ECUADOR (WBTV) - I was just eight year old when my mom dragged me on my first short-term-missions trip to Managua, Nicaragua. She was determined to make sure I realized how lucky I was. She wanted her daughter to know the rest of the world didn't live like me.
It didn't take eight-year-old me very long to have that aha moment.
That was one of the greatest gifts my mom would ever give me, a heart for the developing world. In the years that followed, I would travel across the globe with my mom and my church on mission's trips. I can't think of one vacation we went on growing up, instead we'd venture to places like Zambia or Argentina.
Trips to those places have a way of instantly putting things into perspective. I would go into small villages in Africa where "having nothing" really means having nothing.
And yet, they seemed to never complain. I remember children having constant and contagious smiles on their faces. I have a roof over my head and food to eat... I have nothing to complain about. But I still do.
Now, let me get to Ecuador. I had to give you a little background to make you understand how unbelievably excited I was when Samaritan's Purse called us up on Tuesday morning asking if we'd like to accompany them down to deliver supplies after Saturday's devastating earthquake.
My boss called and I shrieked with joy. This is why I became a reporter - to tell people's stories, to be a voice for the voiceless, to share the hearts of good people who do whatever it takes to help others... I was getting the chance to do that.
When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake leveled parts of the northern coast of Ecuador, Samaritan's Purse had a team headed towards the devastation within hours.
Four days later, more personnel would take their first flight on the organization's newly renovated DC-8 aircraft, bringing the supplies needed to build an Emergency Field Hospital in a town where the hospital was crushed by the quake.
Wednesday morning, I loaded up my camera, tripod, laptop and all the stuff that goes along with it and drove to Greensboro to meet the plane.
I was nervous, I didn't know what to expect, but I was grateful Samaritan's Purse was trusting me with their story.
On board, I listened to the chatter of a group of people who just wanted to get to their destination. There was last-minute planning and reviewing of layouts and maps. These were people with passion.
You have to have passion. Not many people are ready to hop on a plane the second a disaster strikes. I got the feeling these people live for the moment they can help others.
Initially, I hoped to get more time with the team, but was told the plane would only be on the ground in Ecuador for a few hours to drop off the team and supplies.
When it headed back to the states, I would have to be on it. I contemplated "losing" my passport, but begrudgingly decided against it.
I knew I would have to work fast.
I did interviews on the plane and in the cargo hold (that was a pretty cool first) with doctors and other personnel who were eager to be on the ground. The only thing they were prepared for was absolutely anything.
When we touched down in Guyaquil, local new stations were on the tarmac with their cameras to capture the Americans' arrival... It was kinda fun to see my global counterparts.
The team rushed off to customs and I got busy getting video of the massive unloading effort.
Camera in hand, I hurried after members of the Ecuadorian military as they unloaded crates and boxes, big and small, all meant to save lives in their country.
We didn't speak the same language, but gratefulness transcended that barrier. Their country was broken and complete strangers from an organization thousands of miles away were there to help put it back together.
While on the ground, I talked to a surgeon who's been with Samaritan's Purse for decades. He told me he expected to a lot of pain, death and destruction when they got to their destination. He knew he'd have to make some tough decisions in the operating room. But he was ready to do so in the name of his faith.
Soon, the team disappeared, heading straight towards the disaster zone. They hoped to work through the night to get the hospital set up by the morning.
One doctor on the plane told me, "Saving lives is about getting there first and getting there fast." Samaritan's Purse was doing that.
To be honest, my heart sank a little when I saw the team walk away. I had hoped somehow I would be able to go with them. I knew there were so many stories of pain and survival to be told. I wanted to be the one to tell them. I wanted to be the one making people in Charlotte care about this terrible disaster a world away.
But I quickly realized it wasn't about me. I had nothing to complain about.
Even if it was only for a few hours, I was given the chance and opportunity to share the heart of Samaritan's Purse with WBTV's audience. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
This weekend, when you're sitting down for dinner or climbing into your comfortable bed, remember the people who gave up the familiar in a heartbreak to go help others. Also, remember the people who lost those luxuries the second the earthquake hit.
Sometimes, it's hard for us to relate to people who are nothing like us... But they're people. People who are hurting. Hundreds dead, thousands injured, towns turned into rubble. I can't imagine. But the people with Samaritan's Purse can and they're doing everything they can to help.