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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.

Discipleship Training

Well, at least I am into January with blogs…slowly catching up!  Thankful for Julie watching the kids today as I wade through emails and the like!!

Back at the beginning of January, Matt and I had the opportunity to attend a discipleship training course at Semilla de Mostaza.  It was a Friday night and Saturday all day.  Julie kept the kids which was a huge blessing so that both Matt and I could attend.

We ended up facilitating one of the small groups and sputtered through with our Spanish as we tried to discuss what it means to disciple others.  But, it was a great time of learning and sharing ideas, and we were thankful to be part of it!!

Some great times of worship

Some great times of worship

Viche...always up to mischief!

Viche…always up to mischief!

We all enjoyed a meal together

We all enjoyed a meal together

Yes, it was that cold that Matt wore a fleece and a jacket all day inside!

Yes, it was that cold that Matt wore a fleece and a jacket all day inside!

We all got our certificates!

We all got our certificates!

Just goofin!

Just goofin!

 

 

Nambacola is a sweet little town about an hour and a half from Loja.  It is absolutely beautiful there…

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The views are incredible!P1000351

It is warmer than Loja, but not terribly hot…P1000379 P1000407

The small square in the centre of townP1000546

Looking down one of the roadsP1000549 P1000548

The church in the middle of townP1000547

It was wonderful to stay with Viche’s parents…it was a full house!

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New Years day we got to enjoy making and eating tamales….

 

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And we all got a chance to try pig’s feet…

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Matt gave a devotional at Viche’s parent’s house…

 

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And swimming in the new pool that the government built! It was chilly but SO much fun!

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Matt and I were also able to visit and encourage one of the women who attends the weekly bible study there.  There are only about 6 believers in town.  There would be lots and lots of opportunities to encourage people in every day life if we were to live there!!

 

We took our container and our sleeping bags and headed for Nambacola.

There it is in all it's miniature glory!

There it is in all it’s miniature glory!

2014, the year of the container...

2014, the year of the container…

2014, you are on your way out!!

2014, you are on your way out!!

Sweet Josue

Sweet Josue

Everyone was so excited to say ‘adios’ to the container!  Dear Container….

 

We made it until dark and enjoyed an AMAZING grilled feast of different kinds of meat, corn, salad, yuca.  It was delicious!

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Midnight was coming and even the kids were starting to ask if they could go to bed…but there was fire to be had still!

 

First, we went for a walk around the town (6000 people?) to see all the different año viejo dolls

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Then after we got back, we ate our grapes, (another tradition) and decided that we’d move New Year’s up by about 20 minutes in order to do it before all the kids went into meltdown mode (or all the parent’s fell asleep!)

 

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We burned.  We jumped.  We wished everyone a Happy New Year.  And we all went to bed! PHEW!

 

I promise 175% that this will not be a 17 part blog like the Container Conundrum! But, there were so many pictures and so many pieces to our time in Nambacola (and only so long to write before someone is needing something), that I figured I had better split it up!

Vicente (the pastor of the Sauces church and a great friend) invited us to join his family in Nambacola with his parents and siblings as well for New Years.  Nambacola is one of the communities we are considering as a possibility when we move out to the Province in 2016.

New Years is a big deal here…truthfully, we haven’t made it to midnight in a really really really long time.  Usually, we get close to midnight and decide we’re just going to bed!  So, we were getting ourselves psyched up about New Years here, because from what we’d heard, there’d be no going to bed for a while!

People celebrate here by burning an año viejo, a doll that symbolizes the , failures, regrets and disappointments of the year in order to usher in new hope and resolution for the new year.  It was pretty clear, pretty quickly what our family needed to burn….

A CONTAINER!!

Matt got to work with the kids (with his newly arrived tools) down in the garage constructing…

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Yes, this is actually part of the lock from our container!!!

Yes, this is actually part of the lock from our container!!!

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Elijah was working on his mad soccer skills….

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The kids worked on decorating it to make it look as real as possible…

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And so, we were ready for our trip to Nambacola!  Oh…and by the way, not only do you burn the doll/container, but you also JUMP OVER IT while it is burning!

