Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grandma Gillingham

Corrine Gillingham 07/09/30-12/10/10

The last time I saw her, Grandma asked me when I was coming home…she said she didn’t think she would be around by then. She was right. I only wish I would have told her how much she meant to me…my heart grieves that I didn’t have one more good-bye, but I hope and pray that she knew I loved her dearly. My Gramma Corrine was uniquely mine, as are my memories of her. I am so blessed to have shared my life thus far with her, and I will miss her immensely in the years to come. Gramma had a way of always making me feel special, spoiled – so she succeeded in her role as a Grandmother!!
Thank you Gramma, for being there for me, for spending time, caring, and leaving your fingerprints on my heart. I love you.

To my Gramma Corrine: by Kristin Gillingham 12.15.10

I remember Asparagus Springtimes.
You and I … seeking out peeking spears,
Shauno-road-trips to awaiting cousins and horses.
You were there – snapping photos, telling stories.

I remember…Pontoon summers,
dripping with laughter, pan-fish fins pricking pudgy fingers…
My pink Minnie Mouse pole, like a buried treasure, sleeping somewhere on the bottom of the Nagawicka.
You were there – passing sodas and snacks, wiping my tears, sun-bathing and smiling.

I remember Autumn sleepovers…
sleepy-delicious Cracklin’ Oat Bran mornings,
flying (ok, swinging!) over the lazy channel, baking and raking.
You were there…singing…always singing.

I remember…Wintertime wonderment;
bundling up in our finest to see you on stage…
so proud of my famous, rouge-cheeked, “Herb and Ethel” grandparents!
Your house sparkling, warm, red-and-white ready for sled-riding and cocoa.
You were there…wiping noses, layering mittened fingers.

I remember silly songs of Suzanne, Mrs. Murphy, and “The Old Apple Tree”;
my blue-cherub ballerina box chiming “Fascination”,
world’s best spaghetti and stuffing and salads with ‘crunchy noodles’.
I remember toilet paper protection from public bathroom germs,
antiquated combs and fancy purse collections, birthday surprises, and yard-darts.

I remember you…
open arms,
perfume lingering,
soft finger touches,
and proud grandma-smiles.
I…remember… …you…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jesus Prayed...

Friends and family: I am sorry that this is a bit on the tardy side...we had our prayer meeting on Monday, and I wanted to share this with you all sooner so that we could all pray together, but things have been wild, and the internet connection less than desireable! Thank you so much for your love, patience, and most of all, PRAYERS!!! The Lord is our only true source of comfort, strength and understanding!!!!

These are the PRAYER POINTS for December:

It’s December! It is that time of year when we are reminded of the birth of our precious Savior, and his life here on this earth, humbled, yet triumphant, living a perfect life so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for us.
I often wonder A) what if He had slipped up, acted on a temptation, during a moment of weakness, spent one day NOT fellowshipping with the Father, and committed ONE sin??? I mean, He took on humanity, and the Scriptures say that he was tempted as we are, therefore it was not easy for Him (sweating blood is NOT normal!). B) If WE were in true unity with the Father, submission to His will, making every decision based on a true, intense desire to love, please, and obey Him, taking full advantage of the power that He has given us (through the SAME Holy Spirit that Jesus had), wouldn’t we not only see and perform miracles, but be able to live a holy, pure life, such and HE did (not forgetting the minor detail that He was born supernaturally and not into sin as we are -- soiled upon arrival!). C) If we truly understood the SUFFERING Jesus endured during 33 years that He walked this earth, being tempted by Satan, ridiculed, mistreated, betrayed, tortured, and murdered in the most shameful way possible -- knowing that it was all for this poor, wretched race of sinners that He loves so much, not for his own benefit – would it not cause us to follow his radical example and give of ourselves to the dying sinners that we encounter every day…forsaking the temptations and distractions of this evil world, placing our thoughts on a higher goal? Shouldn’t this knowledge, penetrating our hearts, plaster us to the ground, drive us to our knees, humble us and fill our mouths with an outcry of sorrow and a desperate plea for salvation, forgiveness, and redemption????
Well, He did not sin, He did die for us, and He made it possible for us to have close fellowship with the Father, and to intercede with broken hearts for the fallen world.

During the last few prayer meetings, we have looked at the lives of many Biblical heroes that have shown a special commitment to Righteousness: Ruth, Esther, Daniel, etc. Each of these sinners had a special relationship with the Lord and spent much time seeking His face. Often, we put these people on a pedestal, thinking that we can’t really reach the same level of spirituality or holiness, because we aren’t living in Bible times. Study the lives of all of the great heroes of the faith, the prophets, and even Jesus, and the common thread becomes apparent. They all spent much time on their knees communing with the Holy Father. This is the key. How often did Jesus talk about praying and fasting…how many times do the Scriptures mention Him going off to spend time alone with His Father? The answer is that this was habitual for Jesus, not just when things were getting rough, or when His death was drawing near, but every day He spent time alone in the presence of the Father.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

• Please pray for all the leaders involved in the ministry to be drawn into true fellowship with the Father (Gene, Jordana, Marjorie, Maria Augusta, Henry, Kristin, Noele).
• Pray for the Christmas activities in Wisconsin, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Quito, Ecuador.
• Pray for Noele and her family – her grandfather passed away -- she is going home for 10 days.
• Pray for Kristin and her family -- her paternal grandmother passed away this last Friday. Pray that this opens the eyes of the unsaved family members. Kristin will not be returning to the US for the funeral.
• Pray for the finances of the ministry (our support base in the US is down 70%)

** I would also like to remind us to be aware of the prayers that God is answering as we set aside these times. If you remember back in September, we were praying for Flor’s situation, and I am pleased to report that we are in the process of getting her moved, hopefully in the beginning of January, to a brand new facility here in Cuenca! God is definitely listening to our requests, and acting on our behalf. Praise HIM! Please continue to pray for this, because there are many details to be worked out!**

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!" Psalm 119:9

Tt is Sunday, and all of Ecuador is quiet…the only traffic heard is the police routinely patrolling the area for delinquents. Everyone was asked to stay in their homes in order to participate in the national census. We received our visitor, a jolly high school boy, at about 9 am. He asked us all kinds of questions about the house, our work, etc. We were grateful for a day of rest and peace, without any visitors. We napped, put the house in order, made phone calls for our meeting Monday, and even watched a movie!! It was an especially welcome break since Noele and I have been a bit sick to the stomach the last couple of days.

The conference went well, despite the fact that we only had a fraction of the folks from Cuenca, which was one of our main purposes – to share with them what it takes to run a camp. We had to let God do what He had in mind, which was to invite the entire youth group which was meeting at the same time, to listen to the teachings. It was a refreshing time of fellowship with our friends from Guayaquil, and a good time of connection for all the team members who were present. Everyone left on Sunday afternoon, and we were exhausted. We went to a friend’s birthday party, and spent Monday resting and readying ourselves for another busy week.

We had been planning on spending Thanksgiving with our friends in Guayaquil, who have an annual gathering. We had thought that it was going to be on Thursday or Friday, which would have given us plenty of time to get back for the worship practice on Saturday, and the Census. Well, plans changed somewhere along the line, and our friends decided to have their Thanksgiving on Saturday. So, stayed put and had our own on Thursday. We invited a few families and friends that we thought deserved to be especially spoiled, bought an enormous (and expensive!!) turkey, and made all the trimmings. This was the first time I had ever put together Thanksgiving on my own (of course, I had my lovely assistant, Noele, with me to chop, dice, set the table, and offer moral support!), and, though there were a few extra hoops to jump through, due to different products and such, it came together in the end, everyone enjoyed it, and was thankful for the good (though different!) food.

Noele and I are missing our families a lot during this time, but are excited about the upcoming visit of her sisters. We have many things on our calendar these next few weeks, and ask that you please keep us in your prayers.
Tomorrow, Monday, we meet with the head honcho of Samaritan’s Purse, we have a meeting to practice dramas, puppets, songs, and such for our programs on the 1, 5, and 8 of December. Please pray that we have people who will come to volunteer these days, because they have been a bit sparse at the meetings lately. Also, continue to be in prayer for the situation with Flor and the other children at the orphanage in Guayaquil. I am waiting to receive her paperwork so that I can present it to the director to ensure that she can get a space in the new facility here in Cuenca.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Next Chapter...

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" Psalm 27:14

I am really sorry to all of you who have been anxiously chewing on your fingernails waiting to hear if there is good news or bad. Please forgive me. My only excuse for not writing in a while is that we have been so busy!!! God has been faithfully answering our prayers and we are running to keep up with Him!

I am excited to tell you all that things have been going on and ask that you please keep us in your prayers!!

It is early Saturday morning as I write this, and it is a bit difficult to focus because, in a few short hours, we will begin our first annual Cristo Vive conference! We have 8 people coming from Guayaquil and Quito, and I am hoping for at least 10 from Cuenca. Noele and I are the official hostesses, which is part of the reason we have been so busy lately. It will be a good time of fellowship and bonding between our teams, and I am looking forward to seeing what the Lord will accomplish.

