Annalea Despidida (See you Later)

This week we say “see you later” to our friend and co-laborer in ministry here in Ecuador with the Santiago Partnership, Annalea Egging.  I (Kim) went to North Park University with her although we were in a different class.  Who would have thought then that we would be working together, ministering together and serving together in Ecuador.  It was a few years ago now when through a series of events, prayer and contemplation that she sent an email to medical missionaries in the Covenant church serving around the world.  We invited her to come to Ecuador and check it out and she was a here for our first ever team with the Santiago Partnership.  She was here with me in one of my most difficult days ever in ministry when I cried with her (I was also like 11 months pregnant at the time).  After those few days we asked her if she wanted to come and work with the Santiago Partnership here.  I said if we can get through that, we can probably work through anything!  And she came back!  Annalea never says no to a challenge, in fact, she rises to them.  She’s the one you want with you in the midst of chaos and stress.  She is someone you want in the kitchen to help you learn to make bread or can salsa.  She is the one you want with you driving long distances and even getting lost.  Making cookies with your kids or planning teams. She is who you want with you when the car breaks down or you have a bad day because she will already be researching how to get out of the situation and make it better.  She is who you want with you to help develop and create a new program through the clinic and get it off the ground which she has done with our caravans.  She has truly been the hands of feet of Jesus these past 3 years.  Not just to our project and the Santiago Partnership, but to our family.  She has loved our kids and encouraged them and us.

We know this is only “see you later” although sometimes that doesn’t always make it easier.  We will miss you Annalea!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

                                                                              ~Isaiah 52:7

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A visit from Christa!

My best friend for over 22 years came to visit Ecuador for the 3rd time these last 2 weeks.  It was wonderful for us to have her here and this time was a little different than the last in that she was able to accompany me (Kim) to another highland city, Ambato to help with a Women’s Medical Caravan.  This was very special to me as she has never been here during a medical caravan to see this part of our ministry.  It meant a lot to serve alongside her and to have her here.  She was able to meet and get to know some of the other missionaries serving here in Ecuador as well.  It wasn’t all work though.  We did do some fun things like manicures and pedicures, playing whiffle ball games, her learning dutch blitz, eating yummy food and catch up on American TV shows together which are much more fun to watch together!

Thank you Christa for sacrificing to serve our family and friends here in Ecuador!

Life is not always flowers and sunshine, but when you go through difficult times, it is better when friends are close and here to encourage.  That is what Christa has always been to me and that hasn’t changed.

Our family is beyond thankful to her family for sharing her for 2 weeks.  Thank you to her husband, Bart for holding down the fort back in the States with her boys to let her come down.  Thank you also to Joel and my kids for allowing us to spend time together and serve together.  We are so thankful!

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another. 

                      Proverbs 27:17

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Women’s Medical Caravan

This past week we served together once again in a Women’s Caravan in Unamuncho-Ambato, Ecuador.  This is an area 2 and a half hours outside of the capital city of Quito.  We worked in conjunction with the Covenant Women Ministries of Ecuador and a local Covenant church in Unamuncho-Ambato.

It was a pleasure to serve together once again in our pink coats, which have become a trademark of these caravans to show solidarity and unity in the care for women and young girls.

On the way there, four of us traveled together and about an hour out of Quito, the car broke down.  Although this could have been a time for a lot of stress, frustration and other things, we all managed to work together and figure out a solution.  We had some fun in the process as you can see in the photos when we were waiting for our tow truck.

During these caravans, we encounter many situations and we do our best to meet people where they are, scared, stressed, overwhelmed, etc.  Two women in particular stand out to me during this caravan.  One was a young women who is a newlywed.  She has epilepsy and was having some issues which is why she came to us.  Through the course of being seen, it was discovered she was pregnant.  She was quit shocked, her mother as well.  They didn’t know what to do and in all honesty, neither did we.  We gave advice as best we could, but it was more of a situation where advice really outweighed the reality and weight of the situation.  So, we prayed.  We prayed for the young lady and her family, her husband and the reality of the place where they were.  Sometimes we realize our abilities and training pale in comparison to what the mighty name of Jesus speaks among us.

