by Jonathan’s story. I too wanted to go and bring him to a home where he could know the love of a mother and a father. SO thankful to know he is receiving from the one who is a Father to the fatherless. Thank you for going and sharing the journey. God is answering my prayer to giving me His heart.

  43. So loved reading this! Glad to hear you fared well with the canoes. I’m praying for Jonathan…it’s hard to imagine what life must be like for him, but I’m thankful for CI and his sponsor. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News. And isn’t the Gospel good?

    In other news, I met Emma Kate in Starkville this weekend. Yes, yes indeed I did. I was at Molly’s tailgate and lo and behold there she was. She had not yet learned of your excellent canoe experience, so Lindsey and I were glad to bring her that update from the blog.

    Hope you’ve enjoyed being back amongst your people and perhaps have visited the Chuy’s already!

    Martha

  44. Oh heavens this is beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. When you wrote “there’s no wound in a child’s life that’s too big for Scripture to touch, to soothe, to heal.” I learned this lesson with Caden, and it blesses my heart to think about how the same God who healed Caden’s heart is the God who is healing hearts in the Amazon. So cool :-)

  45. Wow. Just, wow.

  46. No words left. Just broken. And so very, very grateful!

  47. Stephanie Gregory says:

    Thank you for this… need this constant reminder of those hurting all around. Also, love knowing that Jonathan really knows in ways I forget sometimes that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. So thankful to get read about your journey.

  48. Thank you for sharing his story. It has been on my mind all weekend, ever since I read it through tears Friday night. Praying for Jonathon to feel the Lord so close to him!

  49. Delurking to say thank you for this wonderful, heartbreaking, and moving story. The vision of him running through the palms to his church made me think of Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Many thanks to Compassion and their sponsors for showing the love of God to the world.

  50. SO good to have you back on the Compassion trips. :)

  51. Only just had a chance to catch up on blogs and email and you have floored me. You write so beautifully, Sophie, as God’s words pass through you to us. Hopefully Jonathon will hang on and continue to trust God and return his love of God to others one day. I just know he will always remember the kind lady (you) who visited him. God bless him, God bless you…

  52. That is so wondeful…what you’ve done. Such a great, heart-warming story…thank you. :)

  53. Beautiful. Thank you.

  54. I just wanted to thank you for this post. What an awesome opportunity, thank you for bringing a part of it back to us. I have to tell you how this particular post has ministered, though. When you wrote about no wound being too hard for Scripture to soothe, heal, etc. it just really spoke to me. I in turn passed it along to a friend tonight who is grieving a loss. So… thanks. It was beautifully and simply stated, and a great reminder to us all that the power of Scripture… God’s living, breathing Word… is right there for us always. Healing, soothing, reminding us of the Truth. Praise be to God!

  55. so glad you could have this experience and then share it with us… I read Ann’ lovely account of this boy as well…
    I will keep Jonathon in my prayers and also his family

  56. Reading your words about Jonathon, I envisioned my own sons. My heart aches to think of a boy having to be so alone. And yet, there is hope because of organizations like Compassion…but even more than that, because we have a God who sees. Thank you for this beautiful post. And, thank you for being willing to go when the Lord called you to take this trip.

    Blessings to you…

  57. Brickhouse says:

    I have two boys – 13 and 14. I worry about them every day, and yet, they are only navigating the waters of junior high and girls and sports. (Well, and a crazy family.) I want to fly, bus, and canoe over there and bring this boy home.

  58. some of my husbands favorite moments of our trip to Ecuador last summer were being able to drive. Many times when we were in the taxi or on a trip on a bus I had to close my eyes. (many prayers were said!) I love reading the stories and seeing what God is doing for such beautiful people. I am so blessed to have an Ecuadorian princess living in my home. God is faithful- it is all grace.

  59. Sophie — I’m so far behind on my reading (and tv watching, but that’s another story) and I am so GLAD I went back and read this! Oh my girl, you blessed me so much with your words and the way you layered the Word throughout. I’ll long remember this post and it has changed my heart.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] A group of bloggers is currently in Ecuador, visiting the Compassion centers there. One of my favorites is Sophie, otherwise known as BooMama. Her post today brought tears to my eyes and I just want to encourage anyone who reads this post to check out her latest entry about meeting a boy named Jonathan deep inside the Amazon: http://www.boomama.net. [...]

  2. [...] and sings praises to God, and this helps fill the void.  One by one a life changed.  Ann and Sophie told his story [...]