Stay tuned…..

Our “first” Christmas here in Ecuador was when the container finally arrived on December 13th!!

But, we also celebrated our first real Christmas here in Ecuador.

Here are just a couple highlights…

We ‘managed’ to find and unpack the cookie cutters to make some cookies…

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I ‘managed’ to find and unpack my sewing machine in time to try and learn how to sew shepherd’s costumes for the nativity program the kids were in…

 

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We were blessed with the gift of a Christmas tree from some wonderful friends…we ‘managed’ to get the lights on, but we never did ‘manage’ to decorate it this year!!P1000256

A few decorations ‘managed’ to get made….

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We had a few extra characters who ‘managed’ to sneak into our nativity this year….

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At the Sauces church, we had a potluck Christmas lunch on Christmas eve!  What a fun time of fellowship and sharing in a meal.  Many of the neighbourhood children also came.  I wasn’t sure how our “gringo” food would be received, but I ‘managed’ to cook something that thankfully was a hit and there were no leftovers! (Except one gingerbread cookie that someone at the icing off, took a bite of and left the rest!).  Can you spot the ‘not-Ecuadorian’ food??

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And, we started a couple of new traditions…we finally found street meat here (or at least we started to see where to find it),  visited the Christmas displays in the city centre, and of course every wacky missionary family needs their own set of reindeer hats!  It was super fun to share old and new traditions with Julie…maybe we’ll have to have her come to visit as a tradition ;)

 

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DSCN3538It was a bit of a crazy Christmas our container having just arrived, but it was a special time of merging old traditions with new traditions and lots of plain ‘ole Messick fun all while we celebrated the birth of Jesus!

Gone.

This is not the update I anticipated writing today.

We’ve been with the kids each day since we learned about their living conditions.  And every day we grow to care about them more!!  Wednesday we went down to the house to take them some fruit and found the eldest girl cleaning like crazy.  They had decided to move rooms so that the water wouldn’t be falling on them all night long when it rained. So we pitched in and the house really started to look good.  She found some blankets and made the beds, what a difference!!  When we went back yesterday, they showed us their “home”…but they didn’t just show us, they showed us  each room with huge grins on their faces, proud of themselves…really proud of themselves and clearly more comfortable in a house that had been swept and cleaned up and tidied.  Unfortunately the fish got run down the drain as they were cleaning, but Santiago seemed quite ok with it.  We were so proud of them! To give the smallest thing like hugs and cheers for a job well done and see the difference in their faces was both exciting and heartbreaking at the same time…so so so starved for love.

Yesterday, were with them in the evening to try and help them call their parents.  Oh, I wish things were different for these kiddos…their parents didn’t talk to them…the did talk to M. as she tried to explain more about their living conditions.  We thought perhaps we were beginning to help them understand, but then the phone cut off, and we couldn’t get past the voice mail.  We’d asked the kids what they wanted to tell their parents when they talked to them:

“I want to tell them that we miss them so so so much”

“I want to tell them how much I love them”

“I want to tell them that the landlady is lying and tell them how things really are here”

They didn’t get to tell them anything…only one got to get on the phone and she hardly got to talk at all. Makes you want to scream, it’s not right, it’s not fair!

We took them back home last night and stopped to get them some toothbrushes.  We’d told them that from now on, all of them needed to be home by 8pm, and that they needed to make sure they were brushing their teeth at night.  Seems silly, but they wanted rules, they wanted boundaries, they wanted to know that someone cared if they were home or not. Brush your teeth says “I love you, I care”.  We left them all and headed back home talking about some of the ways the church could be helping them best.

Today we went out at lunchtime and I left my phone at home.  When we got back, there were 5 missed calls from M.

I called her back.  “Did you hear yet??”

“No…what?”

“They’re gone”

“Gone???”

“The police came and took them”

What??  What do you mean gone!!!

Our dear kiddos are gone.  Maria, Vanessa, Alex and Santiago are now in the custody of the province 3 hours away from here in the city of Cuenca.