Another mom that I saw came to be seen.  She was exhausted and appeared very overwhelmed.  Two of our team watched two of her children so that we could talk.  Maybe it is because a lot of times I feel like an  overwhelmed mom and can sense it in other moms.  I soon realized that although I can prescribe vitamins and Tylenol for aches and pains and exhaustion, what I need to hear and what she needed to hear was that she wasn’t alone.  She doesn’t have to be “super mom” or do it all.  She needed to know it was OK to ask for help, even if just long enough to take a shower or nap.  From a medical standpoint, a lot of times I feel useless, but I felt used by the Holy Spirit that day to be a fellow overwhelmed “mom” and not a health care provider.

We also continued with handing out Days for Girls kits reusable menstruation kits to young girls and women.  This time we also were trying out a new model that a fellow Covenanter in Canada made for older women with incontinence.  The two ladies that received them were SO grateful.  We learned that although many women suffer from incontinence, having surgery or getting real long-term curative help is not likely.  The incontinence kits seemed to be a real blessing to these ladies and they left with big smiles!

A big thank you to Annalea Egging who has developed and created these women’s caravans.  She has served and cared for the women of Ecuador and we are so grateful for her presence.  She will truly be missed.

If you are interested in helping in future Women’s Caravans, we have dates for April and October 2020.  We would love to have your presence.  No medical training needed!  Just willing hearts and servant hands!

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.                   ~Philippians 2: 1-4

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Starting a new school year

The kids started school this past week.  Simeon began 4th grade, Esther started Kindgerten and Ephraim started pre-school for 4 year olds.  They are all loving their classes and their school at Alliance Academy International.  We covet your prayers for them and their new school year!

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Celebrating Ephraim

We were so happy to be able to celebrate Ephraim with his 4th Birthday!  It’s so crazy to think that he is now 4 years old and just starting Pre-school for 4 year olds.  Here is a reflection that Kim recently posted to Social Media reflecting on Ephraim’s birth:

This day, 4 years ago, we went to a normal OB check up not expecting to have a baby at the end of the day. Ephraim Benjamin was literally prayed over in to this world and every day since then God has revealed himself through Ephraim’s life. We are SO thankful for this miracle that God gave us 4 years ago. It was one of the scariest and most joyful days we have had. During the normal check up, there were complications found and I was sent to be checked more thoroughly. During this exam, there was about a 5 minute period where there was not a heart beat to be found. Just a little bit later we were in the OR and he was born, needed a little oxygen, was 3 weeks early and super little, but perfect. We found out a couple of weeks later that right at that time where there was no heartbeat, some of our prayer warriors were praying specifically for our family, not because they knew what was happening, but because they felt God putting us on their heart to pray. We know Ephraim is here because of that and we KNOW prayer works, Ephraim is evidence. SO, Happy 4th birthday big guy! We love you so much and are blessed to be your parents!

 

We were able to celebrate his birthday in style by taking the kids to one of their favorite hangouts “Mr. Joy” where Ephraim got to dress up like a fireman and then celebrating with cake and presents in the house.  His cake was from his favorite show “Paw Patrol.”  Ephraim was also able to celebrate his birthday with his class as his birthday fell on the first day of class.

 

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Off to the Beach!

We were so happy to be able to be back in Ecuador and to take our annual family vacation before school starts in the Fall.  Every year we try to go to the beautiful beach in Ecuador, see the Humpback Whales as well as visit the Isla de la Plata (or “Poor Man’s Galapagos”) where see the amazing blue-footed boobies and have a chance to snorkel with sea turtles.  It was a great week and we had so much fun exploring Ecuador’s amazing coast.  And on our way there, we were able to stop in Santo Domingo to visit our friends in the Covenant Camp in Santo Domingo.

 

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Thank you Bethany Covenant

Last week we had a visit from Bethany Covenant Church in Berlin, CT.  We have partnered with them before doing a medical caravan 2 years ago in Quevedo, Ecuador.  Last week we partnered to do another caravan in Las Delicias which is about 30 minutes outside of Santo Domingo.  It was in fact a triple partnership working with Iglesia Misionera de la Valle in Sangolgui as well as with a church plant they are working with in Las Delicias and Pastor Hugo and his family, Bethany Covenant and The clinic and project in Cayambe.  The medical team saw around 111 patients in 2 days.  This is an area with very minimal access to quality healthcare.  Most of the adult patients, probably 90% had high blood pressure, two patients, high enough to send to the hospital.  With no ambulances or emergency medicine (we were in the middle of a plantain plantation) it complicated matters.  Annalea (our nurse working with the Santiago Partnership) and I (Kim) also got lost on the 2nd morning of the caravan.  We took a wrong turn and were an hour late for the start of the caravan!  We got lost in a plantain plantation!  That was a first!

