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!
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!
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
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:
We’ve been here for almost one month.
And we’ve been running since we’ve hit the ground. Since we’ve arrived we’ve been full on with activities and Merge partnership teams.
We’ve hosted two teams this April, a multi-generational group from Berlin, CT and a group of pastors from the Covenant Church of Canada.
Both groups were able to partner in different ways. With the Berlin, CT group we were able to partner with a Covenant church in Sangolqui as well as in Quevedo. Actually, one of our dreams and goals as trip facilitators here in Ecuador is to connect a partnership team coming from North America to another team/church from Ecuador that is already visiting or supporting another church in Ecuador, in that way, both groups can go together to support and connect in an already established and healthy way. And that way, when the team from North America leaves, the other team will still be visiting the church/ministry and supporting them.
And that is exactly what happened with the group from Berlin, CT. We were able to come alongside the church in Sangolqui and join them on their weekly trip to Quevedo where they are planting another church.
It was so beautiful to see not only the two teams partnering together with the church in Quevedo, but also to have the Delps, Annalea, and Meghan (our fellow missionaries here in Ecuador) come along to lead a medical caravan. It was a beautiful week of supporting, encouraging, and learning from one another and bringing His kingdom here on earth. We were also super grateful for our awesome team of interpreters (and dear friends) who were also able to partner with us.
The other group that came in April was another step towards some dreams we have. The group from Canada consisted of four pastors who represented part of the Covenant church in Canada and who are, as a conference, committed to the Kichwa district here in Ecuador. Because of that, we were able to visit almost all the Covenant churches here in the Kichwa district which was a HUGE encouragement to the pastors and a learning experience for both. The pastors also participated in a church planting and church revitalization workshop. It was so great to see the dialogue happening and questions being asked and brought up and the listening and learning.
Other than preparing and hosting partnership teams, we’ve been connecting and reconnecting with other pastors and leaders here in Ecuador as well as planning for other Merge trips coming up this summer.
We’ve also been doing all the other “fun” stuff that comes with moving to a new country: registering our information in government systems, applying for visas (Elizabeth), fixing mission cars, house hunting, being stuck in the middle of a strike, and setting up accounts and keeping track of our budget, etc., etc.
Although it has been busy and go, go, go since we’ve got here, we have been really careful about prioritizing and making time to be with family and our friends here. We were so glad we were able to spend time with our family in Guayaquil for Easter as well as to connect with our fellow missionary, Denise, while we were there.
We are also learning and being diligent in making time for ourselves as a married unit and individually; to rest, have fun, explore and learn more about this beautiful country, culture, and people we live and do life with.
So with that, we are off to possibly sign a contract to rent a house and have a physical place to call, “home”.
Liz and Richard
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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We have our tickets!
We leave May 24th and come back sometime in August.
As much as we are excited, we are also…..in sort of a state of huh?
This is such a weird limbo to be in.
We’re going to Ecuador…..
But we’re coming back.
We’re packing up our house and moving out.
But will continue to live in the US for a while.
We are quitting our jobs and saying goodbye to our students and co-workers.
But are still working on fundraising.
Honestly, we were a little disheartened to reach April first and have to buy round-trip tickets to Ecuador. Our goal was to be in Ecuador by this spring, and while we will be in Ecuador this spring, we will be coming back in the fall.
But, like a very wise and dear friend told me, “maybe it is a blessing in disguise” and we remember that. Sometimes we (ME…ELIZABETH!!!) are in such a rush to get from one thing to another, one place to another, one stage in life to another, that we forget this beautiful, step by step, sometimes seemingly slow, sometimes unnoticed, yet powerful thing called: process, journey.
God seems to be all about those processes, those slow (to us) processes. But he does things in them, he grows things in them, he changes things and renews things in them. I guess just think of nuts growing into trees or seeds growing into flowers, or babies growing into adults (no, don’t think about that too much, it will make you sad), or juice changing into wine, sweet tea into Kombucha? (hehe)…..a process. A growing, learning, changing, encountering, extending, expanding, enhancing, process.
It also gives us time to keep on preparing, to keep on learning, growing, connecting, forming partnerships, making memories, and just doing the daily habitual things that are so normal but so grounding and truly beautiful.
So, we move forward in faith that God can, in an instant, move us from 30% to 100%. And we move forward in faith that God is a good Father that can use this process to change us, renew us, grow us, stretch us, love us, and prepare us in his perfect timing, on this beautiful journey of life.
At the Grand Canyon….talk about a process!
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.
Hello! and Hola!
We have just about 30% of our funds raised now.
And we are hoping to have at least 80% by the first week of April.
We need to raise 67,746 dollars in 1 1/2 months.
Let’s just say we have been learning a lot about faith lately.
Because we are the new trip facilitators in Ecuador, we are required to be there this summer, starting June.
Now, the ECC has graciously made an exception for us and has told us that we can leave in June for Ecuador to facilitate the teams coming during the summer months, but, if we do not have 80% of our funds by then, after the summer is over and all the teams have left, we have to return to the USA to continue fundraising.
Our hope and prayer is that we would have (at least) 80% of our funds in before then so we do not have to return and can stay in Ecuador and start life and ministry there.
That means, starting now until April, (when the director of Merge Ministries is going to buy our tickets to Ecuador, which we are hoping he will not have to do and that we can use the funds we raised to buy the tickets instead, like we have budgeted and planned for) we need to raise $67,746 to reach our goal of 80%….
It seems a bit crazy. That is a TON of money, in a very short amount of time, BUT…..as I said, we have been learning a lot about faith through this whole process and we know that God is the giver and sustainer of faith, we just need to take our part, act, say yes, open the door, sign up, step out and THAT is when we start to see God reality, God initiative, and God provisions happening.
I love what is says in Luke 12:29-34:
“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
Of course, we aren’t going to do anything without praying and seeking the Lord and talking with our close friends and family, much like the process of saying yes to God’s calling us to Ecuador in the first place. But we know that He started it, and we know He is faithful in every step we have taken thus far, and every step we will continue to take.
So, we are asking YOU to take that step of faith with us, however you can. We know without a shadow of a doubt (although sometimes the shadow seems REALLY large and REALLY dark), that God is greater then $67,746. And that this whole process of fundraising is neither us sitting back, letting God do all the “work” nor us thinking that WE are the ones gathering in the funds…..it’s a partnership; He’s so relational, so close, and so intimate with every detail of our lives and yours.
We pray together: “Father God, we believe, help us with our unbelief! Strengthen us and sustain us as only you can. Show us today, in this moment, how you are working and moving and how we can join you in what you are already doing! Amen!”
Please click the link below to donate online:
Or go to our “Partner With Us” page to see the others ways you can support and partner with us!