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Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year in Review


This past month we gathered as a staff and took time to remember & celebrate 2013. I blogged about this experience on the blog that I maintain for El Refugio. Here's the start of the article-- click on the link below to read the rest of it.




I enjoyed the activity quite a lot and decided we should share all that happened with you as well!

We held the Youth World Annual Team Conference in January. The Olsens officially started their work at El Refugio that month, too– though they arrived in December…

…click here to read the rest of the article on the El Refugio blog.




Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Crash… and lessons from the apostle Peter

God is constantly teaching us lessons and providing us opportunities to grow, isn’t He? When I step back from the details and busyness of everyday life and try to look at things with a wider perspective, I see the Lord and know that He is with me.

A few weeks back Suzy was in an accident with our car. Approaching a work zone where 2 lanes became one, she looked aside for a brief second and when her foot slipped and wasn’t able to break in time, our car struck the back of a large, orange dump-truck. Apparently the driver stepped out of his vehicle for a few seconds, saw that his truck was fine, and drove off. 



My day ended up getting consumed in needing to deal with the fallout. After receiving the call from Suzy around 1:15 I got a ride to the site of the accident. We called our insurance, hunted for a tow-truck, and once we found one that was available I rode with him to the mechanic. On the way back I sat with him through a lot of traffic. He dropped me off in the town where the crash had taken place. I paid him and got on a bus to the next town. In the next town I had to hire a truck to drive me back to Calacalí. Arriving home in the rain at 6:45pm, I was pretty beat. 

I’m reading a book that looks in detail at each of Christ’s disciples. Having just finished the chapter on Peter, the topic and idea of leadership is fresh on my mind. The author talks about the raw leadership potential that Peter had, but he also focuses a great deal on the characteristics Jesus constantly worked on developing in Peter. He contrasts the innate quality Peter had of ‘a passion to be personally involved’ with those he Christ needed to impress upon him: restraint, humility, and love (among others). 

Leaders are often people with extreme passion and personalities. They say it’s easier to tone down a fanatic than to resurrect a corpse. However, those with passion and strong or extreme opinions or emotions can be just that: extreme. Anger, unkind impulsive words, and ‘my way or the highway’ attitudes can easily emerge from these personalities. So Christ took the strong personality and passion of Peter and modeled to him how to lead with love, humility, and restraint. He also knew Peter would have many experiences throughout his life to teach him how to embody these characteristics: and he would fail. Jesus was there to see him fail many times. But he’d also learn through these experiences. And eventually we see him teaching others these same traits as he writes letters that are now part of the New Testament.



I don’t think many people have seen it, but deep inside of me I have the potential to respond to situations in uncontrolled anger... I know I have a ‘temper’ inside of me and have worked really hard for most of my life to control it and never let it get the best of me or rear its ugly head and hurt others. Situations like this really put it to the test. I hate that our car was damaged so badly and that we had to be without a vehicle for over two weeks. It’s hard for me when my day gets totally thrown off and I have to deal with fallout from a situation that I wish hadn’t happened. Traffic stinks. And maybe the worst part for me was that from the day the accident took place to the day we got the car back, I was  basically the one who had to make all the phone calls, run from place to place, communicate (in spanish) between the mechanic and our insurance agency, and deal with all of this even though I wasn’t even in the car when the accident took place!

I’m happy to say I never exploded. Suzy can tell you that I never spoke an unkind word to her, nor did I complain about all I had to do after the accident. I’m happy to say that from the outside, I handled everything with patience and grace. But I’ll be vulnerable and let you know that inside, all of this was difficult for me. 

So I zoom out and look at all of this from God’s perspective. First of all, what a tiny ‘blip’ on the radar this is in terms of a lifetime... or eternity, for that matter. But just like Peter, God provides me with experiences and opportunities to grow, to learn, and to test who I am: as a husband, a leader, a Believer. God is with us. And though this situation was by no means fun, I am learning through it; and I have been especially blessed by the members of the body who have helped us in navigating through by lending a hand in the details of daily life in the midst of inconvenience. So I thank God for being with us and wanting us to grow and turn our eyes to Him in times of difficulty.




Friday, November 29, 2013

Kaia's going to have a little baby __________!!


     We went to the doctor for an ultrasound and decided to find out the gender of our baby. If you haven't found out yet what it's going to be, click on the video below to find out!


 -jim, suzy & kaia

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marguerita.

