I have been trying to write this post for, let’s see, ABOUT THREE DAYS. I can’t seem to make it past the first paragraph because for whatever reason, I struggle when there’s actual news to share. But if I’m writing about, oh, CRACKERS, I can hammer out 1,000 words in record time. In medical circles I believe this condition is known as AN ABNORMAL PREOCCUPATION WITH THE CHEEZ-IT.

It’s AAPWTCI for short. We have group meetings and stuff. You’re welcome to join us.

As you can imagine, our snacks are delicious.

So here’s the deal: in about three and a half weeks I’m going to Ecuador with Compassion International. I couldn’t be more excited and terrified and thrilled and anxious. From what I understand there is A LOT of nature in Ecuador, and I also understand that said nature contains a lot of very active animals. So as you can see, Ecuador and I already have a problem.

Oh, I’m kidding. After all, back in 2008 I traveled to Uganda with the inventor of The Original Monkey AlarmTM. I AM SO PREPARED, Y’ALL.

I was thinking yesterday that before the Uganda trip, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’d never been face-to-face with third-world poverty before, and I couldn’t fathom how I would react to it. My reaction wasn’t always, you know, composed, but what I realized pretty quickly is that as difficult as it is to see all that hurt and brokenness, the ministry of Compassion shines light into dark places. So in the midst of all that hurt and brokenness, there is hope. There is Hope. That Hope changes everything in the lives of countless children.

And you know what’s even better? That Hope is is there for the long-haul. Because that Hope, by God’s grace, transforms the hearts and minds of those sweet children – and, in many cases, their families – and changes their lives for eternity.

I mean, come on. That’s the greatest good there is. I’m so grateful that Compassion gives all of us the opportunity to partner with them through local churches in third-world countries all over the world.

By the way, when Shaun first started putting this trip together, he sort of off-handedly mentioned that there will be a portion of the trip where we have to travel by canoe. You have never in your life seen two people EMAIL EACH OTHER IMMEDIATELY like Melanie and I did in that moment. And over the last couple of months, THE CANOE has come up in conversation over and over again. How will we get in the canoe? How long will be be in the canoe? Where will we go in the canoe? Will snakes be interested in the canoe? How does one fend off snakes while in a canoe? Can snakes drop out of trees and into a canoe? Should a snake land in a canoe, would it be advisable to then jump out of the canoe and into the Amazon and then be, alas, canoe-less?

Listen. I have full confidence that the canoe is going to be a source of some memories.

So there you have it. Ecuador it is. November 8-12. With Kelly, Ann, Amanda, Melanie, Keely, Patricia and Shaun.

And with every single one of you, too.

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  1. Jennifer in Ohio says:

    Sounds like it will be a wonderful, awe-inspiring trip.

    Regarding snakes falling off trees into canoes, um, yes, it happens. On a high school canoe trip, I watched an otherwise mild-mannered girl chop a snake that had fallen into our canoe into lots and lots of pieces. It was a sight to behold, and no one messed with her after that.

  2. The monkey alarm still makes me laugh. Just the word canoe conjures up pictures of going over a water fall and rowing madly away from savages. Gee, between Jennifer’s actual snake encounter and my sooting words we can work you into a frenzy.

  3. With eyes wide open, I would undertake this adventure. No matter what you encounter, the Lord is right there beside you. Those you will minister to will be blessed and in turn, you will be blessed for being bold enough to go.
    Don’t for get the CHEEZ-ITS!

  4. Sophie-
    I had that very thing (snakes in a kayak in a jungle) happen to me in a sea kayak in a Belizean jungle. You can read about it here:

  5. Both canoes and kayaks provide an intimacy with nature that I find far too uncomfortable…and that’s just on the Okatoma. The Amazon? Whew. I’m sure they make a special medication for that. You’ll be in my prayers as you prepare for what will be an amazing experience!

  6. Yay for you! Pretend the canoe is a ride at Disney World. “It’s A Pequeno Mundo.” As long as you believe the snakes are just animatronics, you’ll be fine.

  7. I am SO glad I’m not the only person on planet earth that has an ISSUE with a canoe. It’s been a deal breaker more than once in my life. Chaperone a youth trip – absolutely! Chaperone a youth canoe trip – not on your life! Add snakes to the mix…oh vey.

    I’ll be headed up to Nashville and in Nashville during those dates, but I’ll be praying for you all as you go – and hopefully be able to catch a post or two during some down time.

  8. The same Almighty God who will see you safely through a multi hour flight in a gazillion pound object that hurls a billion miles above ground dependent on wings that don’t actually flap like a bird will not let you come to any harm in a mere canoe, sweet girl.

