A Very Merry Christmas

16 12 2007

Maria Baptism

What a special Christmas present I received last week. This picture of this cute girl being baptized. What is the significance? It is Maria!!! We sponsor Maria through a “Compassion International” type program in Ecuador. Talking about a thrill —- The tears of joy started welling up in my eyes when I downloaded this pic. To see our little girl making her profession of faith in Jesus Christ was awesome.

Over the last few years THE highlight for me has been seeing Maria and the other children that we sponsor when we lead a team to Ecuador during the summer. Let me encourage you to consider sponsorship if you do not already do it. It is a way to correspond with a child from another culture and really make a lasting impact. If you are able to go and visit your child, all the better, but even if you cannot do that, you can be involved in touching a young life with compassion and Christ. Our sponsorship is through Amor y Esperanza Foundatio in Ecuador. Hope also recommends Compassion International.

Oh, and to make it even richer, the next picture I downloaded was this one — Maria and her Mom. God also worked in the heart of Maria’s Mom so that she also professed her faith in Christ.

Maria & Mom

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Ecuador Prison Revisited

9 08 2007

I heard from Sharon from the prison ministry in Ecuador. Here is what she wrote me in an email:

“Hello, David.

Thank you for writing. It was a pleasure for me to take your group into the prison. It was such a treat for the kids and also for our girls. They have asked me when we will do it again. The kids ask every time I go in if we are going to do crafts.

The info on your blog is fine. And you may post the fotos as well. Let me know if you receive them.

Thank you for praying for us. Let’s keep in touch.

God bless you and your ministry.

Sharon”

Here are the photos that she sent.

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Here is the courtyard in the interior of the prison where we hung out with the children and some of the prisoners. Note the laundry hanging from the cells and the guard tower in the upper left.

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Laurie and Patty starting to draw a crowd for some singing and a Bible story.

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Leslie and Kate blowing up a bunch of balloons for some happy kids.

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These women strive to make the best out of a very difficult situation by trusting in the Lord.

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Gary and Carol working on a craft with some of the kids.

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Some of the children are born while the mom’s are in prison.

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Here are Sharon’s girls singing “I’ll Fly Away”. (See Ecuador Day 10)

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The young woman on the left is from New Jersey.

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Here is a team photo with these precious women. Note the various ages and nationalities.





Ecuador – Day 13

5 08 2007

We made it back safely!!!! And apparently God healed my “a” key. (See Ecuador – Day 12) We left at 9:45 PM from Quito and arrived in Memphis at 9:45 AM this morning.

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Our last day on Thursday was truly bitter sweet. Being our last day, it meant that there were some “goodbyes” coming which is always painful. But we had a great afternoon with our kids in Carolina Park. We played games and did a very cool craft.

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Here is Maria holding that craft. We had them make picture books of pictures that we had made the last few days.

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Gary with his soccer budd, Anderson.

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Gary and Carol with Anderson, Little Carol and their mom.

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Here we are will Carolina, Esefania, Sabastian, Maria and Nicolle.


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Laurie & Sweet little Nicole

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Here I am with Nicole and Maria

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Kate and Kristy with all their kids.

After we left our kids for the last time with tears in our eyes, we headed to one last tourist attraction —- Virgen del Panecillo. This impressive monument was completed in 1976 by Spanish artist Agustín de la Herrán Matorras. It sits on a high pedestal on the top of Panecillo, a hill overlooking all of Quito. This is a depiction of Revelation 12:1-5. Check out the winged Virgin and the awesome view.

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Ecuador – Day 12

2 08 2007

The inernet w@S down l@st night @nd @s you c@n see, I @m h@ving @ little keybo@rd problem. I just h@ve @ minute @s we @re p@cking up to check out of the hotel. Yesterd@y we @te lunch with the kids in @ p@rk. Here @re @ few pics.

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H@ppy Birthd@y C@rol! One of her m@ny celebr@tions during the d@y.

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Ecuador – Day 11

1 08 2007

At the Zoo

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The next few days before we head back to Memphis, we are taking the kids that we sponsor on some field trips. We are very grateful to Pancho and Pity with Fundacion Amor Y Esperanza for working with us to make this a reality. Today we headed for the Quito Zoo. One problem. When we arrived, we were informed that the zoo was closed due to some construction on the property. We were disappointed but ready to flex with another plan when Fernando stepped up and worked it out that we were able:

1. Go inside the zoo.

2. Have it all to ourselves.

3. Get tickets for half price.

4. Have the DIRECTOR of the zoo be our tour guide.

Isn’t God gracious?

 

Here are a bunch of pics of our day.

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The joy of reunion.

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Laurie and I with our kids.

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Carol and two of her guys.

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Leslie’s full crew!

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Kristy and the latest sponsored child.

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Our favorite friend at the zoo —- this huge Galapagos turtle. When we walked up to the fence, this big guy started making his way over for a visit.

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This friendly turtle wanted to get as close as he could to us.

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The zoo director said that he was probably around 70 years old. They can live to be over 100 years old.

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Kate wants a rabbit, Dad!

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The kids loved the petting and feeding zoo area.

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Fernando brought his boys with him today. Great guys!

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The full zoo crew.

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Gary and Carol walking their family home in a community called Palistina.

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How many of you have a child named after you in another country? Well, Carol does!!! Here is little Carol modeling a dress that our Carol made for her.

