Friday, February 26, 2010

Ask and you shall receive...

Hola mi gente! (Hello my people!)

HALLELUJAH! I have my missionary visa (good for two years in Ecuador)!!! Thank you all so much for your prayers. Also, as of today, I have been in Ecuador for a whole month, which doesn’t seem possible. Time sure has flown. I am so delighted with the way the Lord has been teaching and molding me. As I reflect on the last few weeks, months, and even years, I am aware that He has been preparing me for “such a time as this.” He has given me everything that I will need for this time of ministry, and I can be confident that I am here as His instrument, His hands, His feet. Ah, what a beautiful privilege! We are all to embrace this calling, no matter where we are or what we do.

As I write this, it is raining in Quito…kind of a drab, chilly day. I am bit ill, probably a combination of allergies, environment, and lack of sleep. With all the traveling to different cities, and the drastic changes in climate (sweltering humidity to cool dampness), the nasty pollution, and having to adjust to sleeping in a bunch of different places, my system has been a bit overwhelmed. Therefore, I am really missing the comforts of home today…the hot bathtub, cozy fireplace, and my dog (not to mention my friends and family)! I appreciate your prayers for my health and safety! (We are still working out the details of my health insurance, so I am depending on Him to keep me healthy).

In spite of this, my spirits are high and I am encouraged as things are picking up and I am becoming more familiar and confident in my role as a leader here. The trip to Cuenca was very valuable as we acquired about 20 people who are interested in helping to grow the ministry there. We met a couple, visiting from Switzerland, (she’s Swiss, he’s Ecuadorian - neat story), who want to help support the team in Cuenca, and possibly create opportunities for future ministry in Switzerland! I enjoyed Cuenca and look forward to my future visits (at least once every month to solidify the team and establish regular meetings). Please pray as we are still seeking a leader to rise up and take responsibility.
During our stay in Cuenca, there was a rare and violent storm, which included torrential rains and hail. There were many car accidents and they have had to create temporary shelter for people whose houses were damaged. Someone from the church we are connected with had a whole side of their house collapse. I am planning to travel there for a meeting on the 13th of March, and if possible, would like to arrive earlier or stay a few days to see if I can be of assistance. Please keep the Cuencanos in your prayers .

The team in Quito is flourishing and I am pleased to report that, before long, they will need only limited assistance to have a steady flow of ministry here. We are connecting with several ministries and churches, some of which are already providing services to children with disabilities, and others that are serving the poor and underprivileged in the community. As we look forward to our teams coming from Kentucky and Wisconsin beginning March 29th, there is much to occupy my attention. I have been busy arranging transportation, living quarters, ministry opportunities, and many other details to make sure that the experience is fulfilling for them, as well as the Ecuadorians they will be ministering to. Please pray for the teams (8 from Murray, Kentucky, and 5 from Wisconsin) as they prepare to come and serve.

After conducting a meeting with the Quito team, I will board a bus with my faithful friend, Mercedes, and travel to Guayaquil. On Sunday, March 7th, we will be conducting a Discipleship Day scheduled for kids who have attended our camps in the past. I believe this is especially valuable, as we guide young people in their relationship with the Lord, studying the Bible, and sharing the Gospel with their family and friends. God loves to use the weak to confound the strong, and there have been many instances where our campers have led members of their family to a relationship with Jesus! Keep this event in your prayers as well, for we know that an activity such as this, when bathed in prayer, cannot fail! Since I will be in Guayaquil for about a week, I hope to get the opportunity to visit Flor (that's her and I in the photo above) at the orphanage.

I thank God that I have a powerful army of prayer warriors standing with me! I am stronger because of each of you. Please take a moment to drop a line, as I look forward to knowing what He is doing in your lives and how I can pray for you! Hugs from Ecuador!

*** "Have faith in God," Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore i tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you ahve received it, and it iwll be yours." Mark 11:22-24 ***

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20, 2010

Greetings from Cuenca, Ecuador!

