It's a post and run!

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1.  It's August in Loja which mean the Virgen of Cisne is coming.  This brings a slew of changes to the city of Loja as thousands of visitors come in. Please pray for our physical and spiritual safety during this month.
Here's a link to read more about the Virgin and her importance to the Province of Loja.

2.  We have moved!  After months of searching and praying we have found a beautiful home that is large enough for us to continue our ministries from home.  It also has a bit of a yard and is very close (walking distance) to church.  Bonus!

3. We will be traveling to the states and Thailand in just a couple of weeks.  Dustan must attend an SIM bookkeeper's conference in Thailand and I will be traveling with him.  On our way, we will drop the kids off with Grammy Pammy and Papa.

4.  When we arrive back in Loja we will be transition to work with our church in building a ministry to youth and students.  This will be an additional ministry to what we have already been doing with two main changes (besides not being at the coffee shop).  1.  Rebecka will not be a woman's leader at the church 2. We are backing out of all English ministries to make time to focus on youth and student ministries in Spanish.



5. Cotapaxi is erupting.  We are praying that this majestic volcano goes back to sleep and besides not interrupting the lives of those who live close by, that it will also not cause problems for our upcoming travels.


Here's a link to read more about Cotopaxi

6.  There has been some recent political unrest in Ecuador that is causing some protesting and rioting.  This is nothing to be worried about as far as our safety goes, but it is a huge prayer concern of ours and we would love to have you pray for Ecuador as it suffers through some political growing pains (a minimizing of the situation at best- but I am a missionary, not a politician :) )

7.  The Alfa to Omega drama group has become a much loved group of young people for me.  I love to listen as they share their heart for God with each other and with others.  They recently went on a mission trip to a neighboring town and village where they presented the drama as well as held a family fun fair and told their testimonies.


8.  My inbox is filling up with requests for short term missions teams to join us.  This is exciting but pray for me as I pray about how many of these teams I can reasonably handle each year.  I desperately want to be a good steward of the time God has given me.

9.  Speak of short term- I will be managing several short term missionaries towards the end of the year.  Several of them are from South America and this excites me to no end!

10.  And speaking again of short term missionaries- We recently saw our good friend Cesar who arrived home to Ecuador from his field.  Hearing his stories blessed our hearts so much and renewed our passion for seeing Ecuadorians believers reach their world for Christ.

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Alfa a Omega Mission Trip

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The drama group Alfa a Omega has been busy preparing for their mission trip to the communities of Gonzonom√° and Portete.  They have been revising scripts, planning crafts and games, and raising funds.  Their garage sale was successful enough to meet our needs and there is some talk of having some team t-shirts made!

Here are the plans so my faithful prayer partners can be in prayer for our trip:
August 14th- Travel to Gonzonam√°
August 15th- Family Fair in the community of Portete as well as some fellowship time with the youth there.  We will be presenting 9 stories during the fair as well as manning craft and game stations.  The youth have planned the entire fair.
August 16th- Church in Gonzo and a repeat of the family fair in the Afternoon
August 17th- Service Projects which may include building an animal enclosure on a farm and painting a mural at the local high school.

Please pray that these youth will see the reward of following Christ into unknown communities.
Pray that this trip will spark in them a growing interest in missions.
Pray that the gospel will be clearly communicated to the people of Gonzonom√° and Portete.
Pray for the last minute planning and for the details of travel to all be worked out.
Pray for safety.
Pray that God will be glorified in us and through us.



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Introducing Alfa a Omega (Beginning to End)

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Alfa a Omega is my newest ministry opportunity and it is one that harkens back to the days of old when I was a young little thing leading a drama team in East St. Louis (Hiya girls!)

Alfa a Omega is a group of young people who are dedicated to sharing Bible stories through drama. However, their mission statement barely touches on everything that this group of Ecuadorian youth are doing...  It doesn't mention that they have been well trained in working with children and have hosted a children's camp...
and a youth retreat...
or that they meet each week for four hours on a Sunday...

Here's a glimpse into a typical Sunday rehearsal:

They play games.  They study games.  They know why games are important.
Because through games they break down barriers of the people groups that they intend to reach.  Through laughter and touching they enter the hearts of a group of young people or a church or a pueblo and they prepare the group to hear God's word.


