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The Sauces Life…

Life has been hopping at the Sauces Norte church these last months.  Viche and Narcisa have been planning many events to celebrate different holidays, and we’ve been excited to help out!  They’ve been super fun for everyone at the church, but more than anything, they’ve become a great way to welcome people who visit from the community, and to help lessen the fears that people have about the church.

Often, Christian churches are perceived as cults or sects here.  People don’t want to attend or have their children attend because of that.  As a result of the different events that have taken place this year, the church has grown, people who have been very reluctant to attend have begun to attend more regularly and we are seeing entire families attend instead of just one or two people! Praise God!

On a normal Sunday evening, including children there might be 18-24 people.  But, on the nights when there have been special events there have been around 45 people!!  And, often they come back!

What have we celebrated??

Women’s Craft Night (February)

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A Valentines Day dessert night (February)

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A Women’s Day evening (March)

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It is exciting to be part of the church as it grows and develops! Viche and Narcisa are doing a great job, and we’re thankful to be able to support them in their roles!  Please pray that walls continue to fall, misconceptions continue to be changed and that people continue to come to Christ in Sauces!

Team Time

The WorldVenture team in Ecuador is quite small…Our arrival made family number three.

Each year, the team sets aside a few days in February for a team retreat. This year there were only two families because one family was in the States having a baby and won’t be back until May. The retreat is a time to play together, to pray together to plan and dream and strategize and to take a break away from our ministries to recharge.

We were super excited to go, but also a little sad knowing that after 5 months of being all together, we’d be dropping Julie at the airport at the end of the retreat and sending her back to the States…

We met in Salinas, Ecuador a coastal town about 10 hours from where we live about 2 hours north of Guayaqil. To get there we drive up up up and then down to the coast.

Up so high that the altimeter went all the way around from 2000m and past 0!!! (the highest altitude was 4167 meters!!!)…thankfully though, this was our first puke-free trip on this road!!

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The mornings were spent having team devotions and then in meetings while the kids played. It was a chance to hear about the last year of ministry from Leo and Lulu as well as to plan as 2/3 of a team for the next year.

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The afternoons were spent playing on the beach or in the pool. Or running through the ocean on a giant banana!!

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And, in the evenings we met to share a meal together.

It was a wonderful time of fellowship and getting to build our friendship with the Calvas. There is a strong possibility that over the next few years, our team might grow from 3 families to 7 or 8!

Saying goodbye to Julie was tough! She was such a huge help and fun to have around! We’re excited to be her “other” family and to see where God leads her in the months and years to come!

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Driving home, we met a few furry friends….

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And then we ‘happened upon’ the Saraguro Independence Day parade! It was a really interesting cultural experience to arrive just in time for this parade!!

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Please pray for the WorldVenture Ecuador field…that God would grow, equip, strengthen, and bond our team and that He would be glorified!!

Carnaval!

WET…FOAMY….and LAUGHING!!!

That is how we spent most of our day celebrating Carnaval in February!!

We hadn’t planned to do much. Everyone had said that you either travel out of Loja or you stay home to avoid “getting sprayed” in the streets. We weren’t sure what to expect or what Carnaval really was at all so we hadn’t made any plans.

But our friends at church quickly changed that as we planned an “all church outing” to Malacatos (much warmer) to celebrate.

Carnaval is a 3 day celebration in February that ends the day before Ash Wednesday. It was a pagan celebration even before the arrival of Catholicism in the country celebrating the second moon of the year. Combined with Catholic beliefs, it developed into a sort of ‘last chance’ celebration before the 40 days of abstinence and fasting that lent brought in this culture.

The gist of Carnaval? It is one GIANT waterfight…water balloons, buckets, sprays from hoses directed at friends, family or even people passing by. Often it can get out of hand (which is why people leave the city for quieter places) with people throwing dirty water or eggs or flour. There is also a crazy carnaval foam that people like to use.

We left with the church to Malacatos, a town about 45 minutes away from here…

Julie and I had NO idea what was to come...

Julie and I had NO idea what was to come…

Some people knew to rest up before we got there!

Some people knew to rest up before we got there!

This private bus thing has been GREAT!

This private bus thing has been GREAT!

the anticipation!

the anticipation!

We got there and the games began….(a little reluctantly for some)

 

Not having fun....yet!

Not having fun….yet!

 

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I thought that JJ would be a good decoy for a bit while I surveyed what was to come….

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The porch was safe for a while until someone got after Matt….

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And then it was game over for him!!!!

 

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Every time he changed into "dry clothes", someone was waiting to get him!

Every time he changed into “dry clothes”, someone was waiting to get him!

and so we played…..

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the foam was way too much fun!

the foam was way too much fun!

nothing was safe....

nothing was safe….

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aaaaaak!

aaaaaak!

Viche I think was the most excited of all!

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we took a break to eat…….

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Rice, yuca, salad and grilled meat!

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And played some more….

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so wet she was wrinkly!

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Nobody was safe….

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We took pictures of all the families who took part….

