Category Archives: Calacali

The Gathering at Calacali…Choclo Edition

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It’s harvest time in Ecuador.  Last year, I chronicled the steps of our choclo harvest at the Calacali property in this post, including the age old tradition of planting and harvesting the South American corn by hand.  We again celebrated the bounty and blessings this past weekend by hosting a good ol’ fashioned “all you can eat” choclo and sloppy joe feed at the Calacali campus for the AAI faculty, staff, and their immediate families.

One of our areas of ministry has been hosting (almost) monthly events at the AAI Calacali campus.  Often, they are camp-style worship gatherings with the intent to provide a place of peace and rest from the day to day routine, fellowship with other believers, and an escape from the city with an opportunity to be refreshed.  These reunions also provide an opportunity for us to work together as a family and focus on serving others.  But, as you can imagine, getting ready for an event such as this takes some coordinated efforts.  This past weekend, the kids and I were on our own initially as Brad had an all day VISTA education program going on at the AAI campus in Quito on Saturday.  Let me just say, these kids of ours stepped it up…For fun, we documented some of the prep time in pictures to give you a bit of a back story of what we do to get ready for our guests.

First off, we have the food prep – this time, it was frying lots of ground beef (20 lbs or so) and assembling the sloppy joe recipe from scratch…no dry packets of mix available here!

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Part of the challenge in this step is figuring out how much each pan can hold and how we can still stir the mixture…We start with one pan, realize it is not quite big enough, move to the one we originally wanted to boil the corn in, realize the spoon barely reaches the bottom, decide to split the mixture into two large pans to cook, and, voilá, never ending dish duty.

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~Next, there are mayonnaise containers to fill (Ecuadorians tend to lean towards mayo on their corn versus the North American counterpart of butter), Calacali 2015 011

~Chairs and tables to wipe down and set up

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~Breaks to take

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~Music to jam to while you’re working…(God’s Great Dance Floor by Chris Tomlin)

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~And, for some reason, these kids still think they have to be fed so we have to prepare food for our own meals (AAARGH!)

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~Bean bags to be repaired for corn hole games to be played…

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~Hugs for the dad who has arrived via bus and is ready to work

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~More arranging

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~And, quality assurance checks for how the choclo tastes

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Sunday arrives, and it is time to move the corn, almost FOUR HUNDRED ears of it…

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Make lemonade, get some help to cut the queso fresco (white cheese – another Ecuadorian tradition),

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And get a jump start on shucking the corn (with a cup of coffee) to have some ready when everyone arrives to enjoy the beautiful day!

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Let the festivities begin!

Shucking corn…

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Game playing…

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Holding baby Matias…

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Looking good…

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And hanging out with friends…

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God has truly blessed us with the opportunity to be intentional in celebrating God’s provision, sharing time with the AAI community, and being a part of Calacali.  Our prayer this year has been that the Calacali campus could be a place filled with God’s presence, one in which merely setting foot on site would allow each individual a time of rest and relaxation in order to recharge for continued ministry.  Whether it be for individual retreat, or corporate times of worship and fellowship, Calacali has become a special place to feel God’s presence.

But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.  Psalm 73:28

Praying you will find rest and refuge in the only One who can sustain our every need…


From field to table

It’s harvest time in Ecuador.  An obvious difference from our South Dakota roots, where spring has sprung and farmers are certainly working on preparing their fields to plant the corn or the beans…yet here we are, late April, at the end of the growing cycle which we have been able to witness first hand from start to finish.

It all started back when we arrived late summer.  We caught the tail end of the purple corn harvest, a type of corn that is dried and ground into a flour for the specialty drink, colada morada.  A blend of corn, spices, and fruit, this drink is available as a commemoration of the Day of the Dead celebration.  One little field on the property is dedicated to growing this specialty corn.  José Marie picks it by hand and tosses it into the handmade basket on his back in true Ecuadorian style.

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Then, the soil is prepared.  This was late September.  It was so dry…according to José Maria, it was the worst it has been in thirteen years.  But, it doesn’t stop the need to plant the source of your livelihood and pray that God will send the rain.  With this process, there are no tractors for plowing and furrowing the rows.  Just two well-trained oxen, a sturdy yoke, and lots of muscle to turn the soil and make it ready for the seed.

