Reflections from Quarantine in Ecuador

I think this quarantine may be starting to get to me…

I am having trouble verbalizing my feelings right now which is unusual for me.  I can usually put words to it easily and it just seems to flow.  I can usually answer questions with no issues related to feelings.  But today while listening to a sermon it is like I could not put any thoughts together. I don’t know if I am sad or mad or frustrated.  I don’t know if I am grieving things without even really being able to name them.  I don’t even know if that makes sense, but knowing there are so many things lost and not even being able to take the time to name it seems so unhealthy.  But the kids still need 24 hour attention so me taking the time to name something doesn’t always take priority.  I think sometimes even more I want my kids the be able to process through all they are feeling and experiencing.  Saying goodbyes from a distance to people who have had a significant impact on their lives just makes me sad.  But how does a 5 year old or 10 year old name those thing enough to be able to process them when I as a (well we don’t need to name that age) has difficulty doing it?  It is certainly true that there is no road map, no guide, no 10 or 12-step “how-to” to be able to navigate so many weeks without going anywhere,  where your life is essentially put on hold.

I have felt myself this week particularly drifting away from some of the things that had brought comfort.  Listening to worship music is a constant in my life and I realized half way though this week that I really hadn’t been listening to any.  Maybe that is one reason I feel so crummy.  I also realized I just needed to be in God’s word.  Saturating myself with it.  I’m just being real, sometimes after a day full of kids and school, it is just exhausting to think of anything else besides lounging in a chair to just veg.  Sometimes I think my mind can’t handle one more thing to think about or one more problem to solve.  It is easier to just kind of let it go and not let it think all that much.  Am I right?  I can’t be the only one.  Dealing with the feelings of all that is going on around us?  That sounds exhausting and it sounds like something I really don’t want to do.  So, I think what I have been doing is ignoring it.  Now that can’t be good.  Ignoring anything is bad, right?  I tell my patients that all the time.  Why did you wait so long to come have that checked out?  How long have you been experiencing that (5 years) well, why now?  I just figured it was time to know what was wrong.  Well, that may be where I am right about now.  I am not myself.  I certainly hope I am just a different version right now.  The version where a lot of what makes me who I am is not happening.  That makes me sad.  It’s OK to say that, right?  I don’t like not being able to do the things that make me, well, me.  I want to serve.  I want to help.  I want to hug people so they know they are cared for.  I want to cook with people and have coffee with people and just enjoy a conversation about, anything.

I think I am also carrying a lot of junk.  Worry, anxiety, all of those things.  You know we weren’t meant to do that?  I think there are things I am worrying about that I don’t even KNOW I am worrying about.  Is that even possible?  We also aren’t meant to carry things alone.  We are meant to share them and carry them together.  That means being vulnerable.  I think sometimes I feel so many people are carrying so many things that I don’t want to give them one more thing.  There are a lot of things at play in all of this.  Admitting we don’t have it all together.  Being vulnerable to share intimate pieces of our failures and shortcomings.  But God didn’t design us to live in a state of worry and anxiety.  I loved what I heard this morning from a pastor that God INVITES us in 1 Peter to “cast our anxiety on him” because he cares.  Maybe like me today, you just need to hear that somebody cares enough to want to take your anxiety.  We truly don’t HAVE to carry it.  We can let it go.

So in the midst of this time, maybe you are feeling somewhat how I am.  Maybe you don’t even KNOW how you are feeling.  That can be unsettling, but the still small nudge you may be feeling is probably Christ drawing you close to himself.  Not that you have to spend hours and hours reading the Bible.  But take a minute or 2 and just BE in the presence of  the Lord.  Cast you care on him.  He can handle it.  He was created to carry it so much more than we were.

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Sitting on the Sidelines

By Kim

I have alluded to this a little in previous posts on Facebook, but this quarantine for us feels like sitting on the sidelines of the big game. I know that may seem silly, but if you know Joel and I at all, you know likely that we are not people who like to be on the sidelines. We want to be helping, we want to be in the thick of things, serving, getting our hands dirty, working together with our partners. This is what we feel we are called to, so NOT being able to be on the front lines is difficult. To explain, because of us living Quito and not in Cayambe, it is pretty much impossible for us to travel up to Cayambe during this time of quarantine.

