“See you later, Ecuador”
This is a hard post to write.
We knew that when we signed a contract as missionaries with the Covenant, our term would be up on April 1st, 2019. But two years seemed soooo far away. But now, here we are, past April 1st and planning our move back to Minnesota.
Last Sunday our local church here in Ibarra, had a farewell service for us and a time of prayer. It was then that it really hit me, “Oh my gosh, we are leaving”, which was then proceeded by a bunch of tears.
Since first coming to Ecuador in 2010, Ecuador has always felt like, “home” for me. And it really isn’t until you leave that you realize just how much you have put down roots and lived life with the community around you.
Ecuador is home for us. We have incredible family and friends here in Ecuador that have truly made us feel in home and has truly turned this beautiful country into home for us.
“Why then…” you may ask, “…are you leaving?”
Many people think that it is because we are having a baby that we are leaving, but, that is not the case. It is a hard question to give an answer to, so here are a couple reasons:
1. We had a commitment to stay for two years and that commitment is up.
We created a budget and raised support in order to live and do ministry for our two years here, which, thanks to God, has been enough, but because if we wanted to stay longer, either way, we would have to go back to raise more support. And since traveling/flying while being 6 months pregnant is okay right now, in a couple months, that won’t even be allowed. So we had to make a decision and decided to extend our time as missionaries for 4 more months (which does mean that we will have to fundraise some more…which you can read about here in another blog post) and head back to Minnesota.
2. We feel a “tug”, a “pull” a “whisper” that it is time to move.
This was probably the hardest thing to discern and something, in all honesty, we are still trying to discern. We have been working with Merge now for over 10 years and it has truly been life-changing and something that I know God has led us to and we have seen his leading all over. But recently, we have both been feeling this “tug” on our hearts that we are entering a new season (and not just one that includes a sweet baby) and after much prayer and conversation with our leaders, mentors, and dear friends and family, that new season is going to look a bit different geographically and ministry-wise. With that being said, we truly do not know how it will look, but we know that the first step is this move back. I guess some words that I have been feeling in my heart and soul about this new season are: settled, rooted, invested, present, and house/home.
So yes, this time for us, this transition of moving and up-rooting, and leaving is very bittersweet. There are so many things to be excited and thankful for upcoming in the future, but at the same time, we are mourning that we will no longer be living in Ecuador, close to Richard’s family, our friends…that we will no longer be leading Merge teams and personally seeing connections made and relationships and partnerships built through that…..and all the other little things that make up life here in Ecuador.
But, as the title says, we know that this is not a “Goodbye, Ecuador” but a “See you later, Ecuador”. We will always have family and friends in Ecuador, and because of that reason alone, we will be back. ALSO…..we are very open to the idea of coming back to Ecuador as missionaries in the future especially since Richard’s heart is to pastor and help with theological training here in the seminary, so we know that at some point, we will be back.
And of course we will be back to visit once our sweet baby girl is born!
Our official “move back” date is May 11th.
So please join us in prayer, in prayer for our move, this time of transition, the hard goodbyes, the training in of our new, awesome, incredible Merge Trip Facilitator here in Ecuador, and for our future, for peace, for our baby girl that is coming, and for a sensitivity to the Spirit’s guiding and leading.
Thank you. Thank you for your constant prayers and support and partnership, thank you for believing in us and sticking with us until the end! We are so, so grateful and thankful for each and every one of you! We love you all!
We will keep you updated!
Richard and Elizabeth
A day in the life
“What do your days look like?”
“What does a normal week look like for you guys?”
These are questions we get asked a lot (strangely enough), and we don’t mind, since it is a very different life we live here then our 7-3pm job we had in the states. And a lot of times we don’t even know how to answer that question…what is a normal week for us? What does a normal day consist of? What is normal? Haha!
It is sometimes hard to answer those questions when we sometimes don’t even know the answers, and I think that is okay.
It has been something I have been pondering for a while and coming to terms with myself (which has been a journey in and of itself since I am Mrs. Routine and LOVE daily rhythms and schedules and to-do lists and knowing ahead of time and planning and ALL that sometimes gets thrown out the window…what a journey it’s been, creating rhythms where there is so much static you have to be intentional and “listen” carefully, or when there is just silence and the rhythms don’t come easily, sometimes just in your head)
So here is our attempt at sort of answering a sometimes-ambiguous question. Here is our attempt at grasping at a “normal” that maybe is not our normal anymore. Do you get what I am trying to say? Maybe?
Now I need to start by saying we are always caught between two, for sure, etched in stone rhythms/routines:
When a Merge team is here vs. when a Merge team is not here
1. When a Merge team is here:
- Monday: with the team
- Tuesday: with the team
- Wednesday: with the team
- Thursday: with the team
- Friday: with the team
- Saturday: with the team
- Sunday: with the team
So as you can see, when a Merge team is here, we basically are 24/7 with the team. And we follow the rhythm and routine of that specific schedule for the week.
