A christian artist called to Ecuador.

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Fire Season

cotopaxi from riobambaAugust in Ecuador is vacation time. Schools are out and families go traveling so teaching classes is very, very slow…

class at carmen 2Which is why I love September! Classes start up again and my work schedule resumes some semblance of normalcy.

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fire downtownWhile the weather in the States should be cooling down, we’re dealing with our own special kind of heat wave. Because we’re in the mountains, it doesn’t technically get very hot, not like up north, but it does get dry. Thanks to a combination of people burning their trash, tossing cigarettes, and actual arson, this means that like in California, it’s wildfire season in Quito. So far there have been at least two forest fires burning per day around the city, filling the air with smoke, and adding to the ash already drifting in from Cotopaxi.

coming in on cotopaxi

I heard that Cotopaxi erupting has been in the news in the States, and I can tell everyone that Quito is in a greater state of emergency (which is not at all) over the fires catching all over the place, than it is about the volcano. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no danger from Cotopaxi potentially experiencing a large eruption, but there’s not much that can be done about it. Transportation has already been reopened passing the ash spewing volcano and I have personally traveled on the road twice already and lived to both tell the tail- and take photographs.cotopaxi ash field

pastor and wife

Pastor Jaime and his wife Wilma

I braved the fuming mountain the first time, to get to Puyo, where I am currently working on putting together a photo directory for the church there! 19 familia CalderonThey have never had a photo directory or any other kind of directory before, and when I mentioned the project to the pastor, he was very excited by the idea. So for my next couple of visits there, I will be photographing the families and members and groups associated with the Kairos, as well as taking photos of the church itself and compiling everyone’s contact information. Once I’m done I hope to organize everything into a directory that Kairos can print and distribute to their community. It is my hope that this project, when completed, will serve as a resource that the church will be able to use to bring its community closer together by enabling them to sty better connected and aware of who each other is! I have used our GPC directory more times than I can count over the years and I can’t imagine trying to do without it- being able to find and get in touch with people!my kairos fam

me and GladysThe second time I braved Cotopaxi was just this past weekend in order to get out to Rio Bamba and teach my monthly knitting and crochet class to the ladies out in Columbe. I finally learned to knit socks! And I have been teaching the women there to do it too. I had to make my own double pointed needles out of bamboo kabob sticks because so far I haven’t been able to find any for sale in Quito! Alas…) In true Ecuadorian fashion, I arrived in Rio Bamba (after calling ahead to check in the day before) to be informed that the women could not come for class because there was going to be a Food Festival in their village- where all the various communities would be coming to cook and sell their traditional foods, while others performed traditional dances.

So instead of teaching class, I helped make quinoa empanadas with the ladies down in the village. Sadly, I did not take any pictures of this event, out of respect for the community. It doesn’t do to behave like a tourist when you’re trying to fit in and build relationships…

(But I did get a photo of me with Gladys, afterwards, back in the community…)

DSCN4480In Carmen Bajo I am working on completing a mural, in the cafeteria of the Project, that was begun by a visiting team over a year ago- but never finished! I am also planning on doing some murals out in some of the churches around Columbe and Rio Bamba over the next months- which should be lots of fun!mural progress 2

painting casa aAt Casa A it has been mostly business as usual, except for the addition of several new residents (some of them with little kids.) So in just a month, my class size there has tripled, which is still not a lot of girls, but it’s all about quality- not quantity. We’ve been continuing classes more regularly, which has allowed me to work on introducing some art therapy projects to more directly help the girls in recovering from the different traumas they have had to survive. The current project is a long term one, so there’s nothing to report on it yet.girls frames

Although I can’t disclose specifics about any of the girls or their stories, I would ask for prayers for all of them, that they find healing, faith, and security, as they struggle to raise their children (those who have them) and that they over come the terrible things they have had to survive.

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Spring Maddness

Photo class on Pichincha with Necia.

Photo class on Pichincha with Necia.

So Ecuador doesn’t really have “Spring” but I know that it’s been going on in the States and is about burn up into Summer! The weather here has finally dried out and turned to windy and dry- scorching hot during the day and then chilly at night- but at least it’s no longer constantly raining!

Carmen knitting on her bed.

Carmen knitting on her bed.

May was a wonderfully full month. The team hosts for the summer teams arrived and I helped with training while keeping up with my usual classes. I traveled out to Rio Bamba to resume crochet and knitting classes (for which I taught myself to knit socks!) And upon my arrival discovered that there was a “minga” going on in the community. A “minga” in Ecuador is when there is some sort of need in the community- sort of like a barn raising- in which everyone in the community is expected to help out and participate. These are particularly prolific in the agrarian culture of the Quichua, where community members are still very much interdependent on one another. In this particular case it was a “water minga,” and while I’m not entirely sure what that is it sounds very important. Needless to say, despite being forewarned of my arrival several weeks ahead of time there weren’t many women about that day! But I was invited by one of the women, Carmen, to come to her house were we had our own private class until some other women showed up later in the day.

Sonnet and I post race in the stadium.

Sonnet and I post race in the stadium.

June 7th, Sonnet (my roommate) and I ran together in a 15K (roughly 9.3 miles). Sadly, the website that is supposed to post our times has not been functioning so I don’t know how long it took- but it started far south of in the city and cut across the historical district, ending at the Olympic Stadium in the North central part of town- thankfully- just one short mile from our house! There were so many people! It was crazy, but awesome.

Looking down on Quito.

Looking down on Quito.

Almost immediately after the race, barely showered and not rested at all, we hitched a ride on the teleferico up to the top of Pichincha (the volcano we all live on here) to help out with translating and aiding in a photography class with the Casa Gabriel boys (the home for former street kids run by Youth World.)

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The photography class we helped out with on Pichincha was being taught by a visitor from the states, a fellow artist and art teacher, Necia Clare, from Montana. For two weeks she lived with Sonnet and I and traveled back and forth between Casa Adhalia and Casa Gabriel (the boys and girls ministries for street kids and girls rescued from or at risk of trafficking) teaching intensive photography classes.

It was a great pleasure to be involved and work along side another artist and see what could be accomplished with a team (or two other people) participating in instruction and organization.

Necia teaching.

Necia teaching.

The girls and boys both responded extremely well to learning about photography and in particular to being taught that their perspective matters and that they have something to offer the world through it. The two weeks of classes and photo-taking concluded with a professional gallery show, which we organized, of select works by the boys and girls, which we set up at the Youth World office. IMG_0689

Exhibition night.

Exhibition night.

