First Trip to the Jungle in Ecuador

Last weekend, some people from our church took a trip to Santa Ana in the jungle region of Ecuador. The purpose was to encourage and minister to the church there which is kind of like a daughter church to the one in Quito which we attend. The purpose also was to help the church by doing some ministry and outreach in the community. 17 people went, including me and my travel buddy, Isabela. She had such a blast. It was so awesome to see her jump right in making friends with the kids that lived in the jungle.

Our time there was very short, but very impacting. After about a 7 hour drive, we arrived Saturday afternoon and immediately started setting up for the weekend. We slept in the church which was basically just a one room concrete chapel with a tin roof. We slept in tents so as to protect ourselves from the mosquitoes and other huge flying bugs. As soon as we arrived, the children from the community started coming by eagerly awaiting for the activities to begin.

We then went over to the community area where some of the group led the children in songs, skits, and other activities. Isabela was part of a skit that taught the story of Zechariah. She did great. Many adults were looking on. Then some of the us decided to play a game of soccer with the kids. After playing for about an hour and having it handed to us even by children, we were all sweaty and decided to go bathe…in the river. That was our only place of showering or bathing. So, all the children and the adults piled into the pastor’s pickup truck and headed down to the river and jumped right into the cold stream. It was a great way to cool off.

Later that night, we gathered together for a prayer and worship service. We spent some time just praying for the church, the community, and the work that the pastor is doing there. We sang songs, read Scripture, and labored in prayer that God would move mightily among that small community where there is a lot of darkness.

I was so excited to go to sleep as early as 9AM since I was so exhausted from the long drive down. So, I climbed in my tiny little tent and passed out. But several hours into the night I was woken up by the sound of something like a freight train. There was such a massive thunderstorm and with the hard rain hitting the tin roof it was so loud that I thought the building was going to collapse. But it was awesome. I love being in thunderstorms under tin roofs. Anyway, the rain continued all throughout the night as I was periodically woken up by loud peals of thunder.

Sunday morning came and after breakfast and taking down the tents, the people from the community started filing into the little concrete chapel. By 9:30 there were about 35 people plus us gathered together to worship. I was thankful for being given the opportunity to share for about 10-15 minutes from the Word of God before the main sermon which was preached by the pastor that was part of our team. So, I shared with them from John 7:37 where Jesus, on the last day of the feast, stands up and gives an invitation to anyone who is thirsty to come to Him and receive the living waters. I really felt like the Word of God was doing its work as I looked at the people who were really intently listening and seeming to agree about how the things that we often seek in our life to satisfy that deep craving in our hearts just never seem to satisfy, and that only Christ can truly satisfy the longing in our soul because God made us with that longing so that it could only be filled by Him. So, I was so thankful to share God’s Word with these people and pray that seeds were sown. Then pastor Steve preached a great message from 1 Jn. 2:16 talking about the inner conflict that all believers face of wanting to do good, but always fighting against the lusts of the eyes, lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life. It was a great message.

After the service, as the kids were hanging all over us, we packed up our cars, took pictures, said good byes, and headed back.

On the way back, we stopped off in Shell for lunch which was pretty cool because that was the home base of Jim Elliot and the other missionaries who were killed while trying to reach the Waourani tribe for the Gospel.

Then, a few hours later, since I was driving my own car with a few people, I decided to stop at a beautiful waterfall in Baños to take a picture, and then we decided to ride the cable car that crosses the cliff and takes you straight to the waterfall, suspending you in mid-air over the waterfall so that you can take a good picture. It was really beautiful. Then we motored on and finally arrived back in Quito at about 8PM.

Overall, it was a great trip and I was really thankful to be able to minister the Gospel to a people that live so remotely that there are not many opportunities at all for them to receive the Gospel otherwise. I’m so glad that there is a new church there and that we were able to help encourage the pastor and spend some time helping him reach out to the community. I’m looking forward to going back again and maybe spending several days there helping provide some training or discipleship.

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Beautiful snow capped mountain

Beautiful snow capped mountain

Scoring some ice cream along the way in a town famous for ice cream

Scoring some ice cream along the way in a town famous for ice cream

Gorgeous scenery

Gorgeous scenery

Stopping for lunch in Baños

Stopping for lunch in Baños

Crossing a river to reach the jungle town.

Crossing a river to reach the jungle town.

Church in Santa Ana

Church in Santa Ana

Kids eagerly waiting for the fun to begin...

Kids eagerly waiting for the fun to begin…

setting up tents and hanging out with the cute kids

setting up tents and hanging out with the cute kids

Preparing for the skit

Preparing for the skit

Kids learning about Jesus through song

Kids learning about Jesus through song

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Team member sharing about Christ with an indigenous woman

Team member sharing about Christ with an indigenous woman

Indigenous child shows off her coloring skills

Indigenous child shows off her coloring skills

Cooling off in the cold stream.

Cooling off in the cold stream.

