Saturday, January 30, 2010


It is time to let you know what has been going on since I arrived in Ecuador Tuesday night. The trip was uneventful, which I was thankful for, as I hadn’t slept at all the night before, and was able to catch a nap here and there. Jordana’s parents, where we are staying, is only about five minutes from the airport, which is very convenient, except for the deafening noise when the planes are landing and taking off! Wednesday, everyone graciously allowed me to sleep in, which I did, and then spent some time thanking the Lord for getting me there safely. It did not take long to unpack my things. My room is actually a maid’s quarters which are separate from the house, across the enclosed yard. It is very small, almost one-half being taken up by the single bed, but perfect for me. There is even a toilet and shower adjacent. They worked hard to make it nice for me, even installing wireless internet, so that I can network from my little bungalow.
Thursday, after a brief, breathless, uphill run (the altitude is going to take a little getting used to), Jordana and I met Maria Augusta, the newly installed CVI leader in Quito, for coffee in order to discuss plans for the next two months. The lawyer then met us there later to talk through what steps we need to take in order to secure my visa. We went straight to a nearby shop and had some more photos taken (9 of them for $3!). Andrea spent the night on Wednesday and again Thursday night…which means she slept in my single bed with me. At one point, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by an airplane and didn’t know what it was, I thought a bomb was exploding and I think I had a bit of a stroke.
Today (Friday, the 29th) was filled with activity…I awoke early -- around 5am, which is unusual, but it afforded some time to read a bit and get some exercise in before breakfast. There were two ladies that came to meet me and talk to us about Cristo Vive. One of them was so excited to find out that I was from Wisconsin, because when she was 19, she worked on a dairy farm for a summer and said it was the best experience of her life! Gene and I went to the bank to open an account, which took about an hour, and then we rode the bus for 45 minutes to the northern part of the city to meet with the lawyer again, as he needed my passport. Quito is beautiful and the weather is so nice. When the sun beats down on you it gets hot, but in the shade it is actually cool. The mornings and evenings are cool enough for jeans and a sweatshirt. It is not humid at all.
I am adjusting well, and I keep reminding myself that I am not going home in 2 weeks. Patience is very important at this point, as we try to utilize our time wisely and make plans for the best possible outcomes for the ministry and all those involved. Tomorrow is Saturday, and we plan to treat it as such. Jordana and I are going to go get a $3 pedicure in order to get our Midwestern winter feet ready for the beach. There will be a CVI meeting in the evening with all of our volunteers. Sunday, we are scheduled to speak at three of the four services at a local church here. We will leave sometime that night for the drive to Guayaquil where we will spend two weeks. We are planning several meetings and services during that time, so if you need prayer requests…there you have them!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Road Trip from...Heaven?

January 20th, 2010

It is almost time for me to depart for all feels very surreal. In an attempt to help you all to understand my state of mind right now, there are a few stories I should share. This one's a personal favorite.

Back in November, I had decided that I would take a trip through Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, to visit friends. I gave myself the time frame of the first two weeks of December, as many of my friends are in college or work in the college setting and would be returning to see family during the holidays. One such friend, who had recently moved from Nashville back to Murray called and wanted to know if the BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry) could join us for their spring break mission trip...I was very excited about this possibility, of course. Well, in order to get the students informed and enthused, we figured it would be good if I came...on November 18th! It was decided only two days prior to me leaving and, as is usually the case, I left in a harried flurry...mind you, I had to give up my former plan and turn the road trip backwards, hitting Kentucky first.

As I paid for my gas 20 minutes from my house, I noticed my debit card was not in my wallet. No credit card either. No worries. I was certain it was in a jacket or jeans pocket somewhere in my car, as I have the habit of stashing it everywhere but the purse where it belongs. I wrote a check. Four hours later, I filled up the tank again. As I tried to think about where I left my debit card, I remembered seeing it on my dresser at home. As I filled out the check, the cashier said, "I don't think we can accept that." To which I replied, "But it's all I have!" Fortunately, there was another employee who ran the check through a machine and I was on my way, slightly concerned that I had no form of currency except my checkbook.

I arrived without further incident to Murray, my Alma Mater. I had a great time re-connecting and a great turnout for the Ecuador meeting. My former bosses invited me to play music at the International Restaurant where I worked for three years. They are like family to me, and made sure I was well-fed for the duration of my trip -- with the best food in the entire world!