You have read about Flor and my burden for her. Well, a few weeks ago, the Lord surprised me with a message from one of my friends in Guayaquil saying that they had been seriously discussing moving her to a facility in Cuenca, where she would be better taken care of, and close to ME! You can imagine my joy! The orphanage where she is right now is being taken over by the government in January, and there is talk of all of the kids that have family being forced to go back to them, therefore it is going to be necessary to move her because she has no one, and needs advanced care. We have come in contact with a place which just so happens to be opening a new facility for children with severe disabilities…in January! Flor has made it onto their list as number 27 of the 30 they will possibly be taking in. Of course, nothing is a sure thing yet, but on Monday, I will be taking a folder with all of her information to the director of institution, which is called Mensejeros de La Paz (Messengers of Peace), and they will assess the situation from there. PLEASE PRAY!!! Obviously the Lord has already shown us that He is listening, and that He is holding Flor in His hands, He being the only one who really knows what she needs!

Our team here in Cuenca has been busy as well, raising funds for our activities in December. We have had two successful hot dog sales, a rummage sale, and even offered to paint nails to raise some money! We have huge bags of candy and animal crackers sitting in our living room, waiting to be made into gift bags for 250+ children. On November 29, Noele and I will go to a meeting with a representative of Samaritan’s Purse and present a request for 250 Shoeboxes.
The dates to remember in your prayers are December 1st (two foundations), 5th (an open-air program in the center of a small town called Paute, in conjunction with their school for Special needs kids, and the 8th (another school in Cuenca).

On a more personal note, I have decided to join the worship team here at Calvary Chapel, the church we now call ‘ours’. It has been a challenge because of the language and the need to learn all of the songs from scratch, so it has been a slow process, but I so enjoy being a part of the team and the ministry that I don’t care if I ever sing in one of the services. This also presents yet another item to consider as we plan out our schedule. And what does the Lord continually remind me: to rest, to guard my time with Him, and to put everything in His hands so as not to end up an overwhelmed, frazzled, exhausted mess!
Noele and I, along with the help of some of our friends, have managed to get this house looking a feeling much homier just in time for the conference. We have cemented holes and cracks, laminated old, ugly countertops, caulked, painted, cleaned and moved furniture. PHEW!
My ankle is finally feeling mostly normal. I would love to get out there and run again soon, but I am trying to take my time and be wise about it…I really don’t want to reinjure it!

Thank you all once again for your continued, faithful prayer and support!

Monday, October 18, 2010

My God, the God of ALL Comfort!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 ESV)

I am so pleased to report that the Lord is blessing our labor!! We had a really encouraging meeting Sunday with about 14 people in attendance. We are excited because we are planning on hosting a conference here in Cuenca for all of the Cristo Vive folks in Ecuador, the third weekend in November. This will be a first, and virtually all of the responsibility falls on Noele’s and my shoulders. Also, we have lined up at least three foundations with a total of about 230 children with special needs to do Christmas activities. We are in process of raising funds and planning out those events! We have also been discussing plans for the April camp in Guayaquil, as we have a special job to do -- build a wheelchair accessible ramp so that we don’t have to carry the campers and their chairs up a flight of stairs to the cabins. Anyone interested in coming along to help, or sending extra funding for this project would be greatly appreciated!! Now is the time to start planning! We will need to raise approximately $3,000 for materials and such to complete the task. These last few days Noele and I have been beside ourselves because everything is falling into place right under our noses!

There is so much going on here, it is hard to put it into words. Unfortunately, not all is positive. Our friends here have been battling big time. I know it is because they are working hard to be a light in this dark place. We recently learned that Cuenca has the highest concentration of Satanic churches of anywhere in Ecuador (about 80 total). That said, of course we are in the middle of a war! We are dealing with depression, manipulation, lying, insecurity, suicidal thoughts, marital problems, doubt, fear, persecution, and the list continues. From the beginning I had decided not to get too heavily involved with this one church because we wanted to be open to working with many churches without difficulty. The problem is, that this body is becoming like family, and, as they encourage and lift us up, what can we do but offer the same to them. We have decided to invite all of the leadership of the church over for a time of prayer. We are here as missionaries, to bring in new believers, and to encourage those that are here. This may not be directly part of our calling, but we willing to allow Him to use us. Wherever we are, God puts us there to bear one another’s burdens in love.

God is putting us through the fire and bringing to the surface all of our impurities. He is bringing to light the things that we want to keep hidden from the rest of humanity, in order to give us new minds and new lives, entrenched in Truth, integrity, and love. Do we really and truly put our trust in Him as we say we do?? When push comes to shove, are we going to make the right decisions, to do what is right, pure, and holy?? Or, will we succumb to the pressure, take matters into our own hands and try to manipulate God’s perfect will and timing. His gifts are beyond our imagination, and He longs for us to ask for them, to wait for them, to believe that He is going to give us the desires of our hearts, but first our desires need to be righteous. We are all capable of doing so much good, and SO much harm. And the second we let our guard down, thinking we are strong, that we’ve got everything under control, we fall flat on our faces, having to scrape our pride off the pavement, and start over from square one. I long to see us living lives of victory, showing the world just what it means to live life to the fullest. We need to take captive every thought, every moment…and give our all for the glory of the Father, and then watch and be amazed at the extraordinary things He wants to do with us ordinary people!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

IF MY PEOPLE...would only pray!

"...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints..." Ephesians 6:18

SO much has happened since I last wrote in, and I apologize for not updating you all!!

Thursday, Sept 30, the day after my last post, chaos erupted all over Ecuador, and we were not sure what to make of it. All of our friends kept telling us it was not safe to leave home, that the cops were all ticked off and on strike, were not doing their jobs, and worse yet, were capable of killing anyone walking in the streets.
There was an order given the following day for everyone to stay in their homes, and we read a report from the US Embassy warning all foreign citizens to refrain from any involvement with the protests. We watched a live news broadcast which showed the military trying for hours, and finally succeeding, to rescue the president from the hospital where the police were holding him hostage. There were bullets flying, people screaming and running, and even the camera man got hit, though thankfully for him it was a rubber bullet and he would be fine. We did see one of the presidents policeman/bodyguards get shot with a real bullet and watched him lay there for at least a half an hour before anyone was able to get close enough to check on him – we heard the next day that he died, and that he had a wife and small daughter. From what I can gather, after everything has calmed down, the policemen reacted to a decision the president had made to keep government costs down and maintain free education. They thought he was cutting their already high salaries and bonuses, when in fact he was planning on raising their salaries and cutting the jobs of transit officers (which are basically rent-a-cops that patrol highways and toll-ways). All of this madness was created by an emotional reaction to a misunderstanding. The scary part was how powerful emotions, multiplied by the mob mentality, could actually be, sweeping across the nation like a wildfire, and then dying as quickly as if it had been doused by an immense downpour.
My personal reflections based on this situation are: always seek the TRUTH and make decisions based on it, making sure that I know as much of the whole story as possible. Also, it reminded me of how delicate this, and many more, governments truly are, and how powerful and evil those who were meant to protect it can become, when they feel their “rights” are being violated. Also, within the Christian community, we often jump to conclusions about one another, or about situations occurring within the Church, and cause damage instead of growth thinking that we are doing the right thing. We need to be careful with our judgments, for only God knows the Truth in its entirety.

On a more personal note, for those of you that haven't heard, on Saturday morning, I went out for my usual run along the river. It was an especially beautiful morning and I ran with vigor, anticipating the pancake breakfast which I had promised to Noele and a few friends. I was just about to cross the street with only about a block left to return to the house. Looking back to make sure that there were no cars, I didn’t see the gaping hole in front of me, which seemed to grab my foot and wrench it in ways I didn’t think humanly possible. I fell, of course, and struggled to my feet as quickly as possible, beginning the seemingly endless limp home. When I arrived at the house, one of the breakfasteers had arrived early (Ecuadorians are rarely early!?), and flew to my side firing questions at me and saying we are going to a doctor immediately. Thus commenced my Saturday. I ended up riding in a car, being carried up a flight of steps, and meeting a woman who could have been 110 if she was 70. We were at her house; she wasn’t a doctor, but my friends convinced me that she would make my ankle feel better. She poked and prodded and massaged some sort a cream into it, moved my foot this way and that, during which I thought I might faint from the pain. She commented that my ankle must have been injured years before…which it had…about 9 years ago, when I sprained it playing basketball with friends at YWAM, Minneapolis. Well, long and painful story short, she did wonders for my ankle (for 5 bucks!!), and, although it is frustrating to have to rest, ask everyone to do my running around, and NOT run myself, I am once again reminded of the necessity to trust in the Lord’s strength and not my own, to give myself permission to take it easy and to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord. It is healing up nicely, and hopefully in another week or two, I will be able to begin running again – taking extra precaution for holes of course!

Noele and I had the privilege of attending a meeting of pastors this last Monday. We have been planning on doing this since we arrived, however something always happens which causes us to have to reschedule, so we were a bit surprised when we actually arrived and were able to share the ministry. Many of them were very excited about our ministry and invited us to come to speak to their churches, saying that a ministry such as this is of great need here in Cuenca. It was a great time of fellowship and encouraged us to keep on moving forward and visit these churches.

