What can a boy in poverty teach you about waiting?

How a Canadian sponsor learned about faith in times of waiting from an impoverished family in Ecuador  

By Amy Smart

It was 4 a.m. on a January morning. I stood in a parking lot, shivering as the cold Saskatchewan wind cut through my hoodie and sweatpants. Suitcase in tow, I approached the van that had just pulled up and put my luggage inside. At any moment the rest of my group of eight would arrive. I had been counting down to this day when I would leave behind the dreary winter of Western Canada to experience South America for the first time.

We were on our way to Ecuador to see the work of Compassion firsthand. I was most excited to be able to return home and tell other people that God was working in Ecuador and was using Compassion to do amazing things.


After we arrived, we took a three-hour bus ride to Otavalo, a city in the Andean highlands of Ecuador. The scenery was different from Saskatchewan—giant aloe vera plants, winding roads and mountains covered in green. It was beautiful. One of our most anticipated activities was visiting our first Compassion centre, and as the bus rattled along the bumpy, narrow road, we saw a glimpse of a church building behind a tall gate. The children were lined up to greet us with many hugs, and they gave us each a bouquet of roses.

After we helped serve the children lunch and had some play time, we piled into the back of a truck to visit the home of three sponsored children—two sisters and their 15-year-old brother named Washington. Eventually the truck stopped in front of a concrete house on a dirt road. The family joined us, but we did not go into the concrete house. Instead, we walked up a hill that rose behind it, and stopped in front of what looked like two piles of sticks and plastic garbage bags.

What the translator said next shocked me: just over a year ago, this entire family had lived in the structures that were before us. They were dilapidated, poorly insulated and had dirt floors. I couldn’t imagine how painful and miserable it would have been to sleep in the dirt every night as they did, especially when it was cold and rainy.

The mother of the family said that every night before she went to bed, she would hear Washington pray for a new home for their family. He had learned about God and Jesus at his church and Compassion centre and knew that nothing was too big for God. Faithfully, he continued to pray for a new house. Even when it seemed like God did not answer, Washington wouldn’t give up.

Then something wonderful happened. The Compassion centre provided half the funds that the family needed to build a new home through Complementary Interventions. With the help of their community, the family raised the rest of the necessary funding and construction began.

We were led down the hill to the finished product: the concrete house we had seen when we arrived. It had glass windows and four rooms. They had a kitchen, beds to sleep on, a concrete floor and solid walls to protect them. The joy and pride the family had for their new home was unmistakable.

The youngest sister wanted to sing a song for us while we were there. While we didn’t know much Spanish, we recognized it immediately: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”

This family’s faith sets an example for us all. I find that North Americans, including myself, have become all about instant gratification. We want instant rewards and instant answers. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking “God must not love me” or “God will not help me” if He doesn’t answer us right away or give us the answer we expected. I have struggled with this many times in my life. Even as an adult, it can be so hard to wait. It’s often not until an event has passed that I can look back and see that God’s hand was there the whole time, directing things according to His perfect plan.

Sometimes the wait may be agonizing, as I’m sure it was for Washington and his family as they slept on that cold dirt floor. Washington’s story is a powerful reminder that God is always at work behind the scenes, orchestrating events according to His perfect timing. Washington’s family couldn’t build their house out of their own provisions and strength. They know that God answered their prayers in a way only He could. He heard a 15-year-old boy crying out to him for relief from miserable living conditions. Many miles away from Washington’s family, God also hears a stressed-out twenty-something praying for strength and peace in a world that gets more confusing to her every day. Wherever we call out to Him, He listens.

Washington and his cousin

Washington and his family still live in poverty, but they are rich where it matters most. They love God. They know that He is with them and He hears their prayers. They know that they can come to Him with anything, and that there is nothing He cannot do. Washington wants to be a pastor one day, and I think he will be a great one. God is using the Church and the community around him and his family to provide for their needs, physically and spiritually. He will do the same for us too, if we call out to Him and trust His timing.

Amy Smart is a Canadian sponsor from Saskatchewan.

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