Category Archives: Here we go…

Once Upon a Walk

Walking home today by myself, I was nearing the first intersection when I noticed an elderly lady on the ground next to a corner food stand.  I slowed my pace in order to more accurately assess the situation, unclear as to whether she had fallen or was just getting to a standing position after having a small meal.  I noted the walking stick in one hand, more of an obstruction than a help at this point, and an empty, dirty styrofoam bowl in the other.  Upon further scrutiny, I realized she was shuffling forward on her knees, perhaps trying to get to the curb in order to more readily maneuver her feet beneath her.

My eyes averted to the man to the right of the food stand, certainly questioning with my eyebrows if something was amiss.  He glanced toward me, then toward the woman, and went back to reading his newspaper or whatever he was doing at the time.  I had the quick thought that maybe the cameras were rolling to capture what I would do in this situation and, in just a few short seconds, I knew I couldn’t just walk on by.

DSC_0355aI walked up to the lady (who looked like she fell off a charm bracelet) and quietly held out my arm for assistance, knowing there were few words I would be able to say to ascertain her situation.  She reached for me and together we were able to get her feet underneath her, and I grasped and supported her arm and elbow as together we crossed the street.  I inquired with my limited Spanish as to where she was going, to which she replied a number of words in a voice no louder than a mouse and totally obliterated by the traffic noise.  She waved her empty bowl around and I asked again where she wanted to go.  My mind was already racing with the possibilities of how far I would need to support and help this woman, and I scanned the oncoming pedestrians to gauge if anyone would be able to speak English enough for me to engage a translator.Quito 049

On a short rest break a mere half block down the way, she pointed to the scarf around my neck and I was able to pick out “frio” from her mutterings.  Certainly, I could hand off a scarf to help her get warm, so I wrapped it around her neck while she gave me a small smile, and then pointed to my dangling earrings.  I promptly started moving her along, with a nod and smile of them being “muy bonito” before she had a chance to take them out of my lobes.  I let her direct the walk and we crossed the street shortly thereafter, coming to a rest in front of a restaurant.  She spoke again, and I explained to her that my Spanish was very bad, to which she pointed to her bowl and then again to the restaurant.  I assumed the next step was to seek out food for her in the bowl and help her in this way.

I looked around and a lovely, helpful woman saw my plight in a moment of understanding.  She held up a hand to the elderly woman, indicating to her to stay, and ventured in to the restaurant with the intention to help.  I took this opportunity to hand my companion a $1 coin, and proceed on my way, trusting that she now had a new helper.DSC_0195

The rest of my walk home was spent in contemplation and processing.  It is hard to know what to do sometimes with people of all ages begging for money.  Many indicate that you should never give out money on the streets as it just encourages people to continue that lifestyle.  Street corners often have disabled people peddling for coins.  We have a few who know to sit outside our school and you struggle with the daily obligation to perhaps contribute in some way.  It is a constant battle and I am often not sure how to proceed.

While walking, I pondered if Tessa was going to miss the blue and purple scarf I gave away,  I wondered if this weathered woman would sell it for money.  Did she even get food at the restaurant? How far would that one dollar go? Will she sit at the same corner tomorrow hoping for more assistance from one of the gringas/gringos at the nearby school?

But, as I kept replaying the situation, I thought of how many little lessons were tied up in this one scenario –

Seizing opportunity – God provides so many moments in the day where we can share Him and be like Jesus to others.  Constantly, we are faced with these choices, and, many times, we choose to go our own way rather than His.DSC_0358 We second guess the (possible) ulterior motive of the person we are helping instead of letting the Spirit lead as only He can do.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me. Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)

Allowing margin in our days – I wanted to get home.  I was racing the rain storm.  My list of “to-do’s” was long.  But, carving out time to allow space to care and love is a necessary “re-framing” of our minds.  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6:2-3 (NLT)

DSC_0156Loving well does not always look like a weathered and worn, beautifully aged woman – it can be downright messy and hard.  It can mean listening when you have no ear left to give, serving when your strength is gone, reaching out when you want to retreat.  But, that is when the power of Christ in us is stronger than ever.  But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.  1 John 4:4 (NLT)

If I don’t keep my focus on Christ on a daily basis, I won’t be able to share Him with other people.  I won’t see the urgency, the need, the hurt, the pain, the joys, the frustrations…because I will be too busy looking inward to what I need rather than outward to what Jesus can do.  He is the one and only answer, and I pray we will find ways each and every day to actively share this message with those in our path.

Praying for boldness to have His eyes…and then to focus…

Sarah

PS.  Driving home yesterday, in the distance, across lanes of traffic, we spotted a similar-looking woman ambling down the street with a walking stick.  She had only one shoe.  We wondered what would have transpired if she had been the person I had ventured upon when walking…

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Dorm life…and the early Church

As you may already know, our family is currently residing in the student dorm at the Alliance Academy International in Quito.  I don’t know about many of you but it has been a very long time since I have experienced the dorm life firsthand.  As there are currently no students here yet, it may not be as bad as you remember.  It certainly smells better than I remember. Though the accommodations are pretty simple and basic, it has actually been kind of nice to be close together as a family and very convenient within the school grounds.  We have also been privileged to meet a few other early arrivals including Will and Ashley, a young Christian couple who will be serving as dorm parents this year.  Currently, they are our only neighbors on campus and we have been enjoying their company on a daily basis.  In fact, we have been growing quite close as we have been sharing the few utensils, plates, and cook wear available to us to prepare meals.  Though not always convenient, this process has been a good lesson in patience and adaptability.

