The wrong perspective of coming back from a short-term missions trip

I don’t mean to step on anyones’s toes here, but I think it might inevitably just happen.  Often, whenever someone is telling me about their experience from a short-term missions trip that they have taken, they almost always say something like, “This trip was life changing, for it sure made me appreciate much more what I have here.”  Although I kind of understand the reason for saying that, after all, many of these people are seeing poverty up close and personal for the first time ever, I really don’t think that this is the main perspective that we are supposed to be taking away from such an experience.  I don’t think the main reason why God calls us to serve in another country (whether long-term or short-term) is so that we can come back home and realize just how blessed we are to live in the United States. Yet that’s the main thing that many people say when they get back from such a trip. I think that kind of thinking keeps the focus of the mission trip on us, instead of being on God.  I also don’t think it gives dignity and value to other countries and peoples of the world.

Comparing our life to the life of another, or our country to that of another, should be the last thing on our minds when it comes to missions. Think about it:  It is a mission trip. There is a mission involved.  And this mission has nothing whatsoever to do with comparing socio-economic strata between one nation and another. The mission has to do with people hearing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeing it lived out in front of them through intentional preaching/teaching as well as through self-less giving and service.  Our mission, whether for short-term or long-term service, is to bring the light of the glory of God to the peoples of the world.

But think about this for a moment. When a person says something like, “Man, it sure makes me thankful for what I have in my own life”, essentially what is being said, but just in a nicer package is, “I’m sure glad that I don’t have to live like those people.”  And who is the focus upon when such statements are made? “I”.  And therein lies the problem.  Missions is not about me. Missions is about God.  If I return from a mission trip and the main point that I have taken home with me is that I am so blessed to live in the land of the free, then I have really missed the mission all together.  But, if I return from a trip and the main point that I have taken is that I am simply in awe that God’s name was proclaimed to a people of a different language and culture than my own, and I saw His love and truth touch lives, then I have indeed gotten the point  of what the mission was all about.  It is all about Him. It is not about me.

Also, the real definition of poverty goes far beyond what material one’s house is made of, whether or not they wear shoes, or what kind of clothes they are wearing.  The real issue of poverty has to do with a person’s perceived self worth and value. When we go on a short-term missions trip to impoverished areas, if we are thinking about ourselves and thinking “man, I’m just so glad that I don’t have to live in such conditions”, we are inevitably, though I’m sure not intentionally, just adding to the poverty of that person or people group.  For in thinking about ourselves, we are automatically making a clear distinction between “us” and “them.”  And don’t think that a person does not know and feel when such a distinction is being made. And in doing so, we are inevitably just giving more power to the negative view that they may already have of themselves.

What is the solution to this, whether in looking at short-term missions or long-term missions?

First, we must see things the way God sees things.  The greatest poverty a person can have is a spiritual poverty. And we all have, at one point or another, been spiritually bankrupt. Lost. Without hope. Not knowing the love of a Savior. Impoverished. That describes each and every human being on the face of this earth. There is really no “us” and “them”.  We are all “us”, spiritually impoverished people who are in great need of a Savior. Helpless babes dependent on our merciful creator. It is only by the grace and mercy of God that our eyes have been opened and we have been brought into relationship with Him through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. So, what is the point of the mission trip? To go and share that good news with others. To joyfully reach out to every single person and let them know that they too have the opportunity to receive the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life because there is a God who loves them so much.  The mission has nothing to do with social-economic status.

Second, we must see the way God sees things. Yes, I know I said that was the first thing. It is also the second, third, fourth, etc.  God’s Word is our source of truth. When we see things that way He sees them, we then operate in a way that builds up others and brings glory and honor to His name.  Often, we tend to judge others based on the things that we see without even really getting to know them. So, on a mission trip, we might enter a little village and see tiny huts or houses with lots of dust and garbage all around, and we think, “Wow, this person lives in such a small house made with broken bricks and corrugated metal.  They are living in poverty.”  And so, without even getting to know the people living inside, we have already made a judgment that they are living in poverty and we begin to think how thankful we are to God that we don’t have to live like that. And we have automatically made a distinct separation between “us” and “them”. Let’s stop for just a second here and analyze this:  We don’t even know the people. We don’t know the gifts and talents that they may or may not have. We don’t know the knowledge that they may or may not possess. We don’t know the joy that they may or may not be filled with. We don’t know the faith in God that may or may not consume their lives, perhaps even putting our own faith, knowledge, or joy to shame. But yet, we have judged them, made a distinction, and are already thanking God that we don’t have to live like “them”.  But all we really did was look at the houses they live in. Nothing else.  My wife said it so well at one point years ago when we were discussing this issue. If this is what we are doing, then basically we are saying “I thank the Lord that I have more bricks than you do. I feel sorry that you do not have many bricks. And as one that has a lot more bricks than you do, I am here to help you.” Can you see how  preposterous this sounds?  But that is basically what we are doing. We somehow make a distinction and a judgment, and we return home with the overarching thought, “Whew…Lord, I’m so thankful that I have a lot of bricks.”

It very well can be that the family inside that home is a Christ following family, filled with the joy of the Lord, possessing a lot of knowledge and skill, with a heart of thanksgiving and gratitude, perhaps a family that, had you the opportunity to get to know them, would have made you return home saying, “Lord, I wish I had what that family has.” Perhaps we are missing out on some tremendous blessings because we are too preoccupied thinking about ourselves and what we have instead of seeing the value within.

But, it also can be that the family living inside that home has great problems. Perhaps they are living in despair. Perhaps they feel worthless and therefore have no motivation to get a job. Perhaps they are living in a country where the corruption and control of the government makes them feel this way.  They feel beaten and defeated. Hopeless.  Again, the focus should not be upon us and making comparisons of the haves and the have nots. True poverty runs much deeper than the amount of bricks one owns. It has to do with dignity and self-worth. So, making comparisons and judgments is only going to add to such a person’s poverty. Instead, we should be doing everything we can to share with them their God given dignity and worth. We put ourselves right at their same level, for we are at the same level, letting them know that their is a God who loves them and gave Himself for them. We seek to restore to them the dignity that has been stolen.  And we cannot do this unless we put our judgments and distinctions aside, enter their homes and their world, and be about the mission for which we were sent – to tell them of a Savior who loved them so much that He suffered death on a cross so that they could be brought near to God for eternity. This is what the mission is about. This is what will truly start alleviating poverty.

So, should you get the privilege of going on a short-term mission trip to another country, perhaps one that is a poor country, just remember that the mission is not about you, not about comparing between what “you” have and what “they” sadly lack, and not about returning with thanks that “you” have so much to be thankful for compared to what “they” don’t have. But rather it is all about God.  It is about getting the privilege to share with another how deeply loved they are by God. It is about restoring their dignity that has been lost somewhere along the way, just like ours was at one time or another.  The simplest definition of Christianity that I have ever heard…”Christianity is about one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  That is our mission.  Let’s be faithful to bring the bread to the nations and come home rejoicing that other beggars like ourselves are now feasting at the table of the Lord.  Who cares about bricks?

We’re going back to Ecuador!!

“Sometimes you have to play second base for a while just to realize that you’re really meant to play shortstop.” So far, that is the best way to help me understand why all this has happened, and how I can share the news with you that we are planning to return to Ecuador to continue serving as missionaries.

It has been almost a year since we left Ecuador, thinking that perhaps the Lord was leading us back to the U.S. where I was planning on going into pastoral ministry.  We had been serving on the field for about 7 years, and thought that our time had come to an end.  But almost ever since being back here in the U.S. there has been an unsettled feeling in our heart. It’s very hard to describe. It had nothing to do with reverse culture shock or readjustment back to life in the states, but rather had much more to do with purpose and calling. Something deep within our soul.  We couldn’t quite figure it out, but Maria and I would often talk about it.

Everything was going relatively well. I was an Associate Pastor of a good church in Asheville, which is where we have many friends since Asheville has been our home base since being on the mission field. We were living in a decent house with a lot of land. We were doing okay financially. Things at the church were going well. Overall, life was good. But there was just this deep sense of unrest and unsettledness in both our hearts.  We would talk about it all the time, then we both began to pray about it.

Well, it came one morning as Maria and I were sitting at the table in the kitchen, having yet another conversation about what is going on in our hearts, trying to make sense of why we were feeling the way we were feeling.  It hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like a room that had been dark suddenly became flooded with light in an instant. “We are missionaries!” As soon as I said it, I just began to weep. I just knew with every single fiber of my being that my confession bore witness to God’s call on our lives. I knew in that moment, that flash of light, with the greatest clarity than I have ever known, that God has called us to be missionaries. And I knew in that single moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was showing us that we are meant to be back on the mission field. As I shared this with Maria, she too had a full awareness of this truth and was in complete agreement.  And since that moment, our desire to be back on the mission field just grows exponentially.

