This is a hard post to write.
We knew that when we signed a contract as missionaries with the Covenant, our term would be up on April 1st, 2019. But two years seemed soooo far away. But now, here we are, past April 1st and planning our move back to Minnesota.
Last Sunday our local church here in Ibarra, had a farewell service for us and a time of prayer. It was then that it really hit me, “Oh my gosh, we are leaving”, which was then proceeded by a bunch of tears.
Since first coming to Ecuador in 2010, Ecuador has always felt like, “home” for me. And it really isn’t until you leave that you realize just how much you have put down roots and lived life with the community around you.
Ecuador is home for us. We have incredible family and friends here in Ecuador that have truly made us feel in home and has truly turned this beautiful country into home for us.
“Why then…” you may ask, “…are you leaving?”
Many people think that it is because we are having a baby that we are leaving, but, that is not the case. It is a hard question to give an answer to, so here are a couple reasons:
1. We had a commitment to stay for two years and that commitment is up.
We created a budget and raised support in order to live and do ministry for our two years here, which, thanks to God, has been enough, but because if we wanted to stay longer, either way, we would have to go back to raise more support. And since traveling/flying while being 6 months pregnant is okay right now, in a couple months, that won’t even be allowed. So we had to make a decision and decided to extend our time as missionaries for 4 more months (which does mean that we will have to fundraise some more…which you can read about here in another blog post) and head back to Minnesota.
2. We feel a “tug”, a “pull” a “whisper” that it is time to move.
This was probably the hardest thing to discern and something, in all honesty, we are still trying to discern. We have been working with Merge now for over 10 years and it has truly been life-changing and something that I know God has led us to and we have seen his leading all over. But recently, we have both been feeling this “tug” on our hearts that we are entering a new season (and not just one that includes a sweet baby) and after much prayer and conversation with our leaders, mentors, and dear friends and family, that new season is going to look a bit different geographically and ministry-wise. With that being said, we truly do not know how it will look, but we know that the first step is this move back. I guess some words that I have been feeling in my heart and soul about this new season are: settled, rooted, invested, present, and house/home.
So yes, this time for us, this transition of moving and up-rooting, and leaving is very bittersweet. There are so many things to be excited and thankful for upcoming in the future, but at the same time, we are mourning that we will no longer be living in Ecuador, close to Richard’s family, our friends…that we will no longer be leading Merge teams and personally seeing connections made and relationships and partnerships built through that…..and all the other little things that make up life here in Ecuador.
But, as the title says, we know that this is not a “Goodbye, Ecuador” but a “See you later, Ecuador”. We will always have family and friends in Ecuador, and because of that reason alone, we will be back. ALSO…..we are very open to the idea of coming back to Ecuador as missionaries in the future especially since Richard’s heart is to pastor and help with theological training here in the seminary, so we know that at some point, we will be back.
And of course we will be back to visit once our sweet baby girl is born!
Our official “move back” date is May 11th.
So please join us in prayer, in prayer for our move, this time of transition, the hard goodbyes, the training in of our new, awesome, incredible Merge Trip Facilitator here in Ecuador, and for our future, for peace, for our baby girl that is coming, and for a sensitivity to the Spirit’s guiding and leading.
Thank you. Thank you for your constant prayers and support and partnership, thank you for believing in us and sticking with us until the end! We are so, so grateful and thankful for each and every one of you! We love you all!
We will keep you updated!
Richard and Elizabeth
Why the title? Why the large amount of money and what for?
We have to raise $22,000 before our time as missionaries are up (on the first of August of this year). Which gives us about 4 months.
When we were first told this number we sort of freaked out and thought, “how are we EVER going to raise that much money!?!?!” It honestly seemed impossible (and some days still does) and too “out of reach”.
But, one of our incredible bosses, Lana, reminded us that we (and by “we”, we mean YOU and God) have raised more than that and that by breaking it down by month, it is around $5,500 per month that we have to raise until August 1st.
This gave us some hope.
