Category Archives: Family

Black Socks and Toilet Paper Rolls

For me, Valentine’s Day has always felt like that awkward holiday in which you aren’t sure you want to participate, let alone celebrate.  In high school, the day was surrounded by a weird duality of angst and anticipation…would that special someone step out and support the sophomore class to buy a specific colored chrysanthemum signifying merely friendship, or, maybe, even be bold to choose the one that signifies “I like you”?  Years later, even through college, February 14th seemed to be the one day of the year where, as a young woman, I straddled the fulcrum, one part of me teetering on emotions of immense disappointment while immensely hoping for the joy of feeling safe and secure in a current relationship.

No offense to my husband, but during our younger years, it took us awhile to get on the same page about this holiday…and maybe a few other things…like, actually dating.  Looking back, Valentine’s Day carries a lot of hurt about my expectations versus my reality.  And, because of those feelings, I believe it has changed how I see the holiday now.

My sensitive side is especially heightened this time of year.  I always have a conundrum about posting happy marriage pictures, as I have friends struggling with their relationships.  It’s like announcing your pregnancy when you know your dearest loved one deals with infertility.  I don’t want to toss my joy around inconsiderately when there is so much pain and hurt in the world.

But, bottom line, Valentine’s Day is about love.  It’s about those around you.  Your marital status doesn’t define your happiness.  You know what does?

Black socks and toilet paper rolls.


My dad died of a brain tumor when I was twelve.  Certainly, I know how this impacted my world and even how this loss has carried into my adult life.   Looking back, it is apparent that the early years of our marriage were rooted in my fear of losing Brad.  He was late getting home? Certainly that meant he was dead in a ditch somewhere.  Forgot to call?  He was insensitive and uncaring of my insecurities.  For a young married couple, these little issues stretched deep and wide and probably permeated areas more than I care to remember.

Finally, one night after another round of tears and misunderstandings, Brad boldly shared, “I can never be everything to you.  I can’t fulfill all your needs and ease your fears.  I will fail every single time because I am not perfect.  You need to lean on God for filling those holes and healing those wounds.”

Life changing.

Our relationship improved, because my focus cleared.  Instead of looking at all the negative things I felt Brad was doing, I asked the Lord to change me, to fill me, to ease my fears of being left alone as a young mom.  I leaned in to Jesus, deepening my faith through His Word and prayer. My attitude became one filtered through the lens of gratefulness which changed my life and strengthened our marriage.

For my mom, it was black socks.  My dad, being a pastor, would often come home and change clothes, and leave his black socks on the floor beside their bed.  Years after his death, I remember my mom saying how, if life were different, she would not complain about picking up his black socks, but instead be grateful she had the chance to do it.

For me, it’s the toilet paper roll.  It’s a choice, each and every time I see it empty.  I can lament that Brad or my kids forgot to change it out.  I can wave it around in their faces, or pout at the injustice of always having the responsibility fall on me. Or, I can choose thankfulness that I can serve them in that way and be grateful each and every day that we can share life together, empty toilet paper rolls and all.

So, this year, whether you will be spending Valentine’s Day with a spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or will be passing the time alone, my encouragement for you is to not let your day be defined by your circumstances.  Let your heart be filled up by the living God, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can choose to love well the people around you, whoever they are.  With Him at the central core of who you are, you can wait on his timing, and revel in his love.  By no means is it easy, and, truthfully, it may still even be a bit lonely. But, when He fills you to your very soul and you lean in to Him, He can help you see the smallest glimmer of good in even the saddest of situations.  Trust in that promise today because He delivers.  I’m living proof.  Personally, I think that may be the best Valentine’s Day gift of all.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.   Many are the afflictions of the
righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19

Be thankful for what you have, because each day is a precious gift when surrounded by those we love.  Don’t waste it. Single, married, divorced, widowed, young, old…choose gratitude, and choose Him first.

Challenging you to join me in changing the toilet paper roll  –

Blessed to be His,


PS.  If you feel so inclined, would you leave me a note on my Facebook page or in the comments section on what your “toilet paper roll” commitment is?  What will you choose to be grateful about rather than see it as a chore? What is your labor of love and thankfulness for those around you?

Traveling the Pan American Highway

A few days before Christmas, we took a little family road trip to the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. About seven to eight hours away from Quito, it sits along the Andes mountains, just as our city does, but is further south.  Often times, you can take a quick flight at a reasonable cost, but with five of us going, it made more sense to drive.

road trip

Heading north in South Dakota

Interestingly enough, the Pan American highway is the route that joins the two cities.  Since this roadway encompasses a path from Alaska all the way to the tip of South America, you would expect four lanes of exquisite roads, with plenty of space to enjoy a leisurely road trip, right? Something to wet the road trip whistle?

