This past February we were invited to the 70th annual meeting for the Covenant Church here in Ecuador.
We were invited to share about who Merge is and what we do.
It was so wonderful for me, as it was my first time attending an annual meeting in Ecuador.
In some ways it felt like a mini-reunion, meeting up with all the pastors and laypeople who we have worked with through Merge over the years.
Richard’s parents were also there so it was fun to, at least, eat breakfast with them and talk a little bit between sessions.
Honestly, until I became a Covenant missionary, I really did not know a lot about the Covenant, but through trainings, meetings, workshops, and personal study and reflection…I am so, so proud to be a Covenanter.
I really love who the Covenant is and what they stand for, and that love transfers over here in Ecuador…as a member of a Covenant church here in Ecuador, I find myself equally as proud and connected to the Covenant family as I did back in the USA.
And as I sat watching the different brothers and sisters that I’ve gotten to know here in Ecuador, mingle and laugh and talk, all I could think about was how lovely it is that the Covenant represents so many peoples, backgrounds, cultures, families, worship styles, and that through its diversity, we represent a bigger picture of who God is through this Covenant family, and even more so through this walk of faith in Christ!
It was a very beautiful time!
We love hosting and partnering with groups from the USA….but we also LOVE partnering with groups from other places around the world!
Not a lot of people know that Merge is open to and has hosted groups from all over the world, and not just groups that have a Covenant background either….Merge has hosted groups before that were from a Catholic church, non-denominational, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. It is so awesome to see God’s Kingdom work done here on earth through different denominations and peoples and cultures.
This past week we were able to host and partner with a group from Canada!
The group was made up of different Canadian Covenant churches that all met together in Ecuador and spent the week in San Antonio de La Paccha partnering with the Covenant church there as well as partnering with the Santiago Partnership!
We had a lovely week of women’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, as well as a parenting conference.
Thanks, Canada team for your partnership and for extending grace, love, and a willingness to be taught and changed!
I cannot believe how January has come and is now waving goodbye as February slowly enters the door.
I really loved January.
We were able to go to Guayaquil and spend time with family and friends as well as enjoy the ocean and beach:
In January we received our first Merge team of the year (and one very close to our hearts), you can read about our time here.
We had a lot of wonderful meetings with different church boards and project board members in Ecuador:
We were invited to participate and dialogue in our first Kichwa community meeting:
We had different friends visit and were able to host the secretary and a worship delegate from the Covenant church of Sweden:
As well as host the Covenant church’s North District meeting in our house:
We were able to finish a lot of projects around the house and connect more with the local Kichwa church we are partnering with:
As well as help out more in the Rehabilitation center and connect more there:
I was also able to take the whole month of January as a month of resetting my routines and rhythms (read about it here) as well as take the month of off social media.
It was really lovely as I was able to take back sacred spaces and times in my life (like my early morning quiet time) and reestablish old and create new rhythms for the coming year (like taking time to read, exercise, etc.) I feel much more grounded, and clear-headed as I head into February and the rest of the year.
February looks like it will be a busy month as the once clear, little calendar boxes are now almost full with meetings, teams, travel, and projects. But I don’t feel the anxiety or the need to hurry like I use to, which I really credit to my reestablished early mornings and the Rest Retreat.
So “hear hear!” to the coming of February and all that it shall bring!
It’s been a little over a week since our first team of the year left.
The team, Riverside Covenant Church, came from West Lafayette, IN. They come every year in June, but this year they made a special trip in January for the members of their church who can’t make it in June. And let me tell you, it was SUCH a DELIGHT to see them again!
This team was actually the first team we received when we first started as Trip Facilitators in 2015, which was a HUGE blessings because they are such a flexible and loving team and this year, was no exception.
It was a beautiful week! We mainly stayed in Cayambe partnering with the compassion program that the church has as well as working with the Santiago Partnership to extend the clinic. We also had a few days where we were able to do crafts with the children from the Casa Hogar (a children’s home in connection with the Santiago Partnership).
At the end of the week we were able to visit the team’s partnership church, El Buen Pastor in Cangahua, and attended the inauguration of the opening of the building they will use for classrooms and offices. We were also able to join the church on a hike, with some incredible views, as well as serve the church community a campfire meal, and co-host a bonfire for the community.
A really humbling and learning moment for all of the group and Merge staff was when the pastor of the church in Cangahua asked us to help him pass out tracts to the community and invite them to the service and bonfire the church and team were co-hosting that night.
To be honest, I was a bit in shock and was not sure how the team was going to respond to the request as some members of the team and Merge felt like passing out tracts was not the most holistic way of ministering and sharing the gospel with the community. (Who did we think we were?)
But we agreed and split up into groups and went on our ways, guided by different members of the church.
After returning, we shared our experiences, noting that the community was much more open and willing to listen and converse then we had expected them to be, although, some of us were still unsure and still a bit uncomfortable with the experience, but we tucked our thoughts and doubts away and prepared for the service and bonfire, doubting anyone we had previously invited, while passing out the tracts, would actually show up.
And that is when we had to eat humble pie.
