We’ve been here for almost one month.
And we’ve been running since we’ve hit the ground. Since we’ve arrived we’ve been full on with activities and Merge partnership teams.
We’ve hosted two teams this April, a multi-generational group from Berlin, CT and a group of pastors from the Covenant Church of Canada.
Both groups were able to partner in different ways. With the Berlin, CT group we were able to partner with a Covenant church in Sangolqui as well as in Quevedo. Actually, one of our dreams and goals as trip facilitators here in Ecuador is to connect a partnership team coming from North America to another team/church from Ecuador that is already visiting or supporting another church in Ecuador, in that way, both groups can go together to support and connect in an already established and healthy way. And that way, when the team from North America leaves, the other team will still be visiting the church/ministry and supporting them.
And that is exactly what happened with the group from Berlin, CT. We were able to come alongside the church in Sangolqui and join them on their weekly trip to Quevedo where they are planting another church.
It was so beautiful to see not only the two teams partnering together with the church in Quevedo, but also to have the Delps, Annalea, and Meghan (our fellow missionaries here in Ecuador) come along to lead a medical caravan. It was a beautiful week of supporting, encouraging, and learning from one another and bringing His kingdom here on earth. We were also super grateful for our awesome team of interpreters (and dear friends) who were also able to partner with us.
The other group that came in April was another step towards some dreams we have. The group from Canada consisted of four pastors who represented part of the Covenant church in Canada and who are, as a conference, committed to the Kichwa district here in Ecuador. Because of that, we were able to visit almost all the Covenant churches here in the Kichwa district which was a HUGE encouragement to the pastors and a learning experience for both. The pastors also participated in a church planting and church revitalization workshop. It was so great to see the dialogue happening and questions being asked and brought up and the listening and learning.
Other than preparing and hosting partnership teams, we’ve been connecting and reconnecting with other pastors and leaders here in Ecuador as well as planning for other Merge trips coming up this summer.
We’ve also been doing all the other “fun” stuff that comes with moving to a new country: registering our information in government systems, applying for visas (Elizabeth), fixing mission cars, house hunting, being stuck in the middle of a strike, and setting up accounts and keeping track of our budget, etc., etc.
Although it has been busy and go, go, go since we’ve got here, we have been really careful about prioritizing and making time to be with family and our friends here. We were so glad we were able to spend time with our family in Guayaquil for Easter as well as to connect with our fellow missionary, Denise, while we were there.
We are also learning and being diligent in making time for ourselves as a married unit and individually; to rest, have fun, explore and learn more about this beautiful country, culture, and people we live and do life with.
So with that, we are off to possibly sign a contract to rent a house and have a physical place to call, “home”.
Liz and Richard
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30
I am reminded again and again how this walk of life with Christ is not about following a set of rules. How it is not about striving, trying to be perfect, trying to cover all our grounds, trying to know all this and learn all that, doing what we ought to do because we ought to do it…. It’s so much deeper, yet so simple. It is liturgical and yet so spontaneous, it is within an institution and yet not able to be confined, it is heartache and suffering yet joy and hope, it is valleys and mountains, and all the while, it is, it truly is, walking with him, through everything, in everything. It is knowing he walks with us.
“And more important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real…whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbor. Whether it has fruit outside of our own good feelings” S. Claiborne.
I think so often I lose sight of what his yoke really is. What walking with him is really like…do I even walk with him? Or am I trying to find my own ground in the rush and busyness of life that I forget that he would so love for me to slow down a little and learn his unforced rhythms of grace.
A couple days ago I was worrying about all that encompasses this life we are living right now: a lack of routine, constantly moving and traveling, no jobs, no financial security, unknown month, no house, etc. As I was in this downward pattern of thought (because worrying truly only takes me down), while heating up my coffee in the microwave of the church kitchen with the mumbling of voices fellowshipping in the background, I had a thought, a voice saying something to me…”get away with me and I’ll show you how to take a real rest, walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it, come learn the unforced rhythms of grace”. And then my coffee exploded in the microwave and I dismissed the pleasant words and said, “screw coffee today” and went to find a seat in the sanctuary.
But a little while later, while voices were mumbling and trying to sing the new song the worship team was playing, I again started worrying about how we were going to afford this and do that, and how we were going out to eat with friends to meet and celebrate the birth of their one-month-old son and how we had twenty dollars cash that we could use but we really should be spending it on something other than eating out, etc. and again I had a thought, like a quiet voice saying, “get away with me, walk with me, trust me” So I decided to listen. And I half-heartily, and almost unwillingly decided to respond when I felt like I was suppose to give ten of the twenty dollars away, but again, I heard, “walk with me, trust me”. So we headed to the restaurant with ten dollars and met our friends and ten seconds after I sit down, a friend that I haven’t seen in years came up and gave me twenty dollars that she said she owed me.
I am not equating following his unforced rhythms of grace with getting money or everything that we want. Rather, I am learning, or re-learning to get away and follow his unforced rhythms, of how he does things, not how I would like to do them. I am learning that he will provide, although it may not come how or when I think it will.
