As you’ve maybe heard, Richard and I have spent the last three weeks of November teaching, interpreting, supporting, and getting to know the students of Acts 29 in Ecuador.
It has been a beautiful three weeks of not only getting to know the students, but truly growing with them, learning from each other, and being encouraged by their comments, questions, and by who they are. But before I go any further, it would behoof me to answer the question that is probably in your heard right now, which is, “what is Acts 29?”
A brief history*: Acts 29 or Hechos 29, as we call it here Spanish speaking countries, started (here in Ecuador) in 2004. It was born from an idea from Krister Gunnarsson (Swedish Missionary) and was made a reality by Richard (my husband), Peter Hermansson (Swedish Missionary), Marcia Baquero (Acts 29 main leader), and Samuel Gunnarsson (Swedish Missionary).
It is a three-month long intensive, international discipleship and leadership school with an orientation towards missions and evangelism.
It is based on the truth that God is the same today as he was when the first church was formed. The school gives students the opportunity to see that, as they wholeheartedly give God a change to be God and as they live by the principles of the first church and apostles’ teachings.
Each school is represented by at least two different cultures with the belief that the gospel is global and can be furthered by multi-cultural relationships and their understanding of the Bible and who Jesus is.
Through the years, the school has grown and changed, but always with the same original focus of living out the call to be disciples of Christ, globally and in our own homes.
Now Acts 29 has expanded to many different countries including, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Sweden, Finland, Congo Kinshasa, Congo Brazzaville, USA, India, Spain, Russia, and Thailand. Next year will be the first time Acts 29 is held in Nicaragua and Alaska.
The director of Acts 29 is Carl-Johan Sävinger (a very good friend of ours).
End of brief history.
Footnotes: *according to my husband and the Acts 29 website.
We originally had planned on just spending one week with Acts as it was our week of teaching. Richard taught on prayer, the Lord’s prayer, specifically. It was not only fun to see my husband teaching, but to see the devotion he put into his teaching and on a subject that I truly see him living out daily and encouraging me in daily.
The last day of teaching we decided to take a break from the normal classroom atmosphere and we headed out to Metropolitano Guangüiltagua Park where we hiked to the top of the hill and had our class there, overlooking the valleys and hills. It was absolutely beautiful!
We then, at the end of the class, had a time of collectively praying over each of our countries and cities, it was a powerful, holy moment. It truly was a lovely week together.
Another aspect of Acts 29 is their practice week. Each month, the school has a “practice week” where they split up into groups and spend a week within a different district where they connect and support a local church or ministry.
As it turned out, the schools last practice week was here in our district, “Distrito Norte”. We had the privilege of being invited to support two groups, one here in Ibarra and the other in the mountains in one of the churches we are currently supporting there.
Another super encouraging, growing, connecting, laugh-filled, and food-filled week.
We were then invited to provide counseling the following week in the school as well as help out with interpreting other classes where,
I feel, we really connected and made life-long friends as well as strengthened previous friendships.
Even though it was something we hadn’t planned for, it truly was a joy to spend three weeks with Acts 29, and I, (Elizabeth), am so grateful to have experienced what was such a huge part of Richard’s life and ministry.
So, so grateful for each and every dear soul that makes up Hechos 29.
Until next time Hechos 29!
La historia continúa…..
Links for Acts 29:
1. warm fires at night (and if I close my eyes, I can almost imagine the snow falling softly outside)
2. decorating for Christmas (because here in Ecuador…..you start right after Halloween, THAT’S RIGHT THANKSGIVING!)
3. being creative (and making sneaky, little homemade christmas gifts for friends here)
4. cold nights (remember Elizabeth how you said you would never miss the cold…well, jokes on you)
5. wearing thick, wooly sweaters (that also itch like crazy sometimes, because: wool)
6. making special sweets for my Acts 29 friends (and speaking of sweets…)
7. being able to bake, a lot (it really makes me happy to bake)
8. feeling more at home in our church community/community (being able to say “Hi friend, how have you been?” and really mean it)
9. my husband’s carpentry work (seriously)
10. having a steady welcoming of friends and guests (wether spending a night or two or three or just chilling at our house)
11. candles, coffee, meditating/writing (every morning, every night. I need to buy more candles)
12. the company and solidarity of dear, dear friends here (aka, we don’t walk this journey alone or in this culture alone)
13. trips to the mountain every Wednesday (soul=alive)
14. exploring unknown roads (of course with music playing)
15. cow crossing (everyday, every time, we usually stick our heads out the window and look like fools as we moo to them or say hi)
16. the common greeting phrase of: “hola veci” (“hey neighbor”) (I LOVE IT! and it feels so Minnesotan that you say it to EVERYBODY you pass by or greet)
17. partaking in cultural traditions and ceremonies (the new food, music, togetherness, excitement in the air, rituals and traditions….nothing but love)
18. being able to make kombucha (kombucha=happy gut)
19. the mountains that surround us and how they look on different days (misty, mysterious, brilliant, like a painting, but always, always calling my name)
20. the eucalyptus trees that surround us (what a glorious fragrance!)