2. When a Merge team is not here:
And let me preface this by saying, this is how an average week could, more often then not, looks like. Some weeks, it does not even resemble this routine:
- Monday: Office day (Writing cards, answering emails, working on Merge and budget accounts, planning future meetings and teachings and preachings)
- Tuesday: Marriage Bible Study (We love our Marriage bible study group and wish we could go every Tuesday of the month)
- Wednesday: Bible Study in the mountains (always look forward to this, we usually bring some baked goods to share, sing together, read a chapter of the bible together, converse and ask questions and seek answers together, and eat together)
- Thursday: Meetings day and travel day (we try to use this day to schedule any meetings with pastors, church boards, and ministry committees)
- Friday: Restocking day, cleaning day, laundry day (we use this day to go food shopping, to clean the house, do laundry, bake bread and sweets, and this is our movie night of the week as well)
- Saturday: Free day, exploration day, and pancake breakfast day (it’s hard sometimes not to want to live for this day…I also like to call this day, “Soul Care Day”, as we use this day to do activities or not do activities to feed and care for our souls)
- Sunday: Church, preaching, meetings day, plan and prepare for new week (Sundays can sometimes be the busiest day of the week with a lot of times having to go and preach in other churches, or teach classes or have meetings with church boards and pastors)
So that, my friends, is an attempt at answering your question: “what do your days look like” as we continue to discover for ourselves what it looks like and means to us.
70 years of Covenant
This past February we were invited to the 70th annual meeting for the Covenant Church here in Ecuador.
We were invited to share about who Merge is and what we do.
It was so wonderful for me, as it was my first time attending an annual meeting in Ecuador.
In some ways it felt like a mini-reunion, meeting up with all the pastors and laypeople who we have worked with through Merge over the years.
Richard’s parents were also there so it was fun to, at least, eat breakfast with them and talk a little bit between sessions.
Honestly, until I became a Covenant missionary, I really did not know a lot about the Covenant, but through trainings, meetings, workshops, and personal study and reflection…I am so, so proud to be a Covenanter.
I really love who the Covenant is and what they stand for, and that love transfers over here in Ecuador…as a member of a Covenant church here in Ecuador, I find myself equally as proud and connected to the Covenant family as I did back in the USA.
And as I sat watching the different brothers and sisters that I’ve gotten to know here in Ecuador, mingle and laugh and talk, all I could think about was how lovely it is that the Covenant represents so many peoples, backgrounds, cultures, families, worship styles, and that through its diversity, we represent a bigger picture of who God is through this Covenant family, and even more so through this walk of faith in Christ!
It was a very beautiful time!
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
a rest retreat
Like I mentioned in our December Newsletter, I always feel bittersweet about leaving the old year behind. I think back on all that was said, not said, done, and not done, seen, felt, heard, learned, etc….
It was a hard, magical year, 2017…a good hard and a hard hard and magic bits in between here and there.
We reached our 80% mark for being funded, Richard became a citizen of the USA, we traveled to many different states, we moved to a new country, we did Merge, we got involved in new ministries, we went Scandinavia and to Europe and met up with my whole family, I became a resident of Ecuador, our car broke, I got really sick, we fought, we forgave, we learned, we missed weddings and births, we got really busy, too busy…..
But even though it was a hard year, it was a year of life together with my husband, with my family, with my friends, with God….and I truly believe that each season is a gift a there are treasures to be found, lessons to be learned, life to be lived.
One of the things that I really want to change this year is how busy and scattered I feel. I know that with moving to a new country and culture, there will be a certain amount of scattered-ness and busyness that one will experience, and I know that with Merge, especially in the summer, it can get downright crazy….and life, everyones’ life in general has moments, seasons, and days of busyness, but, but….I truly believe that there are enough hours, minutes, and seconds that make up moments, that we can use to refocus, breathe, pray, and rest. There are habits we can change, new ones we can start, and certain things we can say “no” to and others, “yes”.
So this year, I’m starting off with that in mind, and thanks to Amanda Watters, I have somewhere to start.
Amanda Watters is the author of the blog, Homesong. A beautiful journal of life, rhythms, routines, meals, crafts, and deep, beautiful thoughts.
I am joining her on her “Homesong Rest Retreat”. A retreat to “focus on being more intentional with our time, while devoting our energy to inner work that will help ground and center our spirits for the New Year ahead” -Amanda Watters
So if you’d like, you can join me as well!
Here is her first post with some starting information
And here is her latest post about preparations for the coming rest retreat.
Peace and joy in this new year!
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.
currently: drinking coffee and eating the last of the chocolate from Sweden (sorry, Richard!)
reading: Advent goodness
hearing: the tick of the kitchen clock
dreaming: of a white christmas (really)
singing: “i’ll be home for christmas“
watching: dancing with the stars (ahh, I want to get back into dance so badly!)
eating: lots of homemade bread, christmas cookies, and sauerkraut
drinking: ‘BUCH and not enough water
looking forward to: Christmas with our Ecuadorian family
thinking about: rhythms and routines
hoping for: SNOW on Christmas day
missing: family and baby spinach
loving: the holiday busyness
discovering: non-verbal cultural cues (always forever)
crafting: sneaky christmas gifts as well as knitting wash clothes
baking: chocolate chip cookies for our wednesday night bible study in the mountains
writing: christmas cards and this journal
needing: more sleep
wanting: more sleep and rest
reliving: memories from this time last year
debating: if i should take a shower….nah
smelling: A SIMMERING POT OF CHRISTMAS AND pine!
crying: over this video
learning: more about balancing ministry and daily life
deciding: not to let the little things throw off my day
praising: god for the mind-blowing, life-changing: “you will find a baby…..lying in a manger”
planning: January Merge trips and a get-a-way adventure!
Feeling: the heat from the fireplace and bittersweet
5 minutes are up!
What have you been: reading, hearing, seeing, dreaming, singing, watching, eating, drinking, looking froward to, thinking about, hoping for, missing, loving, discovering, crafting, baking, writing, needing, wanting, reliving, debating, smelling, crying, learning, deciding, praising, planning, feeling these days?
I’d love to hear!
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:
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