Last weekend, our hearts got reeled in by a small orphanage in Baños, Ecuador.
The town’s name may create some initial confusion (bathrooms?), but it’s full name is Baños de Agua Santa (Baths of the Sacred Water), so called for the hydrothermal springs feeding into the town, under the shadow of the active volcano Tungurahua. Sitting at the outskirts of the jungle and an altitude of 5,000 ft, we could practically gulp down the thicker air.
The orphanage, El Dulce Refugio – translated as The Sweet Refuge, began when Dr. Wes King and his wife were led to construct an orphanage in Ecuador 13 years ago. Dr. Wes has given his full retirement – physically, emotionally, and financially, to purchasing this land, building the home, and raising the boys that God puts in his hands.
We were led to this place by our friend K.C., who shared fellowship with Wes when he provided healthcare for Kodiak natives some twenty years ago. K.C. gave us his contact and encouraged us to visit. I’m glad she did.
My heart might wither, as a mother, if my own children had experienced the circumstances these boys did. But under Wes and Donna’s care, and with the help of Clay and Audrey, they are gaining a sense of home and family. Two essentials that so many of us take for granted.
We got to celebrate Nakiah’s birthday there, with these strangers we had only just met. Donna prepared a cake, before even meeting us at our arrival. Wes took us to some sights on the morning of her special day, and two of the teenage boys joined us.
I lost count of the waterfalls we saw feeding into the Pastaza river, each drop falling as rain into the Andes mountains, eventually flowing into the Amazon, crossing a continent, and spilling into the Atlantic. If I could hide a miniscule camera into a single drop of water and see this journey…
We took a tarabita (cable car) ride over the Pastaza. And when we got to the other side, we enjoyed a quiet walk with the two boys.
They were quite skilled at mimicking bird calls. We made our best attempts to learn. A few birds did come to visit, but certainly not on our account.
Our ride back over the canyon, to the next adventure of the day. A gorgeous land.
It was hard to leave. Jason had only just started teaching them guitar chords, and we all wished we could extend our weekend longer and continue acquainting ourselves. That Sunday morning, as our bus pulled out of Baños, and we climbed the 4,500 feet back up into Quito, we watched the outskirts of the jungle fall behind us and considered how soon we could possibly return.