Thursday, June 29, 2006

Future volunteer sites & prayer requests

Here are some pictures from some of the sites the volunteers will be going to. These first two are from El Quinche, which is a major pilgrimage site. It is a pilgrimage site for the Virgin (Mary) of El Quinche. I have mentioned her and dedication to her before in a blog entry about a shrine to her on a bus. Anyways, one of the stories behind this devotion goes that there were many bear attacks in this area until a young woman appeared and the attacks stopped. Since then, there has been much devotion to her in Ecuador and especially in our area. We were talking to one woman and she said it is believed that you need to go on the pilgrimage walking several miles to the site at least seven times before the Virgin will hear your request. This woman we talked to had only been twice. We pray that people will put their trust in God and not in His servants. In that, we pray to remember the example of people that God has used throughout history. We also pray that people will know that they do not have to appease God or his servants through pilgrimages and various rites. His salvation and blessings are a free gift for all. The picture here is of the cathedral at El Quinche.
The next picture is from another town, Puembo, at the main plaza. The volunteers will be doing some sports activities in this town. We were there last week getting permission for one of the sites and I met a believer who may be interested in hosting a Bible study. Pray for this man and for this opportunity, as well as the people of Puembo. I guess this is all for now...I hope to post more pictures from another town next time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Prayer for Volunteer Team

Here is the first of many pictures from some sites that the next team of volunteers will be going to. They will be here from July 8-15 but some leaders will get here on July 5. There is a group of 50 that are coming from Florida. They are with International World Changers (IWC) and are mostly youth. They will be doing surveys, evangelism, and sports programs. They will also go to different towns in the valley, like the other group. The picture here is of the town square/church in Tumbaco. Tumbaco is one of the larger towns in our area. It also isn't very from where we live. The team will be there on Thursday, July 13. Especially be in prayer for them and Tumbaco on this day. This is all for now about the volunteers but I hope to post more pictures of other sites as well.
World Cup update...The main news is that Ecuador lost to England on Sunday, 1-0. They played really well, but luck was not on their side. Everyone is pretty sad but also glad that they advanced at least that far. They really gave England a run for their money and really just missed out. Maybe next time...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

millionth world cup update and ecuadorian medical care

I want to start off with a brief World Cup update and share a couple of World Cup related pictures. The first news is that the US is out of the competition and deservedly so. They played ok but I just don't believe they deserved to advance. Good luck to Ghana, who beat them and will now play Brazil. Ecuador had already qualified to the 2nd round but lost their last game to Germany 3-0 after leaving out some key players. Now, in the 2nd round it's all or nothing. They have a tough game tomorrow against England. I really like both teams but I hope Ecuador will win. As they say here, it costs nothing to dream. As much as I hope Ecuador will win, I predict that England will take the day. The pictures here are of guys on the street selling Ecuador shirts and flags. They are everywhere! There have been lots of other WC games and there will be even more but that is all I have about the WC for now.
Now, just a word about medical/dental care in Ecuador. I preface this by saying that the care has been exceptional for us and pretty cheap. Saying this does not mean it is this way for everyone. This is something I have wanted to share about for a while. First, about the dental care. When we arrived I needed to get some dental work done that I was not able to get finished in the States before leaving. Some other missionaries recommended a dentist to me and I called them to set up an appointment. So I called and they asked if I wanted to come in that day or tomorrow...I said 'what did you say?, what planet am I on?, I love this country!' I ended up having 3 or 4 appointments and they did quite a bit of work-cleaning, fillings, and bonding. I won't put the amount but let me say they did it all for a fraction of what it would have cost in the States. Our other experience with medical care came recently after getting the amoebas. I went to the clinic up from our house. They took me right in and started treating me even before filling some paper work out. Again, what they did (hooking me up to an iv, stool sample to let me know I had amoebas, giving a prescription) cost a small fraction of what it would have in the States. So the moral of this story is to not worry about our medical care here and pray that the medical system in the States could learn something from Ecuador's.

Go the Distance: test your international driving skills

Driving in a developing country can be a lot different than traffic patterns in the USA. A fellow worker here once commented that driving in this country is like playing a video game. Since our computer skills limit us from making an authentic video game representation, we have decided to let you play along at home with words. See how many kilometers you earn (or don't). Kilometers are given based on skill level involved in the feat described.