After much worrying about whether many people would come, with just a weeks notice, there was an excellent turn out of support from the community and rave reviews of the quality of the show! It was a great affirmation and encouragement for our young photographers! And also a very energizing and refreshing experience for me, as I so often work and travel alone.

Exchanging rings

Exchanging rings

In the middle of all this I was notified at the last moment (the Monday before on the week of) that my good friends Ledi and Vinicio would be getting married that Friday and would I, could I, come? Of course I wanted to be there so I rearranged my schedule and traveled to Puyo at the last minute, inspite of having a nasty cold and needing to be back in Quito the next day. In true Ecuador fashion, the ceremony started over an hour late- but it was lovely and sweet and well worth the trip.

First kiss? Probably not...

First kiss? Probably not…

I actually “caught” the bouquet- but through no effort of my own! (The other girls literally held my arm out and the bride intentionally threw it in my direction.) Apparently it’s time for me to get married…11406984_729770040478608_6908967167520603569_n

Alive and Well

Easter sunrise service in the mountains.

Easter sunrise service in the mountains.

Every time it’s been months since my last post, I apologize profusely and swear I will be more diligent in updating my blog more frequently. But since I fail consistently at keeping up with that resolution, I’m not going to bother this time around. Instead I’m just going to dive right in!

Late March was a bit frustrating this time around because I actually had a number of classes fall through, due to scheduling problems for my students. While I was away for three months in the States, people got jobs, their children’s school schedules changed (here in Ecuador kids may have classes that either start in the morning and go until the afternoon or start in the afternoon and go until seven pm at night.) It’s always amazing how quickly and suddenly things can change, but it doesn’t always feel amazing. Personally I was feeling a little more than disappointed. My disappointment was then compounded by being mugged by two guys with a box cutter as I walked home one afternoon from the metro. Any violent altercation where your personal safety and liberty is violated in any way is shaking, but I was more angry than anything. Regardless, I was unharmed, minus the loss of personal effects (a bag of art supplies, my keys, my mace, my ipod, and my umbrella- in the rain no less!) But the Lord was watching after me even then- because I did put up a bit of a fight and would not relinquish my death grip hold on my cel phone (it is sooooo inconvenient to have to replace all those phone numbers!) and plenty of people are injured if they resist being mugged here. My community was very supportive and caring and checking in on me and my roommate who came running to my aid as soon as she heard. One person, our team coordinator, even came up with a replacement ipod (not as nice as the one I lost but free of charge!) And then, just a week later, late at night I got a sketchy call from someone who had “found” my ipod/phone at a market on the street. Thanks to the Apple Icloud lock/ find my iphone feature, I was able to disable my phone and prevent any future owner from using it. So when said unfortunate person purchased my stolen iphone and tried to use it- all that came up was my number and my “stolen” message. After some haggling and passing the affair over to my team leader to handle in case it was the thieves trying to rob me again, against all odds- I had my own iphone, undamaged and back in my hand for a minor exchange of $25’s! Who could have called that one? The Lord definitely had my back!

(And let’s be honest, it’s a miracle I hadn’t been mugged before now given all the places I travel to alone.)

Mugging and all that aside, after a week or so of discouragement over my classes a new opportunity arose from the chaos that was my unresolved schedule.

One of the girls from Casa Adhalia (rescue home for girls who have been or are at risk of being trafficked) was forced to move out due to conflicts with another girl living there who was antagonizing her to the point of wanting to run away. Though it might seem backwards, the instigator could not be removed from the house out of concern for her four children. Instead, the other girl (we’ll call her Caitlin) was brought to live in the home of the administrators who run Casa Adhalia. Although I cannot tell you her real name or too many personal details about her for safety reasons, I can say that despite having been through a horrific ordeal (she was sold into prostitution by her own mother at the age of eight) she is an amazingly sweet and sensitive girl (now twenty years old and just recently rescued.) As providence would have it, she loves art and working with her hands, which she can do easily- all day long. (Just like me…) So thanks to my unexpected extra free time I have been able to spend two full days a week with her, painting, cooking, and doing other art projects, ministering to both her and the couple she is staying with (who cannot leave her alone but somehow must figure out how to maintain their own busy ministry schedules while she is staying in their home.)

Caitlin's first painting.

Caitlin’s first painting.

Caitlin's second painting.

Caitlin’s second painting.

It just goes to show you, that just because things don’t go according to our plans and preferences doesn’t mean that Gods’ plan isn’t right on track. If none of my classes had been canceled, I would not have had the time to dedicate to this small but very important and unexpected ministry.

Meanwhile my other, remaining classes (no I didn’t lose them all, just a few) are back on and going well, particularly my Friday afternoon Art Club with the youth out at Carmen Bajo.

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Just this weekend I returned to Puyo out in the jungle and reunited with my friends and almost-family there who I haven’t seen in quite a few months since traveling to the States, and was able to help out with the monthly mission trip into the Amazon by preparing a craft to go with the kids lesson about Esther.

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We made neon paper crowns with the verse Esther 4:14.

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An excellent and inspiring verse, because who of us ever knows if we are not, at this moment, in just the time and place for which we too were created? A thought for the day.IMG_0037

Three Years and Counting…

Ladies at crochet class in Columbe.

Ladies at crochet class in Columbe.

First, I just want to let everyone know that I am alive and well and unharmed by all the earthquakes that we keep having- if not a little bit shaken (haha)…

DSCN2423In May I finished up most of my classes for the summer break as the summer interns began arriving for their training to lead teams. Most of the classes were doing bead embroidery projects which looked amazing and the students really seemed to enjoy! At the end of the month I left for a brief stint in the States- to attend the same arts ministry conference as the year before, in Philadelphia. It was an excellent experience just as the year before- but focused more on the art therapies, trauma, and project planning and was both motivating as well informative and left me with a strong conviction of possible directions when my time in Ecuador is up two years from now.

Fairy Aunt Godmothers with princess Gwen.

Fairy Aunt Godmothers with princess Gwen.

 

Before returning home I had the opportunity to stay with my brother and his family for a few days and was fortunate enough to be present once again for my nieces’ spiderman/princess themed birthday party- for which I came as her fairy aunt godmother.

Once I got back from the states I rested up to help lead a team that arrived from Texas a week later and traveled down to work with the church in Puyo where I serve monthly, aiding in their ministry to different tribal communities in the jungle.

Woodlands team in Kunkukk.

Woodlands team in Kunkukk.

 

 

 

This summer we went to the Shuar community of Kunkukk (pronounced Kon-cookie) where the youth, adults, and local children mixed together with the team to haul large rocks, wet sand, and bags of concrete up a slippery jungle hill to lay the foundation for their church.

