finding joy :: 6 (aka: giving thanks)

1. warm fires at night (and if I close my eyes, I can almost imagine the snow falling softly outside)

2. decorating for Christmas (because here in Ecuador…..you start right after Halloween, THAT’S RIGHT THANKSGIVING!)

3. being creative (and making sneaky, little homemade christmas gifts for friends here)

4. cold nights (remember Elizabeth how you said you would never miss the cold…well, jokes on you)

5. wearing thick, wooly sweaters (that also itch like crazy sometimes, because: wool)

6. making special sweets for my Acts 29 friends (and speaking of sweets…)

7. being able to bake, a lot (it really makes me happy to bake)

8. feeling more at home in our church community/community (being able to say “Hi friend, how have you been?” and really mean it)

9. my husband’s carpentry work (seriously)

10. having a steady welcoming of friends and guests (wether spending a night or two or three or just chilling at our house)

11. candles, coffee, meditating/writing (every morning, every night. I need to buy more candles)

12. the company and solidarity of dear, dear friends here (aka, we don’t walk this journey alone or in this culture alone)

13. trips to the mountain every Wednesday (soul=alive)

14. exploring unknown roads (of course with music playing)

15. cow crossing (everyday, every time, we usually stick our heads out the window and look like fools as we moo to them or say hi)

16. the common greeting phrase of: “hola veci” (“hey neighbor”) (I LOVE IT! and it feels so Minnesotan that you say it to EVERYBODY you pass by or greet)

17. partaking in cultural traditions and ceremonies (the new food, music, togetherness, excitement in the air, rituals and traditions….nothing but love)

18. being able to make kombucha (kombucha=happy gut)

19. the mountains that surround us and how they look on different days (misty, mysterious, brilliant, like a painting, but always, always calling my name)

20. the eucalyptus trees that surround us (what a glorious fragrance!)

21. the 5 o’clock Ecuadorian shadow (aka: my life explained via light)







Now, don’t let this list fool you into thinking that it has been all rosey and peachy. My heart has been missing certain people, places, celebrations, and seasons like I never thought I would. 

And moving to and living in a new country and culture has it’s moments of embarrassment (ask me someday about the time I went to the store to “try” to buy a large stock pot…seriously, ask me), confusion, homesickness, peoplesickness (as in, “missing people”, not “sick of people” or “people that are sick”), frustration, anger, loneliness, etc.

And life, as life anywhere lived, is filled with us: broken people, with broken relationships with ourselves, others, God, the world, etc.

But, in the process of dealing with these feelings and my/our brokenness, I have also been learning to be grateful. To take moments throughout the day to reflect on His goodness, His blessings, His solidarity, Him, as a good Father, His promises, and His words and what he is saying.

That is why I make these lists, not only to remember the joy of discovering new, beautiful parts of living in this culture, but choosing to find the beauty (whether hidden, in plain view, LIKE THAT MOUNTAIN OUTSIDE MY WINDOW, or just having to be searched for a bit more) in any place, any circumstance, and any season (even if that season doesn’t have autumnal leaves or snow or a routine or familiarity). AMEN? Amen!!!

Peace to you in whatever season you may willingly or unwillingly find yourself. This is a prayer for us today:






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Beloved Ibarra

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




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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

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one month

one month.


We’ve been here for almost one month.

And we’ve been running since we’ve hit the groundSince 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

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exploding coffee

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

I am reminded again and again how this walk of life with Christ is not about following a set of rules. How it is not about striving, trying to be perfect, trying to cover all our grounds, trying to know all this and learn all that, doing what we ought to do because we ought to do it…. It’s so much deeper, yet so simple. It is liturgical and yet so spontaneous, it is within an institution and yet not able to be confined, it is heartache and suffering yet joy and hope, it is valleys and mountains, and all the while, it is, it truly is, walking with him, through everything, in everything. It is knowing he walks with us.