This is Marguerita's corner restaurant
One of the weekly routines that we have developed living here in Ecuador is that we walk to church each Sunday. The other piece of our tradition is that on our walk back home we stop at the same little corner restaurant for lunch. When we started doing this we’d occasionally get the food to go, though we came to realize the value of staying and taking advantage of the opportunity to talk with the people sitting and eating in this small room with us.

Marguerita is the woman who owns this small restaurant and prepares all of the food. She warmly embraced us from the very first week we stopped by to eat there. The interesting thing is how she has been very open with Suzy regarding her questions and worries about faith and Christianity. The second week we walked by her restaurant, she asked us where we were going. When we told her we were on our way to church, she asked very genuinely if we would pray for her. 

A few weeks later she excitedly brought us inside and showed us a Bible she had recently put on display in the restaurant. She told us a friend of hers had had it and she asked if they would give it to her. They did. Each week she proudly puts it on display, surrounding it with flowers and other decorations. 

In September of 2013, Marguerita asked Suzy in conversation why she doesn’t have more faith. She expressed that she desires to have it, but so many days she feels distrust for God. As the conversation progressed, Suzy asked her if she had any interest in getting together to study the God of the Bible. Marguerita excitedly said, “Yes!” For several weeks now, Suzy has been getting together with her and often other members of her family to read the Bible. Together, they are discovering who Jesus is. 



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

force.

I learned an interesting lesson in 'force' a week and a half ago.

Really, I blame the whole thing on Pinterest. You see, we have a really nice outdoor space at our house here in Calacalí. However, we haven’t given it a ton of attention– though we’d like to! And of course, when you desire to spruce something up, to pinterest.com you must go. We searched and came up with the idea of making an outdoor chandelier comprised of driftwood from the beach, a rough kind of twine/rope, and glass jars that would hang from it, containing candles– something somewhat similar to the picture you see here.

We bought some candles. We already had the driftwood. And when over at a friends’ house, we were offered a couple of perfect, empty pasta jars. I went home that night bound to make this thing happen. The problem was, the mouth of the jar was a little smaller than the jar itself, as well as the size of the candles.

No problem. I took out a knife to shave down the candle. I take the shaved-down candle and begin to insert it into the jar. The thing is, the candle still doesn’t quite fit. But it was close. I got it halfway in. A little further. And then. THEN  I used force. I just knew I could get it through– it was so close! So I fixed my hand on the top of the candle and used a bit of my body weight. I pushed. And pushed. Until…

The glass jar completely shattered and exploded beneath the pressure being exerted upon it.

Needless to say, my hand got pretty cut up. I lost a fair amount of blood. It hurt quite a lot. And I felt light-headed and quite foolish for the rest of the night. Just in the past couple of days is the last of the wounds finally healing completely.

The lesson here is perhaps quite obvious, but I’ll share it just the same. God has been showing me through all of this that force is not the answer. I mean… is force ever the answer? Granted, force can bring about results. Things can get done under pressure and tension… but I think relationships are almost always damaged as a result of this approach.

I’ve watched the series ’24′ on-and-off over the past couple of years. I’m reminded of the principal character, Jack Bauer. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show, but Jack is someone who gets things done– no matter what the cost. He gets results. He does terrible things constantly to force results and get answers; and he gets them. But he is an island. I haven’t watched the entire series, but until this point, I have yet to see a single person that deeply cares about Jack. He’s burned essentially every person he knows at one point or another. Is that a good reputation: someone who is able to force results?


The method does matter. The heart does matter. And I see obvious parallels in evangelism. When we share the Gospel, are we thinking of the person with our heart and longing for them as a friend to know the greatest truth that exists– or do we see them as a number? Do we think in terms of heads to count at whatever the cost, whatever method necessary? Or do we see them as people, children dearly loved who are complex and need time and love and care? Force is not the answer, as I clearly learned with my hand and the pasta jar.

What great news we have to share with those around us! The truth of the Gospel– of what Christ did– this is a message that everyone needs to hear! But how we deliver that message is important. We represent a loving God who cares deeply for each and every individual in our world. I pray that I always keep in mind that force, though at times might be easier, is not likely going to bring about the results I would hope. May we walk in the truths of God’s word, ever learning, ever striving to grow and be more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.
 







Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Shepherd.

For some reason the idea of a shepherd has really been striking me recently.

