Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Year in the Life: September, 2018

The first part of September is quiet (the kitchen staff are taking a week of well-deserved vacation), and I am trying to reestablish the routines of a "normal" life, including homeschooling, hospitality, pizza-and-a-movie nights with the kids, lunch dates with Rusty, and meal-planning and food prep for just my family. I always find that I have to sort of relearn how to cook in my home kitchen for a small group of people after an entire summer of thinking in large quantities for large groups. I feel like a little girl playing with toy pots and pans at first!

The boys and I finish out the last two weeks of the school year, which we didn't get to before the summer rush, and then I begin planning the next one, pulling out and organizing the books and materials we will use. My house has been neglected for an entire summer, and there are many things that need to be organized and put away, many areas that need tidied up. Ben is ready for bigger clothes, so I pull out the tub of size 6/7 clothes and put them away in his closet, then bag the clothes he has outgrown for donation to the camp's clothing closet. I still haven't finished getting everything in order to file our taxes, so I spend several days working hard to finish this project. I also write and send a family newsletter. I feel like I am playing catch-up on so many things I've gotten behind on over the past several weeks.

On the way in to Quito for some errands one day with Rusty, our Nissan overheats and breaks down on the side of the highway. We have been having problems with it for some time, and this is frustrating, especially since my parents are coming to visit soon and we will be going to the beach with them. We have it hauled to our mechanic in Quito and he keeps it for a few days and makes a few repairs. Later, we find out that we need to have the motor rebuilt, an expensive undertaking that we don't have the funds for right now. Thankfully, Rusty's Landrover, which has been in the shop for over a year having body work done to convert it from a pickup to a wagon, is at least drivable by this point, so we have a car to drive while we try to make a decision about the Nissan.

Elizabeth's first day of preschool is on September 10. The first day is just the opening ceremony, and the rest of the week, she is home each day before lunch. So, it is an easy and gentle introduction to school for her. She has a great first week!

Rusty attends the Global Member Care Conference in Quito during the second week in September. This conference is focused on educating and training those who provide care to missionaries or cross-cultural workers. He has a great time and makes some new friends and contacts.

The camp ladies come back to work in mid-September after two weeks off. They spend a couple of days cleaning, sorting and folding piles of clean sheets, and organizing and setting up their classrooms for another year of the After School Program, which will begin on Monday. I put their supply boxes together and help set up the library.

On Saturday, September 15th, Rusty takes the three boys to their first baseball practice of the season. I stay home, finally finish our taxes(!), prep food for our beach trip next week, and decorate the house for fall! I want to do this now because I will be gone for the next nearly 3 weeks, and then when I get back, I'll be busy for a couple of weeks before traveling again.

On Sunday, we head to church at Pisulí, then go out to lunch and do some grocery shopping. There is a huge hailstorm in Quito that afternoon. In some sections, the hail is over a foot deep! From a distance, it looks like snow. Isabel calls us to say that she won't be coming into work tomorrow because her house has flooded. We decide to go over and try to help her family. Rusty and Alex help her husband shovel hail off their roof before the melting ice can cause more damage to what's inside the house. Aside from everything getting a good soaking, the only casualty to their belongings is a chipboard cupboard, which we offer to help her replace.

Monday September 17th is the first day of After School Program. It's great to see all the kids again after the summer vacation! I spend the day packing and getting ready for the beach. Rusty loads the car. We eat dinner and then head out. First stop -- the airport to pick up my parents who will be spending the next 2.5 months in Ecuador! We stay the night at the Marcum's (they are currently in the U.S. on furlough, but their house makes a nice stopover and will shorten our drive to the beach tomorrow).

The next day, we continue our journey to the coast, finally arriving at Tonsupa and our friends' condo about 5:00 p.m. We will spend the next week here enjoying some rest, relaxation, and family time.

We pass our days playing in the waves, digging in the sand, swimming in the pools, playing games, doing puzzles, reading, watching movies, enjoying beautiful sunsets, and eating yummy seafood. One morning, we take a boat ride out to the Isla de los Pajaros so my parents can see birds. They really love birding, and Ecuador is quite the place for it! We see frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Another day, we take the kids to the Aqua Park. Rusty and I have agreed to help our friends with the purchase of a new fridge for the condo, so we head into the city one afternoon to make the purchase and then have dinner at a restaurant on the beach. Mom and Dad keep the kids -- grandparents are awesome!