It feels like all I have been doing is traveling – probably because that is partly true! Since the last time I updated you all, I have spent about 30 hours in buses and vans, and have been in Riobamba, BaƱos, Guayaquil, Loja, Vilcabamba, and Cuenca. To be honest, for about a week, we couldn’t work very much, due to all of the traveling, lack of internet access, holidays and family gatherings. Gene and Jordana had prepared me for this, thought, so that I would not be too disappointed. There was a national holiday last weekend which lasts from Friday through Tuesday. This was a very interesting experience for me as an American. The people all come out to the streets and douse each other with water, powdered dye, foam, flour, water balloons, and eggs! If you are out and about, whether on foot or in a vehicle, you are subject to receive some form of these good-natured assaults.
A few friends and I had a restful time visiting some other cities in the mountains and escaping the extreme heat and humidity of Guayaquil, during this holiday. It never failed, we would be freshly showered and changed, heading out to get some dinner, thinking that things had settled down, and SURPRISE! Someone would sneak up and spray one of us with colored foam! It was amusing to think of what would happen if there were a holiday like this in the US. I think people would get mad and sue each other! Ecuadorians are so easy-going! Gene and Jordana went to the beach with members of her extended family.

During the holiday, one of the friends I was travelling with received news that a missionary family who was home for a visit (they are Ecuadorians, serving in Uzbekistan, in conjuction with OM and C&MA), they were involved in a serious accident, and the husband, wife, and 7 year-old son were killed, leaving a 10 year-old daughter, Alejandra. These events have impacted many as we grapple with the gravity of the situation. Please keep Alejandra and her extended family in your prayers. They are planning to keep her here in Ecuador with her Uncle who has children. Her whole world has been turned upside down, and everything familiar has been taken away. Yet, she has said that she knows her family is with the Lord, and she, too, wants to serve the Lord in missions someday.

On Tuesday night Gene, Jordana, Osito, Nury (Jordana's mom), and our driver, Milton, left around 5 am, Wednesday to visit other members of her family in Loja. It was an interesting visit, as they are devout JW’s, and a mixture of Ecuadorian and English heritage.

I bring my hair-cutting scissors with me everywhere I go, and inevitably, everywhere I go, someone needs a haircut, and word gets around that I am willing and able. I have cut, I think, 13 heads of hair in the three weeks that I have been here, and not just Ecuadorians! A few Americans and a Dutchmen as well, have taken advantage of my services. Apparently, good hair dressers are difficult to find. It is nice to be able to offer some sort of tangible blessing in exchange for the hospitality I have been greeted with.

Yesterday, or Friday, we arrived in Cuenca at last. It feels good to be here because we can finally WORK! In the past, we have had camps here, but have lost some footing in the last few years, because of lack of strong leadership and constant activity. We have several appointments with the people of the local church which has been connected and are working to establish a team that will meet regularly and be self-sustained when we cannot be here. Jordana and I had the privilege of attending a “Last Supper”. The pastor of Capilla Calvaria (Calvary Chapel) and his leaders have decided to do this once or twice a month as an outreach, because it draws people of all kinds of backgrounds and levels of spirituality. We agreed that it is a very effective tool, as the pastor gave a very in-depth explanation of how things would have progressed during Jesus’ day, and a strong evangelistic message. It was very personal and moving as he explained that everything foreshadowed Jesus’ impending death and resurrection. The simple exchange of greetings and food was a symbol of love, honor, forgiveness, and grace. The woman sitting next to Jordana said that this was her first time to pray a prayer of Salvation. Please keep this vibrant church body in your prayers as they seek to impact their city and the areas around them, and as they seek direction and guidance in incorporating Cristo Vive as a larger part of their outreach ministries.

Personally, I have been looking forward to returning to Quito where I can resume some sort of routine and prepare for the American teams to come down, in March, July, and August. As I begin to familiarize myself with the culture, language, and transportation, it is apparent that, although Ecuador is a small country, every city has its own “flavor” and mode of operations…this may prove to be my biggest challenge in moving freely through my tasks. However, I am constantly reminded that my most important job is to stay in close communion with the Lord; so that He can direct my steps and lead me to the people He has chosen for me to encounter. I pray that you all are well and enjoying the peace of God. Until next time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

** Flor **

Let's give glory and thanks to God together! Today was the day we have been waiting for...the encounter which could have gone so many ways.

I have been asking God that this girl who touched my heart a week ago would know His love, and that we could come alongside of her, validating her life, and fighting on her behalf. As I wrote in my former blog, my first impressions of her were pretty intense. I felt as though the Lord must hurt because she is such a forgotten and vulnerable soul. To be honest, I have been nervous this week. As I prayed and tried to prepare, I was confronted with my worries of what might or might not happen, and I had to pray, like the man in Mark 9 who said "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" My ultimate comfort has been that I need only to be obedient in my part, the rest is all up to Him. I kept having to pray against the fear of man. It's funny, I have learned that Satan's wiles are totally powerless against the name of Jesus, and I am afraid of what people might think?!

