Sunday, March 31, 2013

Memorial and Surprises

Our week has been really good. I am feeling almost back to normal, well normal for me anyway! My  stomach is finally behaving. We had 75 attend the Memorial here. David invited a call of his, Jeff who is from Haiti. He came with another friend, but arrived late. He said he really wanted to hear the whole talk, so he was staying for the Memorial in Spanish that immediately followed ours. I heard they had 340 in attendance!
Friday I had a luncheon for some of the Sisters here. It was so nice, something I wanted to do for them last year, but just ran out of time. The Sisters that are permanent residents here are so helpful and caring. That is a big thing when you see how many new visitors we have at each meeting. Someone new is always showing up, whether it be someone from the territory or a family "spying out the land." At some meetings I don't even get a chance to talk to ones I already know because there are so many new ones to introduce yourself to.  So, it was nice to do something nice for the local sisters and have an afternoon to just spend some time with them.
Saturday was a very exciting day too. We had some surprise visitors. Casey, Jordan, Taylor and Raleigh arrived in Cuenca in the afternoon. It was a total surprise  for Austin and Cleo. Saturday morning the three of us went out in service while Dave stayed home to wait for the foursome to arrive. He called me in the afternoon to let me know they were here. I told Dave to take them to Tutto Freddos for ice cream and I would bring the Kids there. It was so great! Cleo and Austin were so interested in the ice cream flavors, they didn't see them at first. Then Dave yelled at Cleo and she turned around and then took another look and screamed "What?" then ran straight to Casey! She said, "this is the best surprise ever!" Taylor gave the talk this morning and did a great job. We had an awesome lunch and then went to another going away dance party tonight. Casey said, "that was definitely the best dance party I have ever been to." Of course we are having another one next Saturday before they leave, so we will see how she thinks they compare.
By far, one of the best sunsets yet!

Fruitilla, $1.50 por una libre

The start of Holy Week, with a parade.

This hung outside of the Kingdom Hall.

Memorial 2013 Family Pic

Surprise! We have visitors!

After the meeting, after lunch, before ice cream!

Dance Party!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time is flying!

Geese like Cuenca too!

We meet all kinds here!

Party in the house...tonight!

Hat shopping

Witnessing to a street artist.

"working out" in service

One of the best sunsets so far.
Well, we only have a month left! I can't believe it. I am so sorry I haven't really posted much in the last few weeks (ok, nothing), but I was sick for about a week and a half with some stomach issues. I am much better now, but spent the following week trying to catch up after being out of commission. Still not sure if it was a virus or parasites, but I found a great holistic health center that helped me recover.
The Memorial invitation work has been a challenge here. We are first trying to return to all the English speaking people that have already been found in the territory. Because so many of the friends come and go here, finding the same people again is not always easy. Especially, if the person did not get much information on the a street address or name. One day we walked both sides of a city block, going in every store, knocking on every door just asking if anyone knew a Maria that spoke English. No, we didn't find her. Other times though we have not only found the person we are looking for, but new ones as well. I have had many opportunities to witness to people while shopping or running errands. It will be interesting to see how the memorial turns out here this year.
Dave and Cleo both have good studies. Dave's is a retired teacher who still tutors students in his home. He is Ecuadorian and speaks very good English. He is so grateful each week for us coming and always says so. Cleo is studying with a woman who teaches English at one of the universities.  She has so many good questions and seems to be very reasonable. She had her book pre-studied on the very first study! I was able to make contact with the woman I studied with last year. She is no longer studying, but she was happy to see me. She is teaching English at a private school here and invited me for the day to help teach her students. It was a fun morning (7am-12) and I was able to practice some of the methods I learned in the TESOL course. I am hoping she will attend the Memorial.
There are new faces every meeting. So many of the friends are responding to the invitation to expand our ministry. I can't believe how many young single sisters there are here. What an encouraging example they are setting.
There are 3 young sisters here from Michigan who will be leaving in a week. They will have been here 3 months in all. So, when you are here that long and you are about to leave, you get a party! There is always dancing. It is really one of the few good things about leaving.
We are looking forward to the coming weeks. We have the Memorial, host week for the DO and CO, followed by the Circuit Assembly. Then we head to the beach for our last week here! Hopefully I can post more frequently.....well, I'll try!

Service break

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Road trip pictures

The beginning of Lasse's workshop.

Doesn't this guy look so excited to be throwing water at our car?