    He will bless and keep you and Mel safe and sound.

    You inspire me and enrich my life on so many levels,t hank you, and Godspeed.

  9. Oh Lord, I don’t do well with things that slither. I’ll be praying for you!

  10. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time living in the developing world, and one of my top pieces of advice that I’ve never actually thought about would certainly be that you should NEVER JUMP IN THE AMAZON. There are piranhas in that river! No to mention schistosomiasis and all kinds of other of God’s less-understandable creations. Better to let the nice men steering your canoe use their paddles to get rid of the snake while you sit as still as is humanly possible than to jump. :)

    Also, I know you’re going to have a great trip.

    • I was thinking that about the piranhas, too, but wasn’t going to say anything, so I’m glad you did it for me!

  11. I can’t wait to see these posts. They will be hilarious, life-changing, compassionate, sad, exciting, all at once. :)
    Praying for all of you as you travel & your families @ home! And…. for the lives that will be forever changed because of this trip!!!

  12. Yeah, I’m with Laura on this one. Don’t get in the river! I can’t wait to read about this. I hope you and Melanie do some pod casts!
    Sounds like an awesome adventure!

  13. Hello, my name is Nancy and I’m a snake in a canoe survivor. The snake was napping on a low limb. I ended up in the tree. I have not been in a canoe since and am living happily ever after. You’ll be fine. It will be an adventure!

  14. You know you set yourself up for all these snake/piranha stories don’t you?

    But seriously I cannot wait to see what happens on this trip. I’ll be saying a prayer for all y’all.

  15. I didn’t hear they were doing an all-star trip–how exciting. And good for you for going again!

  16. The Original Monkey Alarm is one of my top 10 stories of all time. Hilarious.

    And good luck with that canoe – the one and only time Spencer and I have been canoeing, he got stuck under the canoe (after I managed to flip it) and lost his wedding ring while fighting to get his head above water. GOOD TIMES, I tell ya.

  17. Compassion is one of my favorite ministries! I can’t wait to read about your travels…and all the power to ya in the canoe. :) Other than the canoe, I’m jealous. I hope to go on a Compassion trip one day with my kids.

  18. I can not WAIT to share that canoe ride with you!!!
    I’m trying to pretend that part is not actually going to happen.

  19. I got to travel to Ecuador when I was in college. It was an amazing experience. I traveled by canoe into the jungle and got to see some amazing wildlife! I also got to swing on an authentic vine while in the jungle. Such good times! Have an amazing trip and I look forward to reading all about it!

  20. Piranahs?

    I believe I’d be watching me some Man Vs. Wild, River Monsters, Swamp Wars, and maybe some Steve Irwin reruns if you can find them… you know, for the sake of worst-case-scenario-canoe-mishap research. Take it from my dad’s story about trying to avoid a snake in the path of a canoe: don’t stand up and grab hold of a low lying branch to try and maneuver the canoe… you will stay still and the canoe will keep moving with the current, and then you will be (you guessed it) canoe-less. Hanging from a tree.

    ps… I did learn once from watching Man Vs. Wild with my daughter that if you ever find yourself in a swimming pool of piranahs (yes, he put piranahs in a swimming pool then got in there with them!) DON’T THRASH ABOUT. Apparently it’s the thrashing about that makes them swarm. Who knew? If you’re super still, they don’t bother you.

    On a brighter note, I don’t believe there’s hippos in the Amazon.
    So you’ll all be completely safe from hippo attacks.

    (In all seriousness though, I’ll be praying for each of you going, that you’ll be safe and healthy the whole time!) God bless!

  21. First of all, that’s awesome!!! I sponsor a boy from Ecuador through Compassion. And I only found out about Compassion through the Compassion bloggers!

    And second of all, please, please tell me there will be a BigBoo Cast addressing the canoe issue. Please. And thank you in advance. :-)

  22. Sophie – I just read this out loud to my husband Gary and he enjoyed with loud laughter your canoe concerns. Not laughting at you, mind you – we are concerned FOR you and WITH you. You are going to have a blast – take in every moment!

    We love Compassion (we sponsor a girl in Uganda and a boy in Colombia) and we love you! So proud of you for going. I dream of going one day. We went to South Africa two years ago and I’ve never gotten over it. I kept a journal and the day I saw poverty as you describe is still with me to this very day.

    Much love friend,

  23. Love this, love you.

  24. Will snakes be interested in the canoe? It might depend on how many open boxes of Cheez-Its you’ve got in there. Maybe some strategically-tossed C-I’s (like at/near other people’s canoes) will keep them at bay.


  25. Can’t wait. I first started reading you, Big and Rocks during your Uganda trip! Been here ever since! I miss Shanonn!