 

Foundation on the hilltop in Kunkukk.

Foundation on the hilltop in Kunkukk.

It was back breaking work, particularly in the heat and humidity of the lower Amazon, but the youth from the team bore up under it bravely and made up games to help them keep going as they passed one heavy load after another (such as naming the rocks…)

VBS with kids in Kunkukk.

VBS with kids in Kunkukk.

They ended their time with the community with a festive despedida (goodbye party) during which we sat together on logs under their meeting hut as the children came forward in small groups and recited verses and sang worship songs while the women served everyone avena (a traditional oatmeal fruit drink) and maito (chicken with heart of palm and local herbs steamed inside banana type leaves).

Shuar women making the maito.

Shuar women making the maito.

 

 

We said a long goodbye with lots of photographs and blessings and thanks to each other.

 

Before heading out of Puyo we shared a youth night at Kairos (the church in Puyo) with games, worship, and testimonies- and of course- a futbol game (soccer) for which I played with the women from Puyo and was jokingly named a traitor by our US visitors.

Art Team at La Rhonda.

Art Team at La Rhonda.

In July we had debrief for the June teams and I finished up my last wave of classes out at Dios es Amor where their beading projects turned out fantastic! And I settled my affairs just in time to receive our first ever arts ministry team compliments of the contacts I’ve made through my annual conference in the states!

We were a very small team, but it was just as well as I was both host and translator for everything including for the talk on Trauma that their team leader gave to the adults in Argelia Alta on their second day! It was a little intimidating, but the Lord was with me and it actually went very well (sans some words for brain chemistry I had no idea how to translate!)

Because they were such a small team they couldn’t afford daily private transportation so we had many grand adventures navigating Quito’s public transportation system- which fortunately I know very well by now but was fairly taxing for the inexperienced North American unaccustomed to physical contact with perfect strangers.

Art team in Argelia.

Art team in Argelia.

The rest of their time went quite smoothly and was a wonderful time with the kids in Argelia and a great learning experience for myself where possible future art teams might be concerned. The Artology camp was very successful, where in the children learned about what the Bible says about being good stewards of the earth and the importance of water in particular- using dance, drama, and visual art activities to both teach and communicate. After a skype call with a sister team in Philadelphia the kids came up with their own project proposal for their community to help make it safer which was put forward that same evening at a community meeting and was approved! Someone even volunteered to donate trashcans to install on the street corners and the team promised to put up the money for the rest!

It was hard to say goodbye to them as I am usually the only other artist around- but after they left we had our final debrief for the summer and August had begun- for me- a much needed month of rest to sort out my new class schedule, lesson plan, and recover from the busy, busy preceding couple of months.

Blessings to all as you finish up your own vacations and begin preparing for kids to go back to school and for the weather to start cooling off! As for myself, I am celebrating quietly and giving thanks for all that has happened this summer and in particular, that I am able to continue working and living here where I have been called to be- as I observe my three year anniversary serving in Ecuador.

Thank you all for making it possible!DSCN2254

Endurance

DSCN1063The past semester and subsequent months since my last post have been very busy indeed, filled with lots of ups and downs and changes for my home life and ministry.

Unsurprisingly, throughout the duration, I have been horribly remiss in updating my blog and staying in touch with all of my supporters!

Alas…

One of the first things you have to learn when living in a country like Ecuador is that everything can change over night. The best laid plans can crumble into nothing- a well established class can go from ten to no people in the space of a week. There is a saying in the the states about how “man plans and God laughs”- but in Ecuador- I’m pretty sure He just shakes His head at us hopelessly.DSCN0247Needless to say, this states of affairs can be very, very frustrating if you are unable to adapt to it.

This daily struggle, like any difficulty in life, can easily make one feel as if you are not getting anywhere- as if your life and ministry are somehow standing still- or worse- moving backwards.DSCN0320I have gone through quite a bit of turmoil and even tears over this massive cultural difference. But in the long run I have come to see a metaphor for faith in all the chaos. We talk all the time about trusting in the Lord and following His lead, about how He has plans we know nothing about and they are often not necessarily in line with what we have planned.DSCN0250

It easier said than done to trust in these plans that we did not make. More often than not we cry and swear and get depressed that things do not go our way.

Over the past six months I have had more than my fair share of conflicts but in the midst of it, remained hopeful and seeking for the positive outcomes that may or may not have been in my line of sight. And the Lord, despite doing everything His way instead of mine- has proven Himself faithful.

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I am now, two years after my arrival, finally getting to work with the indigenous Quichua communities in the Sierra- something I have always wanted to do. In the space of just a few visits I have already been welcomed into the community and begun traveling out twice month at their invitation to teach classes in knitting and crochet! Much of my experience in other ministry sites has been key in allowing me to adapt quickly and know what to do and not do.DSCN1101

DSCN0244My drawing student (former street kid- Jackson) has begun to work with color and even received his first ever commission with which I have been helping him. He is thinking of pursuing some manner of art and design as a career.DSCN1056

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN0123The Grand daughter of a close friend of mine in Carmen Bajo has enjoyed my classes so much she is now volunteering with me to help during the afternoon Art Club for the kids on Fridays.

 

 

 

One of Youth World’s study abroad students who is considering majoring in art is interning with me once a week. Our first project- was to paint a mural on the side of the church in Carmen.DSCN1044DSCN1055

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1007Out at Dios es Amor I have begun doing a weekly art devotional prayer time along with class.

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At Casa Dahlia I have finally begun to come up with more successful jewelry designs for the girls to make and sell.

 

DSCN1017And I found out that adults like to color too when- while preparing and waiting for my Friday Art Clubs to begin the teachers and staff began coming to me wanting to do the activities I had planned for the kids which has seriously helped my lesson planning.DSCN1016

 

 

 

 

And last but not least- I found a roommate!

me and sonnetJust when I had pretty much given up on the idea and made my peace with the fact that Lord must want me to live alone for some purpose- in comes a girl named Sonnet, from Texas to serve with Casa G- and off hand I ask if she wants to live together and boom! Two weeks later we have found a new spacious (and cheaper) place together and are busy moving in. A month passed, and though we barely knew each other at all, we are getting along great and have settled into our new home and even had some guests stay with us.DSCN1151

All of these things came in a combination of slow and steady progress and sudden changes. I had little control over any of them. Some, like finding a companion to live with, were huge answers to specific prayers while others- were things I had not been looking for- like a team of Artists coming down this summer! But all have proven to be blessings. None of them came according to my own timing or plans- but all came- in the right time.

