A team of seven architects and engineers from Engineering Ministries International (eMi) arrived at the Cooper-Benitez-Hebert-Waggoner B&B at 2:30 am Saturday morning. Four of the members were from Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver in Canada. Three members were from Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Dallas in the U.S. It was a very diverse group, both geographically and culturally. However, they all shared the same deep commitments to ministry, serving, engineering, and architecture.
Many of the team members had not known each other personally before this trip. Therefore, time was set aside Saturday night to give testimonies about their lives and how they arrived at Engineering Ministries International (eMi). Members of the FEDICE team were also included, though we had obviously not been associated with eMi before the wee hours of Saturday morning. By the time we were through learning about each other's journeys to this point in time, I think we felt we had known our fellow travelers all of our lives. I know I felt that way. Each one of us had a pretty remarkable story to tell.
Before Marilyn and I went to sleep, we remarked on the recurrent themes of the testimonies. One was, of course, a strong belief in God. Another was a strong desire to make our world a better place by using our various talents and skills for the benefit of all. But another recurrent theme that some may not have quite expected was the theme of loss, hurt, and healing - the healing power of Jesus Christ. Nearly everyone had a story to tell that touched on this theme. It's possible that most of us have to experience loss, hurt, and healing before we can truly understand how to connect with and love every one and every thing around us.
During my testimony, I mentioned respecting people and helping people. I'm sorry I forgot to mention loving people, because I certainly believe in that. It may be spiritual love, it may be platonic love, it may be romantic love, it may be open-minded love, it may be tough love, but, in my heart, I know beyond doubt that we are hard-wired to love one another.
Just wanted to let you know how much these posts help me stay in touch with the ministry of FEDICE in Ecuador. Thanks Glenn!
It's summer. Where I come from, Texas, things heat up drastically in the summer. It's no different in the Andes of Ecuador - unless you happen to be talking about the weather and comparing apples to apples. I happen to be comparing weather predictions to human development projects.
In Texas, the temperature will likely be predicted to hit 100 degrees in the not-too-distant future, if it hasn't already happened. In the Andes of Ecuador, there's no need to worry about 100º Fahrenheit temps (one reason might be that temps are measured in Celsius). The weather is spring-like year-round in the Ecuadorian Andes. No, the heating up I'm referring to is the Lord's work that FEDICE accomplishes in the summer. As I mentioned in the post just before this one, FEDICE is and has been very busy.
From May 24th to May 29th, FEDICE hosted a group from Fort Worth Country Day School who worked in Romerillos, south of Quito. Marilyn and I didn't have an opportunity to go down there, but we understand that these high schoolers were simply amazing. They helped pour a concrete slab for the roof of the second floor of a preschool that FEDICE helped build a few years ago with the Lisa Franke family of Illinois. It was originally built for 20-25 children. However, last summer the government decided to consolidate preschools so that each had at least 40 children. Because of the quality, this school was kept open but is now overcrowded. Thus, the second floor is needed.
FEDICE had a week's respite to plan for our next visitors. One group arrives tonight. They are a mission group consisting of architects and engineers that designs buildings free of charge for people that need their expertise. The group is called Engineering Ministries International (eMI) and is based in Canada but has members in various countries. They will be designing a new church in Pijal Centro. The existing church is old and not well-built. To tell the truth, I refused to worship there because the staircase to the second floor, where worship services are held, is very narrow, very steep, and has no railings. I'm somewhat of a daredevil, but even I have my limits. The group of seven is going to stay at our house for a week. We're fortunate enough to have a pretty large house, but we'll see how many toes get stepped on anyway.
On Sunday Pastor Doug Deuel, minister at First Christian Church in Plano, Texas, arrives for three days. He will also be spending time in Pijal Centro. Last year, he led a mission group from his church which helped build a preschool replacing one with tiny rooms and not the best sanitation. The group also helped fund other projects in the community. He'll be evaluating these projects and making plans for when the group returns in 2015.
The heat doesn't abate yet. The day after the architectural group from eMI leaves, a group from Bridging Cultures, a partner of FEDICE, arrives. They'll be working on various building projects in Pusir Grande, about two hours north of Otavalo. During their stay, there will also be a fiesta marking the first anniversary of the partnership between FEDICE and Bridging Cultures. By the way, it IS hot (temperature-wise) in Pusir Grande.
When Bridging Cultures leaves, FEDICE gets a well-deserved two-and-a-half week break to catch our collective breath and fine-tune plans before a mission group from various churches in Oregon arrives. They will work in Cachiviro, near Otavalo, for two weeks. But we'll talk about that later.
