Brazil: Meeting John of God

This blog is an excerpt from my inspirational book, Words To Thrive By: Powerful Storiess of Courage and Hope” and from the chapter, Transformation – Help Isn’t a Four-Letter Word.

Words to Thrive By: Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope

Words to Thrive By: Powerful Stories of Courage and Hope

For my fiftieth birthday, I flew to Brazil to meet a healer named John of God. The Casa de Dom Inácio (The House of Saint Ignatius Loyola) is a spiritual healing center in Abadiânia, central Brazil. Here, for over twenty years, João Teixeira de Faria, a gifted and powerful medium known as “João de Deus” (John of God) has helped countless people achieve miraculous healings—of cancer, AIDS, paraplegia, blindness and many other serious or seemingly “incurable” illnesses.

In my own research and conversations with people who had been to Brazil to meet John of God, they all spoke with great reverence about this truly humble man, quietly doing God’s work of healing in our world. As result, I decided to go meet him and see for myself. I figured that if John of God could heal other people of incurable things, perhaps he could also heal my hardened heart and my seemingly incurable feelings of rage.

I cashed in all my frequent-flyer miles for a first-class ticket to Brazil, and three months later, in January 2008, I was sitting on a plane heading halfway across the globe. Three planes and eighteen hours later, I was flying over the Amazon River as it snaked down through Brazil en route to Sao Paulo. Later that day, I boarded another smaller plane which finally landed in the current capital of Brazil: Brasilia.

The next morning we met our tour guide, Heather Cummings. She was a tall, attractive woman in jeans and cowboy boots. Heather was all business. She would be our guide and translator throughout the trip.

There were eight of us in the minivan as we wound up into the high hills toward Abadiânia, the place where the Casa and our hotel, or pousada, were. When we arrived at the pousada, my room felt a little like a monk’s cell: two twin cots, each with a very thin mattress pad, one blanket, and one sheet. There were no pictures on the wall and only a rod in one side of the room to hang up my clothes. This was to be my place to sleep and meditate for the next two weeks.

After we unpacked a bit, a few of us decided to walk over to see the Casa, where we would be going for our first meeting with John of God the following day. We left the pousada and began walking toward the Casa on the dirt road, which was a beautiful deep red-brown color. As we walked, horse-drawn carts passed us filled with colorful vegetables passed us. People smiled. We smiled back.

The Casa is a simple building with simple furnishings. On the days when John of God does his healing work, it fills with people from all over the world, speaking many languages. Hundreds of people arrive on crutches, in wheel- chairs, by bus or car or bicycle. Some people in need of healing are carried in by others, and some walk under their own power. It reminded me of the time of Jesus, when the crowds were said to gather in order to be healed.

To many people, John of God is considered one of the most gifted healers living today. While he calls himself Juan de Taxeo, or John from the city of Taxeo, most people refer to him as John of God. He says that he himself does not heal, but that God works through him. People speak of his many miracles. Many people, even heads of state from around the world, return every year in gratitude for the healings their friends, family, colleagues, and they themselves have received. They come to sit and bring healing energy to help others, not asking for a healing themselves.

The next morning, one by one, we were each given an opportunity to meet and speak with John of God. We had been told to come prepared to ask a question that we would like some help with.

As I came within five feet of John of God sitting in his wooden rocking chair, I burst into tears. I thought to myself, Well, if this guy can see deep into me and heals at the deepest possible level of any of my diseases, then I’m kinda worried. What if he can see absolutely everything about me? That could be really bad! What if I am incurable? What then? Would he tell me?

Then my thoughts took a different turn: I guess there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide at this point! I might as well stay in line and see this thing through. But I felt so inexplicably moved, and my tears were coming so fast that one of the Casa assistants to John of God handed me a big wad of Kleenex. I tried to smile. I thought about bolting from the room, but found I could not.