I would like to ask a special prayer request: one of our friends here is going through a lot and we are concerned about him. His father left them when they were very young and has a wife and other children in the States. A lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders, to provide for his mother and two sisters. He has been making some poor decisions which are affecting his family, friends, church, work, and ministry. We long to see redemption at the end of this story, so please pray with us!!

The following is our Prayer points for this month, and I ask that if you can join us for a time of prayer on Monday evening from 6p.m until 8:30 pm, or whatever works for your schedule, please do!!

“Looking to the hope we have through Jesus, we request once again that you join us in our monthly prayer and fasting for our friends and ministry. Monday night is the time we have set aside to make this a corporate event so if you are can join us during that time: 6:00-8:30 PM, please do so, however if that is not a workable time, please join us anytime that works for you in your home or whatever location you can commit to the time of prayer. As you take the time to pray, we ask that you fast the normal scheduled meal, breakfast, lunch or dinner until after the time of prayer and fasting is complete. Thanks so much for joining us; these fasting and prayer times are making a huge difference.
I am reminded of the call to fast that Queen Esther gave when the decree was given to kill all the Jews of her day. (Esther 4:16) As she held the confidence that she could hear from God and gain insight on what to do to gain the king’s favor to do something that could change the edict, she didn’t hesitate and Mordecai took that as well and committed the Jews to join in the fast. The outcome was swift and effective. She received the wisdom and the king responded. Isn’t it awesome that when we humble ourselves before God, He listens to our hearts, shares His Spirit with us and we can do what needs to be done to accomplish what we know to be right. So, yes as we fast this prayer time we are confident that God will speak, we will listen, and then take action to do what it is God charges us to do and He will make the end of that time to produce His perfect will.
P.R.A.Y. Praise Repentance Ask Yield
Jesus Himself taught us how to pray in Luke 11. He gives us an example of the way we should structure our prayers: giving praise to our Father and worshipping Him, bringing petitions before Him while acknowledging our trust in His provision, identifying our sins and asking for forgiveness, and then giving everything up to Him in reverence of His faithfulness. Remember this as you begin your time of prayer this week. It may be beneficial to pray the Lord’s prayer together as well. (Matthew 6:9-13)

PRAISE: Please begin by praising the Lord and asking His Holy Spirit to come and be with us and guide us as we pray. Please spend 20-30 minutes focusing on God’s majesty and worshipping the Lord through music, whether by listening to CD or singing together. (Exodus 15:11-13)

REPENT: Take time to repent and search your hearts, asking God what things in your life might be keeping you from the throne of God. Also, ask the Lord to help you forgive those who have hurt you, so that you are not harboring bitterness. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

ASK: We would like to remind everyone to continuously be praying for our campers. Praying for them when we are with them is great, but it is not enough. We have seen proof of the spiritual battles they encounter; we have seen how they weep when we pray for them in the camps. They are susceptible to so many different types of evil forces and most are not able to battle with Satan by themselves. This is our responsibility. The Lord has put them in our lives and given us glimpses into their struggles. They need to be covered with our prayers for protection, for healing, for anointing, and for strength. We all know that prayer moves the heart of Our Father. We do not need to be present with them for our prayers to be efficient.
Being an ever increasingly vigilant force is a worthy goal. As we pray we are breaking through the spiritual barriers to salvation, joy, health, prosperity, and living a valued life so we encourage you to openly ask God through your time in prayer to intervene on behalf of these campers and their families. We are seeing tremendous evidence of God’s intervention in families as their children have encountered Jesus during camp. Just recently we received a report from our team in Guayaquil, Ecuador that a camper, Mayte, died on October 1. One of the team members received a call from Mayte’s mom asking for prayer. This mom realized the effectiveness of our people praying and thought enough about it to call and commit the team to prayer. It is a joy and a powerful right guard of defense for others as we pray. Let’s take our place this prayer session and be there for our friends. (James 5:16)
Let’s take time to pray for our campers. Some names we would like you to remember this month are Flor, Jorge, Erwin, Christina, Nila, and Luis, Karlita, Neiser from Guayaquil; Mayte, Gisella, Rosita, Fernando, David, and Alex from Quito; Rachel, Raessa, Nick, Vickie, Hana, Damien, Josh, Courage, and Kieven from Osceola; Ron, James, Kathy, and Sarah from Idaho; Natasha, Ivan, and Nicoli from Ukraine, Bodji, Jacki, and Biagala from Mongolia. Specifically lift up the names of campers that you know and that the Lord has put on your heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1-8) Please pray for the freedom of Christ to be revealed in their lives. (Galatians 5:1)

YIELD: We were recently encouraged and reminded that the Lord has sent us out with a purpose, and that He has given us His blessing as well a promise that He will provide for us. Our work is not in vain and we are learning to rely on Him for helping us to further His kingdom and share His love. (Mark 6:7-13, Acts 13:2, 3)

As you draw to the end of your time in prayer and fasting, please take some time and share with each other what you hear the Lord has said. It may be helpful to spend some time quietly listening to the Spirit, with the ears of our hearts open and ready to receive, as prayer is a two-way conversation. Share praises, words of encouragement, Scriptures, etc. It may also be nice to close with a song or two. Have great time with your brothers and sisters in the presence of our Papa!”

Additional and Supportive Scripture Verses to pray and ponder through this event:
Psalm 107
Isaiah 40:28-31
John 14: 6, 15-21
Psalm 46

“May the God of Grace be to you this month with great awesome power, lifting up your head to see His Glory as He fills the whole earth, may you see His mighty wonders and majestic splendor as you travel your path each day and see He is for you and not against you. May you experience a huge amount of His overextending love and joy to give you strength!”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Strength and dignity are her clothing..." Proverbs 31:25

Well, time is whizzing by…I am amazed at how fast a week flies by!! I found myself translating for two days at a Medical outreach organized by a local Christian radio station and a group of Counselors. A team of nurse’s from the States took blood pressures, weights, blood glucose levels…they needed translators to help educate the people of Cuenca about nutrition, dental hygiene, women’s health. Yours truly is now a professional at explaining breast self-exams in Spanish. (Sorry if that is inappropriate for the general public, but I sure learned a lot of new words!) At the end, they had counselors waiting to talk and pray with each person. Noele helped to entertain the kids while their parents waited. They had puppet shows, face painting, music and candy…Noele is a natural clown!! Needless to say, we were completely exhausted, and took a much needed day off on Friday. It was an especially indulgent day because it was raining, and I read a whole book just for fun!

We had a great Sunday, beginning with the final of a series of messages on the book of Ruth, and ending with a Cristo Vive gathering. As I digest what I learned through the last two sermons, I am perplexed. Ruth was, to be sure, a woman of great conviction, courage, integrity, obedience, and confidence. Sadly, I think we could all admit that women like these seem rather rare these days. I was upset when someone here said: "there are NO women like Ruth these days…she was PERFECT!"
This is not true for several reasons, one, and the most obvious: she was NOT perfect!!! She was no more perfect than I am! Secondly, there are women like her. I know several whose stories simply aren’t written yet! What about all the women out there who are truly striving to become women after God’s heart? In this house, there are three women of various ages and situations, fighting against who the world would like us to become, in order to let the Lord have His way. Because we are close, we know the struggles each other is facing and that we are working at shaping our characters to look something like hers. Ruth truly is a beautiful example.

We do not often hear of a young woman, recently widowed, staying with her mother-in-law, and taking orders from her. Ruth’s fidelity and love for Naomi speaks volumes. Ruth left her comfort zone, home, and family to follow Naomi, and more importantly, Naomi’s God. I have often read Ruth and wondered at her boldness when it came to Boaz, but in truth, her boldness came from her faith and trust in Naomi, whose faith was in the Lord, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe; and when viewed in those terms, it is not so surprising that she confidently made herself known to Boaz, and that he, in turn, did what was right in the sight of the Lord. What would have happened if Boaz had rejected Ruth? Do you think she would have moped around, believing that she was worthless? Would she have begged Boaz to reconsider? Would she have sent her friends to talk to him, trying to manipulate the situation in order to get what she wanted? Many things could have happened, but if Ruth truly was a woman of virtue and steadfastness, she would have praised the Lord, no matter what the outcome. Among Ruth’s godly characteristics are: sacrificial love, hard work, submission to authority and to wise counsel, and confidence in God that all would work itself out, according to His will.

So ladies, here’s to showing the world that Godly women of virtue truly exist! Take on your challenges and let the Lord create in you a beautiful heart! Men, take note, the Lord may use a woman to impart valuable lessons in boldness, obedience, and integrity. Don’t forget your role as a leader in this world, and take care to encourage the women in your lives to stand up for what is true, noble, and just!

He said, “Who are you?” And she answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” And he said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. Ruth 3:9-11 ESV

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Joy in the Morning!

“Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…”
Psalm 37:4-7

We have been here before, have we not?? By this I mean, on our knees before the Lord one minute, and the next minute marveling at what He is already doing to answer our petitions.
Monday (the 13th) evening marked the 2nd of the monthly Cristo Vive corporate prayer and fasting events.
Noele and I ended up being the only two in Cuenca praying together, but we didn’t mind. We sang songs, took turns reading Scriptures and interceding our campers, families, friends, and for Ecuador and the rest of the world where Cristo Vive has or will minister.
As you all know, Flor has been heavy on my heart and mind, and I have been wondering just what my responsibility is in this situation. We specifically asked the Lord to open doors and provide people with information as to how to handle this very complex and delicate situation.
The very next day, while talking with a few friends, they told me they know of several orphanages and foundations in Cuenca, Quito and the surrounding areas which are run by Christians, and have plenty of resources to be able to meet the needs of children such as Flor. On Wednesday, we headed to one of these orphanages and I was able to talk with a woman with a wealth of knowledge about the ins and outs of the system, which is very different than the States. She gave me several contacts which should help in solving some of the issues, not only for Flor, but for all of the children in that orphanage and others in Guayaquil. She also told me that the government is considering beginning a Foster Care Program.
Noele and I are amazed at the Lord’s quick responses. The lesson learned once again is that prayer moves the heart of God, and prayer with fasting moves Him into immediate action! He is protecting us every day, giving us good gifts, and meeting needs that we didn’t even know we had.
We are so excited to be a part of His work, but He is once again reiterating the all-important aspect of spending time seeking His face versus running around like crazy people trying to make things happen on our own.

On a more personal note, I finally feel like I am waking up after the last few months of being on auto-pilot. He is healing my body, mind and Spirit, and I am enjoying this adventure. Gene and Jordana commented recently that I am more like myself…which they attributed to my having Noele’s companionship. DO you think I am a ‘people person’? Now, the challenge is to make sure we give each other enough space! I tell Noele that honesty is best, and that this is good training for the future!

We are not planning on traveling for at least two months, so we are settling into Cuenca, getting to know the people, diving into our work, and making the house feel like a home. We have been scrubbing, moving furniture, and picking out colors for curtains and paint! The freezer is already stocked with leftover chili and pesto, as I have been cooking up a storm...we have been missing casseroles lately (who knew that would ever happen??), so I may have to try my hand at an Ecuadorian version of a Wisconsin staple. Noele thinks we should make a cookbook of all that we make here, since much is improvised due to the different ingredients. I think Pastor Freddy, who lives next door, can smell when we are cooking, because he has eaten 4 meals with us in the last 3 days. The poor guy is lonely and can’t cook, so we take pity on him. Our house is often filled with people, and we like entertaining -- most of the time. Last night, Henry, the guy I am training to be the leader in Cuenca, and his new wife, came for dinner, and we discussed plans to have a Cristo Vive Conference here in Cuenca.
I am about to cut our housemate’s (Lorena) hair, so, Chao for now. Thanks for reading!!

P.S. Please pray for Mercedes...she is flying to New York today, and will be in the States for 5 weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

From Noele's Perspective...

Noele wrote this on Monday, September 13, and I just had to share it with you all! Enjoy.

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4: 5,6

A great big "Hola!" and abrazo from Ecuador!!

This morning my dear friend Kristin and I once again loaded our belongings onto a bus to travel to another of our homes here in Ecuador. We left Guayaquil (on the coast) around 9:30 and arrived here in Cuenca (in the mountains-ish) around noon. The bus ride through the mountains was INCREDIBLE. The past couple times we traveled at night, but this morning we got to look out the window at the clouds floating by. As always, every time we travel it's an adventure. We made it to our bus on time and got our suitcases loaded up. We found our seats and Kristin says, "I have to go to the bathroom." Now, in our travels together, I have learned that Kristin needs the bathroom often and when she needs it, she NEEDS it. So she trotted off to find the nearest bathroom which was not so near, and also stopped at the bank in the bus terminal. Meanwhile I am gazing out the window, and both buses on either side of us start pulling out. Odd, I mused. Then I realized that WE were moving. Our bus was pulling out and Kristin was still somewhere in the terminal. A million thoughts raced through my head, what do I do? What if we leave without her? I have no phone, no idea how to get where we're going! She will need another bus, maybe I should get off and wait! So I run to the front of the bus and yell "MI AMIGA ESTA EN EL BANO!" The driver and his assistant fella kinda look at me funny but they pull over and the side-kick runs back to find her. Thankfully, she made it on time and I didn't have to spend five hours on the bus in panic. I think I might need a cell phone...

The Lord is ever-present in our lives here. The reason we had gone to Guayaquil was because the CVI team was having a one-day discipleship activity there for the kids. It was a really great time, as always, to see our kids and spend time with them for Bible reading, arts and crafts, and prayer. The prayers of the team down here are POWERful. It really keeps me accountable to my own prayer life and how much of myself I am putting into my prayers. One of our campers, Flor, who is an orphan and is very near to our hearts, reacted to something (we're not really sure what set her off) but I mean she threw herself on the ground from her wheelchair and was just screaming and trying to hit anyone who came near. Kristin keeps saying, this is NOT the Flor we know. And it's true. There is some sort of spiritual battle going on within her and we don't know if someone has been mistreating her or what. It was a good reminder for us that God has placed these individuals in our lives for a reason, and we are responsible for praying for the young and innocent and asking for protection against the attacks of evil.

Kristin and I both had some health problems while we were in Guayaquil. One of our friends eventually told us that we had to go to this doctor friend of his, who told us we have bronchitis and sinusitis. Or at least, we DID have but now we are equipped with cough medicine (something like Ecuadorian Robitussin) and antibiotics. Whereas Kristin had a bad reaction to the medicine and experienced side effects, I am feeling quite healthy and happy once again.

There is a worship song here that I have been hearing a lot and it has been really powerful for me. The words translated into English say, "You loved me when no one loved me, You saw me before anyone saw me. You gave me a name, I am Your daughter. The daughter of Your eyes. Because You loved me, I love you more than my life." I just love these words.

I have been missing my family and friends up there a lot, I wish I could talk to you guys more! I hope you all are enjoying the beautiful Fall season, someone should take a picture of the leaves when they start changing colors so I can see them, ok?? I can relate to the weather changing to colder temperatures because here in Cuenca, I am wearing monkey slippers and two sweaters and huddling against my laptop to keep warm. The nights feel like Wisconsin nights, but during the day it warms up a lot. If anyone is interested in seeing pictures, Kristin has been posting a lot on her facebook and I can send you a link maybe, but I do not have my camera here so I dont have any pictures on my computer yet.

LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU ALL! Thanks for your prayers, you are in mine as well!!


Monday, September 13, 2010

I believe, Lord...

Last week, we decided we had better go to the doctor. Noele had been coughing for a month, and I had been having headaches and began coughing as well. The doctor said we both have sinusitis and bronchitis, so he prescribed an antibiotic and a cough syrup. We immediately began to feel our sinuses and lungs clearing up, but I was very tired and feverish, and wasn’t sleeping at all! On Thursday, I woke up from a nap, and noticed a strange swelling and tightness in my knee. As I talked with Gene and Jordana that night, I began to have more pain in other joints, so I thought it would be a good idea to find out the side effects of the antibiotic. Sure enough, there was a laundry list of dangerous side effects including the symptoms of tendonitis. Everything I was experiencing was on that list. We went back to the doctor and he changed my meds. Unfortunately, I have been plagued with pain in my whole body, so I feel like I'm 90 years old. On the bright side, however, this caused us to change our plans and stay in Guayaquil for the weekend.

As you grow older, your birthday wishes change dramatically. When you are a kid, you are excited about the presents and everyone treating you extra special. Soon enought you realize that what you really want is for those close to you to be truly happy.
All that to say, I had a wonderful birthday! I have so many loving friends and family that sent me love, which made it bearable to be just one year shy of 30! Best of all was that I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do.

A few close friends and I picked up Flor from the orphanage, and went to the Parque Histórico, which has a variety of plants and animals native to Ecuador. Flor had a great time, though it wouldn’t have mattered to her or I where we were, we just enjoyed being together. We received many hugs and smiles from Flor.

I was singing a song that was stuck in my head…it’s by Jesus Adrian Romero, and, in English it says:
“You saw me when no one saw me, you loved me when no one loved me…you gave me a name, I am your daughter, the daughter of your eyes, because you loved me, you loved me.”
I don’t think Flor knew the song, and as the afternoon went on, I noticed her smiling as I sang, and then, while we were in the bathroom, I was singing and she pointed to herself, then to her eyes, and then from me to her, and from me to her again, along with the lyrics of the song. It was special. We showed our friends and they were amazed that I hadn’t taught her to do that. She doesn't miss anything!

I gave her some new American flag flip-flops and t-shirt, which she loved, and we drove through McDonalds, for some chicken nuggets (we were short on time!). Then came the hard part…it felt so wrong leaving her in that awful place with no one to look after her except the other orphans. She was so upset, she didn’t want to let us go. She was abandoned by her mother when she was an infant, and I felt like I was doing the very same thing to her.
I have been intermittently thankful and tearful since leaving her that day, and I keep asking the Lord what I am supposed to do about this.

Sunday morning the sermon was from Mark 9 when Jesus says, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” To which the only appropriate response seems to be: “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.”


We have recently instituted a new corporate prayer meeting. The second Monday of every month, we have committed to gather, fast the evening meal and pray together. If you would like to be included, please send me an email address or write to This month, Gene asked Noele and I to write the prayer points. The following is a testimony from our activity last Saturday, the 4th of September, and the theme for the prayer meeting this month.

