A Carter Visit

We were so happy to have my (Kim) parents come for a visit right after the protests had ended.  They almost had to cancel their trip because of the protest but we were so thankfuly that they were still able to come.  It was a joy to have them with us for a full week.  This was the first time that they together had been to Ecuador to visit us since 2011.  This was also the first time that my dad was able to visit our project in Cayambe.   We were able to spend time together as a family which is so important for us as our kids usually live so far a way from their grandparents.  Grandma and Grandpa got to experience the daily ins and outs of our lives here including reading stories and listening to stories being read for homework, going to Chicberry, Taco Tuesday, going to soccer and swimming practices, seeing Simeon’s baseball game and more.  It was fun to see my mom reading the Bible to Esther as that is something I remember her doing from my childhood.  It was a life giving and blessed time for all of us!

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A Nation-Changing Protest

As many of you may be aware, Ecuador recently endured a 12-day strike.  What had occurred was the president and our legislative body had passed an economic reform package that included removing fuel subsidies that had been in place since the 80’s.  The removal of these subsidies caused a sudden and drastic increase in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel; in some cases, it actually more than doubled.  You can imagine the shock to the system that would cause if something like this occurred in the U.S. or Canada but for many people who barely make enough to pay the bills every month here in Ecuador, this was an incredibly difficult change to endure.  And what was even more difficult than this change in the price of gasoline was the fact that in making this sudden change, it meant that cost of many every day goods like fresh produce and other basic consumables would rise as well.  Bus fares would also need to go up to accomodate the additional fuel expenses.  These kinds of changes drastically affect the every day Joe and Jill (or maybe it is better to say Jose and Maria!) in Ecuador as they are people who go month-by-month providing for their family from the income they recieve that month and there isn’t much wiggle room in that budget.  This is why people immediately reacted and started to protest this econimic reform.

You can read a good, thorough summary of the protests here: Ecuador Protests

One neat thing that occurred during these protests was that some of our staff from our project in Cayambe came to help during this time of crisis.  Read about it here: Protest Caravan

For our family, this was a pretty nerve-racking time.  We have counted and we knew that this was the 4th protest that we have been through here in Ecuador.  However, this was the longest and the scariest for us.  A lot of our time was spent indoors as we were asked to stay in our homes by our bosses in Chicago and for the most part our neighborhood was relatively quiet.  But as the 12-day strike continued on, the shelves in the supermarkets slowly became bare as the roads were blocked and more products couldn’t make it.  We kept learning of more and more road blockages; for example, the road to the airport was blocked at various times.  Finally, our stress level hit an all-time high when the potable water service in our neighborhood was cut off and there were threats that the electricity would be next.  Thankfully, soon after that, the protests ended peacefully with the president deciding to rescind the economic package, thus reinstating the fuel subsidies.

We were thankful to have the protests be over and life quickly return to normal but even more than a sense of relief that we felt from the fact that it was over was the strong sense of pride that we felt.  Why pride you ask?  Well, if you aren’t aware, this protest was led by the nation’s indigenous.  You also may not be aware that our project’s leader, Rolando Escola, is Kichwa, the nation’s largest indigenous group.  Also, we have three other staff members who are also Kichwa.  Additionally, we serve a lot Kichwa through our project, especially through our Medical Caravans who go up into the mountainous communities to serve the indigenous where they live with very little access to medicine.  We have come to know and love our Kichwa brothers and sisters.  We have also come to have a lot of respect for them and their incredible work ethic, their strong sense of community, their humble demeanor, their devotion to maintaining their culture and their love of the land and the country of Ecuador.  We respected our indigenous friends before the protest but now it is safe to that our respect has even multiplied.  These strong yet humble, impoverished people unified as one group (there are over 20 different indigenous groups throughout the country) to lead the protest that they said was for the entire nation against a repressive government.  The removal of these fuel subsidies would not affect the rich very much but would greatly alter the lives of the poor and the working class.  Our indigenous friends stood up against the government and won a battle for the people of Ecuador.  I (Joel) will never forget watching on TV the meeting that occurred between indigenous leadership and the president and other government officials where the truce was agreed upon.  The indigenous were strong and straight forward; they would only accept a removal of the economic package and reinstating of the fuel subsidies.  The president agreed.  I have never seen anything like it and may never see anything like it again.  Kim and my pride for the indigenous overflowed when the negotiations were concluded with the first woman who was given the opportunity to speak: a beautiful and articulate indigenous woman leader from the Amazon.

We will let you see for yourself:

 

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A Revision Trip

During the early days of October, we helped host a team of pastors and church leaders from the Covenant’s East Coast Conference on a first-ever-for-Ecuador “Revision Trip.”  A Revision Trip is a for pastors and lay leaders to visit on of our global sister churches to learn from them.  Possibly, their church is in a place where they would like a new start or a new initiative or maybe even a whole new vision.  The Revision Trip provides them the opportunity to travel and to learn from our international sisters and brothers in Christ and how they are ministering in their context.  In this way, they can learn something new and hope to find a way to apply it to their own church and ministry context.  As mentioned earlier, this was a first of its kind trip for Ecuador.  The other missionaries and us along with IPEE leadership had the opportunity to host this wonderful bunch.  Unfortunately, their time got cut a little bit short as the protests had begun right when they arrived.  We felt it was best for them to leave to head home early rather than to get stuck in Ecuador for an extended time.

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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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