When I got to the front of the line, I took John of God’s hand and dropped to one knee. Looking up into his face, I could not believe the intense color of his eyes. He had the deepest, glacier-blue eyes of anyone I had ever met. John of God looked deeply at my face for a few moments and then back to Heather, the translator. Heather asked my question, which I had written on a piece of paper: “With all my gifts and talents, where do I serve God best?”

John of God looked back at me, then back to Heather and then asked her a question in Portuguese that I did not understand.

While they were talking, I continued to kneel on one knee and to hold John of God’s hand, as Heather had instructed me to do. I noticed that John of God kept turning his gaze back to me, then back to Heather in a deeply penetrating way.

I waited for what seemed like a long time. Minutes were ticking by; the conversation between Heather and John of God was getting more and more intense and louder and louder. I leapt to the worst possible conclusion.

Oh no. Maybe he can see that I am much sicker than I realized. What if this means something really bad? My eyes went back and forth between the translator and John of God, unable to understand a word and getting more nervous by the second. Finally, John of God waved his hand, said something emphatic to Heather, and waved me on.

Heather had no time to explain what had been going on, only to whisper, “Sit over here. He wants you to sit in his current.”

“His current? What’s that?” I whispered back.

“Just find a chair close by and go into meditation. I will explain later.”

For the next two hours of seated meditation, the many variations of What if this?, What if that?, What if…? rang through my ears over and over. Finally, the Lord’s Prayer, the Prayer of Caritas, and the Hail Mary signaled the end of the three-hour meditation session. I got up and went outside to have a bowl of soup and bread that I was told had been blessed by John of God and was also an important part of a person’s healing process while at the Casa. I was exhausted.

When I finally found Heather outside, I asked, “It seemed like you and John of God were having some strong words or an argument about me, or something. So what did he say?”

Heather smiled. “Oh, don’t worry. John of God asked me what you were doing with your talents right now. I told him that you taught politicians and execu- tives how to speak with their hearts. And John of God wanted to know if you knew Hillary Clinton. I told him no, you didn’t, but that you had met Bill Clinton.”

I was dumbstruck. I thought to myself: Politics? That’s the absolute last thing I thought I would be discussing in Brazil with John of God. I want to get out of politics, not further into it!

“So then what did he say?” I asked.

“Well,” Heather continued, “John of God said he wanted you to sit in his current, and he also wants to do a special spiritual intervention on you this afternoon. So please don’t be late to the afternoon session at the Casa.”

That afternoon I went in for a “spiritual intervention.” I really had no idea what that meant. I had read in Heather’s book about others’ experiences and had talked with other people at the pousada, but you really cannot imagine what it is like until you, yourself, have been through it.

At the Casa, we walked in the doorway to the first room and rounded the corner to the current room, then walked through to the surgery room. I sat down with about sixty other people who were also there to receive a “spiritual inter- vention.” I closed my eyes and waited for something to happen, even though I wasn’t sure what it would be.

As soon as my eyes closed, my face felt as if it had been numbed by anesthetic. Then I felt a pressure around both of my eyes, like a cut, only it didn’t hurt— like when the dentist is working in your numbed mouth. Then it felt as if the skin under my eyes was being peeled back. Then the same thing happened over both breasts and also on my right side. It felt very strange.

When we were told that the spiritual intervention was completed, we stood up to leave. Later, I asked how long we had been there and was told it had been a total of an hour of sitting. I was surprised. At the time, it had felt like only ten minutes. As I left the building, I became aware that I could not see very well. My vision was blurry, the light really hurt my eyes, and this scared me. I went to Heather for help, and she handed me a pair of dark glasses to help me tolerate the afternoon light.

Heather got me into a cab, which took us over to the Casa pharmacy to pick up our herbs and then back to the pousada to rest. We were told to be as still as possible for twenty-four hours and then return to the Casa for a check-in.

Heather also told me that since I had received spiritual intervention on my eyes, the Casa protocol was that I should not read or do anything else with my eyes for a full eight days, which would allow my eyes the necessary time to heal. I was dumbstruck. Eight days doing absolutely nothing? This left me with the choices of sleeping, eating, meditating, and being quiet for a full eight days. I was fairly sure that I would die without any distractions.

