Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where does my help come from?

“He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.” Ps 121:3

Well folks, it is way past time for an update…forgive me for my silence, I shall try to make it up to you. This might take a while, so brace yourselves!

If you read my last blog, my family and I recently said good bye to my Grams. The Lord was faithful to me during this trying time and gave me a beautiful time with family. I had some unbelievable conversations with my aunts and uncles. We spent hours singing old-timey songs that my Grandma had taught them as kids – I never knew my uncles could play the guitar (they said that I had to have inherited it from somewhere)!
When I was a kid, I always thought it would be great to have a really big family…I often said that I would have fourteen kids, just to “beat” Grandma. I have always loved the unique atmosphere of large families. As I’ve gotten older and realize what a huge responsibility it is to raise children, I have changed my mind to thinking that a modest brood of four or five (maybe a couple of adopted orphans) would be more reasonable. The fact that I am a lot older than Grandma was when she started having kids, I am not married, and that our priorities in life are a bit different also changes things! Regardless, the most beautiful thing about my Grandma’s large family, is the immense admiration that they have for her. She was one blessed woman, surrounded by those that she loved as she stepped into eternity.

As for me…it has been an interesting week:

I arrived in Quito on Sunday night, exhausted, but welcomed with warm arms by my Kentucky team. It was so comfortingly familiar to reminisce about college days and just be able to speak English with them. They were also very encouraging and willing to tackle the challenges before them with gusto. I stayed behind in order to get some rest on Monday as they went to Hope Foundation, which is an institution for children with special needs. Tuesday morning, we ministered at a school for children with disabilities. I recognized one of the children who had attended our camp in 2006, the first time I was here. The school was beautiful; so much of the time we encounter less than desirable facilities for these kids. In the evening, we met with a group of 20-somethings at English Fellowship church. There were exchange students from the states and people from other nationalities. We performed a skit and shared the ministry with them. At the end of the time, there was a girl from the states whose Grandma just passed away. As I listened to her share and felt her pain, I knew the Lord put us there at the same time for a reason. The Lord uses everything to teach us and to reach out to others. We talked for a while and agreed to pray for each other during the process of grieving. The next morning, Wednesday, we went to minister to women in a prison. There is a ministry here called Inca Link that has been teaching the Word in this prison for about 9 years. We went into it unsure of what to expect, and left feeling blessed to have been able to worship the Lord with our sisters there, and to hear the Gospel being presented with conviction. Unfortunately, that morning I woke up with a pretty rotten case of diarrhea, so when the group left to go to Pan de Vida to feed the poor and homeless and share the gospel with them, I stayed behind, which was a good idea, since I vomited a few times. That same evening, the group from Wisconsin arrived…greeted by a rather pale leader. The next day, Thursday, I was able to get a bit more rest, as we spent most of our time training the Americans for camp. I expected to be fully restored to health for camp, but, as it turns out, I still haven’t quite conquered whatever bug is living in my stomach.

We spent Friday as tourists, (Jeff definitely ate an entire “Qui” or guinea pig…head included!) only to be thrust into a flurry of preparations and activity that would not cease until the campers and counselors left Sunday evening.
Camp was wonderful, but challenging, as usual. We were all stretched to our maximum capacity in more ways than one. Since the team here is relatively new and this was their first camp, there were many unknowns and much work to be done, especially for my Ecuadorian friends. The facilities we used (Casa Blanca) were beautiful, but definitely too small for forty-some people we were housing. This brought out the best and worst in all of us, for true character shines through when one is tired, cramped, and has to wait in line for a shower!

“But the children, I love the children...they are my heart!!!”
I am constantly surprised by the fact that, amidst all of that preparation and stress, the peace and joy of the Lord somehow comes to rest on the camp. We, the friends, are always so blessed by the love and smiles the campers are so willing to give away. I find myself envying the parents that are blessed with such unique little packages of joy.

Camp is not always a beautiful experience for everyone. One of our boys has extreme Autism. He was rude, bossy, foul-mouthed, and difficult to manage. We assigned two guys (Jeff and Patricio) to watch over him. They gave him every ounce of love and energy they had, but, in the end, because he refused to be engaged in any of the camp activities, his parents came to take him home. As they carried him, kicking and screaming, to their car, I knew he had experienced real love from his counselors. I remembered a similar experience in the States this last summer. I felt helpless and defeated, because a child who desperately needed the Truth of the Gospel and the transforming love of the Holy Spirit, was instead removed from the situation. As I observed the compassion and love of the counselors who were moved to tears, I knew it was a reflection of the Father’s heart. I thanked them for allowing God to channel His sorrow through them, and asked them to use this deep emotion to draw near to Him and intercede for this child. God really does work all things out for the good of those that love Him!