We’ve driven enough in this country to know that what you want is many times not what you get.

The road was certainly not the leisurely, “don’t have to think because nothing will ever get in your way” straightaway drive you would expect from heading on any major highway in South Dakota.

Passing the car ahead of you is always an exercise in gauging safety versus patience -partly because obeying no passing zones is totally optional: Cuenca 001  Cuenca 002

Fast food restaurants are virtually non-existent along any route, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have choices.  We followed an ice cream truck for quite a ways…Cuenca 006  Cuenca 005

And could have stopped in any small town for a typical Ecuadorian meal…Cuenca 048

Cuenca 046But, instead, we opted for a picnic at our self-made “roadside” rest with curious dogs seeking our leftovers.

If you need to use the restroom, most gas stations are equipped with some sort of baños.  But, you need to think ahead as the facilities are a bit different than what you would expect elsewhere.  Make sure you pack your own toilet paper as most bathrooms are not equipped with any.  At best, they may be staffed with an attendant who will sell you a few sheets of paper for fifteen to twenty cents.  Any type of doors would be a luxury.Cuenca 012

But, despite the extra thought and preparation that comes with a South American road trip, you can be guaranteed that your journey will be filled with a variety of sights that will keep you guessing as to what will be around the next bend.  This Pan American route did not disappoint.

Taking your barnyard animals out for a walk…

Cuenca 381 Cuenca 371Cuenca 020 Cuenca 010 Cuenca 009 Cuenca 044 Cuenca 043 Cuenca 007 Cuenca 022

People waiting for rides…

Cuenca 021  Cuenca 018

Cuenca 016

A probable funeral procession:
Cuenca 367

The overachiever:
Cuenca 366  

A New York bus obviously well off its intended route:Cuenca 362

And absolutely beautiful landscape, including a peek at parts of the Chimborazo volcano:

Cuenca 027 Cuenca 031 Cuenca 373 Cuenca 375

Road trip or not, there are always lessons to be learned –

  • We are thankful to have a reliable vehicle which allows us the ability to travel out of the city and explore God’s creation in unique ways.
  • We are reminded of our blessings of having our needs met as we travel through areas of poverty and squalor.
  • We see glimpses into the simple life of having enough for each day, because you work the land, tend the sheep, and milk the cows.
  • Patience means sometimes waiting for a ride at the side of the road for long stretches of time, especially when a gringo with a full truck bed can’t pick you up.
  • The variety of God’s creation is vastly different from South Dakota to Ecuador, but each place (and everything in between) are beautiful in ways beyond description.

Bottom line, we are blessed beyond measure by the God of the universe who is powerful enough to create a vast and diverse world, but personal enough to have a relationship with each and every one of us who confess Him as our Lord and Savior.

Cuenca 358 Cuenca 353

That is a trip worth taking.

Praying you are on the best road trip of all with Christ at the wheel…


Letting Them Fly…Year Two

Last night, we put our boys back on a plane again to send them off to the United States. We’re excited because they get to attend my niece’s confirmation before they head to Sioux Falls where Jacob will start baseball practice and Josh will search for ways to supplement his lack of income.dropping off

Almost a year ago to the date, I posted my feelings and reactions on Letting Them Fly.  As I read through my old musings earlier today, I realize not much has changed.  It is still hard to see the children you are raising walk from the normal, everyday life to the unknown of something new. While it is exciting to see them do things on their own and experience amazing adventures, a piece of your heart travels with them wherever they go.

Honestly, this morning, as I followed their flights with my United app, and conversed with them a bit through Google hangouts at 6:30am (thank you, technology!) I was struck, as a mom, to the importance of relationship, not only with our family, but also in terms of our Christian walk.

  • I wonder if He holds his breath as we turn and walk away, going away from the safe and into the new.
    • I wonder if He breathes a sigh of relief when we reach out to communicate and share the joys of little things, like Subway sandwiches at 5:30 in the morning.
      • I wonder if He waits, somewhat impatiently, to hear from us, when there has been down time and loss of communication.
        • I wonder if He watches helplessly as we negotiate and seek direction when obstacles, hardships, and change of plans come our way.
          • I wonder if He has tears in his eyes when, once again, He hears our voice and knows we are safe in His arms.

