Friends, Family and Supporters,
Although many of you are already aware, Justin and I are officially announcing that we will be returning to the United States on August 11th. We had plans to stay here in Quito until September, but due to my grandmother’s death and memorial service plans, have changed. We have completed our two year agreement with Extreme Nazarene Missions and are excited to announce that we will be starting a new chapter in our lives. We are still seeking out God’s guidance and direction in this new chapter and would welcome your prayers in the realm of decisions that will come with this time of transition.
The past two years have been filled with many memories, new friends and experiences. I am glad we could share most of them with you on this blog and if you would like to hear more we would love to catch a coffee with you sometime. Please just send us a personal email at [email protected] if you would like to get a hold of us.
If you are currently donating, we are asking that you could end your donations after the month of August, as we will still be working stateside until the official end of our contract.
If you are still feeling called to give monetarily to a missionary or missionaries, please know there is need. Justin and I were able to spend the past few weeks with the Manta church plant, which is only four weeks old. There are six South Americans on the team who could use monthly or even one time support. The cost to keep them on the field winning hearts for Christ is $250 per month, but even a small donation of $5 per month makes a huge difference. Please follow the link to read their profiles and donate: https://www.extremenazarene.org/location/manta/
The names of the 40/40 missionaries needing monthly support are: Edi Gallegos, Wagner Preciado, Isaac Rodriguez, Mishell Soriano, Mariana Ojeda and Noemi Galarza. You can find their profiles on the link above.
In about a month, the Manta team training here in Quito will officially move to Manta to begin their ministry in planting a Nazarene church. In the meantime, the coast of Ecuador has been crippled by after shocks following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake last month.
This last weekend, I helped lead a ministerial response team to Manta. The streets looked different two weeks after the first visit. People who were able to return to their houses from the street had done so and temporary shelters had been organized for the homeless. Because we were not able to leave until Friday afternoon, we arrived late at night to one of these temporary shelters. This particular shelter was unable to hold enough, so the adjacent street was lined with those who slept outside underneath materials they had scavenged to use as tarp coverings.
We unloaded the bus and started an evangelism event right in the middle of the street. The children were especially happy to have something to do. We gave out around 50 necessity kits, along with many prizes and Bibles. At the end of the program, each family was prayed over by one of our missionaries.
During the day on Saturday we went to do “visits”. The last time we were in Manta, we collected contact information of people who came to our events and were interested in the church. We were then able to visit these families on Saturday. Many of the families asked for necessities such as medication, diapers, baby formula or drinking water. Led by the 40/40 missionaries, we visited each family and even gained new contacts. I watched as one of our young 40/40 missionaries shared the salvation story with about twenty women outside our bus, she prayed with them and collected their contact information so she can meet with them individually when she arrives to Manta next month.
Saturday afternoon was probably the highlight. We went to another temporary camp set up. About thirty tents stood in an empty lot. It was hard to imagine that families had been living in these tents for about a month and will continue to do so. On Saturday, we were joined by youth from the city of Guayaquil. The youth put on an amazing performance with interactive dances and games for the kids. Towards the end of the program, our pastor gave a message of hope and salvation in Christ. Everyone at the event gathered with their families and once again each of us missionaries picked a family to pray with.
Unfortunately, there was no “medical clinic” this time like was planned. Though, a physician and I did visit many families and see a few patients both at the last event and during the visits. In the end, we made many new contacts for the upcoming church plant and were able to provide many people with necessities. Though these are horrific circumstances, I am grateful that we could be there to shine some light on a desperate situation. Please continue to pray as we look into what our relief ministry will look like in the months to come.
As many of you have probably already seen on the news, last night Ecuador was hit with a 7.8 major earthquake. Though, 100 miles away from the epicenter, Justin and I most definitely felt the earthquake as we huddled in our doorframe. At the moment, the death toll on the coast continues to rise. Though currently at 238 dead and over 1500 injured, I am sure those numbers will have increased by the time you read this. To give you an idea, some scientists believe this earthquake was 6 times as large as the one in Japan. We are grateful to say that all members of Extreme Nazarene Missions are safe and accounted for.