“And more important than whether something is old or new, winsome or classic is whether it is real…whether it moves us closer to God and to our suffering neighbor. Whether it has fruit outside of our own good feelings” S. Claiborne.


I think so often I lose sight of what his yoke really is. What walking with him is really like…do I even walk with him? Or am I trying to find my own ground in the rush and busyness of life that I forget that he would so love for me to slow down a little and learn his unforced rhythms of grace.


A couple days ago I was worrying about all that encompasses this life we are living right now: a lack of routine, constantly moving and traveling, no jobs, no financial security, unknown month, no house, etc. As I was in this downward pattern of thought (because worrying truly only takes me down), while heating up my coffee in the microwave of the church kitchen with the mumbling of voices fellowshipping in the background, I had a thought, a voice saying something to me…”get away with me and I’ll show you how to take a real rest, walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it, come learn the unforced rhythms of grace”. And then my coffee exploded in the microwave and I dismissed the pleasant words and said, “screw coffee today” and went to find a seat in the sanctuary.


But a little while later, while voices were mumbling and trying to sing the new song the worship team was playing, I again started worrying about how we were going to afford this and do that, and how we were going out to eat with friends to meet and celebrate the birth of their one-month-old son and how we had twenty dollars cash that we could use but we really should be spending it on something other than eating out, etc. and again I had a thought, like a quiet voice saying, “get away with me, walk with me, trust me” So I decided to listen. And I half-heartily, and almost unwillingly decided to respond when I felt like I was suppose to give ten of the twenty dollars away, but again, I heard, “walk with me, trust me”. So we headed to the restaurant with ten dollars and met our friends and ten seconds after I sit down, a friend that I haven’t seen in years came up and gave me twenty dollars that she said she owed me.


I am not equating following his unforced rhythms of grace with getting money or everything that we want. Rather, I am learning, or re-learning to get away and follow his unforced rhythms, of how he does things, not how I would like to do them. I am learning that he will provide, although it may not come how or when I think it will.


I don’t believe that living freely and light means I won’t walk through hard times or trials…I have had my fair share of those and I know I will walk through more, but when I “get away” with him and talk with him, he is really good at putting perspective on circumstances, and…honestly, sometimes he doesn’t, but although I may not understand, I know he will not leave me and I know the more I get away with him, the more I’ll learn, both intrinsically and experientially, about how truly loving, trustworthy, and faithful he really is. I will learn how to live freely and light in the midst of trials and joys, in the midst of unknowns and knowns, in the midst of routine or no routine, in the midst of coffee and my whole world exploding and his steady voice guiding me to the unforced rhythms of his grace.


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a summary of 365 days.

Feliz Año Nuevo!!!!

For me, it’s always the dreaded blog post, the dreaded Facebook post, the dreaded Instagram post, the dreaded whatever-type-of-social media-post, that being, and decidedly titled,

“Summarizing 365 days of my life in two (maybe three) short sentences (or paragraphs if I’m feeling nostalgic)”

I’ve always had a hard time encapsulating a year as we move into the next one.

I’ve always had a hard time summarizing 365 days of living, experiencing, breathing, eating, laughing, crying, yelling, singing, whispering, dreaming, feeling, listening, hearing, learning, unlearning, failing, triumphing, growing, stretching, opening, closing, creating, taking, breaking, and all that is this….life. Living.

I can’t summarize it. I can’t encapsulate it, properly, that is.

Or maybe, I just don’t want to.

Maybe it’s my reluctance to let go of the year and all that has happened (the joys and sorrows) and embrace a new year and all that will happen. Maybe it’s growing a year older, now three years married, now 29, now not anymore in Minnesota, in the United States….change can be really hard for me.

But, like I mentioned in my previous post, I am learning to intentionally enter into and be apart of the changes and different seasons of life. And part of that process is, I think, not forgetting the past seasons, but learning and growing from them, carrying certain “experiences” over to the next season (or year) or choosing to leave them behind. And to do that, we must remember, we must reminisce, we must go into the hard places, the glory places, the sacred and holy places of life.

