Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Family Vacation

We have been so grateful to have a break from school and have been visiting some beautiful places here in Ecuador. On Christmas Day after church we set out to Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world. 

We hiked around a lake there and then drove up as high as we could. Naty and I hiked a bit higher to the refuge. We stayed overnight at a hotel and then took a family walk the next morning to see the wild horses. 

We traveled from Cotopaxi back to Quito and then down the mountains to Puyo on December 26. Some friends from our church invited us to visit their hometown. We are staying in a cabin east of Puyo and have had a blast visiting different places here on the jungle side of Ecuador. 

Yesterday we went to the town of El Triunfo and rode a cable car to an amazing waterfall. 

After lots of pictures and a cold swim, we went to a monkey refuge near Puyo. Marcus's dream was to see monkeys in the jungle, so his wish came true!

Today we went to a huge tree house to look out over the jungle. 

Then after lunch we came to Shell to see the Nate Saint House. 

This is where Nate Saint flew from before the fateful day when he and four friends were killed by the Waorani tribe. 

The tribe are now Jesus followers and we hope that someday we can fly out to visit one of their villages. If you have never seen the movie "The End of the Spear" you need to watch it. 

Next week we'll be back in school again so we're making the most of our time now. 



Friday, December 23, 2016

Why am I doing this?

I've asked that question more than once over the past five months. I feel like I've worked more this school year than any time in my career. I've also had several moments when I've realized there is nothing I'd rather do more. This Christmas card from a student helped me remember why I'm here:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"I Want a Puppy!"

That's what Gaby has been saying for the past month.

Aside from missing Coffee, our faithful friend for fourteen years, some friends of ours had a litter of puppies. Naty and I talked about it and talked with our landlords and decided to get Gaby a puppy for her birthday which is coming next month. We were planning to give Gaby a trip to Africa for her 15th birthday, but with a longer school year and short summer vacation as well as no spring break here in Ecuador, we weren't sure when she was going to be able to go. She said that she would rather have a puppy now and go to Africa as a high school graduation gift. So, now we have Thea!

In other news...

Last night was the awards ceremony for the Alliance Volleyball teams. Both Gaby and Marcus won the "Barnabas Encourager Award" for each of their JV volleyball teams. We are very proud of them! This weekend we have been enjoying to fall play at the school.

Monday, November 14, 2016

We're in mid-November already?

Thanksgiving is coming soon! I can hardly believe how fast time keeps going. It's been a long time since I've shared anything on this blog, so here goes with a quick update.

 Back in October Marcus and Gaby both ended up their volleyball seasons in second place for their local high school league. It was disappointing to loose in the championship matches, but both teams did very well.

This coming weekend we will have the volleyball awards banquets for both teams. 

This past Saturday I finally made it on my bike to the top of the antenna hill behind our house, a 3,000+ feet climb.

We got a car! Naty made a trip to Guayaquil to buy a 2006 Toyota Rav4 from a family in one of the Mennonite churches there that is moving to the US. We had to do some minor repairs, but we hope that this car can serve us for many years to come.

Thankfully, both Naty and I got our Ecuadorian driver's licenses as well!

November 2, 3 and 4 were national holidays here in Ecuador, so we used that time to make a trip to Manta. With all the traffic it took us 10 1/2 hours to make a 7 hour trip! One highlight we spending a day at the beach with the Murphy family, some of our ministry partners at Alliance Academy.

From the beach, we went to the IEME Mennonite churches national retreat, where we got to visit with all of our friends from the churches here. An extra special treat was spending the two days with our friends Pablo and Judi Kauffman and DeLynn, Gloria and Carmelinda Hoover who were the speakers for the event. 

Last week we went out for sushi to celebrate Marcus' upcoming birthday. On November 17 he will turn 13 years old!

On Friday night we hosted about 15 youth at our house. Our family and another missionary family with their children at Alliance started a youth group for fun, food, Bible study and prayer for our kids and their friends. We had a great time and look forward to meeting again in December.

Yesterday morning was a very sad time of saying goodbye to a member of the church that we have decided to join here in Quito. Juan Pablo Rocha, a Colombian refugee, died of Pneumonia on Friday night. We didn't get to know him well, but we won't forget his contagious smile and generous spirit. It is so hard to see someone so young, with so much to give already passed on from this world to eternity. 

