“See you later, Ecuador”
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
$22,000 and faith
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
A day in the life
“What do your days look like?”
“What does a normal week look like for you guys?”
These are questions we get asked a lot (strangely enough), and we don’t mind, since it is a very different life we live here then our 7-3pm job we had in the states. And a lot of times we don’t even know how to answer that question…what is a normal week for us? What does a normal day consist of? What is normal? Haha!
It is sometimes hard to answer those questions when we sometimes don’t even know the answers, and I think that is okay.
It has been something I have been pondering for a while and coming to terms with myself (which has been a journey in and of itself since I am Mrs. Routine and LOVE daily rhythms and schedules and to-do lists and knowing ahead of time and planning and ALL that sometimes gets thrown out the window…what a journey it’s been, creating rhythms where there is so much static you have to be intentional and “listen” carefully, or when there is just silence and the rhythms don’t come easily, sometimes just in your head)
So here is our attempt at sort of answering a sometimes-ambiguous question. Here is our attempt at grasping at a “normal” that maybe is not our normal anymore. Do you get what I am trying to say? Maybe?
Now I need to start by saying we are always caught between two, for sure, etched in stone rhythms/routines:
When a Merge team is here vs. when a Merge team is not here
1. When a Merge team is here:
- Monday: with the team
- Tuesday: with the team
- Wednesday: with the team
- Thursday: with the team
- Friday: with the team
- Saturday: with the team
- Sunday: with the team
So as you can see, when a Merge team is here, we basically are 24/7 with the team. And we follow the rhythm and routine of that specific schedule for the week.
2. When a Merge team is not here:
And let me preface this by saying, this is how an average week could, more often then not, looks like. Some weeks, it does not even resemble this routine:
- Monday: Office day (Writing cards, answering emails, working on Merge and budget accounts, planning future meetings and teachings and preachings)
- Tuesday: Marriage Bible Study (We love our Marriage bible study group and wish we could go every Tuesday of the month)
- Wednesday: Bible Study in the mountains (always look forward to this, we usually bring some baked goods to share, sing together, read a chapter of the bible together, converse and ask questions and seek answers together, and eat together)
- Thursday: Meetings day and travel day (we try to use this day to schedule any meetings with pastors, church boards, and ministry committees)
- Friday: Restocking day, cleaning day, laundry day (we use this day to go food shopping, to clean the house, do laundry, bake bread and sweets, and this is our movie night of the week as well)
- Saturday: Free day, exploration day, and pancake breakfast day (it’s hard sometimes not to want to live for this day…I also like to call this day, “Soul Care Day”, as we use this day to do activities or not do activities to feed and care for our souls)
- Sunday: Church, preaching, meetings day, plan and prepare for new week (Sundays can sometimes be the busiest day of the week with a lot of times having to go and preach in other churches, or teach classes or have meetings with church boards and pastors)
So that, my friends, is an attempt at answering your question: “what do your days look like” as we continue to discover for ourselves what it looks like and means to us.
Nebraska in Quito
We just got back from a week in the mountain suburbs of Quito, partnering with the church, “Jesus El Salvador” and a team from Ceresco, NE.
What a fun, incredible week!
The team was made up of six lovely individuals, who came and partnered with the church doing construction together, attending the regular church services, and partnering with the Santiago Partnership and putting on a medical clinic right there in the church.
One of the really, REALLY awesome parts of the week was that we all stayed with host families. I cannot stress enough how much more you connect with a church, with a culture, with a family, than when you stay with them in their homes.
Of course it is hard, maybe you don’t speak their language, maybe you are not use to how they live, maybe you feel awkward, but it is so, so worth it! What a great way to cross cultural barriers and show your brothers and sisters that you care about them and you want to learn about them by being hosted in their homes. So beautiful!
So thank you Ceresco, NE team! Way to be missional, flexible, and open hearted! It was a joy to partner with you and the church in Quito!
“Always room for one more…”
I love having people stay with us. I grew up in a home where there was “always room for one more”, where a year didn’t go by that we didn’t have someone from another culture, country, or state, living with us.
My parents were always welcoming people in. And because of that upbringing and home atmosphere, our home, here in Ibarra or wherever home is to us, also has the mindset of, “Come”, “You are welcome”, “Be at home”, “There is always room for one more”.
How much our lives have been enriched by the dear souls that have walked through our doors, by the conversations we have had as we have sat around our table or stood around our kitchen counter or broken bread together…. what a privilege and a blessing!
In May we were able to host two lovely groups of people.
The first guests were a retired missionary couple that had previously lived in Ecuador. They were the sweetest older couple with a daily morning routine of him getting up and making coffee and tea for the both of them with a side of crackers and chocolate (so sweet!).
They were such an encouragement to us, praying with and for us, exploring a bit of Ecuador together, and in the end, introducing us to one of my favorite devotionals to date (prayasyougo.com)
(We didn’t get any photos of us together, but we did get pictures of our explorations with them!)
The next group we hosted were our very good friends from Sweden/Ecuador. We had previously stayed with them in their home in Sweden last year, and we were so excited to be able to host them in our home this time. They also came with her parent’s from Sweden so our house had English, Swedish, and Spanish all going on at the same time, sometimes all within the same sentence. It was such a lovely time and again, such an encouragement to see them and spend time with them. Beautiful people!