Even after the earthquake, there have been many mudslides hindering rescue efforts. Because of “el niño” the forecast shows more rains meaning more mudslides. There have been many reports of looting and overall fear and devastation.
Manta, is one of the cities hit hard by this deadly natural disaster. I am glad to say God has a perfect plan. I had plans to be in Manta this weekend, but had postponed these plans until this coming weekend. Extreme Nazarene is currently planning on planting our next church in this hard hit city. The team is currently in Quito training to be deployed in July.
Extreme Nazarene is planning to send a relief team from Quito to Manta sometime this coming week. Justin and I will be part of these relief efforts.
This week there are many things you can be in prayer for. Please pray for the people of the areas affected. Pray for family members who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who are now homeless or without their businesses. Pray for Extreme as we decide our best response. Pray for people providing relief and their safety.
A while back, I had the opportunity to interview Doris and write this article about her testimony. Though, it will come out later via Extreme Nazarene, I thought it a good reminder of what Jesus has done and relevant today Easter Sunday.
A Testimony of God’s Freedom
On Sunday morning, the doors to the “Puerta Abierta” (Open Door) Church of the Nazarene stand open. Over the noise of the buses and semi-trucks passing by, the sound of worship carries through the open doors and into the dusty streets of Ibarra. Through the crowded worship service and over the hands raised in exaltation, Doris sings, proudly proclaiming the love of God. With eyes closed and hands raised, her voice rings out as she leads the worship team in the Sunday morning service.
Doris is one of the first church members and leaders of the Ibarra Open Door Church of the Nazarene. Though many members of the new church plant came through the open doors as unbelievers, blind to the miracles of God, Doris could already speak of the God who changed the lives of her family. This church leader’s testimony of a changed heart begins many years before the church began in 2013.
Doris is native to the Ibarra area. She was raised and lives now in the nearby city of San Antonio. According to the Ecuadorian National Institute of Statistics and Census, 80% of Ecuadorians claim Catholicism as their religion, and as a child Doris accepted being a part of this large statistic. She lived among seven other siblings and a mother who insisted they all adopt the cultural beliefs of Catholicism. Though Doris never felt personally connected to God through the Catholic faith, she followed the popular beliefs of a lost society.
Growing up in such a large family, Doris watched as her siblings graduated high school and began working in the community. Not considering a high school diploma necessary or important to her future, Doris chose to drop out before graduation. She married her husband Jose Luis and began a family and business together selling the delicious cakes she bakes from her own kitchen.
Though never important to her before, Doris and her husband’s Catholic heritage became key when the struggles began. Her husband became very ill and as Doris explains, “on the edge of sanity.” Braving the long lines and expenses, Jose Luis went to multiple physicians who all declared him healthy. Though he showed many signs of mental illness and felt as if he were going insane, no physician had an answer for them. He continued to struggle.
Not knowing what to do, Doris went to her mother for advice. Like the strong Catholic woman she is, her mother encouraged Doris to bring her husband to the Catholic Church for healing. Obediently, Doris followed the next step in searching for healing and followed her mother’s advice. Still, they found no answers to the strange illness that plagued her husband’s mind and emotions.
As customary in Ecuadorian culture and tradition, Doris and her husband decided to continue to search for a cure, meaning they went to a local witch doctor. Still, after searching out many different options, her husband found no relief to his torment. Finally, a family friend confronted Doris and told her the real reason her husband had been dealing with this “illness”. She had confirmed what several physicians had told them–this was not a physical ailment. The problem was rooted in something much deeper than anything physical; rather, it was a spiritual battle his body had been fighting.
Their friend encouraged this young couple that the only way to receive healing was to pray, confessing their wrongdoing to God and ultimately giving Him their lives. Unfortunately, for many years before, Jose Luis had dabbled in “black magic” and the consequences of being a part of this dark spiritual realm had caught up with him. Deciding to leave past beliefs and practices behind, Doris and her husband both made the decision to accept Christ into their hearts. Jose Luis had been sick for two years, but after accepting Christ he went to a spiritual retreat where he was finally freed of the evil that had plagued him for so long. During this moment of confession and adherence to God’s forgiveness, Jose Luis felt two black “shadows” leave him. (Shadow is the direct translation, but it is often used to describe demons or spirits.) Though he did not recover immediately, he could finally feel God’s freedom from a past of darkness.