1. You're new in the country and wish to comply with local driver's license laws. Unfortunately, you get different answers every time you talk with the transit department. In fact, you begin to wonder who really knows what the laws are for foreigners. -10 km
2. Police roadblock ahead. However, you are not driving and all you have to do is sit in the back seat and look foreign as the driver presents documents. 0 km
3. You try again to get your driver's license. Unfortunately, no one in the country is able to get one for at least three months due to the transit department not having the updated materials to make them. -5 km
4. You effortlessly dodge sleeping dogs in the middle of the road. +3 km each dog
5. You are driving your sixth car in six months due to personnel changes in the organization and break downs. You forget the car you currently drive has a cow-catcher on the front. You accidentally nudge the car in front while parallel parking. -3 km
6. A road that you frequently travel has suddenly been grated. In fact, they have grated off far more than they will be able to fix in three months. You, however, manage to avoid disaligning your tires on the uneven surfaces. +5 km
7. A small child falls into the roadway as your car is going past. You avoid hitting him. +50 km
8. You are casually able to avoid hitting free-range cattle in the middle of the road coming around a corner. (Cows aren't darting creatures, or you would get more points.) +3 km each cow
9. Some speed bumps are not painted. Some flat parts of the road are painted like speed bumps. You managed to remember which ones are which and where they are the next time you come through town. +5 km
10. You avoid a stumbling drunk in the road. +40 km
11. You avoid a passed out drunk in the road or right by it. +50 km
12. You dodge a non-flagged landslide. + 7 km
13. You dodge a non-flagged landslide after a rainstorm. (You know to expect it then.) +5 km
14. You inch your way into an overfull parking lot, have to get out the passenger's side because they wanted you so close to the next car and leave your keys with the attendant in case they have to move it while you are gone. +10 km
15. You dodge a bus ahead of you who can't decide which lane to be in, so he drives down the middle of both. +7 km
16. The car you now have is great except that the horn has been downsized from Freight Train Rumble to Squeaky Mouse Tweet. -10 km
17. You miss hitting a nun who runs out in front of you. +7 km
18. You avoid hitting a large truck parked suddenly in your lane. +15 km
19. Giant potholes, bags of uncollected trash and brush piles are in your lane. +5 km each
20. You don't end up hitting small barefoot children doing acrobatics in the street for money or food after dark. +50 km each
21. A legless man is on a skateboard in the middle of a busy intersection during rush hour. You miraculously manage to avoid hitting him or another vehicle. +100 km
22. You get caught in a flash flood in the capital. You manage not to lose control of the car, nor to be one of those people seen on the nightly news clinging to trees after abandoning the vehicle. +75 km
How'd you do? Just to spoil your fun as you are counting up your points, we wanted to mention that none of these feats depends on you.

In fact, we know it is only by the grace of God that nothing serious has happened to us. We see traffic miracles on pretty much a daily basis. We are thankful that Ben has quick reflexes and God's hand has been able to get us through some tight moments. (And now do you see why Christine hasn't been brave enough to drive yet?)

So next time you drive down your smooth four-lane divided highway with shoulder and highway patrol, thank God and remember to pray for us. Thanks!

Monday, June 19, 2006

John Denver, BBQ, and World Cup

Now, I have a few pictures from an area where we went to a new Bible study yesterday. It is in the home of a family that the volunteers met and that we have followed up. Yesterday was the first day that we met and will continue to meet on Sunday mornings. It is an extended family that has a farm on the side of a mountain. The family grows potatoes, corn and strawberries. Now, here are some pictures from the day...
After the Bible study, we went driving up this mountain. This is the view from the mountain, doesn't this view make you want to break out singing John Denver songs (like Rocky Mountain High or Sunshine on my shoulders)?
This is the peak that we were trying to go to. I guess we would have if the car would have had enough gas. I know we'll have to go another day. Anyways, this is a peak we can see from our house. They call it the Lion's face, I guess because there are some rocks on the other side that are shaped in the face of a lion. Am I hearing John Denver in the background?
This is Sabrina (5) and her brother Saed (4). I think one of the cat's name is Saed (not really, but that is what they said and it was pretty funny.) They are two of the kids where we had the Bible study. Aren't they cute? They were really great kids and a lot of fun. I just really liked this picture with the light and everything. Please pray for this family as most are new Christians. There is Orlando and his wife and their 4 kids, his brother and wife, and the brother's parents that live at this farm and they are hosting the Bible study.
This is a picture from a special dinner we had last night-BRISKET! Meyer's and Southside are going to have to run for their money! It was a complete surprise, courtesy of Christine. At a couple of points, I asked Christine what was cooking after I smelled something cooking. We had a complete meal of brisket, potato salad, bread, Meyer's BBQ sauce and bad pickles. The only thing missing was the teared paper that would be used as plates (as they do back in Elgin). We had found brisket in the supermarket here (already cut up) and stocked up on it but hadn't cooked any yet. Then, Christine cooked some last night and it was really good. I'm hoping to get a grill and cook some more and maybe even get a whole brisket. This brings a necessity to share some Ray Steven's lyrics from a song called, 'BBQ.' This song describes my love for BBQ, as I consider it one of the the 4 major food groups, or at least an honorary 5th. After looking on the internet, I wasn't able to find the lyrics but will have to share them next time.
Another World Cup update-Well, the US tied Italy 1-1. I guess that was a pretty good result and it keeps them alive. They could've won, had it not been for blind referees. Now, they just have to beat Ghana and Italy has to beat the Czech Republic. Those games will be on Thursday. Today, Ecuador has their game with Germany-I am predicting a tie, 1-1. There is one thing I forgot to share about Ecuador doing well in the World Cup-one comment I have heard quite a bit is now they are doing well, people will know about Ecuador.