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The fields are ready for planting mid-October.  Through a skilled technique, the women poke, drop, and step, creating symmetric and even rows of seed that will produce choclo, (pronounced choke low), the sweet corn of the Andes.  Row after furrowed row they walk, hand seeding with a baby in a back sling and seeds in the front.

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The rains finally come, but are too little, too late, perhaps, for the last planted field.  It will eventually grow, but there is uncertainty as to whether it will produce.


José Maria tends the crops right before Christmas by hand after day he comes out of the corn, hunched over from wear and tear, yet is so fit for a seventy year old man.  I reminisce about my tiny little garden and how I hated to take care of the weeds.  It pales in comparison to the size of the fields that need to be maintained.  Certainly not the acres and acres that any farmer would have in America, but a plot of land that brings pride and satisfaction when it grows and produces.  The work ethic of this man is amazing.

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He picked a gunny sack full about a week ago, and, as he carted it off in his wheelbarrow, lamented to us how the market price is only $8 for the entire bag of 250 ears.  It is a bumper crop this year so supply exceeds demand.  He leaves at 2:00am to take a bus to Quito just to see if he can find a better price.  The report comes back that there were trucks and trucks of corn.  The price will be low for now.

But, when the corn is ready, it needs to be picked.  So, despite the price at the market, this week was one of excitement. Workers were hired and the harvest began.

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Through a time-tested ritual, workers entered row upon row to pick the corn, while José Maria and another man ran the gunny sacks back to the piles, dumping sack after sack to be sorted into grande and pequeña groupings.

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Harvest dictates we try a sample platter for lunch, fresh from the field, cooked in a classic “remembering Grandma” pot.  Many Ecuadorians use mayonnaise or cheese, but we stuck with good ol’ butter and salt.

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Two to three days of harvest, and a daily truck run into town with the fruits of their labor.

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And us, blessed to have them farming the land we are able to live on, purchased a bag of choclo to share when we hosted the Homeschool Teen Fellowship group last night.  One hundred ears husked with 150 more to send home with our guests.  Fresh picked the day of cooking.


Now, that’s farm to table at its finest.


 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:  A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (KJV)


The faces of Calacali

We are in the midst of a wonderful time with Brad’s parents who have joined us in Ecuador for two weeks…a mix of work and play. Brad’s dad is speaking in a number of venues, sharing with Alliance Academy International students in Biology and Bible classes as well as area pastors, staff, and faculty.  Cape, Josh’s friend from Sioux Falls, was also able to travel down with them, and they have been enjoying  an assortment of play along with a mission project of trail blazing up on the mountain.  The time is flying!

While the boys are all hiking up the mountain, I thought I’d take a bit of time to share with you a few faces of the special people who have blessed us with their presence here at the discipleship and ministry center.  We have been able to host a variety of people, from Alliance Academy International staff and families, to church youth groups, to leadership trainings.  Here is just a sampling!

AAI family

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Caretaker Jorge and his father Jose Maria


AAI Soccer team


Mennonite church youth group


AAI 5th graders


Celebrating Jorge’s birthday


Alposento Alto youth group

Carmen Bajo church and Compassional International kids

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We have been blessed greatly by all the faces that grace this property and trust that the Lord will do a mighty work in the lives of each and every one of these people .  God’s glorious creation is the perfect setting to draw people closer to him as the evidence of his magnificent glory is all around us.  We pray that all who set foot on this special place may feel his presence in a tangible way.



When the gringos go to town

When we moved to Quito, we knew it would be awhile before we got a car – if we got one at all.  We were willing to try out the bus and taxi scene and, once Brad got his license, we would potentially look into the feasibility (and investment!) of getting our own vehicle.  Now, certainly, the city of Quito lends itself to getting around fairly easily with a very reasonably priced taxi, but being 45 minutes out of town in Calacali is a game-changer.  Going to the Alliance school, getting groceries, well, let’s just say we’ve become resident experts in the art of bus riding and getting to town.  Alternative transportation is limited.
For example, let’s say we’re heading into town to get groceries.  Now, one option is to walk a mile into Calacali and head to the Sunday market to get our fruits and vegetables, stop for a few basics of yogurt, eggs, and chips at the local tienda (a small corner store), and grab some buns or enrollados at a panaderia (bread store).  This was (and is) our usual Sunday routine – complete with large bags to fill with potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, pineapple…But, certainly worth the walk and the heavy baggage for fresh, locally-grown produce.


