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
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!
Thanksgiving and “Hello December!”
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!
We have a mailbox!
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!
The Story Continues…
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:
finding joy :: 6 (aka: giving thanks)
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