 

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once evening came, we worshiped together…..

yes...a chicken dance, but a worship one!!

yes…a chicken dance, but a worship one!!

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the Lord's army!

the Lord’s army!

and laughed a bunch!

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It was so much fun! The kids were reluctant at the start but really really got into it. The next day they continued to “play carnaval” with all the neighbours…and even were so into it that on Wednesday they were still trying to spay people as they walked by (big no-no)….now they are waiting and counting the days until next year!!

 

What a joy to celebrate life with our friends here at the Sauces Norte church and to see the church grow as a result of the “fun stuff” breaking down walls!!!!

Sauces Kids

As we’ve gotten more and more settled, we’ve been able to take on some ministry activities.  Viche and Narcisa have been doing EVERYTHING at the Sauces church for years.  Bit by bit I have been trying to help Narcisa a little bit with the children’s activities so that she actually has a chance to sit in the Sunday service or in the Tuesday night Bible study from time to time.

Lately it seems I haven’t been able to do much.  Since Julie left, we’ve had to split up for activities at Sauces with one of us staying home with the kids (things don’t usually finish until 10 or 10:30 which is just too late for them!), while the other goes to church.  With Audrey here for a couple weeks, we’re both able to attend which means I can help out a little more right now!

There are a group of 15-20 kids who come to the church.  Many of them come alone as their parent’s do not attend the church.  We’re really trying to teach basic truths to these little ones…basic Bible stories and basic truths about Christ and Salvation!

Excitingly, the parents of one family of little ones has attended the church the last two times!! Oh to see whole families come to know Christ in Sauces Norte!

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Pray for all our “little ones” at Sauces Norte that they would hear the truth and grow in their faith and that we would be an encouragement and support to all that Viche and Narcisa are doing at the Sauces Norte Church!

Yes, it is back. The container conundrum. Having our things here has been nothing short of wonderful! There are so many times I’ve thought about how thankful I am for our things! But, we’ve been working since December to collect all the papers needed to apply for our residency visas.

ALL the papers…

Think:
Birth certificates for 7, marriage certificate, State and National Police checks (one of which got lost in the mail 3 times before we finally got it), ministry paperwork…

AND then think apostilles (official stamps to recognize documents as being official) on everything coming from outside Ecuador…

AND then think translations of all English documents…

AND then think notarizations of all translations….

Put them all together and you get about 260 pages of documents!!!!

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Matt has been running around getting all the paperwork done over the last few months. It has been a TON of work and he did amazing getting all the pieces together! The immigration office in Loja was immensely helpful in understanding the (ever changing) regulations and preparing paperwork on our behalf!

On Monday, Matt went to finish off the last few pages (turned into 60!) at the notary with the translater. We had hoped to leave for Machala, where the immigration office is located early in the afternoon, but regulations changed again, and notarizing the papers became an almost 3 hour affair!

Late in the day we left for Machala. We had a small stop at a mechanic on the way…but for $5 the piece was removed, the smoke cleared and we were back on our way!

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We didn’t arrive until late, but stopped for a fun snack/dinner…

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We dressed in our Queenliest and Princessiest for the occasion!

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Early Tuesday morning, we headed over to the immigration office. We presented our files and they checked to make sure we weren’t missing anything. With everything seemingly in order, they began the process of entering all our information into the system. The woman said that thankfully with our first visas, our information was all in the system already and all that had to be entered was new information specific to this visa! (3 hours for that information, you can only imagine if it had been everything they needed to enter!!!).

We each had our picture taken in the event our visas are granted (we are obviously praying yes!), and that was that.

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And now we wait. But, it should only be a week before we find out! This visa would be a permanent residency visa which means we wouldn’t need to renew each year! And, it would be the last piece to finishing off the container conundrum well and getting back our security deposit on the taxes! We are trusting God for that piece!

The drive home had a few beautiful surprises and reminders of God’s faithfulness in everything!

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Here we are April and STILL trying to catch up on blogs….Guess it means there hasn’t been a whole lot of free time because we’ve gotten right into life here. That’s a good thing! And, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to find those extra 7 hours a day that would help to get things done….the same plight of all my sweet mama friends with kids!

So…WAAAAAAY back the end of January we participated in La Marcha Para Jesus. A march that intended to unite all the Christian churches in Loja as a celebration of our faith in Christ.

Semilla de Mostaza was the first church in line and we all intended to take part. Sadly, Taylah and JJ weren’t feeling well, so Matt stayed home and I went with everyone else.

It was a really fun day with over 2000 people participating! We “marched” (really we danced the whole way!) a kilometer to one of the big squares in the centre of the city. After, there was a concert and some times of prayer.

Viche and his family often use clowning as a ministry as the do outreach in the province. We decided to join them for the march. It was our first try at being clowns (and doing the faces!!!) , and…that part was a BLAST!

Guess I’ll just let some pictures speak to the day we had! (wanted to load up some video, but at the speed my computer is going, it might take me until July!)