Was she kidding? was my first thought. I am a workaholic. I have to do some- thing. I can’t just sit around and meditate and eat and sleep for a week! And I most certainly cannot be silent. I’m sorry. That’s not possible.

But those were the instructions. I went back to Heather and said, “This can’t possibly be what John of God wants me to do.”

She shook her head and said, “If John of God gives clear instructions, as he did to you, I would suggest strongly that you follow them. His instructions here at the Casa are the equivalent of a doctor’s prescription in the United States. Only you are going through not only a physical but also an emotional and spiritual healing. Don’t worry. We’ll bring your food to your room.”

The first few hours in my room were excruciating, with pain beginning to rise in all the areas that I had felt “surgery” happening. The first day was okay, as I was pretty tired, but after that it began to get more and more challenging. On day two, I ran into a fellow guest in the hall when I was going downstairs to get a cup of tea.

“Hurt?” he said.

“Yeah. Everywhere I had ‘surgery’ hurts,” I replied, wincing.

“It really helps if you put some of the holy water from the Casa on those places. I always find the pain totally goes away when I do that.”

“Gee, thanks,” I said. “I’ll try that.”

After I got my tea and went back to my room, I tried putting the holy water John of God had blessed onto the “surgery” sites on my face, breast, and side. Within a matter of moments, all of my pain was gone. It was all very bizarre. But at least I finally drifted off to sleep.

The next day, I still had nothing to do but sit or lie there, and I had no one to talk to. I felt like I was imprisoned in a monk’s cell with no break for mass. I couldn’t go outside, read, or listen to music on my iPod. Three days into it, I hit the wall. I began to cry all day and night for reasons I did not understand. I could not sleep, either, and my life became a living nightmare, day and night. I wondered how this could possibly be considered a healing experience.

One day, after struggling for a good eight hours, I had had it. I was angry, tired, and frustrated. I was also very stuck. I went back to Heather’s room and slipped a note under her door: “I am going absolutely out of my mind. Can you please come to my room, ASAP?”

Not long after, Heather arrived and sat down on the other twin cot in my room. I proceeded to unload a bucket of rage and resentment: “I don’t get this. I don’t know what John of God wants from me! I don’t know what to do to free myself from all this anger I feel. I’ve been angry my entire life. I can’t do this! I’m clearly a failure at this healing thing. I’m sure that John of God will think I am an idiot! A weakling! A pathetic, sad human being!”

Quietly, and with great respect, she listened to my tirade. Then she said, “Did you ask for help?”

“Help? Help? No, I did not ask for help! To be honest, Heather, that hadn’t even occurred to me. Asking for help isn’t exactly one of my strongest qualities. Who exactly would I be asking help from, may I ask?”

“John of God. The Entities.,” Heather replied simply.

“Heather, not to be rude or disrespectful or anything, but honestly, I don’t even know who the Entities are that you are referring to,” I said in a slightly snide tone of voice.

Heather smiled as I ranted. “You know, besides John of God and the Entities, there are others here at the pousada who could also help you,” she suggested, kindly.

I got a little snippy then. “You mean like humans? Like the other guests? Heather, everyone else staying here right now can do whatever they want, but I’m stuck here in this room. I can’t even go outside because the light hurts my eyes. I have to say, this isn’t exactly a vacation, now is it? I have absolutely nothing to distract me! I am seriously not having any fun at all right now.”

“That’s probably exactly how John of God and the Entities want it to be for you right now.”

 “Well, it sucks.” I pouted.

We talked for a while longer and then Heather asked me a question that would change the course of my life: “Did you know it is a spiritual law that God, John of God, the Entities, or any other Being of Light cannot intervene or help in your life unless you invite them to do so?”

“No, I did not know that,” I answered, honestly.

“You might wish to consider that, you know, as long as you are struggling with all these questions.”