I personally have been carrying guilt with me that I am not on the frontlines. In my jobs in the past, no matter what, I worked. State of emergency, I was at work, snowstorms, I was at work, risk to myself, I was there. I feel like that is what I was trained for, I was born to help people, this is my call. So, to NOT be doing any of those things that I know I CAN do, I feel guilty that others are out there, putting themselves in harms way, being a first, second and third responder. Taking care of their neighbor. I feel guilty. Guilty that I am at home and safe, that my family is safe, guilty that I am not out there, working arm and arm with my fellow providers and caregivers. It is hard when every bone in my body says go, serve, help, be the hands and feet.

I watch and see what my partners in ministry are doing and I just have no words. Pride and feeling proud seems so minimal, so lacking in saying and describing my response to what they are doing. They are doing what I cannot do, what I am not allowed to do right now. They are serving, they are literally being the hands and feet of Jesus. It seems so insufficient. It does not do justice and speak justice to what the team is doing in Cayambe to simply say I am proud. But, I am. I am proud to be associated and friends with this amazing group of people. They are an example in my book of truly living out what the Bible talks about time after time.

Galatians 6:2

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

John 15:12

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Romans 12:13

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Matthew 5:16

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Proverbs 3:27

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

Philippians 2:4

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Matthew 25:44 – 45

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'”

Luke 3:10-11

“‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.'”

So, if you are looking for instruction on what to do in a time of crisis, in a time where others are suffering or maybe you yourself are suffering, here is a list of instruction to be the Church. Here is a list of things we can do to serve our neighbors, to love well, to show others hospitality, to care. Imagine if we all did that? What a great time to start.

SO, although I still carry guilt and this need in my soul to GO, right now, I am where I am supposed to be. I am at home with my kids. We are literally teaching them and although it is challenging and hard, it is also really great to see them learning, not only things they are getting from school, but solid, foundational things that unless we were in this space, we would not be able to teach them.  Around Easter, I heard a term called Domestic Church. The way I interpreted it was that sometimes we as parents assume that the church we attend or the school we attend will be teaching foundational lessons our kids need. The majority of time they do and that is great but imagine how much more our kids would glean from day to day experiences that we as parents teach them.  Although challenging, we have that opportunity right now. We have seen it not only in them, but in ourselves that God has used that time. There have been times when stress has overcome us all and we have had “family meetings” where we ask each other for forgiveness. We have been learning about the Fruits of the Spirit and can relate them to our daily lives. It is good accountability to us as parents too! We have seen how taking seriously the journey of Jesus to the Cross has not only had a profound impact on our lives, but on our kids lives and they wouldn’t have gotten such an intimate look this year if we were not at home.

So, is there stress?  Is it difficult?  Do we need to grieve things and ask for forgiveness from each other?  YES!  Would we rather be back to “normal life” as we knew it?  Maybe, there is a lot to be said for the rhythms of daily normal life.  But I also want to take to heart some of what we have already have learned through this time.  Family is so important.  This time with our kids is so important.  We want our kids to see what the Church is supposed to be, starting with us.  Do we fail?  YES, every day.  But we want our kids to see that failing is part of life, getting up is important, asking for forgiveness is important.  Encouraging one another is important, encouraging others, loving and serving others, loving our neighbor, it’s important, its vital.

We continue to live in this in between place.  We live between hope and frustration, hope and stress, hope and loss, hope and new normalcy, evaluating what that looks like.

May the same God who lived in that same space between hope and grief or frustration or stress or loss, meet you today wherever you are.  May you feel all of those things knowing He is with you.  May you name and live in those hard spaces, but knowing that there is HOPE, greater than the suffering.  May you be inspired, as we are, by our partners in ministry who unselfishly give and give and give of themselves to others.  May that lead you to inspire and serve as well.