But truly, it was when Richard and I sat down and remembered….when we remembered God’s faithfulness in our lives (not just with support raising, but in every area and detail of our lives), remembered his goodness to us, and all the ways that he has led us and walked with us and put incredible people like you, in our lives….that we truly, truly felt at peace and felt at peace to reach out, one more time, to you, our beautiful partners.
- Some of our monthly supporters have been asking, “when should we stop supporting you?”:
- August 1st will be our last, official day as missionaries, so if you can and feel called to support us until then, that would be a HUGE help.
- We have also been asked by monthly supporters and one-time supporters if they can “give an extra gift or give again?”
- The answer is a resounding “YES!”. Again, if you can and feel called to, you can definitely give again or give an additional gift on top of your monthly support.
We have faith friends, that we can do this, but only by your support, partnership, and prayers, and by the Lord’s grace and guidance.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! We will keep you all updated on our goal of reaching $22,000 before August 1st!
Here are some helpful links for donating:
Our donation site: click here
Our donation blog page: click here
Richard and Elizabeth Santana
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!
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!
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:
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
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
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
Every time I walked down the hall of the church, I passed them and I was drawn to them…to the rolling cart filled with colorful, stained-glass-esque candles. I wasn’t quite sure why they were sitting there but every time I walked past them I felt a deep sense of peace and sadness. And I wasn’t quite sure why.
I light candles almost daily, in our own home, and I’ve never really felt sad by their flickering presence, in fact, they make our house feel cozy and warm. But for some reason, seeing these rows and rows of tiny candles sitting on the rolling cart gave me a different sense than the cozy effect they have on me at my house.
Now, I did not grow up following the liturgical calendar, in fact, a couple years ago I had just begun to start to read about it and learn more about the rhythms of liturgy and what it meant in my own daily life.
I have been so thankful for this season at our new church (for many different reasons but one of them being….) for the fact that they do follow the liturgical calendar and through the days and weeks that I have been getting acquainted with the staff, the community here, the different schedules…I have also been getting better acquainted with liturgy, but not just through written word, but experiencing it as a church body, a community. It’s been beautiful discovering these different liturgical rthyms of the church and one of the recent discoveries I have had with liturgical calendar was All Saint’s Day as we remembered and participated in it yesterday at our church.
All Saints Day or, also known as, All Hollow’s Day, Feat of All Saints, Solemnity of All Saints is a mark in the liturgical calendar remembering, honoring, and commemorating the saints that have gone before us, known and unknown. This could be the canonized in the church like St. Francis of Assisi, the Apostle Paul, Mother Theresa, St. Hildegard of Bingen, or it could be family or friends, the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us and are now in Heaven. It is a time to honor their memory and reflect on their impact on our spiritual journey as a church body, family, and individually. In many faith communities, this day is remembered and the saints are celebrated by lit candles, wreathes, flowers, food, and even feasting.
As the service began in our church, they mentioned that they would be remembering and celebrating All Saint’s Day today, and at that moment I happened to look to the back of the church and there they were, the rows upon rows of colorful, stained-glass-esque candles, lit, flickering and I realized at that moment what they stood for, what they meant, and later on, as we all walked over and picked one up and brought it to the front of the church, I thought of each precious, dear face that is no longer here but has impacted my life and others greatly by their life, their presence, their own journey. I thought of Tico, of Mark, of my grandma, and of my brother-in-law, Christian.
And after we remembered, we prayed a prayer in unison. It was yet another beautiful reminder of common time, of God showing up in the daily rhythms of life, of the beauty of liturgy, and the impact our lives and stories have….of how important it is to walk together in this life, to remember, to celebrate, to cry, and to laugh, it’s all so bittersweet. So beautiful, bold, and broken. This life.
A Prayer Meditation for All Saints Day by Safiyah Fosua
We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
Weathered wooden churches or crumbling cement meeting houses
Where your name was lifted and adored.
We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise:
Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
Strong hands and those gnarled with age
Used as wave offerings across the land.
We thank you, God, for hardworking saints;
Whether hard-hatted or steel-booted,
Head ragged or aproned,
Blue-collared or three-piece-suited
They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.
R + E