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Teens heading to Ecuador for 10 days to lend a hand

June 17, 2008|By ELINA MIR / Pulse Correspondent

Have you ever wanted to go to another country to help the poor? That is exactly what three Hagerstown-area teens are doing this summer. Three teens from Ringgold Church of Christ - Danielle Connely, David Connely and Steven Jacques - are traveling to El Recreo, Ecuador, and staying there 10 days to help out. They are going with the church youth group and youth leader Ken Gillaspy.

The church organized its first mission trip to El Recreo in 2001 and its second in 2005. The last time a group went, group members noticed that a church needed to be properly built. So they pledged to raise $10,000 and ended up with $30,000.

Gillaspy described his time there.

"The people were friendly, very warm and inviting," he said. "Our churches have developed a sister church relationship. I love the people. They are like family to me."

Church services are in Spanish, he said.

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"We have starting and finishing times (at American worship services), but not over there," Gillaspy said. "They start when everyone shows up and they sing a lot. But other than that the services are similar."

What is life like in El Recreo?

"The average income is $3 a month," he said. "I would say that when you talk with them about their struggles they don't act like they are missing out. Instead they're concerned about us. About how things can affect our focus."

One goal of the Ringgold church's mission trips to El Recreo is to encourage people to become Christians.

"The church we've been working with was planted by another church," Gillaspy said. "People made decisions (to become Christian) while our teams were there. It has been growing."

What is the difference between churches here and there?

"The difference between the churches are that in North America we often build them in bigger buildings. But their one church is built and then six or seven are built around it."

The teens who are going to El Recreo are ready to embrace the experience.

"Last year my parents wanted me to go on a trip like this and it was fun. Also my older brother has gone," said Steven Jacques, a sophomore at Grace Academy.

David Connely, a freshman at Smithsburg High School, said " I don`t know what to expect. I want to go because my dad inspired me. I want to see the different lifestyles and the difference in belief of God."

Danielle Connely, a senior at Smithsburg said, "I went to Jamaica with 50 people and we went to 15 churches. It changed my life. I can help them with what they want and what they need."

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