Since God created us with a free will, I am sure He longingly watches us as we wander from adventure to adventure, making good and bad choices, while silently begging us to seek Him through it all.  We have options – daily – little moments where we can seek God in order to go deeper, build stronger roots, look to His promises, and rest in Him.  Some days, we just coast along, barely calling on Him, trusting in our own instincts and plans.  Then, as life continues to happen, we often are faced with the realization that we can’t go it alone, we need support, and He anxiously and eagerly awaits our choice to invest in communication with Him.

Daily, I realize that it takes discipline to walk with Him
in the good, the bad, and the normal.

As our boys travel and have a few weeks of separation from us, life just won’t feel right.  When tragedy happens to someone we love, cancer comes, or injuries occur, our normal gets all mixed up.  In the same way, if we are separated from our heavenly Father, by sin, lack of prayer time, and not seeking Him first, everything will be off kilter and hectic.  Only by establishing a consistent, disciplined, and purposeful relationship with Christ will separations, hurt, and pain decrease because we can rest in the hands of the One who hears us, comforts us, and holds us – in the good, the bad, and the normal.

I know the Lord is always with me.  
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:8 (NLT)

My prayer today is that we, myself included, can put Him first and seek multiple daily interactions with Him.  May we work intentionally to build that closeness so when life throws crazy mis-adventures our way, the solid foundation of our faith in Christ can be our anchor and shelter.

Anxiously awaiting our family reunion…in the here and now, and ultimately, in our eternal heavenly home!

Blessed to be His,


PS.  Thanks so much for all the prayers after my interaction with the pavement last weekend.  I am slowly getting less sore in my ribs and sternum, my wrist is itching like crazy so we know it is healing, and I’m only somewhat looking like I mistakenly put my makeup below my eye rather than on my lids.  Thankful for healing in the hands of the Great Physician!

I Will Follow

2012-07-03_06-51-01_376Easter has always been a time filled with memories for me.  My dad, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 37, passed away during Holy Week thirty-five years ago. IMG_8961 I was twelve at the time, and remember vividly how dad had hoped to celebrate Easter in heaven that year.  God granted him this desire and goodness knows, all heaven rejoiced as another believer was called home to the fold.  Every year in this season, I am drawn backward in time to his celebration of life, with strains of “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” playing through my head as I vividly see our family walking to the front of the church where the casket holding my dad’s body was waiting.  I see myself in my new Easter dress a whole day early, and I wish I could recollect who sewed it for me, because my mom had been busy making funeral plans.

Unable to stop myself, I go further back to 1976, sitting in my Shawn Cassidy postered room, as my mom and dad told me that dad had a brain tumor.

I remembered that I laughed.

I was all of nine and had no idea how to handle that kind of news.

IMG_8963I have a mixture of garbled memories from the time of his illness…him choking on his food when I was home alone with him, the hospital bed moved into the piano room, mascara running down my Aunt Ruth’s face when dad would have such severe headaches that he couldn’t sit up…a small glimpse at some of the tough ones when you deal with cancer.  Cancer sucks the life right out of you and wreaks havoc on those near and dear.

But, thankfully, shining even more vividly are peaceful moments from the last days.  When a bible was placed in his hands, Dad, who had lost his sight because of the tumor, would “read” Scripture to us as eloquently as if truly seeing the words.  The power of God’s word, memorized, sprung forth and made an eternal impression on me.  I was able to see how biblical truth, stored and treasured in my dad’s heart, poured out to comfort and overflow into our lives.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them.
    They are my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.  Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Later, after weeks of being unable to talk due to the tumor progression, miraculously, Dad was able to speak the Lord’s Prayer with us during family devotion time.  Furthermore, he raised his hands and pronounced the blessing on his family:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NLT)

He died that night.  The knock on the door, the whispered “daddy’s gone”, the long look at the still body but absolutely certain you can still see his chest moving, the coroner arriving despite the late hour, burned into memory.

The funeral was held the day before Easter – but Sunday was coming.

I’d like to say that my faith had never wavered, that I had never gone astray.  I’d like to say that the impact my dad and mom had on my life was instilled so deep that I never once questioned the love of Christ.  Dad was death #2 in a list of six in seven years.  I was going to get awfully good at this grief thing…and I figured out auto-pilot pretty quickly.IMG_8041

But, thankfully, Sunday was coming.  In fact, Sunday came and stayed.  It was there day in and day out.  Sometimes I saw glimpses of it, sometimes I was overwhelmed by it.  I heard it in my Uncle Kenny singing “Jesus Loves Me” loud and strong at my six year old cousin Heidi’s funeral, just a month after my daddy died.  Years later, at Heidi’s brother Matt’s funeral, Uncle Kenny is behind me in the church, singing hymns with passion and conviction that can only come from a faith tested, but refined.