“But,” I cried, as tears welled up, “I never ask for help! I stopped asking for help when I was little. I learned very early that I had to be strong and know how to take care of myself. I already told you I don’t know how to ask for help! Don’t you get it?” Tears were streaming down my face.

“Well, it is my understanding and experience that it’s a Cosmic Law that you must ask for help. Those who wait to help us, any time of our day or night, cannot intervene without an actual request from us. Mary Anne, you have to actually, literally ask for help before They can help you.”

“Oh yeah right!” I was now screaming. “Ask for help. From whom? Who exactly am I talking to? This is all so crazy Heather! Ask for help. Are you kidding me? This is all a total waste of my time!” I was practically snarling at her.

Heather just sat there across from me on the other double bed and smiled calmly. I guess she had seen other people come unglued before. She said, Well, I think that for everyone, it is a little different. Some people pray or talk with their conception of God when they ask for help on whatever issue it is that they are struggling with. Many people here talk with John of God or the Spiritual Entities who work with him at the Casa when they need help, healing, or assistance. I really don’t think it matters. What matters is that you ask for help. And then, in my experience, help always comes.

“Are you absolutely, positively sure of that? About help always coming if you ask?” I was calming down a little now and wiping my tears with the end of my T-shirt.

“Yes, Mary Anne. I am absolutely sure of it.” Heather held my gaze and I knew she was serious and also that she spoke from experience. Then she added, “It’s worth a try at least.” She smiled and then she got up and left my room. I was alone again. I sat there on my bed for quite a while, replaying our exchange over in my mind. It was obvious that what I had been doing up to this point was not working. I figured I had nothing to lose in asking for just a little help. As she had said, it was worth a try at least.

I lay down and closed my eyes. “Ahem. Entities? God? Angels? Whoever you are, will you please help me figure out what I need to understand about why I am here? Please help me understand why I chose to come all the way to Brazil to see John of God. And can you also please help me understand what really, really needs to be healed within me and my life? Right now, my heart just feels like a geode, absolutely impossible to crack open, and I don’t know what to do. Please help me.”

As soon as I finished saying ‘Please help me,’ inner visions and dreams began in my mind’s eye. It was like someone had just popped in a DVD and my life was on it. I saw a long line of people all standing in line to my left, exactly like those who waited to be seen by John of God at the Casa. Each person, some of whom I recognized immediately and some I did not, stood there waiting patiently. I had the intuition that it somehow was my job to usher them in one by one and see what they wanted from me. It felt as if, in some strange way, I needed to forgive them.

The first person in line was someone I knew well, and my first instinct was to tell him, “There is no way I am ever going to forgive you.” He smiled politely and said, “Fine. I’ll just get back into line, then.” He turned around and started walking back to the end of the line.

It was clear that he was coming back eventually. I understood then that I was going to have to face him eventually, and that this exercise— or whatever it was—was certainly was not going to be easy. I could “see” that there were a lot of people in line, and I was mad at them all.

I tried to understand what I was supposed to be doing, and as I faced each person in turn, it seemed that not only did I have to see, from my own perspective, why I was angry at them, but I also needed to look at the situation from their perspective. As I looked back at myself, from their perspective, I suddenly understood that they were totally justified in their feelings of anger toward me for how they perceived what I had done to them.

Only in the moment when I saw things from both sides, completely equally, did I understand that the exchange between us was “completed.”

Then, as soon as each exchange was complete, and I could completely see the situation from both of our perspectives, the person facing me turned rather misty, and instantly they dissolved in a whirling motion into nothingness. This went on for several days, as I figured out, person by person, who and what I needed to forgive, and what I needed to understand about each relationship. As the days went by, and more people dissolved, the line got shorter, too.

One after the other, I did see things from both sides, and one after the other, I was able to forgive and forgive and forgive. The two huge, unbearably heavy sacks of rotten rage and resentment “potatoes” I had been carrying around on my back all of my life kept getting lighter and lighter.

Finally, there was only one person left, the same person I had sent back over and over again. And finally I was able to see both of our points of view, and then he, too, dissolved, just like all the others.