All too soon, our family vacation is over and it's time to head home. We drive back to Tabacundo via Mindo, stopping for a late lunch and to visit the butterfly farm. We arrive home in time for dinner. I have one day at home to do laundry, and repack my bags before leaving for Brazil. Mom and Dad will be staying with Rusty and the kids next week while I am gone, and she will be in charge of meals, so I take her grocery shopping and show her around my kitchen.

I travel to Brazil on Saturday, July 29th. Jerica and I travel together. We fly to Bogota, then to São Paulo. We make our way to the Monreale Hotel, where we will be staying for the next two nights. The Connections conference doesn't begin until Monday afternoon, but because of flight schedules, this was the best option for the money. It is nice to have a day in between traveling and the beginning of the conference to rest and do a little work at the hotel.

September moments (clockwise from top left):
  1. First day of preschool for Elizabeth!
  2. Back to homeschool with my crew
  3. Boat ride to the Isla de los Pajaros
  4. Mom and Dad enjoying the lazy river with Stephen
  5. Fun in the pool
  6. "Back to routine" means back to piano lessons and practice. My mom gave the boys several lessons while she was here.

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Year in the Life: August, 2018

Youth camp continues through the first week in August.This camp is sponsored by the Fort Walton Beach Church of Christ from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. They have been putting on this camp each summer for the past nearly 20 years, and it is always a great week and results in several baptisms. We are grateful for their partnership with the camp and our family (this church recently became part of our family's personal support team).

During this week, I am working 14-16 hour days in the kitchen while Rusty is mostly at home with the kids, although he does have a few responsibilities throughout the week. Also, I am already thinking ahead to next week and the next camp. There is a menu to finalize, groceries to purchase, and orders to place for meat, chicken, bread, and fruits and veggies.

Camp ends on Saturday, August 4th. After lunch, the campers depart, and the camp feels strangely empty and quiet! I begin to immediately do laundry -- with only 2 full days before the start of the next camp, I will keep our 3 washers and 2 dryers running nearly constantly in order to get enough sets of sheets washed and dried so beds can be made for the next set of campers. We send the rest of the staff home to rest for the remainder of today and tomorrow. They have worked hard all week long, and I am so thankful for them! I shower, clean up, and put on normal clothes (and even a little make-up!), and then we go out to dinner with the Florida team to celebrate another successful youth camp.

On Sunday morning, I serve breakfast to the team and we have a short worship service at the camp followed by a meeting to talk about next year. Then we go out for lunch together. Afterwards, we say goodbye and they head off for a few days of R&R. I continue doing laundry most of Sunday afternoon and evening.

On Monday, August 6th, the staff return, ready for another week of work. They spend the morning cleaning cabins and making beds in preparation for Basketball Camp. The counselors begin arriving in the afternoon. We do some training sessions with them, and they help decorate and set up. After dinner, we have a devotional all together.

On Tuesday, Basketball Camp begins. This week, Rusty is helping with the camp all week as one of the directors, while I stay at home with the kids. One of my staff will be running the kitchen all week. Alex is old enough to participate in Basketball Camp this year, so I will have just the three younger ones with me at the house.

I use my few days at home to get everything in order for Kids Camp next week. I do most of the planning and organizing for this camp, and there is still a lot to be done, so it is nice to have a few days at home to focus on it.

Basketball Camp ends on Saturday with an all-day tournament. The campers leave in the late afternoon and I begin the laundry cycle again. On Sunday, we attend church at Pisulí and then do some grocery shopping before heading home to get ready for tomorrow.

The staff are back to work again on Monday, August 13th, for our final camp of the summer. They clean and prep cabins while I set up for Kids Camp. The counselors arrive in the afternoon and are a big help with the decorating. We are doing Egyptian decor this year, to go along with our theme, "The Life of Joseph," and they make some amazing wall decorations out of brown paper, markers, crayons, paint, and glitter! We have dinner together, followed by a devo.

