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
This past weekend we left at 4am and headed to the coast to celebrate 29 years of Richard’s parents, Roberto and Carmita, serving as pastors in El Pacto de Dios Covenant church in Recinto Campamento (a small town outside of Guayaquil in the countryside).
It was a beautiful, tear-filled time of remembering and celebrating God’s faithfulness through the valleys and mountains of the history and life of the church and honoring the Roberto and Carmita’s dedication, perseverance, and faithfulness as pastors and planters of the church.
It was incredible to see pictures of the churches physical beginnings…a bamboo square, bamboo benches…
(Photos coming soon….)
As well as to hear the stories of the churches spiritual beginnings….to listen to story after story of lives being changed; the man that robbed the church money box every week who eventually, through the guidance and grace of the brothers and sisters in the church, changed his life and started attending the very church he was robbing.
But what really struck me, was the history of faithfulness of Roberto and Carmita.
It was not an easy beginning nor has it been since they started. They shared stories of times they wanted to give up. How they had to walk many kilometers through the mud and water (during rainy season) because there were no roads or buses to the church, how during service, sometimes only 5 people would show up, or how they faced a lot of opposition from other religious groups nearby…but yet, they persevered. Why?
Because Jesus had been (and is) faithful in their lives (In fact, Carmita shared that early in their marriage she told God that if he would change her husband’s life from an alcoholic, abusive husband to a Christian, then she would dedicate her whole life to Jesus and helping other women, and that is what she has done).
It’s a little church, there is no fame, not a lot of funds, no payment, but there they are, every Wednesday-Sunday…teaching, sharing, caring, praying, and working in this little part of the world that is HUGE in the Kingdom of God.
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:
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
Two weeks in Pedernales
We are back from two weeks in Pedernales! A city on the coast and last year’s epicenter for the earthquake.
We were there partnering with Deer Grove Covenant Church from Palatine, IL and Iglesia Maná from Pedernales.
While there, we were able to help with the construction of the Maná Covenant church, as the previous church was partially destroyed from the earthquake. Wow did we sweat and did we sweat! It was a lot of digging through brick and clay, and cement-mixing. But wow, what an encouraging group of people to work alongside! That week, I really learned the power of encouragement and care. How important it really is to encourage one another daily!
Along with the construction we partnered with a sport’s camp and VBS. We’d load up a pickup truck each day with around 60 children and adults and head to the field to learn, play soccer, and sweat some more. 🙂
One of the really powerful things that happened during our last meal together with the church leadership was hearing the story of God’s faithfulness in providing new land for the church to be reconstructed on. A week before the team was going to arrive, they had no land to build on, but through the support of IPEE and the Swedish Covenant church they acquired the land days before the group arrived. We had a powerful “laying the first stone” moment and were able to join the pastor and leadership in prayer; blessing the new site, the church body, and the community.
As we were driving one day, we passed a building with this sentence spray-painted across it in bold letters:
“Pedernales, we will stay, we will rise again”
After spending two, intense weeks there, that was exactly the hope we felt, especially through the connections that were made and the many stories that were heard. God is alive and working and we had the beautiful privilege of joining him for those two weeks and seeing firsthand the power of his hope, solidarity, and his kingdom here on earth.
Richard and Liz
Back from the coast!
And back from an incredible week in Mejia!
We spent 10 days in the community of Mejia which is a couple hours from the coast. We were there with a team from my home state, Minnesota!!!! which made it an extra special week, especially since some of the team members are dear friends of ours!
The team was from New London Covenant church from New London, MN and partnered with the church, Jesus La Vid Verdadera in the small town of Mejia.
Mejia is another town that was greatly effected by the earthquake in April 2016. Many homes were destroyed, including the pastor’s house.
One of the beautiful ministries the church started there was helping rebuild some of the homes in the community of Mejia that were completely destroyed by the earthquake. The really cool thing is that it wasn’t just the church community in Mejia that was involved but a church community in Cayambe (over 7 hours away) that came down many times in partnership with the church in Mejia to help rebuild homes. We LOVE this!
It’s so beautiful when two local churches, whether in the United States, in Ecuador, or anywhere, partner together in bringing God’s kingdom here on earth in tangible ways. So beautiful!
And the really neat thing is that, two of the families, who’s homes were destroyed and were rebuilt, thanks to the local church in Mejia and Cayambe, were able to host members of the team from Minnesota that came down (as we all stayed in host homes).
I was able to talk with one of the families and they said it was truly a gift from God to be able to host someone in their home when, after the earthquake, they thought they would never be able to again.
Along with staying and connecting in host homes, we helped rebuild the pastor’s home. Because of a really rainy season, many streets and homes in Mejia were flooded, especially the pastor’s home because of a really low foundation (along with it just being unsafe to live in because of earthquake damage).
We also visited different surrounding communities, helping out with a children’s program, participating in two youth nights and the women’s ministry night, and at the end of the week, we rented two big buses and went with our host families to the beach!
I am not sure if it was because the team was from Minnesota or because Richard and I have really connected with the Mejia church community (both, actually) but there was such a unity and joy that week! (well, and let’s be honest, Jesus has everything to do with that!) We so, so enjoyed each and every person from the Minnesota team and the Mejia team.
We ate lots of fish, lots of plantain…we laughed A LOT (literally tears from laughing so hard), shared different cultural games with each other, made rice crispies together, we cried together, prayed together, worshiped together, sweat together, shared our stories, had a couple hospital runs at 2am (everybody is fine!), and were able to create such deep, great relationships that there were many tears when the time came to say goodbye (but just a goodbye for now!).
Truly, a restful, joy-filled, unifying week.