Monday, December 10, 2018

The Best of 2018

The best part of this year may be yet to come since we have the incredible opportunity to travel to Asia for Christmas and New Year's. But aside from that, there were lots of other great things that happened this year.

One of the best is having family, friends and churches behind us allowing us to keep serving here in Ecuador. We had a great trip to the US this past summer and are very thankful to have all of the financial support we need to keep ministering at Alliance Academy International as well as at other churches here.

Another major highlight was having the youth group from Locust Grove Mennonite Church come to minister with us in July. With their help, we were able to bless several families and neighborhoods in Quito that we couldn't have reached on our own.

This year we started meeting with other friends to start house churches. We've especially enjoyed getting to study the Bible with this couple from Venezuela that Naty knew ever since she was a girl.

Gaby and Marcus are having a great school year! Gaby is now a Junior and Marcus is a Freshman. Both of them are leaders for their class and they are both making stronger friendships this year.

Naty is the president for the parent committee for Gaby's class and has done a great job leading the committee through several fundraiser events with more activities still to come. She is also very busy taking classes online to become a certified life coach, which is giving her even more tools to be able to pour into the lives of others.

I have enjoyed climbing more mountains and doing more trail races this year, but I'm most excited about having a new job at Alliance Academy. I'm now half-time staff care coordinator and half-time Reading Intervention teacher. Both of these roles fit me better than being a classroom teacher and I am loving the diversity of all that I need to do at school now.

Marcus loved participating in the drama workshops at school and is looking forward to being part of their production this spring.

Gaby's workshop is often her bedroom where she has been crocheting some pretty amazing teddy bears lately.

2018 has been great! We've had our challenges too with parents and teenagers not always seeing eye to eye, but we all agree, WE LOVE OUR FAMILY! We are anxious for all that the Father has in store for us in 2019!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Hosting and Training

This year has already started with lots of action. The first weekend of the year we welcomed the Lozada and Wanty families to our place in Quito. After spending New Year with them, we were so glad they could come to our place as well. Gaby missed the fun because she was at the Alliance Academy "Fusion" girls retreat for the weekend. Naty and Carla took all the ladies and kids to Mitad del Mundo to visit the equator.

Meanwhile I took Derek and some other guys to hike to the top of the Guagua Pichincha volcano. It was the first time Derek and Carla's nephew Andrés had ever seen snow!

A weekend later, we went with our new Cuban friends Raul and Lydia to visit our friend Marcelo's restaurant in the town of Nono. We have started meeting and praying with Raul and Lydia and are planning to work together with them to start house churches in Nono and also in Quito. They were house church planters for many years in Cuba and they have been longing to do the same thing here in Ecuador. It's amazing how God has given each of us the same desires.  The kids and I are planning to help facilitate our first Bible study in Nono tomorrow.

Last weekend I traveled to Durán, just across the river from Guayaquil, for the annual business meetings of the IEME Mennonite churches in Ecuador. I was very grateful for the time I got to be with Cesar and Brenda (pictured here) and was able to preach at their church on Sunday Morning.

This past week, Jan. 23-27, Naty helped to facilitate a Kairos Course here in Quito at the campus of HCJB. We hosted Daniel Coventon from Honduras and Angel Castro from Guayaquil all week so that they could participate in the course.

Last night Gaby had her winter choir concert at AAI. They did an amazing job and she sang a great solo!

 Today Naty is on the coast at Salinas, teaching leadership skills to the teams of Impacto Mundial, an Ecuadorian mission agency with whom we partner. If all goes well, she'll fly back to Quito Sunday evening. Her flight there got postponed about 3 hours. Hopefully that won't happen tomorrow.


So, what's up next? Thankfully we have a week off school in February for our semester break and Carnival. We plan to spend half of that time on the coast in Puerto Cayo to help with building the new Mennonite Church campground. We'll also help facilitate a missions workshop with some other missionaries from Ecuador during that time. Later in February Naty will be coordinating with our Impaco Mundial Quito team to host a coffee time for pastors to encourage and mobilize them for global missions.
In March, Dion will be helping to lead the high school guys "Man Up" retreat here in Quitl and then also teaching for three days at the SEMBRAR discipleship training school in Manta.

Christmas and New Year 2018

The holidays in another country are very different from the traditions we've shared before with family. Thankfully, God has blessed us with families here in Ecuador to help fill void that is left from being so far from home. Two of those families are the Murphys and the Lozadas. The Murphy's are from Georgia in the US and we have loved getting to know them ever since our pre field orientation in New York in 2016. The Lozadas are from Guayaquil, Ecuador and I've known their family ever since I was in the REACH program in Ecuador in 1997. We celebrated Christmas with the Murphy's and New Years with the Lozadas this year.

Our Christmas break started with an overnight get away to the hot springs in Papallacta, about two hours east of Quito. We went with our friends the Murphy family who are also missionaries at Alliance Academy. While we were there we also celebrated Gaby's birthday. She is 16 years old now!!

For Christmas Eve, the Murphy's came to our house and we had our Christmas meal Latino style, late at night. We made a combination of Venezuelan and American food then had a gift exchange after that.

On December 26 we set out from Quito with the Murphy family to Cuenca, a beautiful city about 7 hours south of Quito. We enjoyed 3 days of sleeping in and eating out while visiting many beautiful Catholic churches and even went to some hot bathes there as well!

From Cuenca we said goodbye to the Murphy's and traveled down to Guayaquil for New Year's. Guayaquil is a great place to send off the old year and welcome the new. They have a tradition here of making "Old Years" - años viejos which are effigies that they burn at midnight when the new year arrives. They make some huge año viejos in some neighborhoods of Guayaquil and we went with the Lozada family to see them.

Another great thing about Guayaquil is that they have Wendy's! I don't know why there is no Wendy's in Quito, but that's just the way it is. Nothing makes me smile quite like a Frosty!

On New Year's Eve we had a gift exchange with the Lozada family. It was so special that they all invited and embraced us so that we felt at home. If at all possible, we hope that we can welcome 2019 in Guayaquil as well!