IMG_0556


I guess the first reason is related to language. In the english language ‘shepherd’ is a profession of someone who cares for sheep as a living. In the church we often refer to pastors as being shepherds. The interesting thing in spanish is that the word for pastor and for shepherd are one in the same– a shepherd is a ‘pastor’ and a pastor is a ‘pastor.’
IMG_3425
Our daughter, Kaia was given a stuffed animal lamb when she was just a few weeks old. Somehow this lamb became her best friend. She can’t go to bed without it. She dresses it in her clothes and shoes. She carries it with her everywhere. She does as much as she possibly can with it, and just the sight of her lamb makes her so incredibly happy. I love watching her ‘care’ for her lamb and observing how she interacts with it.
What does a shepherd do? They care for their sheep. They provide food and water for them. They move them from place to place. They guide them. They establish boundaries about where the sheep can go: with fences or by other means. They protect them. They spend time with the sheep. They get to know them. They want the best for each and every sheep in their flock.
There are several passages of scripture that use the illustration of the shepherd. Ezekiel 34: 1 – 15 outlines shepherds that don’t care for their flock. God steps in and says,
"I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.”
In John 10: 1 – 18  Jesus declares,
"I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 21: 15 – 17 says,
"15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’  ’Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’”
Acts 20:28 says,
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
What can we take away from this? Must we be a Pastor to shepherd others?
I think it’s safe to say that David was the most famous (literal) shepherd in the Bible. I love that David was younger and smaller than all of his brothers; he was the one tending to the sheep. And it was he that God chose to lead his people. The role of a shepherd may not be the fanciest or the most respected… or the job with the best pay. But investing in the lives of individuals in a deep way– providing them with life… what a beautiful thing!
We’re all very familiar with the 23rd Psalm, but I’m going to insert it here. Take a minute to read it and think about the words without just blowing through it. Let the words sink in.
23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.
I shall not want. What does that mean? It means we don’t need to ‘want’ for things because our shepherd (God) has and will provide for all of our needs. What else does He do? He makes us rest. He knows that we need rest. He created a beautiful world for us and He wants us to be in his creation. It also says that He’ll be with us in times of danger. It doesn’t say that when danger is coming he’ll sweep in and pull us out of it… it says when we walk through: it’s expected. It’s going to happen. But He’s there with us. We’re not alone. We’re not abandoned. He has chosen us, He blesses us, and He has given us the gift of eternal life.
I love the concept of the shepherd because we are God’s sheep. He cares for us deeply. And yet at the same time He also is calling us to be shepherds and care for others as he cares for us.
Are you currently playing a ‘shepherd’ role in the lives of others? Whether your answer is yes or no, let’s ask ourselves today, “How can we be better shepherds?”
- jim

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Walking... Reflecting... Talking with God.

I walked to work this morning. I try to do this often. It's only an additional 6-7 minutes on foot over driving here. 

The thing is that I find when I'm walking or hiking, my mind operates better. It's not that I don't think when I'm driving or working or running errands... but those thoughts are usually more task oriented or structured. When I slow down and walk down a quiet country road or hike in the woods, it's as if my mind is able to zoom out, look at the big picture, and spend time thinking about the really important things in life. Additionally, I often find myself naturally talking with God in those moments. 

Suzy and I watched 'The Hobbit' the other night for the first time-- my parents were kind enough to mail us an original copy (original copies of movies are hard to come by down here)! Being that this movie didn't cover half of the book, we decided to start reading the book, The Hobbit, aloud together. We actually started this a couple years back, but never finished it. I have confidence we'll finish it this time around!

There's something compelling and extremely relatable to me about books/movies like the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. It's not that we have incredibly hairy feet or that there are orcs and goblins around every corner... it's that we're on a journey. We're all walking forward; sometimes taking in incredible vistas and feeling on top of the world... other times struggling to take the next step forward and feeling hopeless.

I'm going to give you a little sneak peak on something I was working on yesterday. It was designed with the intention of being put on a little stretchy material that people here wear on their heads like a stocking cap, or at times pull down around their neck like a scarf. We'll see what it ends up getting used for in the end... if at all. But either way, you're getting a sneak peak. I feel like it's somewhat relevant to what we're talking about.