A few weeks ago, in Montana, we’re in church the Sunday morning before Steve’s memorial service, and I’m singing with the hope that can only come from a God who loves us. Overwhelmed, I stop.  Brad leans over and whispers, “You thinking of Uncle Kenny?”

Oh, to keep singing when the storm is rolling in.

Sundays are here to stay.  Because of this, we can sing with abandon, with hope, and with purpose.  Because the Sunday of all Sundays, where memories rest heavy, points us to the empty tomb and the cross.

As Brad shared with the AAI community at the Easter assembly just last week:

Because of Easter, the cross is transformed from an ugly symbol of
pain, suffering, 
and death into a
beautiful promise of victory, hope, and celebration.

We cling because we know where we place our trust.  We place our trust in the one who has risen from the dead, who has conquered sin and death, and who has left us with the Holy Spirit alive and in us until he comes again.

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this
Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!
God is keeping careful watch over us and the future.
The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up
with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold
put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith
put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.
When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that
God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him,
yet you trust him—with laughter and singing.
Because you kept on believing,you’ll get what you’re
looking forward to: total salvation. 1 Peter 1:3-9 (MSG)

This Easter, I know it to be true.  This past Sunday, as we sang “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Maher to close the service, I look over to my dear husband, who just weeks ago lost his brother, and his hand is outstretched in praise and adoration to the One who holds our future.

Once again, Easter is further etched in my mind as hope and joy despite circumstances.

Through the calm and through the storm, we know and trust the power of the empty grave. And, because of this power, we will continue to follow Him, obedient to His call, wherever it leads – all while singing like Uncle Kenny, because we know our future is safe and secure in the arms of Christ.

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I’ll follow You
Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I’ll follow You
Even in the want, I’ll follow You

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go
Even in my death, I’ll follow You
Even in my death, I’ll follow You

When I come to end this race I’ve run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

© 2013 Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing / HBC Worship Music / Jingram Music (ASCAP) / Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Harvest Worship Songs / Ingram Designee (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, HBC Worship Music, Jingram Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, Harvest Worship Songs and Ingram Designee administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

Blessed to be His and praying that you are as well,


Snapshots of hope

After the events of the past two weeks, the first follow-up blog post seems so monumental…so important…especially in light of literally thousands of people who have visited this page to learn more about Steve.

To be honest, we have a multitude of things we want to say – but we’re still processing how to say them.

We are trying to figure out how to explain the depth and breadth of how we have been loved and cared for as a family.

How do you say thank you to people who cared for your kids when you were over two thousand miles away?

How do you put into words what you have learned, how you already know the areas you want to improve in your own life, how you can take away hope from something so tragic?

How can you have so many thoughts in your head while having none at all when you sit at the keyboard?

There are moments we want to share, glimpses of the hand of God at work, stories of the hands and feet of Jesus all waiting to be put to words.

But, for now, we will share pictures with the thought that, for starters, you will see how hope shines through in the form of God’s creation, the generosity in the sharing of housing, food, flowers, and fellowship, and the love of family and friends, both near and far.

Montana 001 Montana 014 Montana 018 Montana 019 Montana 020 Montana 022 Montana 025 Montana 023 Steve 028 Steve 024  Steve 033 Steve 030Steve 029  Steve 034Steve 133  Steve 131FullSizeRender FullSizeRender (6)FullSizeRender (5) FullSizeRender (3)FullSizeRender (1) FullSizeRender (2)

FullSizeRender (4)Steve 035 Steve 174Steve 038 Steve 077   Steve 204


“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13 

Grateful for each and every one of you….

Brad and Sarah, Josh, jacob, and Tessa

Celebrating Steve

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.”
(Isaiah 26:3-4)


Photo credit: Brad Orsted

Updated 3/23/15:

 “I’m so happy that daddy died with a smile on his face.”
– Shane Bierle, after seeing his daddy in the casket (Age 8)

Our deepest thanks to each and every person who played a role this past week in supporting all of us in Steve’s family.  From first responders and volunteers at Shelter Cove, the community of Gardiner for the outpouring of love, food, housing, rides, hugs, and conversation, friends who traveled long distances to stand with us in the pain, and to the friends and family across the WORLD praying for our family, we are humbled by the outpouring of support.  Your presence, whether physical or not, was felt, heard, and appreciated beyond what we can ever convey in words.

Yesterday, as expected, was packed full of God-moments and glimpses of God’s hand comforting and caring for us.  From worshiping in the morning shoulder to shoulder with family and fellow believers at Steve and Sandy’s church to the afternoon celebration of Steve’s life, the day was touched with tears, but filled with the message of hope and salvation through Christ.