We had our regular, monthly, FEDICE meeting today. You know. The one where we leave Otavalo at 7:30 am, drive about two hours to Quito, discuss developments and plans with a break for lunch, drive two hours back to Otavalo, and arrive anywhere from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, depending on how much needs to be discussed. Today was a 7:00 pm day because, thank God, we had so many things to plan for. FEDICE is busy these days, to say the least! I looked at my calendar and counted seven groups from the U.S. and Canada that FEDICE will have facilitated this year. Normally, there are only two or three groups in a year. And my count didn't even include the individuals who are coming in ones and twos.
But I'm not really writing this post about the exciting Lord's work that FEDICE is doing. That will come in later posts, very soon. There was something else that made this meeting unique. We brought Bethany Waggoner from Quito to Otavalo to stay with us for approximately three months.
Bethany, from Portland, Oregon, decided she'd like to change her career path and that the timing was conducive to devote herself to a volunteer experience "in the field". When her parents learned of her desires, they and other members of her church asked her if she had thought about FEDICE in Ecuador. You see, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations in Oregon have long supported FEDICE at a regional level, by raising money, by sending groups down on work projects about every other year, and now by sending volunteers (Kelsey and Aaron from Oregon are also volunteering with FEDICE this summer). Bethany hadn't thought about volunteering through Global Ministries, the organization with which Marilyn and I are affiliated. However, the more she learned, the more she liked what she heard. She arrived in Ecuador on January 15th.
In the almost five months since that time, Bethany has worked in the offices of FEDICE, located in Quito. Her many talents have been a tremendous asset to the organization. She has brought expertise in the areas of non-profit organizations, writing, art, advertising, and social media, to name a few. All of these and more have been employed on behalf of FEDICE, strengthening our team.
Bethany has also shown adaptability. During a torrential rainstorm in Quito last April, the sewer system backed up spectacularly. Water came through the skylights, through the front door, and up through drains in the kitchens and bathrooms. Bethany was one of the few people in the FEDICE offices that day. She called on a talent she may not have known she possessed to such a degree, and helped the team by sweeping the water out of the main floor of the offices before it could cause any lasting harm.
At Lago Cuicocha
When we went to the family Bethany had been living with in Quito to pick up her luggage, more than a few tears were shed. Both the family and Bethany had grown deep roots into each other's hearts. The sadness of parting is nothing to be taken lightly. Often I've been in situations where I didn't expect it to hurt when I said goodbye to various Ecuatorianos and have been proven wrong. The care that develops on both sides is, more often than not, deep and intense. I don't like to think of a day when Marilyn and I might have to say goodbye to the people of Ecuador for good. I don't need tears to begin welling up long before an event like that.
Enjoying Our Anniversary Fiesta
But the loss suffered by Bethany and her Quito family is our gain, at least while Bethany is living with us in Otavalo. We look forward to working more closely with her, learning from her youthful perspectives and ideas, and sharing our knowledge and (ahem!) wisdom. Her first assignments while here will be to finish new photo montages for the FEDICE offices and to help with two back-to-back groups, the first of which will be arriving Friday night, June 6th.
After three months or so, Bethany will move on to another part of Ecuador, brightening and enhancing the lives of others. And, no doubt, we'll be just as sad as her Quito family to see her go.
Today, June 2nd, 2014, Marilyn and I celebrated our 30th year of marital bliss. Okay, okay, for the factual sticklers out there, there have been a few times that were not exactly blissful. But, if one looks at the entirety of our marriage, it has been truly marvelous and we have been both blessed beyond our most hoped-for dreams. No doubt, it's because we have cherished each other from opening day. We could talk about love, honesty, respect, care, etc., but cherish - cherish seems to sum it up nicely.
Things were low-key today. We woke up and wished each other a Happy Anniversary. We ate pancakes together with Isabel (Brayan leaves early for school). Marilyn and Isabel went grocery shopping this morning while I caught up on my computer. This afternoon, they both joined a group of friends to make quimbolitos (which look like tamales but taste far different). They did this to sell them in support of a nearby orphanage for children who have AIDS. Today was kind of an average day. But yesterday was when the fireworks took place, if not literally than certainly figuratively.
Before The Fiesta
Unlike our 25th anniversary, when I surprised Marilyn with a party at a restaurant, including the attendance of her brother from California, we planned yesterday's fiesta together - and with Isabel. The timeframe was short. We started thinking about a celebration while flying back to Ecuador on May 12th. Given that fact, the proper planning of a largish fiesta could have stressed us until we wondered if 30 years of marriage was really worth it. But a heaven-sent miracle named Isabel lives with us.