$6 of fresh produce from the market

Now, unfortunately, we do have to venture in a bit further to get the rest of our goods.  We have become masters of knowing exactly how much food (and weight) each person can fit into a backpack or canvas bag.  It is essential to be able to have the distribution of weight correct, as often times the buses are standing room only, so you have to be able to stand, surf style, hold on to an upper handle while supporting either the backpack or the bag in a protective measure because you never quite know who might want your chifles (plantain chips) or bagged milk.

Once on the bus, you pay your 42 cents to get you about an hour from the MegaMaxi store back to Calacali, where you walk the remaining mile, slightly uphill, all the while thinking about how perseverance (or at least heavy groceries) makes the body stronger.

At times, we may head to Calacali for an almuerzo (lunch).  But, once again, to get to town, we have to be creative…plastic chairs and all.
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Many of the local restaurants have a menu of the day item…here in Calacali, you receive a large bowl of soup, an entree that has a type of meat, rice, and a vegetable, juice of the day, all for the low price of $1.75 to $2.00.  This is where we have experienced an array of protein choices, from liver, to goat, to tongue.  Now, we have learned to ask before we order, because you can always substitute your meat with a fried (over- easy) egg.
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Once a week, at a minimum, we need to head in to the Alliance Academy in Quito.  In order to get there in time for meetings, we leave our home around 6:35am to make the trek into town to catch the 7am bus.  Walking in to Calacali is always an adventure and you never quite know what you will see…

Luckily, the bus line starts at Calacali, so we are often guaranteed a seat.  This is quite fortunate as the bus becomes EXTREMELY crowded as it picks up people stop after stop.  The early mornings often take a toll, frequently lulling the young (and old)  to sleep…
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And, we recently even tried out the Metro – Ecuador’s version of the subway.  Just like the bus, you just pray you can get on and get off before the doors close!


But, rewards await.  Getting off at a nearby bus stop, we walk the last 20 minutes downhill to school, stopping off to look at flowers, rest in the park, or have a quick snack at a local bakery.
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And, if we’re lucky, and it’s not raining, we catch a glimpse of at least one volcano on our walk down.



Getting to and around town has sure been an adventure, thus far, but it has also served as a learning tool.  We’ve seen the respect for elders, pregnant women, and women with small children as people immediately give up their seat as soon as one enters the bus.  There is no looking around to see if someone else is going to do it, or a hesitation in hoping a different seat is found.  We’ve seen Ecuadorians go out of their way to make sure we didn’t miss our bus stop when we stay on the bus past the local tourist spot of Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) to go on to Calacali.   We’ve seen how the bus is a prime place to try and sell a CD, ice cream, cherries, grapes, limes, tomatoes, and homemade goods.  We’ve noticed, though, we are an obvious minority among Latinos, yet we receive many friendly smiles. We’ve seen how little boys and girls like to try out their limited English by saying “hello” and then giggling non-stop when you say hello back.

The bus has been a great experience, and one we will continue to use.  But, thankfully, we now have the option of driving as Brad has received his Ecuadorian license and we can rent a school van when it is available.
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And, in the very near future, we may be the proud owners of a used Nissan truck.  While the bus culture has worked for the short-term, we have found a vehicle that seems to be a good fit for us as a family.  Cars are an investment in this country and are extremly expensive, but retain their value far beyond what you would expect.   We are able to purchase from a family returning to the States, so we will be able to exchange money through American banks.  We know the history of the vehicle, and the current owner is willing to help us with all the transfer of paperwork, which is quite extensive.  Our prayer is that the vehicle will continue to retain its value throughout our time of ownership, and that we will be good stewards of this investment.  It is a BIG step, but one necessary at this time.

God continues to provide us with our every need, and we are thankful for his provision.  He has granted us safety through all our walking and riding.  We pray he will continue to keep his hand of protection upon us in this new adventure of driving!