21. the 5 o’clock Ecuadorian shadow (aka: my life explained via light)
Now, don’t let this list fool you into thinking that it has been all rosey and peachy. My heart has been missing certain people, places, celebrations, and seasons like I never thought I would.
And moving to and living in a new country and culture has it’s moments of embarrassment (ask me someday about the time I went to the store to “try” to buy a large stock pot…seriously, ask me), confusion, homesickness, peoplesickness (as in, “missing people”, not “sick of people” or “people that are sick”), frustration, anger, loneliness, etc.
And life, as life anywhere lived, is filled with us: broken people, with broken relationships with ourselves, others, God, the world, etc.
But, in the process of dealing with these feelings and my/our brokenness, I have also been learning to be grateful. To take moments throughout the day to reflect on His goodness, His blessings, His solidarity, Him, as a good Father, His promises, and His words and what he is saying.
That is why I make these lists, not only to remember the joy of discovering new, beautiful parts of living in this culture, but choosing to find the beauty (whether hidden, in plain view, LIKE THAT MOUNTAIN OUTSIDE MY WINDOW, or just having to be searched for a bit more) in any place, any circumstance, and any season (even if that season doesn’t have autumnal leaves or snow or a routine or familiarity). AMEN? Amen!!!
Peace to you in whatever season you may willingly or unwillingly find yourself. This is a prayer for us today:
So here we are, almost two months in of living in Ibarra and slowly putting down roots and rhythms.
It is really different being here and not driving across the country having Merge meetings one day on the coast and the next in the jungle.
It’s given us a chance to really connect, get involved, and start to establish and continue different rhythms and routines (which are so grounding for me).
I am learning to appreciate and look for the routines in each season, the crazy Merge summers and the more “slow” autumn and winter seasons. I really appreciate both.
We are so, so grateful for this season; It’s been wonderful to get to hang out with friends (and family soon!) here, get involved in local ministries, bake and cook our own food, learn more about this culture and country we live in, become friends with the local fruit market owner, and start to dream and plan for future ministry ideas.
It has been really great for me to start to connect more here with friends as well. I am so thankful for the sort of built-in friendships I have because of Richard and his amigos here, but it’s been an answer to prayer to be able to connect and form friendships with some incredible ladies here as well!
So from fixing the car, mission meetings, ministry plans and talks, and planning Merge teams, to buying water, getting gas, paying the electrical bill, and baking bread; it’s all been and is a different and welcomed new season right now and I am just so grateful.
Thanks for following along and for your encouragement and support!
So maybe you’ve heard us use the word “Mergies” before.
What does it mean?
Mergies, is the dear term we use for any staff that is apart of Merge.
And this blog, is dedicated to all the dear Mergies we partnered with this year. And let me tell you, Mergies are never just Mergies…they are friends, they are support, someone you can trust, they are someone to vent with, cry with, laugh with, eat with, have crazy adventures with, and share life with.
We literally, honestly, honestly could not have done the summer without our friends, our Merge staff, our Mergies. Really.
So I want to brag a little on our Mergies!
Our first Mergie that was with us this summer was our dear friend from Argentina, Evelina!
She is like a sister to me. She always has a positive attitude, a smile on her face, and can make any situation sunny and bright! She also can make you cry from laughing so hard! She also LOVES music! Anytime you are around her, there is always music and singing involved, especially during car rides! WE LOVE EVE!!!!
Another Mergie that has been with us almost the whole summer is, Maria, who is from Cayambe, Ecuador!
Maria is an amazing interpreter! She is also a very dear friend! She has the sweetest heart, is so good at listening to people, and makes others feel comfortable around her. She also has the sweetest laugh and is always thinking two steps ahead of everybody! We LOVE Maria!
We also got to work with Juan Carlos, who is also from Cayambe, Ecuador!
Juanca is incredible! We worked with him last year and were super impressed with not only his humble leadership, but his willingness to take the initiative and do ANYTHING. He is a huge support and help to us and is super caring and kind. Richard also LOVED having another Merge staff that was a guy! We LOVE Juanca!