*****We would like to remind everyone to continuously be praying for our campers. We have seen proof of the spiritual battles they encounter; we have seen how they weep when we pray for them in the camps. They are susceptible to so many different types of evil forces and most are not able to battle with Satan by themselves. This is our responsibility. The Lord has put them in our lives and given us glimpses into their struggles. They need to be covered with our prayers for protection, for healing, for anointing, and for strength. We all know that prayer moves the heart of Our Father. We do not need to be present with them for our prayers to be efficient.
We (Noele and Kristin) were reminded of this necessity on Saturday during our Discipleship day in Guayaquil. When I (Kristin) first met Flor, I was struck instantly with an impression that we needed to pray and fast on her behalf, for her healing, spiritual freedom, peace and salvation. I believe the Lord answered those prayers and allowed us to witness the results of these prayers. If you ask Flor where Jesus is, she immediately points to the sky and then to her heart. No one, as far as I know, has taught her that, save for the lessons she has learned at camp and through the visits to the orphanage.

Saturday, while talking about giving thanks to God for all of our needs (including family), Flor became uncontrollably angry and self-destructive, screaming, lashing out, and crying. For about an hour, we interceded on her behalf, fighting both physically and spiritually. It was exhausting, and, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t prepared. I had become complacent and content with what God had done, forgetting for a time, that the battle is not over!! While praying, I had a thought that maybe she had been sexually abused. When we had ceased praying for a few minutes, all three of the other women who were praying for her asked me about her caregivers and said that they think she has been abused sexually. We prayed for her to be able to forgive anyone who has hurt her, to forgive her family for abandoning her, and to begin to heal emotionally.

During camps in Ecuador, the leadership takes time to pray for each camper and counselor. Inevitably, the Spirit of God moves, ministering to the pain in their hearts. I cannot describe the looks on their faces, when, with tears streaming down their cheeks, they cry out to the Lord to help them to release bitterness and to live with joy despite being trapped inside a body that won’t allow them to express their desires, and fulfill their dreams. One camper, Erwin, who is about 30 years old, has shared with me that he wants to be a pastor. The trouble is, unless you spend time with him, you can barely understand what he says, because he has severe Cerebral Palsy. He has a beautiful smile and expressive eyes which seem to plead with me to understand, and to help somehow!! I know that in heaven, a strong, handsome, capable, young Ecuadorian man is going to come up to me and with confidence and clarity and recite messages upon messages with which he could have encouraged the masses. However, it is my desire, and I believe God’s as well, that he live this life with purpose, with joy, knowing that he too, is here for a reason, whether or not he can speak clearly.

Let’s take time to pray for our campers. (2 Corinthians 4:1-8) Please pray for the freedom of Christ to be revealed in their lives. (Galatians 5:1)
We were also recently encouraged and reminded that the Lord has sent us out with a purpose, and that He has given us His blessing as well a promise that He will provide for us. Our work is not in vain and we are learning to rely on Him for helping us to further His kingdom and share His love. (Mark 6:7-13, Acts 13:2,3) *********

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My 29th September...

September, for me, holds a certain sense of nostalgia. As a child it meant back to school (which I loved!) with brand-new pencils and tennis shoes, the excitement of birthday celebrations, and the coolness and color of autumn. Here in Ecuador, though they do have two “seasons”, it is not as distinct as in Wisconsin.
"Welcome September, with all of your newness and promise, and may you live up to your potential!"

Enough about the future -- I am sure all of you have nothing better to do than to anxiously await word from me about what has been happening…

After the camp, my team and I traveled on a bus (I LOVE BUSES!! :)) to Quito, where we spent almost two weeks ministering, touring, and tasting. We spent some time at Campamento Esperanza (Camp Hope), a home for children with disabilities who have been abandoned. We spent one morning in a prison for women from all over the world, where a group of missionaries has a weekly Bible study. “Opción de Vida” (Option for Life) is an outreach to at-risk kids and those that live on the street, at which we helped by playing with the kids raking leaves and participating in the lesson time. My favorite (of course!), was the day we visited an orphanage. This orphanage is much nicer than the one in Guayaquil because it is funded by the government, yet, no matter how many physical needs this place can meet for the children, it is still painfully obvious that they lack the love and attention of parents. It breaks my heart that places like this even need to exist, but I hope that by washing windows, changing messy diapers, and lulling little ones to sleep, we were able to share the love of Christ.
We made dinner for our Cristo Vive Quito team and had a nice time reuniting with them and making plans for the future. It is encouraging to see this team that is less than a year old, bonding strongly and continuing to minister together.
Let’s not forget, that the beautiful city of Quito has many sights for foreigners to behold, of which we took advantage. We visited museums, statues, the Middle of the world (where you can balance an egg on a nail), looked out over the city via the top of a mountain, ate cuy (guinea pig) at the same restaurant as the travel channel’s Andrew Zimmern ( ), danced to live Ecuadorian music at La Ronda, and rested our tired bodies in the thermal baths of Papallacta. All together, thanks to our tour guide, friend, and chauffer, Gustavo, our time in Quito was both challenging and restful. We were (and are) sad to say good-bye to Christine and Brad (we miss you guys!!).

Noele and I left Quito, Friday night, the 27th, and arrived ten hours later, on Saturday morning. It was nice to be back in Cuenca, though only for a few short days. Incendio, “my” dog has grown up so much! He’s still as spunky as ever, and loyal…following us to the bus, where he knows he will have to turn around and go home. We made it in time for a surprise birthday party for Juan Diego and to say good-bye to Philipp who would be going back to Switzerland (I know, our social calendar is very demanding!!). We were able to see most of the CVI team Sunday at church, just enough to touch base and see how they were doing. Monday, Noele celebrated her 20th birthday, and on Wednesday, we awoke at 3:30 am to make the trip to Guayaquil. We had been planning on leaving Friday, but there was a team of Californians who were returning to the states, and were taking a much safer, much faster tourist bus, and they invited us to ride along. We were extremely glad to accept since it would cost us nothing, and we had just read a news story about a bus that careened off of a mountain cliff []. I don’t mean to alarm any of you, but it was a reminder that God’s angels are protecting us every time we travel, and that your prayers are working!!

So, here we are in the heat of Guayaquil once again. Tomorrow we will visit the orphanage and see Flor-cita! In the meantime, Noele and I are working out a routine and a plan of attack for the tasks at hand. We have already slipped into a pattern of Kristin cooks and Noele washes the dishes, so hopefully, our work will turn out to be naturally patterned out as well. A friend jokingly asked us today if we have had our first “marital” argument. Funnily, we have been getting along well, though we both agree that soon we may need a breather, as 24-7 is a bit much for the most happily married couple or the most amiable of friends! Also, there are about ten people here in Guayaquil (including myself --- EEK!) who have birthdays in these next few weeks, not to mention about twenty more in the states…so, if you are one of them and I am not there to say it in person…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

As I contemplate murdering the dog that is incessantly barking below the window, I leave you with these words of Truth:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14,16

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

La Vida Loca

Hello Everyone!
I hope that while you are reading this, you are filled with the joy of the Lord, the peace and relaxation of summertime fun, and the love of your family and friends! It has been a LONG time since I have written...sorry about that. I cannot believe I have been home for the “summer” and am currently back in Ecuador! Time flies!

Let me catch you up:
I arrived home June 2nd and had to scrample to get to Kentucky! Because of Susan’s wedding, I connected with friends from college that I have not seen in four or five years. My best friends and I had a great time meeting up for our annual reunion. Although we don’t see each other for a year at a time, we have such a special sense of family and community and can pick up where we left off and feel like we were never apart. I have really missed them.
Shelli (housemate who is now teaching English in Korea) and I drove from Ohio and spent one night at my folks’ house in Southern Wisconsin, only to get up and make the trek to camp further North in Osceola, WI. We came pretty close to losing a wheel on my car, but found a small-town mechanic to do some quick repairs – there’s always some added suspense when it comes to road trips with Kristin ;).

My camp duty was “Adult Health Leader,” or nurse. It was a bit stressful because if the mountain of medication which kept me up late, but there were no emergencies, praise God! I was the drama leader as well, and we ended up doing quite a bit of improv. My favorite part about camp is seeing the campers who have returned for several years, who grow every year, and get so excited about coming. We had our first annual “prom” for the kids, complete with a DJ and hairdressers to get the girls all gussied up!
I was so proud of “my girls,” the young teens that I have had the privilege of mentoring in one way or another over the last few years. Farrah and Dani, my girls from the Victory volleyball team, were asked to be a part of the leadership, as was Lily, one of the Minnesotans. This was a big step for all of them as they are not the boldest girls, but the ministry has been a great opportunity for them to do many things that are outside of their comfort zones.