And once that moment occurred, I knew that it would be time for me to eat some crow, to humbly say “I was wrong” about some specific things.  You see, if you look at my last post on our blog from almost a year ago, when we shared of our news that we were leaving the mission field to return to the states, there is a lot of language of “God is calling us”, “We are certain that God is leading us”, “I know that my greatest desire is to move into pastoral ministry”, etc.  And yet, here we are, less than a year later, after having sold off all our things in Ecuador to move to the states, after having told all of our support team that we were done serving as missionaries, and after having resigned from our mission organization, that we are now saying with the utmost conviction “We are missionaries. Our call, after all, is to serve on the mission field.”  For that, I am eating a lot of crow as I try to explain to people how it is that we are making preparations to return to the mission field.

So, how do I make sense of a seeming contradiction?  Well, I don’t. I mean, I can’t.  All that I can say is that we really believed that the Lord was calling us off the field at the time, and we really believe that He is calling us to return.  I cannot reconcile much more beyond that. This might beg the question of some (which causes me to eat a lot of crow), “Well then, were you really not supposed to leave the field in the first place? Did you hear incorrectly from God?  Did you stamp God’s name on something that really wasn’t supposed to be? After all, if you know now that you are supposed to be on the mission field, then maybe it was never His will that you left it in the first place.”  The truth is, these are valid questions. Seriously.  I understand these questions because I have asked the Lord those same exact questions.  I know that I look a little wishy-washy here. One minute, we’re all about coming back to the states and going into pastoral ministry, and less than a year later, we’re all about saying with certainty that our place is on the mission field.  Yes, I know this looks wishy-washy. And for that reason, as I said, I have been humbled and have eaten crow with some people with whom I have shared this news.

But sometimes we try to make things cut and dry, fitting into our own little image of God and how we think He must work. And the truth is, He is God, much bigger than any one of us can imagine. He does not fit inside our box. He blows our mind. He offends our little packaged world of theology.  And He can do as He so chooses. And He has His reasons for doing everything that He does, whether we understand Him or not. He does not make mistakes.

So, the truth is that I thank the Lord more than ever that He brought us all the way back to the states only to show us that we are made for the mission field.  Has it been a roller coaster kind of ride in the last year? Yes.  But I honestly cannot thank Him enough for how He has revealed Himself to us.  I cannot explain how clear I see my purpose to be. I don’t know if I have ever felt so sure, so convicted, or so compelled to pursue a specific path.  It’s like God has lit a fire in my heart, given me a desire that consumes me, something by which I feel utterly compelled.  Right now, in this very moment, we are the farthest away from being back on the mission field (living in the states, no support team, no active mission organization, and I am not even working in ministry at the moment. But I cannot tell you how utterly convinced I am that the Lord is going to bring us back. I know that if it is His will, He will provide all that is needed to get us there.  I am eager, but not anxious. Friends, this is all Him. He is the One who is revealing these things to Maria and I. He is the One who is giving us a compelling pull to go back to the nations. He is the One who is burdening both our hearts to bring the Gospel once again to people who have very little access to it. He is the One who has put it in us to not desire any creature comforts here in the states.  He is the One who is waking me up in the morning with a desire to labor in prayer to see God move in my life, the life of those I love, and among the nations so that His glory can be made known.  This is all Him.

I cannot explain it.  Many might say that I’m loco (crazy) for giving everything up again. Many would say, and some have said, “Why do you feel the need to minister to those outside of your culture. You are a pastor now, and have the opportunity every day to share the Gospel with those in your care.” You have a secure job, a nice place to live, a place to settle down, etc.  To all of that, I can only refer to the call. That’s right. It doesn’t make much sense. But when a man is called by God, seldom does the world see the sense in what he is doing.

And that’s how we feel right now, called and compelled by God to take the Gospel to the nations of the world. And truthfully, I don’t believe that anything is going to stop us, no matter how far away we may seem right now from the mission field.  The Lord will accomplish His purposes.

“Sometimes, you have to play second base for a while just to realize that you’re really meant to play shortstop.” That’s what one friend told me as I shared with him of our decision. It has stuck with me.  To me, it makes so much sense. I thank the Lord for bringing us out of Ecuador for a season, for it was in being off the mission field that has caused me to realize with the greatest clarity that the mission field is where I most long to be.  And I don’t know if I ever would have had such clarity had we never stepped away.  “God doesn’t waste anything.” That’s what another dear woman shared with us a few days ago as we shared what God was doing in our lives. I’m thankful for those who have encouraged us and understand some of the roller coaster like life that our walk with Christ sometimes brings. It’s nice to hear people backing you up on your convictions. But I am also truly thankful for the others, the few who look at me with great skepticism, those with whom I have to eat a mouthful of crow, humble myself immensely, and agree with them that they have a right to look at us with skepticism based on what appears to be some wishy-washy decision. So, I am thankful for those people because in having those conversations, I can do nothing but humble myself, agree with their concerns, and then merely stand on a conviction that I know to them just looks like another wishy-washy statement, and trust that it is God alone who must accomplish this work and lead us to where we are meant to be.  I can’t make any claims. This must be God who does this. All that I can say is that He has put a desire in my wife and I that is like a consuming fire.  We just want our lives to be spent for the sake of the kingdom. We want to put our hands to the plow and not look back. We want to live in the fullest of His will for our lives no matter what happens, knowing that this is all for the glory and honor of His great name.

Our plan, Lord willing, is to re-join our former mission organization and be back in Ecuador within a year or so, depending on how fast or slow the Lord moves us. While here, we have re-joined the church that originally sent us out as missionaries many years ago. We want to just serve the church and build good friendships with the people. I am working full-time back in social work as a means of providing for my family as we prepare ourselves.  We trust completely in His plans and are not anxious for how it is all going to play out. We are eager as all can be to get back to doing the work that we have loved doing for the past 7 years, but we are not anxious.

So far, the overwhelming majority of people with whom we have shared this news have all responded positively saying that they are not at all surprised to hear the news because they know that we are missionaries and that’s what we are truly passionate about. It’s  always nice to hear positive encouragement and affirmation from those who know us and love us. After all, Scripture does say that “in the multitude of counsel, there is wisdom.” So, its definitely a positive thing when those with whom we share are all pretty much in agreement that the Lord is revealing His plan to us and they affirm our call as missionaries.

So, with everything in us, by the grace of God who compels all our reasons, we have put our hand to the plow and are not looking back. We have surrendered ourselves to His kingdom work among the nations. And we joyfully forsake all in order to make His name known to the ends of the earth.

Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs His steps

It is a very fitting verse to quote as we share with you the news that we will be returning back to the states after having lived on the mission field for almost 7 years. Having been in Ecuador for about a year and a half, and seeing the ministry grow in a healthy and God honoring way, we had thought that we would be here for some time. but the truth is that the Lord has clearly showed us that it is time for us to return. Although it is a difficult decision to make, we have received the support of our Director and other leadership as well as the support of many who have been supporting us over the years. And though it is a decision that was difficult to make, we have absolute certainty that the Lord is directing our steps.

Though we do not know the exact plans for the next steps for our family, we do know that it is He who guides us and goes before us. Just like He led the Israelites in the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so too we know that He is leading us exactly where we are supposed to be.

Though we are stepping away from our role as missionaries to a foreign country, we by no means are stepping away from our role as ministers of the Gospel. As my Ecuadorian pastor friend reminded me this week during our good-bye that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. And the truth is that this is exactly the way I feel. Even though the Lord has a sanctifying purpose in brining us back to the states to bring some healing to our souls and get us deeper connected with the body of Christ, I still have a burning passion to preach the Word of God, make His name known among the world, and help strengthen the church to do the same. And I believe that the Lord will lead us into a role in which our gifts will be used for the advancement of His kingdom.
Over the last several years, the Lord has been stirring my heart more and more towards pastoral ministry. After having lived on the mission field in 4 different countries, I have seen a lot of expressions of the Bride of Christ. I have learned much from many and am also thankful to have had the privilege to teach much to them. The Bride of Christ is beautiful in so many respects, but we still have so much to learn so that we might be conformed more and more into the image of Christ. After being involved for several years now of working directly with the church in Latin America and helping provide biblical teaching, training, deeper theological understanding, and overall strength to the church so that she can be more effective in her witness to the world, the Lord has given me a great burden to serve the local church in my own country and be a part of shepherding her for the glory and honor of God. So, please pray that the Lord will reveal His will for us as we make this big transition.