Next up we have Fransisco!
Fransisco was able to join us for two weeks this summer. He is from Mexico and LOVES fried chicken. 😉 He is a super hard worker, always has a great attitude, endured the LONG car ride with Richard to the coast, and was a huge support and encouragement to everyone! We hope he comes back next year! We LOVE Fransisco!
This year we were also able to work with the incredible Esther from Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Her and Richard actually grew up together!).
Esther is like the queen of cool. She is super relaxed and super flexible. She has the sweetest soul and is always looking out and caring for everybody! She has been a such a help and support! She is doing an incredible job on her English and is so full of joy! We LOVE Esther!
This year we also were able to work with three new Mergies from Ibarra, Ecuador! Andre, Stephanie, and Winnie!
These three were incredible to work with! They each added so much to our staff and were not only a HUGE support and help but were also a HUGE encouragement! Andre has the greatest laugh and was literally willing to miss a meal and sleep to help out. Stephanie has the sweetest heart and was an incredible interpreter, she also jumped in to any situation to help out! Winnie is super passionate and was also willing to step in and help out in any situation. She has the greatest laugh and makes others smile! We hope we get to work with them again!
That is only a small introduction to the incredible people our Mergies are.
For me, that is always the hardest part of the summer, when we have to say goodbye to our Mergies. We make such deep connections over the summer and truly make friends for life.
I know that I will see all of them again, whether here in Ecuador or in Mexico, United States, or Argentina. We have gone through highs and lows together and moments, many moments of “huh?”.
Thank you to Evelina, Maria, Juanca, Esther, Fransisco, Andre, Stephanie, and Winnie!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for your support, encouragement, sweat, laughs, jokes, grace, love, friendship, solidarity, and love! We LOVE each and everyone of you and have all made us better people by your love for Jesus, people, and life!
WE LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!
Richard + Liz
We dropped the Pedernales team off and then 15 hours later we picked up our last Merge team of the summer!
We partnered with Northwest Covenant church from Mt. Prospect, IL along with Betél church and Jesús Divino Pastor church in Ibarra and Emanuel Church in Cayambe.
This was a really special group as we were able to spend the first week in Ibarra, our home town and where we are living here in Ecuador. It was so wonderful to not only partner with the team but get to know our community better and church family better.
In the mornings we did construction on the Betel church that recently moved and is rebuilding the church entirely. And in the afternoons we were able to join Jesús Divino Pastor church in their annual VBS to a small urban community about 20 minutes away. It was really fun to be able to join them and see how other churches in the areas minister to children.
We also had evenings of soccer and basketball games, which were super fun and SUPER competitive!
After our week in Ibarra we headed to Cayambe to help with the Santiago Partnerhip, along with the Emanuel church and the Delps, to expand the clinic they have there. Let me tell you, by the end of this summer Richard and I are going to have HUGE muscles after all the construction we’ve helped with! 😉
The team was mainly comprised of youth which made for a really energetic, fun week!
And now….now we’ve said goodbye to the team, the church, and even our awesome staff. 🙁
And although it is always bittersweet to end a Merge summer we are also very excited to be seeing my (Elizabeth’s) family soon! We will be meeting up with my whole family, including our French family, in France in a couple weeks!
Thanks for keeping us all in your prayers this summer and for all your support and encouragement! We could not have done it without you all, our awesome staff and friends here in Ecuador, and the peace, power, guidance, and strength of Christ!
Richard + Liz
We are back from two weeks in Pedernales! A city on the coast and last year’s epicenter for the earthquake.
We were there partnering with Deer Grove Covenant Church from Palatine, IL and Iglesia Maná from Pedernales.
While there, we were able to help with the construction of the Maná Covenant church, as the previous church was partially destroyed from the earthquake. Wow did we sweat and did we sweat! It was a lot of digging through brick and clay, and cement-mixing. But wow, what an encouraging group of people to work alongside! That week, I really learned the power of encouragement and care. How important it really is to encourage one another daily!
Along with the construction we partnered with a sport’s camp and VBS. We’d load up a pickup truck each day with around 60 children and adults and head to the field to learn, play soccer, and sweat some more. 🙂
One of the really powerful things that happened during our last meal together with the church leadership was hearing the story of God’s faithfulness in providing new land for the church to be reconstructed on. A week before the team was going to arrive, they had no land to build on, but through the support of IPEE and the Swedish Covenant church they acquired the land days before the group arrived. We had a powerful “laying the first stone” moment and were able to join the pastor and leadership in prayer; blessing the new site, the church body, and the community.