A time to Rest…
Since there were two weeks of camp, with a weekend between, a few of us decided to head up to Grand Rapids, Minnesota where several of the teenage counselors are from. It was an amazing weekend!!! The Hopkins family is very hospitable and we all felt at home and rested being there. At the annual Bluegrass Festival I received a lot of encouragement to continue to pursue writing and performing.
Rest is a great weapon against doubt, fear and ineffectiveness. It is something I have be reminded of – often! After driving the girls to camp for the second week, and as the new group of counselors began filtering in for training (including my homies from WCC! You guys are Awesome!!), I took advantage of a few days of rest and reflection. This was an extremely valuable time between the Lord and I, during which I poured out all of the pain, frustration, and anxiety that had crept into my heart and had been clouding my view of God’s love and provision. I also received some very specific encouragement and promises to bolster and refresh my Spirit as I began to plan for the next phase of ministry.

More Travels
I met Shelli at the Minneapolis airport and we flew to New Mexico together. There was a flurry of activity and reunions with friends and before we knew it, Anna was married. A few of us drove to the Grand Canyon for a couple days before heading back to our prospective states. Then, from Minnesota, I drove home - finally!!! Well, a couple of days later, my mom and I hopped in the car to visit James (the twin brother) and his family, including week-old baby #4, Dean Edward. When I arrived home after that brief visit, I was able to rest a bit, enjoy my family and friends, just long enough to feel settled, and then drove once again to Minnesota to speak, play some tunes, visit some more friends, spend some time with Gene and Jordana. The problem seems to be that I need more time to spend with each of these friends, because it is always too brief. But, I love you all, and I thank you for being a part of my life, and for taking the time to catch up! Life would be so dull without friends and family.

Back in the Saddle
We flew back to Guayaquil On August 8th, a little over a week ago, and hit the ground running. We got in at 1:30 am, due to some delays, but got up the next morning to do a program for a group of schoolchildren. That evening, we held the first of our CVI monthly prayer meetings. We have decided that the 2nd Monday of every month we will fast the evening meal and pray corporately (there will be people praying in Mongolia, Ireland, Ecuador and the States…let us know if you want to join us!). Tuesday we went to Funsiba (a foundation for adults with disabilities), and had dinner with our OM friends, and Wednesday headed to the orphanage! I was so glad to get to see Flor, and the others. When we arrived they were in school, so we spent time in the classrooms. Later my team led the program with a drama about David and Goliath (yours truly played Goliath!). On Thursday we headed for the camp to get ready for the kids! Camp was, as always, a blessing. My camper, once again didn’t show up, but I was able to partner with Christine as a counselor. Karla was such a joy! She is pretty independent, but is in need of friendship. She is a vivacious teenager who loves singing, dancing, and getting beautified! We talked a lot about faith, prayer and her family and friends who don’t know Jesus. She prays with such conviction and passion for them to be saved and for her legs (she has trouble walking) to be healed. She is a good example of trusting in the Lord. She is a leader among the other campers, even taking the initiative to pray for other campers who have a lot of pain or bitterness because of their physical and mental differences.

Well, it is and more information will follow soon, as time allows. Please keep us in your prayers as we will be travelling to Quito on Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ashes to ashes...airplanes grounded

Psalm 57:1 “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”

*****BREAKING NEWS*****Guayaquil affected by volcano eruption!!!

It is Friday, May 28, 2010, and like any other Friday in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a small group of young people venture out armed with guitars and crayons to visit an orphanage full of children who run out to greet them with waves, affectionately referring to the visitors as “Auntie” and “Uncle”. The visit is ordinary, with some singing, a Bible story about Moses, some coloring pages, lots of laughs, some horse-play, words of affirmation, as well as a few disciplinary warnings. As the little missionary troupe prepares to leave, amidst questions of when they will return, a slight drizzle begins to fall from the hazy sky. Waiting for the bus which will return them to their modest apartments, the group of friends begins to comment on the “drizzle” which more closely resembled snow than rain. “This is not rain!” remarks one. After a bit of conversation, they come to the conclusion that it is ash, which makes sense, since there had been a potent garbage fire behind the orphanage during the visit. The ash seems to grow thicker, and a girl in the group asks: “Did a volcano erupt somewhere nearby, because this is NOT normal!” Within minutes, a text message from the office explains that, sure enough, a volcano has erupted in Baños, a vacation town a few hours away, and that everyone should use sunglasses and masks, as it is dangerous to inhale the ash. As the group finally boards number 57 with stinging eyes, they find that the news has traveled and the other passengers have already donned white masks and are rapidly securing the bus windows. The fatigued group settles into their seats and breathes carefully through their make-shift Kleenex masks, commenting on the frightened looks on the locals faces. “Do you think this is going to affect flights going out of Guayaquil…?” *******

This was the situation I found myself in on Friday, and little did I know how much my life and plans would be affected. First of all, a girl from Illinois who was planning on getting in around 3 that afternoon, finally arrived in Guayaquil at 12am after a crazy detour. I figured by Sunday things would be cleared up and I would be able to leave on schedule. That was not the case, and after talking to the airlines until 2 in the morning, I booked a flight out of Quito, and boarded yet another bus for the nine hour journey. When I arrived, I called for a taxi to take me to the airport at 3:30 in the morning, checked my confirmation email, and it showed the flight was for Tuesday, not Monday as I had been told. So, here I am biding my time in Quito, thankfully with a bunch of other Christians from around the US and Canada at Casablanca, where we had our camp in March. They are just about to begin 3-4 month long internships. They too, had frustrating delays due to the volcanic ash. Some of them spent 50 hours in the Miami airport!!!! Ick. It is all part of traveling and helps us to realize that we cannot control everything, least of all the weather and natural disasters. This can be a difficult lesson, especially for us schedule-oriented North-Americans.
I have not been keeping up with the news very well; I just found out about the oil that is gushing out of the belly of the earth, that Venice is slowly sinking, and there was a volcano in Guatemala that killed a few people. Plus, the weather has been off-kilter everywhere, which can only mean hurricane/tornado season is going to be worse than normal. Hmm, does this sound familiar??? It is funny how we don’t (or at least I don’t) pay very close attention, until something affects me personally. I am so thankful that I worship a God that is bigger and stronger than all of these things and that He is taking care of me, and of all of us. It is good to think of and pray for the people who are affected, even when I am far removed from the situation. The Bible talks about all the ways the earth is “groaning” as we draw closer to the end. Yet, who knows how many more levels of groaning there will be before we say good-bye. Are we prepared to face even more hardships on this earth? Or, an even better question, are we prepared to face eternity??

Another Train of Thought:
Ministry isn’t about an organization, a place, a title, or an event. It is about relationships. Here, in this house with a bunch of random people that I will spend no more than 24 hours with, there is ministry. We have encouraged and prayed for one another. We have worshipped together as one body. It was really encouraging to hear the testimony of a couple in their late 50’s. They always felt called to missions, but didn’t make it here until just recently. Their life was spent working, raising kids, and having youth over to their home. There are countless people serving the Lord right now because of what they gave during that time. It was definitely God’s will that they stayed. They encouraged us to broaden our ideas and be open to the Lord changing our path, even when we think we are in the center of His will. He sometimes changes it drastically. All the while, though, the important thing is to keep on serving, trusting, and loving Him with all that we are! I definitely needed to hear that today!
I have enjoyed my day resting, worshipping and fellowshipping. It is a bummer that I am not at home and that I will miss James and Shelly and the kids, but, if there aren’t any more disasters, I should make it home by Tuesday evening. And, for those of you who are looking forward to spending time with me in Wisconsin…just to prepare you, don’t plan on it until July. The month of June will be filled with traveling, Cristo Vive camp in Wisconsin (we need more guys!!!!!), and weddings in other states. I will only be home for a few days before taking off for Kentucky.

I was able to spend a fun weekend in Quito seeing the sights and hanging out with my friends. It was so refreshing to be able to share with them some of my frustrations about working in this culture, and they understand because they too have been through it. BUT, they also have each other – fellow Americans/Europeans who share cultural similarities and language. I didn’t realize until now how vital that is or how much I missed that interaction. We all agreed that it is not healthy to be working alone and that travelling so much also takes its toll on ones sense of belonging and community. I hope and pray that my friend Noele will be joining me in August.
I then returned to Guayaquil, (because I was planning on leaving from there), visited the orphanage. I was standing in the back of a room and there were lots of people there, because there was a special activity going on with some kids from a local high school. Flor was sitting in her wheelchair and she was turned around looking in my direction. When I went over to her, she gave me the biggest hug and was genuinely happy to see me. I think she recognized me and my voice, and was waiting for me to come and say hi. We also had a meeting with a cell group interested in helping and getting their church involved, which is one of our goals that will help us achieve an ongoing presence there.
The Cristo Vive team in Guayaquil is preparing for camp in August, and the team in Quito has an activity coming up next weekend. My new team in Cuenca would like to have a day activity in July and a camp in the fall. Hopefully these things take off, but it will depend a lot on the people there. The plans are in the works for the August trip…get your hammers ready…we’re gonna build stuff!!! Anyone interested, it will be two weeks in duration, and you can go to to fill out a volunteer application.

Well, it is very late, and I need to leave for the airport in just a few short hours. Thank you all for your love and prayers. God Bless You.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures Worth a Million Words

I have been having trouble uploading here are a few to catch you up: Incendio the Great, Mother's Day at the beach, and Flor and me in the pool. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Volkswagon Beetles and other Bugs...

