Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ecuador Day 3

I write this after being home for a few days, but that is a good thing because we had a wonderful day 3 and no time to process or even rest because it was also time to come home.

The day began as usual, meeting our friend Dani (Danielle) for breakfast and processing what had gone on the day before. We loaded up in the bus and then took off on the longest drive of the trip. about two-thirds of the way into the drive we went through a tunnel that was described by Roberto (our guide) as a tunnel back in time. What he meant was this particular tunnel separates the new part of Quito from the old, the richer more modern Quito from the rural poorer version. And it was truly different. We traveled down one stretch of road for quite some time with construction in the middle and shops galore on the edges. It was very populated and quite the sight to see.

When we arrived at the church and project we were greeted by a large number of mothers and children under the age of 5. This was the essence of CSP or the Child Survival Program. Mothers who are pregnant or that have had children and they are under 5 years old can be a part of CSP.

In the program they learn about how to take care of their children and what young babies need in order to survive. We were shown all the curriculum and recording methods to keep track of and help the babies learn. We were even shown a traditional Ecuadorian dance and then were brought up to dance with them.

Next we went on home visits were we saw a mother of 2, the youngest of which was 1 year and 3 months old who was born prematurely and weighed about 3 pounds. He has struggled with being small for his age and also with breathing. But since the mother has entered the program the baby has greatly improved and received proper nutrition. It was so good to see and know that he was being taken care of.

Another short ride in the back of a truck and we were at another home visit and then headed back to a most amazing Ecuadorian meal of corn, corn cakes, a type of salsa, beats and carrots, and the most amazing chicken. It was so good.

But time was short and we headed back towards the hotel and an outdoor market where we purchased some wonderful Ecuadorian handicrafts to take home with us. The rest of the day consisted of packing up, eating dinner and processing the week that was.

I have so many more thoughts to share about this trip but I will save that for another post. Thanks for reading and check back for more on the trip.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ecuador Day 2

There is so much to think about right now. I have no real way of describing what happened today. It was wonderful and glorious. But how do I let you know what I went through today and have you truly understand what is going on in this country and across the world?

Today we spent time with the Leadership Development Program of Compassion International. This program has basically taken sponsored youth and put them in a program that will help them through their college years. We met Jonathan and Alexandra who are in their senior year of college and are already working in their profession of choice. Jonathan is now a math and physics teacher in a high school and Alexandra is a child psychologist in schools and hospitals.

We visited the schools and Compassion projects where they grew up and are now working. It was an amazing sight to see them come almost full circle in the Compassion world. Their hope is to someday become a sponsor themselves.

We played with children, gave hugs and gifts and listened to songs. We played soccer in the street, ate lunch with children that were being sponsored by people in our group. The youth encounter staff even began a sponsorship today and met with the girl. It was amazing.

There is so much joy in these kids. And I have realized that poverty really has nothing to do about money. Yes it is a cause of it, but these children and their families are not poor in spirit. They truly have hope and dreams far beyond just today.

What I have realized is that there are people that are poorer in my own community and church because they are so far away from God. They have everything in the world, they are rich by anyone's definition except their own. And because they have everything, they they have no need for God or anyone other than themselves. Stuff only gets in the way of our relationship with God. Take all of that away, like I have seen across the world in India, Mexico, New York, Louisiana, and now in Ecuador and God is the only thing you can really rely on. Family and God are what it is all about. Taking care of each other, serving the least of these and giving until it makes you uncomfortable is what God calls us to to.

Will this change because of my words. No, but it may plant a seed. You are loved by God. We all are. But in America, we are so alone. We surround ourselves with material things and hope they make us feel better. God is the only way that we will ever be loved enough. Through Him, knowing Him, and serving Him by serving others is how we show the amazing love and acknowledge God's grace that was given through Jesus Christ.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and telling more and more about this amazing thing God is doing in Ecuador.

Blessings and Love,


More pictures are up on my FLICKR PAGE

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ecuador and Compassion International

We made it safe to Ecuador and are loving every minute of it. We flew from Minneapolis to Atlanta (where I searched out the Chick-fil-a in the airport) and then headed south to Ecuador.

We landed around 10:30 pm central time and so far I love it. As far as ease of travel for Americans this is the place to be. Same currency, same electrical outlets, and for the people in the midwest, same time zone! This is great. The only thing we have to really worry about is the altitude. We are in Quito which is about 9,200 feet above sea level. So lots of water and lots of sunscreen.

The city is beautiful and surrounded by mountains and a volcano. The volcano was last active in 1998 so no worries. We are traveling with a Compassion International group filled with speakers and event planners from around the United States. We have met some wonderful people and are having a great time.

Today we went to the Ecuador Compassion Headquarters and received a wonderful tour. The place is amazing and very hard working. Here is how it works.