My next stop was Dayton, Ohio -- about a four-hour drive from Murray. Before leaving, I pulled into the local BP, where I figured they would also have a check-swiping machine, I filled the tank to the tune of0 $29. As I pulled out my checkbook, the cashier, in her pleasing southern drawl, said, "Honey, I can't take that, just look at this list of bad checks!" Ok...I happened to have some cash in my back pocket which was donated by my "fans" at the restaurant. It was $27, so I promply rummaged through the car for some change, which was sparse, but I remembered a birthday card for my nephew which I hadn't sent. Inside, I had put a buck for his piggy bank. So, vowing I would replace it, I paid for the gas and continued to Walmart, where I bought a pack of gum and wrote a check for $20 over. I made it safely to Ohio, where I spent a few glorious days hanging with J and D. On Tuesday, the day I was planning on leaving, our friend Brad came down on his way to Kentucky from northern Ohio. I was prepared to leave finally at about 8pm. Brad gave me $40 and urged me to spend it wisely -- which I did promply -- $20 for gasoline. The trek to Louisville was supposed to take about two hours, but I would never have guessed what lie ahead...

About an hour into my trip, the highways split, one to florida and the other to Kentucky. I put on my right signal to exit, however my little Focus was surrounded by semis with two on my right merging left. I slowed down to let them by and just before exiting, was pulled over by a State Trooper. As I look back, I recall not being worried or nervous because I hadn't been speeding, so I really didn't know why he stopped me. He approached my car, and asked if everything was ok. Yes. He was wondering what I was doing "back there". I explained that I was not familiar with the area and that the exit "snuck up on me", and I was trying to avoid getting into an accident with the semis. So, he asked me for my license, registration, and insurance...and the misadventure begins. I handed him my driver's license, then informed him that my insurance card was in the trunk in another bag, and I had left my registration on my dresser (along with the credit card and debit card)! He gave me a funny look and what could I say except that I was sorry and I was in a hurry. The officer proceeded to his vehicle to run my license. As he walked away, my heart sank as I remembered that my license was expired!!!! I hate to admit it, but I had received my renewal notice, and had fully intended on getting it renewed, but the hours at our local DMV are sparse, so...there I was. When he returned and questioned me about this, I could only apologize and tell him the truth.

"You do realize that, in the state of Kentucky, I can arrest you for this?!" was his authoritative response. At this point, naturally, I began to imagine all kinds of awful scenarios of spending days in jail waiting for someone to rescue me. He questioned my intentions (not for the first time). Since he seemed to be trying to understand why a girl from WI was gallavanting all over the South with an expired license and no registration, I explained the purpose of my trip with great detail, including that I had attended college at Murray State, which is why I have friends in that area, and that I was leaving for Ecuador soon. He asked a few more clarifying questions and said, "I have to figure out what I am going to do with you." Then, he said, "Ecuador, huh? Missionary?" How did he came to that conclusion first, before vacation, study abroad, or drug trafficing, only the Lord knows. I said yes, but I am sure the look on my face was one of confusion. "Please step out of your vehicle, but first, you don't have anything in there that I should know about, such as weapons of mass destruction?" I was incredulous -- was he seriously asking me that???? I half laughed and said "No, I have a guitar, but nothing else!"

At that point, we were standing near the passenger side of my car and he said, I am going to put in the back of my squad. WHAT?!?!?!? He was going to arrest me?!?!? My face must've belied my concern and he quickly eased my fears by saying that he was NOT going to arrest me, but he did need to check to see if I had anything on me. Oh, goodie, I thought, he's not going to arrest me, but he is going to frisk me! However, he simply had me lift the hem of my shirt so he could see if I had any weapons of mass destruction on the waist of my pants...not so bad! So, I slid into the backseat, and he began to fill out his report. He said my last name sounded familiar, which I thought was odd (can you say WANTED??) since no one in the South ever recognized it! He made small talk about my musical abilities and then asked again where I went to school. He then told me that he had a neice that attended MSU and also Berea, a Christian college, and that she had wanted to be a ECUADOR! (Aha! therein lay the connection!) Sadly, she passed away at the age of 2o of a rare lung disease. I expressed my condolances as I marveled at this "coincidence". Then, he explained, "I am going to give you a warning for weaving in traffic because I don't think you deserve a ticket and I don't think you deserve to be arrested, especially if you're going to Ecuador to do nice things for people." I breathed a huge sigh of relief, thanked him and the Lord!