Monday, we were able to spend a few hours at a daycare center which is built in the middle of a garbage dump. Extreme Response, is a ministry that began in the largest dump in Quito. They provide care for the children whose parents work in the dump, separating out the recyclable material, medical attention, housing construction, education, and Bible studies. Theirs is a very large task, as there is a wide array of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs represented by this “community”. I have connected with many organizations here in Ecuador, but this one struck me as especially important. I told the director that he needs to contact Habitat for Humanity, because at the rate they are going they will only be building one house per year, and there are some three hundred families.

In the midst of our work, whenever we had free time, our new friend, Gustavo, the director of Inca Link Ecuador, took us to all the unique and historical spots Quito is known for. He and Aaron, a missionary from Peru, provided us with some much appreciated laughter and camaraderie, not to mention they took really good care of us. They were such a blessing to us during our camp cycle. Gracias chicos!

Today is Tuesday, and my little team of Wisconsinites are in Guayaquil, resting up and preparing for tomorrow. We are planning on going to the orphanage where Flor lives. Thursday, we will head out to the beach and prepare for the camp, which will begin on Friday and end on Sunday. Please Pray: For all the kids coming to camp, all of whom are new! For me, as I am not the healthiest right now, both emotionally and physically. My goal is to make it through the camp, send my team off, and then rest and process everything that has been going on. I am definitely leaning on the Lord to get through these days, as I feel pretty zapped.

Be blessed as you worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Tribute

** Thank you all for your prayers. Though this has been an extremely difficult time, the Lord has answered all of my prayers, and I am blessed to be able to share this time with my family. I made it to Grandma's hospital room on Monday at noon, was able to hear her tell me that she loved me, kiss her, hold her hand, pray for her, and to cry. I spent her last night with her, making sure she was comfortable, and was there with her when she breathed her last at around 10 Tuesday morning. God has given my family and I opportunities to minister to the rest of the family, and I have been elected to write out the memories they want to share at the funeral. Thus the tribute. We are a large family: 13 chidren, 41 grandchildren, 65 great-grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren, not to mention all the in-laws and friends. We expect at least 500 people at the service. She was a special lady. **

A Tribute to Marjory Pearl Paullin 10/11/1920-03/16/2010:

As I reflect on my memories from the past 28 years connected with Grandma, they intermingle with images of her life, as she described it, as well as with the stories of other family members. I can picture her as a girl, struggling to raise her brothers and sisters after her parents’ untimely death. My mind’s eye sees her as a young bride, the shy smile of hope and new beginnings on her pale lips. She was a slight woman, small in stature, but great with strength, determination, and generosity. I can see her, the young mother of 13 children, pitching baseballs in a flower-print housedress on a warm summer day, kneading bread-dough until her arms ache in the dead-cold of winter, pinning breezy bedsheets to dry on the line, her hands cracked and bleeding, and plucking out those old-time songs of joy and pain on a beat-up guitar. I can see her on those “fried chicken Sundays” creating savory meals out of what little was available. These were the days when everyone forgot their cares and laughed around the long table of faces, contentedly spooning up Mom’s creamy mashed potatoes and white gravy. I can see the humble smile as she looks on her children with love and concern, trying not to focus on what they didn’t have. I can see her brow furrowed into concentration as she patches a worn-out garment, or dripping with sweat as she lugs ten gallons of water from the spring to the stove, for washing or cooking – her waistline growing with the telltale bulge of motherhood. I can even imagine the look reproof as she chased one of her sons with the broom, scolding him for picking on his defenseless little sister.

I remember her as my vivacious and tender Grams, who always came bearing gifts, whether pears or bubble gum, she was never empty-handed. She cared for us kids when mom and dad had to work, and always took the time to read to us, make popcorn balls, take us to the lake, (though she would never go in further than her ankles because she never learned to swim!), or simply snuggle on the couch while watching Shirley Temple movies. She always made us feel loved and special. Being her granddaughter has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and she will go with me as I walk through life, because of what she has taught me and who she has helped me to become.

