Sunday, March 30, 2014

Catching Up: August

We kicked off August by taking a two-night camping trip with the Marcum family to a lovely national forest about an hour south of Quito called Pasachoa. The kids enjoyed sleeping in their very own "kids tent," going on hikes, roasting marshmallows and making s'mores around the campfire, climbing trees, and building a little raft that they put in the creek near our campsite and then followed as it floated downstream.

A hike through the forest
Mmmmm, s'mores!
To roast the marshmallows, we used these awesome skewers that we purchased from the Bormans, a family in our homeschool group.
The view from near our campsite
Showing off the raft they made (with help from Josh).
Alex found lots of fun trees to climb!
We also took a trip to the zoo with the Marcums and the Brewingtons. That was a fun day, and it was our family's first time to visit the Quito Zoo, and our first zoo visit since we lived in Lisbon! The Quito Zoo is certainly not as big or as nice as the Lisbon Zoo, but it is home to several animals unique to this part of the world, like...

Galapagos turtles!
And Andean bears (also called masked bears because of the markings around their eyes).
The kids enjoyed the petting zoo...

And posing on various animal statues. Here are Michaela and Alex with the saber-tooth tiger.
Group picture in front of the entrance to the zoo.
Benjamin turned two at the end of August. We took the whole family to a free outdoor dinosaur and prehistoric animal exhibit at the Carolina Park, then followed that with lunch at Burger King and lots of time to play in the play place. That evening, we celebrated at home with strawberry shortcake in the birthday boy's honor!

I can't believe he's two!
I finished out the homeschool year with Alex at the very end of August. So, just about the time other kids were gearing up to go back to school, he was finally getting his "summer vacation!" I let him have the month of September off so I could plan and get organized for the next year, and we started back up in October. I will do a post later reviewing the curriculum we used and what I will do differently the next time around.

School around the dining room table. I wish I could say we looked like this all the time, but in all honesty, scenes like this are pretty rare!
Also in August, we started working with a group of Christians who wanted to start a new church in Pisulí, one of the poorer neighborhoods in north Quito. We began by meeting in one another's homes for Sunday worship and Bible study, followed by a meal. Over the course of several months, we were able to coach the church-planting team and equip them with tools to help them as they launched this new work. It was such a privilege to watch them come together as a team, articulate their dreams and visions for the work, pray over their dreams, and then work to make them a reality.

First Sunday with the church-planting team. We met in our home for worship and lunch. The Brewington family, who were still in Ecuador following the July medical campaign, were our special guests, and Jason gave the message.
About the same time that we began officially working with the Pisulí team, we became aware of another ministry opportunity. The Reeger family, who had been the administrators at Camp Bellevue in Tabacundo (about an hour north of Quito) for the past seven years, were taking on the administration of the Hacienda of Hope, a children's home on the property adjacent to the camp, and they encouraged us to submit our names for consideration as their replacements. We had known they were leaving and that the Bellevue Church of Christ in WA, which overseas the camp, was looking for a new couple, but had decided against applying for the position, believing the timing was not quite right for our family. However, following several conversations with the Reegers, and in light of some of the difficulties and frustrations that Rusty especially was experiencing with the Kumanii ministry, we decided to prayerfully proceed and see what would happen. The month of August was spent in conversation with both Hillsboro (our sponsoring church) and Bellevue. Bellevue decided they wanted to fly our family up to WA in September for an interview. We worked up a formal proposal for Hillsboro and tentatively approached several of our other major sponsors to inform them of a possible shift in our ministry focus. The response from everyone was supportive and positive, so we decided that if Hillsboro gave us the green light and Bellevue offered us the position, we would move forward.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Catching Up: July

We spent the first part of July gearing up for the medical campaign to Kumanii at the end of the month. Participants of this campaign came primarily from the Hillsboro Church of Christ (our sponsoring congregation), and from the Southside Church of Christ (one of our supporting congregations). Of course, we were excited to have members from Hillsboro visit us in Ecuador for the first time since we arrived on the field. This was also the first short-term group that Rusty planned for and organized all on his own since Kent was in the States at the time. He did have help from Alberto and some of the folks at the EQEB in arranging some of the logistics. Alberto had planned to go to Kumanii to help Rusty, but at the last minute was unable to, due to some issues at the EQEB, so Rusty pretty much ran things all week on his own. He did a great job -- everything went so smoothly and so well, and we had an awesome group of participants, too, which always helps! As it turned out, although we didn't know it at the time, the July medical mission set in motion the chain of events that led us to where we are now. (More about all that later.)

I had planned on participating in the medical mission as a kitchen helper. Jauna Reeger, who at the time was administrating Camp Bellevue along with her husband, Justin, had agreed to run the kitchen at Kumanii during the medical campaign. I was going to tag along and see what I could glean from her years of experience cooking for large groups out at the camp. However, the pregnancy caused us to rethink things, and in the end, I decided that going to the jungle for a week in my first trimester was probably not the wisest thing. So, I ended up staying back in Quito with the kids. I was disappointed that I couldn't be with the group the entire time, but I was able to spend time with them on both ends of their trip... the kids and I went out to Camp Bellevue for the two nights they spent there before heading out to Kumanii, and we joined them at the end of the week for a night at Chachimbiro to enjoy the hot springs and a day of shopping in Otavalo.