Eight days later, I was to go back to see John of God for a follow-up “check-up,”, just as I would with my regular doctor. As I got closer to him, I began to cry again because I felt it was such a loving and protected space. John of God took my hand as I kneeled, and it appeared to me that he smiled and tilted his head toward me slightly, as if to say, You certainly did your work, now didn’t you?

Heather translated for him my same question as before, since I still was not clear on the answer: “With all my gifts and talents, where do I serve God best?” And he sent me on into the current, to be near him as I sat in meditation. After eight days of doing all that forgiveness work, I had no idea what to expect. I sat down, closed my eyes, and patiently waited. Then, all of a sudden, the inner DVD started again in my mind, but with a different story.

This time, were three “doors” appeared in my inner field of vision. The doors opened one, two, three. Behind door number one, I saw myself accepting an Academy Award. Behind door number two, I saw myself in the Oval Office helping the president of the United States. Behind door number three, I saw myself in the grocery line at the grocery store, speaking with the grocery store clerk.

And inside my head, I heard the words, “What do these three pictures have in common?”

I looked at the doors and thought, I really do not know. Really, I don’t.

Then the Voice of my Inner Wisdom said, “It doesn’t really matter where you are or what you are doing. You can be at the Academy Awards, the Oval Office, or the grocery store. It isn’t your brilliant technique that is the most healing for your clients or the people around you, you know.”

What!? I thought. Not my technique? Hey, I have worked on that technique for years now.

“Nope,” this Voice of my Inner Wisdom said. “Mary Anne, you must learn that it is the power of your presence that is healing. Just your energy coming into a room or in close connection to a person brings with it healing energy that they feel and feel healed from.”

I honestly found this very hard to believe, as if this Voice of my Inner Wisdom was talking about someone else. Then those three doors closed rapidly and another three came into view. The Voice of my Inner Wisdom said, “Now we’d like to show you who you really are. Ready?”

“I think so.”

And then the three doors opened, and I saw one scene after the other. I saw times when I had shared a kind word with a homeless person or given someone something that no one else but the two of us would ever know about. I saw myself being kind to people, affirming, and I saw my heartfelt loving, compas- sionate giving. I had totally forgotten most of these events, but when I looked at them on this “inner DVD,” they all seemed so real, very familiar, and not long ago in time.

Then the Voice of my Inner Wisdom asked, “So how do you feel about that woman? The Mary Anne who you see here in these pictures?”

I heard myself respond, all choked up, “Well, I rather like her. In fact, I love her.”

Then the Voice of my Inner Wisdom said, “Yes. That is the entire point. Love. Loving who you truly are. Now you will finally know what it is to truly thrive. You will thrive no matter what the circumstances or events are at any given moment.”

I found myself nodding in amazement. Then my Inner Wisdom said to me, “So how do you feel, right now, at this moment?”

I stopped, thought for a moment and then said, “I feel p-p-p-peaceful?”

At that moment, it felt like the bottom of my chair fell out and I was transported to this beautiful, colorful space of peace and love and calm. All I can say is I was not truly conscious for I do not know how long. It felt like my entire internal compass was being reset. It was as if I finally knew what “True North” was in my deepest being and essence. I stayed there in that place of complete peace until I heard, almost from far away, the “Hail Mary, full of grace” from the room, and it was time to get up.

I left Brazil and the Casa with a deep feeling of gratitude for all that I had experienced and learned. It was a soulful journey I would never forget and it felt as if it would transform my future life forever. I was not at all sure about how that future would manifest, but I felt sure that it would be exactly what I needed to become who I was meant to be.

My heart no longer felt like a geode. My transformation was complete. In my final meeting with John of God, just before I left the Casa, I asked if he could please help me get my book written and published. He smiled, squeezed my hand, and nodded.

From Me To You…

Visiting John of God isn’t something that everyone can or will do in their lifetimes. But everyone can have an experience of transformation that is just as powerful. Ask for help and it will come. Open yourself up and see what you find. Sometimes when you crack open, that’s the only way the Light of Transformation can get in.