2013 Reflections

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

Happy New Year from Ecuador!  Around here, the Año Viejo has been created, which is a monigote (large dummy), a representative of the old year.  It is burned at midnight to symbolize the out with the old, in with the new.  We are anticipating a loud night, complete with fires, loud music, parties, and fireworks until late New Year’s Day morning.  We’ve been to town, checked out all the artistic renditions, had some pasta de chocolate, and have been playing family games all evening in the comfort of our casa,

Seeing as it is December 31st, the evening seems to naturally lend itself to reflection and reminiscing.  While we have certainly done that year to year, this past 365 days has proven to probably be the year sporting the biggest changes for our family.  In lieu of a Christmas letter this year, we thought we would share a bit of a recap:

November 2012:

  • Shared with our families how God was working in our life and instructing us to “get mobile”
  • God truly asking us for obedience without all the puzzle pieces in place
  • We meet with Pastor Kirk and Gloria to tell them how God is working in our life and he shares how he was compelled to share Proverbs 16:3 with us that day – one of many confirmations in this path


December 2012:

  • Joshua gets a deer hunting with Grandpa Bierle and Uncle Steve
  • Plans being made to further heed God’s call to Ecuador – we realize this will may be our last Christmas at our house


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  • God provides a young, godly chiropractor to begin the transition as owner of Brad’s practice
  • Kids continue their dog sitting jobs and brave the frigid temperatures
  • Kids begin to talk about Ecuador in “real time” – what we should do there, what they think their home will be like…we see them embracing the changes to come by trusting us as we trust our heavenly Father.

    Certain distinctive relationships move us to act differently, love more deeply, and risk boldly.  Such was Jesus’s effect upon the apprentices.  They did not want the sort of life they once had apart from him.  They’d been ruined for the ordinary.  What they saw in him transcended everything they hoped to get out of this world.  And when push came to shove, they just couldn’t leave him.  He had the secret – the words of eternal life.                                                                                                       —Sacrilege, p. 219



  • Letter sent to all Brad’s patients regarding the upcoming transition
  • God continues to speak to us in a variety of ways, strengthening and confirming his leading in our life on a daily basis in ways we would have never imagined
  • The whirlwind of transition begins, but we feel an overwhelming sense of peace with every step taken



  • Spoke at Abiding Savior to share how God is working in our life along with two other couples experiencing a similar leading
  • Continue to marvel at how God was putting the pieces together with each and every step he put before us.  He was ever faithful in showing us the “next thing” we needed
  • A potential buyer is solidified for our home without needing to list it – a couple placed on our hearts back in November
  • Sarah decides that moving to another continent is easier than addressing a letter.



  • Continued preparation in all areas of life (work, home, church, family) to be ready to follow God’s leading (So thankful for the prayer warriors who walked this journey with us – and continue to do so!)
  • Unexpected ice storm creates a mass amount of clean up at home and office



  • Dr.Levi Darling takes over Brad’s practice – changes for staff and patients but God is ever faithful!
  • We travel to Quito, Ecuador for vision trip and pray for confirmation of God’s will with this move
  • The Travis family welcomes us to Quito and become a vital part of our transition
  • Able to attend graduations for two of our godchildren – Martha Fritz and Ali Mogck

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  • The month is a whirlwind filled with Jacob’s baseball (thankful for the graciousness of team parents who stepped in to help us out), lots of continued purging, and finishing school.  Josh and Tessa make the most of time with friends while they can

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  • Tessa gets her ears pierced
  • Bierle Blessing Bonanza is held to sell our household items and ask for prayer support
  • Packing and giving away of all our household items is completed
  • Our home is sold to dear friends (Pastor Wade and Michele) who will love it as we did
  • Brad’s parents graciously allow us to live with them for 3 weeks
  • Goodbyes are said to dear church family, friends, and family

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  • Jacob successfully finishes baseball season and we leave from the state tournament to Minneapolis to spend a final couple days with Sarah’s family before departure
  • We arrive at Alliance Academy International, Quito, Ecuador, on August 6th, 2013 and live in the school dorm for the first month, gaining special friendships for a lifetime

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  • We move to Calacali, Ecuador, to further support the ministry of the AAI Discipleship and Ministry Center.  God continues to define our roles and ministry and we seek his direction in all that we do and say
  • Brad begins leading Discipleship/Accountability/Nurturing (DNA) group for high school sports group


  • Schooling at home begins for all three kids with mom and dad as teachers
  • We continue to host and support the groups coming to Calacali

