Today we concluded the chess camp at the school and prepared to head back to the U.S. During camp, Zach and Zoe’s room finished their tournament with Jandry winning the championship with 3.5 out of 4 points. To begin the day in the advanced room, seven people played a simul against Drew, who had not lost any games during the week. However, with only five minutes on each clock, he was unable to remain undefeated as Fernando managed to win his game on time. Following the simul, the experienced students played a three-round (two games per round) blitz tournament. Pedro and Jesus each won all six of their games and faced each other in a playoff game. Pedro, who showed great improvement during the week, took home the title of blitz champion.
During the final break of the week, about half the people played soccer and the rest sat down and socialized. At the end of the break, everyone gathered together for a group photo.
Once break was over, both groups came together to play a bughouse tournament. After four intense rounds, David and Noemi came out victorious with a perfect score. They were both beginners from Zach and Zoe’s room, so we were very proud of them.
Once the camp was finished, we quickly ate lunch and packed up the boards and pieces. (The school now has twenty boards and one clock for the students to practice during the school year.) Then, we went to see Abel, a child at Amor y Esperanza who is unable to walk and has received physical therapy from our mom. She had sent a medical stroller for him, and Abel and his mother were so joyful and grateful that he had received this blessing. I (Zoe) truly experienced the feeling that giving is better than receiving. Upon seeing the joy on their faces, I knew that giving him this gift was better than receiving one.
We drove home and relaxed most of the afternoon before getting ready to leave. After packing our suitcases, the kids settled down to watch Captain America, which Drew had never seen before. He has just started watching Marvel superhero movies on this trip!
In the evening, we gathered to eat our last meal together as one family. Margarita, who had cooked an cleaned for us the whole week, had helped prepare a delicious dinner for us. She has truly displayed an others-ahead-of-self attitude by humbly serving us throughout the week. Tonight, along with Pity, she had made a dinner of tomato soup, steak, papas fritas (Roberto’s favorite!) and rice, with a dessert of lemon pound cake. It was a scrumptious conclusion to our stay. Maria Victoria also displayed a servant’s heart by sleeping next door with her grandmother the whole week, giving up her room so that Zoe could stay there.
After dinner, we assembled one last time in the living room for prayer and blessing. Pancho and Pity prayed for the Justice kids and especially Danny, who is leaving the country for the first time without his parents. They anointed Zach’s knee and prayed for it to heal, and also anointed Danny and asked God to bless him. After that, Pancho and Pity prayed for Zoe and Drew and Roberto anointed them. It was a beautiful ending to our fellowship as a family.
We loaded up our bags and piled into a rented bus to head to the airport for our 11:30 flight. After some struggle figuring out what line to stand in and where to check our luggage, we made it through by checking in at the “Special Services” counter, which was much quicker than the normal line. We said our goodbyes to the Zola family and got through security with ease because we accidentally stood in the disabled persons line.
We are truly grateful to the Lord for our week of service in Ecuador and are sad to go back home. I hope you all enjoyed our blog and thanks for reading! Adiós.
Today was the second-to-last day of camp. The kids in both groups played lots of chess. In Zach and Zoe’s room, they went over openings and played some bughouse. The students in Roberto’s room played some practice games with a clock and reviewed the basic tactics learned yesterday.
Zach and Zoe were both exhausted today so they were happy when it was time for the break. There was, of course, more soccer, but Zoe and Zach mostly just sat and talked with the kids.
After the break, Zach and Zoe set up a four-round tournament in their room. Two rounds were completed today with two more to be played tomorrow. The experienced players participated in a three-round tournament. John, using a unique opening strategy with the white pieces (a4-b3-c4), emerged as champion after defeating Henry in a playoff match.