We all recognize that she faced insurmountable obstacles, yet, on the verge of brokenness, she smiled, hummed, and prayed her way through life’s challenges. Her legacy of love and service to others has been the fingerprint which sank deep into my heart, and the hearts of all of her family. We are kinder, gentler, more generous human beings because of her. We love each other, not because it is always easy, or because we are exactly the same, but because she taught us that everyone, no matter how hateful they may be, deserves love. We are able to forgive the faults of those close to us, not because it comes easily, but because she had immense grace to forgive, and she loved, even when she was not being loved in return. We are strong (or is it stubborn?), for in her example, we were all shown what one person is capable of overcoming, no matter the storm that is raging within the heart.

Marjory Pearl Hall Paullin did not spend her life acquiring riches or fame, however, she was one of the wealthiest people I know. She was happy, for her priorities were in the correct order: first, her faith, her family, second; all the rest was just details. Let her life be a lesson to us all. We get only one chance. She would want us to cherish every moment and make the most of our difficult situations, spending time learning to love those around us. One day, our family and friends will have to say good-bye. How will will you be remembered?

A Poem I wrote a few years ago:

Kristin Gillingham 2007

I called her
to say – “I’m sorry
you’re sick.”

Breathing heavy,
like after-battle fatigue
with wheezy throat gurgles
choking time from us,
her love-sweet voice
is home to me.
It is Lawrence Welk’s dancing bubbles,
neatly peeled apples,
and rummy 500.

“I’m canning tomatoes so, if they put me in the hospital Monday –
they won’t spoil.”

She chuckles like a child
caught in the corner with a cookie
before dinner.
I scold her,
reversing three generation roles,
and laugh nervously at this
cruel joke.

My mind sees
her hands
spotted red with traces of mutilated tomato.
I remember them, know them,
soft and smooth
like favorite bedsheets worn
till the light shines through.

Now they are swollen –
aching arthritic knuckles,
skin stretched with misplaced water –
translucent like the rubber pinkness
of tight-mouthed clam tongues.

“I miss you”
she said, and,
“I need you to cut my toenails.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Dear Friends,

I ask that you join me on your knees. My Grandma (her name is Marjory, though I affectionately refer to her as Meemaw) is in the hospital, and according to the doctors, is near death. They have taken her off of all of her medication except for morphine to keep her comfortable and they are weaning her off the oxygen. I have decided to fly there tonight. I will be there for six days, returning on Sunday the 21st, Lord willing. My family is planning on holding services for her on Saturday the 20th, should she pass.

Obviously, this complicates things with my job, but we have everything pretty much in order for our teams to come down. I will be missing one day of ministry with them, but Gene and Jordana have given me their blessing, and send me off with prayers. I have been surrounded by wonderful people here who have helped me to get where I needed to go, whether it be to taxis, buses, or planes; they are my angels, and will be blessed for their generosity and kindness.

The most complicated part of this ordeal is that Grams is a Jehovah’s Witness. For years I have begged the Lord for her soul. Up to this point, as far as I know, she has not confessed Jesus as her Savior. There are several other members of my extended family who are practice this faith as well, and the rest of them don’t really have a relationship with the Lord. So, here is an opportunity to bring light into a dark place, replace death with life, and hopefully see some eternal change in my family. I know that this has nothing to do with me. I can do nothing but pray and be obedient to the Lord. However, she and I do have an especially close relationship, and it will be good for both of us to see each other. I have peace about going, though it is going to be very difficult to say goodbye, knowing that she won’t be there when I need her soft embrace. She is the dearest woman alive, and really, one of the most godly that I know. Please pray for the Truth to prevail and replace the lies, and for her to be at rest with our Savior, so that we may be reunited for eternity. Thank you so much.
“choose this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Friday, March 12, 2010


Greetings everyone!
This is quite a bit different from my usual posts, and I will try to update you more later this weekend.

I have been alerted to some important issues, and I know many of you are praying for me and for the ministry here in Ecuador. We are going to hold a camp on the beach the first week of April. There have been recent reports that the waves are very high (between 3 and 4 meters, which is about 10-11 feet, I think) PLEASE pray that these will cease and there will be no danger when we take our children to camp.