Grace and peace to you all!

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In the Middle of It

It seems a little selfish to share what is happening with us when there are so many around the world that have it worse than we do.  We are safe and secure and have enough food.  In all honesty, I just feel like we are in “emergency mode” trying to do the day-in and day-out things to keep our heads above water.  It’s not easy, some days are downright brutal where I am surprised I get up to face it all again the next day.  I could complain and I could give a list of our frustrations and struggles, but I’ll be real honest, I just don’t have the energy for that.  I have read a lot about grieving so much during this time.  I get it.  There is a whole heck of a lot to grieve.  But in all honesty, I just haven’t allowed myself to go there.  It isn’t because we are these well-adapted humans that can handle anything that comes our way, far from that if you know us very well.  It isn’t because we shouldn’t grieve, we probably should and those around us talking about that, I am glad you are able to do that.  For myself, I just haven’t allowed myself to go there.  Maybe I am weak, maybe my mind just knows if I go there, I will go further down a road into a negative place.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like things are super sunshiny, I am just trying to focus on positive, not negative because there seems to be a lot more negative around us these days than positive.  I have moments, usually by myself when something or nothing really sparks something, and I break down.  I feel it when my kids are worried and understanding a lot more about the Coronavirus than they should.  When they question why we are inside or when they pray sweet prayers for those who have coronavirus or that it would “go-away fast!”  My heart hurts a little when my middle is worried she may get sick but then repeats back that she knows God is with us.  When there are tears because of homework and reading and knowing that it really has nothing to do with the reading or homework, just trying to navigate through feelings not understood and ground not yet walked because none of us have done this before.  So, we hug tighter and longer.  We try to give grace to each other knowing that a lot of our frustrations and strong words are just outcries of not being in control, of trekking new things.  Some days I want to be negative, I want to write a laundry list of my grievances to whoever will listen, but it’s no one’s fault.  The reality I know about myself is that I need the positive, I need to surround myself with it.  So, although I can’t yet go to the grieving place, I am trying to be honest about where I am.  But also realize that we have been given time.  A few weeks ago the thought of doing a scavenger hunt would have seemed overwhelming.  But now I am cherishing the moments we have of laughter, soccer games as a family, picnics on the terrace, fun homemade meals.  I am hoping the moments of laughing until our tummies hurt because mom whiffs the shot in soccer will outweigh the moments of frustration with homework or emotions that aren’t understood.  I pray that the grief is outweighed by longer hugs, more “I love you’s”, deeper conversations, dance parties spontaneously to get the frustrations out, yoga learning, less focus on calendars and plans and more on time together.  I pray grace can be given as we traverse emotions none of us understand, circumstances out of our control and peace in the middle of all of the chaos around us.

Peace to you as well.

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From Worry to Worship

I wish I could say that I came up with the title of the blog, but it was taken from a sermon I heard this morning.  So, thank you Jeremy for the title and for the amazing sermon this morning.

By the way, as a side note before I jump in, I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to open up social media and see churches all over broadcasting their services.  Supporting churches of ours, it was amazing to see you and hear sermons and worship.  It was a far cry from the normal Coronavirus whatever to encouraging and uplifting words, tangible advice from the Bible to live by and encouraging worship to draw us to the feet of Jesus, so THANK YOU CHURCH!

The sermon I heard this morning was from Habakkuk, yes one of those books tucked in the old testament that is sometimes (or most times) hard to find because we may not read it very often.  Such is the case for me.  I have read it, but this was a very different take for me in light of all that is going on in the world right now.  I won’t give a sermon or anything like that, but it was such a tangible piece of scripture today that brought together a few things God had been laying on my heart.  In a time like this, I certainly don’t feel like I am helping all that much.  I like to help and support and when I worked in the hospital, I always felt I was helping and feel I could be at this point.  But yesterday I felt that I should be praising, worshipping and sharing that light with others over social media.  Now, I realize this is no grand act of helping.  But I realized today how much my spirit was lifted because I was in the presence of God and worshipping.