These past 7 years have been incredible, rewarding, difficult, and sanctifying. We would not trade them for the world. We have been blessed by God to be part of His kingdom building work in many countries. Whether it was ministering to the orphaned children of Haiti, teaching the Bible to at-risk youth in Nicaragua, or teaching theological truths to pastors and leaders here in Ecuador, we know that His Word has gone forth and we trust that He will bring the harvest.

We look forward with great anticipation as to what the Lord has in store for us next. Whatever it is, we just want to live our lives in such a way as to bring Him glory and share His glorious truths with those around us.

And so…the journey continues on…

Fulfilling the Great Commission in the jungle of Ecuador

I recently returned from our trip to the jungle and am pleased to give a very good report. The trip was a great success in many ways even with the spiritual warfare that we encountered. Our goal in this first trip was to visit as many communities as possible and talk with the Christians there and invite them personally to the pastoral training program that we are planning on launching in April. Our goal also was to find a suitable location for the training program that would enable as many Shuar people to come from their respective communities whether some be deep in the jungle and others on the outskirts of the jungle. Our final goal was to get the opportunity to do some teaching and preaching along the way in order to minister to the Shuar and also give them a feel for what the training will be like once we begin.  Our team consisted of Justin and Shane from Trace Creek Baptist in Kentucky, myself, and our Ecuadorian contact Pato in Macas.

We accomplished those goals and even more. The Lord had some neat divine appointments for us along the way. One day, when we were visiting a community right on the Peruvian border, we were looking for the Christian leader, but he was not around. So, we were directed to a young man in the community who really loves the Lord and wants to know more of Him. After much conversation, I learned that he has known the Lord for three years, feels a strong desire to pastor, but had never been baptized. This was based on faulty teaching that he was given. So, after explaining to him what the Bible teaches about baptism and who may or may not get baptized, I told him that nothing should hinder him further in following through with this step of obedience. I told him that if he wanted to, we could find a river and I could baptize him in the presence of the many witnesses with us. And so that’s what we did. It was an amazing time to just teach this young man about biblical baptism and then get the opportunity to baptize him immediately after. Afterwards, he told me that this was such a great day for him. Of course, he was invited to the pastoral training program and told me that he has every intention of attending. Please pray for him. His name is Juan Paez.

Also, I was given the opportunity to preach on Sunday at a Shuar church where we decided we will launch the program. After preaching an evangelistic message, a woman stepped forward in front of the congregation and told us that she wanted to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. So, after giving a very thorough explanation of what that entails in order to make sure that she understood, I had the opportunity to lead her in a prayer to receive Christ. Please pray for her. Her name is Lucy. I asked the pastor’s wife to begin immediate follow up with her in order to begin teaching her the Bible and drawing her closer to the Lord. What an amazing privilege that the Lord gave us to see salvation come to this Shuar woman.

Our original plan was to visit two different areas in the jungle, but there was a political situation going on in one area and the tribal leaders were not letting anyone pass through, so we were not able to get as far into the jungle as we planned. But we did visit the other community which was just across the river and spent the night there. While there, we met with a handful of families in the community and share with them about the program. I was also given the privilege of preaching in the evening. While visiting families, we were offered strange fruit and strange drink. The drink is called Chicha and it is often made fermented by the saliva of those who make it. So, they make it by chewing up corn or yuca and then spitting it into a bowl and then mixing it with other fruits. It is a total offense to not receive it when it is offered to you, and they all drink from the same bowl as it is passed around the group. So, I know my Director will not be happy to read this, but I simply had to lip it to make it look like I was taking some as to not offend, but there was no way that stuff was passing through my lips. So, each time it was offered, I put it to my mouth so that it would form a big chicha mustache, but I did not sip it. Go figure then that I did end up eating some raw grubs a few hours later. Haha. I’d choose the raw grubs any day over Chicha. The grubs hardly had any taste to them.

Overall, it was a great trip. We are super excited to return in April to launch our first training module. We plan to get back into the jungle as well to share with other communities. The people are super excited to have this opportunity to receive biblical training and so it is worth the efforts that it takes to reach them. The church where we will hold the training is on the outskirts of the jungle just about 30 minutes from the city of Macas. So, although we may make frequent day or overnight trips into the jungle to minister the Gospel to people, training itself will be in a more accommodating area.

Thank you all for praying for me. There was certainly some spiritual warfare going on, but we give glory to God that He is all powerful and nothing can stop His plan from going forward.

The craziest, narrowest, flimsiest, noisiest steel bridge I have ever crossed

The craziest, narrowest, flimsiest, noisiest steel bridge I have ever crossed

Talking with the two leaders from the church in Shimpis about how to get them good biblical resources.

Talking with the two leaders from the church in Shimpis about how to get them good biblical resources.

First time preaching to the Shuar. Awesome that a Shuar woman came forward at the end and asked to receive Christ as Savior.

First time preaching to the Shuar. Awesome that a Shuar woman came forward at the end and asked to receive Christ as Savior.

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Justin teaching on how to effectively study the Bible

Justin teaching on how to effectively study the Bible

Me sharing with some of the leaders about the pastoral training program

Me sharing with some of the leaders about the pastoral training program

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Me preaching a Sunday morning evangelistic message at the church in Shimpis.

Me preaching a Sunday morning evangelistic message at the church in Shimpis.

Me with Pastor Clemente of the church in Shimpis where we will have our training center. He is so excited

Me with Pastor Clemente of the church in Shimpis where we will have our training center. He is so excited

Group photo after a few hours of good solid teaching about the importance of proper Bible study

Group photo after a few hours of good solid teaching about the importance of proper Bible study

Baptist Church in Shimpis where we preached and did some teaching.

Baptist Church in Shimpis where we preached and did some teaching.

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Sharing the message of baptism and salvation with Juan just before baptizing him

Sharing the message of baptism and salvation with Juan just before baptizing him

Baptizing Juan in a river in the Amazon region...buried with Christ in the likeness of His death...

Baptizing Juan in a river in the Amazon region…buried with Christ in the likeness of His death…

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Juan after being baptized...excited to return to his village and preach the Gospel with passion

Juan after being baptized…excited to return to his village and preach the Gospel with passion

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...Raised with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection!

…Raised with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection!

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Hiking down to the river on our way out of the jungle village of Kaputna where we stayed a few days

Hiking down to the river on our way out of the jungle village of Kaputna where we stayed a few days

Our canoe to take us across the river to the jungle

Our canoe to take us across the river to the jungle

Crossing the Rio Morona heading towards the jungle

Crossing the Rio Morona heading towards the jungle

Camote...tastes like a mix of melon and squash

Camote…tastes like a mix of melon and squash

Little home in the jungle

Little home in the jungle

Kids in the jungle following us around

Kids in the jungle following us around

Vincent cuts some fresh sugar cane. Every home we visited we were offered the fruit from their land.

Vincent cuts some fresh sugar cane. Every home we visited we were offered the fruit from their land.

I did not drink the Chicha, but I did eat some raw grubs that we found inside some spoiled fruit. Yum!

I did not drink the Chicha, but I did eat some raw grubs that we found inside some spoiled fruit. Yum!

Chicha in the jungle. It sure looks like I am drinking it...but I am not. I can't drink something that was made with other people's saliva.

Chicha in the jungle. It sure looks like I am drinking it…but I am not. I can’t drink something that was made with other people’s saliva.

I told Justin the trick of lipping it beforehand so that he would be prepared

I told Justin the trick of lipping it beforehand so that he would be prepared

Shane however wanted the full experience and actually swallowed it

Shane however wanted the full experience and actually swallowed it

Eating fresh nuts off of an old oil drum

Eating fresh nuts off of an old oil drum

Justin showing off his mad soccer skills

Justin showing off his mad soccer skills

Getting to know the people of the community

Getting to know the people of the community

Vincente, an Ecuadorian missionary trying to reach his own people for the Gospel. This is his tiny little church

Vincente, an Ecuadorian missionary trying to reach his own people for the Gospel. This is his tiny little church

Sangay Reserve on the drive towards Macas

Sangay Reserve on the drive towards Macas

An amazing month!!!

Wow!!!  Where did the month of July go?  For us, it was a blur because we had three consecutive mission teams who came to serve with us. What a blessing it was for everyone involved.

The first week we had a group that consisted of many of our friends from North Carolina.  They came with the ministry “Orbie for Orphans” which is led by our good friends Carl and Jill Toth.  We had connected them with an orphan care ministry here in Ecuador.  So, they came for the week to work with this orphan care ministry here called “Contigo Ecuador”.

