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Every teenage girl has her own unique style when is comes to tunes, food, colors and decorations.
For Andrew Jackson High School sophomore Tori Roberts, that includes country and contemporary Christian music, Caesar salads, green and polka dots.
With those kinds of tastes, you would think that Tori’s Sweet 16 birthday party at 6 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church in Kershaw might include some of those elements.
After all, a 16th birthday is special and only comes around once.
But this Sweet 16 birthday party is different; this party isn’t about Tori at all, but it is going to be special.
This birthday party is about Pastor Pablo Tayupanda and his wife, Marcella, whom Tori met in Ecuador last summer during a Global Expeditions mission trip.
Instead of asking for gifts for herself, Tori, whose birthday is Monday, has a “burden” on her heart and is asking for help.
While in Ecuador, Tori learned that one of the Tayupandas’ most critical need is a vehicle.
And for her birthday, Tori wants to buy them a used king cab-style pickup that’s good on gas and in good shape.
Tori met the couple while on a mission trip with a group from Flint Ridge Baptist Church from July 19 to Aug. 4. Tori calls the 10 days in Ecuador a humbling experience.
“For me, this is personal,” Tori said. “It made me realize all the things we have and how we take all of them for granted.
“They are such sweet people and Pastor Pablo told us we were the answers to his prayers. He had been praying for people to come help because he couldn’t minister by himself,” she said.
The Tayupandas oversee ministries at four rural villages on the outskirts of Tena.
Known as the “cinammon capital” of Ecuador, Tena is famous for its pristine rainforests and the rivers around it.
While the number of paved roads has increased, most of the roads in that part of Ecuador are unpaved and subject to regular landslides.
There is a regular bus service in the area. The Tayupandas take advantage of the buses when possible, but the buses fill up fast and are subject to time schedules. Ministry doesn’t work on a set schedule and Tori said the Tayupandas’ only other travel option is a couple of mo-peds.
“It rains a lot,” Tori said.
Tori hopes her Sweet 16 birthday party generates about $1,500. So far, almost $1,000 has been raised.
“I feel like we’re going to make it,” she said.
Once the money is raised, Tori hopes to get local businesses and a car delearship to match what is raised. About $1,000 more for import and custom taxes.
Michael Anderson, youth pastor at Flint Ridge Baptist Church, said donations for the Tayupandas have been coming in from across the United States.
“Many of them are coming from friends Tori made on the mission trip,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Tori’s resolve has set an example for the entire Flint Ridge Baptist Church family.
Tori, he said, isn’t looking at how big the obstacle is. Instead, Anderson said she is looking at how big her God is.
“I’ve been a youth pastor for 10 years now and this is the first time I’ve seen a personal commitment of this level and scale by a teenager,” Anderson said.
Tori’s mom, Shannon, said she is proud of her daughter’s determination and drive. Shannon said she has no doubt that Tori’s 16th birthday wish will come true.
“I thank the Lord every single day for that child,” Shannon Roberts said. “She doesn’t care about herself at all. It makes you feel good as a parent that all the prayers and hard work turns out such a good child.”
Want to help?
To help Tori Roberts raise funds to buy a pickup for Pastor Pablo Tayupanda, and his wife, Marcella, mail donations to:
c/o Flint Ridge Baptist Church
1850 Flint Ridge Road
Heath Springs, SC 29058
An online account has also been set up. Simply go to Paypal.com and choose the “Send Money” tab, enter your donation amount and send to Goldnoak@windstream.net.