So this month, I’m not asking for any prayers except for continuing endurance and thanks giving for all that He has been doing- despite all my plans.  DSCN0839 DSCN1037🙂

 

Long Hot Summer… and Spring…

908991_10151544745370365_1642876610_nUnsurprisingly, I have been miserably remiss in updating my blog. My only comfort is that I have been fairly consistent in updating the monthly GPC Mainstream Newsletter. But not all of my supporters attend GPC so that does not help them unfortunately! To all of you I am very sorry. Sometimes I put too much expectation on myself to produce an exciting report and psych myself out instead. That said, even though New Years is well past- I am resolved to update my blog more regularly from now on- shorter and more frequent even if nothing much is going on in my opinion- I’m sure the Lord will provide me with insights to share.

DSC_9644Having left off in early February, I will do my best to catch things up in a brief manner. I had announced that there was a small team coming down to Ecuador, among them two artist/ teachers with whom I had been in contact and arranged to teach during my regular Friday evening class. Since there were two of them, we were able to have a separate activity just for kids! I got to play the translator, which was both encouraging and revealing how much I am still learning when it comes to Spanish. It went off very well. My greatest concern was that we would not have the best turn out- but more than enough people came! And it was a great success. I myself was very happy to have other artists around for a week- to talk too and share our passion for serving others through art ministry.DSC_9678

Not long after that another group came down, this time from Minnesota; a pair of ladies who are members of a church that partners with and supports the church and project of Carmen Bajo. Last year the church purchased several industrial grade sewing machines and set up a sewing studio in the school so that the women of the community could come and learn a trade. A teacher had been found to come in and run classes, not just for the women but also for the children in the community- in order to both learn a skill and help produce items that Carmen Bajo might sell to help support itself. Sadly she was not especially committed to the classes and a few months later quit to work elsewhere. DSCN0832The two women who came down; Susan and Becky, ran a one week intensive workshop with the women of the community- teaching them to use the machines and make quilts (a non-existent art form here in Ecuador.) Never having learned how to sew by machine myself, and being the site host at Carmen- I decided to go and made fast friends with both of them- as well as was able to build relationships with several women from Carmen whom I had not had the opportunity to meet before.

finishedBy the end of the week the Carmen women were very enthusiastic to continue working in their newly learned skill and Susan and Becky asked me to take over the studio in their stead- in order that it might be open during the week days so that the women could continue to come in and make quilts or simply have the opportunity to use the machines for their own projects.

So for the next couple of months I came to open the studio at least twice a week- organizing the fabrics and cleaning and coming up with new patterns to teach the ladies when there was not enough quilting work to go around. DSCN0857We ended up making pot holders, oven mitts, and baby bibs- of which we have sold quite a few in addition to a number of quilts to passing teams. From our first sale, minus the percentage that went back to the studio and the portion that goes to the church- I was able to pay the women for their work, which was just in time for some as there have been some financial difficulties in the community lately- mostly illness and expensive hospital bills.

Things continued that way for some time, but the financial problems I mentioned before took their toll and by June most of the women had needed to take either a second job or find work in general in order to help out at home and were not able to continue coming. As I myself was about to take leave I took the opportunity to close the studio while I was away- leaving the keys with a trusted teacher at the project to open it should any of the women come back. I plan to open classes up to the youth and put word out into unreached parts of the community in the fall to get the studio back up and running again. Please pray that I have the strength and energy to accomplish this in addition to the other ministries I am also already committed to!

Meanwhile I continued my Friday evening classes- which went on well as usual- and even acquired some new male members! Due to a new government implemented public exercise program that started up at the same time as the class however- we lost a number of the women. Come the end of summer I am planning to resume the class on a different day so that everyone is able to come again- including some who have always wanted to but been unable on Fridays.

I was also tutoring a young man who lives at one of Youth World’s other ministries- Casa Gabrielle, a home from boys who have been living on the street. I had to take leave of those classes to travel this past month but will be resuming tutoring him tomorrow.

DSCN0958I also continued my trips out to Puyo to keep up relations with the church there and made an extra trip out to Rio Bamba in the sierra to visit a Quichua community- for which I may become the site host as well in the near future. I am very excited about this because the women there have promised to teach me how to make their beautiful hand woven bags in exchange for lessons on how to crochet!

941451_3059211455199_254233464_nHalfway into May things began to get crazy. My mother came to town! For ten days I was translator, tour guide, and chaperone- wow was I exhausted! But I was very happy to have my mom around and to show her my beautiful adopted country- and see her enjoy it so much.

The day she left I joined the summer intern training which went on for the next week- traveling about Ecuador, acquainting our team-hosts to be with the country and customs and sites they would be visiting. During that time I finally made it out to a few sites I hadn’t actually seen yet!

The day before training ended I departed on an early morning flight for a week-long conference in the states for Arts and Ministry in Philadelphia. On my way I made friends with ex-convict on the train and hitched a ride with a conductor when I got on the wrong line… oops! The next week was especially exciting as I attended seminars on Art Therapy and Relief and curriculum planning and met lots of like-minded artists who are also or are already serving in some form of arts ministry or another. I hoping that some of them may come down to work with me here in Ecuador so please be praying for that as well!

1001501_3182709982205_1477049295_n After a week with my family in Philly I returned to Ecuador just in time to unpack and re-pack to lead a team to Puyo. While there they helped build a path for a family whose father is too ill to work at hard labor and now makes jewelry at home. He was a former Shaman who converted to Christianity after coming to know Pastor Jaime of Kairos, the church where I work in Puyo. That same night they went to worship with the youth at their self-run youth program for the evening where they played games, shared testimonies and were treated to some special performances and pizza. After church and losing soccer to the Kairos team- we took a night bus into the jungle- unloaded at a bridge to switch buses and made our way to Palora-“the sun of the amazon.” A tiny jungle city with one main street that literally comes to an abrupt stop at the end of town.

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The next few days the team spent helping to move lots of rock and build a foundation for church classrooms out at the Shuar village of Chai, as well as a cobble path leading up to it. The team were real troopers, even working in torrential jungle rain. They also lead daily activities and lessons with the village children. On the final day we hiked out to a neighboring village, heard the story of how they went around building churches in other communities and sharing the word- before they ever had a building of their own to worship in- hiked back for lunch and then walked another half an hour down a very steep trail to the river to swim with some of the villagers. There was even a waterfall to jump off of!DSCN1493 It was beautiful. As a send off and to give back, the community cooked and served Mito, chicken stuffed with heart of palm and jungle herbs cooked with plantians and yucca inside giant leaves. I was also honored by an invitation to lunch with them earlier that day and par-take of some wild armadillo (which was apparently hunted via car running over it- hahaha.) It was all amazingly delicious.