We prayed as a group before leaving, and upon arrival, I checked out the situation with Flor, as I found out was her name. I also found out she is fourteen years old. I peeked into her room, and she was sitting in a chair eating something. There were some young women washing clothes and cleaning the room. I asked them if it would be ok to spend some time up there with Flor a bit later. We began our program with the other children, separating them into two groups according to age. After I helped to lead the little ones in a song and played a game, Gene and I headed up to Flor's room. Armed with the Word and my guitar, we were as ready as we ever could be. She was watching t.v. when I approached her. I put my hand out to her, and she accepted, making eye contact right away. I introduced myself again and asked if I could sing with her. She SMILED! So, immediately I felt so much more comfortable with the situation. I was dealing with an entirely different person from seven days ago. She glowed with joy when I took out the guitar and began singing. The beautiful and unmistakeable spirit of our Lord shone through her. I sang what few Spanish songs I know, and some favorites in English (yes, the goodnight song was the very first!). I wish you could have seen the excitement and contentment in her face. These are the priceless moments, with God's precious children, that make this journey worth every trial. If only for this one lone girl, Jesus would have died. Gene had been praying while I sang. She seemed not to mind that he was there. I prayed for Spanish. Then asked her directly if she knew Jesus, and that He loves her and died for her and that he wants her to be whole and to live forever in heaven with a new mind and body. She kept nodding, and I think she understood what I was saying because I told her it was her turn to pray. I told her to open her mouth and say, "Jesus, I love you" She opened her mouth wide, but made no sound. We continued like this for a bit, and enjoyed each other's company. She kept reaching out to touch my arms and legs...she was so happy. No one will ever know what has gone on in her Spirit this past week or that bit of time we spent together. But, as Romans 8:16 says, "The Spirit himself tesifies with our spirit, that we are God's children."

I was so encouraged and overwhelmed after this meeting. The Lord has obviously been working in her, and is honoring our obedience in prayer and fasting for her. We need not forget her. I believe there is always more. More freedom, more love, more contentment. This is why we continue to seek God and His presence. Please join with me and continue to lift her up to the care of our Father, who loves her completely.

Thank you again for your partnership. You are all precious to Him and to me.

This weekend there is a holiday and I am traveling with a few friends to the mountains. We will return Monday night. On Wednesday, Gene, Jordana and I will be leaving to go to Loja and Cuenca to work on expanding our teams there. Please pray for safety in our travels. The Lord bless you with His sweet presence.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And So the Battle Begins...

This past Friday I visited an orphanage. This particular one houses a few children with disabilities, which is one reason to visit, to see if we can connect them to our camps, or minister in some way. One boy is mute and deaf. It quickly became apparent that he doesn't get the attention he needs to learn how to communicate. I worked with him for a bit and soon, he was signing the letters of his name, and he seemed pleased to receive the attention. Later on, while helping some of the little ones (if I could bring them home in my suitcase, I would!) to the bathroom, I encountered a girl with pretty severe mental and physical problems. She was hunched on the floor, staring at her hands, and she didn't have a shirt on, only shorts. She is probably 16 or 17. I have been reading this book about prayer and fasting and preparing for "war", and one of the first stories was about a disabled boy who was prayed for and was healed and freed from demon possession, so this has opened my ears and eyes. Little did I know how soon I would need to use it.

I reached out my hand to her as I introduced myself and asked how she was. She didn't respond, but took my hand, and then I said "te amo" (I love you)...she looked straight into my eyes...then I said, "Cristo te amo muchisimo", or Jesus loves you soooo much. She immediately began to screech and scooted away, and seemed as if she wanted to attack me. Hmm, that said a lot. I would have stayed a bit longer to pray for her, but the little girls with me were now thoroughly freaked out. So I went out and just prayed. I returned to the room later, but she had scooted herself to the shower and was mechanically washing her hands over and over again. As we played outside with the other children, every now and then she would scream.

I haven't stopped thinking about her since. I have been praying for wisdom. I have the opportunity to return this Friday, with Gene (my leader), and I am hoping we will be able to do some intercession for her. So be in prayer if you will be around 9 or 10 in the morning (WI time) when we arrive there. I will let you know how it goes.

I have also started to work on writing Jordana's story. I think if I work really hard on it, it could be published within the the year. Hmm, as I write this, I realize that many of you don't know Jordana, or her story, so I will fill you in as time allows.

Hope all is well, and thank you for your prayers.