Henry is a talented player, and he also has to take care of his four-year-old brother, Panchito, while at camp. Panchito has a strange tendency to punch his older brother occasionally. It takes extreme focus for Henry to babysit and play chess while getting hit. Today Panchito decided to assert himself at the chess board, making interesting moves and then smacking the clock instead of Henry. He became the first one at camp to win against Drew as he captured Drew’s king multiple times in a new chess variant understood only by the four-year-old. Roberto proved to be no match for Panchito either.
When the day of camp concluded, we gathered to eat lunch and Roberto was very excited to see pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut. None of us could believe the cost of each pizza, however — $20!!! Back at home, Zach was extremely glad that they were not planning to run because he just wanted to rest. Everyone was pretty wiped out. Zoe took a nap and read another book, Drew played Wii basketball versus Mateo, and everyone else just relaxed. Later in the afternoon, all the kids except Danny played a Wii bowling tournament, and once again Drew was the champion with a score of 151.
For dinner, the family minus Pity went to at an upscale restaurant called Pim’s, which is located in the oldest part of Quito. There was a lot of traffic on the way, and it took us an hour and a half of aggressive Ecuadorian driving to get there. However, the food was well worth the wait. Pretty much everyone ordered hamburgers except for Pancho. The princesses, Zoe and Maria, got milkshakes along with Roberto. Afterwards, we took some pictures and returned to the house (in only 30 minutes) after a long day of teaching and loving. Thanks for reading!
We’ve had another great day of chess camp! The kids in Zach and Zoe’s room worked on opening principles and checkmating with two rooks and soon progressed to playing bughouse, while the more advanced students played games and worked on single rook mate. They also learned how to play with clocks for the first time and had another bughouse tournament. At the end of the day, the experienced students were introduced to four types of tactics: pins, forks, skewers, and discoveries. Zach and Zoe hope to set up a tournament in their room tomorrow in which the kids will play each other.
The students continue to show a great joy in learning chess. They have really been a blessing to us this week. Zach has paid special attention to three little girls: Vale, Salomé, and Mayari. They radiate the love of Christ and show that no matter how much or how little you have, you still should put others ahead of yourself.
During the break, the students played soccer once again. Roberto had not forgotten about his fall yesterday, so he decided not to compete as much today. Zach also played only a little but enjoyed talking to everyone and relaxing.
After the break, we continued teaching and finished off the day listening to Despacito while cleaning up the room. Once all the kids had left, we ate lunch at Amor y Esperanza and headed home.
On the way to Pancho and Pity’s house, we made a stop at the new school building that is still under construction. It currently has two floors, but there will be a third floor when the remaining funds for the school are secured. When the Whitefield EMT came, they built twelve walls on the bottom level. The view from the second floor is incredible! Roberto said that if he went to school there, he would look out the window and never pay attention in class.
Once we arrived at home, everyone was pretty tired so we just too it easy. Zoe finished the book that she was reading, and Drew played Wii basketball for a long time. He challenged Zoe, who had never played before, and she kept the game tied until we had to leave to go to the park.
Danny, Mateo, and Zach ran a 10K while Drew, Zoe, Maria Victoria, and Pancho walked. Roberto decided not to go and took a nap instead. Eventually, Drew decided to start running with Mateo but quickly fell behind and did not quite complete a mile. Nonetheless, it was a decent effort in the thin air of Quito.
Following our time at the park, everyone just relaxed and took showers before an amazing dinner of potato soup, meatloaf, and brownies with ice cream for dessert. Dr. Wells, a member of the board of Amor y Esperanza, also joined us for dinner. Afterwards, we had a very inspirational prayer meeting in the living room. Pancho shared verses from Luke 11 which command us to ask, seek and knock concerning our dreams with the Lord. They tell us to ruthlessly pursue the Lord, much as one pursues and attacks the king in chess, and cast our burdens on Him. This was a time where we were all very close to God as we prayed for Daniel’s journey to college, Zach’s knee, safe travels for Danny in America, healing for our grandmother, Nona, and strength for our beautiful and wonderful mother as she cares for and loves her whole family every day no matter the circumstance (we love you mom!!). This meeting was truly an example of God’s family and the love that we so actively desire to experience as believers.