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The woman who was supposed to be caring for them was trying to get us to take them the other day.  She didn’t want them. She was angry.  We explained that we weren’t trying to take the children.  That as a church we wanted to help them, but not adopt them.  She wanted to be done with them.

As best we can figure out, this morning she went to the judge and renounced her custodianship of the children.  Because the parents are in the USA and have been gone so long, the state has terminated their parental rights, and because the children were last in custody in Cuenca, they still have jurisdiction over them and that’s where they’ve gone.  Back into custody.

UGH.

Sounds like it wasn’t without a fight though.  From what we’ve been told, there were 6 officers that went to the house and barged in.  The older of the two boys took off running, shoes in hand.  They chased him down until they caught him.  The two middle children went to M’s shop and clung to her begging her not to let the police take them.  The younger boy tried running too, but didn’t get too far. They were able to pack a couple small bags but all their other possessions were left behind.

When we talked to M, nobody was sure where they were and we wanted to make sure that they were ok and that they knew we were all worried about them.  We went to get Vicente and headed off to the police station to see if we could find them.

We found Child Protection and talked to them until they finally let us see the kids.  Still sitting in the back of the police truck waiting until the officers were ready to take them to Cuenca.  I’m not sure how their faces could light up so and be so filled with sadness at the same time.  After hugs and hugs and more hugs, I got the story of the boys trying to escape while Matt and Vicente went to get them some lunch.  As we talked I jokingly asked them if they’d brushed their teeth last night before bed…Of course they had and they were all super excited to show me just how clean their teeth were!

We talked about the orphanages…they will be separated again, the one thing they had pleaded with us to try and help prevent, but there is nothing we can do. We are bound to stay within the confines of the law and children are separated by age and sex.   We talked about the fact that they will be in beds with sheets, will get food and there will even be a shower so they can finally get clean…

“with only ONE shower, not TWO”  they all joked with me.  That’s right…no more two duchas.

How is it we’ve come to fall  in love with these kiddos so fast?  All of us at the church have.

Leaving the police station

Leaving the police station

Matt and Vicente came back with food just as they were getting ready to leave.  We hugged and said goodbye and they hugged us again and said goodbye and hugged us again.  How can you NOT cry??  But, I was trying so hard to encourage them and not melt into the puddle I wanted to…nobody knew exactly where they were going or what it would be like, but the kids sure knew they didn’t want to go back into the “system”.  And from what we’ve heard, the system here isn’t so hot.

We said goodbye and waved as they drove down the road as we walked back to our car.

As we got to the last roundabout before our house 15 minutes from the police station, a truck drove past us…the police truck! With the kids hanging out the window waving like crazy.  Thank you Lord for that one last chance for them to be reminded that they are loved, they will be missed and that you are watching out for them..and for one more chance to see their sweet faces.

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Last glimpse…

We went back to their house and finally convinced the landlady to let us in to get their things…all their things amount to 2 large garbage bags of clothes and 3 backpacks of books and schoolwork.  We’ll be doing laundry and laundry for the next few days as we try to get everything clean so we can try to get it to them.

The entire church is devastated.  We’ve been talking about it all afternoon.  There is something about these four little ones that seemed to have grabbed everyone’s heart.  They will be missed dearly and we’re working try and figure out ways we can encourage them from here even while they are in the orphanages.

We are trusting God’s hand in this.  We’ve been praying that He would put them where it is best for them, and it seems we got our answer today.  Please pray for them as they try to settle back into “the system”.  Please pray that they behave well.  Please pray that they know they are loved.  Please pray that this is something that becomes a strong witness in the Sauces community as we went back and invited the landlady to our Valentine’s celebration on Sunday.  Please pray for all our hearts…we’re all feeling pretty sad.  Very sad.

Thank you for your prayers…I was able to tell them this afternoon that there are many many people praying for them…people who don’t know them but as followers of Christ love them and care for them.  Thank you thank you thank you.  We are thankful for all of you so very much.

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