 

 

A few days back from the jungle I had to pack my bags again and was off to the coastal town of Same (Saw-may)- to debrief about the teams that had come down and have some retreat time together. Sadly, I came down with an intestinal infection (probably a result of my escapades in the jungle) and was not able to enjoy as much of the beach as I would have liked to. But praise the Lord I was able to get the antibiotics I needed and am good as new once again- with the exception of a cough I have had since being in the states. For this I also blame the jungle- and my day of working in the rain. My doctor made me inhale some strange “fog” like medicine and sent me to get chest x-rays on Monday and I am waiting to find out the results. Please pray for my health, and that the Lord takes away my cough, and that it is not anything serious.

At long last, back at home in Quito, I am recovering from my month of constant  travel- and starting to plan for the classes and projects that I will be resuming or beginning at the end of August. Among the possibilities is another ministry site in Quito that has expressed interest in having me come out and teach classes there. I will be meeting with their pastor this Sunday to discuss what that will looks like. Out at Carmen, the sewing studio needs to open back up, adults classes resumed, and the pastor there has asked me to open up an art club for the children. Meanwhile I am hoping to also begin teaching workshops out in Puyo, and even go to stay in Chai and work with the Shuar women there on hand made goods they can make and even sell to help support their families- this will involve a lot of rethinking as they do not have access to or the money to purchase art supplies so we will have to work with whatever natural materials they have available! I also want to make my way back to Rio Bamba eventually! And in the middle of it all, I am looking for a new apartment and a roommate to go with it.

Having passed this year in solitude I have come to realize that it is hard enough living in a foreign country and working on my own to run and plan classes- without also having to live all by myself. It has not proven to be the healthiest thing for me and so I am putting myself in Gods’ hands and asking Him to provide me with a new home and some one to share it with.  I have at least another year ahead of me, and I would like very much not to waste time and energy staving off loneliness when there is so much to do and so much more to be thankful for.

Thank you all for your continuing support and prayers- you don’t know how much they mean and how much strength it gives me knowing that you are all behind me and routing for me. I have received a number of one-time donations recently and even more than the money, the knowledge that I am remembered and cared for by people back home, and not forgotten down here on the equator- gives me new energy and hope for the coming fall. You know who you are. And I can’t thank you enough.

High Holi-Days

lightnativityWelcome February! The month of St. Valentines Day, snow, taxes… and a thorough farewell to leftover decorations from Christmas and New Years celebrations.

candycanesThis year, for the first time ever in my entire life, I spent the holidays away from my family. But even though it was hard, it was still a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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In the weeks leading up to Christmas I kept busy; with classes out at Carmen Bajo- teaching tutorials on how to make decorations and gifts to give out, working in the kitchen and helping serve meals at Carmen during their annual Christmas service mission, learning how to make candy canes with my friend Marlo, and baking lots and lots of cookies. But it wasn’t for no good reason! cookieiceOn Christmas Eve I went with my friend Kristen to another Home for rescued girls where we made little nativity sets out of balsa and decorated my tons of cookies. casadalia

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Then Samson and I, along with our temporary cat roommate- Taco (whose parents were in the states for three months support raising) watched a Christmas movie together and called it a night. The next day I skyped with my family in Gaithersburg and was able to watch everyone open the gifts I had bought for them on Amazon while my one year old niece tried to share her new plastic food toys with me through the computer screen. (sooooo adorable…)418739_4418832303567_1136366564_n

And then… the hard part. It dawned on me too little too late that while there were still people in town EVERYONE was with their families. If they weren’t leaving for vacation they had people staying with them, or they were already gone. Everything was closed and there would be no classes to teach or plan for the next couple of weeks.

What’s a lone single person with two cats at home to do?

The answer is- TRAVEL!

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cuencarioBecause when you live in a foreign country far from family and home money is the easiest gift to give- and the more likely one to actually arrive intact- if at all. So with my temporary, if only just slightly, excess dinero (that’s money in spanish) I decided to make some reservations at a hostel and hop a ten hour bus to the beautiful, colonial, southern city of Cuenca. catedralcueI only stayed for a few days but I managed to use my gradually developed, South American transportation savvy to figure out the public bus system when I arrived and get to my hostel without a taxi. (hooray for me!) During my short stay I walked along the river, bought a pair of nice (but discounted) leather boots, crocheted a hat, read a book, saw the ancient Incan and Quechua ruins of Ingapirca, visited the hot springs, and over all gave myself permission to be the one thing I have resisted with all my strength and ability since the moment I set foot on Ecuadorian soil two years ago- a tourist.ingapirca2

But I had a good time and drank lots of coffee and I survived not only my first Christmas away from my family but also my very first solo vacation.

Whew!

hullllkAnother grueling ten hour bus ride across the Andes mountains later- I arrived back in Quito- with a new understanding of why so many people prefer to fork out a hundred bucks for the one hour plane ride instead.

But the holiday celebrations were only just beginning in Ecuador! Interestingly, Easter is a bigger deal here than Christmas, and New Years is likewise in contrast. In the states it’s not uncommon to spend Christmas with family and save New Years for your friends. Down here on the Equator- it’s apparently the opposite.

viejo2New Years is HUGE. In the states we often gather infront of our televisions at midnight to watch the ball drop in times square and maybe catch a fireworks show in some warmer, southern lying city. Here in Ecuador, and particularly Quito- the party starts way before that. First, in the weeks leading up to New Years strange things begin appearing for sale on the streets. Masks, tons of masks- paper mache masks made to look like politicians, famous actors, or characters from movies- and then- bodies… Not real bodies, scarecrow like bodies made from human clothes and stuffed with paper, straw, and grass- but no faces… then giant paper mache statues made to look like anything from pokemon to life size hulks! And all of these things accompanied by stands selling a wide assortment of fireworks, noise makers, and other colorful and inevitably loud (and illegal) explosives. What does it all mean?