Isabela always so quick to make friends

Isabela always so quick to make friends

Isabela and Zoila (pronounced "soyla")

Isabela and Zoila (pronounced “soyla”)

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Piling into the pickup

Piling into the pickup

Sunday morning worship with the people of Santa Ana

Sunday morning worship with the people of Santa Ana

Me preaching the Word of God to hearts eager to hear

Me preaching the Word of God to hearts eager to hear

Steve sharing the Word of God with the people of Santa Ana

Steve sharing the Word of God with the people of Santa Ana

Me with some new friends.

Me with some new friends.

Beautiful waterfall in Baños called Bridal Veil Falls

Beautiful waterfall in Baños called Bridal Veil Falls

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Hanging in the air from the cable car

Hanging in the air from the cable car

The treasures of a proud momma!

I took these pictures of my little treasures while playing with my camera. One great thing about Ecuador is that there are soooooo many great things to photograph. Yet, I found that the best are right here with me in our living room everyday. Enjoy these. ~ Maria

The prettiest 10 year old.

The prettiest 10 year old.

The silliest and cutest 3 year old.

The silliest and cutest 3 year old. And his chocolate face!

Why is it almost impossible to take a picture of him?

Why is it almost impossible to take a picture of him?

My best tween girl.

My best tween girl.

I love when I can capture his cute smile.

I love when I can capture his cute smile.

Learning to stand up on the couch. Busyness ahead.

Learning to stand up on the couch. Busyness ahead.

Isabela saved up all of her allowance for weeks to get a curling iron. So proud of her!

Isabela saved up all of her allowance for weeks to get a curling iron. So proud of her!

Kisses kisses!

Kisses kisses!

Speaking of kisses, this little one learned how to blow them on command. Kiss kiss! Muah muah!

Speaking of kisses, this little one learned how to blow them on command. Kiss kiss! Muah muah!

So grown up.

So grown up.

"I am going to cause people to chase me around."

“I am going to cause people to chase me around.”

Already exploring!

Already exploring!

Caught in the act!

Caught in the act!

"This bin of toys is so boring. I wonder what is in the kitchen."

“This bin of toys is so boring. I wonder what is in the kitchen.”

That serious look.

That serious look.

And that serious look too!

And that serious look too!

Learning to play together.

Learning to play together.

"I got to find something I can play with"

“I got to find something I can play with”

"Oh look. These are the keys to my new car."

“Oh look. These are the keys to my new car.”

Not quite liking beets.

Not quite liking beets.

"Please stop the beets."

“Please stop the beets.”

My handsome boy!

My handsome boy!

I love those deep brown eyes.

I love those deep brown eyes.

Beet face!

Beet face!

Doing school work.

Doing school work.

All these silly faces.

All these silly faces.

Silly girl!

Silly girl!

A yawn and a smile at the same time.

A yawn and a smile at the same time.

This is blurry, but I thought she looked so cute.

This is blurry, but I thought she looked so cute.

Looking for something to bite.

Looking for something to bite.

"I found it!!"

“I found it!!”

My favorite 10 month old in the whole wide world!

My favorite 10 month old in the whole wide world!

Update of Life and Ministry in Ecuador Jan. 2015

These past few weeks have been fairly busy and really great! We finally feel like we are starting to get settled in as a family which the truth be told is not an easy thing to do after moving to your 4th new foreign country. But by the grace of God things are beginning to fall into place both personally as a family as well as in our mission work.

The truth is that ministry opportunities abound all throughout…both in the city of Quito as well as places in the rural Quechua areas. We are excited to see how God is unfolding His plans to us. We only want to be surrendered to His will and give our all for the sake of the Gospel going forward and the Kingdom of God touching lives.

In addition to the continuous opportunities opening up to train and equip pastors and leaders, we are excited about the things that God is leading us to get involved in. I have been getting more involved in the school in Pifo where our co-laborer Joselito is the Rector. It is a Christian school in the sense that they seek to provide a Christ centered education and learning environment, but the reality is that just about all the students that attend are not Christians and sadly even the majority of the current teachers are not Christians. So, there is a lot of work to do. But the good news is that there is a wide open door there to preach the Gospel and minister to the people the truths of God’s Word. So, I will now be serving there on a regular basis helping out as a Chaplain. I will be teaching some of the chapel services each week as well as helping lead a Bible Study for the teachers. But also I will be helping provide counsel to students who are going through difficult times. This will also give me the opportunity to start meeting with some of these students in their homes and helping minister truth and provide counsel to the parents and other family members as well. I see this as a tremendous opportunity to be able to minister the Gospel to the lost on a regular basis. Joselito’s church also has started a mission church on the school grounds in Pifo so that there is a place of worship for the people in the community whom we are connecting with. So, I will probably also start helping preach and teach in this mission church as well. I am very excited to serve in this way and be able to make an impact for the Gospel in the lives of at-risk youth and families. Please be in prayer for this ministry. I recently preached another evangelistic message there last week during the parent conference that we had just before starting the 2015 schoo year. It was great that God gave me the opportunity to preach the Word to about 200 or more parents of these students. I pray that the Word of God goes forth with power to change hearts and make new lives.