For more information on the healing work of John of God and The Casa in Brazil, you can read Heather Cummings’ book, “John of God. The Healer Who Has Transformed Millions.”

I will post more on where to visit in South America and more on countries with low cost of living such as Ecuador for my future blogs!



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If you would like to read my First Impressions of Ecuador, please go to:

Additional Links:

  • Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador™: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward unless otherwise credited.
  • All photos and writing on Footprints in Ecuador ™ are a Copyright 2014 by Mary Anne Dorward. All rights reserved.


SUNSET, Crucita Ecuador

SUNSET – Crucita, Ecuador



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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward. All photos and writing on this blog are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce any part of these blogs without express permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information or to schedule and inspirational speech or interview, please contact Mary Anne at

PARAPENTE in Ecuador

ImageEvery day the para gliders with their colorful Parapente kites pass right by my windows. Usually, when one goes by, I run out to the deck to see them and then wait to watch them land. They are so close, I can literally look them in the eye and often they will give the “Thumbs Up” sign and shout “Hola!” with a huge smile on their face. I smile back and shout, “HOLA! Que Bueno!” (HI! How WONDERFUL!)

The men and women who para glide make their launch from the huge hill high up and behind this building where I live. Throughout the day, you can see all kinds of colors of parapente kites in the air as they fly around in the sky. Sometimes you will see two people flying in tandem on one kite.


It is an amazing thing to watch as they make their graceful turn just before landing as they reduce their speed and then land on the beach right in front of my building. Some are better at landing than others.Image

Some come down out of the air as if they are simply walking from air to sand. Others hit the ground at an odd angle and then tumble over and over themselves trying stop the forward momentum. I find myself rooting for them to have a graceful smooth landing every time.


There is one woman who flies by almost every day. She smiles and laughs and screams “Whooooo!!! Hoooooo!!!” as she passes by us. She then makes her graceful turn enroute to the beach as it were the easiest thing in the world. She smoothly drops out of the sky. One foot, two foot, three foot four and she’s got it. She’s landed.

Then comes the part I like best. This woman starts laughing hysterically and pounding her fists up in the air screaming “YEEEEE HAAAAAW!” over and over again, and it is the sound of the universal cry of joyous elation.


After the landing, the kites lines are pulled in and then all folded up and off they go back up the mountain again.








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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward. All photos and writing on this blog are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce any part of these blogs without express permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information, or to schedule and inspirational speech, please contact Mary Anne at


Traditional American Apple Pie

Traditional American Apple Pie

Tonight we are invited to dinner at the home of a native Ecuadorian woman whom I met recently. Her name is Margarita. It will be a Traditional Ecuadorian Christmas Dinner for her family (and us) and it will include her 104 year old mother! I’m really looking forward to learning more about what a Traditional Ecuadorian Christmas Feast is like.

When I asked what I could bring, Margarita said, “Please bring A Traditional American Dessert!” “Well!” I thought to myself, “What could be more of a Traditional American Dessert than An Apple Pie?!”

The funny thing is, (or NOT so funny depending on how you look at it?!), even though I have made this same pie hundreds and HUNdreds of times over the years, this morning when I got up I could NOT, for the LIFE of me, remember the recipe for EITHER my trusty “No Fail Pie Crust” or the ingredients for “The Apple Pie?!”

This morning, when I thought of what else I could possible make, I realized I didn’t have ANY of the ingredients. The grocery store was an hour bus ride, there and back. I reeeeally did not want to face Christmas Eve Shopping Madness in ANY country today.

All I could think of was, “Uh Oh. This dessert if I just make it up is going to be a Culinary Disaster!”

So I sent an urgent SOS to my daughter, Sarah. Fortunately, she found an old email from 2009 when I had sent HER the very same recipes when SHE was away from home! So Thank God she was able to send me both of the recipes I needed today or I would have been totally SUNK.

