Saturday, June 2, 2012

Here in Saraguro . . .

Thank you so much for your prayers for our safe travel down here in Ecuador. Making the move to Saraguro last month was difficult, because we had expected to work at Camp Pallatanga all year; we both felt that we had unfinished work there. But our mission organization felt that the move was best, and as we prayed about moving to Saraguro, we felt that God had great things in store for us to do; we felt assured that if we were there at the right time, to encourage or help the right person or people, according to God's plan, then the move would be well worth it. So here we are in southern Ecuador and we feel so blessed to be living in Saraguro. We are way up high in the Andes, at 8500ft. This morning we have our wool sweaters on, as it is about 11degrees inside and out, and raining, but not inside (yeah, no leaks!). The house that we're living in is a lovely two story home that was built for our current field director and his family, when they worked here in Saraguro 20 years ago.
looking down onto Saraguro
way up in the Andes! In the three-ish weeks since we've moved to Saraguro, we've had lots of visitors! The five of us have settled in to two of the large bedrooms, so that we have room to host guests in the other bedroom. Our field driector and his wife were here this past weekend. They were travelling with another missionary who lived and worked here in the 80s. It is really neat to visit with them and hear stories of their work here in Saraguro. This week, we had Brian stay; he is a short-term missionary who had been working near Cuenca. Our children like having him visit, as he makes a big fuss of them and gets them all riled up.
Our field director, Tom, and his wife, Susan, ready to leave Saraguro with a trailer full of supplies for a medical team. The house behind is where we are now living.
The view of the town from our upstairs window. The week prior, we had the privilege of hosting Dr Hall and his son, Steve, as well as visiting with Dr and Mrs Douce and their grandson, Joe. Steve took us hiking on trails he had hiked when he was 12. Dr Hall worked in Saraguro in the 60s, when Dr Douce was on furlough. Dr Douce has worked here in Saraguro for over 50 years. They had a very busy week here, visiting townspeople who refer to them as grandma and grandpa Douce. At mid 80 and 90 years of age, it was inspiring to accompany them on visits to people in Saraguro and surrounding villages. Their love and attention to the people here is amazing.
Dr Douce and Dr Hall back in Saraguro where they spent years taking care of patients.
Mrs Douce visiting and sharing with locals.
Dr Douce fitting a local weaver with "new" glasses.
I sure enjoyed the visits out and about in the surrounding communities!
Hiking fun! We explore a waterfall and some caves at the end of this trail. We have been very warmly received by the townspeople here, due to the amazing work of OMS missionaries in Saraguro since the 1950s. The house hadn't been lived in for a couple of years (just used now and again for an overnight), so once the townspeople sensed activity here, lots of people dropped in to see who the new missionaries were. Ethan joined the local soccer team the third day we were here; he eagerly anticipates the 3:30 practice each day. The girls have had friends come over after school each day to swing on the rope swings that they tied up into an open shed on the property. Our cat and dog love the porch overlooking the town and the fenced property around the house. So we are very comfortable here. Saraguro is a small town, with a classic central square built around a big, old Catholic church.
We meet a lot of people through Ethan's soccer.
Most of his soccer team, likes to come back to our house to play mini-stick-hockey on the front porch.
The children are enjoying getting to play with other children!
Our neighbours have been dropping by to see who is now living in the OMS house. Don describes Saraguro like this: Our house here overlooks the town and we have a beautiful view of the Andes on three sides. Within a block, we have a small corner store (which sells essentials, including large bottles of potable water), the Duragas company (for purchasing the 50lb bottles of propane that power our gas stove and water heating system), the hardware store I use for all of my supplies, an OMS church, a health clinic, a dental office, and of course the ever important internet place (great for e-mail, though it doesn't have enough service to skype). You could feasibly live in this house and not need to walk more than a block to live indefinitely. Every Sunday there is a large farmer's market that also starts at the corner of our block. It is primarily indigenous people who live in the mountains bringing their produce into town to sell. We can buy all of the fruits and vegetables we can eat in a week there and it is extremely cheap and fresh. Of course, Spanish is a must have in Saraguro, so we get daily Spanish practice.
Living amongst a lot of tradition. This neighbour asked us for some branches off of a tree in our yard. She'll boil up the branches and leaves for a foot-therapy soak.
Many people in town wear traditional clothing.
Lots of the houses here are brick or plaster on the front walls, then mud brick on the side walls. People here are still hand-spinning wool from their own sheep, and growing much of their own food.
Don hauling propane tanks so we can cook and have hot water. We've been enjoying the OMS church's services in Spanish. Its hard work keeping a keen ear and translating throughout the three-ish hour services. My Spanish is also being stretched as I attend a local womens' Bible Study. Don's to-do list here in Sarguro is plentiful. The two local OMS churches run a rehab clinic and a radio station. Both have requests for Don's assistance with wiring issues and other maintenance projects. As well, this house has lots of character, and lots of maintenance needs. Don machete-ed through the side garden and added a brick path and some tiered planters alongside the house, and now the street-view of the place is much, much nicer. Today he is staining and painting the exterior, after having spent a few days sanding it down. In between projects, he fixes leaks, replacing non-working lights and switches, and fis iguring out how to keep the gas-water-heater working. So the house is enjoying his attention! The pets are a help with the house, too, the local rat population is no longer leaving evidence in the main level of the house each morning.
The house has a cabin-feel with lots of character.
Scout and Skittles are enjoying Saraguro.
Machete-ing a spot for the laundry line that Don hung.
Sanding the graffiti off of the garage door.
The side-yard and the garage are the house's first impressions. Don is fixing them up . . .
and it is looking great!
Cleaning the attic skylights so we have lots of natural light coming into the upstairs of this lovely house. Now I'm off to homeschool our three children. They're working amongst the lines of laundry hanging to dry in the house; it is rather comical. They are progressing really well with their year's work, as well as their Spanish, and their concepts of how our lives are God's, and our purpose is to glorify Him in all that we do. We are learning lots too! Our work here is both humbling and an honour. This week our family is focusing on Philipians 4:8-9, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about these things.” This is how we have hope and peace. And we sure thank God for you and for your support! We pray for you daily.
Blessings, Amanda and crew

