Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catching Up: December

December was a busy month (when is it not?), for us personally as well as for the camp. At the beginning of the month, our family, with Jhon and Laura's help, put on a special "appreciation dinner" for the camp staff and their families. It was a fun evening, and we enjoyed getting to know the family members of our employees. Later in the month, we did a small gift exchange with the staff, complete with coffee and Christmas cookies.
We had a turkey dinner and pies for dessert
Camp Bellevue staff
Rusty and Jhon drew each other's names for the staff gift exchange!
There were a couple of Christmas activities for the kids in the camp's after school program. Just before the kids went on their Christmas vacation, we had an afternoon of cookie decorating. Laura and I made and baked over 100 sugar cookie cut-outs, and then we had each class come to the kitchen to frost and decorate their cookies with candy sprinkles. And then eat them, of course! The kids had so much fun. Afterwards, I frosted and decorated the remaining cookies and made plates for each staff member.

The Tabacundo Church of Christ (which meets at the camp) hosted a special dinner just before Christmas for the kids in the after school program and their families. There was a devotional, a time of self-introductions for the church members and the families, followed by a dinner of meatloaf, rice, and salad, with chocolate cake for dessert.
The church fed nearly 200 people that night!
Also, during the month of December, we were blessed to have Randall and Renda Story volunteering at the camp. Randall, an ex-forest service guy, helped trim most of the trees on the property, and even cut down a few of the more problematic ones. Renda helped out in the after-school program, did some substitute teaching up at the Hacienda of Hope school, and blessed us with her wonderful homemade bread (she loves to bake!). They were both such hard workers and really gave of themselves to help the camp in whatever capacity they could.
Putting the Landy to work felling a tree
The Storys
Alex finished out baseball season. At the awards ceremony, his coach told us that, although the Quito Youth Baseball League doesn't give out awards for "most improved player," if they did, he would have given it to Alex. We are so proud of him!
"Boston Red Sox" team picture
Of course we spent a lot of time getting ready for Christmas.
We decorated our tree...
... and modeled silly Santa hats.
We saw Santa...
... twice!
We went to our homeschool group Christmas party
We decorated sugar cookies...
...and made candy-cane reindeer ornaments for the tree.
On Christmas Eve, the Marcums drove out to our house and we had a lovely lamb dinner (a tradition from the Stephens' side of the family) and gift exchange with them. The Storys joined us as well.

The holiday table
All the cousins in their Christmas shirts from Nyanya
We spent Christmas Day with just our family. It was such a relaxed and peaceful day spent opening gifts, having pumpkin cinnamon rolls (a big hit -- I think they will become a Christmas tradition!), playing with our new toys, and watching movies.
Merry Christmas!
Opening stockings
Santa brought a special gift that was too big to fit down the chimney, so he left it in the Landrover!
It was the Millennium Falcon! All the boys were so excited -- all four of them!
After Christmas, we moved immediately into "work mode," getting ready for two North American groups that were due to arrive around the first of the year. There was shopping to be done and food to prepare, and all of this as I was nearing the 8 month mark of my pregnancy and had been recently diagnosed with "moderate preeclampsia."

One of our groups, from the East Hill Church of Christ in York, NE, arrived on the 30th. They spent New Year's Eve here at the camp, and we had all the kids from the orphanage over for a hot-dog cookout and sleepover. The East Hill group planned some special activities for the kids, and they all trekked down to the village after it got dark to wander the streets and see the "old men" on display. (A New Year's Eve custom in Ecuador is to burn the "old man," a type of scarecrow, stuffed with straw, sawdust, or newspaper, and fireworks. This signifies the end of the old year.)
Alex helped Jhon make an "old man" for the camp.
The boys with the old man. The sign reads, "My name is Don Camp, and we wish you a Happy New Year!"

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Catching Up: November

We celebrated Halloween at the beginning of November (a few days late due to just having completed our move out to the camp). Here's some of what we did:

We painted pumpkins
The finished products (Side note: I think it's hilarious that I went to so much trouble to find orange pumpkins here in Ecuador, and what color do my kids paint them? Green!)
We carved jack-o-lanterns.
Alex wanted a pirate jack-o-lantern.
We went to a costume party and Bingo night hosted by the Tabacundo Church of Christ. Ben made a very cute elephant!
I also added a new activity to our list of Halloween traditions. We made and decorated guaguas de pan (bread babies) in honor of Dia de los Muertos, the Ecuadorian version of Halloween. I got the recipe from a friend of mine, and she has the recipe and a lovely write-up about the holiday posted on her blog here. Here are some pictures of our guaguas:

We hosted a Harvest Party for all Operation Ecuador missionaries and a few other expat friends again this year. Having the party out at the camp meant that we could add in some fun activities like a hayride for the kids and a hotdog roast around the fire pit. Here are some pictures of the fun:

Rusty hitched the trailer to the tractor, filled it with hay, and took the kids on a hayride
Ben driving the tractor with Daddy
Roasting hot dogs
The kids came in costume and we even had trick-or-treating after it got dark
Devo around the campfire
The kids got to frost and decorate Halloween cookies
Much of November was taken up just by settling into our home at Camp Bellevue, trying to re-establish a routine in homeschooling, and figuring out our roles as camp administrators. We were thankful to have the Reeger family nearby as well as Jhon and Laura, who also live and work at the camp, to help us as we made the transition.

In addition to managing a small staff of regular employees and hosting both local and North American groups (the bulk of which occur during the summer months, although we do have occasional groups throughout the year), the camp also runs an After School Program for children of low-income families in the community. The program runs from 2-5 p.m. from Monday through Friday during the school year and is provided free-of-charge. The 100+ children who come receive Bible lessons, tutoring with their school work, snacks, and hot showers twice weekly. It is a great way to use our facilities to bless the community throughout the year, and we consider it one of the camp's most important ministries.

Circle time! These kids love to sing.
Devotional -- listening to a Bible story
Every so often, the teachers perform a little skit for the kids to reinforce the Bible lesson.
At the end of every six weeks, the kids are given a test over the Bible stories from previous weeks. Those who perform well are awarded a special prize. This was November's award ceremony.
At the end of the month, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Our family drove into Quito on Thanksgiving Day and had a lovely dinner with the Marcum family. We stayed the night and traded off childcare so each couple could have a date. Rusty and I went to see "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and had coffee afterwards. On Saturday, we had about 30 expat friends out to the camp for another Thanksgiving Dinner. We ate, played games, and just enjoyed the blessing of a shared cultural heritage. This event brought back such wonderful memories of Thanksgivings in Kenya when all the missionaries would gather for several days of food, fun, and fellowship. Rusty and I hope to make it an annual event at the camp!

Carving the turkey
We give thanks.
A game of horseshoes
Cheering on the dads in their horseshoe game.
Burning calories after a very big meal!
* Thanks to Julie Marcum and Mari Hernandez-Tuten for many of the pictures of the Harvest Party and Thanksgiving at the camp. When I am hosting an event, I often forget to take pictures, so I am thankful these two ladies brought their cameras and snapped so many great shots!