Sorry everyone…I realize it has been almost two weeks since my last update…I don’t know where time goes, but if I did, I would figure out a way to recycle it.

Our activity with the kids from the orphanage was a success. We divided the kids into two groups, the younger ones, along with the three special kids, and the “youth”. I was paired up with my girl, Flor! They loved the pool, though most of them clung to their “friends” because they couldn’t swim in the deep water. I kept Flor in the kiddie pool, which turned out to be a good idea. She loves the water! It was funny to watch her splash and flail about, hollering at the top of her lungs, but I had to stay right with her because she would submerge her face and nearly drown with excitement! It was so rewarding to see the kids laughing and acting like kids – without a care in the world. We brought them back to the apartment, where they all ate at least three sandwiches, listened to the gospel presented in a kid-friendly manner, and then watched a movie. By the time we started the movie, at least half of them were asleep! Once again, it was difficult to send them back, wishing we could fix their situation. The only thing we can do that will really make a difference is to show them the love of Christ which we have for them and let them know that they are valued. Most of us cannot even come close to knowing what they feel like, having been abandoned by their parents, with little to no chance at being adopted.

Mother’s Day with Mercedes was enjoyable and relaxing. We woke up early and headed for the beach for some time alone with the Lord. It is so refreshing to be able to sit in the midst of one of the crowns of His creation. For me, there is no greater pleasure than listening to the sound of the water, feeling the fresh breeze, and basking in the Glory of my God. We took our leisurely time to find a place to eat some breakfast and spend the rest of the morning walking the beaches and swimming. It was overcast, so there was no danger of getting sunburned. We returned to the hotel to shower and catch a nap before leaving to get some fish for lunch and then head for the bus back to Guayaquil. I made it home in time to have supper with the roommates (Sharon and Tabitha), and hang out with my pals. SIGH. I love the Sabbath.
I think I mentioned recently that my head was itching, and everyone thought I was allergic to my shampoo…nope! Turns out I contracted head lice! I am pretty sure it was due to the fact that when I was cutting all the kids hair at the orphanage, one of the girls was combing my hair with the comb she used on all the others. Mom, if you are reading this, please don’t turn me away when I come home, I promise I have treated it several times…just to be safe!

On Monday morning I traveled back to Cuenca. This time, since Seth and Tabitha (OM friends) were heading to Saraguro, so we traveled together. We saw my admirer at the bus station, but managed to avoid any soap opera drama, thanks to the newspaper I kept in front of my face!

The rest of my week was filled with phone calls, emails, skype sessions, meetings, and the like. I have been much more encouraged this week, and have allowed myself to rest in the normal tasks people do every day, such as exercise, clean the house, cook, play music, enjoy people. It is funny how relaxing and de-stressing it can be to have to do the dishes. I mean, it is kind of pain, but it is an easy, mindless chore, that allows me to sing, reflect, pray, or just BE, without feeling pressured. I am beginning to give and gain trust, in order to form some deeper relationships, which seems to have been more difficult here in Cuenca. I drove a classic, orange VW beetle the other day. It was my first time to drive in Ecuador, and, of course, everyone was shocked that I could drive a manual…or that I could even drive! There are many people here (especially women) who just don’t ever get their driver’s license.
There are a few solid leaders rising up who have been connecting with other churches to get more people involved with the vision of Cristo Vive. Saturday I had my last group meeting until I return in August. I made a giant chocolate cake because one of the guys here was complaining that the oatmeal/banana cake is for Grandmas. I think he ate half of it, and I keep telling him he had better not be coming to the meetings just because of the food! They are finally taking the initiative and responsibility for Cristo Vive Cuenca upon themselves. We have adjusted the calendar and there is now a day camp planned for July 10 (please PRAY for them!!!!).
I am working out the details for the August team from the US (anyone interested???), and there are three people interested in coming down for longer short-term volunteer opportunities. Craziness. I have only about two weeks to wrap things up here, then I will head home for a couple months! I am really excited to come back and see everyone. Getting used to being so far away from my family and friends has been more difficult than I had planned on.

This last weekend, my friend Lorena asked me to sing a mother’s day song with her, and to help lead worship at the daughter church here. Singing Spanish music and reading the Bible in Spanish has really helped my language skills. I am starting to think in Spanish instead of having to translate in my head before I can figure out what someone said or what I want to communicate. Sermons are coming easier too, which is encouraging, because, I need as much of the Word as I can get.

Ok, now for the real news! The inevitable has happened, and I have to tell you all about it. Just a few weeks ago I was saying how I was sick if Ecuadorian guys, and then, though I never thought it would happen, I fell hard for one! He is dark and handsome, small, and a bit hairy (very typical Ecuadorian). He is needy, but makes me laugh. He keeps me company when I am lonely. He is very intelligent and has learned he had better take me seriously. I am torn up about leaving him here for two months. He has a lot of energy, is very social, and likes to run with me…on a leash! His name is Incendio (which means “fire”), because he was rescued from a burning building. He is a little orphaned pup, some kind of mixture of German Shephard. Some girls from the church adopted him, but live in a small apartment and were gone most of the time. My friends brought him here, and it was all over! I wish I could bring him to the states, but he doesn’t have a passport. He technically lives with the pastor here, but Freddy’s never home and has no clue how to deal with a puppy. So, I had compassion for him and have been bathing him, feeding him, training him – I even cut his hair, because it was all matted and gross. (I know, I know, he’s just a dog! As I said, I fell hard!) He has been a blessing, since I spend a lot of time at the house by myself. (Sorry I keep toying with you...and if I raised anyone’s hope that I was involved in a real romantic attachment!)

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

*** Happy Mother’s Day…to all you mommy’s out there! You are by far the most important people in the world!! I mean, think about it, every great man or woman, King or Queen, doctor, scientist, writer, teacher, musician, or missionary was nurtured for nine months in the womb of a woman, who then bore excruciating pain in order to give innocent little lives a chance – is that not incredible?!?! In my opinion, motherhood is one of the highest callings a person can fulfill in this brief lifetime. It requires responsibility, total commitment, superhuman love, and inexhaustible patience and energy. I can only hope that one day the Lord bestows upon me such an honor. My very own mother is a woman of great strength, grace and determination, and though she has endured heartache and trial, she has always been able laugh in the midst of it. She has an eye for decorating and has been known to rip out walls and transform a house into a work of art! Her clients and coworkers at the beauty shop get more than they pay for, because she listens to their problems, and openly shares the truth of gospel, more boldly than most. Her fountain of joy and wisdom comes from her morning coffee dates with the Lord and His Word, where I know the whole family gets a good dose of prayer. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such an outstanding example. Love you Mom! ***

I have been reading this book called “And I Will be Found by You,” and the Lord has used it to remind me that my works have NOTHING to do with my Salvation or the love the Lord has for me, but that His pleasure is aroused as we seek His presence. Francis Frangipane, the author, was going through a time when he had been asked to leave the church he was pastoring because he had confronted sin in the church. He could barely provide for his family and they were living in Iowa during one of the coldest winters on record. He wrote: “I repeated again my abiding prayer: ‘Lord what do you want of me?’ Speaking directly to my heart, He said, ‘Love me where you’re at.’” The Lord assured him: “‘this is all I will ever require of you.’”
The question is: what does it mean to truly love Him? I have been focusing so much on my ministry tasks, that my identity, and my relationship with the Lord have been wrapped up in the results (or lack thereof) of what I am doing. It is not that He doesn’t want to use to show His glory in the world, but His source of joy comes from those He loves (us) loving him so much that we cannot help but seek His face, and in so doing begin to become more like Him.

Ok...and now for the update:
Since I last wrote you, I went to Saraguro, which is a very much unevangelized, rural, traditionally Catholic area. The OM team did a medical outreach there a couple of weeks ago, and now the goal is to follow up with a discipleship program and help the two struggling churches there to form cell groups in order that these people don’t become like so many who are evangelized, and left to themselves, without a clue of where to go from there. I helped get things started at the end of last week, because only one person was able to go. It’s just good, old-fashioned missionary work. We hiked in the highlands in the rain in order to find the women we were intending to visit. They were grateful for the visit and interested in more Bible study.
We had a Cristo Vive meeting planned for last Saturday in Cuenca, so I hopped on a bus for a three hour ride home. I immediately went to the grocery so I could bake something for the meeting. It was time to begin, and only one person showed up. Another guy came about two hours later, and no one else had heard whether the other folks were going to show up. After a good, honest chat with the guys that did show up, I had a good, honest chat with the Lord about what I should do, and the conclusion: ‘Go with the flow.’ In order for things to happen the way I want them to, I would have to change the culture, and that is not what I am here to do. So, I keep praying and letting go of my frustrated plans. On Monday, I had a meeting with Henry, who is interested in assuming the role of leadership, and we are going to move forward with presenting the ministry to the other churches in the area, and plan on having a team-building event on the 15th instead of an activity for the kids.