Compassion finds children all over the word that need help to get out of poverty and get a good education. People from around the world can sponsor a child for around $38 US a month. This provides, for the children, food, education in addition to school, and leadership training when they are older so they may enter the work force. On top of all of this is the education about Jesus and preaching the Gospel to all of these children and parent of the children.

What we saw today was the other side of the sponsor money. We saw the children that were being sponsored and what facilities they learned in, where they lived, and some of the classes they take. It was amazing. They children were full of joy and so happy to see us. We played with the kids and sat in on their classes. They made gifts for us and we gave gifts to them in return.

We also did a home visit to some of the sponsored children's living space. For me, I went to Carlos' home where he, his mother Martha, brother, sister and cousin lived. It was so small and hardly enough space for all of them. One bed for 5 people, a stove, radio, and closet was all we could see in this one room.

But while we were there the children that were being sponsored received their letters from their sponsors in the USA and Canada. It was like Christmas and the joy was contagious. They received pictures, letters and stickers from their sponsors. I was a sight to see.

We also gifted, through Compassion, a grocery bag full of daily needs to Martha who was very grateful. The one room apartment they live in is $40 a month and Martha makes just over $100 in a good month. That doesn't leave much to live on. That is why Compassion is so important for the children.

I was amazed and so grateful to see and meet these children. It was a wonderful day.

We ended with dinner and a beautiful view of the city as the sun went down.

Tomorrow we meet older children in the Compassion program. I am very excited.

Blessings to you all!


For pictures, follow this link Dain's Flickr

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going down south.

I am headed down to Ecuador for the next week with a Compassion International trip. Heather and I are going down there with Youth Encounter (Heather's work) to see what they are all about. Youth Encounter and Compassion are teaming up to get more kids sponsored through each of their organizations. I think it will be great. Check back for pictures and stories from this short little jaunt to the southern hemisphere and South America!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Changing Seasons

Looking outside you can't help but think about the change in the seasons. The leaves are different colors and no longer on the trees. There is rain and snow, more coats and a forecast that doesn't look to get any better most days. Even in the stores there are obvious signs of the changing seasons. Fall colors, Halloween and even Christmas decorations are popping up everywhere. It's hard to miss.

This is also a time of life for High Schoolers where they may be changing "seasons" in life, but in a much more subtle way. Many times changes in attitude, grades, choice of friends and activities may go unnoticed by parents because of the natural business of society today.

In order to stay ahead of your High Schooler, be sure to take time each day to check in with them. And be truly intentional with you interest because the more authentic and caring you are towards what they have to say and are going through the more likely they will tell you about changes that are going on in their lives.

Have a wonderful MEA weekend and God Bless,


Building Community

Building Community

Community is created in two major ways, naturally and intentionally. But my question is "How do you intentionally create community that seems natural?" Word of Peace is a place where community abounds. We share so many things in common, the greatest of which is Jesus Christ. But when it comes to High School, it seems like the communities outside of church are talked about more than the one they are currently a part of in church.

This is where my conundrum begins: Youth form groups of friends, let's call them "clusters" that are filled with people who have the same interests, likes, dislikes and activities. These clusters are generally around 8 people and they form in places where they spend the most time. In this case it is school. So by my reasoning, church is not a place where community is easily formed. But I view this as a challenge, not a hinderance.

Our theme for the fall this year is "From the Inside Out", and it is our goal to take the love of Jesus, which is inside of us all, and show it to others through our actions, decisions, and lifestyle. This is diffucult alone, but in a community, where we support one another, it becomes easier and more exciting.

I encourage you and your students to be a part of Word of Peace and all the programming it has to offer this fall and into the winter. I encourage you to look beyond your 5 or 6 best friends and reach out to those in other communities and build relationships with them as well. I encourage youth to get to know one another, not only in own their grade or school, but with everyone that walks through the doors of Word of Peace.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For every ending there is a new beginning

This week marks the last week of our dear friend and brother of mine as Middle School Ministry Corrdinator. This is a truly sad time for me and the members at Word of Peace because of how we dearly love Derek and what he has done for this church. He will be truly and dearly missed.

But with every ending there is a new and exciting beginning, both for Word of Peace and for Derek as well. His plans are to go to Australia for 25 days with his wife Michelle and then persue God's calling for their lives when they return to Minnesota. Right now they are praying over a few different opptions that may take them to L.A. in California and then possibly on to Lincoln, Nebraska. Our prayers go with them as they leave us and go on some fantastic adventures.

As for Word of Peace we are getting together a search commitiee to re-hire someone for the Middle School Ministry Corrdinator position. We have yet to officially post the position, but it will be coming shortly.

I ask that you keep this process in your prayers and thoughs over the next month. I hope and pray that God is already preparing someone outstanding for this position and will give us clear and wonderful options when the time comes.

Thank you again Derek,