A couple minutes before the service was about to start, people started trickling in, one by one, two by two, in groups….we started noticing people we had invited earlier on, coming into the church, until eventually, the whole church filled up, even to overflowing!
And they stayed and listened and watched and worshiped and came out to the bonfire after. It was incredible!
Afterwards, when we had a chance to debrief as a team we recognized our lack of faith and trust in how God was and is moving there in Cangahua, through the church, and through the pastor HE called to pastor there.
Who were we, coming from North America, to think that we had a better pulse on the community then the pastor, who grew up and lives in that community does? Who were we, to think we knew how to best share the gospel with a culture that is not our own? Who were we to judge how the Holy Spirit is moving in the church and community?
We agreed that, although passing out tracts may not be how God is calling us to share the gospel with our community, we can certainly not judge how he is moving and calling his people in Cangahua to love and share Jesus with their community.
We also recognized that we could use this experience as a starting point for next time we are in Cangahua; to mutually share about evangelism and how that looks based on the culture and community we come from and live in, as well as how God is calling us to be a light in our own neighborhoods and lives. We also realized that we could use this experience as a way to keep each other accountable for continuing to reach out, in creative, Spirit-led ways, to our neighbors and communities, not only caring for them spiritually, but physically as well.
We are excited to see Riverside and El Buen Pastor again in June!
All photos by Kayla Bacon and Mike Lang
1. coffee dates with my husband
2. this book
3. flowers in the house
4. hosting and breaking bread together
6. meeting new friends and hearing their vision
7. baby kittens
8. spending time with dear friends
9. the morning light (always KILLS me!)
10. learning to cook new foods
11. exploring new trails
12. when little ones take selfies
13. a creaking gate
15. reading by the fire
16. trying on and wearing sweaters
17. this coffee shop
18. writing about my memories at my grandparent’s old house
19. wind in the curtains (and windy days…..HEART!!!!)
20. bing cherries
Like I mentioned in our December Newsletter, I always feel bittersweet about leaving the old year behind. I think back on all that was said, not said, done, and not done, seen, felt, heard, learned, etc….
It was a hard, magical year, 2017…a good hard and a hard hard and magic bits in between here and there.
We reached our 80% mark for being funded, Richard became a citizen of the USA, we traveled to many different states, we moved to a new country, we did Merge, we got involved in new ministries, we went Scandinavia and to Europe and met up with my whole family, I became a resident of Ecuador, our car broke, I got really sick, we fought, we forgave, we learned, we missed weddings and births, we got really busy, too busy…..
But even though it was a hard year, it was a year of life together with my husband, with my family, with my friends, with God….and I truly believe that each season is a gift a there are treasures to be found, lessons to be learned, life to be lived.
One of the things that I really want to change this year is how busy and scattered I feel. I know that with moving to a new country and culture, there will be a certain amount of scattered-ness and busyness that one will experience, and I know that with Merge, especially in the summer, it can get downright crazy….and life, everyones’ life in general has moments, seasons, and days of busyness, but, but….I truly believe that there are enough hours, minutes, and seconds that make up moments, that we can use to refocus, breathe, pray, and rest. There are habits we can change, new ones we can start, and certain things we can say “no” to and others, “yes”.
So this year, I’m starting off with that in mind, and thanks to Amanda Watters, I have somewhere to start.
Amanda Watters is the author of the blog, Homesong. A beautiful journal of life, rhythms, routines, meals, crafts, and deep, beautiful thoughts.
I am joining her on her “Homesong Rest Retreat”. A retreat to “focus on being more intentional with our time, while devoting our energy to inner work that will help ground and center our spirits for the New Year ahead” -Amanda Watters
So if you’d like, you can join me as well!
Here is her first post with some starting information
And here is her latest post about preparations for the coming rest retreat.
Peace and joy in this new year!
This past weekend we left at 4am and headed to the coast to celebrate 29 years of Richard’s parents, Roberto and Carmita, serving as pastors in El Pacto de Dios Covenant church in Recinto Campamento (a small town outside of Guayaquil in the countryside).
It was a beautiful, tear-filled time of remembering and celebrating God’s faithfulness through the valleys and mountains of the history and life of the church and honoring the Roberto and Carmita’s dedication, perseverance, and faithfulness as pastors and planters of the church.
It was incredible to see pictures of the churches physical beginnings…a bamboo square, bamboo benches…
(Photos coming soon….)
As well as to hear the stories of the churches spiritual beginnings….to listen to story after story of lives being changed; the man that robbed the church money box every week who eventually, through the guidance and grace of the brothers and sisters in the church, changed his life and started attending the very church he was robbing.
But what really struck me, was the history of faithfulness of Roberto and Carmita.
It was not an easy beginning nor has it been since they started. They shared stories of times they wanted to give up. How they had to walk many kilometers through the mud and water (during rainy season) because there were no roads or buses to the church, how during service, sometimes only 5 people would show up, or how they faced a lot of opposition from other religious groups nearby…but yet, they persevered. Why?
Because Jesus had been (and is) faithful in their lives (In fact, Carmita shared that early in their marriage she told God that if he would change her husband’s life from an alcoholic, abusive husband to a Christian, then she would dedicate her whole life to Jesus and helping other women, and that is what she has done).
