Indiana University Dental Students return to serve

A little over a month ago our project had the opportunity to serve alongside a group dental students from Indiana University School of Dentistry.  They come each year to work in the communities in and around Cayambe.  This year the group consisted of 10 students, 5 dentists, and one person who organizes and cleans equipment.  They worked in three different locations in the area, working with primarily a Kichwa population.  They saw a total of 229 patients throughout the week and provided fluoride treatments to around 500 local children.  We had a great week of working together!

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Updated Schedule

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Training for a 10k for 15 Good Reasons

You can see the GoFundMe Page here: Training for a 10k for 15 Good Reasons

During this year of Home Assignment Kim and I have been intentional in making changes in our lives to be healthier in many senses of the word.  As a kind of final goal for me in terms of my physical health, I decided to run a 10k and I have signed up for the 10k at the Munster Rotary Run A Round in Munster, IN on June 8th.  We’ll be moving back to our home in Ecuador on June 15th.

Running a 10k will not be easy for me.  Though I have run a Marathon in the past, that was almost 15 years ago and I am no where in the kind of shape that I was back then.  Years of hard work in life and ministry and a lack of focus on caring for myself has taken its toll, so for me now, running a 10k will be a major accomplishment.

But I don’t want to just run for myself.  I have 15 reasons to run a race that has more importance than my own.  The Emanuel Home for At Risk Children in Cayambe, Ecuador is the home for 15 children who give me all the reason I need to run a race for a greater purpose.  Their stories are ones who I will never truly understand or relate to because of the pain and difficulty I have experienced in life pales in comparison to theirs.  As I train and run along the pavement and as my muscles ache from exertion, I will try to imagine what the pain could possibly be like to be abandoned by the only people you know in the world.  As I struggle to catch my breath on the long runs, I will try relate to the endless cycle of abuse that leaves the children grasping for the air of freedom from the on-going torment.  And as I, God willing, cross the finish line on June 8th, I will rejoice that my accomplishment is nothing as compared to when these precious children are able to reunified with their families into a healthy and loving home.

Any donation of any amount is appreciated as I want this race to be bigger than myself and my own personal goals.

You can check out the Santiago Partnership website  at https://www.santiagopartnership.org/ to learn more about us.  The Santiago Partnership, as an international team of followers of Jesus Christ collaborating with the local church of Ecuador, South America, seeks to transform the lives of at risk children and their families, as well as serve underprivileged communities.

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A Beardless Reflection

As silly as this selfie looks…. here we go!

 

This my attempt to explain why I am now beardless.  For those of you are thinking right now, “who cares???” or “why a reflection on something so trivial???”… I will be explaining.  For the possible one or two of you that actually remember the point of this new face and why it is a big deal, you, my friends, are to be commended.

 

To explain, please see my Journal Reflection from October 30th, 2014: Talk to the Beard

 

If you couldn’t make it to read the entire post from 2014, here is the part that pertains to today: 

 

“What I am saying is that I have had enough… It’s time to make changes in my life and for our marriage and family that will better sustain us over the long run of ministry and life.  We just need to setup patterns in our lives, and my life specifically, that will provide a better balance of ministry and family/health.  In addition to having such a strong focus on ministry, I need to balance things out better with taking care of myself and my family.  Specifically, I need to focus on being a better husband and father, my health (eating, exercise, etc), spending more time dedicated to God, and having down time with my family and friends.

 

After Kim and I get through this  busy time of transitioning to Ecuador and getting our project going, we are planning working together to put together a life plan to do just this.  And I will be making a commitment to myself to do things different. All of these kinds of commitments will hopefully put us in a better place to be sustained over the long run of a life of ministry.  We don’t want to get burnt out.. I was feeling like I wasn’t going to make it to the age of 40 there for a while!!!  We want to be happy and content in ministry and not feel like it is a burden that God has called us to.

 

So, that is why I have the beard.  I told myself that as a way of holding myself accountable to getting this plan in place of creating a new me, I would grow a beard in order to have a daily reminder that I need to do better.  So, it’s Joel’s form of a goofy penance that I am forced to remind myself of each and every day when I look in the mirror.

 

Once I get myself in a more healthy state, I will shave my beard again.  So, you can watch for pictures of a beardless Joel and rejoice with me when that day comes!”

 

So, yes, it has been FOUR AND A HALF YEARS!!!  I’ll say that again…. IT’S BEEN FOUR AND A HALF YEARS!!!  I.have.finally.shaved.  It has taken this long but I have finally shaved.  Now, this all probably would have happened much quicker if I wouldn’t have trimmed my beard along the way but I guess maybe I’ll take that tip with me for next time.