We also need to be united in prayer for Morrocco. Please read the following newsletter from a pastor there:

Wald Rabat Update

March 11, 2010



Greetings from Morocco:

Village of Hope

It has been an intensive few days and news of what happened at the Village of Hope is spreading through Morocco and through the world.

On Monday night, when I sent out the news about the government takeover of VOH, I was stunned and the emotional weight of what happened intensified over the next day.

The number of Christians deported from Morocco grew and many foreign Christians, including myself, wondered where this was going to stop.

On Tuesday I stepped out of the house, expecting Moroccans to be outraged and embarrassed by the actions of their government. Instead, I discovered that on the radio programs, the Moroccans calling in were overwhelmingly in support of this action.

As I was thinking of this, my mind went back to April 2008 when the American authorities raided a Fundamentalist, Polygamist Mormon community on the border of Arizona and Utah. There had been a report that a 16 year old girl had been sexually molested. In this community it was the practice for 13 year old girls to be married to one of the men in the community. When a man was excommunicated, his wives where shared with the other men in the community.

The authorities removed 487 children from the community. (A month later, the courts ordered the return of the children.) In the press the question was raised if it was right to take the children away and I remember thinking that it was better for the children to be taken away, despite the separation from their parents, than to continue to be brought up in such a destructive community.

I realized that Moroccans think of me, a Christian, in the way I think of this Fundamentalist, Polygamist community. And that conclusion has been devastating. As I walk on the streets and my neighbors smile at me and the people I know in the shops smile at me, I realize that they think that it is better to take the children at the Village of Hope away from their parents than to allow them to continue to be influenced by these Christian parents.

If someone asks me what Morocco things about Christians, this is what I will tell them.

proselytismThe papers accuse the Christians at Village of Hope of proselytism.

When my daughters were young, if I had discovered someone was teaching them after school about Hinduism, Islam or any other philosophy, I would have been outraged. So the statement that these young children were being proselytized has some truth to it - except that these children had no other parents.

Remember the circumstances. Ain Leuh is in an area known for prostitution in Morocco. When young women get pregnant, they often come to this area to have their baby and then are forced by their family to leave the baby behind. In an honor/shame culture, a woman can get married if blood can be produced on the wedding sheet, even if everyone knows she was not a virgin. But if she has a baby, there is no way she can get married.

So these babies are abandoned.

In 1999 Christians asked the governor for permission to restart an orphanage that had closed a few years earlier (because the two women running the orphanage were advanced in years and then the healthier of the two died) and to begin taking in these abandoned babies. They did this overtly as Christians. Their Christian faith was never hidden.

The governor gave them permission and the process of building homes and kitchen and dining hall began. And they began taking in children.

Over the years, there have been multiple inspections of VOH by different Moroccan agencies. Social services, education, etc. In every case the inspectors left impressed with the quality of care. Each time VOH passed with flying colors.

All through the years it was clear that these were Christians who were raising these children.

This was not an institutional orphanage. This was a family-based children's home. Each set of parents committed to taking in a maximum of eight children and staying until the last child turned eighteen. The goal was to provide a safe, secure, loving home for these children.

We wanted the children to grow up to be patriotic Moroccans who loved God, their king and their country.

The children received instruction in Islam because it is impossible to be Moroccan without knowing the Koran. VOH complied with the law about Islamic instruction.

But the children also followed the model of their parents. This is natural.

So were the children proselytized? If you look at the circumstances, they were rescued when they were abandoned, loved and cared for.

I say to the Moroccans who are now so keen on removing these children from the influence of their Christian parents, "Where were you when these children were abandoned?" "Why did you give permission for Christians to raise these abandoned children in the first place?”

For ten years the parents and directors of the Village of Hope have been open and transparent. For ten years they have received positive reports from the inspections that were made.

Unlike in the United States of America, there is no court to go to. There is no due process. The authorities came in, claiming that this was routine questioning and then on Monday announced that the parents and staff had to pack and leave. Seven hours after this was announced the bus pulled away with the tears and cries of the children in the ears of the parents and staff.

Personal possessions, wedding albums and the like, were left behind because the parents were more concerned with their children they had to say goodbye to than their possessions.

The government has confiscated the bank accounts, the land that VOH purchased, the house and other buildings VOH built, the cars and other vehicles.

But all of that would be gladly given up if it meant the parents could be reunited with their children.

This was a heartless decision on the part of the Moroccan authorities.