Kids Camp begins on Tuesday afternoon, with the arrival of the campers. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Although planning, organizing, and directing a camp is a lot of work, I have also found it to be hugely rewarding! I have help in the actual directing of the camp from Syndi and Guillermo. They do a great job, and we make a good team. After the registration dust settles, we have 47 campers this year, a record high!

Kids Camp runs for three full days, plus 2 partial days for arrival and departure. The schedule I have found works best is to do a Bible lesson in the mornings, followed by games and a craft to reinforce the key point. The kids then meet in small groups with their counselors to have some discussion time and to practice their memory verse. After lunch, we have them rotating in groups to art class and sports. Then we have an "afternoon activity," and after dinner each night, an "evening activity." For the first afternoon, we play Bible Smugglers outside. The kids love this game! Our evening activity is indoor games, including Bingo, and a hilarious game called "Captain's Orders," which they never seem to tire of.

On the second day, we have an Egyptian themed treasure hunt in the afternoon. After dinner and the campfire devo, there are s'mores, followed by outdoor games with glow-sticks. The third afternoon is set aside for a service project. This year, the kids are making 40 no-sew fleece blankets to donate to a prison ministry. We have also invited a Christian brother who served time in prison and now heads up a prison ministry to talk to the kids about his experiences and about the importance of ministering to the incarcerated. After dinner, we spread out thin mattresses in the auditorium, give all the kids bags of popcorn, and have a movie night. In keeping with the week's theme, I have chosen "Joseph, King of Dreams."

Kids Camp ends on Saturday morning after breakfast and a closing ceremony. The campers leave before lunch, and we have a brief meeting with all the counselors before sending them and the staff on their way. We are now completely done with summer camps -- hooray! -- although we still have one final group coming to the camp next week. We have a few days before their arrival to do laundry, clean cabins, shop for food, and put away all the supplies and decorations used during Kids Camp.

Our final group of the summer is from the Bible college. They are doing their new student orientation. It is just for one night, Wednesday night, August 22nd. By Thursday afternoon, we are completely done with groups for the summer! It is a good feeling. On Friday, we have a big cleaning day at the camp. We prepare a special lunch for all the staff and I make a cake to celebrate those with August birthdays. It's a good way to end the summer and to thank everyone for all their hard work.

Ben's birthday falls at the end of August. He requests to go to Mr. Joy, a big indoor play zone in Quito, so we head there on his actual birthday. The next day, we finish celebrating with cake and presents. The end of August also means it's back-to-school time. I start doing lessons with the boys again and sign them up to play baseball with the Quito Youth Baseball League this fall, and we also fill out all the paperwork to enroll Elizabeth in the preschool class at the Hacienda of Hope Christian Academy.

Summer is over -- now we can breathe again!

August moments (clockwise from top left):
  1. Kitchen staff for Youth Camp week -- a great team!
  2. Happy 7th birthday, Benji!
  3. Basketball Camp
  4. Kids Camp firepit devo
  5. Kids Camp blanket-making service project

Thursday, May 09, 2019

A Year in the Life: July, 2018

The Family Mission Trip continues through the first week in July. A little background on the FMT: the idea for this trip was born out of the desire of friends of ours from the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville (one of our supporting churches) to involve their children in service and missions in meaningful ways. Over the years (this is the 5th FMT), the trip has included participants from almost all of our supporting congregations, and others from outside those circles. We have had many children and teens participate, and even several baptisms throughout the years. The FMT has become one of the highlights of our family's year -- we love watching families serve and minister together!

This year, the FMT participants worship with the Cayambe Church of Christ on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, there is a medical clinic at the camp and preparations continue for VBS. We have a campfire complete with s'mores and a devo in the evening.

On Monday, the 4-day VBS begins. The basic structure of the FMT is as follows: VBS runs at the camp in the mornings, and then in the afternoons, there are medical clinics, some at the camp, some at off-site locations. Also, throughout the week, we have construction and community service projects for people to work on. This year, we are putting a new roof on a neighbor's house, and pushing hard to get the last section of the prayer trail around the perimeter of the camp completed.