Finally, he let me out of the car, and, as he opened the door, informed me that my car smelled like antifreeze. I had been planning to stop at the next gas station to investigate the strange scent, when he pulled me over. Next thing I knew we were looking under the hood investigating the three-foot wide river of fluid that had obviously come from my car! He couldn't see any obvious damage, but the tank was completely empty. At this point, he urged me to turn around and go to the previous exit where there was a body shop. Keep in mind, at this point it was nearing 10:30. Nothing was going to be open, I had no friends for an hour south and an hour north, and no money to stay in a hotel. I asked if he thought I could make it to Louisville if I bought a jug of antifreeze. He was hesitant, stating that the stretch of highway I would be traveling would be dark and the exits would be sparse. He concluded that I could try that, and if I had any problems to give them a call and they would come to my rescue. This sounded like a good plan to me. Restraining myself from giving him the largest hug imaginable, I thanked him for his help. He begged me to be careful, and to get my license renewed as soon as I returned home! Upon starting the car, My temperature gague immediately plummeted and the coolant light flashed. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, for I knew that he had saved my car and possibly my life...all sorts of dramatic scenarios flooded my mind: my engine siezing or exploding into flames with me trapped inside and my little Focus colliding with a massive semi, causing a twelve car pile-up and sure death for scores of fellow travelers. My vehicle was a weapon of mass destruction waiting to be unleashed.

Pulling into the gas station, fully aware that God has not one, but a whole army of guardian angels watching out for me, I paid $12 for a gallon of coolant. There were three men guarding the one register, which I thought was odd, and they were quite the motley crew. I had to return a second time to ask for help, since the cap was vaccuum-sealed. The shortest of the men, a bit trollish looking (no offense intended, bless his heart), offered to come and help, exclaiming that I would get scalded if I weren't careful. He could not get the cap to budge, so he said, "I'm a-gonna go get Hercules!" He returned with the oldest of the three men (there was a tall, tobacco-chewing man in his twenties that would have had no problem, but that would have been too simple!) who gave it his best darn gruntin' effort, to no avail. Hercules went off in search of some tools, and a wiry fellow got out of his Jeep and was stopped by my advocate. He got it off with barely a struggle, which pleased the short man because when Hercules returned he said to him: "I don know what's wrong wit' you, but thet feller got it off with two fingers! Well, two fingers and two hands!" As I gratefully filled the resivior, he began to lament the dangers of the road ahead for "a perty young girl" like me. "I know you don't like to hear thet s#!%, but it's the truth!" I quickly thanked him and was on my way, at first whit-knuckling the steering wheel, but shortly singing praises, knowing that God had taken care of me thus far, and He would get me safely to Louisville. There is an end to this drawn-out tale, I promise!

Approximately twenty minutes later, I was pulled onto the narrow shoulder, cars and trucks causing my car to rock violently as they passed by, not bothering to change lanes. I poured the last quarter of a gallon of fluid into the tank and prayed that He would just get me to Hurstborne Avenue. And I did, just as my gague was plumetting. I pulled into the Meijer station, praying that they would sell the coveted liquid for $8.29, or would take a check. Their generic brand was $8.49 if my memory serves me correctly. So, I inquired as to the check, and the nice, young man smiled and said that he could take my check, thrilled, yet wary, I pressed to see if they accepted out of state checks. "Yes!" Hallelujah!! He rang up my bill, and asked "Would you like extra cash with that?" I looked at him as if he were Mother Theresa, and was permitted $25. Obviously overjoyed and from Wisconsin he asked me what brought me to Louisville, so I quickly gave him a bit of history, and finished the last few miles of my journey. I arrived at my friend K.A.'s house and apologized for keeping her up so late (it was now after midnight). So, bright and early the next morning, she called her dad, who set up an appointment at a local garage. I was able to meet up with my friends, though with a bit more struggle insofar as I didn't have a vehicle, and was able to pick it up and leave by about 1:30 that afternoon. (By the way, the main hose had busted...hence the giant river that spewed from under the hood.) Already several hours behind schedule, I began the trek home, managing to stop at all the right places, where I could pay with a check or had just enough cash.

As I crossed the Wisconsin border, listening to my Over the Rhine Christmas CD (the next day was Thanksgiving and I couldn't wait any longer!), big, beautiful snowflakes began to fall..."like forgiveness from the sky." As I pulled into the driveway of my parents house, with an empty gas tank, empty wallet, and a sigh of relief, my heart was full. I offered a bit of thanksgiving for another lesson learned in trusting Him to be my Provider, my Deliverer, my strings attached.