beeeeeeAnd then, the day of New Year’s eve arrives- and things get stranger. Little huts made of eucaliptus branches pop up everywhere. The strange scarecrow bodies- wearing the paper mache masks- turn up tied to the fronts and backs and tops of cars, to fences, hanging off roofs, in the middle of busy intersections… loud music is playing all over the city. And traffic grinds to a slow crawl… but not for no reason. Oh no- it’s because hundreds of young men (and often not so young men) take to the streets dressed as women, with slightly exaggerated female “features” and not so slightly exaggerated drunkeness- to put up road blocks and molest the passing cars and pedestrians until they receive some manner of cash payment to turn their attentions to the next poor fools in line behind you. (Sorry, I have no pictures of this. I did not want to encourage them…)

jumpAt this point you are all probably seriously concerned about my adopted home nations’ customs- so allow me to explain the reason behind the madness… The scarecrow men are called “viejos” which means old man. They represent the passing of the old year- the ah, “women” are widows who represent the old mans wife- who now, without provider must take to the streets to beg for money- although todays modern widows tend to dress in a manner that would suggest they have assumed a somewhat older occupation… Why it is the men who dress up I cannot tell you. By the time midnight rolls around, the viejo’s will all be set on fire- and with them letters with wishes and prayers written on them, aswell as old school papers and bills. Family members will take turns jumping over the flames twelve times for good luck over the new year. People who plan to travel will walk in circles around the blocks with packed suitcases for the same reason and for the grand finale each house hold will set off it’s own fireworks show. And I do mean every household. In a city 28miles long with a few million people in a giant valley that is basically a bowl that keeps in and echoes every sound- it is deafening. The sky is filled with fireworks in every direction. The air is thick with smoke from burning viejos- and it goes on ALL night. Fireworks illuminate the skyline of Beijing during the Chinese New Year celebrations

Needless to say, my cat and his visiting friend were stressed out of their minds and spent the night freaking out and hiding unsuccessfully from the noise.

bobbypinsClasses resumed a week later. With the Christmas theme behind us we have been focusing on working with pleather- (making jewelry to begin and soon to move on to wallets, bags, and belts.) braceletI also had the opportunity to lead one of our women’s bible studies while the pastors wife is away- in Spanish!paperstars

I’ll afeatherldmit I was super nervous- but it was actually a huge success! (Which is good, because I’m scheduled to stand in again later this month…)

The rest of January, while somewhat uneventful, was a welcomed reprieve from my usual schedule and gave me the chance to not only get caught up in my project and lesson planning, but also get a little ahead. This in turn opened up my schedule to pursue a long standing dream of working with other christian artists in pursuit of exploring art as ministry- which I am doing right now, on my own. After much discussion, meetings, and brainstorming I have finally been cleared to create an art ministry internship! The planning is now in the finalizing stages and by the end of this month I should be ready to start spreading the word and inviting other aspiring artists with a passion for ministry, to come down to Ecuador and intern with me! So say a prayer for interest and applicants once word goes out!

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This week things are picking up. A mission team from the states arrives Wednesday night with two different artists who will be guest teaching this coming Friday.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Slumcat Missionary

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And she’s back!

By now you all know that just barely two months in to my return to Ecuador, early October I returned home one day in late morning to find my the front door to my little house splintered open by a crow bar and many of my valuables and personal items stolen. Nor was I the only victim. Since you have to pass through my landlords’ house to get to mine (my apartment is in the back yard) the thieves also robbed them- demolishing their master bedroom in the process, overturning and dumping every drawer and box open onto their bed and floor. I was spared this awfulness myself, I couldn’t say why. Had the thieves over turned my home in the same way they would have made off with a good deal more. Needless to say it was difficult day- and next few weeks as I had to maneuver without computer, camera, bank access (as my wallet was taken with all my cards and id) or television with which to distract myself from the set back. But I was truly blessed in spite of it all, my credit card company reimbursed me for the cost of my television, some friends opened their home to me and lent me some cash to purchase a temporary and temperamental- netbook (which I promptly sold the first chance I got for a reasonable profit to help stay off the cost of my new laptop.) Friends and family rallied around me to help me acquire and pay for replacements for my things (although regrettably not everything can be replaced.) And as of early November a visiting team brought me my new computer! (yay!) Sadly, the lack of computer interrupted and set back a number of projects I was about to get started on in October so it has taken me since then to reproduce my lesson plans etc and catch myself up. But caught up I am at last and now finally free to get back on top of correspondence and keeping all of you back home informed of my going’s on’s and the Lord’s work through my ministry down here on the sometimes sunny-rainy-cloudy-windy-hot-cold-damp-dry-gorgeous equator!

Sooooooo- ready or not! Here goes my two and a half month update!

Since my last blog entry I got to work with the rescued girls at Casa Gabriel. Not one of them over the age of fifteen, these were girls who had been pulled out of the sex trade here in Ecuador- all of them having been trafficked for years prior to their rescue. I brought mugs and ceramic paints and showed them how to draw and paint all sorts of things on their individual mugs which they each got to keep as their own. It was awesome- but for many reasons I was not able or permitted to take photos of the event.

Meanwhile I also began and finished a mural for a local Christian Recording studio!

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As well as painting several ball toss game boards for the Education Equals Hope carnival…

 And did some face painting on the day of…267735_536063636408329_1846134619_n

So much fun!

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QuitanaThen I began at long last to head out to Carmen Bajo and reconnect with people there. Originally before I returned I had thought that my future in Ecuador laid with the children in Las Ganas- but since it closed down while I was away I was left more than a little discouraged. I had believed that my time in Carmen Bajo was going to end up a thing of the past- but instead the Lord has made it clear that it is actually going to be my future. This time around I began to attend the Women’s prayer and bible study group on Wednesday nights and was asked to teach a workshop one of the nights. So I planned an ornament tutorial and packed my bag and headed out to do something I had never done before- go to Comite del Pueblo (one of the most dangerous parts of Quito) while the sun was setting (which would mean traveling at night to get home.) Not to my surprise the women had a lot to share, and share, and share, and share- and then consequently to pray for- so much so that I never got to teach my class! (On a positive note though, I discovered that Kelley, a family counselor who lives near me was there at the same time every week and able to offer me a ride home!)

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Undeterred and more than accustomed to the organic nature of events as well as to things here in Ecuador often taking a while to happen- I returned the next week with the promise that this time they would make time for the workshop.

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Sure enough they did! And it was a success! Since it was already holiday season here (they start preparing for Christmas in October) I did an ornament tutorial and the women all loved it so much that I have been expected to do a tutorial every Wednesday evening since! I realized very quickly that I could not afford to leave early in order to catch a ride with my counselor friend Kelley. I needed to stay until the end, see the class through and be willing to put the relationships I was building ahead of an easy, safe ride home and began taking the bus home. There was so much interest in fact that I saw an opening to expand into a separate class and began having weekly Clases de Manualedades- (that’s Crafting Classes) every Friday night as well from 5 to 8pm.

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Some of the ornaments we have made in the class.

My very first class I had ten students.  Those numbers have continued since the first class and women who aren’t able to come for certain classes have begun coming to me and asking if I could meet with them to show them what they missed.

