written by: Michael Gladstone, Walsh Jesuit High School
I was told to go into my immersion experience in Ecuador with an open heart and an open mind. What I did not predict was the magnitude at which God’s presence would fill these open spaces through the people I grew to love. I went into this experience fully ready to try to make a difference and a lasting imprint in the people’s lives I was going to meet, yet it was the Ecuadorians, my friends, who affected me. I think that people in the U.S. just see Ecuador as another country in South America but don’t see it as anything more. They do not see the incredible Ecuadorian hospitality or grace filled individuals. The folly is not theirs but instead those who come back from their immersion experiences and do not continue their service.
While I am not making the ministry of presence to the people of Ecuador, my duty to them, my call to do God’s work, is far from over. As Catholics it is our duty to treat all with dignity and respect. It is our duty to spread God’s grace to those in need. It is our duty to be the change we want to see in the world. We are all children of God, we are all brothers and sisters, and we must be examples of Christ’s compassion. I, who was lucky enough to go on such an experience, such a life changing event, must come back with the mindset that my service to the people of Ecuador is far from over.
When I came back from Ecuador I experienced a great culture shock. After being surrounded by a poverty of such an enormous magnitude, it is hard to readjust. To see people who you grew to love surviving in homes that are as big as the average American bedroom and need to fit whole families, and then have to come back to a society that raises us to think we always need more. To realize that every day you are back here, the people of Ecuador are still living in such awful conditions.
The immersion experience to Ecuador did not just change my view on the world, but also ruined me for life. I was truly a witness to the insensitivity and the cold shoulder of today’s world. To be ruined for life from this experience means that my experience will never leave me. My memories, the friends I created, the poverty I saw, the knowing that people live like that will always be in my mind. This experience truly ruined me for life and I plan to use this knowledge to be a man for others, and as St. Ignatius would say, “Go, set the world on fire and in flame.”