The first day was spent providing curriculum training for about 50 orphan care workers who work in orphanages all throughout the Quito area.  Carl and Jill have developed a special orphan based animated curriculum and so it was a blessing for them to come and share with all the orphan care workers about their ministry and train them how to use the curriculum.  There seemed to be quite a lot of interest from the people that attended.

Then the rest of the week was spent visiting different orphanages and teaching the children by using the curriculum and showing the animated videos.  The team visited one or two orphanages each day and spent quite a bit of time ministering to the children.  At one ministry location, although not an orphanage but rather a place to minister the Gospel to children who come from very broken homes, I had the privilege of sharing a message with about 10 of the older boys while Maria was in the other room translating for the women who were sharing with the older girls while Carl and Jill were downstairs with the younger group showing them the video and ministering the love of Christ.  So, it was awesome that we were all in a different location in the house sharing the message of Christ with many.

Mid-week we invited the whole team to our house to have dinner and a time of worship and a devotional message. We had a great time with the team and were very thankful for them all laying hands on us and praying God’s blessings on our lives and ministries.  Wow, that was amazing!

One of the orphanages that the team visited was the one that the Lord has given Maria and I an open door where we go once a month for now just to share a Biblical message with the staff who care for the children. So, it was great for Maria to be there with the group and continue to build a friendship with the director which continues to give us further opportunity to bring the Gospel to this place.

The team did great all throughout the week and it was a pleasure to see them and spend time with them. We hope that the Lord brings back Carl and Jill and others to Ecuador in the future to continue this much needed work among the orphaned and abandoned children.

The day that the team left was the same day that a youth team from our home church arrived in the evening.  It was a group of 9 students with three leaders. We headed up to a rural Quichua area outside of Otavalo and spent the week there doing a VBS for a church there with whom we have been building a relationship with.  The week was great and the youth led the entire VBS.  They did a great job interacting with the kids and sharing the love of Jesus with them.  There were an average of about 50 kids each day.  The week also gave me the opportunity to spend some time with the pastor and get to know him better and begin to think about ways in which we might be able to help train and strengthen his church.  I’m hoping to get him a copy of Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” in Spanish and begin meeting with him and a few others on a regular basis to take them through it.

The day after that team left, our third team arrived.  The next day, we headed up to Otavalo where we spent the week ministering at Iglesia Bautista Canaan with Pastor Raúl.  The team did a VBS each morning and afternoon so as to allow as many kids to come as possible. Then we also did some other various ministries throughout the week. One day, a group of them went to the local jail to share the Word of God with the prisoners there and give them hygiene kits. Another day, some went to an elderly home to minister to the elderly.  On Tuesday night I was given the opportunity to preach at the church’s prayer service.  This was sprung upon me at the last minute, so I just shared a message that I had preached a month ago in another church.  On Thursday night, I had the privilege of teaching a marriage workshop. Also, the Youth & Family Pastor from the team shared during the workshop.  I had no idea that I was going to do this also until the day that we all arrived for the week.  The pastor sprung it on Maria and I like it was no big deal.  That’s just how things operate here in Latin America…no planning ahead…no marking dates on the calendar, etc.  But for me this was and is a big deal. And so I did not want to take it lightly. Therefore, I spent 2 whole days holed up in the hotel room just preparing material so that I would be equipped and ready.  The workshop went really well even though I didn’t even end up getting through half of my material.  Therefore I told them that Maria and I would like to come back soon and continue with this workshop.  Unfortunately, Maria could not help me with the workshop as planned because I had to take her and the kids back to Quito late Tuesday night because Jake and Gabriela were sick with a stomach virus.

Anyway, the week with this team from Church of the Living Christ in Pennsylvania was absolutely fantastic!  What an amazing group of young kids!  And I was so blessed to see and hear how the Youth and Family Pastor is truly shepherding them and making disciples for the glory of God.  The week was very Christ centered in everything that we did whether it was conversation at the breakfast table, hiking to a waterfall, or sharing a devotional message each night. It was truly a blessing.  Another tremendous blessing was that the group just really embraced Isabela as part of the team from the very first day until the last.  It was wonderful seeing these youth be such a positive Godly example for my daughter.  We all had a great time.  I would love to see them back in Ecuador some time.

So, that was the month of July!  One of the busiest times ever, but so incredibly rich with the Lord’s blessing as we served with many different people.  Aside from a stomach virus getting the best of Jake and Gabriela while in Otavalo and then really laying out Maria when we got home, the month was awesome…and exhausting.

So, the first week of August was spent just relaxing, spending some good time together as a family, and recuperating our strength…and maybe a little mountain biking:)

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support.  We’re truly humbled that the Lord has called us, broken and weak people, to carry His Gospel message to the world around us.  We cannot do it without you all living us up in prayer on a regular basis.  So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  God bless you.

Enjoy the pictures!

Killer mountain biking trails

Killer mountain biking trails

Super fun!!!!

Super fun!!!!

Nik, Pastor of Christ Covenant Church, teaches Christian Doctrine in Santo Domingo

Nik, Pastor of Christ Covenant Church, teaches Christian Doctrine in Santo Domingo

Some of our team with a husband and wife who were new to the training

Some of our team with a husband and wife who were new to the training

Jill Toth teaches the orphan care workers about the Orbie curriculum

Jill Toth teaches the orphan care workers about the Orbie curriculum

Me and a team member with the group of youth that we taught

Me and a team member with the group of youth that we taught

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Maria and Jill Toth

Maria and Jill Toth

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Me preaching at the Quichua church in Tangalí

Me preaching at the Quichua church in Tangalí

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The Quichua women sing a special song during the worship service

The Quichua women sing a special song during the worship service

The youth leaders from Lake Hills Church in North Carolina with Pastor Jose of Tangalí

The youth leaders from Lake Hills Church in North Carolina with Pastor Jose of Tangalí

The team plays with the kids outside the church

The team plays with the kids outside the church

Team member sharing a lesson about the forgiveness of Jesus

Team member sharing a lesson about the forgiveness of Jesus

Kids listen as the Word of God is being taught

Kids listen as the Word of God is being taught

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Getting to know Andersen, one of the few youth in the church in Tangalí

Getting to know Andersen, one of the few youth in the church in Tangalí

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Worship service in Tangalí

Worship service in Tangalí

The team sings a special song for the Quichua people

The team sings a special song for the Quichua people

Team member preaches during Wednesday night special service

Team member preaches during Wednesday night special service

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Team member Kali was all smiles and a huge help throughout the week

Team member Kali was all smiles and a huge help throughout the week

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Women from the church prepared lunch for the kids each day

Women from the church prepared lunch for the kids each day

Me and Pastor Jose

Me and Pastor Jose

The women insisted that I take a picture with them

The women insisted that I take a picture with them

Me and Jakester in front of Lake Cuicocha

Me and Jakester in front of Lake Cuicocha

I love living in the Andes!

I love living in the Andes!

My lovely bride in one of her favorite cities... Otavalo

My lovely bride in one of her favorite cities… Otavalo

Awesome downhill trail...very challenging!!

Awesome downhill trail…very challenging!!

Better lean way back over the seat on this one or else you'll go over the bars.

Better lean way back over the seat on this one or else you’ll go over the bars.

Worship service in Otavalo

Worship service in Otavalo

The team, along with Isabela, prepare their craft for the first day of the VBS

The team, along with Isabela, prepare their craft for the first day of the VBS

First hour of VBS at the church in Otavalo.  They averaged about 50 kids each day between the two different groups

First hour of VBS at the church in Otavalo. They averaged about 50 kids each day between the two different groups

Oh yeah...time to eat some Guinea Pig.

Oh yeah…time to eat some Guinea Pig.

Bring it on!!!

Bring it on!!!

Would you do it?  Truth be told, it did not really taste that good.  Isabela ate one of the kidneys. Yummy!

Would you do it? Truth be told, it did not really taste that good. Isabela ate one of the kidneys. Yummy!

VBS fun!!!

VBS fun!!!

Jake gets in on making the tambourine craft

Jake gets in on making the tambourine craft

The kids loved the puppets each day

The kids loved the puppets each day

Team performs a drama at the Tuesday night special service.

Team performs a drama at the Tuesday night special service.

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Me preaching in Otavalo during the Tuesday night special service

Me preaching in Otavalo during the Tuesday night special service

Photo with some church members after the service

Photo with some church members after the service

Last photo before team departs.

Last photo before team departs.

Jake and Lela at the park in Quito during some down time.

Jake and Lela at the park in Quito during some down time.