Naty continues to connect with others involved in global missions. Last night we hosted four young ladies who are in the Corrientes missions training program here in Quito. Over the next few months they will be moving to Niger, Eritrea, Djibouti and Greece to serve in missions.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


I feel like I've never worked so hard in my life! Since school started, my typical day has me at school at 7:30 AM and leaving at 5:30 PM or later. I've even worked the past three Saturdays too! Colossians 3:23-24 in The Message version of the Bible says, "Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance." Payment now isn't that great. But one day it will be. During out orientation here at AAI we were challenged to see our work as worship, our "Workship" doing all that we do with excellence for God. I've been going at it, hard, for a month now. It's tiring, but also very rewarding. No, I haven't done everything I've wanted to do. But I press on. Trying to get better and get a bit closer to the goal. I love what I'm doing and who I'm working with, so that makes it worth it. I feel like a first year teacher all over again and I only hope that next year is better!

This week our dear friends the Cárdenas family came to visit us and we had the pleasure of taking them to see our school.

Gaby and Marcus have been working like crazy too at school, with homework and also with volleyball. On Monday both of their teams won and they both played amazingly well.

Naty has been very busy too, hosting people at our house and attending two different missions mobilizers conferences. One here in Quito and the other on the coast. She is making lots of good friendships with people from many countries and backgrounds that we are hoping to see go into all the world to spread God's Kingdom where it is needed most.

Monday, August 15, 2016

10 de Agosto

August 10, 1809 was Ecuador's independence day. This past weekend we had a day off on Friday to celebrate. I woke up early and took my first Quito bike ride to the Parque Metropolitano, which is about 2.5 miles east of our house. It is higher than the city and you get an amazing view of northern Quito and the Pichincha mountain range from there. The park has some great trails for mountain biking and trail running. And no cars to worry about!

We left Quito at 9:00 that morning with several other Alliance teachers to go to the David and Lois Wells' Ranch out in a small town called Nono about 1 1/2 hours northwest of Quito. They have several horses and Gaby and Marcus were in their glory as they both got to take two trail rides that day. Marcus broke in his new cowboy boots he bought just before we left Ohio.

Gaby had the time of her life when one of the horses in the group took off running and left her rider behind! Gaby and Lois kept running with their horses all the way back to the ranch. She was so happy! Here mucking stalls and taking riding lessons over the past year sure helped out for this wild ride.

Marcus did an amazing job brushing his horse down after the second ride. Her mane and tail were all knotted up, but Marcus persisted in getting them nice and smooth.

After the riding we had some amazing grilled chicken, steak and pork ribs for lunch. After that, we had a bilingual time of worship and prayer with the Alliance staff and also some families that live close to the farm. It was very special to help lead singing in two languages and then pray for each other in such a beautiful place.

We were all so blessed by the Wells' hospitality and we hope we can go back there again soon.

Pastor's Retreat

At 10:15 at night on Thursday August 4, our family set out from Quito on a Flotas Imbabura bus headed to the city of Manta on the coast. Thanks to my handy eye cover, I was asleep before we even left the city limits!

Nine and a half hours later we arrived in Manta. For the last hour of the trip we saw lots of damage from the major earthquake that decimated the region on April 16, 2016. When we got to the bus terminal, the exit was blocked by the demolition of this hotel. The buses came into the terminal and then had to go out in reverse.

Pastor Egdy took us past the property of their church, Casa de Oración, and we saw the new wall that they had built thanks to the funds sent by the churches of Conservative Mennonite Conference. There were several Sunday School classrooms that were knocked down that haven't been rebuilt, but at least now the property is secure, and it looks more accessible too. The previous enclosure was a concrete block wall, so you couldn't even see the church building. The slogan they are saying is "Manta se levanta." "Manta will rise again." I believe that is true. Everyone is working their hardest to rebuild the city.

On Friday evening we traveled with Egdy and his family to the coastal city of Puerto Rico for their annual pastors retreat. On Saturday morning part of our group went to Salango to go whale watching.

We set out with Ernesto as our "co-captain" to see what we could see.

Sure enough, after about 30 minutes at sea, we found some humpback whales! It was amazing to see how big they were and how smooth they swam along through the water.

On Saturday night we had our annual talent show which was a great time for each family to share. Then after that we had a business meeting to plan the annual family camp for the Mennonite churches. We didn't get to bed until about 2:00 AM!

Sunday morning was a precious time of worship and prayer together. The pastors commissioned us for our ministry in Quito and we also prayed for other families that are serving the Kingdom in other places around the world.

Finally, we wrapped up the weekend with group pictures along the beach. As we said goodbye at the hotel, the owners read a very moving letter to our group. They said that since the earthquake their business has been so slow that they were thinking about selling out and quitting. But, thanks to our visit, and the faith and hope they saw in our group, they have decided that they will keep going forward and keep their business open. Through tears they thanked us for choosing to stay at their place and welcomed us back at any time.