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  • We get our Ecuadorian visas and celebrate Thanksgiving with our new “family”

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  • Brad gets his Ecuadorian driver’s license so our bus trips might be greatly reduced as we now have the option to use the school vans and potentially purchase a car
  • We host our first Christmas away from home with friends from Germany, Canada, Korea, China, and America

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We marvel at the changes of this past year.  We are amazed at God’s graciousness in safety and transition.  We praise Him daily for children who have not only embraced their new life, but have been examples to us, as parents, in how to step away from the worldly items we often claim near and dear, with the focus on the eternal.  We are in awe of God’s faithfulness that pours over us as we learn to fully trust in the Lord for each and every day’s provisions.  We are thankful for the peace he provides when we fully let him lead, rather than follow our own earthly desires.  Finally, we are humbled by the Christ-child who has taken people like us and released us from the bondage of sin so we might live together with him for eternity.  How can we not praise him?  How can we not seek him daily and follow him in every way?  This amazing gift is free for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Romans 6: 22-23

It took us years to let God take full control of our life.  We gave him parts, but not our all.  Experience true freedom in him.  Give your life fully to him today.  You may not be called to Ecuador, but you are called to HIM.  Listen to his voice.  Follow Him.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and forever.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten…

“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they ll die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first worked you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.” 
― Robert FulghumAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

We had the great privilege of having the entire Kindergarten class from Alliance Academy International come out last week for a field trip.  This excursion was a reward for the completion of their unit on cooperation, self-control, patience – all the things that we start working on at an early age, but never truly master.  Personally, it’s that whole Fruit of the Spirit that continues to trip me up…I’m definitely a work in progress.  But, I digress.

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What a fun sight to see – two buses filled with 40+ kindergartners, 20+ parents, and all the energetic teachers.  After a quick bathroom break, they headed into the conference room to sing some songs before venturing out for adventure.

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Has anyone ever noticed the amount of energy and patience teachers of this age group have?  God gave extra doses to these gals…


The kids were eager to head out on a tour of the property and get a first hand look at where they would spend the day.

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Time to head up the mountain to the prayer chapel…

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IMG_7652Even Ocito decides to join the crowd despite the “love and affection” he’s received thus far.

After the hike, it was time for games, lunch, and roasted marshmallows!

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The final activity for the day, showcasing how everyone needs to work together, was the planting of trees.  Each class was able to work together to plant, water, and name a special tree.  Brad and Dale were able to talk about God’s creation and how important it is for all of us to have deep roots in order to weather the storms, the droughts, and branch out.

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And, with that, we proudly welcomed “John”, “Albert”, and “Priscilla” to our family of trees.

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What a great day full of ways to practice the character traits that are truly important and will be in process for a lifetime.  These kids are off to a great start, with a foundation on which to build.  We’re happy that we were able to be a part of their day, and look forward to seeing these kids become more “rooted” in the years to come.  Just as we will continue to water John, Albert, and Priscilla to assist them in their growth, we know that the teachers and staff at AAI will work to grow the seeds that have been planted in each little life.  We’re excited to be able to play a small role in this ongoing ministry.

They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”  Jeremiah 17:8

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Tour of Calacali

Hello everyone, this is Jacob. Since mom and dad can’t formulate their thoughts to write a new blog post, I have been given permission to express those thoughts for them. Since nobody back home is very familiar with the ministry and retreat center where we are living, I have decided to provide you with a tour.

Section one, the entrance:

Driveway looking toward the road

Driveway looking toward the road

That pretty much shows all of the entrance. The gate starts the driveway bordered by corn fields and it continues up towards the main part of the camp where it passes the bodega (storage/closet) building and the red house where we live and ends in the “parking lot” in front of the tan cabin. Who is that handsome guy in the chair you ask? Well, that would be me, waiting to bring the garbage down in wheelbarrows when I see the garbage truck go down the road. We can’t leave the garbage at the end of the driveway because we don’t know exactly when the garbage man will come, and, this place is loaded with stray dogs looking for their next meal.  One of the disadvantages of having a long driveway is it takes a lot out of you when you are sprinting down it with a wheelbarrow full of garbage.

The bodega building is also included in the entrance section. This building contains many years of history from the school such as props from plays and other various items from the old dorm at the school. But the bodega also includes hidden treasures left behind from years of missionaries leaving Ecuador with no where to put their stuff. Guess where that stuff ended up…

look what we found in the bodega!

look what we found in the bodega!


