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
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.
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
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
When we sent out our last newsletter, we said that we’d write an “in-depth” blog about what we were currently up to, what are our future plans, etc.
So, without further ado….
We are leaving in five…no, four days to head off to Ecuador.
The reason why we are going to Ecuador in four days is because we are going to host a Merge Partnership team in the Ibarra/Zuleta area.
While in Ecuador, we will also be:
- planning for other Merge trips coming this Spring/Summer
- looking for a house to buy/rent
- visitng friends and family
In March we will again, be back in Minnesota. Now some of you might be asking, “why are you coming back to Minnesota when you have already reached over 80% of your funds?”
Well, my friends….two words:
That’s right, we are still waiting for Richard’s citizenship interview. This is a very dicey situation because if Richard is outside of the United States for over a certain number of days, he will be lose his permanent residence status and we will have to start over again, but on the other hand, we have teams coming so we have to be there to host them, thus, we have a tricky situation and a lot of comings and goings and counting. We are just praying that the interview would be soon so we don’t have to worry about any of this anymore!
In March we will also be doing some Merge trainings for teams in Indiana, Chicago, and Minnesota, so we are very excited for the chance to get to meet our partnership teams and do a little exploring!
By April, or before April, we need to be in Ecuador because of more teams coming. We are hoping that Richard will have had his interview by then and are freely and happily living in Ecuador! But, if he has not had his interview, we will head to Ecuador anyway and start the count of, “days spent outside of the United States” or wait until we hear from immigration services that he has an interview date to come back to the US for that.
So, my friends, that is what our life looks like right now; a lot of uncertainty, a lot of prayers for speed and efficiency at our immigration office, and patience….lots and lots of patience.
Richard + Elizabeth
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
We are back from Ecuador!
We spent almost the whole month of October there planning for next year’s partnership teams, hosting a team for a week, and spending much-needed time with our family on the coast.
The team that we hosted in October was from Dassel, MN (our home state!) and they partnered with the Covenant church, Piedra Viva (Living Stone), in the small, Kichwa community of Rumipamba.
Now, you have to know, the province of Imbabura is my all time favorite province in ALL of Ecuador. I don’t know what it is, but I just feel so alive when I am there, especially in the region we were living for the week. You are nestled into the roots of the Andes and all you can see for mile after mile are glorious, grassy, magnificent mountains. The air is crisp, the weather is the closest you’ll get to fall weather in Ecuador, and the people are absolutely charming and welcoming.
Needless to say, I was the most content Elizabeth there ever was, so that even when we had to eat gizzards and intestines, I took my little bowl and ate away, so that even when a strange trumpet alarm clock woke us up everyday around 5:30 am, I gladly got up to get an early hike in, so that even when I got laryngitis and almost completely lost my voice, I clapped my hands even louder during worship and song.
Oh no, in a place as special as this place is to my heart, no sickness or uncomfortableness was going to stop me. But what did stop me, almost completely in my tracks was the way God worked though the team, the local church, and the local community.
I will always be amazed in the ways that people are willing to step out of their cultural norms and practices, their comfort zones, their knowledge of a language, and their different backgrounds to connect. To share. To work alongside one another. To learn from one another. To be present with one another. It is, for me, one of the most beautiful portrayals and experiences of the big, diverse, multi-ethnic/racial/generational, bold, beautiful body of Christ.
I loved seeing North Americans and Ecuadorians singing together, laughing together, eating together, crying together, praying together, learning together, teaching children together, doing a medical caravan together, hiking up a mountain together, sharing each other’s customary bonfire snacks together, and expanding His kingdom …together.
We so need each other. We so do and not just a normal, culturally homogenized and important community, but this whole community of Christ that reaches far and wide and is not contained to a certain theology or conceptualized faith, a certain border or race, He is so much bigger, so much better than we can ever know or see.
It was truly a joy. Truly. And we left that week feeling refreshed, so cared for, and yet again, connected more deeply to how God is working throughout the world. What an honor.