On Tuesday I went back to Saraguro. I got a later start than I had planned because I had to wait to receive a package from Quito and I wanted to spend a little time with Jessie, the American girl who lives with us, because she is having to go home unexpectedly next week. I finally got on a bus at 11:30 am, and we weren’t even out of Cuenca, when we encountered a roadblock. A group of people had gathered to protest a water law (apparently the government is trying to take water from the indigenous people who live in the highlands, and they obviously don’t like that idea). In order to communicate their disapproval, they stand in the middle of the road. After sitting for about forty minutes we were able to continue. I finally arrived in Saraguro at about 4:30 pm, and headed straight for my hostel. There was a European couple on the bus and because I they thought I looked like I knew where I was going, they followed me! Come to find out, they have been travelling for 8 months, through Canada, Washington, Mexico, Central and South America. They are from País Basko…technically Spain. We spent the rest of the day together, getting to know each other and Saraguro, since Darren (the guy with whom I am working here), was somewhere high in the mountains visiting people. Darren finally arrived at about 8:30 (he had been waiting for a ride, getting drenched in the meantime). Marcos and Miriam (my Spanish friends) came to Saraguro with the intention of experiencing how the indigenous people live, so they asked if they could join us for our visits. It didn’t quite work out, since we were late getting back from our morning visits. They seem like very “open” people so it will be interesting to see how things progress from here. I’ve made some new friends that I will one day need to visit in Spain, and of course, I am praying that they will come to know that Jesus is the Truth. Friday morning I left Saraguro, stopped off in Cuenca, and boarded another bus bound for Guayaquil. Our bus stopped three times for extended periods (once because we blew a tire and had to change it). I love buses. It is Saturday morning and we are getting ready to go get all of the orphans from the orphanage. We are planning to take them for a swim at a local pool, watch a movie, feed and bathe them. I am so excited to see them, especially Flor. I doubt they have ever been able to do something like this. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Tomorrow, Sunday, I am planning on spending the day at the beach with Mercedes, my “Mami Ecuatoriana.” On Monday, I will return to Cuenca to spend one more week building up ministry potential there.

I close with a prayer from the book I mentioned earlier:
“Lord Jesus, The revelation of Your love has swept me off my feet. Lord, You have drawn me and I run after You. Master, even in the mundane things of life, I shall express my love for you. Consume me in Your love.” AMEN

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Grass is always greener...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have a prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Cor. 13:1-3

I would like to ask you all to pray for Mongolia. They have declared National Disater, and have asked for help from the Red Cross, which is unusual, as they don't like to accept help from other countries. The las summer was very dry, and this winter was very long and cold, there are many people in the oultying areas who are starving, some have died, and the situation there is very grim. Cristo Vive has planned a trip there in July. As of right now there are about 5 people planning on going. This is an opportunity to reach out with the Gospel and see the country changed. Pray for the Christians, as they are all relatively new in the faith, to have boldness and favor.

Here's the Update on Yours Truly:
Cuenca is so different from Guayaquil, that it seems I am in a different country all together. It feels much calmer. It is a much smaller city than Quito and Guayaquil. The climate is similar to what Wisconsin feels like in the spring or fall. It is cold at night (I actually have had a difficult time getting warm, before I can fall asleep – even with a pile of blankets!), and at midday, when the sun is the most direct, it is hot, though there is usually a breeze. I thought I would never feel cold again, and couldn’t imagine donning a sweater after the sweltering heat of Guayaquil, but here I am. On Saturday, I ran for the first time in a few weeks. There is a nice path with a lot of parks along the river, which is also very beautiful, and calming. Although I don’t know the ins and outs of the city yet, because it is smaller and safer, I feel freer to come and go as I need. Also, due to the beautiful climate, mountains, clean air and calm lifestyle, there are lots of foreigners in this city; it is odd for me to see other random Americans or Europeans here. I am living in a house with two other “missionaries” that work for the church here, Calvary Chapel. The pastor lives next door and the church is just next to his house. I have my own room (with beds enough for 5 roommates!) with big windows and my own bathroom, so lack of space is NOT an issue. I wonder at times if I will ever settle in one place long enough to feel at home, though, I guess that is not the idea! It has been a bit difficult this time, I think because I am alone. There are no other Cristo Vive folks here, besides the ones I am building relationships and a team with. I knew it would be a bit of a struggle after Gene, Jordana, and the teams left. However, I have been trying my hardest to focus on the schedule I have made and do the work! All of you know that, though I need my alone time, I thrive just knowing there are people near me that I can converse with if I want to. I feel like such a fickle GIRL, because I was looking forward to some peace and quiet after the craziness of the last couple of months, and now, I am pining away for more interaction – am I weird or what?! So, the challenge has been set before me. We shall see what the Lord has for me to learn through this. There is hope of someone joining me in this work soon, so please be praying for that. I know that I am just being impatient and I need to trust the Lord to work everything out. It has only been a week.
I have been missing the opportunity to go to the orphanage. Tossing and turning at night, I pray, wonder, and wish that I could do more to fix these situations. Flor is constantly on my mind, and I know the Lord is working in her and all the kids there, and even the director. I keep thinking that the best thing is for these kids to get adopted…anyone have a bunch of money to lend me so I can adopt a few of them? My mom would be thrilled!

My focus right now, for the next few weeks, is to get this team in Cuenca off the ground. It is a challenge for several reasons, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is going to take time…but I like to see results! So far, nothing has gone quite like I thought it would. That doesn’t mean I will stop planning, just that I now plan on my plans changing! We have an event on the calendar for May 15, though that may be too soon. This is a new territory for me, and though there are people interested, it has been a challenge to get them all together at the same time. The people involved in this church are busy, so we have to get other churches involved as well.

The good news (Sorry, this seems to be a bit of a depressing update!) is that the people here are very focused on reaching out to their community and surrounding areas that may not be evangelized. They have planted a daughter church in an unreached community, hold classes with the kids whose parents work at the little market down the street, visit a cancer hospital, and much more. They have a Jewish Dinner at least once a month. People come from many different cities, and many have given their lives to the Lord as a result. Pastor Fredy teaches the spiritual significance of every act and every food item from the reference point of the Last Supper. It is a beautiful way to present the love and sacrifice of Christ.

My health has gotten better, probably due to the fact that it is cooler and I have been eating much healthier here. I can buy fresh veggies and fruits just a block away. My head has been itching for about a week, though it is getting better. The first few days, it was driving me crazy!! I was so afraid I had lice or something, but nobody could find anything, so, it was probably a reaction to some shampoo I bought here or something.

I am becoming famous here for my monster cookies and “tortas” (cakes), which are really just glorified banana bread! When I arrived in Cuenca there was a pile of old bananas in the house, and Jessy, a young Arizonian, can’t eat wheat. I happened to buy an overripe pineapple and a coconut. So, I threw something together with oatmeal instead of flour – inspired by Maricelle’s tropical nut bread. Lorena (my Columbian housemate), asked me to make one for a baby shower, and now everyone wants one! The thing is, here, they don’t really bake, so, when someone does, they’re in awe! I could open up a bakery/beauty shop here and become a rich woman!

For your enjoyment:
I have to tell you a quick story about why I am sick of Ecuadorian men!! No offense if you are one! It never ceases to amaze me, but I can’t tell you how many times short, middle-aged Ecuadorian men have stared, made crude comments, whistled, smooched, and waved at me (Imagine if I were a tall blonde!). I always wonder if it ever works for them…I mean, do girls ever respond to them?? Well, last Tuesday, on my way to Cuenca, topped them all. I was, against everyone’s better judgment, alone at the bus terminal. By now I know the ropes, and wasn’t at all concerned about going there by myself. Of course, if I had had a tall, intimidating ex-cop with me, for instance, I wouldn’t be relaying this story, but all of the guys that I would normally call on to help me out, were gone, and the Ecuadorians were all working. As I waited for my bus to arrive, a man wanted to help me take the pack off my back…I told him I was fine, but he didn’t listen. Then, he wanted to know where I was from, what my name was, etc. He told me I had pretty eyes, and then asked if I had a boyfriend. This was the point of no return, and I was starting to get annoyed. I told him I did (Jesus counts, right?), and of course, he wanted to know where he was. When he started asking for my number and if I liked to go dancing I wanted to punch him in the face, but I figured that would just cause more trouble. Finally, my bus came, and he took it upon himself to help me get my things and myself on the bus. He asked me again for my number (kind of whiney like a puppy with sad eyes and his head cocked off to one side). I was so relieved when he got off the bus, but then, a few minutes later, he was standing below the window! He was holding his chest like he was in pain! He said he wanted to see me when I came back and that he would be waiting here for me, and that he was in love with me (Gag!)! I reminded him that I had a boyfriend, to which, he replied, “Yeah, but he’s not here!” And I said: “Pero, estoy fiel (but, I am faithful!)!” To which he responded that that is exactly the kind of woman he is looking for! ARGH! So I said, “Ok, I will keep my eyes open for one for you!!” (Was that cruel?). It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. I took out my book and began to “read”, which was a good idea, because twice I saw him coming towards the bus, but when he saw I was reading, didn’t attempt to talk to me again. I arrived in Cuenca, called a taxi, and the driver was chatting about how he worked in New York and likes to travel to Spain etc, and, just as we arrived at the house he asked me “Do you like to go dancing?” I paid him, thanked him, and went inside! So, if you hear that I have eloped with a forty-five year-old taxi-driver or food-stand owner, don’t be surprised…their charm is just so irresistible!