We're all walking in this life together. Many of us are on different paths, in different locations... but we're all somewhere. God is calling to us to get away and simply BE with Him is His creation. When was the last time you set some time aside to simply walk, listen, be quiet, and let your mind (and soul) breathe?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Easter in Ecuador



Holidays in a foreign country feel different. No matter how hard you try, it’s just not quite the same as in your country of origin-- but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We had a pretty wonderful Easter, along with the days surrounding it.

On Good Friday we took a group of interns from El Refugio to Midad Del Mundo-- the monument recognizing the actual equator line that runs through Ecuador. It’s about an 8 minute drive from Calacalí. We took pictures standing on the yellow line, ate Fanesca (the typical soup eaten here during Holy Week), and watched a processional/parade of Ecuadorians in Holy Week garb. 

That night we also had a group over to our house and ate together, talked for a while, and watched a movie. Saturday was a slower day spent at home preparing for Sunday.


On Sunday we had a sunrise service on El Refugio’s property. We learned that occasionally in the past this had taken place, so Suzy took it upon herself to invite, organize, and plan this year’s service. 
We drove up to a great look-out point at 6:30am. This is what it looked like shortly after we got up there. We had a mix of readings, sharing, and worship through song.





After the service we drove back down to El Refugio’s dining area and had a good-ol’ breakfast potluck. 


Mid-morning we transitioned over to our house and had an easter-egg hunt, painted eggs, and had another delicious meal prepared by Suzy. People hung around into the afternoon and we were blessed with a sunny, beautiful day to be in fellowship with one another.
 

So. Holidays do ‘feel’ different in different locations... but being surrounded by other believers who are celebrating for the same reason we are makes it feel just like it should. 

-jim

Sunday, March 24, 2013

4:30am Perimeter Hike with LIFT

    4:oo am came pretty quickly yesterday. Suzy had to push me to turn off the alarm... I had already incorporated the sound of the static coming from my alarm clock into my dream. I got up, packed my things, and walked the 8 minutes from our house to El Refugio.

     What was I doing up this early, you ask? On March 11th a group of 30+ came from Camp-of-the-WOODS in Speculator, NY. This group is mainly comprised of 18 - 26 year olds who have set aside a semester or at times 2 to be a part of their LIFT program. LIFT combines Biblical training, camp ministry experience, missions training and exposure, and outdoor adventure. These guys go canoeing, backpacking, and do some serious hikes and climbing. Just today they left to go summit a mountain here in Ecuador. So, I got up that early yesterday to do the perimeter hike with them here on El Refugio's property. I would venture to say that this hike is the most difficult one that we have to offer within our property.

     It was a rough hike. I've acclimated really well to the altitude here, but in truth, I haven't done any really long or strenuous hikes since being here. Nor have I gotten up that early in... years, probably.

     But I tell you what, the spiritual picture that I experienced and envisioned while on that hike was powerful. The majority of those hiking were wearing head-lamps, as the sun had not come up yet. The first 15 minutes was an uphill incline, but not terrible. The following 45 minutes - hour was straight up the mountainside, and very steep. There were people in front of me. There were people behind me. I stopped a few times briefly to catch my breath, have some water, and view the stars, lights of Calacalí, and the lights moving further away from me and approaching me.


     This was the thing that struck me the most. I was a part of this line of lights-- from the head-lamps. You could clearly make out this line of little lights bopping up and down, highlighting the flow of the path we were hiking. It was cool to see all of these lights; in front of me, showing the path I was about to walk, and behind me, seeing where I've just come from. And there were so many lights! There was probably just under 50 of us doing this hike. As I stopped, people would pass by me. I would hear them encouraging one another, laughing together, and on more than one occasion someone passing would offer some of their water.

     So here's my picture. This is the body of Christ. We are all walking on this path... little lights for Christ, hiking a difficult path in a dark world. We're taking this narrow path towards the summit. We're tired at times, alone at times; but we're not alone. There are many others walking the path and they are happy-- they're filled with joy as they walk towards the goal, offering help and encouragement to their brothers and sisters. Though it's tiring, it's worth it. Our bodies actually like the exercise, and the view at the top, the reward-- it's totally worth it.

     It was a cloudy morning and we were in the mountains, so we didn't get a really crisp, defined, or colorful sunrise. But the view was awesome. And I will certainly be doing the hike again.



     Ask yourself this today: Who do I know that needs that extra word of encouragement today? Who is in need of water or is sitting down because they're so tired? How can we laugh with, encourage, or be there for someone else who is walking on this path with us?

