When I was ten years old, I had never heard of Ecuador. “What I wanted to be when I grew up” was just a question adults would jokingly ask me that did not require a real answer. All I really cared about was what was for dinner and how many days were left until summer vacation.
In high school, I started to think more about my future plans, but the only big decision I faced was deciding what college to attend. I knew I wanted to work with underprivileged children, but I had no solid plans. And Ecuador? Ecuador was just one of many other countries in the world, which I could not even pinpoint on a map.
Throughout college, I finally started to have more of a focus on my future plans. After changing and adding majors once or twice, I knew exactly what I wanted to study. For the most part, I also had an idea of how I wanted to use what I learned after graduation. To me, Ecuador was still just a small country in South America. I thought I might want to travel there someday, but it definitely wasn’t at the top of my list.
This past summer, I was constantly debating what I wanted to do after graduation. I applied for Peace Corps, only to have as an option. When applying to Peace Corps, you can choose up to three programs in three different countries. I chose a Carribean island as my first choice and the Dominican Republic as my second, but I could not think of a third. I knew Latin American countries would be best for me to continue learning Spanish, so I randomly picked Ecuador as my third choice. Two days later, I received an email that I was being considered for the TEFL position in Ecuador. Another week later, I was contacted for an interview.
At the end of July, I finished teaching the summer term in Spain and was backpacking Europe for a week or two before returning to the States. On August 1st, I got off an overnight bus in Lucerne, Switzerland and decided to hike Mt. Pilatus. I did not know that it was a full 9.5 hour hike total, but I somehow survived and made it back to my hostel in Lucerne. As it turned out, I happened to randomly arrive in Switzerland on National Swiss Day. Since all of the stores were closed for the holiday, I decided to go out to dinner with someone I met in my hostel. As we were watching the fireworks over Lake Lucerne, I somehow received an email without having any service. The entire email would not load, but I saw the subject was simply, “Peace Corps – Invitation.”
When I finally got back to the hostel, I rushed to connect to the wifi and read the whole email. As I saw that I was invited to serve in Ecuador, I had a rush of about fifteen different emotions. I immediately called my parents, who were equally full of emotions. As I continued to backpack across Europe for the next two days, I went over all of the pros and cons in my head. Overall, the pros seemed to outweigh the cons. I sat down on my computer in my hotel in Amsterdam to officially accept my invitation.
Back in the United States, I was also offered teaching interviews for schools in Spain, Honduras, and Florida. All of the other teaching jobs had higher salaries and more vacation time, but I decided I could not give up this opportunity to serve with the Peace Corps. Now, I have officially been living here in Ecuador for one whole month and I am loving it.
If someone had told me five years ago that I would spend the summer of 2016 living and working in Spain, while applying for a teaching position in Ecuador, I would not have believed it for a second. How did some country I knew relatively nothing about become my new home?
While I felt like it was completely random that I ended up here in this South American country, today I was reminded that it was not random at all. As I met some of the students and teachers I will be working with for the next few weeks, I was reminded that I am needed, wanted, and supposed to be here.
Looking back, I can only laugh at all the plans I tried to create for myself. My responses to questions about my future went from “I don’t want to teach” to “I like teaching, but I do not want to ever teach middle school or high school.” Now, here I am serving as a high school teacher here in Ecuador. Luckily, I could not be happier. God knew exactly what He was doing sending me here, and I am so grateful.
In today’s day and age, and our “the future is ours” culture, it’s so easy to plan ahead and wish away the time we have. If you think about it, the future really isn’t “ours” – it’s God’s. He gave us the present moment; He never promised us tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Obviously, planning definitely has benefits. As a teacher, it is one of the most important aspects of my job. However, we should try our best to focus more on today than on tomorrow.
No person has the power to change the future, only the present. As much as we worry or plan ahead, we can never truly guarantee that something will happen in the future. When I think back on all of the stupid plans I have ever came up with, I realize how much of a blessing this really is. We cannot change our own futures, and other people (no matter how powerful) cannot change it either. If we know God holds the future, we have no reason to be worrisome or anxious.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”