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Hola" from the Galapagos Islands

God is so amazing. We are really learning to pray and trust Him in every little decision. So many things are not under our control here in Ecuador: like when a bus comes and goes, what will be needed at camp and when, etc. For example, a great big huge eucalypus tree's root ball became saturated in our Pallatanga rains and fell along the front of the camp's hall, so Don's construction plans for the day changed to chain-sawing plans. The challenge became an opportunity, as Don and Guido designed curved brick stairs for the area where the tree had been, and the new steps really compliment the camp's infrastructure and improve access to the main hall.

Now I am typing to you from under a pool-side umbrella, on Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos. We had planned to come to the Galapagos Islands in July, after completing our mission work and before heading home. But there weren't any camps booked for mid-April, and its the low-season here at the Galapagos, so we were able to arrange a really great tour of the islands. We pre-booked and pre-paid in Guayaquil, with a travel agent recommended by another OMS missionary. Now we get picked-up and dropped-off here and there without a care, except our sunscreen needs. Its an amazing experience!!!!

This morning, we were scheduled to change hotels, from one side of Puerto Ayora to the other. The children were concerned, because the hotel where we'd been staying had a little, clean pool. They asked if we could change back if we didn't like the new hotel. But everything is pre-booked and pre-paid. So we all prayed about it and decided to be thankful for the time we'd already had at our nice hotel. Now we're settled into our new accommodations: the pool is bigger, the internet access is stronger (I can blog!), and the rooms are cleaner: we just feel so very blessed! And we are learning so much through these kinds of experiences.

Today, Don is off scuba diving; we haven't been in 15 years. The children and I are having a “free day”, which is lovely as our tours have begun at 5:30 and 6am each day. We've been to four different islands in the last few days. The kids LOVED bodysurfing at the beach on Isabella Island. The ocean is warm, the beach sand is hot. The children have all learned to snorkel. We've snorkelled with lots of neat fish, SEA LIONS, PENGUINS, STING RAYS, an eel, and even a jellyfish (ouch - that one hurt, but we're all okay now). We just feel so absolutely in awe of the nature and geography we are learning about.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Kim is heading to the US for a few weeks, with her youngest daughter. Guido and the two older girls are heading to Cuenca for awhile (where he grew-up). The camp's cook is staying at the camp with her family to look after things. Kim is scheduled to speak at a conference in the States, so please do pray for her. If you could pray for both of our families. We live close together, camp times are intense and we all get tired. So please ask for unity, grace, and perseverance for each one of us. We fly back to Guayaquil on April 24th, then we plan to take a bus back up to camp on the 26th.

Blessings to you! We are all really missing home, and this amazing holiday is definitely a distraction. We wish we could send you some of this heat. =)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Easter!

We hope that spring is beginning to warm you up and draw you outdoors. As you may have heard on international news, the weather in Ecuador is still very wet. Landslides are very common on the highways, so Don has to keep a sharp lookout for them from winding-corner to winding-corner when he's driving here in the mountains. You can read about our last hair-raising driving story in the blog link "Wow That's Different". The coast is suffering in some areas from flooding; so much so that the government has delayed the start of school for almost two weeks. This affects the children in town, but not our home-schoolers here at camp. We understand that the roads here have really improved in the last few years, still we do find surprises each time we drive.

Roads are narrow for lots of different reasons: buildings built against the roads,
a pipe headed through the roads,
or a single-lane bridge.
The big ol' camp truck chugs along well most of the time.