After prayer, we stayed up for a little while and Scooby inspired a conversation about the differences between dogs and citizen rights in America and Ecuador. We are truly having a great time as a family here in Quito and are looking forward to another wonderful day of chess and love tomorrow. Hasta Mañana.
Today was another great day at chess camp. The kids are learning a lot and progressing very quickly. The beginners learned how to move all of the pieces and played their first full games. In the advanced room, the students played Bughouse, a fast paced version of chess where players have partners. Argenis and Mayarí, an eight year old, won all of their games against the other campers and emerged as champions of the first day of Bughouse.
Argenis is one of the best chess players at the camp. He used to go to school at Amor y Esperanza, but he left before this past school year. However, he liked chess so much when the Whitefield EMT was here last summer that he came back to camp this week. He quickly proved himself as a superior player by dominating in the advanced room. We are so grateful to God that Argenis was able join us at camp. Mayari is the youngest student in the experienced room and Roberto believes she has a very bright future in chess. You can see the joy in her eyes as she plays and she is showing great potential just like Argenis did last year.
Midway through the camp, we all took a break from chess and went to the patio for soccer and relaxation. This was probably everyone’s favorite part of the day. The children immediately started to play soccer and they went all out. Zach joined in the game and scored a few goals, but the Ecuadorians were hard to keep up with. Roberto also decided to play, and despite his age and taking a nasty fall, scored a goal. He also held his own for a long time as keeper. Roberto says that us Americans are better at doing stuff with our hands than with our feet, hence why he was best at keeper in fútbol.
When we were not playing soccer during break, we were loving and talking to the kids. I (Zach) had a great time getting to know two little girls, Vale (7) and Mayarí (8). They were so cute and talkative and I really enjoyed being there with them. Mayari was particularly impressive. We got into a conversation (in Spanish) about cellphones. She said that she had one, and I was very surprised. I asked her why she had one if she is only eight. She told me that her parents work a lot, and she has to take care of her three year old brother. WOW! This girl is only eight, and she is constantly babysitting a younger child. She also used the word responsibilidad (responsibility). I was so impressed with her maturity and responsibility while playing chess and while talking. This was really a wakeup call for me to stop complaining when I have to do something. This girl does more work and has more responsibility than me, and she is almost ten years younger. This is just one of many examples of the work God is doing here and the inspiration He is bringing about on this trip.
After camp, the kids ate lunch, jammed out to Despacito, and played cards before heading to the Pichincha Volcano with Pancho and Roberto. After arriving at TeleferiQo, we rode two gondolas up the mountain and took in the incredible view. It was truly an amazing representation of God’s handiwork and creation. After walking around for a while, we headed back to the house to relax and have a wii basketball tournament (Drew won with Kobi Bryant and the Lakers). All the kids except Zach then took Scooby for a walk and played basketball and soccer in the park.
Following our time at the park, Zach and Zoe practiced music for their evening “concert” that Roberto had requested as a birthday present. (Zach plays ukulele, guitar, and sings, while Zoe plays violin and sings.) Afterwards, everyone ate dinner, a delicious meal of filet mignon, homemade french fries, rice, and pound cake. Roberto was very happy, especially about the tasty papas fritas!
After dinner, Zach and Zoe went back to practicing, while Danny, Mateo, and Drew were finally learning to dunk on Wii basketball. Once the duo were finished getting ready, everyone gathered in the living room for the music. Zach and Zoe played a combination of songs they had done at the Bean (Whitfield’s talent show) in previous years, and some new songs that they are planning to play at the Bean in the future. Zach also tried to learn to perform Despacito with his ukulele, but I guess he just doesn’t have the Spanish singing skills of Justin Bieber.
We closed off our time together in prayer and then everyone left the room to do their own thing. The boys, of course, continued playing Wii basketball before going to bed.
We are looking forward to another day of chess camp tomorrow! Thanks for reading today’s post! Adiós!
