We are back from Mexico, back from a week of training, being trained, fellowship, laughs, and SO MANY TACOS!!! (oh how I missed those tacos!)
We are back from the Merge annual meeting.
And like always, it was a wonderful time of training, brainstorming, connecting and learning from workshops and guest speakers, and just being able to connect more to the diverse family that is Merge.
I think that was the biggest thing I took away from the meeting: how Merge has come to be our family…that even though we all live miles (for some of us, thousands of miles) apart, come from different cultures and backgrounds, represent different countries, we are a family; and each of our own diversity enriches one another. It is so, so lovely.
We also were able to take time to celebrate 25 years of Merge and Dale Lusk, the director and creator of Merge. It was a beautiful time of sharing of how God has used Merge in all of our lives to grow us, strengthen us, change us, challenge us, and connect us all, and how we have seen so many beautiful partnerships formed and communities and lives changed as well!
Happy 25 years Merge! And here’s to another 25 more!
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:
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!
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