While Rusty was gone on the medical mission, the kids and I enjoyed having Italia Brewington and her kids stay with us in Quito for a few nights. Italia's husband, Jason, was one of the doctors on the medical mission, and the whole family stayed on in Ecuador for a couple of weeks after Kumanii to work out at Camp Bellevue. The boys enjoyed having other kids their age around to play with for a few days, and for my part, having the company of another adult made the week much less lonely.

Here are a few pictures of the medical mission:
Clinic day at Camp Bellevue. The team did a half-day clinic here before heading out to Kumanii.
There were 3 baptisms at Kumanii after church on Sunday!
Eye clinic
Clinic day at one of the villages
New friends
What a great group of hard-working, servant-hearted people!
For more photos, you can visit Gene's Facebook album by clicking here. Gene is a professional photographer and a member of the Southside congregation. He has come to Ecuador several times on short-term projects and has such a gift for capturing the beauty of Ecuador and her people.
And here are a few more random shots from July:
Look at all the goodies our friends at Hillsboro sent us!
Stephen enjoying a giant piece of pie at The Pie Shop in Otavalo
Our family at the market in Otavalo (thanks to Nathan Hall for this picture)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Catching Up: June

Rusty was gone to the jungle with 2 different short-term groups for about half of June, so the boys and I spent a couple of quiet weeks at home. Alex finished up the school year at Hansei. Ecuadorian schools let out at the beginning of July, but Alex's last day was June 27. There were a couple of special events at Hansei that we attended during his last month. We also continued with "English school" at home two days a week.
English Open House -- each grade performed a few songs or a play in English.
Parents' Breakfast -- breakfast was served to the parents while each class performed a song or a skit
Alex was invited to the birthday party of a little girl in his class at school at the beginning of June, so we got to experience our first Ecuadorian birthday party. It was a huge deal -- lots of food, a lady who came and did a puppet show and face-painting for all the kids, a piñata, fancy party dresses, the works! The kids had a blast, but I was completely worn out by the experience!
Captain America x2!
Benjamin was so fascinated by the puppets.
While Rusty was gone to Kumanii with the second group, Stephen fell (he was pushed by his older brother) and cracked his head open on the fireplace. I took him to the hospital where he was seen immediately and received 3 stitches, and the whole thing ended up costing about $60. (Compare that to the more than $2,000 we paid out of pocket WITH INSURANCE when Alex had a similar injury -- he got 10 stitches -- while we were in the States in 2012. Kinda makes you wonder. But, I digress.) I was very thankful to have our second car when this happened. Using public transportation or even calling a cab would have made the whole situation that much more stressful.
Brave little boy, just before getting his stitches.
About mid-June was when I began to suspect I was pregnant. I waited until I was 5 weeks before taking a pregnancy test, which was most definitely positive, and then spent the remainder of my first trimester fighting the nausea and the tiredness and trying to get over the shock of it all. I had decided I was ready to be done having babies, but neither of us had done anything "permanent" yet. We were actually discussing adoption and the possibility of adopting an older child, which is apparently easier for foreigners to do in Ecuador than adopting a baby. I guess I can be thankful that we got pregnant when we were still only in the talking stages and before we were in the adoption process because that would have made things much more complicated and stressful!

And finally, a few pictures of Rusty's time in the jungle:

Sunday worship in the new meeting hall at Kumanii
I think the baby has the most comfortable seat in the canoe!

The Kumanii fleet is loaded and ready to head downriver.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why I'm Coming Back

It's been awhile... more than 6 months since I posted here. How to come back? How to recap all of what's gone on in our family over the last 6 months? And probably more importantly, why?

If you keep up with us on Facebook, none of what I'll be posting here over the next few days will be news to you. I wonder why I continue blogging then, when in many ways, Facebook seems to have replaced this blog in terms of being able to share our day-to-day lives with family and friends both near and far. And then I remember -- I keep this blog more for myself than for anyone else. It really has become a sort of digital record of our family's life, adventures and misadventures (and thanks to Blurb software, I am able to turn each year of our blog into an actual book -- like a family yearbook). I am still scrapbooking... and I love the creative process of scrapbooking and how it allows me to showcase our pictures, but I have fallen so far behind over all our years of moving hither and yon that I fear I will never catch up. So this blog really is my best and most current record of our goings-on.

Over the last few days, I have been busy gathering the required documentation for our trip to the U.S. Embassy tomorrow. Elizabeth needs her U.S. birth certificate, passport, and Social Security card, and Alex and Stephen both need new passports before we renew our visas next month. One of the things we are required to bring is photographic evidence of the life of each child. Most of our pictures that are more than 2 or 3 years old are archived on a portable hard drive and are currently inaccessible due to a fried cord, so I turned to our family blog to pull pictures of Alex and Stephen to print. I enjoyed my walk down memory lane, but it struck me as I was perusing the archives of our blog, that if I don't keep posting, keep updating, there won't be a similar record of Elizabeth's life, and there won't be family yearbooks to print.

So, I'm back. You're welcome to keep following along with us here, and I will enjoy the company, but I really am doing this for me. I'll start with continuing the monthly recaps that I was doing before my long hiatus over the next few days, and then try to keep things current going forward.