 

Things have been going well in this year of intentional holistic health improvement.  I’m still keeping very busy BUT… I am exercising, eating healthy, going to bed on time, spending time daily with God, reading and being intentional in spending time with Kim and the kids.  All of this has been a part of our healthy journey that we have been on during this year of Home Assignment.  If you didn’t catch that blog, you can read that one here: Falling into Good Health.

 

We have been successful in implementing changes in our lives and creating new habits.  Kim and I have both joined different nutrition/health programs in which I am counting my caloric intake and being accountable about the kinds of food I eat.  Along with this, we have been exercising regularly.  Kim does a lot of fitness classes.  I had been going to the gym but I recently changed things up to where I am training for a 10k.  These changes have been successful in producing results.  I have lost 30 lbs!  But the more important thing is that I keep it off, so that is why in addition to saying THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR PRAYERS!!!… I also want to say PLEASE KEEP PRAYING!!!  We will be getting even busier as we return to our busy lives in Ecuador and we will be hitting the ground running as we will already have a mission team there when we arrive and we will have 3 more teams and some volunteers over the summer months.  It will be a busy time and we want to rest on the habits and routines that we have learned to keep us grounded in good health.  Please pray for us that we can make that happen.

 

I really don’t want to have to grow a beard again so let’s keep this going and stay on the right path of healthy goals and lifestyles!

 

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Reflections on Maundy Thursday and the Cross

The evening meal was in progress and the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  John 13:  2-5

My thoughts written in my journal during the Maundy Thursday service tonight…

The unfaithfulness of US, makes the cross that much more significant because HE was so faithful and focused on the cross.  We focus so much on the resurrection without remembering the road to it.  There is SO MUCH that happens between the garden (Gethsemane) and the cross.

(Listening to Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded and it is so beautiful)

So much endured.  So much to remember as a bystander.  The significance of washing feet.  Tonight we washed Simeon’s feet together, Simeon and Joel washed my feet together and then Simeon and I washed Joel’s feet.  The example Christ sets in this act is extraordinary.

The anxiety and fear and anticipation of “IT IS FINISHED” wrapped in a towel and basin with the cleansing of water.  We (meaning I), have to remember this before we can focus on the cross and resurrection because THIS is the essence of the cross.  Christ’s character and identity present with each foot with each drop of water and dirt mix washed away, patted dry.  Without blemish or stain by the ONE with no blemish or stain.  We did nothing, the disciples did nothing but observe this act and remember it as we do the bread and the cup.  The mystery, the way Christ wove each moment in to the cloth of this final act is hard to wrap our minds around.  But we must attempt to step in to this journey and understand.  Not just jump to Sunday and the joy, but remember and not forget the road that gets us there.

For me, God meets me in music.  Here are some of the songs that have brought me in to this place on Maundy Thursday and as Good Friday comes, allow yourself to feel the enormity of what Christ did…for US, underserving, unfaithful.

Let us Break Bread

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

What Wondrous Love Is This

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Kids Helping Kids

Recently a new resource was distributed through the Evangelical Covenant Church and Covenant World Relief which is called Kids Helping Kids: Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

Through the Kids Helping Kids resource, children will learn from and be inspired by children from around the world. The following resource shares stories from orphaned and vulnerable children and the ways that Covenant partners are showing the love of Christ by caring for and supporting children and families.

Kids Helping Kids enables us to partner with children on their spiritual journey to:

  • fulfill Christ’s commandment to love God and our neighbor,
  • foster a larger kingdom view,
  • provide a shared faith experience to build community,
  • learn from the faith stories of other children around the world, and
  • reflect and share their own stories of faith and what it means to respond thoughtfully and responsibly to other children’s stories.

Two of the children from the Home for At Risk Children who have been reunified with their families, Sebastian and Mikael, were included in this resource. We believe this booklet could be of benefit to many children and churches.

You can view the resources here: Kids Helping Kids

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A Game Changer

We are so happy to announce the acquisition of a 2016 Hyundai H1 12-passenger van that you see pictured here for the Home for At Risk Children. This van is such an incredible blessing for the project and especially the kids in the Home as it will provide a safe and spacious vehicle for their daily commute to and from school and for outings to various places throughout the week like church or trips to the park. We are so happy to have finally acquired this tool for ministry as we have been looking for resources to make the purchase for a couple of years now. We are so thankful to Northwest Covenant Church in Mt. Prospect, IL and their Development Fund as it allowed us to make this purchase!

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Updated Schedule

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Living here and there and everywhere and being present in it all.