Jake at play

Jake at play

Gabriela finds the stash of Dulce de Leche

Gabriela finds the stash of Dulce de Leche

New upgrades to my Cannondale....Disk brakes, Mavic rims, Shimano XT hubs, WTB Rocket saddle...and still more to come!

New upgrades to my Cannondale….Disk brakes, Mavic rims, Shimano XT hubs, WTB Rocket saddle…and still more to come!

 

 

 

Work and Play in Ecuador

Another update and pics of our life and ministry here in Ecuador.  Again, we thank the Lord for the many opportunities that He has given us to see His gospel go forward and reach the hearts of the people of Ecuador.  It has been a fairly busy month and also a very enjoyable one.  In addition to working hard for the glory of God, we have also had opportunity to play hard and enjoy the beautiful gifts that He has bestowed upon us.

Our church recently finished up a week long evangelistic crusade.  It was a lot of work and we pray that the their has been true life changing fruit born as a result of it.  I preached the Wednesday evening session speaking from the text of Is 55:1-4 and the invitation that the Lord gives us to come to Him, to stop spending money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy, and come and partake of the eternal life that He offers.  I pray that the Lord used this message to awaken hearts.  I also spent all day Thursday in Calderón where I often help lead the Bible Study. We held two nights of the crusade there as well, so I spent all day Thursday visiting house to house and sharing the Gospel with the evangelism team.  Many people made professions of faith upon hearing the message of the Gospel. We only pray that these are genuine, knowing full well that only the Lord knows the hearts of people.  All in all, the crusade gave us many opportunities to preach the Gospel both to the masses as well as to the individual families in various communities.

Much of these past few weeks have been spent preparing for the several mission teams that we have coming soon.  We have a pastoral training team coming at the end of this week. We will spend the whole week in Santo Domingo.  It is not only pastoral training that we will be doing, but many other ministries and outreaches as well since the team consists of nine people.  Maria and the kids will be joining me for the whole week.  We have a lot of different ministries planned such as: youth conferences, women’s conferences, sharing the Gospel in public and private schools, pastoral training, etc.  Please be in prayer for us throughout the week.  On the last Friday we will have a fun day at the beach to also celebrate Isabela’s 11th birthday.  She is super excited.

July is a month that could not possibly be more full.  I’ll be attending a 2 day Pastor’s Conference the first week here in Quito. Then, for the remaining three weeks of the month we will be with teams.  We have a team that consists of many from our home church that will be here for the week ministering at many different orphanages.  Then, the same day that they leave, our first youth team arrives from our home church and will be with us for the week in a Quichua village near Otavalo called Tangalí.  We will be doing a VBS for the kids in the community as well as some youth activities in the evening. Then, the day after they leave, our next youth team arrives and will be with us for the week in Otavalo. We will also be doing a VBS for kids during the day and some outreaches in the evening including ministering in a local jail as well as ministering in an elderly home.  It will be a very busy week.

In addition to working hard, we have also had some good opportunities to play together as a family and just enjoy God’s goodness together.  We bought a bike for Isabela for her birthday and now her and I often take leisurely bike rides around the neighborhood.  When I am not leisurely riding with her, I am riding hardcore on the trails or riding on the street for conditioning.  I am really enjoying getting back into this sport. It also is getting me in great shape.  Last Saturday morning, before having to head to Otavalo for the weekend for ministry, I woke up at 6am and headed to a new trail to get in some riding. I did not know that the ride would be all uphill right from the start.  It ended up being a 9 mile climb all the way to the top of the mountain. The trail is called Las Antenas because it reaches to the top of the mountain where all the cell phone antenas are. I think I climbed about 5,000 feet.  It was brutal, but I felt good for having accomplished it.

The rest of the weekend was spent in Otavalo and Tangalí. We had a meeting with Pastor Raúl on Saturday afternoon to plan details for the upcoming mission team. Then, on Sunday morning we visited the church in Tangalí and fellowshipped with the Quichua believers there. The service was all in Quichua.  After the service, I had a meeting with the pastor and leaders to plan for the upcoming mission team that will be working with them. After saying goodbye, we had a family day out at a nearby waterfall. It was very relaxing to be in the midst of God’s great creation and just share a special time together as a family.

Please pray for us for the upcoming months which will be very busy. We have all been battling a lingering cold, so please pray that we will be healthy by the time the first team arrives.  It is a blessing to serve here in Ecuador!

Preaching the Gospel on a night of the crusade in our local church

Preaching the Gospel on a night of the crusade in our local church

After sharing the Gospel on a home visit, a Quichua man blesses us with some of his herbs

After sharing the Gospel on a home visit, a Quichua man blesses us with some of his herbs

Sharing the Gospel from house to house in Calderón

Sharing the Gospel from house to house in Calderón

Sharing the Gospel with a large family with their children in Calderón

Sharing the Gospel with a large family with their children in Calderón

A family is given Bibles after hearing the Gospel and praying to receive Christ.

A family is given Bibles after hearing the Gospel and praying to receive Christ.

Evangelistic Crusade under the tent in Calderón

Evangelistic Crusade under the tent in Calderón

A view from the mountain bike trail I ride along the ridge at Parque Metropolitano

A view from the mountain bike trail I ride along the ridge at Parque Metropolitano

My Cannondale with some new upgrades. She runs great now!

My Cannondale with some new upgrades. She runs great now!

When you don't have cable  and you want to watch the championship soccer match...you head to the mall and hang out by the Direct TV booth. That's what I do at least!

When you don’t have cable and you want to watch the championship soccer match…you head to the mall and hang out by the Direct TV booth. That’s what I do at least!

This was the view of the city below when I was nearing the top of the 9 mile climb. Yes, I started way down below.

This was the view of the city below when I was nearing the top of the 9 mile climb. Yes, I started way down below.

This is what some of the climb looked like. Hard to tell, but it was extremely steep!

This is what some of the climb looked like. Hard to tell, but it was extremely steep!

Celebrating at the top

Celebrating at the top

Mission Accomplished!!!!

Mission Accomplished!!!!

Beautiful view at the top

Beautiful view at the top

Isabela and Jake sporting some new hats at the market in Otavalo

Isabela and Jake sporting some new hats at the market in Otavalo

Me sharing with the Quichua church in Tangalí

Me sharing with the Quichua church in Tangalí

Isabela and I after coming back from a ride

Isabela and I after coming back from a ride

a 43rd birthday celebration with my favorite dessert...strawberry shortcake. Yummy!!!

a 43rd birthday celebration with my favorite dessert…strawberry shortcake. Yummy!!!

Daddy and son lunch time!

Daddy and son lunch time!

Jake z arteeest

Jake z arteeest

brother and sister just kickin' it.

brother and sister just kickin’ it.

I don't know about you, but this is the cutest little owl I have ever seen!

I don’t know about you, but this is the cutest little owl I have ever seen!

 

May update w/ pics

We rejoice in what the Lord has been doing among us here in northern Ecuador. Just last week we completed our first week of a new pastoral training site in Otavalo among the Quichua people. Being the fact that it was the opening week, I really did not know what to expect. I was just hoping that by the time we were supposed to begin on Monday morning that there would be at least a couple of bodies in front of us to whom we could teach the Scriptures. Well, the Lord certainly exceeded my expectations as the morning session brought in about 20 people each day and the evening session brought in about 30 people. There were probably about 8 – 10 different churches represented with several pastors, leaders, and church members all eager to learn Biblical truth. The first week’s topic was Old Testament Survey as well as the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible.

Truly, the week was fantastic! Each day the room was filled with believers who were hungry to know more of the Word of God. Each session would end with about 45 minutes to an hour of Q&A. These times often went over their allotted time because of all the questions that they were asking. It was great to be able to share biblical counsel with so many and help them see what the Scriptures say about their particular situations that they were asking about. In addition to the Q&A time, I was constantly being approached by others during our break time asking me further questions about the Christian faith. Needless to say, I didn’t really get a lot of “break time” because my breaks were spent sharing one on one with individuals who had further questions. At times, I even missed eating our evening meal together because somebody would flag me down just as I was about to head out and ask me for some private counsel about their specific situation. But the truth is that I was so pleased to miss a meal so that I could open the Word of God with my brothers and see the Holy Spirit bring truth and clarification into their lives.