They have "tailgating" even in Ecuador.

The sun setting on the shrimp farm.

Back to the routine

Carnival (Kah nee vahl) is finally over here.  It started on Saturday and ended Tuesday night. One of the customs here is to throw water on people and or spray them with colored foam. People even drive their kids around in pick up trucks armed with water guns to soak pedestrians. It is all in good fun and they just view it as part of the celebration. But, in order to avoid making ourselves special targets for the festivities, the meetings for service and the Public talk are canceled. The stores and mercados close for 2 days, so you have to make sure you are stocked up on essentials. What do you do when you can't go out in service or attend meetings for 4 days? Chill out! We had a few friends over one night and played a few rounds of Mafia. The Ecuadorian friends really like that game. Monday we had a congregation picnic with an informal WT study. A sister in the hall has a family home about 45 minutes outside of the city that we all went to. We hiked up the hill and got a great view of the valley. It was a nice break from all the noise of the city! Tuesday Dave and I went on a road trip with Lasse ( pronounced Lah say). He is a brother from Denmark that has been living here for about 5 years. We had a beautiful drive through the countryside to where he is building a small workshop and weekend cabin. Then we decided to continue driving through the mountains taking in the scenery. Then we realized we were only another hour from the ocean. Of course, we kept driving. Only the guys decided to try to get to the  ocean by way of a town that Lasse had never been to. On the map it just said PSM for the name. Sounds exciting and spontaneous, right? So, we punched in the location to the GPS and followed the course, even when it told us to turn off the main road onto a dirt road leading into banana fields. No worries, the GPS is always reliable and trustworthy! (insert a tone of sarcasm when reading that last sentence if you didn't already) Well we finally made it out of the banana fields, and as we bravely pressed on, we found ourselves zig zagging through a shrimp farm! Narrow, primitive, dirt roads outlining about a hundred enormous shallow pools of shrimp. We were sure we would see the ocean soon. We could hear it, smell it! What we found at the end of the shrimp farm was a very thick grove of mangrove trees, totally blocking our way to the Pacific! So the GPS had the last laugh. PSM was no real town! I'm pretty sure it wasn't even a real name. PSM probably just meant Private Shrimp Manufacturing! We had to turn around and wind our way out, back to main road that took us to the real town to get a real view of the ocean! Of course by the time we got there, it was dark. Nothing a beer and a delicious fish dinner didn't make up for.
Wednesday we were able to resume our normal routine. I went on a bible study with Dave  that he is handling for a brother while he is back in the States for a few weeks. The man is Raoul and he is probably in his late 70's. His English is very good and he is very meek. He has been to the KH several times as well. He asked us at the beginning of the study why there were no images or statues in the KH. After we shared scriptures, including the ones in Exodus, he said, "Ok, I understand. It is right here in the bible, you are not to make carved images for worship. Now I know." Simple as that. Austin, Cleo and I all have promising calls with arrangements for returning and demonstrating the study program.
I will keep you posted as the details develop! 
 Hiking down to the picnic.
 Who let the dog's out?
 There were horses!
 A very informal WT study.
 After lunch, we went for a hike.
The view from the top.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What a week!

Last week was full of activity. The foreign language circuit overseer, Brother Rumpf, visited the English congregation here in Cuenca. He and his wife were so encouraging. They have been serving here in Ecuador for 12 years. They served in Spanish then in Chinese. You know you have been serving in a foreign field for a long time when you forget words in English. He would be up on the stage giving a talk and stop, ask someone in Spanish what the English word was. It didn't happen very often, but it was funny when it did. I thought, if you are trying to learn a new language that must be an awesome thing. You finally learn the new language  so well, you forget your first. This next week he and his wife are off to serve the Shuar Indians in the Jungle.
It is really a revolving door here, as it is in any need greater area. Families are constantly coming and going. We are meeting new friends from all over the world every week. The Australians seem to have the market on the place though. A sister told me last year there were mostly North Americans in the English congregation so the Ecuadorian brothers were learning English with an American accent. Now, with 4 Australian families here, the Ecuadorian friends are starting to speak English with a slight Australian accent! All we need is to get a few families from Eastern Kentucky to move here. LOL!
Saturday night turned out to be eventful. Many of you know that Bill and Sherry are here with us. Bill had to go to the hospital with a kidney stone attack. He stayed until Monday morning. He was treated and is doing fine. He said he was very impressed with the medical care he received. He said the doctors here were very patient and explained more to him than his American doctor ever did. The one perk he got was being able to watch the Super Bowl on TV in English! The rest of us went to a brother's house and watched through an internet feed, projected on the wall. That wasn't so bad, until it started buffering every 5 seconds. So we didn't see the final outcome until 11 pm! And....they only streamed a few of the commercials! We had to watch the rest on youtube after the game. Oh the sacrifices of serving where the need is greater. But we are glad Bill got to watch the game uninterrupted.
Many of you knew our dear sister Betty Jane. We were saddened to hear of her death Saturday night. She was one of the most zealous, tenacious, spiritual sisters I have ever known. She loved Jehovah with all her heart and lived a long life proving that. We will miss her, but look forward to the time when we can see her again. I think you will find her house right next to Bill's.
 The Presidential election is in a few weeks. They drive these trucks all over the city, with giant paper mache heads of the candidates.
 Bill and Dick preaching the word in Cuenca (backpacks required).
 The pioneer meeting with the Circuit Overseer. I think we had 32 with the Auxiliary Pioneers.
 For once an empty bus ride to the meeting.

