Saturday, June 6, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
These past few days have been really challenging, a little stressful, and very full. We have been planning a workshop for the leaders of the Sunday School, all in Spanish, and we have been writing curriculum for the Sunday School. On Saturday we put on the workshop after weeks of planning and practicing, thanks to God's goodness and provision, we were able to pull of a really incredible workshop and mock Sunday School. I cannot believe that it is over, but I am thankful that it all came together. I had to teach the lesson for the Sunday School and I was so nervous that I would forget my Spanish or that I would not make any sense, but God gave me the energy and the words to speak. God is Good.
I am about to be late for a meeting, but I just wanted to write a quick hello and a little life update, even if it is short. This week please pray for productivity and patience. Thank You!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The last nine days here in Ecuador have been somewhat of a surreal experience. We left Cuenca on Saturday morning at 5 am for our 8 hour bus ride into the jungle. As we drove through the mountains and felt the air gradually get warmer and warmer, I sat in awe at the majesty of the creation we were driving through. Although Ecuador is a small country in comparison, it is diverse and gorgeous. As we were in the Jungle for the first few days, I saw so many incredible sights and expereinced so many things that I couldnt even have imagined before. On the first day we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. It was really hot out and on top of that, the humidity in the jungle blows the humidity in Indiana out of the water, if you can imagine that! When it started to get dark we had a great time of relaxing, talking, playing cards, and laying in the hammock on our back porch. It was so great to have a little time to relax and get to know the other students more. The next morning we woke up early to go on a hike through the amazon rain forest. I still cant believe it as I write it here, we literally were in the amazon rain forest discovering more of God's beauty in person. As we were hiking we saw more varieties of vegetation than I have ever seen in my life, I expereinced more sweat dripping off of my body then I have ever felt in my life, and when we got back and jumped in the pool, I experienced on of the most refreshing moments of my life. It was incredible! At one point on the hike they had a rope swing that we could swing over a bunch of trees and see really far. It was a little scary to know that I was holding on for my life, but it was beautiful. That afternoon we got to go to a Butterfly nursery where they had millions of butterflys everywhere with colors that I didnt even know existed in nature. Then, later when we got back to the hotel, a few of us decided to go exploring on some of the other small islands that surrounded our hotel. We swam across a small part of the river and we were exploring when we found a patch of coconut trees, monkeys swinging from the trees, and a freshly dead horse. It was really funny because as we were standing there trying to decide whether it was a horse of a cow, it started to deflate (we are guessing built up gas started to release?) and it smelled like death. Literally, we couldnt handle the smell so we started to run away and swim back and in the process we lost our coconuts. It was a really funny situation, but interesting none the less.
The next day was my favorite day of the whole trip. We started off at an animal reserve where we got to see a ton of indigenous animals in their natural habitat including, monkeys, leopards, toucans, parrots, anacondas, turtles and some other animals that I dont know the names of. Some of the animals were beautiful and nothing like I had imagined them. After a few hours of hiking and discovering animals, we went really far up the river so that we could take the current back. We then got out of our boat and sat in tubes like a lazy river and rode the river for hours. It was so fun, all of us together were enjoying the rain forest from a slow ride down the river in a tube. Also, half way through the ride we found another rope swing that went into the river, so we all stopped and got out and were swinging into the river. It was so great, then we asked the guide if we could climb the big tree and jump in from there and he didnt seem to care, so some of us climbed this huge tree and jumped in from there. It was really scary, but so exhilarating. Then we finished off the day going to see some indigenous people where we got our faces painted, we got to shoot blow guns (I hit the target on the first try, who knew?), and we also got to see them make some of their handicrafts. Then we got back, took showers and had a Euchre tournament. It was a beautiful day!
The final day we had to get up early and catch a bus to Quito where we met up with Maria DeLourdes and prepared to go to the Galapagos. We had the afternoon in Quito where we got some Pizza Hut, this seems to be the norm when we are all together, and spent time doing a Bible Study and Worship. It was a great relaxing day before we had to do some more traveling. The next morning we woke up at 4 am to grab some breakfast and head to the airport. I was so stinking excited to get to the galapagos, that the four hour plane ride felt like forever. But, as we were sitting on the plane and looked out and saw islands, we all freaked out! We were in the stinking Galapagos, which we so lovingly call the Galaps. When we finally got all of our stuff and made it to our hotel, we changed quickly and then went to the Charles Darwin institute. There we got to see Lonely George (I'll be honest, not as exciting as everyone says) and other large tortoises. They were enormous and really interesting, the way that they moved everyrthing was so cool. After we did some of that tourist stuff we finally got our first taste of the Ocean. Although saltier than I remember, it felt so great! We had some time to chill in the water, and the headed back to the hotel to change and find a place for dinner. We ended up going to this place that kind of reminded me of a fair, they just had alot of booths where you could get fresh pretty much anything that you wanted. I ended up getting a mango smoothie and chicken on a stick. A great way to end our first day in the Galaps.
The next day we spent on a boat touring some of the islands, snorkling, and swimming with the sea lions. While we were touring we saw some really interesting animals, the blue footed boobie, penguins, sea lions (which in spanish is actually aquatic wolves), and other interesting looking birds. As we were snorkling we got to see some really beautiful fish, coral, and (prepare yourself for this) Sharks! Literally, swimming beneath us as we were snorkling we saw a HUGE shark. It was probably 8 or 9 feet in length. I was so scared, but it was just so unbelievable. Then as we were swimming with the sea lions they would come over and get really close. Then if you would do a flip or something in the water, they would play with you and imitate you as well. It was so incredible! I still cant get over it. In fact the rest of the time in Galapagos was spent on boats, snorkling and swimming in the clear water. For those of you that know me, life doesnt get much better than that. As we were heading back on the last day out there, we started to see dolphins. There were hundreds surrounding us jumping and flipping and showing us how great they are! It was surreal standing there on the boat and looking out as the sun was setting seeing these dolphins surround us. I was in awe.
The ride back was a bit rough, but we got some McDonalds while we were in Gualaquil, so that made it a little better! This week we have alot of work to catch up on to get everything done, but the break was incredible. I would love to write more about it, but for now I am out of time. Thanks for all of your prayers and support. You are blessings.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I celebrated by 21st birthday this week, that was quite an experience here in Ecuador with my host family and friends. My host brother David turnend 18 the day before I turned 21, so on Saturday we threw one huge party with all of my friends and his. It was a huge shin dig, and so much fun. David and I wore funny hats, we ate more food than you can even imagine, and had one delicious home made cake! I am going to try and get pictures up soon, but just to give you a little idea, my family bought over 100 balloons, 20 packages of streamers, confetti up to wazoo, and lei's for ever guest. They didnt hold back, that is for sure! It was such a fun experience to have had while being here in Ecuador. We finished off the weekend by cleaning the house, listeninng to one of the most powerful thunderstorms I have heard in a long time, and watching the Ecuadorian soccer team play on every tv station!
This week Grant and I have been working on planning a Mock Sunday School for the leaders of the Sunday School here so that they can see an example of what a well planned Sunday School looks like. It is really exciting to have ideas and then be able to put them into action for these leaders. The guy in charge of the Sunday School, Marcelo, is really excited about having some leader traininng. He sees alot of potential for his leaders, but they have never had any training and they are in need of some new ideas. We are praying that through this we will be able to give them all a clearer vision for Sunday School and also give them more motivation to make the Sunday School as good as it can be.
Yesterday was a fun day for everyone here in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian soccer team was playing Paraguay in the afternoon, and it was a huge game! Apparently this was one of the last games for Ecuador to be able to make it to the finals. Lets be honest, Im not really sure what it was all about, but there was alot of hoopla around here. So in the morning Grant and I went to the central to buy our latin skin, as my brother loves to call it. We bought jerseys, fake of course, and after lunch we all went to Grant's house along with about ten other people to watch the game. It was so exciting, and for most of the game Ecuador was winning so everyone was stoked! Then at the last minute, literally the last minute of play, Paraguay got in a goal to tie the score and leaving everyone less excited. I guess soccer games and jerseys and screaming at the tiny television is something everyone who comes to Ecuador needs to experience! I know I wont regret it!
On Saturday morning at 5a.m. (I dont know what they are thinking) we are taking a 9 hour bus ride into the jungle for the first part of our Spring Break. Then on Tuesday we are taking the bus to Quito where we will grab a flight to the Galapagos! WAHOO! We are all so excited and ready for a break. As we are traveling and enjoying our break, please pray for...
1. Safety, please pray that we will all be safe and conscious of all of our decisions in the different locations
2. Our eyes to be opened, I am so excited to see parts of God's creation that I have never experienced before. Pray that we will not take it for granted and that we will recognize how Great God is in the midst of our awe.
3. Good spirits, please pray that as we are all traveling as one large group for nine days that we will all get along well and that we will have good attitudes the whole time.
and 4. please pray that this break will truly be a break for us. Pray that we will not worry or focus on the work that needs to get done here, but that we will enjoy our break and come back mentally rested.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I started this post on Wednesday thinking everything was going great and not really missing home that much. Then late on Wednesday night I recieved some really bad news. I got an email from my mom telling me that she had something to tell me that was really important and that I needed to call her right away. When I called home, I found out that my grandpa had died earlier that morning. While this would be sad new to deal with anyway, I instantly felt really alone and felt like I needed to be with my family. Being so far away is really hard right now, trying to deal with the death of a family member as well as just wanting to be with my family and give them all hugs. There is evidence that my grandfather believed in Christ as a child, but he definately did not live his life as a follower of Christ. It has brought up a large number of questions for me to try and think through. If someone truly believes in God as a Child and accepts Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior but then doesnt live their life that way, are they still going to go to heaven? Can someone truly believe and know the truth and not live it out? What does Hell look like if my grandfather, this man that I love, is there and suffering? What does this mean for the rest of my family that doesnt believe? What can I do to change the future for my family that doesnt believe? How do you grieve with your family when they are 5000 miles away? Trying to sort through alot of these thoughts has been really challenging, but I continually am seeking truth and encouragement from our God through His Word.
As we enter this weekend, and my family prepares for a funeral and I prepare to grieve from a distance, please pray.
1. please pray that we can all be witnesses of the Gospel to our family members that are living lives in the dark.
2. please pray that God will give us all His peace and understanding in this difficult situation.
3. please pray that I will be able to be vulnerable and open to my new friends and family here. It is not easy for me to be open with people, but I know that going through difficult situations together can help strengthen relationships and can also help my express my feelings.
and 4. please pray that we will seek refuge and support from God first. Pray that in spite of the distance my family can grow together through this tragedy.
"The Lord gives strength to his people; The Lord blesses his people with peace." -Psalm 29:11
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday and Thursday flew by for me. After planning and classes, I have been going home at night beat, and not really up for too much, but on Wednesday night I got to spend some quality tome with my family. I really enjoy spending time with them and learning more about them. Thursday we were in meetings and classes all day. We presented a proposal for the discipleship ministry in the morning, had a devotional with the Bio students, had Spanish class after lunch, and in the evening we taught the missions team a class about strategies for ministry. It was somewhat of an overwhelming day but in the end I felt really blessed that God was working through us and that we were able to get it all done!
On Friday I was able to spend some time with Ellie and Grant when we werent doing any homework! It was wonderful. At around 5 we walked to the Supermarket to get ingredients to make all kinds of fun breads, mostly because we went to the fruit market for our culture class and got a bunch of different fruits. We then walked back to Ellie's house and spent the rest of the night baking, talking to her family, and watching part of Australia. It was really nice to spend time with friends and not be doing work! Today was really great too, I am thankful for this time of rest, and ready to begin my day tomorrow at the Church!
As I enter into this week, please pray for...
1. rest, that we will find time to rest in the midst of our crazy schedule
2. wisdom, as we are praying for and working with the ministries at the church, please pray that we will be wise in our decisions and our planning
3. encouragement, as we are hitting the half way mark, please pray that we will be encouraging to each other and find encouragement from God in the midst of our experience.
and 4. please pray that we will be seeking God daily, and give ourselves to sharing His love to others
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Wow. It has been a while since I have had time to sit and write. This week was the first week of our new schedule and I do not think we were anticipating such a drastic change in time management. On Wednesday, Grant and I spent all of our time outside of class and meetings at each others houses planning for the next day’s events. We spent almost 8 hours working on a Sunday School planning and goals sheet, planning a 2 hour class that we taught to the missions ministry, and planning a Bible Study for the other students. While we both went to bed really tired that night, I felt like we had accomplished so much and were making a lot of progress. Then Thursday happened, I didn’t know if it would ever end, but it did and it ended beautifully. We didn’t end up teaching the Bible Study because the devotional went over 40 minutes and we didn’t have enough time. Then we had our first Spanish test, yikes! It was actually a placement test to see what we all actually knew, but it was really difficult. Then we had time to grab some dinner and head back to the Church for our first class. Grant and I taught a class to the missions ministry about goals, objectives and strategies for starting home churches. I definitely felt inadequate to be teaching the class, not to mention I thought I was going to pee my pants I was so nervous, but they were so excited to have us. The class went way better than we were expecting, we ended up having a translator with us for the difficult ministry stuff, and we did a workshop type class where we were able to help them actually write goals and objectives for their ministry. It was incredible, and definitely from the hand of God. We couldn’t have imagined that they would be so receptive and that God would work through us so much. I feel blessed to have had it go so smoothly, and I am excited about next week! After the class our translator, Juan Diego, who is a good friend of our sisters wanted to take us out for coffee. So, Grant and I went with Juan Diego into the downtown to this really cute little restaurant for coffee, sandwiches and really great conversations! This was the first time that we hung out with an “Ecuadorian” friend without our sisters, and it was really liberating. We are making friends! Ha, I feel like I am in second grade, but as we were sitting there enjoying out time, we really felt like we were making progress and not just tag alongs!
On Friday we were supposed to have 5 hours worth of meeting, but because of some scheduling conflicts and other engagements, we only sat in a meeting for a half hour! It was really nice to be able to have a little free time to get some errands done and also just sit and talk with Maria Delordes. Maria is one of my favorite people here; she works for
Yesterday was one of the most incredible days so far, we went to El Cajas, which is a national park here that consists of mountains, lakes/lagoons, wild animals, and waterfalls. I was blown away at the beauty and majesty of God as we were walking through His beautiful creation witnessing what He has done. It is times like these that I am stunned that people can see the great creation and not recognize that there is one great God that made it. After 6 hours of hiking, grilling out, and walking though lots of mud, we went back to Maria’s house for pizza and worship. I cant imagine a more perfect day. Well, maybe I would take away the sunburn on my face, and the skin that is peeling off of my toes, but other than that, it was amazing!
Today was somewhat relaxing with Church, a trip to the ‘campo’ with my family and some free time to catch up on work. I am looking forward to this week, but I know that it is going to be really busy. We have a lot of work to get done and seemingly not a lot of time. As we enter this week, please pray for…
1. Time Management, I know I say this a lot, but it continues to be challenging. Also, for those of you that don’t know, I have a hard time saying “no” so that doesn’t help my problem.
2. God’s truth and love to be evident in everything that I do, it is so important that I keep the goal in mind and know that He is the reason that I am here and He is who I want to show everyone else here.
3. Rest, since Wednesday night I haven’t seen more than 6 hours of sleep a night, and while I sometimes can do that in the States, here everything is more draining. I also have a pretty impressive sunburn, so that doesn’t help with the whole rest/sleep thing.
And 4. please pray for all of the relationships that are forming here, with the Ecuadorians, with my family and with the other students; and also those at home, with friends and family. Please pray that they will be protected and strengthened during this challenging and exciting time.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Yesterday, in the morning, we also had a meeting with our supervisor Gustavo Leon. That part was actually a little intimidating and overwhelming. Last week Grant and I choose to invest time into two ministries so that we could be effective in both of those areas, instead of trying to do a little for many ministries. But, during the meeting today we found out that there are already a number of different times already scheduled for us to teach or lead another ministry. In fact, this Thursday we are supposed to teach a 2 hour class for the Missions Ministry that we just found out about yesterday. In English that would be challenging and overwhelming for this short amount of time, but to try and do it in Spanish seems impossible. Grant and I do not even know very much about the Missions Ministry, the only thing that we really know is that it is more like a Church planting group. They have the calling to go around to the Church plants and encourage them and help them out with any needs that they have. As Grant and I pray about this and try to prep for the class, please pray that we will be effective and that we will listen to God during this time. Neither Grant nor I feel gifted in the area of teaching so it is definitly going to be a challenge. I think that this first week we may try and learn about their ministry and get a grip on that and potentially try to do a little workshop to help them set a mission and vision for their whole ministry. They are a new ministry and do not have alot of direction.
This week actually really jam packed with planning 'stuff.' Our schedule changed dramatically this month, we went from having 20 hours of Spanish class a week, to only having 6 hours. We went from observing six or seven ministies a week to only focusing on 2 or 3, and we went from having little planning time to planning all of the time. This week we have four main things to work on at the Church. We have to write a ministry plan for the Sunday School, we have to teach and plan a class for the Missions Minsistry, we have to work on ideas and planning strategies for Discipleship, and we have to set goals and objectives for our whole experience here in Ecuador as part of our Practicum requirements. As we enter into this week knowing that it is going to be challenging and stretching, please pray that...
1. we will be wise with our time. Having alot of free time is challenging, please pray that we use it effectively and that we work efficiently.
2. we will listen to what God wants us to do in all four of the above areas. Working with ministies is very exciting for us, but it is also really intimidating sometimes.
3. we will not get overwhelmed at the task at hand. Please pray that we will depend on God and His strength to get us through and not our own.
and 4. please pray that our work and learning will be honoring to God and effective for His kingdom.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Since that interesting incident, our lives have been alot less stressful. Today we had the opportunity to plan for the Sunday School ministry and learn from one of the leaders of the Church more of the structure and mission that the Church has. I really love seeing what their plan is for ministry and their vision for all of the people of the Church. We also met with the leader fo Sunday School at his office and he is looking for some changes to the ministry, and I cannot wait to get more involved and see what we can do to make it more effective. One of the really interesing things about Cuenca that the Verbo Church is seeking to utilize is the vast amount of Catholics. They think it is so important to recognize that most people in the Church and in the city come from a Catholic background, they want to teach to the Catholics more about Jesus and his redeeming sacrifice. I am really interested in knowing more about that and how they teach to the Catholics!
Tomorrow my sister and Grant and his sister are going to Turi, the highest point in all of Cuenca. Apparently we are able to see all of the city of Cuenca from the balcony of the Church there. I am really excited (and WILL remember my camara!) As we head into the weekend, Saturday with relaxation and Sunday with ministy all day, please pray that...
1. We will be safe in all that we do and trust in God's provision
2. We will be effective ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give all that we have to Him.
3. We will be seeking Christ every day and not fall into complacency as we put alot of time into work and ministries.
and 4. That we will be living in the moment and recognize that everyday is a gift from God.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday was really relaxing around here, but it was freezing. Here when it is cold, it is really cold, because the house is almost the same temperature as the outside. You cant get away from it, no matter where you are you feel cold. So we all gathered close to the space heater in the cabin and told funny stories. It was really fun to see people get really into their stories. They were standing up and demonstrating what they were doing, its great because it helps me to understand better too! I am really thankful that yesterday was relaxing because today is back to reality with classes and work.
One of the things that I have noticed and really appreciated about my host dad here in Ecuador is his calm demeaner and ability to think through situations before reacting. Yesterday, after a long day with family, we were heading home and our car started to overheat really quickly and we didnt have any water with us and we were in the middle of no where. Normally, I would have expected anyone to start to worry and get anxious, but my dad stayed really calm and was thinking of ways to get out of the situation. In the end we turned of the engine and coasted down part of the mountain to a house where he asked for water so that we could make it home. When we got home he just started working on it and thinking the best way to fix it. Never once did he freak out. Now, we are here with only one working car and this morning my sister and I had to get dropped of instead of driving and we will probably run into some problems later, but I am sure that it will be handled calmly and with ease.
As I finish off this week with classes, ministry and any other activities that come up, please pray that I...
1. have my eyes open to what God wants for me, and that I will be aware of those around me.
2. will react to situations more like my host dad does, thinking through them and not reacting too quickly
3. will continue to improve in Spanish and feel comfortable using it whenever I am around people
and 4. please pray that I will my words will be encouraging and uplifting in every situation.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Now Sunday, what an insane and wonderful day. We woke up really early because we were going to go to the vacation house with my dad and his sisters. At least that is what they told me, so we got up around 6:30 and left by 8:00, it was supposed to be 7:00 but I think we all knew that was not going to happen. On our way to pick up the sisters they were talking about how many people there were going to be and I thought, ok he has three sister so there will be eight of us. Wrong, there were 27 of us, his sisters and all of their extended family. It was loud and crazy but so much fun! We were all in this fairly small house talking and making food and playing cards and taking walks and making taffy and building large bond fires. It was really fun to get to know some more of the Fajardo's family and get to practice more Spanish. I am fairly confident that not one person in their family spoke English, except for this four year old boy that knew his colors and numbers in English. We had alot of fun together because we would talk and then he would always ask me how to say things in English. It was really precious, he is a really bright boy. Anyway, at night when the bon fire was going, the whole city of Cuenca was lit up and it was incredible. The lights and the houses on the mountains and the carnival music playing, it was all really surreal. We were at the house until almost 10p.m. and we still had a long drive home. Once we got home we were all beat and ready for bed when we got a phone call. One of my dad's sisters, that was at the house with us, came home to find that her apartment had been robbed. She was a wreck so we all went over to her house to help her talk to the police and try to help calm her down. It was a terrible ending to a beautiful day. We spent two more hours at her house talking to her and praying with her and helping her figure out what to do next. My heart was breaking for her and her two girls. The only thing that was great about the situation, was the way that all of the men in her family and most of the girls too came to her home to support her and love on her. I think that it is pretty incredible the bond of family here and the protective spirit that they have for each other.
We have two more days of Carnival left and I think my brother and I are going to go for a bike ride today. As we enter into these next few days, please pray for...
1. My dad's family, especially his sister and the trauma that she has just been through. Please pray that she will feel God's protection and the love that He has.
2. Rest, I think every one in the family is beat after the long day and even longer night.
3. God to be apparent to me everywhere that I go, that He would be eminating everything that I do.
and 4. that everyone would be safe and have fun in these last two days of Carnival!
Friday, February 20, 2009
There has been alot of happenings in these last few days. On Wednesday Grant and I had our first planning meeting for the Discipleship ministry down here, and we are really excited about the possibilities that come with that. We are pumped to learn more about their plans and see the ministry in action. Also on Wednesday we had another meeting for S.O.S. It was definitely a small accomplishment for me because one of the girls that came was the same girl that I talked to on Friday night, so we were able to talk again and there is a relationship starting. It is really exciting to see that happening. She was really vulnerable during the small group time, and I am hoping that tonight we will be able to talk again and that a trust can form. I know that it is only a small step, but I am hoping that it can be a relationship that is encouraging and glorifying to God.
Yesterday was an encouraging day, and I felt like I got alot accomplished. After our early morning Spanish classes, I spent quite alot of time studying Spanish and working on homework for various other things. In the afternoon I had some free time so I was able to get on skype and talk to a few people. It is always really encouraging to talk to friends from home and learn about what is going there! Then, after dinner my sister and I cleaned up the kitchen and cooked lunch for today. As we were cooking my brother David was playing songs on the guitar and singing. We had a ton of fun singing, cooking and sometimes dancing. I love spending time with my family, it is so much fun and they are so kind! Everyday that I can communicate with them better is an accomplishment and exciting to get to know them better as well.
As we look forward to this Carnival Vacation, please pray for...
1. Our ministry here, that we will be glorifying to God and spreading His love wherever we go.
2. The safety of anyone traveling, they have had alot of mud slides from the mountains, and the roads are really bad around here.
3. Our emotional health, alot of people are struggling, and that makes everything so much harder to experience with an open mind.
and 4. Please pray for the people that we meet and the people of Ecuador, that they will experience God and come to know Him as their Savior.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Yesterday, Monday, was a really challenging but excitng day for me. Right after our Spanish class Grant and I were able to skype with Faye Chechowich (our CE professor) and Heather Sommer (our off campus director). This was such an encouraging time for Grant and I. We were able to talk about all of the exciting opportunities that we have had and also express a few concerns. But, I know that we both left the meeting feeling encouraged and supported. It is always good to hear encouaging news from home! Also, in the afternoon we had a meeting with Gustavo Leon to talk about our ministy experiences so far, and also to learn about the discipleship ministry at the Church. The discipleship ministry is something that Grant and I are both really interested in, and after hearing about some of the plans that Gustavo has we were really excited to get involved. I think that we can learn alot from this ministry, and also do our best to help out in any way possible. I am excited to see what God has in store for this ministry and for the rest of our experience here!
Last night we were able to go out with the Consolidation group into the homes of visitors that had come to the Church. During this time we split into groups of two in order to go into the homes and share the Gospel with these new people. Grant and I were split into different groups and taken to different homes. Although it was exciting to see this ministry in action, it was difficult being only with one other person and going into a strangers home. I spent most of the time in the home listening to what Joeh Carrera had to say and praying that God would do big things in the hearts of the family that we were with. I didnt have alot to say because John does this every week and he knows what is going on, so I talked some at the beginning about thier family and their jobs, but other than that I listened to John sharing the Gospel. He was very passionate and excited about what he had to say, and it was very evident in the way that he shared. At the end it was really incredible because this family of four accepted Christ as their personal Savior and were interested in coming back to the Church. After someone accepts Christ in the Church, they do their best to get them plugged in to a home group where they can be fed and encouraged as much as possible. I am really amazed at how proactive they are about sharing the Gospel and getting people involved. The experience was definitely uncomfortable most of the time, but the experience was well worth the uncomfortable feeling.
After this encouraging and somewhat relaxing day, I am looking forward to a busy week. As I enter into this week and seek to get more involved in the ministries at the Church, please pray...
1. That I will depend fully on God and be tuned into what He wants me to do Daily
2. That I will continue to improve in Spanish and feel more comfortable talking to native speakers in every situation.
3. That our group will feel the presence of God here and that they will not get discouraged with longings for home or the norm.
and 4. That the people of Cuenca will see the majesty of God and that they will be open to His love and saving grace.
Thank You to those who have been so encouraging and supportive during this time away from home. Your prayers and words have been such a blessing.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
On Friday Grant and I spent almost our whole day at the Church doing Church Administration learning. We learned alot of interesting facts about the Church and we learned some behind the scenes work that goes on in order for all of the ministries to happen and for Sunday's to run smooth! This was also the first day that Grant and I went to meetings and did some work projects without someone with us that spoke English. That is right, we sat in three meetings that were all in Spanish, and we actually did an ok job. In our last meeting, Grant and I took a taxi to Marcielo Avielo's office (He is the man at the Church who runs the Sunday School for the kids), and we sat, just the three of us to talk about Sunday School. As we were sitting there drinking coffee and conversing in Spanish I had this overwhelming sense of being a grown up! It was so funny, we are beginning to be able to do things here independent of others, and every little step is a big accomplishment for us over here! We also had our second meeting with the S.O.S. ministry at the Church. The Friday meetings are more like a hangout and form relationships time. I met some interesting people and had some good conversations. Friday was definitely a day that ended with the feeling of accomplishment.
Saturday, El Dia de San Valentine, was quite the hopping day around Cuenca. Apparently, Cuenca loves Valentine's day just at much as the girls in the dorm with boyfriends do! But, my group of other Taylor students had a small trip to some of the smaller cities around Cuenca where we did some shopping, went to a delicious smelling fruit market, and got to taste some interesting foods. At one of the butcher's that we went to we got to taste Pig Skin. Literally, they just torch the pig skin until it is very hard, like a potato chip, and they scrape off the burnt part and then just eat it. If I hadn’t known what it was I would have thought it was a thick potato chip, but one side of it was a little slimy...so I was a little grossed out! Anyway, in the night time we went to Maria De Lordes' house where as a whole group we were able to just talk about our experience so far and eat some American Food (Pizza Hut Pizza!) We had alot of fun and it is always good to catch up with our other team members because they all have class together, but Grant and I are very separate from them. One of my favorite things to do when we are all together is to share stories of our families or experiences that have been different or maybe even a little weird for us!
Sunday, The day of rest...or not! Sunday's are generally one of our busiest days throughout the week, because we get to serve and spend most of our day at the Church again. Today we had our first experience with the Sunday School ministry for the kids ages 5-12! Although it was really interesting and seems to run really well for the amount of kids that they have, 50-70 each service, this week was not a normal week. There was a special service happening downstairs in regular Church so most of the teachers were helping with that and not at Sunday School, so we did worship and then we just showed a movie. But, when it was done, we held a little simon says for the kids. It is ALOT more difficult to think of things fast and tricky for kids who speak the language MUCH better than you do. But, it was a fun challenge!
My favorite part by far of today was eating snacks with my mom and sister here in my sisters bed, having us all three fall asleep on a full size bed, and wake up an hour later all kind of in a daze. My family here is so close, and they have definitly taken me in as one of their own. I feel so blessed to have an amazing family and feel really encouraged by them! As I look forward to tomorrow and Tuesday, please pray for...
1. Our first experience going into the homes of visitors of the Church with the ministry of Consolidation. Please pray that Grant and I will have confidence when entering the homes, and that God will give us ears to really hear the needs of the people and also the words to speak back
2. Our emotional stability, as the time seems to be coming when reality sets in a little more that we still have three more months to go before we go home. Please pray especially that our entire group will learn to live in the present and see this experience for the gift that it is.
3. That I will continue to learn Spanish, and especially that I will see the progress I am making as such a rich reward from God. I know that He is doing alot of work here!
and 4. Please pray that The people of the Church and especially the People of Ecuador will see God and be open to the amazing plan that He has for their lives!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Yesterday I had my first exposure to the ministry S.O.S. It is a ministry that they have at the Church that is targeted towards those people who have addictions and are looking for a way out. It is for those that have addictions to drugs or alcohol, but also those that have an addiction to abusive relationships or an unhealthy way of living. It was really interesting seeing the way that the leaders of this ministry came along side these people and formed lasting relationships. They are helping them deal with their issues by living life alongside of them, encouraging them, and praying consistently for them. I am interested in learning more about this ministry, and finding ways to really serve the people that are seeking something new in their lives. One of the most exciting parts about last night was that after the pastor talked and was praying, there were three people who wanted to know Christ more and take the step of bringing Him into their lives. It was really powerful seeing these adults take the step out of addiction, and recognize that they can do it through Christ who is now living in them!
Also yesterday, I had a really fun day with my brother and sister here. Everyday I have a huge list of vocab words that I have to learn by the next morning, so I have this huge stack of notecards that I was trying to learn for today. Then my brother and sister came into my room and we were talking and they saw the list of vocab words, so my brother was quizzing me and separating out the ones I knew and didn’t know. When He went through all of them he counted how many I had right and how many I had wrong. Then He did the same thing to my sister, but from Spanish and she had to come up with the English word. Then, we had a competition to see who could guess them the fastest when He would act out the word and we had to guess what he was doing. But, I had to guess in Spanish and she had to guess in English. It was really funny, and some of the words that my brother had to act out were really funny to watch. Anyway, I was really thankful for that time. The more time that we spend together and laugh together, the more comfortable I get and the more fun we have!
Everyday I seem to be learning so much and getting much better at interacting with others. Tonight I have a meeting with the another ministry at the Church, and tomorrow I have a full day of Church administration. I am really interested in seeing what tomorrow looks like. I think we are going to have the opportunity to see more of how the Church is run. As I seek to learn more about the Church and continue my Spanish studies, please pray…
1. That I will seek God first in all of my decisions, and glorify Him with all that I do here.
2. That I will continue to improve with my Spanish and become more comfortable as I interact with others.
3. That Christ will be evident in my life and that the people that I work with will see Him clearly in all that I do.
And 4. Please pray that in the meetings tomorrow we will have clarity and have an open mind to all that we hear.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
This weekend was really fun. I didnt have alot of work to do because my classes had not officially started, and I was able to learn a little more about the culture of Cuenca and I was able to spend alot of time with my family. I spent all day Saturday with my host sister Sandy, and I met a bunch of her friends. I listened in on their worship band practice and I was so impressed. They have about 12 or 13 people in their worship band and it sounded so great! After worship practice everyone from all of the worship teams, probably about 45 people total, goes to someone's house for fellowship and prayer. It was so loud and crazy and so much fun!
Sunday was my first experience with the Church and I loved it. I met a ton of people at the Church, and I was even able to recognize some people that I had met earlier. I am beginning to feel a little at home which is so refreshing, but I still have a long way to go before I feel completely comfortable here. The rest of Sunday was spent studying, spending time with my family, and getting the opportunity to skype with some friends and family. Sunday was really refreshing and it was encouraging to talk to people from home. But, on Sunday night the cousin of my siblings here came over and we watched a movie and sat around and talked until after midnight. Needless to say, Monday morning at 6:30 was not a happy time.
Yesterday, Monday, was one of the longest days that I have had in a long time. I woke up early to get to class by 7:45. I had Spanish class from 7:45 until noon. I really needed that time of really intense studying of Spanish so that I can continue to improve with my Spanish, but my brain wants to shut off afterwards! So, I came home and had lunch with my family, took a 20 minute nap and then went on a bike ride with my brother. This was really fun becuase he speaks some English and helps me learn more Spanish, so as we were riding he was taking me through the city and showing me some of his favorite places. Then we got home just in time for me to catch a ride back to the Church for what I thought was going to be a 1 and a half or 2 hour meeting. From 4:00 until almost 8:00 I was in a meeting with Grant, Gustavo Leon (the Taylor Leasion for the Church), and about 12 ministry leaders from the church filtering in and out. 4 hours of meetings and I was so tired and overwhelmed. We met with almost every ministry leader at the Church in order to get a grasp on what each one does at the Church, and what their goals are. It was really interesting to talk to each person and see the passion that they have for their specific ministry. Anyway, after that I met up with my brother and sister who were getting the Church ready for today, which is a special service for Valentines Day. I was helping, and between the work that needed to be done, a visit to a friend who was sick, and a quick run to the Big Kahuna Burger stand, we didnt get home until 11 p.m. And I hadnt even started my homework. Last night was another long night, and today I am definitly feeling it.
Today during my Spanish class, I could already tell that I was improving, and my teachers here are so encouraging. They love to teach, and they are very helpful. I know that I am learning alot, because my brain hurts and because when I am in a conversation with someone, I dont have to say, "Como se dice...?" as much. This afternoon Grant and I are meeting to pray for the ministries that we met with earlier, and also to discuss what our plan of action is going to be for working with the ministries. Tomorrow we are scheduled to meet with the ministry S.O.S. (which is an addictions ministry) and the rest of the week we have more meetings with other ministries. As Grant and I meet, and as we anticipate investing time in other ministies, please pray...
1. That we will keep God as our focus, and seek to serve the Church in any way possible.
2. That the people that we meet with will be open to what we are saying, and will see Christ working in and through us.
3. That I will be refreshed and renewed each day with rest, and also in the Spirit.
and 4. That as I encounter new challenges and onstacles, that I will keep the goal of serving Christ, getting to know Him better, and learning new things in mind at all times.
Friday, February 6, 2009
On Thursday I had lunch with a leadership team that runs a ministry called "Consolidation." Luckily they gave me a paper that explained alot about the ministry on it so that I could understand more while they talked. The paper was still in Spanish but I can understand Spanish quite a bit better when I can read it rather then trying pick up on all of the words while someone is in a conversation. Anyway, in this ministry that Grant and I will be observing and then serving in a group of people meet with anyone at the Church who is there for the first time and they have them fill out a first time card. This all sounds normal, but then on Monday nights they go into the homes of the visitors and they share the gospel! It was so surreal for me to hear that only one day or sometimes a week after meeting the visitors for the first time this group of leaders enters into thier homes and shares the gospel with them. I am really interested to see exactly how this works, on Sunday we are going to observe the ministry, and on Monday night we are going with a group into the homes of the visitors. I am really intimidated, but I am also so excited to see all of the different aspects of this evangelistic ministry. Apparently it is working, because in the last two or three years the church has grown from 300 atendees to 1700. God is doing big things through this Church and I cannot wait to see what else he has planned for them, or I guess now I can say us!
The central bus system here is so interesting, it is a very large system, but they do not have maps or even time schedules. But, if you ask any of the locals they can tell you exactly when and where the busses go. So, yesterday we learned how to just try it out and see where you end up. We did have a leader with us, but for the most part she was just taking us places so we could see a little about how it works! It was really interesting, but also kind of weird. We were definitly the center of attention, and we the 11 of us took up a good portion of the bus when we were one. I felt like I was back in second grade on a field trip! I hope that it pays off if ever I have to use the bus system!
I cannot even express how great my family is. Even though I cant communicate well with them they are so kind and always teaching me new things. I feel like my Spanish is improving everyday, but it is a slow process. Everyday something new happens where I feel like I am making a step in the right direction. Last night I went out with Sandy my host sister and a bunch of her friends from Church. We went to this place, I would describe it as an outdoor eating place where they served American food, and I had so much fun! I was able to interact with alot of them, many of them speak English because they are in the Univeristy here, so when I didnt understand they could use English, and if they didnt understand something in English I could try to explain it in Spanish. It was a really interesting experience. My favorite part of the night was when they got out their cell phones (interesting about here is that no one has an ipod, but they all have music on their cell phones and they use them as portable speakers!) and started playing music. One boy, I think his name was Andy, started playing YMCA, it was so funny because they loved it, but didnt know what any of the words were except YMCA. So, we were laughing, and I explained a little about the song and they thought it was hilarious! We probably listened to the song about 8 times! It was great, I am learning that sometimes I look like a fool, but they appreciate the effort. Alot of my free time is spent studying Spanish and then trying to use what I learned in the next conversation that I have.
I have felt so surrounded by prayers and encouragement throughout this week. I have found myself on my knees more then ever, and it has been such a rewarding experience. Thank you to those that have been praying as well, I so appreciate every one of them. As I look forward to the rest of this weekend and Church tomorrow, where I get my first experience with observing 'Consolidation,' please pray that...
1. The words that come out of my mouth will be encouraging and from God. (And in Spanish would be nice!)
2. I will continue to have bonding time with my family, and that I will be able to communicate better with them.
3. I will be open to what God has to teach me and be tuned into His will for my life.
4. The people of Ecuador will see the Maejesty of God that surrounds them, and seek Him first in thier lives.
and 5. (this is kind of selfish, but) please pray that when I speak to others, that I will not be so nervous with Spanish. [I have found that after I talk to someone, I think back and I know what they were saying, but i was too nervous at the moment to answer in a coherent way.]
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Then we took a 35 minute flight to Cuenca where we met our families! It was somewhat of a surreal experience because my host mom and dad were at the airport holding a sign that said “Kathie Barnes” (I guess just did their best to spell my name) and when they saw me they were so excited and speaking in Spanish so fast my brain was not keeping up. I felt so welcome and accepted by them, I just felt so bad that I couldn’t communicate better. We sat together and had dinner which consisted of Coffee and bread. I did it, I had coffee and it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but they have a milk base with a little coffee. I guess I can live with that. It was really interesting to just sit and listen to the family interact and try to pick up on any words that I could. I was able to jump in on some parts, but overall it was really difficult. I am praying that the more that I interact with them and the more that I am surrounded by the language the greater my vocabulary will become.
Today is my first day at the church. This morning we are meeting with Gustavo to talk about more of our roles in the Church. I am really excited about this, also Gustavo speaks English, so it will be nice to have a little break from the Spanish and actually understand everything that he is saying! I am sitting in the office of the Church right now and everyone is so kind and outgoing, I cannot wait to get more involved and get to know more of the people that I am surrounded by.
Yesterday I was reading in Isaiah, and I came across this verse that really challenged me as I have been struggling to keep up with the language and feeling a bit inadequate. Isaiah 2:22 “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” As I begin working at the Church today and have the opportunity to spend more time with my family, please pray that…
1. I will trust God with this whole situation and learn to let go of my pride.
2. As I spend more time here that my Spanish language skills will improve and that I will feel more comfortable speaking in all situations.
3. I will be open to new experiences and not be so intimidated by all of the changes.
And 4. please pray for the people of Ecuador and the leaders at the Church. Pray that they will see God and be tuned into His will.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Part of my experience will be taking intensive Spanish classes, especially at the beginning, so that I can get accustomed to the language. This is going to an interesting experience because I am the only one that will be in the 300 level Spanish at the beginning, so I have a one on one teacher. I am the only one in the class. I’m still trying to let that sink in, talk about a challenge. I guess I will have no choice but to learn Spanish! I will also be spending a good portion of my time at the Church learning from the leaders of the Church as well as getting involved in some of the ministries. My friend Grant, the other Christian Education Major going on our trip, and I have the opportunity to learn about ministry and people through and addictions ministry, meeting with new people in the Church, and also working some with the Youth Ministry. Something that I am really excited about is the amount of trips that we get to go on. Over the 15 week semester we will be in Quito (the Capitol city), a few day trips to El Cajas, Gualaceo and Chordeleg, and three 5 day trips to the Jungle, the Galapagos, and also to Gualaquiza (a smaller town where Verbo has planted a small Church)! I am praying that we will be able to learn from as much as possible from the people of the Church, and I am also praying that we can be useful and resourceful to the Church.
As I finish any small preparations to leave, please pray....
1. That I will be open to any changes that the new culture brings, and that I will have an easy transition from America to Ecuador.
2. That I will make meaningful relationships with other students studying abroad with me, and also with the families in Ecuador.
3. For safe and healthy travels of everyone going, and
4. For the ministries at the Verbo Church in Cuenca