The team we had that came to teach was great. They are from a church in PA. They did an awesome job teaching throughout the week. We were incredibly busy because we were teaching two 5 hour sessions each day, one for those that came in the morning and the other for those that would come in the evening. And often times between sessions, instead of having a time back at the hotel to rest, we would go out to lunch with the pastor and have even more discussion about issues pertaining to the Bible. So, although it was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had here in Ecuador, it was also one of the best and most fruitful. The week also brought my translation skills to a new level since I was the only translator in the morning 5 hour session. But this has shown me that the Lord has brought me to a point now in my language skills where I can effectively translate for long periods of time. Therefore, from now on, in all of our pastoral training programs all throughout, I am going to be the translator. I think this will make the sessions even more effective because I as the translator know the material that is being taught and so it often gives me opportunity to elaborate with the group on a specific area if I feel that they need to really understand something better. So, even though it will be a lot of work, I know it will be worth it to help lend to the teaching times. Our next session in Otavalo for pastoral training is in September.

But we will be up there for two consecutive weeks in July with mission teams that we are hosting back to back. The first one will be a youth team from our home church, Lake Hills Church in Asheville, NC. There will be about 9 youth and 3 adults and we will be ministering to children and youth throughout the week in a small Quichua community outside of Otavalo. Then, the day after that team leaves, another youth team is coming in to work with us for the week in Otavalo. We will be working with our contact pastor there in Otavalo, Pastor Raúl of Iglesia Bautista Canaan. We are excited to see how the Lord will use these opportunities to make His name known in Otavalo. July will be a blur because we will also be working with another mission team coming to work with many of the orphanages here in Quito. So, we will be helping out with that as well.

We also have a pastoral training team coming to Santo Domingo in June for our third week of training there. In addition to the training, others are coming so that we can do outreach and ministry during the day. We have a great week planned of ministering to children in schools, ministering to youth in the churches, women’s meetings, helping clean up a community that was devastated by landslides, and of course our pastoral training in the evenings. I am excited because this time Maria and the kids will be with me because Maria will be one of the additional translators that we need with such a big team.

One other important ministry to be in prayer about. Our church is having an evangelistic crusade all this week. There is preaching each night as well as home visits and other ministries during the day. I will be preaching Wednesday night and will also be helping all day Thursday in Calderón where I have been helping lead the Bible Study. Please be in prayer for this outreach effort that the Word of God would go forth with boldness and that the Lord would use His church to proclaim the message of salvation. On the first day, there were a few people who came forward to confess their need of a Savior. Pray that the Lord would bring in many throughout the week through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit that regenerates a dead heart to life.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and support. We are all doing well. The family is healthy and by the grace of God we are growing together in love for one another and in holiness and sanctification. Gabriela is now standing on her own and is able to walk with some help. Jake is becoming a lego master and is fascinated with building lego airplanes. He looks like an engineer when he is doing it. Isabela just has creativity oozing out of her from all directions. She is now teaching herself how to knit and she continues to get better with crocheting, which she also taught herself to do. She is excited to have her birthday next month (June 21st) and spend it at the beach during our free day with one of the mission teams. Maria is becoming quite the decorator of the house and is really turning this place into a home. Me, well, I have zero creativity skills, but I have been developing mad skills on the trails with my mountain bike. I try to get on the trails at least once a week as well as do a couple of road rides each week to get into better shape. I am learning that Ecuador is a mountain biking and cycling paradise. There are races all over the country. I’m hoping to do a race by the end of the year. But I love mountain biking here. There are so many incredible trails with amazing views of God’s beautiful creation.

So, as much as the ministry is growing and doing well, so too our personal lives are growing and taking root here in South America. We pray that the Lord gives us further opportunity to plant our roots here and that whatever we do, we would do for the glory and honor of His name!

Here are some pics of life and ministry in May!

Pastor Don teaches on spiritual disciplines while I translate

Pastor Don teaches on spiritual disciplines while I translate

The students were presented with a really good study Bible at the end of the week for a very minimal cost.

The students were presented with a really good study Bible at the end of the week for a very minimal cost.

Very happy faces

Very happy faces

Pastor Dean shakes hands with a pastor who was part of the training.

Pastor Dean shakes hands with a pastor who was part of the training.

The students were very happy to receive their certificate of completion that the church presented to them at the end of the week.

The students were very happy to receive their certificate of completion that the church presented to them at the end of the week.

Group shot on last day of class

Group shot on last day of class

Spending a few free minutes at the market in Cotacachi.

Spending a few free minutes at the market in Cotacachi.

Me, Isabela, and Pastor Raúl in Cotacachi

Me, Isabela, and Pastor Raúl in Cotacachi

A daughter sings a Mother's Day song as a tribute to her Mom. Very touching

A daughter sings a Mother’s Day song as a tribute to her Mom. Very touching

The Quichua women sing a special song on Mother's Day.

The Quichua women sing a special song on Mother’s Day.

The three amigos...famous in Otavalo!

The three amigos…famous in Otavalo!

Pastor Raúl welcomes the students for another day of teaching.

Pastor Raúl welcomes the students for another day of teaching.

Pastor Dean teaches on OT Survey

Pastor Dean teaches on OT Survey

Beautiful catholic church in Otavalo

Beautiful catholic church in Otavalo

Me teaching the group about the importance of verifying everything with Scripture

Me teaching the group about the importance of verifying everything with Scripture

I've yet to be able to do this crazy climb all at once because in the middle of the climb it takes a ridiculous sharp turn that always causes me to have to bail.

I’ve yet to be able to do this crazy climb all at once because in the middle of the climb it takes a ridiculous sharp turn that always causes me to have to bail.

Some of the trails that I ride...lots of climbing

Some of the trails that I ride…lots of climbing

Very fast single track all along a ridge that has beautiful views of the whole city. Just don't wipe out to the left or else you will take a long fall!

Very fast single track all along a ridge that has beautiful views of the whole city. Just don’t wipe out to the left or else you will take a long fall!

A technical turn on the downhill, then a technical climb on the way back up.

A technical turn on the downhill, then a technical climb on the way back up.

View of the city from the trail.

View of the city from the trail.

Fast single track along the ridge line

Fast single track along the ridge line

This is my ride before some of the upgrades that I have done.  Little by little I am trying to upgrade it to be in racing condition.

This is my ride before some of the upgrades that I have done. Little by little I am trying to upgrade it to be in racing condition. I recently added new low rise bars with a much shorter stem…the difference in handling is amazing!

The drop in and exit of the trail that leads to the ridge

The drop in and exit of the trail that leads to the ridge

Better pick the right line or else its certainly OTB (over the bars...handlebars, that is)

Better pick the right line or else its certainly OTB (over the bars…handlebars, that is)

The trail heading back after a 10 mile ride.

The trail heading back after a 10 mile ride.

La Basilica del Voto Nacional

We moved to Quito about eight months ago. And eight months ago, while driving lost in this city, we noticed this huge tall building standing higher than the rest as you go towards South Quito. We kept on telling ourselves that one day we would visit it. Well, it only took us eight months. It is the Basilica del Voto National, or the Basilica of the National Vow, in the historic center of Quito. Now, I (Maria) love architecture. It makes me think about the things we will see when this earth is restored and God’s people are living in pure paradise. God has given man incredible talents and creativity. I believe that we get this creativity because of being created after His image and likeness. When I look at beautiful architecture I can’t help but think of God as the giver of such ability to create beauty. And even though basilicas and cathedrals and all sorts of magnificent buildings were not intended to glorify the true living God, I am still amazed that in some ways they do, because God alone is the master architect behind all human creativity and possibility.

So as you look at these pictures imagine how much beautiful it will be when this earth is restored back to the saints and when God himself directs the artwork of men for the purpose of displaying His glory and His love. Some of the pictures are blurry. I tried shooting these while holding Gabriela and doing some acrobatic maneuver to avoid falling into pits and crazy-scary traps. I survived. So did Gabriela. And Jake. Cody and Isabela had a blast. They loved the danger. Enjoy these!

Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador.

Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador.

From the moment you walk in the architecture is truly amazing.

From the moment you walk in the architecture is truly amazing.

Inside the basilica.

Inside the basilica.

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The basilica has a small chapel inside. I was very impressed with the colors and designs inside the chapel.

The basilica has a small chapel inside. I was very impressed with the colors and designs inside the chapel.

It was sad to see that the only representation was that of Mary. Such of common thing in Catholic churches.

It was sad to see that the only representation was that of Mary. Such of common thing in Catholic churches.

Very pretty designs on the columns.

Very pretty designs on the columns.

Isabela can get her Latin lessons here.

Isabela can get her Latin lessons here.

Circular staircase near the chapel.

Circular staircase near the chapel.

The colorful floor in the chapel.

The colorful floor in the chapel.

Beautifully done stained glass windows.

Beautifully done stained glass windows.

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There are stained glass windows everywhere you look.

There are stained glass windows everywhere you look.

There are stained glass windows even in the ceiling.

There are stained glass windows even in the ceiling.