Also, another ministry that has opened up to us recently that Maria and I are both absolutely thrilled to be involved in is ministry to the orphans. The Lord has recently been showing us that this call to minister to the orphans, which is what originally led us to the mission field in Haiti, is still active in our lives and it is still something that the Lord is calling us to get involved in addition to the pastoral training ministry.   So, we started looking around and finding out what the orphan situation is like here in Ecuador. We have connected with another missionary couple who has started an orphan care ministry. They currently have connection with about 15 different orphanages in and around Quito. They are so excited to hear that we want to get involved and help serve in this ministry. Please pray for us as we get to know them and seek the Lord as to His direction for how we might best serve Christ through ministering to the orphaned and abandoned of Ecuador.  There are many different ministries around Quito that target both the orphaned and abandoned.   So, we are very excited to see how the Lord is going to unfold His plan. May the Lord use us to be His hands and feet to these precious souls.

So, as you can see, the Lord is certainly leading our steps and we feel that He is beginning to lead us into those exact places where He has called us to invest our talents for His glory. I am excited about all the opportunities that He is leading us into.

The opportunities for training continue to abound. I was just in a Quechua town called Otavalo last Saturday with my partner and we taught the pastors, leaders, and church members there an all day workshop on Inductive Bible Study. It was fantastic to be able to equip our Quechua brothers and sisters to be able to grow more in the knowledge of the Word of God and be able to be more effective in preaching and teaching. We have learned of a few other Quechua villages further north almost near the border of Colombia where there is an open door for us to come and begin a Gospel work where none currently exists. In February, we will be heading to one of these towns called Imbaburaka where we will be distributing Samaritan’s Purse gift boxes to about 80 children and doing some outreach among the people. I hope to get the opportunity to share an evangelistic message with the people.

There are other good things that are taking place, but space does not permit me to go further. We are excited for what the Lord is doing in our midst. We are happy to be here, thankful that God has given us the grace to persevere through the difficult time of adjustment, thankful that His sanctifying work continues in our lives, thankful for how He is leading us in service to His great name, and of course we are thankful for all of the people on our support team. May the Lord be glorified in all that we do to make His name known throughout the world.

The climb was almost completely vertical, but the view from the top was worth it.

Hiking with a friend. The climb was almost completely vertical, but the view from the top was worth it.

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Beautiful views all around.

Beautiful views all around

Marveling at the glory of God's handiwork.

Marveling at the glory of God’s handiwork.

Preaching an evangelistic message to several hundred parents of students in Pifo

Preaching an evangelistic message to several hundred parents of students in Pifo

My beautiful wife on her birthday...rocking a new haircut!

My beautiful wife on her birthday…rocking a new haircut!

And Isabela makes her homemade birthday cookies!

And Isabela makes her homemade birthday cookies!

Teaching a Saturday workshop to Quechua people in Otavalo

Teaching a Saturday workshop to Quechua people in Otavalo

We did an all day workshop on  the importance of inductive Bible study

We did an all day workshop teaching them the Inductive Bible Study method

My compañero explaining the importance of understanding context when studying the Bible.

My compañero explaining the importance of understanding context when studying the Bible.

The church presented them with certificates at the end of the day

The church presented them with certificates at the end of the day

Such a joy to see the Quechua people excited about all that they learned

Such a joy to see the Quechua people excited about all that they learned

They all made great sacrifices to attend a day of training.

They all made great sacrifices to attend a day of training.

To them, it is a big deal to receive this training and they are proud to show their certificates at the end.

To them, it is a big deal to receive this training and they are proud to show their certificates at the end.

December Update of Life and Ministry in Ecuador w/ pics

Here are some pics of things that we have done, both personally as a family and also with regards to different ministry opportunities.  We enjoyed our first Christmas and New Year’s celebration as a family living in South America.  We look forward to the coming year in the opportunities that the Lord is giving us to serve.  We thank the Lord for working in our lives, giving us the grace to get settled in to a new country, and for giving us opportunities to serve Him in many ways.

January will be a fairly busy month.  I am preaching at the school in Pifo at the parents conference on Wednesday, January 7th.  This school is led by one of our ministry partners and he has given me a wide open door to minister in the school whether to the students, teachers, and/or parents in the community.  I recently shared an evangelistic message there at their Christmas party. It went well even though it rained quite a bit and the party and everything was outdoors.   Anyway, I have been praying about ways in which I may get more involved in the ministry there.  For starters, I have been asked to help lead the quarterly parent conferences by sharing an evangelistic message each time.  There is one coming up this Wednesday,  so, I am thankful that I will be able to share the truth of the Gospel to many people in the community.  I also plan to start helping lead the chapel service there once in a while.  I think the school and community there will lead to some great opportunities to minister the truth of God’s Word to the lost and the broken and I am praying that the Lord will reveal His plan for my involvement there.