Pastor Lance (Steve and Sandy’s pastor from Sioux Falls) blessed us with sharing how Steve loved and embraced the moments in life and the people that he encountered. We truly have the hope of being reunited with him again in Paradise if we surrender our lives to Christ, just as Steve had.

Don (Steve’s dad) spoke how Steve, at age four, wept upon hearing of the sacrifice of Aslan from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and became broken when he learned of how Jesus had done the same for him.  That transforming moment drew Steve to Christ, and he later recommitted himself to Jesus around age 12.  When questioning why God did not send his angels to intervene or God himself stop the waves from coming and thus save his son, God has been faithfully whispering to Don, “I have saved your son.”
Brad (Steve’s brother) shared about a memory last summer where Steve’s family, Brad, Joshua, Don and Vernee were together in Montana celebrating the anniversary of their parents.   Brad laughed at how he was a bit of a money pincher so he shared a look with his son, Josh, as they were ordering because they weren’t quite sure who was picking up the bill.  Both proceeded, in sync with their personality, to order a medium range entree to keep the cost down.  But, Steve, living in the moment, ordered a steak without batting an eyelash.  Brad continued to help us see that sometimes you just need to grasp hold of life and “order the steak”, not to be frivolous, but to capture the moments that God has given us as glimpses of Him and celebrate those minutes.  He reiterated that Steve’s personality was possible because of the overflowing of Christ in him, putting into practice Jesus’s words from John 10:10b  “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Wendy (Steve and Sandy’s friend from Gardiner) showed us Steve’s fun personality side and how he was game for anything.  Ultimately, though, she shared about his intense love for his family, and joy of spending time with his kids.
Pastor Kirk (Our pastor from our home church in Sioux Falls) closed with special words of comfort, and how the deep depth of tears is directly proportionate to the love that was lost, and ultimately, a life well lived.
John Pollman (One of Steve’s special hunting buddies) sang How Great Thou Art and led us in Amazing Grace, accompanied by a very talented pianist, whose name unfortunately I do not know.
Reverend R. William Young officiated the lovely memorial service held in the Gardiner High School Gymnasium that was followed by a fellowship time with many special treats prepared by the wonderful Gardiner community.

A special thank you to the Franzen-Davis Funeral Home for handling the arrangements of Steve’s memorial service, all the beautiful flowers and plants sent from those far and near, the Gardiner High School, and all the people in the background who don’t ask for anything but that we feel the love they are sharing.

We will be in Gardiner for the next few days to spend some time together as a family.  As we all seek to begin what will become our “new normal”, we are trusting wholeheartedly in the promises from the One who knows our every sorrow, our every pain, but has the victory of sin and death!  Again, we extend our deepest thanks to all of you for continuing to uphold and care for us.

Previously posted information:

Donations:  The family has received many requests as to how individuals can assist Sandy and her family financially.  Two options are now available:

Sandy’s sister-in-law, Karen Otte, and the Gardiner, MT, community have joined together to set up this site for online donations.

Additionally, donations can be mailed or dropped off directly to:
Steve Bierle Family Fund
c/o First Interstate Bank
Box 810
Gardiner, MT 59030

If your heart is leading you to give in this way, our deepest thanks on behalf of Sandy and her family.


Sandy Bierle (Drew, Ben, and Shane)
Box 903
Gardiner, MT 59030

Don and Vernee Bierle
27022 Rolling Thunder Lane
Sioux Falls, SD 57108

Brad and Sarah Bierle (Joshua, Jacob, Tessa)
2000 South Sycamore Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57110
**Please note, we will receive this mail when we return home in early summer

Brad and Sarah Bierle
c/o Alliance Academy International
Juan Jose Villalengua 789
Quito Canton 17-11-06186
**please note, mail to Ecuador arrives in approximately 3 to 5 weeks

Media Coverage:

Comprehensive story of Steve’s life – Argus Leader

Remembering Steve Bierle – ABC Fox Montana

NBC news story – read it here.

CBS News feature about Steve, please click here.

ABC Fox Montana story is featured here.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, encouragements, and memories of Steve in the comments.548403_3783153625304_1184995304_n

Steve will be greatly missed but we are thankful to know that he is safe at home in the arms of his Savior.

Held tightly in the arms of our Savior,

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


IMG_7319 IMG_7314 IMG_7322

 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!

IMG_7327 IMG_7326

IMG_7329 IMG_7330


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)

IMG_7351 IMG_7343 IMG_7342 IMG_7341

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.