Wednesday, September 29, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

For anyone who has ever seen Sound of Music, one must agree that one of the best songs is the song about favorite things. It is arguably my favorite and I am a huge fan of the musical in general. I was thinking about that song this morning. This past week it has finally began to dawn on me that I really enjoy things here...I might even miss them when returning to home sweet home. And that made me smile. Thank you to God and His grace for giving me a love for this place. So here is a list of some of my favorite things.
* Waking up to see snow on Ruku Pinchincha (this is "Old" Pinchincha in Quichua and it is the mountain that I wake up to see every morning)
* Studying what is now my third language, Quichua
* The "chao, Katie" I receive from little Estefania when I leave in the morning
* Newly discovered Oreo flavors shared with friends
* Interesting Ecovia rides... nothing spices up the morning like watching a guy get escorted off the Ecovia
* Coffee (even if it is instant... which it always is) in the morning while I read God's Word
* Admiring the indigenous women for all their strength and their bright smiles
* The flower shops I pass in route to school
* Early morning runs in Parque de la Carolina
* Studying God's Word with friends by the lagoon at school
* Being able to see three snow covered mountain tops as I go to school
* Worshiping in a different language
* Watching the telenovela "Donde esta Elisa?" with my host mom... we are kinda addicted
* Bread stores!
* Afternoon rain in Quito

I'm sure that there will be more to come. For now, I am taking joy in the Lord and joy in what He has provided.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I met the Pacific

I have known the Atlantic Ocean my whole life. In fact, when people in the lazy surfing town of Canoa asked me where I was from, I told them that I was from the other ocean. I have always loved the Atlantic, but I was happy to have the opportunity to meet the Pacific Ocean this weekend and my friends and I ventured to yet another diverse part of this country.
Our journey began with a taxi ride to the bus station in Quito at 11pm. When you have to take an 8 hour bus ride, it is better to do so at night when you can sleep... or try to sleep. Bus drivers in Ecuador think they are race care drivers. There is a reason why there are curtains on the windows... so that you will not be able to see how fast you are going and how close you are to hitting other vehicles. Anyways, we made it to Bahia in one piece. From Bahia you have to take a small boat over to San Vincente. Again, boats are like all other transportation in Quito; fill 'em to the max. Reminds me of that time when I put 14 people in my Honda Civic... only here its scarier. From San Vincente we took a bus to Canoa, a tiny little surfing town on the Pacific Ocean.
This is where we met and it was glorious. Although the morning was cloudy the sounds of the Ocean were amazing and the waves were just the right temperature. We were delighted to be at the beach and wearing shorts. What a change from Quito weather! We threw the frisbee and looked for shells. I enjoyed a nap on the beach while some sipped fresh milkshakes. The sun came out in full force and we enjoyed the day.
We stayed at a wonderful hostal called Hotel Bambu. The room was great and the hammocks were perfect. Although I was sick to my stomach for most of the trip, I heard the food was wonderful and my friends were so excited to be eating five dollar lobster. When my stomach did settle a bit, my favorite was the banana chocolate crepe with black coffee that we ate outside at night listening to the sounds of the ocean.
We enjoyed two days of laying out in the sun, walking on the beach, sipping coconut milk, reading novels from the hostal, etc. And then this morning we began the long journey back to Quito.
Yes, we are back in the smoggy city now. However, we have our memories of the weekend on the water. There is still some sand lingering at the bottom of my bookbag... perhaps I will leave it there...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

He that keepeth Isreal shall neither slumber nor sleep...

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Isreal shall never slumber nor sleep..."
Psalm 121:1-4
It has been another week here in Ecuador...and it has been a month since I have been here in this place. This week has been busier than the first three but I feel like I am finally getting acclimated to the city and to classes. I finally feel like I am doing life here.
This week has been filled with so many great conversations. I plan on doing several exciting things while I am here, however, I feel like I will remember the conversations more. The topics discussed roll over in my mind. Faces still seem to appear when I think back on my day. These are the things I am remembering the most. Who would have thought that I would be sitting next to an ex-gang member on the bus and talking to him about why he had to get out of the gang and how his life was here in Ecuador. Who would have thought that I would be receiving wise advice regarding my upcoming marriage from a woman I talked with on the bus ride to school. And who would have thought that I would spend two hours at the small breakfast table of the apartment talking about the marvelous hand of God, how gracious it was even during hard times, and how glorious it is to daily walk with Him. Who would have thought...
When I tell Jon what wild things I would like to do in Ecuador (like summitting a mountain with ice-picks or going piranha fishing in the jungle), he jokes that I am only here for the experience and that I am his little daredevil. However, the things I want to do most are to sit and talk with people, to hear about their lives... Those "experiences" mean more to me but, often, they take more guts than trying to summit a mountain. They take stepping out of my own little world and into a world of being willing to listen and share with others. These experiences take more boldness for one like me. But they always bring the most amazing result, humility.
We journey to El Panecillo today. This is a hill in the center of Quito that is said to have been there for ages. On the top of this hill is a huge statue of the Virgin who looks over and guards the city below. As I stood beneath her and looked for myself at the vastness of this city, I thought of the One who guards me...the One who has watched over me for my entire life and this past month. This month has not been easy; in fact, it has been one of the hardest of my life. But the Lord has ordained and orchestrated all that has happened. He has watched over me. I am overcome with praise for Him, my Keeper.
As I lay my head down at night and listen to the sounds of the city, I am reminded that I need sleep because I am not self-sufficient and that I am in desperate need of God's grace. Yet, I am so glad that I have an all-sufficient Provider. He is what satisfies.
"He that keepeth thee will not slumber..."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One incredible weekend