On Wednesday afternoon, July 4th, we take a break from our work to celebrate Independence Day! We play baseball, make festive desserts, have a cookout, and end the evening with a grand fireworks display.

Thursday is the last day of work projects. The medical team spends all day doing a clinic at a new church in Machachi, a couple of hours south of Quito. VBS ends with a bang -- over 100 kids! We complete the prayer trail (a project several years in the making), and take a celebratory walk on it after lunch.

On Friday after breakfast, we leave on the bus for Mindo. We will spend the next couple of days playing and having fun after working hard all week! We stay at a cute hotel in Mindo, and have dinner all together. The next day, we enjoy Mindo until after lunch, then head back to Quito. We tour the Middle of the World Museum, then have dinner at everyone's favorite, Crepes and Waffles, before dropping the group off at the airport on Saturday night for their flights home. It has been another great FMT! 

While we were in Mindo with the FMT, another U.S. group has arrived at the camp. So on Sunday, we jump right into preparing meals and taking care of them. I also begin working on publicity for our upcoming camps, while Rusty is in the middle of designing and installing a disc golf course for the camp. Work continues on the apartment for Guillermo and Syndi's family, and we hope to have it move-in ready soon!

The U.S. group leaves at the end of the week, and I squeeze in a few more days of homeschool lessons with the boys in the midst of planning and prepping for camps. We are nearly done with our school year and will complete all but two weeks before summer camps begin. Stephen Lockwood arrives from Bellevue (our sponsoring congregation) to spend a few days with us at the camp. We enjoy our visits with him.

A Young Friends (Let's Start Talking) team from the Bellevue Church of Christ arrives on July 21st. These are members of the youth group, plus a couple of adult sponsors. They will put on our first camp of the summer, English Camp! We take them to worship with the church in Cayambe on Sunday; then they spend the rest of the day organizing their supplies and getting ready for their camp.

English Camp begins on Monday. It is a day camp, so the campers come each morning and leave each afternoon. We provide lunch. We have nearly 40 kids register on the first day, which is a bit more than the team feels prepared to handle, but they make it work. After camp ends on Wednesday afternoon, the Young Friends team pitches in to help the Racines family move in to the now completed apartment. Cabin 3 (where the Racines have been living) is now vacant again, just in time for our big youth camp coming up!

On Thursday night, the campers get to stay the night for a sleepover at the camp! The team plans some afternoon activities, and we serve dinner. This is followed by a campfire devo with s'mores, and then a zombie game with glow-sticks. On Friday morning, we serve breakfast, and there are some closing activities, and then English Camp ends. In the afternoon, the team helps us clean up, make beds, and get the camp ready for youth camp the following week. We are hosting a graduation dinner at the camp that evening for a part-time employee, so we invite the team up to our house for games and a movie.

On Saturday, Rusty takes the Young Friends team to Otavalo for shopping and to Chachimbiro to enjoy the hot springs. I stay back at the camp to welcome the US team who will be putting on the youth camp next week. They arrive in the afternoon and begin preparations for camp. We have a shared dinner with both groups that evening.

On Sunday, Rusty accompanies the Young Friends team to Quito. They attend services at the Pisulí Church of Christ, then spend the rest of the day sightseeing in Quito before flying home that night. I stay at the camp to oversee meals for the camp team. Their Ecuadorian helpers arrive on Sunday afternoon, and preparations are now in full swing for youth camp, which begins the next day.

On Monday, July 30, youth camp begins. It is our largest group of the year with close to 200 people, sometimes a few more! The campers arrive in the afternoon, and our first meal for the entire group is dinner. We decide to try something different this year, and make sancochco de pescado, a hearty fish soup. It is a big hit!

The last day of July is our first full day of youth camp. I spend a long day in the kitchen, busy with cooking and food prep. Cooking for this number of people, we need 8 staff, working 12-hour shifts, plus me overseeing everything. We finish serving one meal and move right into preparations for the next. It is a lot of work, but we have a lot of fun, too!