Also in December we began a monthly training workshop to Sunday School leaders in la Iglesia Bautista Universitaria in Quito.  We’re teaching them about biblical evangelism methods.  I taught the first workshop and it seemed to go well.  There were about 15 people there.  Maria will lead the next one some time this month.

This Saturday I will be heading to Otavalo to provide a training workshop to a group of Quechua pastors and leaders.  My compañero (fellow worker) and I will be leading a class on the importance of proper Bible study and interpretation.  I will lead the first two hours talking about the importance of studying the Bible in an inductive manner and the dangers of studying it deductively, and then my compañero will finish the last two hours teaching about the importance of context.  We are hoping to begin a three year training program there within the next few months.  Please pray that the Lord will call a church in the U.S. that will be willing to partner with us in this way.  The people there are ready and eager to get started.  We just need a church that is willing to send a small team of teachers and trainers every 4 months.

This Friday we will be having a dinner/meeting with a missionary here in Ecuador who has an orphan care ministry.  We are very excited to learn more about the orphan situation here in Quito and pray about ways that we might get involved in serving the Lord through ministering to the orphans.  Please pray that the Lord reveals His plans for us in this regard.  We have not been working directly with orphaned children since our days in Haiti and the truth is that we miss it and realize that it is something that the Lord has still given us a burden and desire to do.  So, we are excited for this meeting to see how the Lord might open up a way for us to get back to the ministry of caring for orphaned and abandoned children.

Then next weekend I will be making my first trip to the jungle.  Our church , La Fuente, has a sister church there and so a few of us will be heading down there just to provide some encouragement and support to the pastor there.  I’m looking forward to seeing this part of Ecuador.  I hope that the Lord would give us opportunity to minister in the jungle on a regular basis.

Then, in less than three weeks we have a team of two coming for our second training in Santo Domingo.  Our partner church, Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, NC, will be coming for the week to teach New Testament Survey to the group of pastors and leaders in Santo Domingo.

On a personal side, December was enjoyable as a family.  As you know, Jake is enrolled in a pre-school program.  So, the school put on a little Christmas program with all the kids and it was just so adorable to see Jake all dressed up and singing his little Christmas songs with all the others.

For Christmas, we decided to head to the beach for a few days. So, we packed up the car and headed to the coast eight hours away.  Wow! It was a long drive.  There is a coast much closer, but we could not find an affordable place to rent there in time, so we settled on the coast further away.  We had a great time enjoying some fun in the sun.  The beach that we went to is called Playa de los Frailes. It was beautiful. The only bummer was that fishing was prohibited.  So, I still have not had much of an opportunity to cast a line here. But, oh well.  I’m sure the time will come.

Then, for New Years Eve, we celebrated it latino style.  The tradition in many Latin American countries is to “burn the old man” at midnight.  People make and sell big stuffed dolls that resemble an old man which is to represent the year that is coming to a close.  At midnight, they all take to the streets and set the doll on fire.  One sad and very ugly part of this tradition takes place during the evening just hours before the new year. Men (mostly younger guys) dress in drag style in a very vulgar way pretending to be the widow of the old man who is about to go up in flames in a few hours. So, they get in the streets and don’t let your car pass by until you give them a coin.  Very ugly.  I refused to give any coins and had a lot of people angry with me.  But oh well.  Anyway, that’s the only part of the tradition that is ugly and that we will not support.  So, at midnight, people take to the streets and set their old man on fire.  You also see people walking down the street carrying empty suitcases representing their desire and hope for good fortune to travel in the upcoming year.  Also, people eat 12 grapes, one on each strike of the midnight hour.  So, it was super cool seeing this all around us on New Year’s.

Here are some pics of life in December.  Feliz Año Nuevo!

Students in Pifo waiting for the start of a Christmas Outreach in the community

Students in Pifo waiting for the start of a Christmas Outreach in the community

Students having fun playing Gladiator

Students having fun playing Gladiator

My cutest little boy watching his favorite movie

My cutest little boy watching his favorite movie

Parading down the streets in Pifo before the start of the Christmas program.  School parades are very common in Latin America

Parading down the streets in Pifo before the start of the Christmas program. School parades are very common in Latin America

Little students singing about the birth of Jesus. Notice the live lamb! Que chevere!

Little students singing about the birth of Jesus. Notice the live lamb! Que chevere!

Me preaching the Gospel in the rain talking about why Christ came in such a humble way.

Me preaching the Gospel in the rain talking about why Christ came in such a humble way.

Jake's first ever Christmas program. So cute!

Jake’s first ever Christmas program. So cute!

My boy is so cute!

My boy is so cute!

Que lindo!

Que lindo!

On the way to our beach getaway.  I think this town must be known for their production of corn. Haha.

On the way to our beach getaway. I think this town must be known for their production of corn. Haha.

The beach was beautiful, but the whole area around was desert.

The beach was beautiful, but the whole area around was desert.

Gorgeous beach...and practically empty.

Gorgeous beach…and practically empty.