A rainy day in the ministry. Umbrellas definitely required!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Settling In

 We made it! The trip here was for once uneventful. No lost passports, no delayed flights, no lost luggage. We didn't even have to have our luggage searched when we went through customs. We stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by a brother Thursday night and made it to Cuenca on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning we were out in service with the group. Gretchen and I were talking to a young man when Austin came around the corner and recognized him as a call he got last year right before we left. Austin talked to him and set up a time to return to demonstrate the study. So, Austin got an RV on his first day out! LOL.  Saturday evening the Perrys and Schweitzers showed up. We got them settled into their apartment, which is in the same building as us. Sunday we went to meeting via the bus. It was so great to see everyone again. There were new faces, many were visitors from Ohio who were in for a wedding. The Watchtower Conductor asked everyone who commented to say their name and where they were from. After the 5th person said "Ohio"the brother (who is from Michigan) asked if the Ohio river was flooding again?! Everyone had a good laugh. One comment we heard more than once from the friends we made here was, "It is so great to see someone actually come back. Many friends say they are, but things happen in the meantime and they don't get to return."
  Sunday afternoon we took the  Perrys and Schweitzers for their inaugural grocery shopping experience. Sorry everybody, I didn't get any pictures of that. Today we went to the Mercado and rested up a bit. We have the Circuit Overseers visit this week so we will have a busy week ahead of us. Our neighbors in the apartment next door are missionaries, Jennifer and Eric. They went to  Gilead in 1995 and have been serving in Ecuador in the Spanish field. They were just moved to Cuenca one month ago. We look forward to getting to know them. I'll be sure and post pictures later.

 This is my first morning out in service in Cuenca. The sister with me is Gretchen. She and her family are from Michigan. They have been here for about 2 years. We partnered up for the morning and realized we not only perfectly matched each other but the flowers as well.
 This some of the mosaic work they do in the city of Guayaquil on the underpass supports.
 We were waiting to be taken to the bus station and Cleo decided to entertain us with her smokin Ukulele skills.
 This is taken at the Miami Airport, waiting for our connecting flight. Doesn't Cleo look like an angel with the sun shining on her sleeping face?
 Sunday morning on our way to the Kingdom Hall. A first Ecuadorian Bus ride for some!
My typical breakfast here, fresh fruit and yogurt with my green tea of course!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ecuador take 2

Here we are again, sitting at the airport. We couldn't have picked a better morning to head south. It was around 20 degrees when we stepped out our door! I am looking forward to another 3 months with all of our Ecuadorian friends. Of course we have our first few days of eating planned out, revisiting our favorites. Tune in for the upcoming culinary attractions, like Maria's bakery, where a German sister makes the most delicious bread and pastries! We are also excited about the spiritual itinerary in store for us. Next week we have the circuit overseer's visit, followed by the Memorial, Special talk, and the circuit assembly in the months to follow. I am glad to be able to share this with all of you. I appreciated our friends that said they look forward to reading the blog and sharing our experiences. It helps me as well, to reflect on each day and appreciate this special opportunity. We have been blessed with such a huge spiritual family that continues to provide us with love and encouragement, no matter which country they happen to be "alien residents" in.

This is a picture of the last authentic cheeseburger I will have in 3 months. The Miami airport has a restaurant called "The Counter" that has amazing burgers!