As we were driving one day, we passed a building with this sentence spray-painted across it in bold letters:
“Pedernales, we will stay, we will rise again”
After spending two, intense weeks there, that was exactly the hope we felt, especially through the connections that were made and the many stories that were heard. God is alive and working and we had the beautiful privilege of joining him for those two weeks and seeing firsthand the power of his hope, solidarity, and his kingdom here on earth.
Richard and Liz
Back from the coast!
And back from an incredible week in Mejia!
We spent 10 days in the community of Mejia which is a couple hours from the coast. We were there with a team from my home state, Minnesota!!!! which made it an extra special week, especially since some of the team members are dear friends of ours!
The team was from New London Covenant church from New London, MN and partnered with the church, Jesus La Vid Verdadera in the small town of Mejia.
Mejia is another town that was greatly effected by the earthquake in April 2016. Many homes were destroyed, including the pastor’s house.
One of the beautiful ministries the church started there was helping rebuild some of the homes in the community of Mejia that were completely destroyed by the earthquake. The really cool thing is that it wasn’t just the church community in Mejia that was involved but a church community in Cayambe (over 7 hours away) that came down many times in partnership with the church in Mejia to help rebuild homes. We LOVE this!
It’s so beautiful when two local churches, whether in the United States, in Ecuador, or anywhere, partner together in bringing God’s kingdom here on earth in tangible ways. So beautiful!
And the really neat thing is that, two of the families, who’s homes were destroyed and were rebuilt, thanks to the local church in Mejia and Cayambe, were able to host members of the team from Minnesota that came down (as we all stayed in host homes).
I was able to talk with one of the families and they said it was truly a gift from God to be able to host someone in their home when, after the earthquake, they thought they would never be able to again.
Along with staying and connecting in host homes, we helped rebuild the pastor’s home. Because of a really rainy season, many streets and homes in Mejia were flooded, especially the pastor’s home because of a really low foundation (along with it just being unsafe to live in because of earthquake damage).
We also visited different surrounding communities, helping out with a children’s program, participating in two youth nights and the women’s ministry night, and at the end of the week, we rented two big buses and went with our host families to the beach!
I am not sure if it was because the team was from Minnesota or because Richard and I have really connected with the Mejia church community (both, actually) but there was such a unity and joy that week! (well, and let’s be honest, Jesus has everything to do with that!) We so, so enjoyed each and every person from the Minnesota team and the Mejia team.
We ate lots of fish, lots of plantain…we laughed A LOT (literally tears from laughing so hard), shared different cultural games with each other, made rice crispies together, we cried together, prayed together, worshiped together, sweat together, shared our stories, had a couple hospital runs at 2am (everybody is fine!), and were able to create such deep, great relationships that there were many tears when the time came to say goodbye (but just a goodbye for now!).
Truly, a restful, joy-filled, unifying week.
Wow, so, so much has happened since our last blog post! In fact, it has been almost one month since we’ve been back here in Ecuador!
It was one of my goals to write a blog post, at least, once a week.
Well, that did NOT happen but now that we are a little more settled with the Merge trips and planning and I am reviving my goals! So here we go! (although for these next two weeks I can’t promise much since we might not have internet where we are going).
Well, we arrived to Ecuador and two days later we received our first team of the Merge summer: Riverside Covenant Church from Indiana.
We spent the week partnering with dear friends from the church, Buen Pastor and the community in Cangahua (which is a town high up in the mountains in Ecuador, near the city of Cayambe).
Some of us stayed in host families, had s’mores with the local youth group, did some construction, helped out with the churches annual VBS, and taught English classes in the local elementary school. It was so wonderful, but two activities/ministries that really stuck out to me were the community road-side clean up and the field days.
We were able to go with some members of the church and the team and go around the community and pick up trash. Now this might not seem like a lot, and maybe not so sustainable, but it was.
Because a lot of Kichwa communities are mostly Catholic, and a lot of them require their community members to participate in different community events, which includes the celebration and worship of Saints, a lot of Evangelical Christians living in these communities feel a lot of strain and tension, not wanting to encourage nor worship the saints, but wanting to be apart of their communities. There is a real tension that exists.
We have had many conversations with our dear brothers and sisters who live in Kichwa Catholic communities and have tears in their eyes as they tell us of the persecution (water supply being cut off, extra taxes, and in extreme cases, their homes being burnt) for not wanting to participate in the festivals but of the ache in their heart to reach out to their communities and show them that they care.