They read God's word.  They study God's word.  The KNOW the purpose of God's word.
Each week we ask them, "What have you been reading this week?  How can you apply it to your life?"  They know that reading God's word should be a daily activity in the life of a believer and because they have seen first hand how God's word changes lives they have made it a priority.   Because they use Bible stories straight from scripture to share the gospel and because they write their own scripts (using only the Bible), these kids know how to study and to analyze.  They ask hard questions like, "Why should we include this story?  Why is this detail important?  What is the doctrinal message of this?  What bridge to the community does this story build?  What spiritual wall does this detail tear down?"



They fellowship together.  They know the importance of Christian fellowship.
Each week we eat together, often sharing the amazement over the different culture of food (because a salad bar is a freakishly new experience for them.  And because eating ranch dressing on salad is just as different for them as eating catsup on salad is for me).  They laugh together over my Spanish and share their problems at university and talk over solutions in an environment of trust and spiritual growth.  This has become their normal and they function like a small church.



They prepare.  They know how to do it- from beginning to end.
I recently sat down to meet with them one on one and asked them what they liked best about the group.  One of them replied that she loved the preparation.  "When my church asks me to do something I am going to be prepared to say yes.  I know how to prepare for something.  I am ready."


They pray.  They understand how to talk to God.
I once saw them face down spread over a room as they prayed silently before a presentation.  Each week they share their struggles and their prayer requests and we pray together.



They practice.  Even when it looks more like playing than practicing.
These kids have a repertoire of more than 20 bible stories under their belts.  These are plays that they have read, studied, written, blocked, memorized, costumed, and designed the set for.  Practice time goes from stressful, to hilarious, to focused all in the blink of an eye.




And now that you know a little about our group and a bit of how I spend four hours every Sunday afternoon, here are some ways you can pray for us!

We have a performance on Sunday June 28th where we will present the first 8 stories of the old testament (From creation to the Exodus).  This performance will be at the church that Dustan and I attend and will be a day full of festivities to celebrate family day.  The drama group will also be hosting a few games and getting to know the youth at the church in order to encourage them to unite and form a youth group (with almost 25 youth- this church has no youth group).  Please pray that the youth from Alfa a Omega connects in an encouraging way with the members, but especially with the youth at the First Baptist of Loja church.

We are getting ready for a mission trip that will take us to three (or more) small towns in Ecuador.  During the trip we will be hosting several Family Fairs and youth nights as well as sharing the gospel presentation through drama.  There will be bit of fence building thrown in as well (we are an ambitious bunch).  Please pray that God will work in the lives of our members as we study God's plan for the world and their individual part in it.

Please pray as the group loses two of its founding members.  This is a huge time of transition for the group as the missionary who founded it as well as her son will be returning to the states.  It will be a difficult time for everyone.


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Say a prayer today for a missionary you know

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Do you know a missionary?  No matter who they are, where they are, are what kind of work they do, here is how you can pray for them today:


"Saviour God who desires to see each nation, tribe, and language come to know you, I have a dear loved on on your battle field today.

I know a missionary who is serving you and I know that they need Your help.

I don’t know what their plans are today.  Maybe they are traveling, maybe they are meeting a new believer for coffee, maybe they are teaching at a conference, what I do know is that someone is going to try to destroy their work.  

Someone is going to set forth to knock them down, to discourage them, to ruin them, maybe even try to kill them.

God, your enemy is the enemy of the missionary I love and that missionary desperately needs your protection today.

Protect them from the evil one who wishes to devour them. 
Protect them from the one who would like to see their marriage in ruin and their children leave the faith.  
Remind this man or woman to hit their knees in prayer before they hit the streets in work.  Remind them to slow down and get dressed this morning.  
God, gird them in your armor which will protect them today from an unseen enemy in an unseen battle.

God, as the arrows of doubt and discouragement fly their way today, fill their heads with scripture that will stop the damage of the enemy from harming the one I love. 

Protect them today from every source of damage that their enemy would choose to harm them.  
Protect  them from bad food, from giant holes in the street, from bitter co-workers, from harmful and discouraging emails, from the loss of financial support.  
Protect them from bad drivers, from drunken con artists, from the woo of the handsome and beautiful con artists.  
Protect them from discontent and selfishness.  
Protect them from lies that become so easy to believe when fighting in a state of exhaustion. 