Section two, the common area:


The common area is, well, the common area. This is the middle section of the property that contains the four cabins along with a miniature soccer field. This is where most people spend their time while they are staying on the property and for good reason; because this is where all the good stuff is. The soccer field is one of the main attractions in the common area, mostly because Ecuadorians enjoy their soccer. One of the only level spots on the property, the soccer field is placed in the only big enough space possible.

See the soccer field to the right of the ox?

See the soccer field to the right of the ox?

The field is conveniently fenced in so the soccer balls will not roll down hill and make you run it down. However, there are some gaps in the fence so people can enter the soccer field without having to leap the miniature fence. Sadly, the gaps are in the places that the ball always seems to go whenever it gets away from someone. The fire pit is also in the common area. Basically a ring of stone descending into a hole, the fire pit is a great place to hang out and get warm when the night comes.


Section three, the mountain:

The mountain part of the property consists of four main components: the prayer chapel, the pine forest, the eucalyptus forest, and the ridge. The prayer chapel is the most used component in the mountain section. There is a nice path leading up to the prayer chapel and it shows a great view of the entire property below along with providing a peaceful, secluded place to reflect on whatever God wants to tell you.

view from the prayer chapel

view from the prayer chapel

Prayer chapel on the mountail

Prayer chapel on the mountain

The pine forest borders the prayer chapel and runs up the mountain to about the same level as where the eucalyptus forest begins. All of the pine forest was planted by kids that used to go to the school and planted trees as part of a field trip and by Mister G. and some helpers. Most of the trees on the lower part of the forest still have markers which state the name of the student who planted the tree. The eucalyptus forest is on the opposite side of the mountain as the pine forest and runs from the same level as the top of the pine forest up until the summit of the mountain. The eucalyptus was planted after most of the mountains in our area of Ecuador were de-forested and almost no trees remained. To try and reclaim to beautiful hillsides, eucalyptus trees were planted.   Eucalyptus was chosen because it is fast growing, and was cheap at the time. Although it is an invasive species to Ecuador, it now populates most of the mountains around here. The last component of the mountain section is the ridge, which is the top of the mountain. Back when the property was first established, trenches were dug to distinguish property lines, so at the top of the mountain, a trench is dug and barbed wire is strung on the other side. Also, a thicket has grown in the trench and on the other side, obstructing any view down the other side.   Luckily, the view on our side is pretty good…


The cabins:

There are four cabins on the property not including the prayer chapel. We lovingly refer to them as the white cabin, the tan cabin (occasionally the brown cabin), the red barn, and the conference room. Since no official naming of the cabins is in place, we get by with those names. The conference room is the newest cabin and is not outfitted for sleeping, but it is a popular place for groups who want to have meetings, bible studies, or a place to hang out.

Conference room

Conference room

The conference room is essentially one room, with bathrooms and a small kitchen.

Inside conference room

Inside conference room

Moving right along, the next cabin we will explore on our tour is the white cabin. The white cabin is the most popular sleeping cabin because of its spaciousness, loft, and wood burning stove. There are also small garden beds enclosed in brick outside the white cabin.  These garden beds are home to onions, flowers, rhubarb, and various other plants whose names I do not know.

white cabin kitchen

white cabin kitchen

outside white cabin

outside white cabin

Loft area in white cabin

Inside the white cabin there is an open main space with couches, kitchen and the beloved wood stove. The first door on the left enters into a bedroom that can sleep six, along with a ladder leading up into the loft area where there are three mattresses for people to sleep on. There is a small ramp leading to another section of the loft. The ramp is probably a foot and a half wide and overlooks the bedroom below. It has no railings. There is then a small hole in the wall of the loft that visitors can crawl through into an area over the kitchen that sleeps an additional three people. There is another bedroom with a double bed, single bed, and a crib which has a small bathroom and ladder leading into a small loft that sleeps two overlooking the bedroom.  There is also one bathroom with a shower tub.

living space in the white cabin

living space in the white cabin

Next comes the tan cabin. The tan cabin has basically two entries – each door enters to a small kitchen, table, couch, and bathroom. Between those two sides are the bedrooms. The bedrooms sleep a total of nine but mattresses from our collection can be thrown on the floor if needed.

