What an awesome experience this last weekend was for not only our youth but for the adults as well. We went to a place in the world that most will never go, the slums of Ecuador. We did not actually travel to Ecuador rather we traveled to Lineville, Alabama to the S.I.F.A.T. (Servants in Faith and Technology) grounds for a 48 hour simulation of life in the slums of Ecuador.  Our journey was based on real people in the real slums. We all had different roles that we played in the scenario. My role was one of a privileged store owner’s son. I did not have to work daily for my food, shelter, or water. Unlike most in the slums, I knew where my next meal was coming from and I knew that each night I would have a roof over my head and water whenever I wanted it.

During the experience what I found difficult was watching my friends who could not eat because they either could not pay or the gangs had told us not to feed their family. I saw them with hunger in their eyes and was not allowed to give them food. I saw them thirsty because they could not afford water. I saw families scrambling to come up with the money to pay for rent for the night. Some families making it and others not and being kicked out onto the streets. We saw how the haves and have-nots within the slums lived so dramatically different.

The gangs, the store owners, and the family who supplied power all in one way or another determined the fate of the ones with nothing. Knowing that just three days without water or seven days without food would seal the death warrant on individuals in the community, and the leaders of the communities knew this as well. They kept lists of who had been without either food or water and kept many people on the brink of death strictly for compliance purposes.

Towards the end of the experience I saw some of the kids start to lose some common sense from being pushed so far. Kids were starting to push back on the gang members forgetting that this scenario was meant for them to feel just a small fraction of what the residents of this slum live through for their entire life.

In the end, as I walked back to the hut at the end of the 48 I cried. I not only cried, but I wept aloud for what I had experienced. We were asked to pray a one sentence prayer and possibly share it with the group back at the hut. I prayed that God would make me weaker so that I could relate more to those that had been represented in the slums. I also prayed that God would make me stronger so that I have the will to do every day what I can to help serve him better. My tears flowed from both eyes for different reasons. I feel as though I cried from one eye for those suffering in this world while crying from the other eye realizing that I could make a difference.

As I walked I told the Lord that I will make a difference, and I will. I already have. I have gone from doing random acts of kindness to performing intentional acts of compassion. My life will never again be the same and my view of the world has been unveiled to allow me to see more clearly.   I pray that through me and through the youth that went on this experience that we can help open the eyes of many as to what we have the capability to do. I will end it with one thing that they asked all of us:

How many truly poor people do you know? How many friends do you have that have little to nothing? Reach out beyond your comfort level and make a difference in someone’s life. Do not feel guilty about the life that you were born into; rather use that advantage to touch someone else’s life.

I do want to thank Towne View Baptist Church, and Chris and Katie, for allowing me the chance to experience this with these great children.

Thank you.