  26. OHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh! I sponsor a little boy in Ecuador!!! His name is Robert (Cando Cando) he’s 4!!!! How I’d LOVE to be going with you all and seeing this precious boy!!! What a blessing and privilege you all have to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these children……………even for a short time!!! MANY prayers for your travels and time there. I can’t wait to see what God does this time!!!!

  27. I can so relate. I have some serious canoe-issues, and they are based on real-life experience my friend, experience involving unexpected white water and snakes, and this was in Ohio. I will spare you the details and instead put a positive spin on it saying that I have no doubt you and Melanie will come away with some memorable canoe stories. It may take a little time, but they will be a source of laughter one day :-).

    Seriously though, I am so excited for you. I know God will do some wonderful things through this trip, and I can’t wait to share the journey through all of your blog posts. You are traveling with some awesome ladies, and they will be blessed to have you along with them. I will be sharing your posts from the trip in hopes of getting more children sponsored. I know God is going to show up big through this.

  28. Don’t fear the snakes – I’m told they are more afraid of us than we are of them (of course I’m told broken cookies have no calories so perhaps don’t bank on my advice vaults). You know that God (and Shaun) know exactly how far to stretch you — so take the whole canoe, snakes, humidity, foreign travel thing in stride – and know you’ll have some kick tail stories to tell when you return. I still chuckle about the monkey alarm you two set up – ah gotta love them city girls!

  29. When I read about your canoe dilemma, all I couild think was this would be a perfect “Silly Song with Larry!” Thanks for the smile this morning!

  30. JulieinMichigan says:

    You and Mel will be fine. I so cannot wait for your posts during the trip.

  31. You will love Ecuador. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. It was the first 3rd world country I visited and after visiting Kenya and Niger I learned that not all 3rd worl countries are created equally. I have always wanted to go to the jungle in Ecuador but haven’t been able to yet. Don’t be surprised if your “canoe” is a hollowed out tree. Lots of folk from my home church in Tupelo went in September and they all came back in one piece. Several with pictures of them holding a huge boa constrictor—I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT!!!!! Can’t wait to hear all about it!!!

  32. I can’t wait to follow along with your journey :-) thanks for sharing it with us my friend!

  33. I just spent 10 days in the amazon with the monkeys and canoes and other sorts of naturey things. I’ll be happy to discuss the mechanics of the canoe – they’re not from LL Bean. Only my 7 year olympic -track like gymnast child could gracefully get in and out. But it’s not that bad unless they pull up to a dock. I’m playing fast and loose with that word dock too.

    On another note, I just wet my pants reading about the monkey alarm!

  34. Almost 20 years ago, my new husband and I sponsored a Compassion Child from Ecuador. We were still in Waco after having graduated from Baylor and were attending Louie Giglio’s weekly Bible Study (if a 1000 student worship/teaching time can be called a Bible Study?). He introduced us to Compassion after having gone to Ecuador to see what Compassion does.

    We have sponsored several Compassion Children from Ecuador since then. Maybe you’ll meet one of our children! That would be so cool!!!

  35. Girl!! Love that you’re going again! Praying for lives to be changed and don’t you worry ONE BIT about the canoe… I don’t think they have snakes in Ecuador… yep, that’s right.. NO SNAKES in Ecuador. Just believe it!!

  36. Kathie Nappier says:

    My husband and I went to Ecuador in 2010 with Samaritan’s Purse to give out shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. It is an awesome beautiful country. On the last day, a man in our group got to meet the child he sponsered through Compassion. We traveled everywhere by bus, not canoe. It was a wild ride every day. There are no traffic lights, no laws or rules for driving. If you got there first you had the right of way. At the end of the day, I did not know if we would be back at our hotel or in Heaven! We loved the time we spent in Ecuador. Being with those children is forever in our minds and hearts.

  37. That last paragraph sounded JUST like Martha ;)

  38. charlotte says:

    alright, now we know how to pray for you and the canoe :) will do it!

  39. Just don’t be watching any River Monsters before you go on that canoe trip. I will be praying for all of you and what God will accomplish through such an amazing adventure!

  40. I sponsor a child in Ecuador, too! What an awesome opportunity. Many prayers your way. Embrace the canoe.

  41. I went from “Awww…she’s going on another trip with Compassion…how will her sweet heart stay in one piece?” to “Canoe?! Snakes?! Isn’t this the woman who would prefer to experience nature via the couch with a remote?” :-) Can’t wait to read everyone’s stories. I love Compassion’s mission…just received a letter from our little girl yesterday, who my preschool daughter calls “my friend”. Go love on those precious kids and tell us all about it. We’ll be praying!