Today was the first day of chess camp. We had a good turnout and a great time. Very early in the morning, Mateo, Danny, and Zach woke up to run at the park in order to prepare for running camp next week. Afterwards, we all headed to Amor y Esperanza to begin our week of teaching. About 30 kids from ages 8 to 15 showed up to learn some chess. Roberto decided to split the kids into two groups: beginners and more experienced players. Zach and Zoe taught the beginners with Maria Victoria helping Zach when he didn’t know the Spanish and helping Zoe because she doesn’t know the Spanish. Roberto and Drew taught the more experienced players, while Danny and Mateo assisted by translating and playing some games too.
In the beginners room, the students learned how the paws (peónes), rooks (torres), bishops (alfiles), and kings (reyes) move. In addition, they began to learn how to checkmate (jaquemate) with just two rooks. We were very impressed with the beginners as they quickly picked up concepts (despite the language barrier and Zach’s questionable Spanish) that typically take our American students several hours if not days. The advanced group jumped right into playing full games. In order to determine their playing ability, Roberto had Drew play all of the students in the room at the same time. After the simul, students were paired against each other to play more games and practice checkmate with a single rook.
We also took a break halfway through the day to give the students — and instructors — a rest from thinking. This was a great opportunity for us to meet the students for the first time out of the classroom. We were all really impressed by the self-control of the students inside the classroom, but I (Zach) was more impressed with their energy and passion outside when they were playing. They have so much love and passion for life and each other, and I was just really touched. I know it is kind of cliché, but these kids have already started to give to me more than I can imagine ever giving to them. They have inspired me by showing that no matter how little you have or what situation you are in, you can always be joyful in the Lord and love Him and others with all of your strength. It has truly been a blessing from the Lord to meet these boys and girls and be able to love them and be loved back as one family of God.
After the first day of chess camp ended, we ate lunch at the school and then returned home. The kids immediately retreated to Danny and Mateo’s playroom to play Wii tennis. After setting up a double elimination tournament, Zach ended up playing Mateo in the championship. Zach won after coming back from a loss in the first round to Danny.
When we were done playing, we took the dog, Scooby, for a walk. After a while, Danny and Mateo brought Scooby back to the house and we proceeded to play some real basketball and soccer. Maria Victoria and Zoe don’t like soccer, so they sat out while everyone else played. After an interesting game against some other kids in the neighborhood, we came back to the house to relax.
The Justices laid low while Danny and Mateo went to karate where they both earned their green belts. Soon after their return, Pity surprised Roberto with a birthday cake and decorations at dinner. We think that it was one of Roberto’s favorite cakes ever (and of course it was chocolate). After dinner, the boys played a few games of Wii basketball (NBA 2K) until everyone gathered in the living room for a night of community, family, and prayer.
Pancho gave all of us a powerful message that anything is possible if Christ is at the center of our lives. I know we hear that all the time, but the Lord really spoke to me (Zoe) through all the events of the day leading up to what he had to say to us. At the beginning of the chess camp, I thought it would be very hard to get through to the students, partly because of the language barrier, and partly because, in my past experience, some kids are not really interested in learning chess so it seems pointless to teach them. But God had a different plan today. The children were very kind and respectful, as well as passionate about learning chess even if it was very hard, given that their teachers barely speak Spanish. They learned so quickly (way faster than kids in America, I must say) that I knew that God had to be working in their lives. In the same way, some things may seem very hard at the time, but God is working in our lives. If it is hard to do, God will give us the faith and the passion to achieve it. Pancho told us that any dream you might have, no matter how unattainable it seems, can be accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ.
At the end of our time together, we prayed for our mom’s mom, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, and knew that God can do anything, no matter how hard it seems. As I saw countless times today, when God wills it, nothing can stop him. Romans 8:31, 35, 37-39 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Pancho told us to be strong and courageous, because if Christ is at the center of our lives, he can and will work miracles.