We headed back to Manta Sunday afternoon and had an amazing albacore tuna dinner with Egdy and Sandra and their family that evening.

Then at about 8:45 Sunday night, we took a 50 minute flight back to Quito so I'd be in better shape to start work the next day. It was a very encouraging trip. We always feel like family when we are with the Mennonite churches there, now even more since we aren't so far away!

Monday, August 1, 2016

All is Well

Hi everyone! We are all doing well, but we don't have Internet so we haven't been sharing much online. But, Naty and I both have phones now!

We are doing a lot of shopping and still have more to do. Thank you so much to everyone who gave us financial gifts or bought our things. Your gifts are helping us get what we need here. 

Here is a picture of our house. 

And here is the view from behind our house this morning:

And this is my classroom:

Tomorrow is my first day of orientation. Here we go!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

¡Hasta luego Columbus!

 After 12 amazing years living in Columbus the time has come to say goodbye. We have loved this city and are so grateful for all that we have learned here spiritually, as a family and professionally. It's strange moving on to something so unknown and we will really miss this place.

 Our last week was so full that I barely had time to think! We closed the sale of our house on Friday July 15 and were so thankful for a smooth sale of the property.

Gaby and Marcus went to week two of Choral Camp at Rosedale Bible College from July 18-22. They had a great time spending their last few days in Ohio with many of their friends. We loved going to their recitation at the end of the camp and have enjoyed hearing the songs more and more.

My parents came on July 20 and helped us so much with running around to get things and give away other things. With some help and wisdom from my dad, we sold both of our cars in our last few days in Columbus.

On Saturday afternoon July 23 we left our house for the last time and turned it over to the new owners. We were again very grateful for a friend who let us borrow his work van to haul all of our suitcases.

We spent Saturday and Sunday night at a motel close to the airport so that we could take a shuttle to the airport when we were ready.

Sunday morning started with an empowering worship service at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Hilliard, Ohio. We heard an inspirational message from Kenyan disciple maker Aila Tasse and then our friend Brian Jones prayed a commissioning prayer over us.


Sunday afternoon and evening was a moving time to share with our church and many other friends for one last time. We met at Westgate Park, the place where our micro-church Luz Viviente really got started several years ago.

Several men from our church grilled all kinds of delicious meat and tortillas.

And we had a wide variety of other potluck food.

After we ate a ton, they also had an amazing tres leches cake with our picture on it for dessert. Marcus really enjoyed eating a piece of cake that had his face on it!

Our church leaders gave opportunity for others to share stories, memories and encouraging words with us. It was an incredibly humbling and empowering experience.

They our church laid hands on us and prayed to send us off. We all agreed this wasn't a time to say goodbye, but rather a time to send us off to the next place where God is calling us to serve. If all goes well, we are planning to come back to Columbus for a short trip again next summer.

Monday July 25 was fly day. It took two trips in the hotel shuttle to get all of our luggage to the airport!

After that we had a very meaningful send off with my parents and our mentors Joe Showalter and Mim Musser. Joe shared an encouraging scripture from Isaiah 40 and then we had a moving time of prayers and saying goodbye.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in planes at the Port Columbus airport! Our flight was delayed. Then, a hydraulic pump went out and we had to deplane the aircraft. After about 3 hours they brought another plane for us. 

Then, on the second plane they had fueling problems that took extra long before pushing back from the jet bridge. Then as soon as we were out on the tarmac we were informed that the Houston airport (our connecting airport for Quito) was having severe thunderstorms and no flights were going in or out so we would have to wait another hour on the plane before taking off! We were quite frustrated, but there was nothing we could do. So we took it in stride and became friends with the crew and pilots. Marcus even got to go sit in the pilot's seat!

Eventually, by about 8:00 PM we arrived in Houston. However, we missed our flight to Quito, so our friend Kique came to pick us up and take us to their house.

We found out that the only flight from Houston to Quito for today (Tuesday) was already sold out, so we would have to wait until Wednesday to fly on to Quito. We were so thankful for Kique and Kim and their willingness to host us for two nights in Houston!

It has been so good to be with them and their new son Hanan who is about 14 months old. They are such dear friends and we have missed them so much since they moved away from Columbus about three years ago. Now we had a chance to reconnect before we move on to a new city as well.

If all goes well, we should be at the Houston airport at about 3:30 in the afternoon and be on a plane headed to Quito at about 5:35 PM. This is taking much longer than expected, but we are taking it in stride and know that God has his plans that are better than ours!