We had a pediatrician and psychiatrist with us who were able to care for patients in different ways than a lot of our caravans usually can.  We were so thankful that both were busy almost the whole time.  Other team members were doing VBS and crafts as well as a pilate/yoga class and educational classes as well.  There were many working parts to this team and they embodied what 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians with many parts but one body all working together.

The theme T shirt for this team was “love needs no translation”.  They lived this out in each interaction they had with each other and with those they served.

Thank you so much Bethany Covenant for allowing us to partner in your ministry and service and for allowing God to use you.  Thank you also for your support and encouragement of our family as well as The Santiago Partnership!  We can’t thank you enough!

Check out some pictures from the time we were together this week.

VBS and playing with sidewalk chalk

Dr. Linda (our pediatrician) seeing patients

Fun picture with Merge and Santiago Partnership staff

Sunset

This is what the road looked like when we got lost in the middle of the plantain plantation

Our fearless driver when we got lost

Kim seeing patients

Medical team working together

Educational workshop with those patients waiting to be seen by the providers

Cacao and plantain trees by where we were seeing patients

VBS

 

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“Don’t Cry Over…Broken Teapots and Mugs?”


It was a tough week for ceramics in our house.  It’s summertime so all kids are home all the time which makes the probability of things happening a little higher.  The first accident happened in the kitchen with Ephraim.  I had worked quite hard to get this Japanese tea set down to Ecuador from the States.  I had packed it really well trying to keep it safe, placing it in between thick clothes and puffy supports on all sides.  I unpacked each piece carefully and placed it on the bottom shelf in the entry way of our kitchen.  I had looked at it a few times and thought to my self, “self, you should probably move this, it is in prime position to get broken”.  However, other things got in the way and it never was moved.  Last week Ephra was playing with the top of the teapot.  I told him please don’t play with that and even thought to myself again “self, you really should move that” and then not 10 seconds later, I hear the crash of little piece and see the top of the teapot in multiple pieces.  I immediately yelled period.  There is no way to defend it, I yelled.  I told him “that is why I told you not to play with it!”  (like that makes any type of sense to a 3 year old).  He just wanted to play tea party.  The immediate shame came as he cried and said “you scared me”.  (insert the gulping back tears emoji here).  I immediately scooped him up and looked him in the eyes and said “I’m sorry”.  Followed by many words of apology including please forgive me, even though saying that felt so futile after I had just yelled at my 3 year old over a tea pot.  Sure, did it have significance, yes.  Could the list of excuses gone on?  Yes.  But why?  I was wrong, so very wrong and I knew it.  Enough to know there were no excuses to be made, just the act of apology, realizing I had nothing to stand on but apologies and forgiveness-asking.  It’s one of those that I will remember and tell myself never to do again.  It’s a hard lesson to swallow.

The second incident happened a day later when I am in the kitchen again and the 2 older kids were upstairs.  I hadn’t finished my cup of coffee (which always happens) because I got pulled in to something or started something else and forgot where the coffee cup was.  I had used my special coffee cup, the one with my favorite colors that the kids made me a couple of years ago for Christmas.  it’s special and I think of them and smile each time I look at it and drink out of it because they did such a great job in showering me with love.  The know I love mugs, orange and yellow, coffee and ceramics.  They hit the jackpot of gifts when they made it and I cherished it, loved it as a reminder of how much love there is between us.  So when I hear the shrill scream of my daughter and the scolding voice of my sun and then running footsteps and hands grabbing mine to “come, something happened”, it’s a little unnerving.  The mug wasn’t on my mind at that point, only the kids.  Usually the shrill scream comes with a small scrape or a little blood on the lip or other wounds of childhood play with siblings.  But I come up to the living room with the smell of cold coffee and see the shattered remains of the coffee cup the made.  There was blaming.  There was finger-pointing and unkind words between the kids.  The were “awwwws” from my mouth, sounds of disappointment, but really just small twinges of pain over losing something valuable.  I try not to hold too many things too close in our lives.  Being mobile so often we often don’t have too much of our lives that we hold with us all the time.  That’s not a bad thing because those things are just things.  But when those things get lost or broken or damaged or consumed by many means, there can still be little twinges of hurt when you lose them.  Am I over-dramatizing?  Yes, yes.  I agree, let’s reign it back in.  Why am I even sharing this?  This blog is getting a little long to read, right?  Bear with me, there is redemption in the end…