Tan cabin bedroom

Tan cabin bedroom

Living space in the tan cabin

Living space in the tan cabin

And last, but certainly not least, is the red barn, where we are living.

The red barn

The red barn

The downstairs of the red barn has a kitchen on one half, and tables for dining on the other, along with a fireside room and a bathroom. This is used as the community area where groups are welcome to come in and have a cup of coffee. The downstairs, which wraps all the way around the staircase provides a great area to prepare food and socialize with guests, friends, and family.

kitchen in our house

kitchen in our house

The fireside room has a wood burning stove in it, along with a propane heater mounted on the wall. One of those sources of heat are usually used in the mornings to take the chill off.

fireside room in the red barn

fireside room in the red barn

Upstairs is used as our primary living space. The roof is slanted, so the most space is in the middle, where the living room is located. The living room  consists of two couches, two easy chairs, two tables, other regular chairs, and our life support: the HUSJ (Heater of Ultimate and Spectacular Joy). In one of the four corners upstairs there is a bathroom while in the other three corners, there are bedrooms where Mom, Dad, Josh, and Tessa have moved in. That leaves one out: me (because Josh and I decided not to share a very small room). So I sleep behind the curtain on a single bed in the hallway (not really a hallway, just an empty space between Tessa’s room and the bathroom). Any day that the sun is out in the morning (most days), the upstairs becomes unbearably hot by mid-day. While outside may be 60 to 70 degrees, the thermometer upstairs tops out at 98 degrees on most days due to the windows and tin roof. So, the time between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm is usually spent downstairs or outside. At night around 7:00 until bedtime we cave in and turn on the HUSJ because the temperature starts to rapidly drop and often is 45 to 50 degrees by morning in the house.  Blankets save us overnight, but it’s a shock to the system getting up in the morning!

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I hope I provided you with a decent tour of our new home along with something to read until mom and dad can formulate their thoughts into a blog post that gives you another segment of our lives that applies to yours (good slogan for the blog, eh?).

Until then,

-Jacob Bierle (un-official spokesperson for the Bierle family)





A much bigger dinner table was needed…

Our apologies for the delay in getting a blog post up…we’ve been doing a bit of cooking and prep work.  We had a few people over for dinner again.  We’re kind of getting partial to having that happen.

This time, though, we were blessed to host the Alliance Academy International Faculty and Staff Retreat out at Calacali.  We haven’t yet introduced you thoroughly to Calacali, but, trust us, we’ll have a lot to say about it soon.

In the meantime, a brief introduction…Calacali is a small village outside the city of Quito.  It is about a 35-40 minute drive from the school, and, in that time, you go from concrete mayhem to mountain air, scented with pine and eucalyptus.  For us, stepping foot on the property owned by the school is like walking into northern Minnesota in the fall, minus the autumn colors.  It drips of peaceful serenity…but, we’re a little biased.

We have been blessed with the opportunity to live on this piece of property and base our ministry from this location.  We have been working on moving and setting up our “home” onsite, securing internet, organizing, envisioning, dreaming…the list goes on.  BUT, this past weekend, we had 200-250 people over for dinner!  🙂  The school owns the property – what a better way to use it?

So, we had a bit of preparation time – a few days here and there…

Making steps

Making steps

Digging out ping pong tables

Digging out ping pong tables

Conquering trees - and heights!

Conquering trees – and heights!








We had prayed for a family ministry opportunity that would include serving side by side…

88 lbs of papas underway

88 lbs of papas underway


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 The kids weren’t so sure working with 88lbs of potatoes was what God had in mind.


Let me just say, I will never again underestimate the multiplication factor of the soaked bean.  Note to self…cut the quantity in half.

Ecuadorian can opener

Ecuadorian can opener

We finished preparations of food and moved on to tables, chairs, and tent set up.  Brad and the boys can easily find work as roadies for these Ecuadorian tent masters…they appreciated not having to move ladders around the perimeter – just stick a Bierle on a corner!

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Grills are scrubbed and ready for hotdogs and meat!


