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September 2018 480.632.7373 jensenlawaz.com
Bringing Back Sam Picking Up Our Son From Ecuador After a 2-Year Mission
Last month, after two years of exchanging emails and a scant four phone calls, my wife and I finally got to see our son Sam in Ecuador, where he’s spent the past 24 months on a mission for the LDS church. It was an incredible trip, full of fun and eye-opening adventures, but of course, we were just thrilled to hang out with our son again, to see all that he’s been doing, and to marvel at how much he’s grown. We started out the trip in Quito, which became a kind of hub for Sam during his mission work. We had a day before he arrived, so we whiled away the hours by trudging up and down the steep hills of Ecuador’s capital, doing our best to get by without knowing any Spanish. We took a bus tour, and as we navigated through the old parts of the city, built on ancient Incan ruins, I was struck by the ramshackle concrete buildings and the winding, narrow streets. It was hard to imagine my son living among the locals, walking these 45-degree hills in the thin air 10,000 feet above sea level. That was the case only until we met up with Sam the following day and immediately saw how capable and confident he’d grown over the past couple of years. It was an emotional moment when we first saw his face, grinning from ear to ear, all of us so happy to see one another. With an easy air about him, he fluently guided us from place to place, showing us the five different
locations in which he’d been working across the country.
There was Quito, of course, but also Cayambe, a little farming community dwarfed by the shadow of a massive volcano. And there was Otavalo, known across the continent for its massive outdoor market, where we picked up a bunch of beautiful, colorful alpaca blankets and souvenirs, dropping a fair bit of quid in the process. My personal favorite was an area called Coca, a town next to the Napo River, one of the biggest tributaries to the Amazon, in the midst of dense, canopied jungle with wild greenery stretching in all directions. It was a welcome respite from the Andean highlands. Along our travels, we had the incredible opportunity to meet with many of the folks who Sam had been working with over the past two years. Whether they were members of the church or just people he’d spent time working alongside, it was amazing to hear all the moving things they had to say about our son. When we met with church leaders in Cayambe, they were thrilled to see us, and invited us into their home for some food. To celebrate the occasion, they cooked an Ecuadorian delicacy called “cuy” — a kind of guinea pig. Though I wasn’t exactly enamored with the flavor of the little critter, it meant a lot that they were so eager to share their culture with us. As we ate, they told us just how grateful
they’d been for our son’s help, raving about all the good work he’d done. I can tell you that few things will make a dad prouder than that. That pride was a running theme of the entire trip. In many ways, Sam was the same old Sam we’d always known, though maybe a couple of inches taller. But on the whole, he’d left for Ecuador a boy and come back a man. His fluency in Spanish, the way he carried himself, and even the way he ate had evolved (he never left behind much more than a couple grains of rice). When he first made his way to South America, we received letters from him wracked with self-doubt, wondering whether he had what it took to carry out his mission. But the man we saw on that day in Quito was different: more self-assured, more disciplined, humbler, and more worldly. He’s already off to BYU for college, and though
it’s going to be an adjustment, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll do great. It’s impossible to express just how proud of him I am.
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