I’m feeling SO grateful for My Daughter right now! Thank you Sarah! xoxox

Traditional Apple Pie #2

Traditional Apple Pie #2



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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward. All photos and writing on this blog are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce any part of these blogs without express permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information or to schedule and inspirational speech or interview, please contact Mary Anne at


Festive Ecuadorian People Made Out Of Marzipan

Festive Ecuadorian People Made Out Of Marzipan

It‘s nearing Christmas day in Ecuador and I’m discovering that “Christmas in The Tropics” is quite different from “Christmas in North America.” To begin with most everyone speaks Spanish and instead of hearing the words, “Merry Christmas!” you hear people wishing each other, “Feliz Navidad!”

For me,  living abroad right now, I find myself feeling a little sad. Most of all I am missing the special time of hanging out with my children at this time of year when they both return home. They are now visiting their Dad in Seattle, Washington where I used to live.

This year, I’m not doing the Christmas traditions I have always done: baking Christmas cookies, making homemade peppermint bark, almond cake and killer eggnog, decorating my Christmas tree, planning my holiday feast, going to Christmas Eve service at my church.

So this year, there were no stressful trips to the mall or staying up late to finish sewing or knitting projects for children or friends. I knew before I left that it would be prohibitively expensive to send gifts  back to my children from here, and so I sent a Christmas box to each of them before I left the U.S. way back in October. (Ecuador doesn’t have a mail or postal service like in the U.S. Everything is sent by private courier or placed on a bus by one person and picked up and paid for by the person receiving the item at the other end.)   Last week, I ordered flowers from for my father, close girlfriends, my children and their dad.  It took fifteen minutes. That was the extent of my holiday shopping.

I now realize, being away from all my normal traditions, that I had not really considered or realized how much pressure and stress it all had been to prepare for!

So where does that leave me now with everything so very different? Well I’m trying to make new traditions for myself and new meaning out of this holiday from here in Ecuador.

Yesterday I was invited to a Christmas Fiesta to raise money for extremely poor and rural children who are being exploited, children who are doing farm work here beginning at age 5 instead of going to school. The leaders of this Child Protection Group: Dignidad Por Los Ninos de Ecuador are trying very hard to raise awareness for their cause, to protect these children by getting them off the farms and into school and also educating their parents as to why this is so important.

As I looked around at the bright faces of these many poor children laughing, clapping and enjoying the clown at the Fiesta, they could have been any happy and joyous children anywhere. Their joy and laughter was also contagious.  I clapped and smiled and sang right along with them.

This Christmas Fiesta also allowed me to learn more about how some of the Ecuadorian Holiday Traditions are celebrated.

A blind teenager got up and sang “Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer” in Spanish. When the crowd roared their applause and began chanting, “Otro! Otro! Otro!” (which means “Another!”) he raised his shoulders proudly and burst out into a rendition of the Manabi Anthem, the traditional song of this Ecuadorian Province, like our National Anthem in the U.S.  Everyone around me joined in singing and though I could not translate the words fast enough in my head, their singing with such pride moved me deeply.

I also watched the group leaders of Dignidad valiantly slog through a very very rough version of the play,  “A Christmas Carol.” They called their play, “The Grinch.” The character of the Grinch was played by an older woman who was referred to as “Senora Grinch.” After seeing “A Christmas Carol” so many times done in English in the U.S., seeing a “Senora Grinch” was a first for me.

The play took place outside in a school soccer field. Plastic chairs lined the field and at both ends where the parents, children and invited guests sat. Their very simple costumes were made of colored paper. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future were actors covered in a bed sheet. The leaders of Dignidad were trying their very best to teach these very poor children and their parents the important lesson that Christmas was not a matter of how much money you have or how many gifts you gave or received but rather really about the generosity in your heart.

So, while the “Traditional Victorian Christmas” in North America with scenes of snow, lots of holiday decoration lights, roaring fireplaces and all of the more customary focus on consumerism doesn’t exist here, there are other things I am learning. Here in Ecuador, Christmas is more of a Christian Holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and focused more on each person embodying the spirit of love, kindness and generosity.