I think it’s okay to ask, “why’s”. And I think it’s okay to grieve that which is no more, that which will not enter into the new year or new season with us, even if we so badly want it to. Yet we can’t stop there, we can’t lose hope. We also need to enter the spaces of the past year that were holy and hard and remember….and recall, His faithfulness, His peace, His active love and sweet and gentle grace.

I suppose it’s a healing thing to do, that’s what people tell me at least, and I am finding that to be true.

So, I won’t let the new year, and all that has happened in the year we are leaving, hinder me from doing the hard work of being present, nor will I let it slip out of memory without recalling and remembering, without purposefully holding on and letting go. Nor will I let the year go without being grateful and giving thanks for another year, no matter how hard, how good, how lost, how grounding it was….I will choose to give thanks and I will choose joy and hope for the things to come.

So there, I did it. I wrote a “Farewell 2015, Hola 2016” post.

The end.


The Santanas


p.s. watch out, I did my summarizing in pictures…..














































































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mes chers amis…..



It has been a couple weeks now since our dear, dear friends from France, the Weilers, left.

Yet, I am still mentally digesting all I learned from their time here with us.

Our time together reminded me, once again, just HOW valuable and needed is diversity in the body of Christ.

Even though the Weilers were only here for less than three weeks, they taught me so much through their culture and personality, and beautifully reflected a life of peace and rest.

Although we invited them into our home, they invited us into their daily routines and ways of life: each morning we would prepare a simple breakfast, carry it outside and slowly eat and drink tea while enjoying the morning sunlight, each other’s company, and the freshness of the morning. After lunch we would always sit down either on the earth outside or on the carpet inside and take tea and dark chocolate. It was not rushed or fancy or something that it was not….but simple, together, and peaceful.

But truly, my favorite moment was when Mrs. Weiler (Claire), my husband, and I sat down one evening while at a friend’s cabin up North and talked in the fading light about meditation. It was so beautiful and such an eye-opening experience. 

Claire has been a yoga instructor for more than 20-plus years and practices the art of meditation. And you can sense, when you are around her, that she is a women of peace and rest.

While talking she explained to us how she views meditation. And to be honest, I had not thought much about meditation, I always either pushed it aside as “too New Age” or didn’t think it would ever benefit or enrich my life. But Claire said something that completely changed my view on meditation. She explained that meditation, truly, at its core is “receiving”. That we must, “receive first, before anything else; before words, before pleas, before phrases…we must first quiet our wandering minds and receive. Just receive”.


How I long to just quiet myself, my crazy, scattered thoughts and focus on just receiving from Jesus. Sitting first and before even lifting up a Psalm or a prayer or a thanks, to first just receive. What do YOU want to say to me, Abba, that I don’t hear from all my wondering and thinking? What do you want to calm in my anxious heart? What do you want me to notice? What part of your creation are you wooing me with….the air, the sun, the smells, etc.? What area in my life do you want to cover with your peace? What truths have I been forgetting about You, about me? Can I hear your song over me?

And like Claire said, it is a hard practice to do at first because honestly, our lives are a lot more about “doing” then “receiving”. But I think it is a such a beautiful life practice that can bring such sweet connection to and peace from the Father. To sit and to receive. How beautiful!

It is a practice I am trying to learn; a habit I am trying to start, because now, I view meditation as a beautiful part of a culture, religion, and the scriptures that the Father can use (and has been using since looong ago) to bring peace, rest, and restoration. It is one beautiful way, out of many, that we can practice abiding and resting; that we can practice listening and hearing the Father’s heart for us. And it has been a great connecting point and has given space and opportunity for listening, sharing, and growing with others.

I am so thankful for my dear French friends and for all they have taught me and for how God does not shrink from culture but uses culture and traditions for a life of wholeness in Him.


the santanas

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