So, back to Habakkuk and where this all came from.  Habakkuk has some questions for God and seems pretty confused.  So this book is kind of a back and forth, Habakkuk asks questions and God answers.  I love the dialogue, it is such a good representation of what we should be doing with God, right?  Anyway, two things from the sermon was that Habakkuk remembered the ways in which God was faithful.  We ALL have those, right?  Times we can look back on and see God’s faithfulness.  I stepped back today and remembered my journey in becoming a missionary.  I knew this was God laid on my heart since I was 10 years old!  Seeing His faithfulness woven through that journey is a reminder that His faithfulness is woven in our stories, no matter what we face, trials, struggles, viruses, etc, God is still God and His faithfulness remains.

The second thing was in the final chapter of Habakkuk there is a prayer that is beautiful and there is ONE word that changes the WHOLE passage for me.  In verse 17, things look bad, there is no fruit, the crops are failing, things look pretty bleak, but then there is a word, “YET” in verse 18.  YET, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Soveriegn Lord  is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights…

One simple word, YET, changes it all.  Yet, I will rejoice.  Even when it looks bad, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when the chaos is all around, even when you can’t see the answer or the plan or the purpose, YET, I will rejoice.  Whatever all the things are in your life BEFORE “YET”, remember God’s faithfulness because it is there, HE is here and that is all the reason to rejoice and praise and worship.

So, for those consumed with worry, anxiety, unsettled about the future and the chaos around, REMEMBER God’s faithfulness.  Even when you can’t remember, even when you can’t see in front of you, even when it doesn’t make sense to praise, YET, rejoice.  Sometimes we need to confess what we KNOW is truth before we actually believe it.  So, I challenge you to two things in light of the chaos we are living in.  I challenge you this week to REMEMBER and PRAISE.

REMEMBER God’s faithfulness in your life.  All of us have it.  If you have trouble in  your own life, remember the faithfulness God shows us throughout the Bible.  In Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Mary, Mary, the disciples, Peter, Paul.  Faithfulness is woven throughout scripture.  Write it down if you need to to remind yourself each day.  And then PRAISE God for His faithfulness.  Praise when it doesn’t make sense, when you don’t understand because we know that God is God, He is sovereign and He is GOOD.

So, I told you my Remember story with my journey as a missionary.

My praise is music today and probably will be each day for a while.  I encourage you to listen and to share YOUR praise with others.  We KNOW the world needs more positive.  As I was encouraged by the CHURCH this morning, may we in turn encourage those around us through praise, prayer, partnership or what ever other ways God is calling you.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.

For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

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A Night to Remember

A week ago Thursday night, Rolando Escola and our staff held an amazing Appreciation and Fundraising Banquet for many of the people that have been so supportive of the Home For At Risk Children in Cayambe over the last several years. The mayor of Cayambe was there along with many other important Government officials as well as leaders of organizations and businesses in Cayambe. We also had our visitors from Canada with us as well. It was a beautful night of talking about the project, giving thanks and asking our guests to make a commit to support the Home in 2020.

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Breaking Chains

Last week we personally witnessed the Prevention Program in action and the word used to desribe it with is WOW! We watched and listened as two of the workers from the program taught in a room with 92 parents. The goal was to talk with them about how to prevent alcoholism in their children. It started out with jokes and laughter about why people drink alcohol, when and with who? Then asked about behavior that happens while drinking and then how do you think this effects your children? There was a line written on the white board for all to see with “grandparents”, “parents”, “children” and “grandchildren” asking who is it that breaks the cycle? With the answer being PARENTS! The mood went from joking and laughter to quiet and pensive. Then it was asked of the parents to do an activity where each puts a hand print, representing a signature or promise to break the cycle. The very ones joking were then the ones leading these groups to come up with promises they can sign to break these cycles in their families, to show their children they are serious. I can’t tell you the feeling of watching friends and fellow workers in the trenches helping people break chains of addiction! You may ask why is this important? The programs happening and the countless hours put in to the programs, workshops and individual conversations are making a difference. They are breaking chains, there is healing happening! It is important and it is life-changing! As we have mentioned previously, this prevention program is made possible by the Ecuadorian government as well as funds from Covenant World Relief. THANK YOU for helping make a difference!