The view from the top: The town of Calacalí

Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Fire Pit

    We still don't have internet access. It turns out this process of getting internet may be even more complicated than we thought. Apparently to receive internet services from the main/best internet company in the country, you have to have a Cedula number. A Cedula number is basically the equivalent of a Social Security Number. Anyone not born in Ecuador uses their Passport number to stand in place of a Cedula number. The problem is, the amount of numbers in a passport ID and the amount of numbers in a Cedula aren't the same. So computers won't allow a passport number in place of a Cedula number. Therefore... we are going to have to look into private internet providers... so the process continues. Would you join us in prayer about this? We'd really like to e-mail, skype, FaceTime, update our website, blog, and connect with people on facebook... among other things... from our home.

    But not having as much technology at home does have up-sides. For instance, it gave me the time to hunt for big rocks and make a fire pit in our side yard. It gave us time to collect wood from El Refugio, and then start a fire in our fire pit. We had time to simply sit around the fire, pet the dogs that live with us, play with Kaia, and enjoy watching her take in the first fire we've had at our home here in Ecuador.

   So, this is a much shorter blog entry... but maybe that means more of you will read it all the way to the end! And, pictures are always more fun, anyway, right?

   Lulu, the oldest of the dogs on our property, gave birth to a little black puppy a little over a month ago. He's a rolly-polly little guy, like the mouse 'Gus' from Cinderella... so yesterday we gave him a name: Gus.



Lulu, the mother of our new little guy, Gus

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Suffering.


This has been quite the year of transition for us. Kaia turns one this weekend, and it’s crazy to realize that just a year ago we were ‘living’ at the International Teams headquarters in Elgin, Illinois, without a daughter. Before that we had been ‘living’ in many different spare rooms as we traveled around the country support raising for 4 1/2 months. We had difficulties and trying times over the past year: car problems, learning to care for a newborn, packing and unpacking over and over again, living in a foreign country (Costa Rica), learning a new language, adjusting to a new culture (twice, now), and many processes to go through with governments, embassies, and visas. 

Adjusting to life here in Ecuador really hasn’t been bad. There have certainly been ups and downs, but it is so good to finally be in the country we’ve been working towards for close to two years now. At the beginning of this month I went to Santa Clara, an area in Quito where there are vendors that sell handmade wood furniture. This furniture is typically cheaper or the same price as non-wood or partial-wood furniture that you would buy in other bigger stores. The other cool thing is that you can commission people there to make furniture pieces to the sizes and styles you prefer. Obviously, they’re skills are varied and perhaps limited, but it’s cool that you can bring them a picture from a catalog and they can try their best to replicate it. This doesn’t cost any more than the pieces in their shops... it just costs more in that you can’t take it home with you that same day.

We decided to commission the vast majority of the wood furniture we wanted through these various furniture makers in Santa Clara. I actually ended up working with 5 different men from different store fronts when all was said and done. The time estimations or promises ranged anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. One guy I worked with said 2 weeks and delivered early-- in 11 days! Three others got me their furniture within 12 hours of when the promised. The 5th has still yet to deliver. He told me two weeks. Then he told me 3 weeks. Then he told me in three more days. That was supposed to be today. Tomorrow will make 26 days. 
One of the pieces of furniture we bought
When he didn’t stick to his word the first time, I was angry. All of the others had delivered on time (relatively) and he tried telling me that I had written things down wrong and they still had another week. He has outright lied to me several times now. It’s frustrating. But it’s not the end of the world. It would be really nice to have our coffee table and a cabinet to put our sheets and blankets in that are still sitting in a suitcase... but it’s not the end of the world.

The truth is, I have responded to this whole situation like it was the greatest injustice ever committed. I got pretty heated. And I think a lot of it was just every hoop we’ve had to jump through and every frustrating process and lie we’ve encountered coming to a head in this one situation... but I was so silly in thinking of how terrible it is that I don’t get to have a coffee table to put my feet up on yet.

This is not suffering. There are people suffering for the gospel all over the world. There is persecution and terrible acts being committed against christians who are living their lives openly or secretly for Christ. I have a friend from college who lost his wife to a battle against cancer today. I remember meeting his wife, Christie, our freshman year... I buried her dorm-room window in snow with a friend of mine. Today she left behind a daughter under 2 years old and a husband who is now a widower at 27 or 28 years old. This is pain. This is suffering. 