I don’t share these because I like sharing my weak moments.  No one does.  But I realize ALL the time that my weakness are usually the things that bring change, redemption (insert other highly spiritual, holy things here), but mainly they just help me see I’m weak.  Life does that, right.  So as I reflected on my reactions and apologies and broken pieces, the verse about jars of clay came to mind.  I hadn’t really ever studied all that much.  I mean, I couldn’t even remember the passage where it is located.  But God put it on my heart and I wanted to dive in to see what my weakness would once again teach me ( SO EXCITING RIGHT?!)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but no in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.    -2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Jars of clay are pretty fragile, just like my ceramic mug and Japanese teapot.  Why would I look at myself any differently?  I sometimes wonder if Jesus just chuckles at us when we try to be like heavy steal drums carrying all our crushed, despairing and abandoned thoughts, when we really just should be holding our fragile, broken piece of our ourselves up to Him apologetically because we were never meant to try to be something we aren’t.  We aren’t steal drums, we are jars of clay that although put in the fire to seal it and “make it ceramic”, are still fragile.  Guess what?  It is OK to be fragile.  Take that in.  Being fragile or weak is OK to live in to because that is truly what we are.  It helps us to keep ourselves in perspective that our fragility is God’s canvas to make Himself known.  It’s OK to allow our weaknesses to help us in our journey because it helps us to realize our need for Christ.  Without Him, we would just be a plain jar.  But with God in us, we can stand.

 

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When family comes to Ecuador

Some often ask how our families are involved in the work here in Ecuador and how do they feel about what we’re doing.  Many missionaries have many different answers for that and I suppose we are no different.  Our families are involved in different ways and on different levels.  However, I think most missionaries will tell you that having visits from  your family to see what you do on the ground and living the day in day out life with you is encouraging and uplifting and just brings something more to you when family is willing to do that.

We had this experience recently when our niece, Brianne (Joel’s sister’s daughter) and her husband Colton came down to volunteer and be with us for a week.  It is the first time that either of them had been here and ALL of us were SO excited to have them!

Brianne is going in to her last 2 years of pharmacy school at Cedarville University and Colton recently finished his MDIV at Cedarville as well.  We put both of them to work and Brianne was able to use this time towards her international credits as well.  Colton preaching at our partner church Iglesia Emanuel and doing home visits with our chaplain and care worker staff for the Home for At Risk children.  He was able to visit families and children who had been reunited as well as families in the process currently.  They prayed with families and counseled them.  They also both got to know the children in the Home, playing UNO together, soccer games, pushing them on swings and just having fun as kids should.  Brianne helped in our clinic.  We soon realized she was “la experta” (the expert) in pill counting and we had her be in charge of helping with inventory of medications.  She also helped review all the inventory of the clinic and storage areas, order medications and go through medications for expiration and other needs.  We also did some fun sight seeing and relaxing too at the natural hot springs in Papallacta.

It was so wonderful to spend time with them and to get to know Colton better as well.  We see why Bri loves him so much!  We do too!  It was such an encouragement to see how God has gifted them both in their own areas of service and profession but woven their lives together.  We are excited to see what their future holds!

We are SO thankful they were able to come and experience life with us and see what life in Ecuador is like!

Here are some pictures from our time together.

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Breathe

There must be a theme going on today about prayer.  Sometimes we don’t know HOW to pray or what to pray or where to even start.  Sometimes for me personally I feel like “hey I’m a missionary, I should have this prayer thing down”.  But missionary or not, pastor, chaplain seminary professor or lay person, it doesn’t matter.  We will ALL have times when we don’t know what to pray.  But the redemption in that whole experience?  We don’t HAVE to know!  YEAH!  HUGE RELIEF EMOJI!  Let the pressure come off of your shoulders and mind.  I saw this picture today and posted it on Facebook.  This is how my mind feels a lot of days.  More times than I would like to admit, but it was such a great reminder for me that God can speak FOR us as Romans tells us:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.                                                                                              ~Romans 8:26 and 27

I was reading my devotional today from Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray and she has an amazing technique for prayer.  I thought I would share it with you here.

Breath Prayer

It is a contemplative way to pray that the early church used to practice “praying without ceasing”.

Let me know what you think.  I tried this today and I felt like the above picture of all the jumbled letters were in place.

 

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