We also were able to host our sister friend, Esther! Who is becoming a regular guest and practically has her own room in our house. WE LOVE HER!
Thanks for coming and visiting!
And if YOU, the friend, family or acquaintance reading this, ever want to come to Ecuador and need a place to stay, there is always room for you. Come.
My Diverse Family: Merge
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!
A couple weeks ago I was able to participate in a holistic women’s medical caravan that was led and planned by my friend and fellow missionary, Annalea Egging, in partnership with Nancy Guaman, the president of women’s ministry here in the Covenant church of Ecuador.
We were also joined by Annalea’s nursing friends from the USA as well as different women here in Ecuador involved in the Covenant women’s ministries (including my dear friend Esther!), the other lovely missionary ladies here in Ecuador and Pia Restrepo, Covenant country coordinator of Latin America who also partnered during the clinic as a Spiritual guide/director.
It was an awesome team of women to be apart of!
The week consisted of general wellness checkups, workshops about the changes our bodies go through as women, and the chance to talk and pray with Pia.
The clinics were held in two different rural cities: Cuchibamba (which is on the outskirts of the city of Ambato in the mountains), and Las Delicias (which is on the outskirts of the city of Santo Domingo heading towards the coast).
Both areas were very different and diverse from each other, in landscape, culture, and climate. One was in the mountains, which, on a clear day, you could stand outside the church and see snow-capped Mount Cotopaxi, looming in the distance, and the other location was in the hot, humid, vivid-green climate of the coast.
Yet even with these differences of climate, landscape and culture….one thing remained a constant: the beautiful incredible women that we had the privilege of meeting and seeing.
I was asked to help interpret for one of the nurses that came from the USA to participate in the caravan and it was such an incredible experience to see and get to know the women that came in; maybe feeling a bit nervous, unsure, some with a heavy weight on their shoulders, but because of the safe space that was created by women serving and seeing women, they left a little lighter, encouraged, a little healthier, and, I pray, with a deeper understanding of their worth and dignity in who they were as women, mothers, daughters, grandmas, sisters, friends, and human beings.
It was a powerful week and I look forward to the next caravan in October!
milk, cows, and a partnership
I love how diverse ministry and doing life together can look, and this past March, we were able to host a team from River Falls, WI that was partnering with the church, La Paz de Dios, wayyyyy up in the mountains in a community called Lote 3, or in English, Lot 3, as they did ministry and life through milk tank cleanings, yogurt classes, farm visits, as well as other activities.
The majority of the members that made up the team were cow and crop farmers as were the members of the community and church in Lote 3. It was so cool to see their relationships strengthened as they talked over milk quality and production, soil and planting, as well as tank cleaning and sanitation.
The also really wonderful part about this partnership between the church in River Falls, WI and Lote 3 is that it has been growing and continuing for over 10 years!
That’s incredible and something that as Merge, we highly value and try to promote; long term partnerships and relationships, mutual encouragement and learning together.
It was a really beautiful week and we truly enjoyed being apart of such a lovely partnership!
We love hosting and partnering with groups from the USA….but we also LOVE partnering with groups from other places around the world!
Not a lot of people know that Merge is open to and has hosted groups from all over the world, and not just groups that have a Covenant background either….Merge has hosted groups before that were from a Catholic church, non-denominational, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. It is so awesome to see God’s Kingdom work done here on earth through different denominations and peoples and cultures.
This past week we were able to host and partner with a group from Canada!
The group was made up of different Canadian Covenant churches that all met together in Ecuador and spent the week in San Antonio de La Paccha partnering with the Covenant church there as well as partnering with the Santiago Partnership!
We had a lovely week of women’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, as well as a parenting conference.
Thanks, Canada team for your partnership and for extending grace, love, and a willingness to be taught and changed!
I cannot believe how January has come and is now waving goodbye as February slowly enters the door.
I really loved January.
We were able to go to Guayaquil and spend time with family and friends as well as enjoy the ocean and beach:
In January we received our first Merge team of the year (and one very close to our hearts), you can read about our time here.
We had a lot of wonderful meetings with different church boards and project board members in Ecuador:
We were invited to participate and dialogue in our first Kichwa community meeting:
We had different friends visit and were able to host the secretary and a worship delegate from the Covenant church of Sweden:
As well as host the Covenant church’s North District meeting in our house:
We were able to finish a lot of projects around the house and connect more with the local Kichwa church we are partnering with:
As well as help out more in the Rehabilitation center and connect more there:
I was also able to take the whole month of January as a month of resetting my routines and rhythms (read about it here) as well as take the month of off social media.
It was really lovely as I was able to take back sacred spaces and times in my life (like my early morning quiet time) and reestablish old and create new rhythms for the coming year (like taking time to read, exercise, etc.) I feel much more grounded, and clear-headed as I head into February and the rest of the year.
February looks like it will be a busy month as the once clear, little calendar boxes are now almost full with meetings, teams, travel, and projects. But I don’t feel the anxiety or the need to hurry like I use to, which I really credit to my reestablished early mornings and the Rest Retreat.
So “hear hear!” to the coming of February and all that it shall bring!