Happy Birthday Roberto! Thanks so much for reading! Nos Vemos.
Hello again from Ecuador! But this time, Zach and Zoe are posting instead of our mom, Susan. Along with our younger brother Drew and our dad (Kyle aka Roberto), we arrived in Ecuador late Thursday night after a five hour flight from Atlanta. Surprisingly, we flew through security and checking our bags, so we had lots of time to eat and wait in the airport.
After boarding the plane, we settled in and watched movies for the duration of the flight. Upon landing at the Quito airport, Pancho Zola, our friend from Ecuador, picked us up, accompanied by his two sons, Danny and Mateo. We rode back to their house, exhausted from our travels. We were greeted by Pancho’s wife Pity and soon went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke to a delicious breakfast of pancakes and eggs. Afterwards, we prepared to give the family gifts that we had brought from America. First, Zoe gave Maria Victoria, their daughter, a new basketball, while Drew gave Mateo a new soccer ball. Danny received only an air pump for the balls, since he had already received an unexpected gift from the Whitefield cross country team a few months ago. (Members of the team raised $2000 in less than a week for Danny to attend running camp with them in North Carolina. He will flying back with us after our visit and staying in the U.S. for over two weeks. He is very excited about his visit to America!) Roberto, as he is known in Ecuador, had a special card (written in Spanish) from our mom, who had visited Quito last month as one of the leaders on the Ecuador Mission Team (EMT) from our school, Whitefield Academy.
Fundación Amor y Esperanza, Foundation Love and Hope in English, is the school that Pancho and Pity started in Quito over fifteen years ago. It provides Christ-centered education for children in Carmen Bajo, an at-risk neighborhood in the city. Whitefield has maintained a partnership with Amor y Esperanza for the past fourteen years. Last year, both of our parents traveled to Quito with the EMT and quickly realized that they were not just on a mission trip — they were part of a family.
Last November Roberto applied for a Retaining the Best grant at Whitefield, which is a program that provides financial awards to veteran teachers who have been working at the school for seven or more years. He received funds to return to Ecuador and do a chess camp at Amor y Esperanza. The camp begins tomorrow, Monday, July 10th (Roberto’s birthday!).
After sharing the gifts with the Zola family, we set off for the market in Ottavallo, a city about an hour from Quito. The market was filled with various alpaca clothing and blankets, as well as handmade jewelry and other various things. We had to haggle and negotiate to get prices that we liked. Zach and Zoe both ended up with backpacks and llama jackets, and Zach also purchased a melodica, which is a portable piano. Drew got a wallet, a t-shirt, and a sweater, while Roberto bought a very comfortable sweater. Next, we went to a large lake and took lots of pictures of the incredible landscape. The lake fills a crater formed by a volcano erupting. Since the volcano is still active, there are no fish in the warm, bubbling water.
After lunch and a long day of driving, we crashed at Pity’s family’s farm in Nono, a rural town of about 800 people. Drew and Roberto played lots of blitz chess and Roberto was very happy when he finally won a game (Drew lost track of time and flagged in a 3 minute game). We settled down to a delicious dinner of hamburgers and fries — just like home! Later, Maria Victoria, Mateo, and Danny led us on a mountain trail around the farm. The kids played multiple card games that night, but Zach was exhausted and went to sleep fairly early. The rest of us stayed up a while longer sitting by the warm fire. Eventually, we all made our way to our beds and fell asleep quickly after a long day of driving, activity, and fellowship.