trip to coast

Hello again, now I would like to put some pictures from our trip to Atacames. Now, let me preface this by saying that the coast might as well be another planet compared to the Sierra, where we live. The climate is different (hotter), the accent is different, the pace of life and customs are different, and the food is different (as you can imagine-seafood.) There are other differences I cannot even put my finger on but the bottom line is that they are different worlds within the same country. We really had a nice time. We took a bus through fun mountain roads. Imagine going from about 9000 feet to almost sea level in about 40 miles or so-that's a lot of curves. The trip there took about 7 hours as the trip back did. So we almost spent more time travelling than being at the beach. We did have a nice full day there and an evening and one morning before we came back. We stayed with our friend Eleanor, at her brother in law's house in Atacames. Now, for some pictures...
This first one is of Mt. Pichincha. You will have to click on the picture and enlarge it to really appreciate it. That is snow on the top. It usually doesn't have snow but did this day, as did some of the other mountains. So, imagine seeing snow-capped mountains and ocean all in one day-that is Ecuador! You could also see jungle as well in the same day but that would be a really long day. This is also South Quito in the picture as well. We drove by all this on the way to the coast.

This is typical coastal transport, or at least in the town that we saw. They had these little carts pushed along by bikes or motorcycles. We went on a ride in one of them.
Here is a picture of us at the beach before we returned to the coast.

This is a Quichua indigenous woman at the beach. The thing that is interesting is that most Quichua live in the Sierra in the mountains and it was funny to see her here in her traditional dress. Anyways, we had a nice time. We went swimming, ate seafood, went on a boat ride, and walked on the beach. The not fun part was picking up amoebas in some juice that we drank. Fortunately, they didn't attack until the trip was over but it made for a long night once we were home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Another World Cup Update

Ecuador 3 Costa Rica 0
That was the scoreline at the end of the day and was all that Ecuador needed to advance to the next round. What a great game and a great result. Now they are tied with Germany in points but are ahead because of goal difference. If Ecuador has a tie with Germany they will finish first in their group and most likely play Sweden, instead of England. That is what I'm really hoping for, for the sake of Ecuador and that would set up a great game between England and Germany. Today's game was so exciting. I forgot to mention before how the whole country is wrapped up in the performance of the team (think 1000 times bigger than the Super Bowl, March Madness and World Series put together!). There is yellow, red and blue everywhere. You can buy flags, jerseys, etc on the streets and there is a certain buzz surrounding the team that is doing so well. The photo posted here is of Ecuador's star striker-Agustin Delgado 'Tin' making his 'golazo'-translated as a great and amazing goal worthy of the highlight reel or Sportscenter. He had such a tight angle and a little space before he hammered the ball in the back of the net.
England, another principal team finished well after not getting off to such a great start, finishing 2-0 over first-timers Trinidad & Tobago. Liverpool FC (you'll never walk alone) teammates, Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard (with a golazo) made the goals in the final minutes that guaranteed the advance of their team to the next round.
By the way, is there a need for missionary sports writers? I will work for free, just send me to the games so I can write about them and share the gospel with people as well. Well, the World Cup continues...will have to see how the US does on Saturday-it's pretty much do-or-die against the Italians, who look like a bunch of Gucci models. Hope the US will play a ton better than last time and hope the Italians will be more worried about their hair than drilling the Americans with a bunch of goals.
Guess this is all for now, please continue to pray as we do follow up from the last group and get ready for the next group.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Odds & Ends