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Someone wrapped a note to Mary around this candle. I wonder if that can be a fire hazard.

Someone wrapped a note to Mary around this candle. I wonder if that can be a fire hazard.

Inside the basilica.

Inside the basilica.

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Here is an extremely sad prayer posted inside the church. The prayer is translated below. For those who consider the catholic religion a form of Christianity this is really  a revelation of in whom catholics place their faith.

Here is an extremely sad prayer posted inside the church. The prayer is translated below. For those who consider the catholic religion a form of Christianity this is really a revelation of in whom catholics place their faith.

This is the translated prayer:

Prayer

Oh Hurting Mother!

Because of your tears, because of the crown of thorns,
because of the nails that you carry in your hands,
because of the swords of pain that went through your heart, turn those merciful eyes of yours and reach us from your holy son full of intense pain for our guilt and alive feelings of faith, hope, and charity.

Oh Hurting Mother!
Protect the holy church
Protect our nation
Protect the youth
Protect the children (or childhood). Amen.

Here is the store where you can buy statutes.

Here is the store where you can buy statutes.

The outside of the basilica.

The outside courtyard of the basilica.

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The doors on the basilica.

The doors on the basilica.

I don't think I want to climb those. There is got to be another way out. :-P

I don’t think I want to climb those. There is got to be another way out. 😛

My two handsome guys.

My two handsome guys.

One of the clock towers of the basilica.

One of the clock towers of the basilica.

Inside the basilica from above.

Inside the basilica from above.

Amazing stained glass design.

Amazing stained glass design.

Part of the city from above.

Part of the city from above.

Gabriela and Daddy.

Gabriela and Daddy.

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The old organ.

The old organ.

Isabela practicing her musical skills.

Isabela practicing her musical skills.

The steeple. If you look closely you can see someone inside it.

The steeple. If you look closely you can see someone inside it.

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I love these circular windows.

I love these circular windows.

Only a small part of the city of Quito. Notice how half the mountain is green and the other is covered with buildings.

Only a small part of the city of Quito. Notice how half the mountain is green and the other is covered with buildings.

Some of the roofs from above the basilica.

Some of the roofs from above the basilica.

We continue to go up up up inside this place.

We continue to go up up up inside this place.

Another circular widow.

Another circular widow.

Crossing the small bridge to continue to going up.

Crossing the small bridge to continue going up.

The bridge is very narrow.

The bridge is very narrow.

The ladder is very narrow and steep.

The ladder is very narrow and steep.

One of the clock towers.

One of the clock towers.

The two clock towers. I couldn't get a shot of both of them together with my fixed lens.

The two clock towers. I couldn’t get a shot of both of them together with my fixed lens.

Part of Quito.

Part of Quito.

Cody and Isabela climbing up to the steeple, the highest part we could climb up to.

Cody and Isabela climbing up to the steeple, the highest part we could climb up to.

Jake looking down from very high up.

Jake looking down from very high up.

I love this! This is the back part of the stained glass window. It reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom's quote, “Only Heaven will reveal the top part of God's tapestry”.

I love this! This is the back part of the stained glass window. It reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom’s quote, “Only Heaven will reveal the top part of God’s tapestry”.

Returning from our high up journey.

Returning from our high up journey.

Ooops! I just noticed this sign. No children under 5. Oh well, Jake and Gabriela had a great time.

Ooops! I just noticed this sign. No children under 5. Oh well, Jake and Gabriela had a great time.

A cafe inside the basilica.

A cafe inside the basilica.

The stair rails are pretty nice too. That's Jake going up up up.

The stair rails are pretty nice too. That’s Jake going up up up.

The steeple with people inside.

The steeple with people inside.

Quito.

Quito.

The front of the basilica from above.

The front of the basilica from above.

More buildings in Quito.

More buildings in Quito.

These huge things below to the giant clock.

These huge things below to the giant clock.

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The back of the giant clock.

The back of the giant clock.

You can see the bells if you look closely.

You can see the bells if you look closely.

Quito. Well, part of it.

Quito. Well, part of it.

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I love that this city has so many parks and plazas. I've yet to see them all.

I love that this city has so many parks and plazas. I’ve yet to see them all.

Beautiful architecture.

Beautiful architecture.

There is an indigenous celebration going on in front of the church. We are watching from up high.

There is an indigenous celebration going on in front of the church. We are watching from up high.

Jake bravely going up to see the bells.

Jake bravely going up to see the bells.

The back of the basilica.

The back of the basilica.

South Quito.

South Quito.

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A view through a “marker stained” window.

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Jake going down the spiral stairs.

Jake going down the spiral stairs.

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An indigenous show from up high.

 

We even got to see a wedding.

We even got to see a wedding.

There is the bride and her father. I acted like a professional hired photographer. haha!

There is the bride and her father. I acted like a professional hired photographer. haha!

Outside architecture.

Outside architecture.

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Us. Minus Isabela who was taking the picture.

Us. Minus Isabela who was taking the picture.

Running around.

Running around.

Posing.

Posing.

One of the front doors of the basilica.

One of the front doors of the basilica.

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The front entrance to the basilica.

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Jake thinking he is king of the sidewalk.

 

The outside of the Basilica.

The outside of the Basilica.

Part of historical Quito.

Part of historical Quito.

Love the streets. They remind me of Old San Juan.

Love the streets. They remind me of Old San Juan.

Love the Spanish colonial buildings.

Love the Spanish colonial buildings.

Going down back to north Quito.

Going down back to north Quito.

Passing another park on the way.

Passing another park on the way.

You know you are in a city when your traffic jam consists of this!!

You know you are in a city when your traffic jam consists of this!!

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The trolley and bus stations in Quito.

 

April Ministry Update w/ Pics

The month of April has seemed like a blur to us because of many things going on in the ministry.  We are thankful for what the Lord has allowed us to be part of here in Ecuador.  We see more and more the truth of Jesus’ words when He said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  This is the case here in Ecuador. There are so many opportunities to bring the Gospel to the people, and so we pray that the Lord will indeed raise up more laborers that can work along side of us in this great work that He has called us to.  April was really busy, but things are going to get even more busy in the next few months as we have a lot of things going on such as evangelism crusades, pastoral training teams, mission teams, etc.  May the Lord give us the strength to work hard for His glory and the wisdom to maintain balance so that we remain healthy as a family as well as ministers.

The chaplain work at the school in Pifo continues to grow.  Thankfully, there is now an intern from our church who is helping out a few days a week at the school.  The head chaplain and I have begun to do some more one on one counseling with those students who are experiencing problems at school.  I pray that the Lord uses these moments to connect with the hearts of these kids and be able to bring them the truth of the Gospel.  It is a blessing as well as often times a huge challenge to speak to these groups of students week after week and share with them the precious truths of the Gospel.  Sometimes the students seem to listen attentively and other times there are those who really could care less what I’m saying.  But, even as I sometimes tell the crowd that seems very disruptive, if there is even one person in the group who is listening and desires to know God, then it is worth it and I will continue to proclaim His truth.

Two weeks ago, one of the RTIM missionaries from the home office was here in Ecuador to learn about the ministry that we have here and then to help with a pastoral training team in the south.  So, the first week was spent taking him around to all the different places where we are ministering here in the north so that he could get an understanding of what the Lord is doing here.  We spent most of the week on the road traveling to our different ministry sites in the north.  Then the following week we both flew to the southern part of the country to help with the pastoral training program in Tambo.  First, we flew to Guayaquil to spend a day with another new RTIM missionary who was in Ecuador to scout out a possible place of service in the south.  After that, we met up with the team from the states who were flying into Guayaquil and then took a four hour bus ride almost at midnight through the mountains to reach the training center in Tambo. I had already been really sick with a bad stomach bug and so the four hour bus ride through the mountains just about did me in.  It took me a few days to fully recuperate.  So, the team spent the week in Tambo teaching the pastors and leaders there about worship.  It was a great week.  This was the last of the three year training program for this group of students and so there was a graduation ceremony on the last day.  They were super excited to receive their certificates.  I was not there because I only stayed until Tuesday before flying back to Quito.  I did not want to spend the whole week there since next week I will be away from home again for a week as we have our first training program starting in Otavalo.  So, I spent the rest of the week just relaxing with family and recuperating some of my health since I had been sick earlier.

This past Sunday, I was invited to speak about the Reaching and Teaching ministry at a church in Ibarra which is about 30 minutes north of Otavalo. So, we all headed up there early Sunday morning. We had a good time worshiping with the people there and afterwards I had the opportunity to share in more detail with the leaders about the ministry and the new training center that we are starting in Otavalo.