God, today I have a friend on a battle field.  I don’t know what their plans are, but I know the enemy has plans to defeat them.  Protect your servant today.  I know a missionary, and I know they need your help.  I also know that though their enemy is ferocious, that You are even more powerful than he is evil, and that You can and WILL win.  Thank you that the one I love does not fight alone."



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SIX Things That Short-term Teams/Missionaries Do So Well That I Hope They Never Stop!

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In the past few weeks I have noticed several articles on short term missions being passed around the church community.  One was titled,  24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing   It was an incredibly important article, especially because the information included was gleaned from National Pastors and it contained some really good insight about the obstacles a national church can face when steamrolled by a short term mission group/ person.


However, because there are some amazing things that short term team/missionaries do around the world I thought I would throw my own hat into the conversation and tell you:


SIX Things That Short-term Teams/Missionaries Do So Well That I Hope They Never Stop!




1.  They arrive as a bundle of energy.  They just spent months in training and getting ready, then days in an airport and 18 hours on a bus, arrived at 3 in the morning and by 7 am they are rearing to go.  They only have a short time, and they don’t want to spend that time sleeping!  This energy, though exhausting for their long term host missionary is also contagious.  I swear I get more done during the week of a short term trip than I do in a month of hard exhausting work.




2. They LOVE everything!  Everything they see is so new to them that they fall in love immediately with a culture, a city, a people, that after many years I have come to take for granted.  “Look at that hotel with all all the white sheets hanging on the roof!”  “There is a cow!  In the Park!”  “Ohhhhhhh, look at that precious baby on that lady’s back!”  “That kid just said hello to me!”  “Look at the Mountains!”  “Look at all the holes in the road!”  Everything is beautiful to a short termer.  They haven’t fallen into any holes yet.  Nothing has become mundane.  That newness, that attitude of beauty reminds everyone around them how blessed we are to be living in such a beautiful and exciting place.



3.  They bring resources.  This is often on a list of negatives, and it is true that short termers often arrive and think they can solve everything by throwing money at it (which is not only a false conclusion, it is also a damaging attitude).  But, let’s be honest.  Mission fields are greatly lacking in many resources that short termers are generously willing to share.  They bring suitcases of craft supplies, bi-lingual Bibles, and candies from our home country.  All things that we can’t get here and which we ration out for the next several years.  Many also begin to monthly support our ministries, and frankly, this is one of the BEST ways that a mission group can connect with a ministry.  Think about it- a person who arrives and works alongside a missionary for a weeks or months really knows that missionary's heart.  They have also seen the needs first hand.  They have already invested financially into our work by just coming and now they have invested emotionally and spiritually as well.  The financial resource that they can offer a ministry is not something that should be rejected off hand but rather funneled appropriately and then appreciated greatly!




4.  They have all kinds of new ideas!  Oh, how we often bemoan the fact that in ten minutes every person on a mission trip will have all the answers to every government problem, every social ill, and every financial need.  To be honest, for me, it is the hardest thing to manage in short term missions.  However, after a few years of experience I have learned a valuable lesson.  That lesson is called humility.  Even after years on the field I do not know everything and my eyes and mind have become tired, and dare I say, even lazy.  These new eyes have can take a fresh look at old problems and when they begin to process them they OFTEN have some pretty good solutions.

With that said, Can I please encourage mission teams to hold back for a while.  Another important lesson I have learned is:  Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Then do it again.  Your fresh and awesome ideas will be better handled after you have built a relationship with the missionary or national pastor you are working with.  That said, when I look at some of the awesome things that have happened in my ministry over the years, in large part the ideas were born from the fresh look of a short term missionary!




5. They bring love.  Love for their Saviour, love for our people group, and love for us.  Sometimes, we, and our national pastors, and our national people group, and our kids could just use a big ol’ hug.  Short termers are amazing at offering a tremendous amount of love.  In that love I have found encouragement to last months.  They love how I boil water to wash my dishes, they love that I can speak another language, they love that I send my kids off for a thirty minute walk to school.  They love that I have so many national friends.  They love my Bible studies and my coffee shop.  They are bubbling over with love and it’s an especially refreshing attitude to be immersed in for a week.