At this point, out of eight children and many extended family members, Doris and her husband were the only Christians. Doris shakes her head as she remembers this time, where her faith was still very weak. She attended church but was inconsistent with her trust in God and ultimately unable to give her whole life to Him.
When her faith was at its weakest, one of her brothers was in a serious car accident. She questioned why God would allow this to happen to her and to her family. She called out to the Lord, stating that if He would only save her brother, she would fully dedicate her life to Him. Doris was soon able to see the grace and plan God had for the lives of her family. Not only did the Lord save her brother physically, but also because of the testimony of her husband, her entire family went to her Christian church to pray and call out for God’s divine intervention. After the service, the majority of her family had turned from their Catholic roots filled with paganism, rules and personal sacrifice and instead found a relationship with the one true God.
Doris had seen her family struggle with so much over the years and had seen God’s faithfulness in many of their lives. Yet, Doris’ time of personal trial was yet to begin. Doris describes the following time in her life as “tormento” or torturous. One day, she had left her home to sell the cakes she had baked, as she and her husband normally do. During the delivery, she was brutally raped by two men. Her life spiraled downward in torment, affecting her family and six year old daughter. She wanted to blame God for the affliction and agony that had been imposed upon her. Her character became explosive and filled with anger towards her family and others who loved her. For years after, there were many low points where she wished those men would have killed her, because of the pain and guilt that she now carried around inside of her was too much to live with.
Doris carried around this torment for over a decade. She continued to blame God for her anguish and for the mark she was leaving on her family. Her spiritual life struggled and waned. She had witnessed God heal her husband through years of prayer and spiritual guidance. She could testify to a family who had nearly all been changed by God, yet her personal toil stayed persistent. Doris was blind to the help anyone, including God, could give her.
Through some unfortunate circumstances, Doris and her husband chose to leave the church they had been attending. She prayed earnestly to God for one month for His guidance in finding the correct church for herself and her family. At the end of this time, her sister told her about a new Christian church plant in Ibarra. Not knowing what a Nazarene church was, but trusting in God’s intervention and her friend’s encouragement, Doris called the pastor of the Open Door Church.
At this point, the church had just begun its work in Ibarra. Pastor Yoan along with two 40/40 Church Planters, Michaela and Abi, went to visit Doris. Doris welcomed them into her home and because there was still no church building, the Rodriguez family hosted the first church service in their home.
Excited about the church and gaining more disciples, Michaela and Abi encouraged Doris to attend their first “encounter” or spiritual retreat. These retreats occur every few months and focus upon encountering God and learning the basics of Christianity. For the month leading up to the event, Doris was apprehensive about going to the encounter. In the end, she decided to attend.
Up until this time, God had still not yet healed Doris’ pain. She had seen God work miracles in the life of her husband, brother, and family, but God had not yet reached out and touched her own life. She was unable to bridge the gap between herself and God that had formed after years of coping with guilt and pain. Over ten years after her rape, she attended the spiritual encounter, and Doris did indeed encounter Christ and the freedom He had set aside for her. In one single moment, as Doris describes as “libertad” or liberty/freedom, she shares how she felt two dark shadows leave her.
In that one moment, she knew for certain that the guilt and pain she had carried around with her for more than ten years, the torment that affected not only her, but also her family, and the hardened heart that had become her had all left forever. She could physically feel all of the sadness and guilt leaving her body, and she was left with the peace that comes from nowhere else but the Holy Spirit. She felt God’s comfort, joy, and love surround her, and she still exudes these attributes today. Doris proclaims complete freedom that only Christ can offer. On that day, she had prayed that she wanted to be different and God answered by changing her “manner of being, speaking, acting and thinking.” Her past was filled with guilt and difficulties and though there are still many trials and tests in her future, she holds firmly to this freedom God has given her.