R + E
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Lo seinto muchísimo!
We are so very sorry!
Really, we are so very sorry we slipped on keeping you all up-to-date via our blog on our whereabouts, life, happenings, inside scoop, etc.
Communication and being present and engaged is very important to us (especially coming from a communication major), as we want to stay present and in communication with those who are partnering and walking alongside us in this journey together. So forgive us for the many months of crickets.
Honestly, it has been really hard to have a routine, to stay focused, to be present when we are in a constant state of movement, of travel, of living out of our backpacks, of Spanish, English, Spanish, Kichwa, Spanish? English? what language am I even speaking?, of dealing with new jobs (which are great!), new partnership groups, meeting new friends/cohorts almost every week…..and believe me, like you know in your own life, the list goes on.
And we’re not saying it is a bad list, but coming from a person that thrives in routine, that thrives on schedules and predictability…..this has been a hard season, this transitioning from one country to another, from one ministry to another, from home to home? There have been many nights I wake up and for a few moments, I don’t know where I am…if I am in my own bed in Minnesota or in some sweet, host family’s house, high up in the mountains or am I in my sister-in-law’s house on the coast of Ecuador…..
We are looking at a house right now in Ecuador that we may possibly be living in come January/early Spring. And the thought of having our own place, even though we will continue to travel, serve, meet new people, stay in host homes, live out of our backpacks….makes my heart sigh in relief.
But until then, until we have our 80%, until both our feet are finally on the same continent and not straddling the expanse between (although our hearts always will)….we will continue to learn to live in the unpredictable, the constant changing rhythms of routine, the in-between, the grey space, the learning to be present in the moments where we are not even sure where present is or how it looks, and the grace to hold it all together.
grace. that is truly what we are learning. giving ourselves more grace, others more grace, breathing it in as it soaks into every weary bone and burdened shoulder, and breathing it out as we extend our hand and heart to another brother or sister, another fellow human being that we are called to walk with on this journey of life.
R + E
Sorry for the long silence!
I decided to take a break from social media for a while so I could really refocus and “unplug” (such an overused word but SO appropriate!) and just take. a. break.
It was really nice.
Well, a lot of changes and planning has happened and we are super excited to say that:
WE ARE GOING TO ECUADOR IN MAY!!!!
Now, just hold on a second…
…we will be coming back in late August (like we mentioned in this post) to continue fundraising, but we are so excited that we can get started and join in on the different ministries and projects in Ecuador, start ministering as Merge staff and working with different teams coming down, start re-connecting and connecting with our friends and co-workers, and be able to start looking around for a place to rent…which we are all super excited about, but…going to Ecuador also means that:
we get to see our family and friends!!!!!!
It truly is such a blessing to be able to live and do ministry as short-term missionaries in another country where we have family and friends…familia y amigos….conocidos! (as they say!)
We are pretty excited! and I would say that they are too!
(I, Elizabeth, haven’t seen them in over a year!)
So, as soon as we have our plane tickets purchased, we will get some dates up on the sidebar so you can journey with us during our summer in Ecuador and see where we will be and what groups, ministries, churches we will be partnering with at different times. We will also be updating here during the summer as well!
In other news:
We are still around 30% funded so we are still looking for supporters so please, partner with us today:
Click here: SUPPORT to go to our online giving site.
Anyway, that is our short, but exciting update for today and we will have more details later on for you!
We will also be updating this here blog/online journal AND we will be sending out our FIRST newsletter coming up soon, so stay tuned! 🙂 and give us your emails!
peace and joy,
p.s. here are photos of us jumping. why did I post these photos of us jumping, you may ask….well, other than the fact that jumping over streams is an activity that I think EVERYBODY needs to try at some point in their life, (it is also a past-time of ours, more like a…hobby?)…..it is really significant of the journey we are on right now. steps and leaps of unknowns, in faith.