Monday, March 19, 2012

It happens...

Last Wednesday, Dario and I sat in the church and pastor Freddy began a study about the different types of intimacy necessary in a healthy relationship (emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual). A woman came in, nodded and smiled at us, and sat down next to her husband. I didn’t think anything of it, but Dario said, “Wow…what a miracle, she smiled!! I have NEVER seen her smile!”

After the service, a few of our friends were in an uproar about an accident and almost getting run over by a drunk guy in a big truck right in front of the church. We walked down the street to find the rest of our gang. True to the rumors, a VERY drunk man, who couldn’t even stand up on his own, was leaning against a 3-day old SUV, trying to cover up the damage he had done to the back bumper with his giant truck/trailer. His wife was arguing with the owners of the car, who just so happened to be that couple from church (smiling woman). The couple was trying to reason with the woman that if she just signed something stating that she would pay for the damages to the car (which they figured would be around $200, they wouldn’t call the police and her husband wouldn’t get hauled off to jail (…yeah… things work a little differently down here in the DEEP South!!). The woman was ranting about being well-known and knowing all of us (including me). She just so happened to be the Aunt of two boys who have been helping with Cristo Vive (her son Paul also helped us in December), and she went on about how if they were Christians, they should just forgive and let it go…

Long story shortened, we were able to talk the woman into signing the paper, and in the midst of some calmer moments, the woman who owned the car told her that she understands the difficulty of living with an alcoholic husband, and that she has been trying to get her own struggling husband to church for a very long time – he finally came that night – and look what happened!!! We (Dario and I) tried to encourage both parties, helping to retrieve papers and driving the nerve-wracked SeƱoras to and fro, until things were resolved. And, when it came time to say good-bye, Dario shook hands with the man from our church and said, “Don’t let this be a reason not to come back to church.” To which the man replied, “If anything, this gives me more reason/strength to return.” I don’t think he was talking about the car, but about the support he had received from a bunch of “jovenes” (young people) from the church.

I have been thinking about all of the people involved: Paul, my friend, who had to help carry his drunken father home, and his mom, who must be both ashamed and worried; the couple from the church; wondering if her prayers concerning her husband would be answered. Also, Dario and I why were we there? Are these things simply coincidence?
Well, Sunday came, and as I was walking down the aisle greeting people, I was pleased to see the couple (I still haven’t found out their names!) sitting side by side, with smiles on their faces.

I don’t think accidents just “happen”, but I do think, as they say, that ministry happens, on a daily, even moment by moment basis, in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods. One never knows when an opportunity to share the love of Jesus will present itself.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 ESV

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's about TIME!!!

Hello to all of you who may be reading this blog!!! I have been silent for WAY TOO LONG (I am ashamed as I write for the first time in 9 months!!!). Blogging simply became one of those things that fell lower and lower on the list of priorities. I think about it several times a week and set out to write an entry (there are several unfinished ones saved to my computer) but life seems to butt in and distract me. NO MORE!!! Thanks to a friend and supporter who brought this to my attention in an honest and gentle manner, I finally got the kick in the pants I needed to make this happen on a regular basis. I actually didn't think that many people were reading this, but that is no excuse either. It is good for me, good for those who are supporting me, and MY chosen means of communication. So, I apologize, recognize my error, and plan to be better at updating my people!! Thanks for loving me in spite of my imperfections, and for praying and trusting the Lord, as I serve Him here in Ecuador.

SO, since I last wrote in JUNE '11, a lot has happened! Here is the condensed version. Noele decided to stay in the US and is taking care of a godly friend of the ministry who is quadriplegic. I couldn't be happier for Noele, because, although it was a difficult transition, she is smack dab in the middle of God's plan. Jean (the beautiful woman of God she is caring for) has an amazing faith and a lot of courage. Noele is learning a lot from her and from the new church she attends. She is now applying to several schools (including Moody), so please pray for her as she looks to yet another transition.

I came back to Ecuador by myself September 14th, 2011. Dario and I began feverishly planning the wedding that we had decided would take place just 2 months later. Praise the Lord; only two weeks after my return, he got a full-time job. Although it is not something he wants to do forever (he assembles the electrical parts for stoves and refrigerators), nor is it a big money-maker, it is stable and he has a great rapport with the bosses and his co-workers. He actually had the blessing of leading 4 of his friends there to the Lord!

Obviously, with planning the wedding, October and November flew by. Also, in the midst of that craziness, we managed to plan and hold a wonderful Christmas party for more than 75 orphans with special needs. We found people from a local business who were each willing to sponsor a child, buying them a nice gift and also donating bags of candies, cookies, and 3 cakes. One of the youth groups here supplied music and a couple of dance numbers. We (team Cristo Vive) performed a mimed drama about love, forgiveness, and patience. We held the event at a local military base, free of charge, also providing free busses to bring the kids in and take them back to the orphanages at the end of the day. It was SUPER exhausting, but very rewarding!! I was very proud of my little team.

My parents, Noele, and Laura (Noele's sis) arrived a few short days later, on Tuesday, December 13th. Dario and I and his parents met them in Guayaquil, and we all went to the Civil Registry where we were legally married (I could write an entire book on that process!). We went back to Cuenca the same day, and the ladies from the church threw me a lovely shower. The rest of the week was a blur of activity. My poor parents didn't get much of a vacation here what with all the buying and making of floral and fruit arrangements, cakes, and other decorations, rehearsals, and dinners with family etc. We couldn't have had such a lovely wedding without them!! We did get a chance to visit Mensejeros De La Paz (the orphanage where Flor and the other special needs kids live), which was sooo special for me. My parents, and almost all of Dario's family were able to meet the very reasons why I decided to come to Ecuador in the first place. My Dad (the big softie that he is) cried the whole time we were there and now knows that I am not on 'permanent vacation' here!!

December came and went with the wedding and honeymoon (see pics on FB), and then the holidays. January '12 meant more than just a New Year for me. It meant an entirely new phase of life; it meant new lessons and new reasons to die to my old nature. Marriage truly is a form of discipleship, when two people who love the Lord and each other 'sharpen' each other as 'iron sharpens iron'. We didn't have much time to ease into this being married stuff either. We both feel like we are on the accelerated track of 'Christian Marriage 101'!! A missionary came to stay at our house for a month (oh, yeah, and we are living at the missionary house, so we don't really have our own space yet, but, it has been more of a blessing than a burden!) teaching masters level counseling and biblical history courses. I translated for her class that was specifically for couples interested in learning how to counsel. Dario and I had been feeling a burden for the new, young couples in our church, and had been praying about the possibility of branching out into counseling ourselves (at least for the dating couples!!!) Everything sort of fell into our laps, and the Lord really has been using us. Dario has an amazing gift when it comes to counseling and encouraging people.

February was a month of setting new goals. The team and I are in full swing with the camp here in April (13-15), so we were planning where to hold the camp, how to raise the funds for the camp, inviting, preparing and training the counselors and the campers, transportation, food, the program etc., etc. We are few, but strong, and I believe that the Lord is going to do mighty things in the lives of the campers and counselors, and with Cristo Vive as a ministry here in Cuenca. We are working with 2 new and rather large churches this time around, which is exciting.

On a more personal level, Dario and I have been setting goals around our health (exercising and eating well), our relationship (making sure we have the time together that we need as a couple), our finances (trying to project how to get to a relatively stable place before we start bringing little people into the picture), and, most importantly, our Spiritual lives. We decided that when kids come (at least a year or two down the road!), we want to have the habit of family devotions (aside from personal) already in place, so we are trying to make that happen every evening when Dario returns from work. Over all, we have had fantastic results. We trained for a 5k which I ran on Sunday (I am not sure of my time...somewhere around 23 minutes) and are planning on continuing with a 15k in April or May, and, eventually, a full marathon!! We are planning on doing the "Maker's Diet" which is basically a 40-day cleanse and guide of how to eat in a biblically healthy way. Our devotional times have been great, and have had a dramatic effect on my "need" for just-the-two-of-us time. Our schedules are busier than ever, but we are reaping the rewards of trying our best to be good stewards of the time and resources HE has given to us!

Well, that is all for now...please be praying...God Bless You ALL!!!!