Fun in the sun

Fun in the sun

Gabriela having fun at the beach

Gabriela having fun at the beach

Brother and sister having a blast in the sand.

Brother and sister having a blast in the sand.

Observing God's great creation

Observing God’s great creation

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Isabela found a sand dollar.  Actually, she found three.

Isabela found a sand dollar. Actually, she found three.

She is so pretty!

She is so pretty!

Maria rocks in that hat!  Well, she rocks all the time...but I also think she rocked the hat!

Maria rocks in that hat! Well, she rocks all the time…but I also think she rocked the hat!

Teaching Sunday School leaders about effective evangelism.

Teaching Sunday School leaders about effective evangelism.

 

 

 

 

Wow! This country is absolutely gorgeous…outside of Quito.

We took a trip to a town called Papallacta which is about an hour and a half outside of Quito. I wasn’t expecting to find such beauty so close to the city. But lo and behold there it is. Once you step outside the big city and leave behind all the tall buildings and concrete you find yourself surrounded with amazing natural beauty. I am not a city person so for me it is a treat to see so much green. And I love that we don’t have to drive too far to begin to enjoy how beautiful Ecuador is in its natural state. I hope you enjoy these pictures. I hope they entice to come visit us in Ecuador. The beauty that surrounds the city is definitely one of the things I love about being here. – Maria

The scenery begins to change as soon as you leave the city behind.

The scenery begins to change as soon as you leave the city behind.

I love country roads with country houses and lots of green.

I love country roads with country houses and lots of green.

These mountains are so majestic. I feel so small just looking at them.

These mountains are so majestic. I feel so small just looking at them.

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We spotted waterfalls coming from the rocks and the mountains all the day up the mountain.

We spotted waterfalls coming from the rocks and the mountains all the way to our destination.

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These shrines give proof of Ecuador's catholic mindset. You can see then everywhere alongside the road.

These shrines give proof of Ecuador’s catholic mindset. You can see then everywhere alongside the road.

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Here is photographer in training, Isabela, taking pictures of the scenery.

Here is my photographer in training, Isabela, taking pictures of the scenery.

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I thought it was interesting that in such an isolated area they track your speed by radar.

I thought it was interesting that in such an isolated area they track your speed by radar.

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Our vehicle pared on the side of the road while we took pictures and took the view in.

Our vehicle pared on the side of the road while we took pictures and took the view in.

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The public transportation in Ecuador.

The public transportation in Ecuador.

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A small town nestled in the mountains.

A small town nestled in the mountains.

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Entering the cloud forest.

Entering the cloud forest.

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The more we went up the prettier it got.

The more we went up the prettier it got.

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The oil refinery. One of many. Ecuador produces its own oil which is good for us since the price of gasoline is so cheap.

The oil refinery. One of many. Ecuador produces its own oil which is good for us since the price of gasoline is so cheap.

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One of the many rivers we came across during our drive.

One of the many rivers we came across during our drive.

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A house with the river on the background.

A house with the river on the background.

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So pretty. My camera could not capture all the beauty my eyes witnessed.

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Always nice to see a "danger" yellow line near where you are driving.

Always nice to see a “danger” yellow line near where you are driving.

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An unattended fruit stand. I guess you don't have to worry about anyone taking your stuff.

An unattended fruit stand. I guess you don’t have to worry about anyone taking your stuff.

A narrow bridge we crossed.

A narrow bridge we crossed.

The river over the bridge.

The river over the bridge.

An oil pipe coming our of the mountain.

An oil pipe coming our of the mountain.

A town in the middle of no where.

A town in the middle of nowhere.

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You can have your car washed here. I wonder if they have you take it into the river. :-)

You can have your car washed here. I wonder if they have you take it into the river. :-)

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Another waterfall coming out of the mountain.

Another waterfall coming out of the mountain.

A river Cody wanted to check out.

A river Cody wanted to check out.

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Cody going down to explore the river.

Cody going down to explore the river.

We parked on the side of the road to explore the river.

We parked on the side of the road to explore the river.

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Going down.

Exploring.

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This is what Cody hiked to get to the river.

This is what Cody hiked to get to the river.

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The little restaurant where we enjoyed trout for lunch.

The little restaurant where we enjoyed trout for lunch.

Another waterfall.

Another waterfall.

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On the way back to Quito we noticed this beauty. It is a totally majestic snow covered mountain.

On the way back to Quito we noticed this beauty. It is a totally majestic snow covered mountain.

Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

The colors on the rock.

The colors on the rock.

These guys are busy with a very heavy load.

These guys are busy with a very heavy load.

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I thought this sign was funny. It reads "mandatory detour" as if all other detours where optional. :-P

I thought this sign was funny. It reads “mandatory detour” as if all other detours where optional. :-P

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Another waterfall.

Another waterfall.

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I love all the green.

I love all the green.

Driving back to the city.

Driving back to the city.

Out of the mountain.

Out of the mountain.

We are all the “least of these”.

