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Ecuador and more
A mission trip with a few detours
Callie web


C-I (Camden, S.C.) Localife editor


Hiking, swimming, shopping, mission work, volunteer work and a couple of trips to the hospital. Which one of these activities is not desirable when traveling to a foreign country? For Camden High School graduate and more recently Presbyterian College graduate, Callie Neal, a couple of hospital trips were not what she had in mind when she decided to go on her second mission trip to Ecuador.

"Getting sick wasn’t in my plan," Neal said. "But it opened up opportunities to meet people I wouldn’t get to meet otherwise and I was able to essentially witness to other throughout being sick."

During Neal’s second week in Machachi, Ecuador, with no leader accompanying her anymore and only one translator in a mostly Spanish-speaking culture, Neal ended up with what the doctors referred to as a "bacterial stomach infection" but what she said later found out was just a "nicer way of saying food poisoning."

When she was finally convinced to go to the hospital by the two missionaries, Ruby and Fletcher Dickerson, in charge of Connect Ecuador, they traveled to Quito where Neal would spend three to four hours in the Emergency Room.

This wasn’t the end of her tour of the hospital in Quito, however. Two and a half weeks later, she would find herself ill once again, this time visiting the doctors in Machachi.

"They didn’t give me strong enough medicine so I never really stopped being sick," Neal said.

A week later, once again back at the hospital in Quito, Neal was given what she said was enough medicine just so she could make the four hour flight from Quito to Miami without being miserable.

"The best part?" Neal joked. "It only cost $3.20 for all the medicines, blood work, tests and doctor visits."

The cost of medical help wasn’t the only difference Neal noticed about Ecuador and its people from that of the United States.

"Nothing was instant there. It’s just not an instant society like ours is," Neal said.

She referred to the culture as being much more relaxed than the structure of her home country.

"They agreed to everything," she said. "We would say, okay, Bible study is at 6 and they would say ‘OK!’ and then either not show up or show up at 6:45."

While this isn’t the first time Neal has experienced the Ecuadorian culture, it is the first time she visited without a big group and the longest amount of time she has stayed. Her first visit was with her church group at First Baptist Church of Camden (FBC). FBC is one of the 12 churches from America that Connect Ecuador works with to connect to the most needy towns and cities in Ecuador for volunteer and mission trips.

Though a group came with FBC for around nine days during one of the six weeks Neal was there, for the most part it was her and a couple of other peers and leaders, a translator and the local people.

Neal’s six-week stay in Ecuador was spent in what she referred to a hostel, which is technically a hotel, she said but the particular one she lived in had seven rooms and three bathrooms.

She said that most of the food consisted of chicken, rice and popcorn in soup.

Along with having to use bottled water for brushing her teeth, Neal also spoke of the frustrations she and other mission crew members faced during their trip. Neal said that sometimes they felt as though they were talking to the people but that they weren’t actually making a difference in their lives.

She said it wasn’t until one of the Ecuadorian men said that he "wanted to serve the same God" as the group did after talking about the story of the Bible story Daniel and the Lion’s Den, that she realized they were getting through.

"We were making differences without realizing it," Neal said.

Along with church services and Bible studies, Neal also had the opportunity to go on the air with HCJB radio station in Machachi, give a musical performance and help a few of the local high school students with their English projects.

Even after all the hospital visits and medical disasters, Neal said she definitely plans to make another visit.

"I’ll go back again. The people treat us like family."