Last minute scavenger hunt plans are finalized with help from the Butler kids…


Let the festivities begin!  God provided a beautiful day with lots of opportunities for fun and fellowship.  All the work was well worth the sounds of happy children playing soccer, adults chatting in various groups, teens hanging and helping, and the camaraderie of a team that pulled together to strive for a common goal – a peaceful family day in the country.  I only wish I had pictures of the men who were grilling, the kids filling lemonade, the multiple desserts that were brought,Brad leading a devotion to all the staff, and all the various pockets of people gathered in different areas.

Morning Pristinos (fried bread)

Morning Pristinos (fried bread)

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Dale Groeneweg, our Calacali mentor and friend, with Brad during afternoon ice cream…

Scooping afternoon ice cream

Scooping afternoon ice creamIMG_7348

The last bus heads out, and a successful retreat is in the books.

Bus #1 pulling out

Bus #1 pulling out

Our dinner table probably won’t include 200+ people again for quite some time, but we will certainly  have many fond memories of our first big event here at Calacali.  We know God will bring many, many people to Calacali, and we pray that each person who comes will find respite, relaxation, and rest on the ROCK on which we stand.

Finding Center


A family divided…sitting on the equator in Calacali


Very cool!

After almost two weeks of waiting, our family finally made it out to Calacali, the location of our new home and “center” of our ministry.  Not coincidentally, the village of Calacali lies directly along the equator as we experienced first hand on Monday.  Our good friend and resident Calacali expert, Dale, took us directly to the middle of town and we confirmed our “central” location on his handheld GPS device.

We then went up the hill about a half mile or so to the location of the Alliance Academy International (AAI) property.  It was the first time our kids were able to explore the property and that they did.  They searched every crook and cranny with occasional shouts of excitement at each new discovery.  We spent most of our time wandering around outside and it was all we could do to keep the boys from climbing directly to the top of the mountain ridge that towers above the property.  Needless to say, there remains great excitement and enthusiasm about eventually moving out to the property despite its rather sparse accommodations.

We also enjoyed the company of new friends, the Holcombs, who graciously drove us out to Calacali from Quito.  We were joined by the local caretaker of the property, Jorge, and his father Jose Maria who farms the property next door.  We shared bread, jam, and instant coffee (Sarah will be addressing that issue soon) along with bilingual conversation and fellowship.  Jorge and his father were patient with us as we tried some of our very limited Spanish.  They too enjoyed a few attempts at English words and Jorge took several notes to practice.  With that type of mutual effort, we hope to bridge the significant language barrier little by little.

Wanting to climb higher…still a great view.

At the end of the day, we did allow ourselves to climb half way up the mountain and past the little white prayer chapel that perches precariously on the steep slope above the main buildings.  What an awesome view!  The sight lines include several different valleys and once you climb above the immediate surroundings, the massive mountain ranges that lie behind come into view.  On a clear day, the active and snow capped volcano Cayambe is visible.  And this was only half way up to the top of the ridge!  We can’t wait for the next opportunity to continue climbing and exploring.

We returned to Calacali on foot and saw many of our new neighbors along the way.  Some of the scenes appeared to be straight out of a movie set or a Disney ride. We were continually shaking our heads, rubbing our eyes, and marveling that we were really here and that this will soon be “home”.  My favorite was an elderly Ecuadorian woman in traditional garb leading her heavily-laden burro across the cobblestone road and directly up an extremely steep slope to bring water to other livestock on the hill.  She appeared to be about four foot nothing with a wise and weather-worn face.  We exchanged a brief greeting (buenas tardes) which she followed with a brilliant and friendly smile that warmed my heart.  She was probably laughing inside as she passed our little band of very white and very naive “gringos” as we made our way to the center of town to catch the local bus.

Jose Maria breaking in a new team of oxen

                                  Ecuadorian silo

The bus ride was a good experience thanks to Dale.  It did convince us, however, that a vehicle would be a nice (and necessary!) option.  Overall it was a wonderful day to explore and dream and plan.  We remain thankful for the opportunity God has placed before us here.  Sarah and I are also so grateful for kids who are enthusiastic and adaptable to an entirely new world.  They have handled themselves with composure and grace and remain very open to new people and experiences.  They have been an example to us in many circumstances.  We look forward to how God will grow and stretch them in new and exciting ways.  We remain confident that God will bless us and use us to His glory here as we keep our focus “centered” on him.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things. 1 Chronicles 29:11