Once upon six months ago, dear pastor-friends of ours emailed with a crazy proposal: Our church is sponsoring a child survival program in Ecuador and we’re fixing to go meet the families. We need a photographer-writer along, so um, Nicki? What do you think?

What did I think? I thought it was the most far-fetched and wonderful idea, and that the odds of me going were zero to never. But somewhere between then and April God aligned all those impossible cogs until I found myself on a Nairobi to Amsterdam to Atlanta to Quito tilt-a-whirl of flights.


The face of the fellow checking tickets at Jomo Kenyatta creased deep with concern. “You are flying by yourself, Miss?” (PS I do not know when I will get to graduate to a Ma’am. Someone slapped ‘Miss’ on me eons ago and I can’t seem to peel it off.)

“Yep,” I told him. “Just me.”

“By yourself?” he repeated, like maybe this time I’d answer more appropriately. Even his eyebrows worried at me.

I smiled at him. “I’ll be fine.”


I thought about explaining that actually I’m not the tiniest bit by myself. I’m traveling with the God who fashioned and reigns over each cubic inch of airport and city and airspace between here and infinity, and also? He owns every one of my days.

Even if that plane goes down flaming, I’ll be fine.

Our planes turned out flame-free, and Ecuador was a beautiful experience. Those kiddos and moms and dads and grandmas and aunties–it was the best kind of everything to begin to know them, to stand in the dusk of their homes and listen to the lilt of Spanish unfurling their stories like open palms.


I loved the mountain roads spooling from Guaranda to Chillanes, the trickle-down towns, the clouds twisting over nooks and fields like fairytaled mist.

Also: our gutsy, funny bus driver. Community bowls of perfectly limey ceviche. The rush of damp and chill through the window, the drive-by photography and the nearly falling out. Gas station swing dancing. Boys spinning tops in the churchyard with lengths of string and luck. My hysterical, gifted, earthy, Jesus-scented teammates, and all those Compassion folks working daily with excellence.


I’ll be sharing more here in small chunks, one story each month for the next year or so. (My job is to connect folks at Epic Church in Indiana with families in Chillanes, but y’all are more than welcome to read along. Please do.)

Chillanes, you are my favorite. You’re treasure buried in clouds and moss, home to people so dear to God’s heart. It’s a wonder to see His love awakening in you.


So let it be.

Author: nic

saved by grace.

6 thoughts

  1. My friend Andrea turned me onto your blog shortly after you guys left to Africa, and I have been reading it since. I was so thrilled today when I opened email to see a blog from you titled ‘Ecuador’ as is a place very near to my heart. I’ve had the pleasure of going on missions trips to Ecuador for the past five years now and have fallen absolutely in love with the culture and the people there.

    It looks like you were about five hours south west of where we have been working, in Tena, along the Napo river. Just wanted to thank you for capturing this place I love so beautifully, and tell you keep up the good work. Looking forward to seeing more about he work with Epic and Chillanes.


    1. Tyler! I appreciate your kindness, and I’m especially glad for your heart for folks in Ecuador. Thank you. Do you keep a blog of your work there? I’d love to follow along.

      I never thought I’d have the chance to serve even a teensy bit in South America, especially now, but God is a constant and spectacular surprise to me. It’s still incredibly unlikely, but I’m hoping that over our next visit in the states a couple years from now I might also get to hitch a ride with Epic Church and check in again with my new Chillanes friends. I’d love to see how their families are doing.

      Funny how people can grab your heart right away. I love how God joins us all together, all over the earth, every face tilted to Him. What a sweet glimpse of eternity.


  2. I just cried straight through this. Well, it started with the word “Atlanta.” Because, you know. Atlanta is three hours from me.

    You’re a brave girl with a big God and I happen to love you and God.

    I miss the everyday of you, but am so thankful for the snippets that drop by to see us.

    You are loved.



    1. Oh Joy, I love you straight back. It’s the sweetest, most bolstering thing to have friends like you holding us solid and upright in prayer. Thank you for your faithful friendship and love.

      PS I keep hoping I’ll get my act together enough to start posting more of the everyday. I think African days have less hours in them or something. 🙂


  3. I could eat you up, I love you so. And I love your kind of bravery, which isn’t really bravery at all but that all-in faith that He leads you beside the still waters, and He does. The photos are beautiful. I’ll bet I was in Tennessee when you were in Atlanta; if I’d known, I would’ve made my way to you.


    1. Brandee, dearest, you know the cannibalism is mutual. 🙂 I’m never quite sure how God does it, how He stitches our hearts together like this so the fabric of you is part of who I am, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      Love you, and praying, and love you. And also come visit me. (You knew I was going to say it, eh? After three hundred times it will stop sounding crazy and become a part of your to-do list. That’s my strategy, at least.)


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