I don’t believe that living freely and light means I won’t walk through hard times or trials…I have had my fair share of those and I know I will walk through more, but when I “get away” with him and talk with him, he is really good at putting perspective on circumstances, and…honestly, sometimes he doesn’t, but although I may not understand, I know he will not leave me and I know the more I get away with him, the more I’ll learn, both intrinsically and experientially, about how truly loving, trustworthy, and faithful he really is. I will learn how to live freely and light in the midst of trials and joys, in the midst of unknowns and knowns, in the midst of routine or no routine, in the midst of coffee and my whole world exploding and his steady voice guiding me to the unforced rhythms of his grace.
When we sent out our last newsletter, we said that we’d write an “in-depth” blog about what we were currently up to, what are our future plans, etc.
So, without further ado….
We are leaving in five…no, four days to head off to Ecuador.
The reason why we are going to Ecuador in four days is because we are going to host a Merge Partnership team in the Ibarra/Zuleta area.
While in Ecuador, we will also be:
- planning for other Merge trips coming this Spring/Summer
- looking for a house to buy/rent
- visitng friends and family
In March we will again, be back in Minnesota. Now some of you might be asking, “why are you coming back to Minnesota when you have already reached over 80% of your funds?”
Well, my friends….two words:
That’s right, we are still waiting for Richard’s citizenship interview. This is a very dicey situation because if Richard is outside of the United States for over a certain number of days, he will be lose his permanent residence status and we will have to start over again, but on the other hand, we have teams coming so we have to be there to host them, thus, we have a tricky situation and a lot of comings and goings and counting. We are just praying that the interview would be soon so we don’t have to worry about any of this anymore!
In March we will also be doing some Merge trainings for teams in Indiana, Chicago, and Minnesota, so we are very excited for the chance to get to meet our partnership teams and do a little exploring!
By April, or before April, we need to be in Ecuador because of more teams coming. We are hoping that Richard will have had his interview by then and are freely and happily living in Ecuador! But, if he has not had his interview, we will head to Ecuador anyway and start the count of, “days spent outside of the United States” or wait until we hear from immigration services that he has an interview date to come back to the US for that.
So, my friends, that is what our life looks like right now; a lot of uncertainty, a lot of prayers for speed and efficiency at our immigration office, and patience….lots and lots of patience.
Richard + Elizabeth
starting a fire in and enjoying the warmth of wood-burning stoves
visits from friends….Evelina from Argentina!
baking (it’s been a while)
lighting candles in the morning
my sweet students and staff
blasting this song in the car while MOVING
also listening to christmas music
creating music (more on this soon!)
and what the snow does to the trees (truly a winter wonderland!)
We are back!
We are back from sunny, warm Mexico and are here again in sunny, cold Minnesota!
Wow, what a week!
Just to recap, we went to a week-long Merge Annual meeting/training in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
It was a week full of learning:
We had multiple speakers/trainers including, Alex Velasco, Dale Lusk, Reid Olson, Al Tizon, Mark Seversen, Nate Severson, and a local CPR/First aid instructor.
Al Tizon (executive minister of Serve Globally) and Mark Seversen (director of missional congregations) are a part of Serve Globally which is a mission priority of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
It was incredibly helpful and encouraging to have both of these representatives from the ECC come and share with us not only their hearts, hopes, and vision, but to have a willing ear to listen to us and share with us missional theology, and help us constructively figure out ways of bettering our partnerships with country-specific, national Covenant churches, other Covenant missionaries, and local churches and leaders. It was also just great to get to know them better.
We had a great time of devotions, enneagram, deepening our missiology and theology, deepening our relationships between other Mergies, laughing, eating WAY too many tacos, washing each other’s feet, CPR and first aid training, going over what we did well and what we need more work on, getting to know each other better through group activities, late night conversations about church, multi-ethnic missions, culturally contextualized faith, etc.
It truly was a beautiful, FULL, week of learning, growing, and deepening.
One of my highlights, though, was just getting to know my other Mergies better. I mean, we literally are expanding and come from all over the world. At the meeting we had Mergies representing: India, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Nicaragua, Chile, United States, Brazil, and Ecuador.
As well as those that were not present or that do not have a representative yet but we still go to: Panama, Spain, France, Uruguay, Taiwan, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Japan, Germany, Africa, and Guatemala.
I mean, it is incredible! And I am so honored and my life is so enriched by my brothers and sisters from these countries and from spending the week eating, learning, laughing, and growing with them together!
Now, we are back in Minnesota, embracing the winter cold, the ever expanding list of “lasts before moving to Ecuador”, and marking our calendar up with all things festive, Christmas, and family.
We are still hoping to move to Ecuador sometime in January 2017 but it really all depends on Richard’s citizenship interview (read more about here). Please join us in prayer for that! We already have the first of the two appointments scheduled so we are thankful for that!