March was a month full of camps. Lots of singing echoed off through the valley here, as most groups have worship services after meals. Campers make full use of the property and facilities, enjoying the cool mountain air here in Pallatanga. Here are some recent camp pictures:
attentive camper listening to a sermon
the Murray kids were excited to cook pancakes for the US Dynamic Women team!
prayer and worship in the camp hall
more pancake making on the BIG stove
children's camp worship time
praying and listening to messages
Quilting camp "stitching stories of our lives, together"
the camp gym is converted to a quilting bee spot: busy quilters working hard on hand-stitching blankets (note the mural behind - Don designed it and Amanda painted it!)
Quilting joy!

There are so many little challenges in our work here, that I would like to share with you, and make you laugh. Like the laugh we had after we left St Albert and we come all the way to the mission field in Ecuador, to find ourselves with an ensuite-bathroom for our first time ever. Only to discover that the plumbing continually backed-up (and is entirely concreted in: toilet base, shower drain-cover, and all), and the window in there is only screen, so from the bedroom we hear everything happening in the next building: the camp kitchen, the dining hall, and meeting rooms. Within a few months, we'd give up that ensuite bedroom to our son, as he had trouble breathing at night in the bedroom at the other end of the house (likely due to bat feces in the ceiling). So many little things are done differently here.

There have been other bigger challenges throughout our very busy March, challenges that I'd likely cry telling you about. I've been hosting all kinds of stomach and intestinal things, so I've had all kinds of medication this past month, including a surprise IV, right there and then, in our local town lab. Ethan has been fighting tummy bugs too, as well as a throat infection. Lauren, Katelyn, and Don are healthy! Hooray!!!! After working endless hours in the new house, tracing concreted-in wires that have been installed over the past few years, Don was nearly finished the house' electrical; when one of the workers, digging a trench, outside in the rain, leaned up against the new house, and discovered that he served as a good ground, exposing an electrical leak (only 40 volts) that was literally charging the house, via the rebar cemented into the walls. Don handled the news well, laughing and suggesting it provided a good snake/rat deterent; then he worked to find the source of the problem and fixed it. Prior to us arriving in Ecuador in November, we were told that the house would be ready for us to move into shortly after we arrived. But while many parts of the construction are coming along well, the house still does not have exterior doors; so we're still a ways from moving in (though birds and bats enjoy it as shelter). We've been living out of suitcases for eight months now. These kinds of challenges make us realize that we're working according to God's schedule; we are learning a lot about ourselves and Him as we pray through these challenges. We do need prayer for camp unity, for servant's hearts, and grace-filled loving spirits. We are so thankful for your prayers and support.
Scary getting gan Iv in the local lab
the waiting room conditions don't engender much trust
the new house has septic and water now!
our current little house boasts a colourful jungle garden

We do have so very much to be thankful for, here in Ecuador! Recently we visited friends in Shell, a jungle jump-off town made famous by Nate Saint's mission and martyrdom (Have you read the books “Through the Gates of Splendour” or “The End of the Spear”). We joined our friends at an orphanage in Shell where they work each week. Shell has a mission school, a mission hanger, and a mission hospital, so we were able to connect with lots of other missionaries and encourage one another. Meanwhile, Don was off at an One Mission Society men's retreat in the jungle. He travelled down the Napo river in a small boat and hiked in the Amazon with six other missionary men. On our way back from the jungle, we sat under the night sky and soaked in some hotsprings heated by volcano Tungurahua.
Nate Saint memorial park
Banos hotpools
varieties of pools and temperatures to soak in
Casa Fe orphanage
playing with the children

Napo river tour
OMS men's retreat jungle hike

The children's daily devotionals and home-school work are providing us lots of time for us to learn and play together. The kids love the space to run and climb here at camp. Their play is very creative. Until some friends visited Ecuador and gave the girls barbies for Christmas, the kids didn't actually have any toys along with them. We'd brought lots of homeschool resources, but we didn't want to bring toys, not knowing if our neighbours would have such things. SO, the children spend hours and hours outside. They especially love playing in the trees. At the moment, Ethan is out practicing with his Pallatanga soccer team. He provides us all with lots of opportunity to practice our spanish, through his games and interactions with his team-mates and their families. These conversations often begin with the question of why our family is living here; and they usually get into deep meaningful conversations that challenge the extent of our spanish vocabulary. This week, Ethan's coach asked us for a Bible. Kim and I are no longer home-schooling each other's children, so I've taken over teaching our kids spanish, which is fun but humbling. Today Don is tracing electrical lines that run down to the camp sign near the highway. All of the connections are left exposed, so often they get moisture trapped in them and they short-out. Meanwhile he is in the middle of building some new tables for the dining hall; the tables have managed to grow mould over the weekend, so we've got to scrub them up with disinfectant before putting on the polyurethane coats. There is always lots to do around camp!
After a morning's four and a half hour soccer practice
Ethan's soccer coach
homeschooling in the kitchen

We are missing you. With three months left here in Ecuador, our thoughts are creeping homeward. We are all excited about being reunited with family and friends in Alberta, in July. Please pray for our families, for encouragement, and especially for health for Terry, Vin, and Dave back at home.

Blessings to you,
Don, Amanda, Ethan, Lauren and Katelyn