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Prayer…

So, last week M’s house was auctioned.  Like so many things here, it was a complicated story.  In fact, I don’t even think I understand totally what happened…seriously like a soap opera, there were so many twists to the plot.  At the end of the day (literally), in the last 5 minutes of the auction, the other non-family  bidders had finally been pleaded/bribed away, and the house was auctioned to a nephew of one sister using another sister’s money.  It will still be sold so that two of her debts can be paid instead of one.   But for now, M., her husband and her sons can stay in her house until it is sold.   Confused??

I still don’t understand so much of how things like that go here…

But, it got me thinking about something else I don’t understand often.

Prayer.

I had a big conversation with the kids and Julie at the table the other morning about prayer.  How should we pray about M and her family?  Clearly we should PRAY…

But should it be for the auction to have been miraculously cancelled?

For someone to have bought the house with the intention to gift it back to them?

For everything to go “well” for M and her family?

(those would be easy prayers to pray and hope for with nice “neat” solutions)

For peace?

For her husband to truly feel God’s hand blessing them so that he might change his life and become a follower?

For them to lose their house but in the process gain Christ?

For God’s will?

I have to confess I struggle with these things.  Often I cringe when I get “gropu prayer requests” by email…they aren’t bad, they are petitions by people on behalf of friends and family that they love dearly, but the prayer requests often seem to be an attempt to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do.  (notice who gets the lower case letter and who gets the upper case letter in that last sentence…).  Is that what prayer should be?

I try to imagine when praying standing before God having a conversation…would I have the nerve to stand face to face with the creator of the universe with a laundry list of things I want Him to do for me??  I am pretty sure I know how well it would go if I stood in front of Matt, to have a conversation with the man I love with all my heart, and just started rattling off the things I had for him on my honey-do list!

But it seems to me that’s what we do with God…

Please let my 97 year old great aunt Thelma’s finger heal so she can play chopsticks at the annual talent show at the senior center next week.  Please bless our neighbours new house.  Please heal Frank’s leg.  Please let the fundraiser make lots of money.  

And yet, we are told to pray ‘Our father in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6: 9-13).  Matt and I were super impacted once when we heard someone say “we’re so busy praying people out of heaven that we are not praying people out of hell”

Too busy praying believers out of heaven to pray unbelievers out of hell…seems way backwards doesn’t it?

But, those sorts of prayers aren’t the nice neat ones for the “Christian Team” where everyone has a happy ending according to our desires (on earth) are they?

I challenged the kids as we were eating to try and think of examples from the Bible where God blessed someone greatly, and in turn they repented and changed their lives to follow Him.  Blessed them greatly with ‘good’, with ‘health’, with financial ease… We were having trouble finding examples…Jonah? No.  The Israelites? No.  It just doesn’t seem to be that way.

Sort of like us as parents.   We had an issue with someone not wanting to tell the truth last week.  Unfortunately his consequence was missing out on a VERY random but yummy dinner of apple crisp and brownies (we were celebrating Carnaval!).  Oh, how I wanted to let him enjoy the goodies with us.  But that wouldn’t help him see there were consequences to his actions.  By allowing our children to experience the consequences of their actions, they are given the opportunity to learn and grow.  No matter how painful it is as parents, we have to watch them go through hard lessons so that they can learn and in turn be blessed by growth, maturity and the ability to navigate adulthood someday.

Just like we endure discipline from our heavenly father:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? (Hebrews 12:7).

So back to prayer.

Does praying for everything to go ‘well’ with the auction and for M’s family to keep the house ignore the greater work that God wants to do in the lives of M. and her family?

Yesterday, I SO wanted to wave my magic wand and have God fix everything for them according to my plan.

But there is so so so much wrong in that thought process!!!

With the four kiddos from Sauces, we wanted to pray so many things.  We had so many solutions that in our minds were “great”, ideal even.   But our view is minuscule compared to God’s view of the entire universe over and through eternity.  So, we prayed that He would put them in the best possible living situation.  Not to try to manipulate Him into doing what we wanted Him to do (who are we kidding???), but that His will would be done and that he would keep them safe.

How should we pray then?

We are told to pray continuously  (1 Thess 5:17)

To give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess: 5:18)

And…there are several verses that say we will receive what we ask for in prayer (Matthew 7:7-8,  John 14:14, Matthew 21:22)…BUT I still don’t think that we can manipulate God into doing what we want no matter how hard or how many of us pray, if those prayers fall outside of His will.  That is not how Jesus taught the disciples to pray when we read in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4.  Instead, it seems  to me that our prayers need to align themselves with God’s will for  our lives, with His idea of what is good for us, and with His plan which isn’t always pain-free, easy, or for ‘happily-ever-after’ solutions.

I take comfort in knowing that according to psalm 139:16:

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Nothing is a surprise to God.  Not even our prayers.   Not even my confusion about them. Phew.

Help me understand what it means to glorify and honor you with my prayers Lord.  Give me a heart that is growing more and more to understand and  seek your will in every situation,  and to give thanks in every circumstance.   Amen.

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