With that, peace to you in this season of Advent, in this time of active waiting, of having confidence that what is going to happen is going to change and transform things and to be eager and alert to be a part of it, to be present to it as we create space to allow Jesus in more fully and more deeply.
R + E
I do hope all you lovely readers have had a delightful time of gathering with friends and family, enjoying each other’s company and conversations!
We were able to spend time together with our whole family (Elizabeth’s side), as well as have a little get-a-way with our family to a cabin up north to celebrate my sister’s golden birthday.
The days and moments that we get to spend with family and friends here in Minnesota have become even more dear and special as we know that in the near future, we will be holding them as sweet memories when we will be in Ecuador and a quick, “drive to hang out” or “catch up over coffee” won’t quite be possible (although we are hoping and are excited for visits in Ecuador!!!!)
But it is wonderful to know that we are not alone either in Ecuador; we have family there, friends there, and amazing co-workers (who are also friends and much like family) that we will be in community with.
The Hoskins (who are missionaries in Ecuador) just posted about their Thanksgiving in Ecuador where all the missionaries there were able to meet up, celebrate, and fellowship together. It was so encouraging to see and makes me realize just how important community is, no matter where you are, no matter who you are, no matter the circumstance…we need community. We need each other. We all need each other.
You can read about the post here: “Giving Thanks”
So, I suppose that was an update as to where we are at…uh..emotionally? And now here is an update as to where we are locationally, along with some upcoming travels:
We are in the process of…..PACKING! Packing up our house and packing for Ecuador.
Since we are almost at 80%, we will be moving out of our first *tear* ever *tear, sniff* apartment as a married couple and moving in with my parents! We decided that we really wanted to be intentional about our last days and weeks here in the USA about spending time with our family and friends, so we decided that moving in with my parents was a way to do that as my parent’s house is always a hub of family and friends stopping by….really. So when do we exactly plan on leaving for Ecuador……..
We are hoping to leave in January! But (and this is a BIG BUT….) it all depends on Richard’s citizenship process. Richard sent in his application to become a citizen of the USA!!! But before we can leave for Ecuador, he needs to have an interview with the government and actually get his citizenship (for many complicated reasons this is the best option for us). So, please PRAY that this would be a quick process and he would get his invitation to the interview soon!
Merge is having their annual meeting and this year it is held in Mexico! Although we are not technically in Ecuador yet…we have been unofficially working with Merge since the summer (well, technically we have been working with Merge since 2009, but not as Trip Facilitators).
So to Mexico we go! We leave tomorrow, actually.
We are so excited to catch up with all our other Mergies from, literally, around the world as well as have a week together to learn, improve our ministry, and solidify our team! Please pray for unity, safe travels, and for continual learning in how we can better serve one another and better facilitate cross-cultural ministry with our brothers and sisters all over the world.
Richard + Elizabeth
In the wake of the tragedies and atrocities happening to our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings right now at Standing Rock in North Dakota, it is especially hard to partake in the federal holiday that, although filled with good intention and works, has roots that come from anything but that.
So today, on this day, I am grateful that I have a choice.
I have the choice to choose to be informed.
I have the choice to choose to extend grace.
I have the choice to choose to listen.
I have the choice to choose to look in-between the lines and through the angry words and find the root. The why.
The choice to not be offended and retaliate in anger and hate.
The choice to stand in solidarity.
The choice to act.
The choice to choose grace.
To choose love.
To choose forgiveness.
To choose to ask for forgiveness.
To choose to forget.
To choose to not forget.
The choice to lament.
The choice to look for beauty in ashes.
The choice to be grateful and thankful yet mindful and aware of my own privilege.
I have a choice.
May I make my decisions wisely, and always choose the choice of grace and love and understanding, even when others don’t.
This is my prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
the smell of fallen leaves
the sun at 11 o’clock am
being able to be alone
flowers and plants
the instant cozy vibe: snow falling + candles burning + dustin o’halloran
learning the rhythms of our sabbath
lauryn hill and loud speakers
getting back into that ballet
Look with compassion, O God upon the people in this land who live with
injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions.
Have mercy upon us.
Help us to eliminate cruelty to those our neighbors.
Strengthen those who spend their lives
establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all.
And grant that every one of us may enjoy
a fair portion of the abundance of this land;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord….
O God, Sovereign of the universe,
without you nothing is true, nothing is just.
In your Word you reveal the way of love.
By your Spirit you make it possible.
From greed and selfishness,
from a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,
compassionate God, deliver us.
From radical prejudice and religious intolerance, from a society which
makes its weakest and most recent members into scapegoats,
compassionate God, deliver us.
From indifference to the needs of other countries, from the delusion that
you love any other nation less than you love us,
compassionate God, deliver us.
From self-indulgence and indifference,
from a society in which fidelity and responsibility have little place,
compassionate God, deliver us.
Author of life,
give us hearts set on the coming of your reign;
give us wise, just, and humble leaders;
give all who live in this land a will to live in peace,
through Jesus Christ,
the One who is above all powers and dominions. Amen