I will make a confession to you. I don’t like the term “the least of these” when it is used to set apart a specific group of people. I often hear people, Christians mainly, use this term to refer to the poor, the broken, the orphan, the drug user, the prostitute, the abused child, the latinos, the haitians, the blacks, the lame, etc. And I honestly have a serious problem with people using this term to stereotype people and their issues. What’s worse is that sometimes this term, or often misquoted phrase of Jesus, is used to the exclusion of the wealthy, the americans, and oftentimes the very people who use the term to refer to that other group they want to point out.

I understand that many times when people used this phrase they do so in a very compassionate way. I understand that they are trying to help. I have no problem with having a “heart” for a specific group of people whether that be orphans, the poor, the elderly, people with cancer, etc. I have no problem with people trying to be sympathetic with other people, but we must be very careful. We must show compassion, but we must not elevate culture or background, or even ourselves, while putting others down. We must not exclude ourselves from the brokenness that exist in this world. We must not give the impression that the rich are not broken nor that they do not qualify as the “least of these” in Jesus’ book. Sin has ruined every thing and everyone. No one is exempt from its damage.

The story of the “least of these” is found in Matthew 25. Jesus is talking to his disciples about the end times, judgment day, and rewards for being faithful. He explains to his disciples what the kingdom of God is like using the parables of the virgins and the talents. Then in verse 31 he begins to talk about the last day, the day of judgement. He tells his disciples that in that day many will be falsely misled into thinking that they are serving God, but they are not. They have the wrong idea that they are kingdom minded, but they miss out in what that means. At the same time some will be busy about God’s business without even knowing it. They are serving. Yet they are never boasting. They are caring for others, yet they have no clue who they are really serving.

In comparing these two groups Jesus said that whatever a person does to the “least of these my brothers” that person did to him. And whatever a person fails to do the “least of these my brothers” they also fail to do to him. Who is Jesus talking about? Is he talking about latinos? Blacks? Orphans? Widows? Poor? Broken? People living in shacks? No. Jesus clearly uses the phrase “my brothers”. He is talking about believers. He is talking about those who belong to the family of God. But I know what you are thinking, “why is Jesus then talking about them being in prison?” The answer is very simple. Jesus knew, warned, and foretold, about believers all over the world being hated by the world, persecuted by the world, tossed in jail by the world, and even killed by the world for his namesake. If they did it to him then it should not surprise us that it will happen to us.

Jesus wasn’t speaking about any socio economic group. He wasn’t even referring to poor children. He wasn’t excluding the rich nor those with higher intellect. In fact Jesus never elevated one group of people over the other. We tend to do that. We have created an invisible, and often visible, caste system in our hearts and minds. We create lines of separations that divide the “us” from the “them”. We pridefully think ourselves better than others and look at those who seem different as “you poor little thing”. And we all need to stop doing this.

You see, I am a latina by birth and blood. I was born in a broken dysfunctional home. I was very poor. For Christmas I was fortunate if I opened a gift donated by the Salvation Army. But at the age of 17 I moved to the United States where I learned that my experience growing up was not everyone’s else experience. I learned to live with the “oh poor little thing, you grew up in a third world country” thing. At first I didn’t understand what that meant. Then I came to Christ and began to hear this “least of these” expression being used to refer to people that are growing up or grew up the way I did. At first it didn’t bother me until I began to notice the arrogance behind the term. Somehow the people using this term thought that it didn’t apply to them! They were not the “least of these”. Those other people over there were. And they needed to go out and “reach them” with the love of God…while thinking they themselves were better off than those being “reached”.

Can you hear the irony of that? The futility? Christ was talking about believers! Believers come in all different sizes and shapes and colors and socio economic backgrounds and with a million different issues. When a believer loves another believer in need he is loving Christ because Christ lives in that believer. When a believer chooses to reject another believer he is rejecting Christ because Christ lives in that believer. The Holy Spirit has sealed all believers. Christ is in every believer and whatever we do for one another believer is the same as if we were doing it to him. If we understand this then we understand that we are ALL “the least of these my brothers”.

The “least of these” are not the people living in huts in Haiti. Nor those from a bad neighborhood in Nicaragua. Nor those who are orphans in Romania. Nor the little girls involved in the sex trafficking industry. The “least of these” may and does include people from all those groups and even more, but it also includes the corporate executive earning a paycheck at a bank. And the woman who stays at home with her children. And the baseball player. And the blue collar worker in Kansas. The “least of these” includes people from all generations and all sorts of walks who have embraced the gospel of grace and have been forgiven by a Christ who loved them deeply. The “least of these” includes me. It puts me at an equal status as the orphan who received Christ and the computer analyst who embraced the Savior. The “least of these” are the brothers and sisters of Jesus who have been adopted by Almighty God and are now part of a great heavenly family.

May we embrace that. Because that is the truth. ~ Maria

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)

Family photo sessions are always…interesting.