As a nenaresult I have been invited to a tisakenyanumber of homes to do private tutorials where other members of the family who do not come to the Women’s group have been able to participate and I have been able to form more and ever deeper adorno2relationships with vincentathe

people in the community. A few teenage girls have also been coming to the Friday classes as well as the children who must accompany their moms because there is no one at home to watch them- so I sometimes plan activities for them on the side. Sadly they more often then not end up wearing their projects as a opposed to actually taking them home…tisakids

Two Saturdays ago I also launched a new youth ministry with the church at Carmen (which is also where I teach all of my classes presently) where in every Saturday I lead a team of youth from the church to serve in the community painting and helping to fix up homes of the less fortunate in the community. These recipients are not necessarily members of the church, but are simply people known to be in need. (Which is actually EVERYONE in Carmen Bajo…) yellowprimeroSo far we have stayed close to home- starting the project with the church itself-, workinghardwhich is desperately in need of a good deal more than paint, and I have found is an excellent place to get to know the kids and learn how to direct them successfully. But very soon I hope to be going out with them into the neighborhood to begin serving, for which I am very excited.finishedroom

Somewhere in the midst of all these new developments I found the time to act as an onboarding host to a pair of sisters who have just come down to serve for two years as well as travel down to Puyo for the first time since I’ve been back!

Believe it or not, this is a road!

Believe it or not, this is a road!

Once there I went for my very first, for real hike, out into the jungle to visit and minister at a Quechua community. To reach it we had to ford a river and trudge through shin deep mud for a good half an hour.

And it was there that I was offered my very first bowl of actual chicha. For those of you who don’t know (and that’s probably everyone) chicha is a native drink normally made of mashed… or chewed, Yucca, which is then left uncovered on a shelf in the humid jungle air, to ferment. Yep, that’s right. Hepatitis in a bowl. Naturally, it is offensive to refuse it.

Not that I would.

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I love to try new things and I have a disturbingly romantic notion about things that have the potential to kill you… like street food. Yum. Anyways, at least here in Ecuador I am known among my friends and colleagues as having a propensity to eat absolutely anything and everything without discrimination- and enjoy it. As a result my opinion is not sought out when it comes to taste testing in the kitchen… But I met my match that day in the Jungle.

It looked like skim milk, smelled like sour Yucca, and tasted like vinegar with soggy wood splinters steeping at the bottom. And I had to drink an entire bowl of it, literally filled to the brim, not knowing until later whether it had been mashed or chewed, while the giver stared at me.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI could have used my gringo status and our renowned sensitive stomachs and un-acclimated immune systems as an excuse to bow out- but I didn’t. I don’t know how long it took- but I drank the whole thing even as I suppressed the urge to throw up, and struggled even more not to let it show. At long last I was done and it was time to hike back. I was assured that chicha, “te da fortalesa por el camino” (gives you strength for the road.) I jokingly replied- “Espero que es todo lo me da!” (I hope that’s all it gives me!) Apparently they thought this was hilarious and for the rest of my time in Puyo I was repeatedly asked- “Te dio algo mas?”(Did it give you anything else?)

The answer? Not a thing. Once I found out that it was mashed and not chewed my impending panic attack subsided as the list of possible diseases I might get from drinking the chicha de-escalated from hepatitis to intestinal infection. In retrospect I must wonder why, in the jungle, surrounded by free sugar cane and fruit, the energy drink of choice is made out of a mashed root with a consistency and flavor located somewhere between dry wood and a potato. Couldn’t they even at least add some sugar cane to help dress up (or cover up) the flavor? These are questions I will probably never have the answers too. But I praise God it didn’t kill me, or make me sick.

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Soda Bottle Snake Sculpture!

In my personal life I also celebrated my big 28th, for which my friends here threw me an ice cream party, in lieu of which I was informed by my host mother in Puyo that I now have only two good child baring years left and I need to find a husband soon or else. (The Pastor there also later affirmed this summation. Upon which I quoted the scripture about it being better for a man to be unmarried because his heart is focused on the things of God and not of this world, to which he replied by quoting Genesis where the Lord said that it is not good for man to be alone. Realizing there was no winning this argument I agreed that it is not good to be alone with the caveat that it is also not good to be with the wrong person simply for the sake of not being alone, which seemed to satisfy him.)

I spent an awesome Thanksgiving with friends and made my first pecan pie and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top after scouring the city for ingredients on the very day that all the market sellers decided to go and protest together in front of the Presidential Palace leaving all the markets closed- forcing me to use purple camotes in place of actual sweet potatoes. (Looked strange but tasted the same.) Well that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute! We spent the day laughing and cooking and eating and playing cuarenta and other games hyphened by an impromptu game of hide-and-seek.

Whew! Wow. I sound busy even to myself! I just want to thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers during my unfortunate break in. It has been interesting but a truly blessed first couple of months and I look forward to sharing what happens next! I hope you all realize that none of these growing ministries would be possible without your support.

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Cayambe

Three Weeks In to Settling In…

ImageHola everyone! As you all know I left to return to my work in Ecuador on Friday, August 10th. My mother and sister dropped me off at the airport where we shared some cinnabuns, said our teary goodbyes, and my cat Samson was cleared to fly under my seat by American Airlines. Thus my adventure began! Literally. As going through security involved taking Samson out of his crate and carrying him through the metal detector while he clung to my neck like a monkey in a tree top and buried his head underneath my hair. No sooner had I set him back down on the floor than the cat, who had required two grown adults to physically force him into his carrier earlier that same morning, immediately began pushing the carrier across airport security with his face, trying desperately to get back in.

So with Samson safely back in his carrier and my shoes back on my feet I made my way to my gate thinking that the difficult obstacles had been traversed. In just one short hour I would be on the plane to Miami and then catch my connecting flight to Ecuador where I would be in Quito in time for dinner! Or so I thought… Little did I know I would shortly be calling on the Lord’s intervention much sooner than I imagined…

I had just reached my gate and was scanning the crowd for a place to sit when my cel phone went off. Thinking it was my mom I answered and instead was greeted by an all too cheerful automated message telling me that my flight had been delayed three hours, which was going to cause me to miss my connecting flight as a result of which I had been reassigned a connecting flight which left Miami the following day at 7pm and would arrive in Ecuador around midnight.