Hello everyone again. As the title of the subject suggests, I have a few odds and ends to share today. Starting off with soccer...the World Cup continues. I realized that I forgot to mention a couple of other favorite teams-these are Spain and Mexico. The US lost their game 3-0. The Czech Republic played really well and the US didn't help themselves by playing pretty poorly. Watching the Czech Republic play reminded me of kolaches (yum), wish I could stop down in West on the way to my folk's house. Ecuador has a big game on Thursday, Si Se Puede or yes we can!!! Enough about football (real football/futbol, not tacklethepersonwiththeball)!
Well, we've started follow-up with some of the different people that the volunteers met. It is going well but is quite a big undertaking. Please pray that it will continue to go well.
Now, I would like to share some lyrics from another favorite singer, Ricky Skaggs. If you've never heard any Skaggs, I definitely recommend him, especially if you like ole-timey music or bluegrass. I especially recommend listening to the song that I'm putting the lyrics to, it is quite touching and might even bring a tear to the eye.
Halfway Home Cafe by Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder (lyrics by Paul Overstreet)
I was pourin' coffee for table number one
I couldn't help but hear him what was going on
It got my attention when I heard a young man's voice
Saying sheriff I'll be going now if its alright with you boys
Those years I spent in prison stole too much time from me
I won't waste another minute if I'm really free.
Chorus: I'm goin' home my family's waitin' for me goin' home
I'm amazed that they still love me
They forgive me for the bitter seeds I've sown
Heaven knows I've been away to long
So now I'm going home.
A burger and a special for table number eight
I was bussin' number seven when I heard her young heart break
He told her it was over, they could never meet again
That he found a taste of courage, twisted on his wedding band
Her tears began to fall but they could not touch his heart
I heard him say "I'm sorry But it was all wrong from the start."
Chorus repeats
There's a million other stories from the Halfway Home Cafe
It's a never ending saga and they're played out every day
But this one's finally over, the foods all put away
And the coffee pot stands empty at the Halfway Home Cafe
But over in the corner at table number three
Sits a father and a runaway, well it looks that way to me
I said "I hate to interrupt you but its really gettin' late"
The young girl looked up smilin she said "Mister that's ok."
I'm goin' home my family's waitin' for me goin' home
I'm amazed that they still love me
They forgive me for the bitter seeds I've sown
Heaven knows I've been away to long
So now I'm going home, I'm goin' home...

Just a great song about redemption and grace. It kind of reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). I know we've all been at that point, away from God, not being where we need to be, but he is ready to take us back and receive us as sons/daughters. That's the thing about the love of God, it is unconditional-we can do nothing to earn it or lose it, we can only receive it as a gift. This story is a parallel about the love/forgiveness of God. Just like the father in the story not only takes his son back, he throws him a party. The same is true with God-"let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found again."
Now, I'd like to put a picture of us and a special volunteer that came that we know as 'Aunt Peggy.' I know it's been a while since we've put a picture of us, so here it is. Hello Aunt Peggy! In the background is 'our valley' and the mountains beyond it...please continue to pray that God's Spirit, Word and purpose would fill the valley.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup and the Fight against Amoebas

Hello everyone once again. I know it's been a few days since the last post and it's been that way for good reason. The first is that the World Cup has started, otherwise known as the world's greatest soccer fiesta. The second reason was our fight against amoebas...we fought with them and they won. We're ok now, but we sure weren't Thurs. night. I guess we picked them up at the coast. Other than getting the amoebas, we really had a great time at the coast. The beach and seafood were really nice. We also got to go body-surfing and that was really nice (I think that is what you call it?) The best news is that World Cup has started and Ecuador won a really important game yesterday against Poland, 2-0. England also won their game 1-0 and the USA is yet to play. These three, the US, Ecuador, and England are my three main teams. By the way, you can write this down, my prediction is that England will win it all. I also like some of the other Latin American teams and African teams. Let the footballfest continue!! I guess this is all for now. Here are a couple of pictures for now, I hope to put some on later from our trip to the coast.
This first one is from one of the schools in Yaroqui where the volunteer team hosted a kids carnival. There were over 1200 kids there. This is a picture of them getting organized before the carnival.
This next picture is of a painting of the national shield or seal of Ecuador and is on here in honor of Ecuador's victory over Poland. We met this guy as he was finishing work on this mural.
Psalm 125:2-'As the mountains surround Jerusalem (the valley in our case), so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.' This verse was a just a reminder about the constant presence of God and had a message that has encouraged us the last couple of weeks and we hope it does the same for you. We are not alone or forsaken. This picture is a visual for this verse and this is the view we have from our living room, dining room, and the top of our house.

Monday, June 05, 2006

catching up

Here's a picture of the group at the Equator monument, all 71 of them. Just want to let you all know the week went well and they opened a lot of doors that we couldn't have opened ourselves. They kept us quite busy, that is for sure, hence the delay in the blog. Now, we are recovering a bit and plan on going to the beach for a couple of days.
This is a picture of the volunteers doing their thing. They threw kids' carnivals in every town and did a great job of it. In these carnivals and beforehand, we all were able to meet people that made decisions for Christ and others that are interested in having Bible study.
If you lived here....this is what you would see (or have to dodge) on the way to church. We saw this on the way to a country church yesterday. They had a really nice service and fixed a nice lunch afterwards (my favorite part was the roasted goat, which reminded me of Africa).
Next, is a big nasty Rottweiler that we saw in the back of a car outside a restaraunt. You will need to click on the picture to fully appreciate it. Upon enlarging the photo, you will notice that is dog slobber that is covering the window. You should have seen this! every time the dog jumped or lunged, the whole car would shake. It reminded me of a quote from 'Tommy Boy', "fat guy in a little coat," only this was 'huge dog in a little car.'