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We wanted to take a picture for our Christmas card this year so we gathered in the living room to make the magic happen. The great thing about this project is that we have a great camera and great cropping and filtering software. Since we cannot afford the luxury of hiring a professional photographer everyone is stuck with me (Maria), the semi-professional photographer and the only person that knows how to crop and filter photos. After all, I took a very “extensive” course free on youtube. Hahaha! So here are some of our photos. Enjoy!

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As you can see, Jake is extremely cooperative here. And Cody, he is hiding in the background.

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Trying to get happy faces and children that stay still is always fun.

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Oh yeah! We are succeeding at this!

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We can try again! One more time!

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Good thing we have a remote to control the camera.

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Now the dog decides to look away.

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Cody patiently waits until we all get our act together.

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Let’s try the other chair. And bunny ears on Cody.

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Gabriela decided to grab Jake by the shirt. Fun!

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Jake has a bump on his forehead. We need to hide that!

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Where is Cody? And we forgot Gabriela!

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Almost there! Not!

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Aww! The cute baby is distracting for some.

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I am trying to hide Jake’s bump so I decided to go with black and white.

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I can still see that bump.

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This is the one we decided to use. Everyone seems to be “cooperating”. I love Grabiela’s tongue sticking out. So cute.

Down the mountain to explore

Last Saturday, we took a trip down the mountain to explore. It was my (Maria’s) first time outside the city of Quito. Quito is a busy busy busy place. Unlike Leon, Nicaragua you don’t wake up to rooters or birds singing in the morning. The most common sounds are that of alarms going off at all hours of the day, horns beeping, and electric gates opening. Life is so much different than what I got used to in Nicaragua. Is neither better nor worse. It is just different and I must admit that I have to get used to living in such a busy crowded place.

I do love the variety of food that you can find in Quito though. There are even websites where you can order your food from a ton of restaurants right from your computer if you don’t want to battle traffic outside your gate. This has been pretty beneficial in the past few weeks when my body decided to act weird as I get used to the air or lack thereof here in this high altitude city. And I also like having good doctors around when you need them. And trust me doctors have become our newest friends lately. We all have experienced the bodily pains of high altitude and a new country. And we are all praying that this too will pass quickly!

So, back to my story. Last Saturday we decided that we could take a quick break from city life and high altitude and unclog our noses and lungs and head down to where the air is fresher. We took a drive to check out a little town that according to google was nice and quiet and pretty and quaint. The drive was spectacular. It was nice to actually see some of the beauty and diversity of this country. There were many oohs and aahhs moments. We were all fascinated as the scenery changed from city to greenery to very high mountains to beautiful rolling hills. It was like being inside a postcard at every turn. I’d say that aside from the crazy drivers that cut us off just as we were going through a blind curb it was one of the most spectacular and enjoyable drives that I’ve ever taken. It makes me look at the mountain from our apartment window in a different way for now I know what lays beyond the brick and concrete that covers the bottom part of the mountain.

It took us three hours to get to this small town called La Concordia. Yes, the town was small as google described. It was quieter than Quito. But I truly wasn’t impressed by it. Yet, the drive leading to it…Now that was impressive! We took lots of pictures, but honestly pictures would not do it justice. After I sat down in front of my computer to look at them I was kind off annoyed that most of the pictures didn’t fully revealed what my eyes saw. I hope you enjoy this pictures below. You are always welcome to come and see for yourself.

And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 ESV)

 

Jake is modeling his Panama hat which by the way is made in Ecuador, not Panama.

Jake is modeling his Panama hat. Which by the way, are made in Ecuador, not Panama.

So cute. He loves his hat!

So cute. He loves his hat!

Trying to hide from he camera.

Trying to hide from the camera.

I love his happy face!

I love his happy face!

This picture was actually taken in Otavalo, one of our ministry sites.

This picture was actually taken in Otavalo, one of our ministry sites.

This is also Otavalo.

This is also Otavalo.

This is on the way to Otavalo. There is a town there that is famous for its bizcochos and hot chocolate.

This is on the way to Otavalo. There is a town there that is famous for its bizcochos and hot chocolate.

On the way down the mountain. As soon as you exit the city you can see the greenery all around you.

On the way down the mountain. As soon as you exit the city you can see the greenery all around you.

Beautiful. There were so many of this around us. It made being in the Andes more real to me.

Beautiful. There were so many of these mountains around us. It made being in the Andes more real to me.

We spotted a waterfall hidden among the trees.

We spotted a waterfall hidden among the trees.

Little towns and restaurants were tucked in by the side of the road.

Little towns and restaurants were tucked in by the side of the road.

Some places that Cody think he would like to visit.

Some places that Cody think he would like to visit.

A side road hidden in the forest.

A side road hidden in the forest.

A beautiful river running along the road.

A beautiful river running along the road.

The river an its rocks.

The river and its rocks.

Road signs. Something that I love having here.

Road signs. Something that I love having here.

The road ahead.

The road ahead.

The traffic disturbance created by these men gathering their grass on the side of the road.

The traffic disturbance created by these men gathering their grass on the side of the road.