Elias And Lucila (Parents Of Our Godchild) Flanking Laurie From Québec
Isabel has worked many fiestas at the Ally Micuy Hotel that have ranged from wedding receptions, to birthday parties, to special recognitions, to quinceañeras (a girl's 15th birthday celebration). Isabel knows fiestas! We did know which restaurant we wanted to host the party. That was our contribution. But where was the best place to buy flowers? Isabel knew. When our list of invitees grew out of the restaurant's capacity, we knew we had to put a carpa (tent) or two in the backyard. Again, Isabel knew where to go without us having to shop around and compare prices. No doubt she would have known the best place to get a cake, but Luz and Cesar wanted to get that for us as a gift. We also wanted a Mariachi Band to play for a while. Isabel knew that Brayan's music teacher led a group of Mariachis. Isabel also said we had to have a priest to bless (re-bless?) our marriage, even though Marilyn is not Catholic and I only have Catholic roots that are a bit shallow now. Isabel's sister-in-law volunteers at the local church, so Isabel asked Margola to ask the priest there to officiate. Pulling it together was sooo easy. Practically the only thing we had to do was part with our plata (money).
See-Through Flower Heart
Walking Down The Aisle
When we invited people, we told them to plan to be here at noon and not to bring any gifts. As an added incentive to be on time, we said we had scheduled the blessing at 12:30 pm. There were only a smattering of people here at noon, which was no surprise in this culture. There were only a few more people here at 12:30 pm. Still, it was no problem because one of the people tarde (late) was the priest. By the time he showed up at 1:00 pm, most people were here and we could proceed with clear consciences.
We were very happy with the priest. He conducted a brief but meaningful ceremony. One of the things he said was that we were good examples for those who come to him saying, "I just can't live with my spouse any longer." In his view, they did not face the difficulties we face. (Little did he know that both of our lives have been easier on the whole since we've been married.) In closing, noting our height difference, he said that he usually asks the groom to kiss the bride but, in this case, the bride should kiss the groom. And Marilyn did!
Cesar And Blanca Toasting
Then it was time for toasts. After I toasted Marilyn, I kind of jumped the gun by saying, "Let's eat!" However, Marilyn and others wanted to offer toasts, including Blanca of FEDICE, Cesar, Elvis, and Encarnación. Some wonderful things were said, including how such diverse people have come together as a family because of us.
And our guests WERE diverse. There were rich, poor, old, young, and in-between. There were Spanish-speakers, English-speakers, German-speakers, French-speakers, and Quechua-speakers. There were Ecuatoriano family members, friends from FEDICE, friends from Marilyn's Quechua class, and friends we've come to know merely by living in Otavalo. Pastor Augustin, the evangelical minister in Cachimuel, gave the blessing before the meal in Quechua. It felt so natural.
Augustin Blessing The Food
Since we had grown out of the capacity of Fussión Restaurante, we asked Xavier, the owner, to cater the affair. Xavier is a trained chef. He was trained in Peru, and we really love the food at his restaurant. It's so different from the traditional food eaten by the majority of people in the Andes of Ecuador everyday. Traditional food in Ecuador is good, but we're used to eating a variety of foods. As the name of the restaurant implies, the dishes are a fusion of different cultures and traditions. Quite tasty!
As the meal was nearing its conclusion, the Mariachi Band we'd hired made their grand entrance with blaring trumpets. Up to this point, we'd been playing recorded easy-listening Spanish music at a volume acceptable to "old married folks" like Marilyn and me. No more. The loud Mariachi Band got things rocking. The dancing soon commenced. After Marilyn and I had a dance together, she led a conga line (twice, I think) while I danced with various other women. It felt great to cut loose. Our evangelical friends don't dance, but I think they enjoyed listening to the band and watching the dancers.
Marilyn Leading A Conga Line
Glenn Dancing With Isabel
People started leaving about 4:00 pm, but a few stayed long enough to have café (the evening meal) with us. Some of them tried to embarrass us about our second luna miel (honeymoon), but Marilyn and I were pretty much unembarrassable. We just laughed along with the jokes. Of course, it probably helped that we only got the gist of the jokes, not the details.
I told Marilyn that I couldn't remember when I'd been so keyed up for an event. She reminded me that it was probably when the New Orleans Saints played in the Super Bowl, or on the day we had our 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration. For that anniversary, I had persuaded our minister to tell a slight falsehood about attending a meeting in order to surprise her. That was certainly a coup, but I think that June 1st, 2014 was even more fun and filled with love.
Dancing Into The Next 30 Years
I'll always love you, Marilyn. I guess you could say my love is like flying in a jetliner. No matter how many bumpy spots we travel through, I'm not bailing out.
I am a little late reading this, but loved it! You are a very lucky and blessed couple!