And so the praying began… as well as my quest to find an American Airlines employee who would actually help me, as I traversed the terminal with my 15 pound cat, raincoat, and carry on luggage in tow, from one gate desk to another. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I had not one, not two, not three- but five different agents tell me there was nothing they could do and if I wanted to rebook I would have to go back through security and go to the main desk- who then promptly walked away from me and go to another desk. The fifth agent, despite his repetition of the afore-mentioned sentiments and action of abandoning me at the yet another desk- went the extra mile of actually pulling up the other available flights and informed me as he was walking away that there was another flight leaving for Quito that same night from Miami but it was currently booked and maybe I could get on to the wait list… if I talked to another agent.

So onward I went to the next gate where I stood in line, I’ll admit- close to tears at this point- pushing Samson’s carrier ahead of me with me feet because my shoulder was killing me, and soliciting the Lord for intervention. While I myself had no real issue with hanging out in the oh so glamorous Miami airport for 24 hours (I had all the essentials for survival after all- money, cel phone, lap top, and fully charged kindle- haha) I was not traveling alone this time. No this time, I had a cat with me. A terrified cat crammed into a case the size of a large shoe box- that could probably survive 9 hours without using a litter box without a problem but would not likely last three times that without disastrous results.

As I stepped up to the desk I wasted no time explaining my situation to a sixth agent who, God bless him, pulled up the booked flight in question and- a miracle! Somewhere between me walking over from the last desk and waiting in line for fifteen minutes some one had canceled and there was a single seat open on the only other flight going to Quito that day! If the last agent- or any of the agents ahead of him for that matter- had actually had the time to help me- I would have been stranded in Miami over night. And I’m not exaggerating. Later that evening as I was finally boarding my plane while my original flight was probably landing- a pang of guilt and gratitude hit me as I walked past the fifty some odd hopefuls on standby waiting outside the gate in case their names were called. Thanks to my mom and sister they were able to shoot an email to my organization informing them of my flight change and when I arrived late, late that Friday night I passed through immigration with ease and no surprise fees or quarantine required for my traveling companion- and was greeted by my friend Dana and her husband who drove me to my new home for the next two years!

ImageThe next day I rose early with sun- and my cat purring in my face- and unpacked all the things I had brought with me. Then I met up with my friend Kristin to go out and buy- yes groceries- but also somethings even more crucial to my survival which are not provided in Ecuadorian rentals- appliances.

That’s right! I had no fridge, no oven, no stove, no microwave, no washing machine, and definitely no dryer, to say nothing of a tv or the internet. (But hey! At least I had electricity!)

So out we went hopeful but properly pessimistic as things here tend to take longer than they do in the states. Even if I found and paid for appliances that same day there was no telling when they would be delivered.

Fast forward a week and to the untrained eye it must have looked like I had been moved in for several months not several days. The Lord had blessed me again and again without fail! While my friend Dana who has been moved in to her new apartment for several weeks before me with her new husband- was still waiting for the technician to come over and hook up her dryer- I had a working stove, fridge, washing machine, and working internet! In further blessings my kitchen appliances, because I was able to pay in full up front- came with the bonus gifts of a complete four setting dish set, a set of mixing bowls and measuring cups, a blender, and a drying rack for my clothes! Needless to say, the Lord has been with me.

Because my organization requires a month to re-aclimate and settle in when a new long term missionary arrives before they can begin working, I have continued to make myself at home over the last two weeks; painting, sewing curtains, making curtain hooks out of wire, moving my other belongings which I left here seven months before, and reconnecting with my friends and community here in Quito. But now that September is here at last I will be slowly but surely getting back into the groove of things! My first project is already in sight. I was asked by an Ecuadorian Christian Band if I would paint a mural in their studio so after visiting it this past Sunday after church I will be making plans for that this week and meeting up with my supervisor to discuss what and where I’ll be working this coming semester (since Ganas is closed things are a little up in the air) and when I’ll be returning to visit Puyo. So please be praying for me over the next few weeks and ask the Lord to open up a clear direction for where I should begin focusing as the Ecuadorian school year picks back up!

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July 15th: Count Down…

Zach, Jocelyn, and little Zoey Groff

I can’t believe I’ve been back in the States for seven months already. Boy does time fly by fast! Especially the last two!

Many of you know that I had to find work and was blessed with employment up in Philadelphia where I have been staying with a very hospitable couple who are friends of my brother and sister-in-law’s- the Groffs- virtually rent free- working 50 hours a week for a landscaper and part time doing some graphic design- allowing me to pay off some bills I have accrued since being back while trying to raise the last of my support- and sell my car!

Whew!

But the hard work and faith have come together at last!

I am finally at 100% support and ready and scheduled to return to Ecuador August 10th! So praise the Lord everyone! Thanks for all of your prayers and help and support and encouragement in all its forms!

Just shortly before this- the Lord also provided a buyer for my car at long last! And it is going to be the car for another young lady some years my junior who is involved in domestic missions in the US- just going to show that all things work for His purpose.

Then my organization in Ecuador found a place for me to live! This is huge! Because in Ecuador few people have computers to post listings on or cameras with which to provide images of the places for rent. Therefore finding a place to live when you get there (if you are not living with a host family- which I am not) can be very time consuming and difficult. Word of mouth or just wandering through areas in which you would like to live in hopes of seeing a “for rent” sign in the window is often the only way to search.

So it was an enormous blessing that they were able to find a place for me before I arrived- a one bedroom loft apartment- that will allow me to bring my cat and even has a small shared yard! Yay! It even has a good deal of furniture already. The appliances of course I must hunt down and provide myself- you name it- oven, fridge, washer (and dryer if I decide I can afford the luxary.) None of these amenities are provided in Ecuadorian apartments! That said, my “apartment” is also actually a small separate house in the back of a much larger house. This is a very common occurrence in Ecuador where families tend to live with their extended families until they can afford to strike out on their own, or simply because they cannot afford it. So many homes seem inordinately large at first glance because they are meant to house Mom and Dad and their kids and their kids… and maybe even their kids! Thus homes with large yards often become compounds with a main house and a smaller house behind- sometimes eventually being developed further until there is no yard at all just one enormous apartment like house!

And finally- I was able to get my visa without delay or any issues what so ever! Another weight lifted off my shoulders.

Everything has come together all at once.

The Lord has been very good to me in all His providence over these past months being back here in the States. I have been able to catch up with friends and family and meet the newest member of my own- my brothers daughter- little Gwenny!

Me and Gwenny and Rachel

So even though I am very happy to be returning to my calling in Ecuador- it will be a more bitter sweet parting this time as I have gotten a little used to being near friends and family again and I shall miss you all very, very much!

But I haven’t left yet! So if anyone wants to visit- you have four weeks to say goodbye before I’m gone for the next two years!