Image may contain: one or more people and basketball court

I wonder sometimes if people understand what the life of a missionary is like.  I think people want to.  I think people even TRY to, but I’m not sure that to “understand” is quite the right word.  Some may empathize or sympathize or over or under dramatize or glamorize the life of missionaries.  Don’t get me wrong, I did too!  I have to catch myself thinking how cool I am that I get to be a missionary!  Circumstances and situations quickly put me in my place and bring me back to my reality that I am the same as any other mom, wife and follower of Jesus.  Fallen, messy, sin-filled and struggling to keep my head above water just like everyone else.

So, all of this gave me the idea that maybe instead of thinking that everyone knows or wants to know or DOESN’T want to know what mission life is all about, that maybe I could do my part to help give a little insight in to our missionary life.

As we visit churches during our home assignment (what used to be called “furlough” or “deputation” or “itineration”), we get a lot of different questions.  We expect this and welcome it as it is always a great way to tell people about our life.  Inevitably there usually ends up being a question about how has our time been in the States?  “Are we ready to go back to Ecuador?”  The answer is YES!  We are really excited to get back to Ecuador.  The kids talk about it almost daily which I am very thankful for.  They miss what they know even though they love some much here and we can all tend to be spoiled with certain things.  With the excitement and anticipation from the kids, it gives us a little extra motivation and encouragement to jump in to another transition.  Most people don’t like transition.  I don’t think we are any different.  The difference is, is that we spend a lot of our life in transition by nature of what we do.  So, in all honesty, although we are so looking forward to getting back to Ecuador we also hesitate a little too.  It doesn’t get easier to leave friends and family.  It doesn’t get easier to uproot what has become stable and fluid and rhythms of life that bring comfort.  It doesn’t get easier to have conveniences of grocery delivery replaced with 3 stores and half a day to get your groceries.  It doesn’t…and the list goes on…

So at this point in our journey, being 2 or some months out from yet another transition (return tickets are purchased for June 15th), we make mental notes of the things we want to purchase because we can’t get them in Ecuador.  We write notes and letters and make phone calls more frequently knowing that we won’t see people for some time.  We want to make every moment count with hugs from family and those best friends that are life friends.  Distance doesn’t change them, but miles make the goodbyes harder.  We fight off the tears just yet because there may be one more visit or hug or holiday that we squeeze in before we leave so we don’t have to tackle that goodbye just yet.  But we want to feel those emotions because it is what makes us remember.  We could go numb and not let it bother us.  But with the aches of goodbyes, we realize that those give way to life and love and ways of loving that are mysterious and hard to understand.  Sometimes the words we want to say may muck up the feelings and words that are left unsaid and unspoken because we know.  We know we love each other.  We know we are proud of each other.  We know, we just know.  There are emotions.  There are lots of emotions.  At this point and on some days we don’t feel them, we may not want to.  Other days, like today for me, I realized after an emotional response to something that really what was coming out was the need for stability and rest.  Then emotions come from other things and it seems to spiral.  Knowing these and naming them are important and necessary.  Feeling “all the feels” is important.  We say it to our kids and tell them all of those emotions are OK, but we don’t always give ourselves that same type of grace.  All those feels are normal in transition, especially multiple transitions.  It’s OK.  I feel I may just need to look at myself in the mirror and repeat that to myself.  “It’s OK”.  What you are feeling is OK.  Name it.  Allow it to stir and set if needed and then talk about it.

So, as you read this, you may think, “wow, I had no idea.”  Don’t feel bad, most people don’t and even for a lot of missionaries it may take a while to be able to wrap our heads around these things.  As I think about the next couple of months and what we need to do, it gets pretty overwhelming.  As I have talked with some people in different conversations, they wonder what we have to do.  Well, as we anticipate delving in to another 4 year term, we realize we will be in a place that doesn’t have somethings we love.  Simple things really, but things that can bring comfort and care for us.  So, we anticipate needing to buy those things.  We think about and prepare for being in Ecuador and not coming back all that often so we want to buy clothes for the kids for the next couple of years.  We anticipate Christmas and Halloween and Thanksgiving so we try and purchase things for those seasons and holidays that we will likely not be able to get in Ecuador.  Birthday gifts, Halloween costumes, Christmas sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc, etc etc.  As we anticipate this stuff and have throughout the year, we also anticipate the cost of it.  There have been people that have given us clothes which helps so much so we don’t have to buy as much.  But we may need to purchase those things.  People ask us how they can help and although we aren’t always great at saying what we need, we know there are somethings we need and don’t have the means to buy it all.  So, if you maybe have been looking for a tangible way to help us over these next couple of months.  Here are some things we need…

GIFT CARDS for places like:

OLD NAVY, KOHL’S, AMAZON, TARGET

Gently used boys clothes size 8-12

Gently used shoes: girls size 11-13, boys size 1-5

Suitcases to take to Ecuador

 

 

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Updated Schedule

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