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Thank you Canadian friends!

What an amazing week! Our friends from Canada are preparing to leave and we are sad to see them go. As always it was a life-giving adventure serving together. They have an on-going partnership with The Santiago Partnership where they partner with the project in Cayambe and serve in San Antonio, a Kichwa community, through counseling, VBS, womens ministries, building a retaining wall, communion and more. They also saw first-hand the prevention program working in a community an hour from Cayambe. They spoke with families about how to prevent alcoholism in their children. It was amazing, sombering, eye-opening and something that made us proud to see how those working in the the project are literally breaking cycles of addiction in families! We are so thankful for these ladies working in the prevention program to change their communities!

Highlights from the trip for the team members:

“The hospitality”

“The food”

“The relationships”

“Continuing partnerships”

“My heart is full”

“I was vulnerable and helped solidify relationships”

The child, how hard they work and how strong they are”

“We understand the word “Minga” now”

There aren’t a lot of words to fully describe how amazing this time together was. We are thankful. Grateful. Amazing. Life-Giving.

Thank-you always seems too little to say to our Canada friends, but THANK YOU! You all hold a special place in our heart. We miss you already!

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Going Deeper, Partnership Together

 

We said in one of our last posts that we would keep you informed  and updated about the new program called the Intervention Program.

The program we have talked about in the past, the Prevention Program is in part, financed by the government, but not fully.  This program serves 80 families in 8 different communities to check-in with the families, provide workshops, identify systemic holes and help with needs caused by a lot of those holes in the system.  This is a broad program with a broad spectrum of care.

In turn, the new Intervention Program, as well partly financed by the Ecuadorian government, will be a more targeted program, engaging with 30 families in at-risk situations.  The program staff comprised of a social worker, community facilitator, and clinical psychologist.  They will go deeper with these families on an individual level and work in conjunction with them to hopefully better the issues identified together.  The goal of both of these programs is to prevent the need for the home for at risk children.

Please continue to pray for our staff and new staff members working specifically with this program. They are in part, “first responders” to some of the most impoverished areas in Ecuador and that takes a toll.

The Santiago Partnership is excited about this new initiative and new way to help and go deeper with Ecuadorians.

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Partnership in Action

We are very excited to announce another new development in our partnership journey.  Covenant World Relief will be partnering with the ministries here in Ecuador to vulnerable children and the medically underserved. Covenant World Relief, the humanitarian aid ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church who participates in God’s transforming mission in the world through disaster relief and community development among the most vulnerable will be partnering with The Santiago Partnership, IPEE (Iglesia del Pacto Evangelico del Ecuador) and FACE (Fundacion Adelanto Communitario Ecuatoriano).

We have told you that although both the Intervention Program and Prevention programs are supported by the government, they are not fully funded.  Covenant World Relief will be providing the finances not provided by the Ecuadorian government for both of these programs, the intervention and prevention.  By these funds being provided, it will free up the Santiago Partnership budget to be able to serve in other ways, like an additional careworker for the Home for At Risk Children, finishing construction for the second floor of the Home or even saving money for opening a second Home for At Risk Children!  Isn’t that amazing to dream about?

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Serving as a Whole

This past week we had the pleasure of serving alongside Dr. Kristi Lundblad (Santiago Partnership volunteer) and a large team that came from the area of Chicago, Indiana and California to serve vulnerable children as well as others through a wholistic medical caravan out of the Medical Clinic in Cayambe. Through the medical caravan we saw just under 400 patients. We had a diverse team that included a pediatrician, nurse practitioners, audiologists, pastors, a social worker as well as people who provided general assistance. Some team members were also able to connect with the Home for At Risk Children and its ministries. This included helping our chaplain Cecilia in doing outreach to some of the most vulnerable in the area. What an awesome week of wholistic service together!

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