July moments (clockwise from top left):
  1. Family Mission Trippers working on the camp's prayer trail.
  2. Everyone loves the craft station at VBS!
  3. Working together to give an elderly neighbor a new roof for her home.
  4. English Camp opening activity.
  5. Soup for 200!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

A Year in the Life: June, 2018

We still have a U.S. group at the camp until June 2nd. After they leave, we get a 2-week break from summer groups, which is a good thing since there are a lot of other things going on!

Jake and Tanya Wilson are leaving Ecuador after 5 years of serving as the directors at the Hacienda of Hope Christian Academy. Jerica and I host a goodbye party for them and their close friends. We have the party at the camp. It is a cookout. Following the meal, we have a time to share our thanks and words of encouragement as they embark on a new phase of life.

I get a few more days of lessons in with the boys before the next groups arrive. In addition, I am prepping for upcoming groups and continuing to work on our taxes. The after-school program is still in session until mid-June, and we are getting ready for our end-of-the-year events, including the final parent night and the field trip. A school group has their end-of-the-year dinner at camp.

Rusty travels into Quito one Saturday to help with a "minga" (community work project) at the Pisulí Church of Christ. The church is putting in a set of exterior stairs to make their recently completed meeting room more accessible. He also travels down to Pujilí to meet with the Christians there in preparation for the prison ministry conference that we will be doing with the Family Mission Trip at the end of the month.

Jake and Tanya leave Ecuador on June 13th. We have agreed to take Chiquito, their Great Dane, and give him a home with us at the camp. We bring them dinner on their last night, and then Rusty takes them to the airport. Adios, amigos!

June 14th is the final day for the After School Program until next school year! We finish out the year with an end-of-the-year parent night. Each class sings a song in Spanish and in English. After the program, we serve a snack and offer early sign-ups for next year.

The following day, our two EQEB interns, Jenny and Daniela, arrive. They will spend the next six weeks gaining some practical ministry experience by helping the camp. This is our third year to have interns from the Bible college. We enjoy having them, and they are a big help during some of our busiest weeks. Maranda, a friend from the US, also arrives. She plans to spend the next couple of weeks helping out at the camp as well.

We like to finish out each school year by planning a field trip for all the kids in the After School Program. This year, we have planned to take them all to the zoo on Saturday, June 16th. We spend a fun day with the kids seeing the animals and having a picnic. For many of these kids, it is their first time to visit the zoo.

A dental team from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center arrives late Saturday night. This is a group of dentistry students and a few professors / practicing dentists. This is their third year to come to Ecuador, and we love having them. They are a very professional and hard-working bunch. They will spend the next few days doing dental clinics both at the camp and a few off-site locations. 

Two days later, another U.S. group arrives at the camp. Then two days after that, a small team of 3 teachers arrives to do some projects at the school and in some of the community schools. One of their projects is a mini teachers' retreat, which is held at the camp. It is a lot to juggle all at once, but we manage.

On Sunday, June 24th, I go to church at Pisulí while Rusty stays home to help take care of our remaining groups. Syndi and I have planned a baby shower for Veronica, the wife of one of the church leaders, which is held immediately following the service. I bring a cake, and we play silly games and have a time of sharing.

We get a few days in between this last batch of summer groups and the Family Mission Trip. Preparations are in full swing -- there is food to buy, housing and a million other details to figure out. Maranda decides to leave a few days early due to some family concerns at home.

The Family Mission Trip participants arrive late on Thursday night, June 28th. We spend Friday morning in orientation meetings. Rusty takes them to Otavalo on Friday afternoon to shop at the artisans' market. Saturday is "special project day." A small group does some painting at the church in Cayambe. There is also an all-day medical clinic at the camp and a prison ministry conference at the church in Pujilí, and preparations are being made for the camp's VBS starting on Monday.

And here are a few photos from June (clockwise from top left):
  1. Decorating the auditorium for VBS
  2. Prison ministry conference at the Pujilí Church of Christ
  3. Farewell to Jake and Tanya Wilson
  4. Quito zoo with the After School Program
  5. Dental team hard at work seeing patients
  6. Packing meds for the medical clinics