And even though the extent of my Christmas decorations this year in Ecuador consist of a simple strand of white lights across the balcony which drape over a potted palm tree and a table decoration of red, green and white candle surrounded by festive Ecuadorian figures made out of marzipan, I’m discovering the true gift of Christmas in the generosity of the hearts of the people here.



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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward. All photos and writing on this blog are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce any part of these blogs without express permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information or to schedule and inspirational speech or interview, please contact Mary Anne at

ECUADOR FRIDAY FOTO – Fisherman and His Son

Fisherman and His Son. Ayangue, Ecuador

Fisherman and His Son. Ayangue, Ecuador



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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward and are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce without permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information, contact Mary Anne at

Ecuador: Where Do I Fit In As An American Woman?


After a few weeks of living here in Ecuador, I began to wonder about a lot of things. Mostly I was thinking, “Will I EVER fit in here as an American Woman?”

I approached Felix, a native Ecuadorian and the owner of the Macondo Lodge in Canoa where we were staying and asked him, “OK Felix. If you looked at me and didn’t already know that I was an American, is there any other South American country I could be from?”

He smiled his impish smile and said, “Hmmmmm. Let me think here. Well, you speak good Spanish so that would not give you away. And there were many Europeans who emigrated here years ago and married into Ecuadorian families. I would say, you might pass for an Argentinian or maybe even a person from Paraguay or Uruguay?”

Whenever I worked in Europe over the years, I always spoke Spanish and pretended I was from Spain. People often asked me if perhaps I was from Eastern Europe? Or was I possibly from Ireland since I had such a round face and bright green eyes? One thing I was sure of: I did not want to be associated with the “Ugly American” type of person who I always saw traveling somewhere.

The typical “Ugly American” was demanding, pushy, rude and insisted that everyone around them speak English. Well I didn’t want to be THAT kind of American. When tensions rose in the Middle East, I told people that I was from Canada if someone really tried to call me out. Things just seemed to go more smoothly, at least in that part of the world, when I didn’t say I was from the U.S.

But now I was living in Ecuador. I was an American woman living in Ecuador. I looked around and I didn’t feel like I really fit in anywhere. Having come to Ecuador only recently from the Pacific Northwest, where we don’t see much sun, I looked very, very pasty white. Then I realized that my Spanish I normally used wasn’t working for me either. I couldn’t pass pass for an Ecuadorian no matter how hard I tried.

The Latin American Spanish spoken here uses different words for things, words I had never learned in school. At first, I constantly felt like a dufus since I didn’t understand what was being said around me or to me, like I usually did when I had travelled in Mexico or Europe.

I struggled over all of this for a few days, feeling quite out of sorts,  forlorn and lost. Then I called my son Josh.

I was telling him about my struggle and he said, “Mom, I don’t understand this. Why is this so important to you to be someone else other than who you are? Why do you have to pass for ANYthing other than yourself? I’m confused. ”

Stinging tears welled up my eyes as I thought to myself, “I’m confused too! What’s really going on here?”

Then my son said, “Why do you have to “FIT IN” ANYwhere?” Why can’t you just be yourself – you know- Mary Anne Dorward – a really, really nice person, who yeah, is a woman who just happens to be from the United States?”

I was speechless. He had me there.

All I could think of to say was, “Excellent point. Thanks. I’ll give that some more thought.” And we hung up.

I sat there in my chair thinking, “Yeah. Why not? I could just be that: Myself.” And then I laughed out loud. “Yeah right. As if I could ever really be anyone else!”

Crucita, Ecuador

Crucita, Ecuador



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Note: All photos in “Footprints in Ecuador: An American Woman’s Life Changing Journey” have been taken by Mary Anne Dorward. All photos and writing on this blog are protected under the U.S. Trademark: Words To Thrive By.  Please do not copy or reproduce any part of these blogs without express permission from Mary Anne Dorward. For more information or to schedule and inspirational speech or interview, please contact Mary Anne at