It’s a little church, there is no fame, not a lot of funds, no payment, but there they are, every Wednesday-Sunday…teaching, sharing, caring, praying, and working in this little part of the world that is HUGE in the Kingdom of God.
currently: drinking coffee and eating the last of the chocolate from Sweden (sorry, Richard!)
reading: Advent goodness
hearing: the tick of the kitchen clock
dreaming: of a white christmas (really)
singing: “i’ll be home for christmas“
watching: dancing with the stars (ahh, I want to get back into dance so badly!)
eating: lots of homemade bread, christmas cookies, and sauerkraut
drinking: ‘BUCH and not enough water
looking forward to: Christmas with our Ecuadorian family
thinking about: rhythms and routines
hoping for: SNOW on Christmas day
missing: family and baby spinach
loving: the holiday busyness
discovering: non-verbal cultural cues (always forever)
crafting: sneaky christmas gifts as well as knitting wash clothes
baking: chocolate chip cookies for our wednesday night bible study in the mountains
writing: christmas cards and this journal
needing: more sleep
wanting: more sleep and rest
reliving: memories from this time last year
debating: if i should take a shower….nah
smelling: A SIMMERING POT OF CHRISTMAS AND pine!
crying: over this video
learning: more about balancing ministry and daily life
deciding: not to let the little things throw off my day
praising: god for the mind-blowing, life-changing: “you will find a baby…..lying in a manger”
planning: January Merge trips and a get-a-way adventure!
Feeling: the heat from the fireplace and bittersweet
5 minutes are up!
What have you been: reading, hearing, seeing, dreaming, singing, watching, eating, drinking, looking froward to, thinking about, hoping for, missing, loving, discovering, crafting, baking, writing, needing, wanting, reliving, debating, smelling, crying, learning, deciding, praising, planning, feeling these days?
I’d love to hear!
And we’re back from Thanksgiving!
Even though Thanksgiving and I have our differences, I do love the fact that it brings family and friends together, and for that reason, I do celebrate and give thanks.
This year was the first year that I wasn’t able to be with my family during Thanksgiving and so it was really special for me to be able to come together with our missionary family here in Ecuador.
I loved the traditional food we had, the fact that everybody brought something and participated in some way, and that we all went around the table and shared what we were thankful for.
But what truly made it feel more like “home” was the little things, like laughing while doing the dishes, hearing the cracking and popping of a fire in the fireplace, sneaking bits of food here and there as we prepared the meal, the coolness of a rainy Quito day, and the sweet friendship and camaraderie we share.
And although we didn’t do the traditional Grothe, “after-dinner-before-dessert-hike-around-the-circle”, we did do a hike the day after thanksgiving and listened to Christmas music all day. *happy heart* It truly was a lovely Thanksgiving.
This past week we also had our first guests from Minnesota and our home church in Minnesota, the Millers! It was so fun to spend a few days with them as well as hear home church news and happenings in Minnesota. It was so lovely to be able to show them our lovely country we call home! Thanks Millers for the love, encouragement, and visit!
And with that, we closed off our November and said hello to the much anticipated month of the lovely December, which will be filled with but not limited to:
- Christmas decorating and music
- christmas cookie bakes
- much candle lighting
- cozy fires in the fireplace
- Christmas services and celebrations
- Christmas movie nights
- rest, and rest
- Richard’s whole family coming to spend Christmas with us in Ibarra.
- I am so excited that I could pop!
The Christmas season is definitely my favorite: all the excitement, decorations, togetherness, and what it means for us as a people of faith in Christ.
That is why I absolutely love and participate in Advent, as it prepares us and gently leads us into reflection and preparation for Emmanuel, the celebration of God with us. God with us.
God, with us.
Hallelujah and Amen!
Bring it on, December! We are so ready for you!
this is my love language.
Even when I was little, notes and letters were very important to me. I use to have pen pals, I would leave little notes everywhere around the house: to my siblings and parents. I would write to my friends often and during college I would leave little notes here and there for people to find. I would spend hours in the stationary section in stores perusing over paper, pens, stationary, cards, etc.
I love the written word; the time you invest in sitting down and writing to someone, the fact that it is your own handwriting and not a computers impersonal script. It is a beautiful way to say you care about someone.
I also love the tools and art that go behind writing: a good pen (I LOVE a good pen!), a sharpened pencil, beautiful stationary, a journal waiting to be filled.
If you want to get to my heart, a handwritten letter or a little note is one of the ways. (and I keep every single one of them!)
Well, my friends, we are so excited to let you know that we have a mailing address here in Ecuador! A P.O. Box where we can receive letters and small packages:
So that means, if you have sent us your Christmas cards in the past, please keep sending them! We would so love to receive them and have a little taste of home, your home! It would bring us so much joy!
Or if you find the time and want to write us a letter, you would make my heart so happy! We would so love to hear from you! And we’d also love to write to you as well!
Let’s keep this beautiful art of the written word alive, whether it be through notes, letters, journals, diaries, books, or Christmas cards!