If anyone tells you the parents were proselytizing, remind them of the facts. Ask why Moroccans were uncaring of the children when they were abandoned and now seem to care so much about them.

This Sunday we will have a service to grieve for this tragedy and ask God to heal the hurt we have experienced and pray for those most affected, the children and parents and other staff.

There is intense diplomatic pressure being applied to the government of Morocco. I pray this will intensify. The media is catching on to the story. Use your contacts to expand awareness of what is happening.

The issue is broader than just Christians. The government has closed one of the magazines that was critical of the government. The government has taken actions against Shiites and homosexuals. There is a definitive policy shift on the part of the government and the society has lost the freedom and liberty it was experiencing.

If journalists want someone to interview, feel free to direct them to me.

I know you are praying. Please continue to pray. All of us in this country need your prayers.

God be with you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The life of a missionary...

Wow, what a whirlwind! This past week and a half has been somewhat of a blur of activity and preparation. The Lord has sustained me, sometimes beyond the natural, in order to accomplish the tasks before me!

As I said in my last post, I have been trying to arrange all the daily details of the teams coming down from the States. This means I have been making phone calls, sending emails, writing itineraries, and, in short, spending a lot of time on the computer. Not the adventurous life we often associate with the title of: “missionary”, but for now, this is a necessary part of my job. Gene (my “boss”) said that he is pleased with my progress in assuming my role of leadership here.

Last Monday we had a unique meeting, which highlighted how difficult life can be in South America for people and families who have special needs. Jordana connected with a woman named Lourdes and her sister-in-law, Ana Francisca who is about 40 years old. Ana Francisca is the youngest of 10, all of whom have prestigious careers, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen. Ana Francisca herself studied English in the states when she was in her twenties. They are a relatively successful and wealthy family. Mom and Dad are 80 and 90 years old, respectively. The reason for this meeting was to discuss ideas about what to do about Ana Fransica. She has an inoperable tumor growing in her brain, in a place where treatment is tricky. It affects both her emotions and mental function. When I first met her, she carried on normal conversations in English, though she is a bit frail and unsteady. However, the more time spent with her and her family, we found that her condition affects them all profoundly. Not to go into too much detail for her sake, she deals with depression, fatigue, bi-polar tendencies, irrational acts of violence toward her family, decisions which endanger herself and others, and is often manipulative of her family. She spends most of her days at home in her room, trying on her clothes and putting them away.
The family knows that they have reached a point where they can no longer care for her, keep her safe, and give her a purpose in life. Here is the problem. In the states, there are thousands of options, including group homes, hospitals, in-home nursing, and other institutions; not to mention work programs designed to give people with special needs a sense of accomplishment. Here in Ecuador, and I imagine for most of South America and the rest of the third-world nations, there is next to nothing! There are no accessiblity laws or Equal Rights acts, no federal funded programs, littl to no special education. This family has an enormous task ahead of them.
As we encouraged them to start their own group home, or look at sending Ana Francisca to the states, we were all a bit overwhelmed at the number of steps this will involve. We encouraged them to stay united as a family, shared the love of God with them, and offered to be of as much assistance as possible. I left that meeting feeling the heaviness of their burden, but also the hope, that these are the types of stories which end up impacting change in entire nations. I hope to see great amounts of change in the way people with disabilities are viewed in this country.

I have been sweating in Guayaquil since Sunday. Day of Discipleship was a lot of fun, because we were able to reconnect with some of our ‘campers’ outside of the camp setting. These faces will hopefully become familiar to you, as they sure are beautiful to me, and I look forward to seeing them every chance I get. We had quite a large group assembled, and an American born missionary encouraged the parents with the Word, while we carted all of the volunteers and kids to a park area for their activities. We also celebrated Lissete’s 14th birthday…she looked like a princess in her white party dress!

It is always fun for me to visit all of my friends in Guayaquil. This week, I have a few meetings and arrangements to make for the team coming from WI. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will return to the orphanage where Flor, Jose, and Julian live. We are making arrangements for them to attend the camp in April. I am very excited about this!

Please keep us in your prayers, especially Jordana, who has a cold this week. She needs rest, but has so many appointments throughout the week, that she seldom has a day to rest. On Saturday I will travel to Cuenca to hold a meeting with those interested in becoming part of the core team there. As of yet, I have no leaders, which means I will be spending the majority of my time there after the camps in March and April. Thank you all, once again, for your support and prayers.