That was why the road side clean up day was, although small, a tangible way to show the community that they care. It was the pastor’s idea and I think it was a really lovely way to continue to open up doors of reconciliation in the community. We are hoping to go back and continue these conversations.
Another really sweet time was when, each night, we would split up into three groups and visit three different families and their farms. Again, this was the church leadership’s idea as they really wanted to show us their livelihoods. So we’d all put on our boots (or for those that did not have boots, bags around our shoes…which made us look super stylish! 🙂 hop in the back of a truck and head up the mountains to our dear brother or sister’s homes.
We were able to see their livestock, help with cow milking time, help harvest potatoes and onions (the town of Cangahua is known for their onions), and other crops. Then, later on at night, we’d share a meal together in their home and share our stories, laugh, and prayer together. We all left feeling more connected and with a greater appreciation for their lives and culture.
It was a beautiful week with such beautiful people. We absolutely LOVE the Riverside church Community as well as the Cangahua church community; both are filled with such beautiful, strong, spirit-filled, and incredible people. It is always such a privilege for us to partner with these groups. And we are looking forward to next year already!
It has been one month of Minnesota livin’!
As I am typing, I literally just swatted at a mosquito and am smelling freshly cut grass which has been a staple since arriving.
Along with the mosquitos, cut grass, long, beautiful days, cool, frog-chirping nights, we’ve also been having our share of cold, air-conditioned government centers, loooong lines, lots of waiting, the beeping of security check points, ink on paper, signature, signature, “I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth”, and more waiting.
Life is so dichotomous.
After arriving to Minnesota we had Richard’s interview (Civic’s Test for Naturalization) and thought that we were going to be able to be back in Ecuador by the end of May. Well, during the test, the interviewer thought that we had spent too much time outside of the United States and, although Richard passed his civic’s test, we were told that he could not be approved for citizenship based on more info being needed.
Well, we were definitely not expecting that! We were not given any more info and told to wait until we received more information in the mail.
Let’s just say that was the most nerve-racking week we had had in a long time. If Richard wasn’t going to be able to get his citizenship, we were pretty much stuck in the USA until we could reapply for citizenship which could take up to another 6 months.
Thankfully that was not the case and a week later we received a letter saying that Richard was approved for citizenship and was suppose to attend the naturalization ceremony which was two days ago.
Richard is now an official citizen of the United States of America!!!
It was such a powerful ceremony. There were 829 new citizens that day who represented 92 countries.
I really enjoyed sitting next to these sweet ladies as we talked about the journey to this day, the need for change in the immigration systems, and how today, all of us, from different religions, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs, were all here for one purpose and we were all here to celebrate together, differences aside. And that is what we did. After the oath was taken, and the 829 become official citizens, you could see Guatemalans hugging Canadians, Syrians congratulating Cubanos, People from India shaking hands with people from Somalia, and so on and so forth. It was so beautiful!
I am so proud of him!!!!
So now in the meantime while we wait to receive Richard’s passport we are working part-time, getting documents translated and apostilled for Ecuador, planning end-of-summer adventures, and finishing up details for Merge trips this summer.
We are not exactly sure when we will be back in Ecuador but we are hoping it will be within the first week of June! (which is any day now!)
Thanks again, for all of your support, your words of encouragement, and your journeying with us!
We are so thankful for each and everyone of you!
Richard and Liz
Hello from beautiful, springy Minnesota!
If you didn’t get our last newsletter, then I’m sure some of you are wondering, “What’s going on? Why are they back in Minnesota?”
Well, wonder no more!
We are back in Minnesota because….Richard has a date for his interview to become a citizen!
We are so excited! This was something we were definitely not expecting to come so soon, we were thinking more like September, but a week after we landed in Ecuador we received the news!
Since Richard not only has his interview, but also a swearing-in ceremony, AND a USA passport to get, we are not exactly sure how long we will be in Minnesota for, but we are hoping to be back in Ecuador the last week of May.
We also want to say a HUGE “thank you!” Thank you for praying for us, asking questions, and encouraging us! I said in our newsletter that I feel like this is as much of your journey as it is ours, and we are so thankful to be walking this together!
So in the meantime, while Richard catches up on US history, politics, and economy, we will be soaking up and in this absolutely beautiful Minnesota spring, hanging out with as many family and friends as we can, going on as many bike rides as we can, and taking advantage of these extended rays of sun (sunset: 8:30pm…hallelujah!)
We will keep you updated!
Richard + Elizabeth