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I LOVE this picture of Maria and since I run this blog, I HAD to put it in.

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See you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 





Ecuador – Day 10

31 07 2007

Morning at the Women’s Prison

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Our morning started out with the sobering realities of the women’s prison in Quito. The picture above is the entrance. and it is the only picture we were able to take.

 

We were met at the prison by Sharon Smith.

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Sharon and her husband Jim are 30 year missionaries to Ecuador. Among other things, she heads up SOUL (Shine On Us Lord) Prison Ministry. She told us that this prison is set up to hold 300 but it now holds 600 women plus children. Most of these women are expatriates from around the world. Many are guilty of drug crimes but there are some who were set up and are serving time with very limited legal recourse. They live under dreadful conditions.

 

After some discussion and signing of papers, our bags of crafts for the children were checked; we were patted down and had our arms stamped before we were allowed to enter.

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Walking down the hall, we looked up and saw three stories of cells with clothes hanging out to dry from many of them. We were led to a room where we organized our crafts and then went out to a courtyard to play with the children.

 

I am not sure what the total was but I think we saw about 150 kids. We had a Bible story and song area — a balloon area —- a craft area for crosses with cutout hand prints — and a craft area with cross necklaces. The children had a great time.

 

We were assisted by some of the women in the prison who are a part of Sharon’s Bible study.

 

After we finished playing with the children, we gathered back into the room for a time of singing and sharing with some of these women. The first song we sang was the old country standard, “I’ll Fly Away” Their joyful singing brought us all to tears. And think about the significance of singing those words in prison — in a foreign country — with limited legal support.

 

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away.

 

When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away:

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then, I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end, I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away:

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away.

 

But that was not all, they continued by singing some of the songs we sing at Hope:

“Breathe”

“Heart of Worship”

“You are My All in All”

 

Their stories were stories of pain and suffering AND redemption. There was regret and remorse along with repentance and hope.

 

A woman from Germany shared of her mistakes that landed her in this prison — she is up for getting out for a couple of days a week starting in September.

 

A woman from Nigeria and most recently Canada spoke of a violent past which has been replaced with an infectious joy for the Lord.

 

There were at least two Americans. I spoke with one — a woman from New Jersey who found herself in prison after some bad choices. She is hopeful of her return to the states.

 

We were able to hold hands with these women and pray for their courage and their safety and eventual release from this difficult place.

 

 

One thing they do to make some money and build some pride and self esteem is to make note cards. Of course we bought a bunch of these to help our new friends.

 

This was not an easy ministry morning for us —- we are still processing what we experienced there.

 

Afternoon at Carmen Bajo

Okay, Carmen Bajo is a very impoverished community but compared to what we had experienced at the prison, this was like going from rags to riches.

 

We spent the afternoon there playing with the kids. Laurie led a training session with the teachers on how to tell stories with flannel graph (which we left with them). And probably the most fun part of the day came when Laurie led the kitchen crew in a cake decorating class. It was a blast as I think the pictures show. i was able to speak to this crew about the importance of their ministry there at Carmen Bajo and the joys we find in reflecting the image of God in our lives through community and creativity.

 

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The Sisters — Priscilla who works for our in-country coordinator and Patty, one of our translators

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Let the cake decorating begin!!!

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Perfecting the Rose!

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Some happy decorators.
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Gary with one of the Carmen guys.

Keep the prayers coming. Although we had a really fun time with the folks in the afternoon, we are still trying to process the realities of prison. Pray that we focus on the light that is shining through Sharon and these women and for wisdom in what we can do to help them out.

 

 





Ecuador – Day 9

30 07 2007

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This morning along with the Hope youth, we worshipped in Carman Bajo and had the great privilege of hearing Pancho preach. After some very exuberant singing (with some songs that had a bass line that kicked like it came from Earth, Wind and Fire), Pancho brought the word from 2 Kings 2:2-13. This passage deals with Elijah ascending into heaven and passing on his mantel to Elisha. Pancho pointed out the different places that Elijah and Elisha traveled and related it to our pilgrimage in the Christian life.

Gilgal is the place of salvation

Bethel is the place of decision

Jericho is the place of battle

The Jordan river is the place of the spirit.

We also had a special time when the congregation stood and Pancho led them in prayer for us, and Tucker and I had the great opportunity of praying for this blessed congregation.

After the service Laurie and I were able to connect with our sponsored children and their families. What a thrill it is to see them and hug on them.

The afternoon brought a unique opportunity for some of us. While half went to a park for a great experience of shopping, the other half of us went to a soccer game. What an experience it was!!!! Fernando was our able guide and drove us to the stadium to watch Liga take on Barcelona in a championship soccer game. The way I understand it, this is an Ecuadorian rivalry comparable to the Yankees and the Red Sox. It is huge and the emotion in the stadium was electric. Liga, the team we were pulling for won the game 2-0. What a thrill!!!

 

This evening we spent a couple of hours cutting out paper hands for a craft that we will use tomorrow in prison. No, we are not being arrested but we do have the opportunity to minister to some children in a women’s prison. More on that experience tomorrow. Keep praying!!!

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Prayers offered up on our behalf at Carmen Bajo.

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Here’s “My Maria” and her mom. See “Countdown to Ecuador” Post

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Here is little Nichole and her family — She is another little girl we sponsor.

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Pregame Face Paint

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Victory for Liga!!!!