This has been one of the best weekends of my life. There could be many reasons for this since it was such a weekend filled with fun and exciting new things. However, there is one particular reason.
Sure, Kimberly and Katie and I traveled to Mindo, Ecuador about two hours away from Quito. We traveled by bus and proved to ourselves that we really can travel on our own.
Sure, this was an opportunity to take my mind off of my recent health concerns. It was a time to get away.
Sure, we would be visiting a completely different area of this beautiful country of Ecuador. We would be experiencing very different weather from Quito; thankfully this weather was quite a bit warmer.
Sure, we stayed in the most amazing hostal in the middle of the selva complete with hammocks on the second and third story porches.
Sure, we loved exploring the tiny, quirky, tourist-supported town of Mindo.
Sure, we were delighted as we went canopping (ziplining) all through the forest in all the different poses... Superman (self-explanatory) and Mariposa (butterfly; means that you go on the ziplines upside down).
Sure, we enjoyed the leisurely walk back to town. We walked downhill eating packages of precious Chips-Ahoy cookies.
Sure, we fell in love with the little cafe "El Quetzal" where we took part in a tour of how chocolate is made. We got to see and taste the whole process from seed to chocolate. We also ate the most amazing brownie, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate syrup (all made from there) and authentic ginger ale. We also had to buy home grown coffee for loved ones.
Sure, we squealed with delight over our stone oven cooked pizza and salads that we had for dinner in a quiet open air restaurant.
Sure, we loved resting and talking in the hammocks on the second story porch of our hostal. We shared stories and Captain Crunch cereal. We even enjoyed talking with the other curious yet entertaining guests at the hostal.
Sure, we laughed as we scared a decent size rat out of our room before heading to bed.
Sure, I woke up delighted with breakfast on the porch made by Claudia, our hostal mom, who called us her "honeys". We had mango yogurt with all types of fruit in it, scrambled eggs, bread with butter and jam, and coffee! (I really ate the most that I have eaten in Ecuador so far which hopefully will help me to gain back the weight I did not mean to lose).
Sure, we loved the tarabita ride... think small metal cage that crosses over from one mountain to another via a pulley system. As Ecuador is in most things, they like to pack you close even on the tarabita.
Sure, we had a great time hiking to see five different waterfalls and swim in the frigid waters of the sixth. We took lots of pictures and regretted only that we could not take the sound home with us.
Sure, we rode on the craziest truck taxi on the way back into town... think wild taxi driver and screaming locals!
Sure, we loved lunch at "El Cheff" in town where we ate a big and filling lunch.
Sure, we enjoyed the bus ride back to Quito as we munched on our new favorite brownies.
Although all of this was incredible, this was not why the weekend was so amazing. The weekend was amazing because Kimberly and I got to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with two men at the hostal. We were explaining late into the night and they were listening... and Katie was listening as well. As we shared why Jesus Christ was everything to us, the Gospel fell and the Lord drew Katie to Himself. We shared about what Christ had done on the cross to pay for our sin and our inability to merit His favor. The night ended with Katie asking the Lord for forgiveness of her sins and stepping out in joy into a relationship with Christ!
This is why the weekend was so wonderful and why I am still rejoicing now! The Gospel of Jesus Christ (that while we were so far off in sin and we could never have a relationship with God, Christ died for our sin and made a way for us to have a relationship with God) is worth far more than any of these fun activities or experiences. Christ is worth everything! He is my greatest joy and satisfaction... my greatest pleasure. Now, someone else is experiencing that as well.
Is He worth everything to you? Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? He beckoned Katie... His goodness is so abundant.

(more pictures can be found on facebook)

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I am coming to like Ecuador and the city of Quito more and more. The feeling washed over me as I was walking today. The sun was warming my back and I genuinely enjoyed each step that I took.
Yes, I walked to church today. I am still unsure how best to use the transportation system here so I decided to walk since Sunday is a very busy day here in Quito and it is perfectly safe to be out. So I decided to walk the 35 minutes to a Spanish church that a friend had mentioned.
It is truly a blessing to see the church abroad. Although the language is different, we still worship the same Lord and believe in the same Gospel. It was great to be able to sing songs of praise that uttered the same truths that we sing about back in the United States. It was incredible to see the same passion for the Lord and His Word in a different context.
The sermon and the communion that followed reminded me that I am only who I am by God's grace. There is nothing in me and nothing that I can do that can merit His attention, love, or salvation. I am only desperate before Him... humbled by His sacrifice on the cross. This was an especially pertinent message to me because I have struggled so much in the past two weeks. I have felt incredibly weak and ashamed at how I was adjusting... or not adjusting. At times, I was unsure I would be able to do this. I have been fighting thoughts of not being good enough and not improving as rapidly as I would like to in this language. But, I am pointed back to the Gospel... that I will never be good enough. However, by God's grace, I am what I am. He loves me not because I am great at Spanish or because I am tough as nails and adventurous, but because He loves me... because of His grace.
It was wonderful to be reminded of that again today.
~Dear Conrad Memorial Baptist and Carrollton Baptist Church:
Thank you for your prayers. It was so great to be in another church today although I missed both of you so much! Please continue to pursue the Gospel! Remind each other of it daily... many people are having to remind me of it constantly. It is worth everything! Know that there are other churches, even in Ecuador, who are seeing and savoring Jesus Christ. Even as these churches are pursuing Him, continue to pursue Him. I love you all and am praying for you.