Doris now firmly believes that though she has gone through terrible evils and hurt, God set apart this church for her. He knew that this church would have strong pastors and leaders who could guide her out of the web that had so long entangled her. She once wished that she had died in the horrible attack inflicted upon her, but now Doris comes close to tears as she tries to explain the peace and love she has found through Christ’s freedom. If she had been killed that day, she would have never given birth to two more boys and experienced the joy of her family and the freedom of Jesus Christ. The feeling of worthlessness, along with the explosive anger she had towards those around her has never once returned. After more than ten years of struggle, she has finally found freedom–freedom from years of pain and agony. This peace and freedom from God has never fallen short. She claims “total freedom” over the rape and struggles of her past, now wanting to share with others her story of liberation.
Michaela and Abi continued to encourage Doris and transmit the love of Christ through their discipleship. When asked, Michaela claims she cannot remember anything she taught Doris, but only recalls the knowledge and encouragement that Doris has poured into her own life. Doris, ordinarily a timid person was shy in becoming a leader in the church. Juggling three children, her own business and a house of prayer, Doris faithfully completed the leadership training process. Every week, for a year, she faithfully attended classes, determined that she would finally receive the diploma she once missed out on.
A year later, Doris stood in front of a congregation so large that all the seats were filled and the congregation spilled out the door into the streets. People stood on tiptoes peering through open windows, as a once timid Doris proclaimed her pride and gratitude in receiving her first “diploma.” She had become one of the first leaders of this ever-growing church and was now hosting the first house of prayer in Ibarra. She now leads the house of prayer Michaela and Abi began in the Rodriguez household, directs worship every Sunday, and has taken over the cleaning ministry of the church. She says, “I can give more. I will always be learning what God is teaching me and learning from His miracles.”
As Doris shares her story, her prayer for her brothers and sisters around the world is as follows:
3 John 1:2-4
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
A few weekends ago we had the opportunity to get away and relax a little in the jungles of Ecuador. It was a wonderful weekend and it really was needed to take a break from the day to day.
For the most part things are normal with myself working on translating the website and starting to build a mobile application for the 40/40 missionaries. Krista has been keeping busy managing the day to day of the office and apartment building that we are using for training. She also has taught a few of the training sessions for the 40/40 missionaries (time management, and health so far).
For prayer we can always use it for our ministry here and for continued motivation and encouragement, but more specifically for Krista. For the second time now in the last year she has had some neck problems. The doctor as of yet does not think it is a big deal, but it has been something that has been on our minds. So would love to have further prayer for her health and that the doctor will have clear direction in how to move forward.
Check out a short video of our trip here:
In September, I was sitting in church trying to pay attention to the message, but the truth is a huge conviction came over me. I had a ton of medical stuff including unexpired medications sitting in my office and I had still yet to use them. A long time before this, I had talked about and wanted to do medical clinics using local physicians, but this had never come to volition. Unfortunately, there have been many times where I have not followed my convictions. I have not listened to the still calm voice inside of me and chosen to ignore it. This time, I did not. I waited in line for my Pastor and I told him that if he could find a physician, I had the equipment and meds to do a medical clinic within the church.
A while later my Pastor came back to me and said he could not find anyone. I was discouraged and had no idea what to do with what I felt God was telling me. I got busy with my work and time went by. The medications sat and haunted me. After Christmas, Pastor walked directly up to me after service and introduced me to one of the church members. Through Eric, pastor had found possibly a couple of physicians willing to make this outreach possible.
After that, things happened fast. Yesterday, the Carcelen Church opened its doors to the first evangelism event medical clinic. Of course there were some hiccups, but overall it was an amazing experience for all. Though there was no advertising done before hand, all we needed was a loud speaker resulting in around 100 patients. We not only had two physicians, but also a counselor, four nurses, an orthodontist student and dentist as well. It took a lot of people to make the event work and I was blessed to practice my nursing skills in the triage while church members ran the show.
I have no idea of the seeds that were planted yesterday, but I know God has a plan. Overall, I think it was obvious to the community that the church was their to serve, listen and to love them. There are a lot of people who made this possible. My church back home donated Bibles, in which we handed out several, the short term teams who have come in the past and donated medicines and medical equipment, the medical team that included locals as well as missionaries, church members and Extreme missionaries who saw it through,a pastor who believed in what God was telling me, and most of all God for His grace, love and provisions.