Tomorrow, Maria will be speaking again to the staff of an orphanage here in Quito that has invited her to come once a month to share with the staff about the Word of God.  Maria also gave a workshop last week at an all night prayer vigil at our church. The workshop was about how to follow up with a new believer.  They asked her to do this since our church is having a huge evangelism crusade in two weeks.  So, during the all night vigil they had various people doing workshops.  Thankfully, Maria’s slot was only from 10:30PM – 11:30PM, therefore we were able to get home close to midnight.

This Saturday the team arrives that will be ministering in Otavalo. We are very excited to see this new pastoral training program get under way.  I will be up there the whole week with the team.  I will be preaching on Sunday morning to get things started off. Please pray for our time there throughout the week.  The team will consist of three guys from a partner church in Pennsylvania.  They will be teaching throughout the week on Old Testament Survey.  I think I’m going to come back mid-week and bring Maria and the kids back with me for the rest of the week so that we can be together and also so that Maria can have opportunity to minister to some of the women in the church in Otavalo.

The Lord is good and He is certainly doing a lot of things in our lives.  Personally, the Lord has me in a season of bringing to light some things that have been in the darkness for a long time that have been like a slow cancer eating away at my soul.  He has drawn me with cords of lovingkindness which has led me to expose the deep places of my heart to Him as well as to some trusted others.  He is really doing a deep work in my heart and I feel like I am coming to know and experience His love and mercy like never before.

Our family is doing well and continuing to adjust and get settled in to life in South America.  We love it here even though daily life has its many challenges.  We pray that the Lord begins to grow our team so that we can develop a little community of RTIM missionaries who live and work together for the glory of God.

Sharing with the 7th graders (my most attentive group) during chapel service

Sharing with the 7th graders (my most attentive group) during chapel service

Tony Steele preaching at the Thursday night Bible Study at the mission in Calderón

Tony Steele preaching at the Thursday night Bible Study at the mission in Calderón

Tony Steele, home office RTIM missionary, with our friend Dani during a visit to his house to provide some prayer and counsel.

Tony Steele, home office RTIM missionary, with our friend Dani during a visit to his house to provide some prayer and counsel.

Preaching at the church in Alluriquín

Preaching at the church in Alluriquín

With the pastor of the church in Otavalo and a church leader in Ibarra

With the pastor of the church in Otavalo and a church leader in Ibarra

The cross in the garden of Getsemaní where we sometimes take the students for chapel service

The cross in the garden of Getsemaní where we sometimes take the students for chapel service

Sharing with the mission church in Calderón

Sharing with the mission church in Calderón

Me and our good friend Dani whom we have been counseling since they are going through some rough times

Me and our good friend Dani whom we have been counseling since they are going through some rough times

Teaching the 3rd graders at chapel service in the garden.

Teaching the 3rd graders at chapel service in the garden.

Sharing with the church in Ibarra about the Reaching and Teaching program about to start in Otavalo

Sharing with the church in Ibarra about the Reaching and Teaching program about to start in Otavalo

Me with some of the Quichua brothers

Me with some of the Quichua brothers

Great times spent with these guys. So excited for what God has in store for them

Great times spent with these guys. So excited for what God has in store for them

Simple Quichua worship.

Simple Quichua worship.

Me with two of the RTIM stateside missionaries who came to Tambo to serve for the week

Me with two of the RTIM stateside missionaries who came to Tambo to serve for the week

Me with a young couple who are praying about joining RTIM in Ecuador

Me with a young couple who are praying about joining RTIM in Ecuador

Some of the Quichua brothers who have been part of the training for three years

Some of the Quichua brothers who have been part of the training for three years

RTIM missionaries teaching about worship to the Quichua pastors

RTIM missionaries teaching about worship to the Quichua pastors

Inca ruins on a very cold day with blustery winds

Inca ruins on a very cold day with blustery winds

Part of the Inca ruins. This was the place where animals were sacrificed to the Inca gods

Part of the Inca ruins. This was the place where animals were sacrificed to the Inca gods

Visiting the Inca ruins at Ingapirca near Tambo the day before the training.

Visiting the Inca ruins at Ingapirca near Tambo the day before the training.

A raging river in Tambo that my Quichua pastor friend tells me often claims animals and sometimes people.

A raging river in Tambo that my Quichua pastor friend tells me often claims animals and sometimes people.

Tony Steele, a visiting RTIM missionary, joins us at chapel service at the school in Pifo and loses a contest and is forced to stand on the chair and belt out a song. The kids were cracking up

Tony Steele, a visiting RTIM missionary, joins us at chapel service at the school in Pifo and loses a contest and is forced to stand on the chair and belt out a song. The kids were cracking up

Such a great time to share God's Word with such precious souls

Such a great time to share God’s Word with such precious souls

The Saturday Kid's Program at the mission in Calderón.

The Saturday Kid’s Program at the mission in Calderón.

Celebrating our pastors 50th birthday at the church

Celebrating our pastors 50th birthday at the church

 

A little bit of our life in Ecuador

Last month we worked every Saturday. This month we decided to take a few Saturdays off and enjoy some family time. Here are some pictures of some of the things we did as a family. We are truly blessed to live in a country where we can serve the Lord and enjoy its natural beauty. Enjoy these!

On one of our Saturdays, we went with some friends to a park in a town north of us called Pomasqui. Jake enjoyed playing. After the park we went to a little restaurant to eat some freshly made sausages. They were super yummy! Afterwards we went to our friends’ house to play some card games. We truly had a lot of fun. 🙂

Jake, having fun at the park.

Jake, having fun at the park.

He loves the swings.

He loves the swings.

Then the following Saturday we ventured with other friends to Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is an ice/snow covered volcano. From where we live it looks very pretty on a clear day. We went on a day that wasn’t so clear so we really only got to see the base of it. Nevertheless, the park is absolutely beautiful. We enjoyed our time there with our friends.

The base of Cotopaxi volcano.

The base of Cotopaxi volcano.

Grass sledding with friends in Cotopaxi.

Grass sledding with friends in Cotopaxi.

He is having fun!

He is having fun!

Down he goes!

Down he goes!

Isabela gives it a try.

Isabela gives it a try.

Whoa! That looks like fun!

Whoa! That looks like fun!

Jake and daddy.

Jake and daddy.

My handsome guys. :-)

My handsome guys. 🙂

Down the hill.

Down the hill.

So much fun.

So much fun.

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Cody gives it a try.

Cody gives it a try.

Beautiful area in the Cotopaxi National Park.

Beautiful area in the Cotopaxi National Park.

My little girl.

My little girl.

Out on a chilly day.

Out on a chilly day.

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My big princess. She blends in beautifully with nature.

My big princess. She blends in beautifully with nature.

My handsome guy. :-)

My handsome guy. 🙂

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Me. Wearing my "I need to stay warm" outfit.

Me. Wearing my “I need to stay warm” outfit.

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Staying warm.

Staying warm.

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I loved seeing the wild horses.

I loved seeing the wild horses at the park.

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And the wild cows too. :-P

And the wild cows too. 😛

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Gabriela. Discovering the grass.

Gabriela. Discovering the grass.

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Laying down on the Inca ruins.

Laying down on the Inca ruins.

Hat hair.

Hat hair.

This nice green carpet feels funny!

This nice green carpet feels funny!

The bottom part of Cotopaxi.

Wishing the cloud would move out of the way of Cotopaxi.

Here are a couple of pictures of Jake making funny faces for the camera. He discovered this can be a new hobby.

Jake making silly faces.

Jake making silly faces.

Happy!

Happy!

Very happy!

Very happy!

Silly happy!

Silly happy!

What!?

What!?

Serious.

Serious.

Funny!

Funny!

On March 15, we celebrated Gabriela’s first birthday. We had a little party for her with cupcakes and balloons. I don’t think she noticed the balloons, but she did notice the cupcake on her highchair tray. I think she liked it. 🙂

Our birthday girl waiting for her cake.

Our birthday girl waiting for her cake.

Homemade strawberry cupcakes.

Homemade strawberry cupcakes.

Yum!

Yum!

Clapping for her cake.

Clapping for her cake.

Wondering how it tastes.

Wondering how it tastes.

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Yummy! Yummy!

Yummy! Yummy!

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Sugar coma.

Sugar coma.

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All gone!

All gone!

Looking at her birthday present.

Looking at her birthday present.

Learning to use her new toy.

Learning to use her new toy.

Taking the first step.

Taking the first step.

It has been a fun month. Not that last month wasn’t fun. It truly was, but we also enjoyed having a few Saturdays to relax and enjoy family. And the beauty of Ecuador. 🙂