A town on the side. People actually live intros beauty!

A town on the side of the road. People actually live in this beauty!

A place to bring your computers in case you have viruses!

A place to bring your computers in case you have viruses!

Part of another town on the way down.

Part of another town on the way down.

A pretty house on the way.

A pretty house on the way.

A bridge crossing the river.

A bridge over the river in Valle Hermosa.

More pics of life in South America

Here are some more pictures of our first two months living in South America!  Enjoy.

One of the many beautiful mountains on the way to Otavalo.

One of the many beautiful mountains on the way to Otavalo.

Quichua people standing on the side of the street in Otavalo.

Quichua people standing on the side of the street in Otavalo.

Quichua women in the market in Otavalo.

Quichua women in the market in Otavalo.

Quichua woman in a market stand.

Quichua woman in a market stand.

Cody striking a pose.

Cody striking a pose.

Another quichua lady. Just think that Heaven will be filled with all kinds of cultures.

Another quichua lady. Just think that Heaven will be filled with all kinds of cultures.

Me with tow quichua ladies at the market in Otavalo.

Me with two quichua ladies at the market in Otavalo.

Cody and Jake at the Parque Metropolitano in Quito. One of the many beautiful parks in the city.

Cody and Jake at the Parque Metropolitano in Quito. One of the many beautiful parks in the city.

Isabela and Jake, expert climbers.

Isabela and Jake, expert climbers.

Jake showing his skills.

Jake showing his skills.

Isabela at the Parque Metropolitano.

Isabela at the Parque Metropolitano.

Jake and Cody having fun!

Jake and Cody having fun!

Gabriela enjoying a day at the park.

Gabriela enjoying a day at the park.

Jake and Daddy. :-)

Jake and Daddy. :-)

Rock climbing for little ones!

Rock climbing for little ones!

Conquering the tall mountain.

Conquering the tall mountain.

Exploring the texture of the grass at the park.

Exploring the texture of the grass at the park.

Jake about to conquer the rocks at the park.

Jake about to conquer the rocks at the park.

Sweet Gabriela.

Sweet Gabriela.

Sweet Isabela.

Sweet Isabela.

Having fun!

Having fun!

Bailey wondering why we can't let her run loose.

Bailey wondering why we can’t let her run loose.

Jake the rock climber.

Jake the rock climber.

One of the mountain views from the Parque Metropolitano in Quito.

One of the mountain views from the Parque Metropolitano in Quito.

The entrance to the park in Quito.

The entrance to the park in Quito.

Parts of the city of Quito.

Parts of the city of Quito.

One of the streets of the city of Quito.

One of the streets of the city of Quito.

One thing that we love in Quito that we didn't have in other places we lived internationally--Street signs!!! And actual addresses.

One thing that we love in Quito that we didn’t have in other places we lived internationally–Street signs!!! And actual addresses.

We love the gas prices. Yes, that is per gallon!

We love the gas prices. Yes, that is per gallon!

Vendors on the street of South Quito.

Vendors on the street of South Quito.

A street view from South Quito.

A street view from South Quito.

Colorful South Quito.

Colorful South Quito.

A view of North Quito from afar. The city looks like it is built on a cliff.

A view of North Quito from afar. The city looks like it is built on a cliff.

The entrance to our home. We share this driveway with four other families.

The entrance to our home.

The outside view of our apartment. We live on the second floor of this apartment in the north of Quito.

The outside view of our apartment. We live on the second floor of this apartment in the north of Quito.

 

November pics of life and ministry in Ecuador

Bailey...the newest addition to our family.

Bailey…the newest addition to our family.

Maria looking fine in the supermarket.

Maria looking fine in the supermarket.

Pastor Raul, the Quichua pastor in Otavalo where we are starting a training center

Pastor Raul, the Quichua pastor in Otavalo where we are starting a training center

Que guapísimo!

Que guapísimo!

Feeding the chickens

Feeding the chickens

Learning about the different herbs that they grow on the farm

Learning about the different herbs that they grow on the farm

Que bella mi nena!

Que bella mi nena!

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Preaching a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Bautista el Calvario in south Quito

Preaching a Sunday morning service at Iglesia Bautista el Calvario in south Quito

Que linda mi familia!

Que linda mi familia!

The one thing we HATE about Quito...the traffic is a nightmare!

The one thing we HATE about Quito…the traffic is a nightmare!

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Que preciosa mi princesa!

Que preciosa mi princesa!

Bailey finding a comfortable spot to relax

Bailey finding a comfortable spot to relax

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Isabela's first time milking a cow.

Isabela’s first time milking a cow.

Los vaqueros montando el caballo (The cowboys riding the horse.)

Los vaqueros montando el caballo (The cowboys riding the horse.)

Me and pastor David from Iglesia Bautista el Calvario. He wants us to come and start a training program in south Quito.

Me and pastor David from Iglesia Bautista el Calvario. He wants us to come and start a training program in south Quito.

Mi muñeca

Mi muñeca