6.  They create a frenzy of response and interest.  People love new things and a group of outsiders are just that.  They are a switch from the norm and because of that, they can create an atmosphere of intensity which can be used to create long term interest in an old established ministry.  They bring with them revived interest and excitement.



For those of you who are preparing to arrive on a field short term, please know that you can do a lot of good.  GOD can do amazing things IN you and THROUGH you.  Be prepared to have those "good things" look far different than what you think they look like.  Be prepared to be disappointed, hurt, exhausted, emotionally and spiritually challenged.  Be prepared to be used.


Plan well.  

Work with and respect the national church and ministries you will be working with.  
Stop.  Look.  Listen.  And then do it again.  
Connect prayerfully and financially with the ministries and missionaries you will work with.  
Make your connection a permanent one, not a temporary, fly-by-night emotional one.


If a short term mission trip to Loja, Ecuador is something you think would be AWESOME (and it would be!) contact me at givepraygo@gmail.com and we can start conversing about how to make it happen!




Category:

Don't drink

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Several weeks ago we had to take an emergency trip to the local hospital with Marcus.  He had to be admitted for a couple of days but is completely recovered now.  While we were there the funniest thing happened...


He was stretched out on a cot in the emergency room when a very obviously drunk man was admitted. This man looked as if he had decided that a brick wall was an enemy and must therefore fight it to the death.  I am assuming the brick wall won, even if the obviously drunk man was obviously still alive.

Anyhow, they wheeled him on a stretcher to the room next to Marcus and we could listen to his unintelligible moaning.  About ten minutes later another very obviously drunk man walked into our room where Marcus was lying down.  He took one look at Marcus and his face turned a shade of green I hope to never see again.  It was pure panic!  

This man, in a state of panic, almost passing out, thought that his friend, the obviously drunk man who may have been in a fight with a brick wall, had turned into Marcus, a very tall white boy.

I wish I had a picture, but it happened very quickly.  I took a picture of myself pretending to the the very drunk friend in an effort to make this story seem more real:

I knew my acting skills would come in handy one day

The doctor chuckled and told the poor man that his friend was next door.  His knees buckled in relief.

This my friends is why it is unlikely that Marcus will ever get drunk.  First he saw the result of a a drunken fight with a brick wall and secondly he saw the sheer panic of a man who drunkenly thought his very short, very dark, drunken Ecuadorian friend had been turned into a tall, white gringo boy.


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Burdens shared are not as heavy as the ones we bear alone.

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Although our church in Ecuador is quite different than the ones we have attended in the states (for example, our Lojano church has a dog wandering in and out of service), there are several things that are the same.

One of those similar things is that we enter, greet, listen, and leave, sometimes never connecting with a single person.

Today, our pastor asked us to break into small groups.  It was still service time, and we stayed in our sanctuary but we were divided into groups of about 10 each.  We each shared our names, most of us realizing that we did not even know the names of some of the people we greeted each Sunday morning.

My group began to try to make connections.
"My name is Maria.  I am Giovani's niece"
"Oh, Giovani's niece?  Gloria's sister?"
"Yes"
And so it went until we reached a woman named Estrella.  She told us her name and then...

"This is my first time in church.  I am just curious.  I am Catholic, but I need answers.  My relative attends here sometimes, but I am here alone."

Sara then asked Estrella if there was anything we could pray with her about.  This woman, her first time in an evangelical church, alone, and I am sure so very confused by the foreign format and service began to cry.  "I am without work.  I have been without work for months now.  My daughter is sick and we are waiting the results of some lab work.  I am scared."

We began to pray for this stranger, who probably never expected to even be seen, much less heard and it struck me.  What if it had been a normal Sunday?  What if we had entered, greeted, listened, and left, all without even noticing the new comer who had arrived bearing a burden?  What if we had never asked her name?  What if we hadn't tried to connect?  What if she had never been seen much less heard?

In the past couple of months God has taught me to ask to very powerful questions:
1.  How are you suffering?  (because everyone is suffering in some form)
2.  How can I pray for you? (because this question is much more revealing than "How are you?")

So, I challenge you this week to ask someone a harder question.  It will seem awkward at first, but you will be amazed at what people are willing to reveal to you when simply asked.  Because, a burden shared is not as heavy as the ones we have to bear by ourselves.

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