And yet Christ is in our suffering. We had an annual team conference this weekend, and I had the opportunity to talk briefly with our soon-to-be interim team leader. He was telling me how glad it made him that in the face of adversity-- in our hardest, most trying times, that is when God is most glorified. Those are the times that we realize we are not capable, we don’t have the strength or ability, and we are forced to rely on God to fill in and empower us because we simply can’t do it ourselves. When we fall back in exhaustion and inability into the arms of Christ, He takes that soft, malleable clay and makes beautiful things. And He uses us to do and say amazing things. So this leader was telling me how excited he was for these coming challenging days to arrive, where he would be pushed in difficult ways to grow, be used, and allow Christ to use him.

Jason and Christie Engelmann 
So I will rejoice in the face of suffering and difficult times. I will cry, I will journal, I will make art, and do anything else I can to get the emotions out... and I will lay my body and will down in the hands of Christ to use me and glorify my creator. For He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever hope or imagine. 

I will miss my friend Christie... and my heart aches for her family-- especially for her husband and daughter. But what a joy to know she ran the race in Christ’s name and that now she is in glory with our Father, praising His name with the angels and those who have gone before us. Amazing.


 -jim

Friday, January 11, 2013

We are in Ecuador.

   It has certainly been far too long since we wrote an entry on this blog. Since our last post we have left Costa Rica, safely arrived in Ecuador, searched for and bought a car, celebrated Christmas and New Years, moved out of our director's house to the house at El Refugio temporarily, searched for a house to live in, and signed a lease for a home in Calacalí.



   How have these things gone, you ask? Well... let me tell you.

1. Flying out of Costa Rica was a little crazy. We had a lot of bags, had to pay extra baggage fees, and almost were bumped from the flight to leave a day later. We weren't, however. Kaia did pretty well on the 2 hour flight, though she did roll off of the seat about a minute into our arrival into the plane. But it was a smooth flight, Paul (our director) picked us up without a hitch, and we quickly settled in to staying with his family.

2. Staying with Paul's family. Paul and Beth had 2 kids: Jack age 4 and Carleigh age 2. I say had, because less than a week into staying with them, Beth gave birth to their son, Tilghman! We stayed at their place a bit longer than expected to help with their new family of 5!






3. Searching for a car. Danny is an Ecuadorian from El Refugio who has been assigned to us as an 'on-boarding' host. He and his wife Katy are meant to help us acclimate and aid us in things that are difficult to do in a new country: i.e. buy a car. With his help, we bought a 1998 Mitsubishi Montero within the first 2 weeks. We've already put many miles on it and are so thankful to have a way to get around!



4. Christmas and New Years Eve were spent with Paul, Beth and their kids. It was really nice not to just be on our own, and we had a great time making and eating yummy food, opening presents, watching Christmas specials, and of course watching fireworks!



5. Moving out to El Refugio. We've been staying at the large house on the property of El Refugio for over a week now. Howie and Mary Scholl are another missionary couple on our team and they're back in the States spending the holidays with family. So, they're graciously letting us stay at their place while we find out own place to live in.



6. Which brings us to our last big thing: Our house! Paul had his eye on a home really close to El Refugio for quite some time, but never saw the owner. In the past he had left his phone number hoping to hear from the owners several times, but never heard back. Then, one day as he and I were leaving El Refugio, he noticed a car in front of the house. We stopped by and talked with the people who were there. Long story short, it was their vacation home that they only stay at about twice a year, and they were eager to rent it to us! It's a perfect location with great outdoor space, chickens, a couple of dogs, and we truly believe God prepared this place specifically for us!



7. Moving in. So, we've had the keys for a while now, but have yet to spend our first night there. Why, you ask? Well... we have no bed. They should be delivering it today, however. Also, the couple pieces of furniture in the place are on loan temporarily from our landlord as we wait for our furniture to be made/delivered. But! In the meantime, we've been painting, buying things we need to survive, and I've been installing ceiling lights. We'll post more pictures once it's filled with our furniture and is more presentable... in the meantime, I'll give you a sneak peak of a before and after painting picture. If you want to see all of the before/after photos, check out our facebook album here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.408670405878561.99958.184517298293874&type=1



      So, things are great! We're settling in, taking things slowly, and are excited to begin easing into relationships, ministry, and the like.

 Happy Friday!

 -jim