Saturday was a fun filled, relaxing day in Nono. We slept late and ate a delicious breakfast to prepare for the day ahead. Pancho, Mateo, and Danny set up the Ping Pong table, and a tournament proceeded. Roberto was the overall champion, beating Pancho in two very close matches, and afterwards Zoe handily beat Drew 5 games out of 6! (Drew claims that the tree was in his way and his sweater was impeding his range of motion, but Zoe clearly proved her superior skill.) After table tennis, we went into town for lunch at a chicken restaurant. Zoe was very hungry and thoroughly enjoyed her pollo. Then, we went to an ice-cream shop, which was surprisingly cheap. Once the group finished there, we played basketball (not soccer!) in the park with the new basketball that Maria Victoria received. We played a game of 4 on 4 to 15 points. Pancho, Roberto, Danny, and Drew vs. Mateo, Maria Victoria, Zach, and Zoe. It was a long and arduous match, with Pancho and Roberto scoring most points off of rebounds and turnovers, while Zoe displayed her long-range shooting skills, leading her team in scoring from 3-point range. In the end, despite Zach’s superior ability and hustle, Pancho led his team to victory by scoring the final two buckets. Remarkably, it was only the eighth time Pancho has played basketball.
Back at the house, the kids played more Ping Pong and collected firewood for a campfire. After an exciting game of manhunt, in which Drew was almost attacked by rats, we sat down to a delicious dinner of tacos and rice. These tacos were indubitably the best Zach has ever eaten. After dinner, we built the campfire. although it was surprisingly difficult to light without the help of Daniel, our older brother and resident Eagle Scout. With the assistance of Pancho, we had a great time roasting s’mores and hanging out. After ensuring that the fire was put out, we went inside for a time of fellowship and prayer. Pancho shared the verse Col. 3:23 and the message of pursuing God and living for Him in all areas of our lives. Roberto (guitar), Zach (ukulele) and Zoe (singing) led a few worship songs, and we all enjoyed each other’s company in the presence of God.
We arose at 8:00 on Sunday to eat breakfast and leave for the Equator. At the museum, Pancho, Roberto, and the kids learned a lot about the different physics at the equator such as the Coriolis effect and the competing forces at the equator. Drew was the only person in the group able to complete the challenge of balancing an egg on a nail, attaining the title of Egg Master and receiving a diploma. (He may never become a GM but he is now officially and EM!) After touring the museum, we were on a mission to visit one of the local women, Elvira, that our mom met last month at one of the shops. She was very happy to see us, and the feeling that we are a part of God’s family was palpable. It was no coincidence that we came together; it was clearly the work of the Lord. In fact, Elvira’s son may attend our chess camp next week tomorrow! Pancho prayed for her and her family, and she was very loving and hospitable to us, people she did not even know until today. This was a clear expression of the love that believers are called to have for their fellow brothers and sisters.
After a tiring day of sight seeing, the group headed to Crepes and Waffles for a bite to eat. Roberto was not hungry, so he just ordered a chocolate milkshake (classic Roberto!). The children, especially Drew, ate and enjoyed their meal. On the way home, Roberto and Pancho had an interesting conversation about denominations within the church. This alone was a major feat because Pancho does not speak much English, and Roberto definitely no habla Español. However, with the occasional translations by Danny, Mateo, and Zach, they had a deep conversation about bringing God’s followers together despite denominational and theological differences. At last, once they arrived at home, the kids relaxed and played wii video games and at a nearby park before heading to dinner (at an up-scale Carl’s Jr. where Zach had to order Roberto and Zoe’s complicated orders in Spanish) and the movies (to see Spiderman).
While we were out at dinner, Danny tricked Drew, who does not know much Spanish, into asking the Baskin Robbins employee for a cuchillo (knife) rather than a servilleta (napkin). The employee was very confused and we all laughed and had a great time. Overall, it has been an exciting and fun-filled but tiring weekend of family and fellowship. We are very much looking forward to meeting the students at Amor y Esperanza and using chess as a platform to show them the love of Christ and the pursuit of the King. Hasta Pronto!
It has been quite a long time since I posted here. I have missed writing and taking time to reflect on our “chess journey.” I don’t have time at the present to delve back in, but thought I would pass along a link to an article I wrote recently:
Drew and his friend Arthur are playing at the World Open in DC along with a number of other Georgia players. Drew is in the U2000 section, Arthur is playing in the Open section. Here is a link for results: