Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Patricks Day?

I guess yesterday was St. Patricks day, but here you would never know. In fact, Grant asked me yesterday morning, "When is St. Patricks day?" I thought he was joking so I responded with a small laugh and, "Today!" He then looked a little confused and said, "Oh wow I had no idea, I thought it was in February." Some people could say that we are out of touch with the American culture, I dont mind too much! These last few days have been full, but also rewarding. On Sunday after Church I went with my sister and my parents here to their house it the country where we all helped do some work projects and then sat and ate fresh potatoes from the garden and played cards for hours! I knew that my dad here was funny, but playing cards with him made me laugh so hard my stomach was hurting by the end. I didnt even care that I lost horribly, and for those of you that have played games with me before you know that is quite a feat!
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

Sun and Spa

I cannot believe that it is already Saturday. This morning my sister, Grant and his sister, our friend Juan Diego and I all went to Banos de Cuenca where we had a little encounter with the Spa! It was a great ending to a really long week. I am amazed at how fast the time is flying, especially this week. We have been so busy this week with planning and trying to find time to get everything done, but amazingly in the end it all seems to come together. On Monday Grant and I spent 7 hours planning for a meeting that we were going to have with the leader of the discipleship ministry. It was really interesting because we were brainstorming, searching the internet, and working through problems together. I felt like we were learning together and able to teach each other things that we each knew from our other classes. I loved the feeling of gaining new information through the resources that we had and making progress, but it was a challenge for sure. On Tuesday it was a similar story, but this time we were planning for Sunday School. This was alot more fun, and more familiar to me. After working the last two summers with younger kids, i enjoyed searching for ideas and trying to come up with the best plans for Sunday School. When it came to doctrine and themes, I was feeling a little inadequate to write those out and choose the best options for a whole year. We did our best, and we sent our ideas to the leader of the ministry. I guess we will see what he thinks after he reads them!

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

A Long and Exciting Week

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 Taylor and does just about everything to make our experience here happen. Grant and I sat in her office and talked to her for almost 2 hours. Then in the afternoon we had dinner and a birthday party for Julianne, one of the Biology students here. It is always really fun to hang out with the bio students because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to see them. Telling stories, eating cake and laughing a lot are always refreshing! As I spend more and more time here, I am realizing how much of an extrovert I really am. Although I spend a lot of time with Grant, and some time with my family in the afternoon, it is nothing like living with 40 girls. I love being in big groups of people and being able to just have fun and laugh.

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

Feliz Cumpleanos

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. It was a huge hooplah around here! She has a really amazing group of friends that planned her a surprise birthday party and made the day really special for her. It was so much fun around here, we all had way too much sugar, played a bunch of group games, and finished the night off with a movie. I really enjoyed the time together, even after 7 hours! We all surprised her at our house when she got home from work at 5, and the movie ended at midnight! I was really excited that we were able to make the day so special for her, and I really love birthday's and surprises! (For those of you that know SNL, you could say I went a little nuts!) What a great start to a week.

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.