Today is St. Valentine’s Day and here just like in the states the streets are full of flowers and goodie baskets, the only thing different is that for $5 you can get a lovely bouquet of roses and in the States I am sure it is a little more pricey. Usually you can get a dozen roses for $1-$2, but as all good entrepreneurs know today is all about supply and demand.
A little update on what I am doing. I have finished the main components of the website, and am currently finishing up translating it into Spanish and doing a few little fixes. The next thing that I am doing is building a special phone application. This application will be designed for our church planters to help collect contact information and help identify what groups need more assistance as they grow.
In Krista’s world she has been really busy making sure Extreme’s new building we are renting is working out well for the 40/40 missionaries that are living there while they are training. This Saturday February 20th, Krista will spear head a medical clinic at our church with two Cuban doctors. The clinic will be housed inside of the church and will be completely free. Please pray for the church as we hope to bring in many new people to the church.
We are wrapping up a crazy past two weeks. Justin, myself and others in the office have been working hard to ready our new Extreme Quito Center, which has been a bit more challenging task than I thought. From organizing/buying furniture, working with the land lord and contractor and putting in water heaters, I think we are finally there. Three of the Manta 40/40s moved in this week and they are slowly finding out the kinks. We are living here with them as well until their clusters arrive on Thursday.
This weekend, we toured them around Quito and said goodbye to some awesome friends who have become family over the past year and a half. Besides the Extreme Center, there has also been a lot going on medically within Extreme. Though, not appropriate to share publicly, please be in prayer for the health of our organization. There has been quite a bit going on. In the next few weeks, we will be putting on a medical clinic with my church I attend here in Quito. After praying and searching for local doctors for a long time, this is finally happening. With donations from past medical trips and leftover meds, God has supplied everything to make this happen. So on February 20th, please be in prayer for the hearts and souls of the people of Quito as we seek to use God’s resources to share his love.
This morning we jumped on a bus headed to Ibarra, the location of one of our church plants and also the location where many of the Leaders of Extreme where just finishing up a week of vision casting and planning for the next year. We went to a district service that included about 10 churches in the district. The theme for the district meeting was making 2016 the year of multiplication and the General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, Dr. Jerry Porter was able to be there and give the message. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the senior pastor at the Ibarra church that was planted less than two years ago, who is now the head of the district fire up the members of the different churches about changing their cities.
The message was focused around the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well and how the faith of that one woman saved the whole city.
After the service we had the opportunity to take all the leaders from Extreme back to Quito and tour the completed office and new apartments that will be used for training new missionaries before they go on to their service cities. Krista worked very hard this whole week working with many different people to get things moved in and set up to be prepared for the first missionaries whom will be here Thursday. (We forgot to take pictures of the new apartments and office, so we will post that soon).
Thanks for your continued prayers and support.
For a few weeks now I have been meaning to meet up with Pastor Luis of the Gualsaquí Church near Otavalo. Today, I was in the area with my family and we decided to attend his church.
As Pastor Luis greeted us, members of the church began leaving the sanctuary before the service had even really began. Confused we realized what was going on. In October, a short term team helped construct three walls to increase the Gualsaquí sanctuary and make room for the ever growing congregation.
The roof of the church has been placed the day before with help from another local church we had worked with. They had joined together along with financial blessings from God (and the local hardware store) to put up the roof. Dressed in our Sunday best, alongside the congregation we got to work. Today, we tore down walls and the old stage to make room for the expansion. We filled buckets and wheelbarrows with dirt to fill the area where the new alter (stage) will be constructed.
The hope is to have this all done before next week, which marks the birthday of the church and a huge celebration. In January, they plan to have a huge evangelism event in the expanded sanctuary. The new expansion has a lot of financial ties that still are yet to be met, but Pastor Luis and his congregation are trusting God to provide as He has done thus far.
- Financial provision for the Church in Gualsaquí and the other churches of Tangalí and Quichinche which Extreme sent a short term team in October.
- The new ECQ and the preparations needed for the next 40/40 team
- The last minute fundraising for the Manta 40/40 Church plant team
- Continued guidance in ministry