On Saturday evening, our little group, including Amy, who is another early arrival and a 5th grade teacher, gathered for a meal.  Sarah prepared rice in a frying pan using the other frying pan we have as a lid since we have no other pots or pans.  She then quickly used the same pans to prepare green beans and chicken.  We set the table with the plates and cups we currently have along with 5 forks and 3 spoons for the eight of us.  As we sat down to eat together, I was struck by the sense of community and closeness within our midst, even though we had only met days earlier.

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I know it was because we serve the same great Lord and King.  In that moment, I was reminded of the early Christian church as described in Acts.  Chapter 2:42-47 references the fellowship of believers, descibing how they “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” Chapter 4:32 reports that “All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”

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I don’t know about you but in the past, I was always a little envious of that description when I read it.  How great a priviledge for us to be led to a place where we were able to experience in a very small way what that may have been like.  We know God is preparing us as a family to develop “glad and sincere hearts” regardless of circumstances.  We are grateful for fellow believers who are “one in heart and mind.”  We continue to be in training to cultivate a thankful mind-set.  With less of the noise and distractions of life, we are reminded of how the simple things are the things that matter…faith, family, friends.  We are thankful for the opportunity to experience His presence in a very real way within our little community of believers right now.  We are trusting that He would use us as He used the early Church to accomplish His plans as recorded at the end of Acts 2 “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Brad

And suddenly we were in the treetops…

Okay, maybe not so suddenly.  Here’s the scoop…

Yesterday, Lois Wells, the Human Resources director here at Alliance Academy International (AAI), scheduled an outing for all the new staff and their families for a cultural trip to Mindo, Ecuador.  Mindo is about 100 km from Quito (yeah, we’re in the metric system) which translates to about 62 miles in our well known system of measurement.  This trip takes about  two hours due to the winding mountain roads and the non-passing lanes.  Let’s just say that Mrs. Wells could drive a 15 passenger van through the Andes mountains like no other.  When you come to visit, it would be best if we hire her to take us out and about – neither one of us can imagine being able to drive faster than about 30mph on these roads and no one wants to take 5 hours to get to their destination.

All that being said, we safely traveled through God’s majestic country and were able to experience magnificent views of the Andes while getting to know new fellow teachers and staff.  It is breathtaking to see the grandeur of God’s creation to this magnitude.  But, that experience had only just begun.  We arrived in Mindo, a village in Ecuador that is centered in the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Forest.  According to Wikipedia, it boasts 350-400 different species of birds, 40 species of butterflies, and 170 species of orchids.

We saw one bird.  But, it was pretty impressive…

Toucan in Mindo

 

It just happened to be that we saw this toucan from a treetop view.  You see, the outing consisted of ZIP-LINING!  One moment we were on our way to Mindo; the next moment we were getting strapped in to gear and climbing a platform to launch.  They say lack of sleep and altitude can cause memory problems, lapses in judgment, and delusions.  Obviously this was true as we ventured forth as a family (remember our desire to serve together?? 🙂 ) and off we went.

AMAZING.

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Zip lining in Mindo

Zip lining in Mindo

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Brad and I were also able to experience this great adventure, one we know will certainly not come often, but shows the diversity of the Ecuadorian culture and landscape.  It was a time meant to build friendships, and forge new paths.  But, for our family, in a way, it was symbolic of this new step in our life…a step of faith.  A transition point, perhaps.  One doesn’t need to go zip-lining, though, to realize that all God is asking of you is to take that step – that step that he is asking of you.  Trust him.  Look to him for direction and fulfillment.  Trust him with your life and let him order your steps.  When you are zip-lining through the treetops, you can soar high, but it is a man-made adventure.  With Christ, your path in life can be beyond what you can even imagine.  Don’t soar the man-made way…soar on wings like eagles.  Explore the treetops…with Him.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Trusting in him through the days we soar as well as the days we trudge,

The Bierle’s

 

Landing

We have arrived in Quito, Ecuador!!

After a whirlwind of activity over the past months, we have landed to open arms and a warm welcome from our new friends in Quito, Ecuador.  Tuesday morning started out very early (especially after the late night as we continued to find room for those last minute items) as Brad amazingly managed to somehow pack 9 suitcases, 3 backpacks, 2 briefcases, 3 heavy carry on bags, and one guitar into my brother Joel’s Expedition.  We must have looked like the clown car as six of us piled out at the Minneapolis airport, along with all of our items.  We only had to redistribute two suitcases a few times at the check-in counter to achieve the desired weight of 50lbs per bag…with the exception of one suitcase at 52.5 lbs which (God bless American Airlines) they graciously allowed us to pass through.  God’s hand was upon us as our second bags were miraculously passed through with no additional charge.

Our flights to Chicago and Miami went quite smoothly, but, due to a late start out of Chicago, our connection time was greatly reduced in Miami.  Our kids were amazing as they trucked through the Miami airport with backpacks loaded full, and everyone having an extra bag to lug around as well (two were full of books and resources, so you can imagine the weight!).  We made our connecting flight and somehow managed to still get Jacob’s guitar onboard, despite being almost the last people to board.  We flew smoothly into Quito, and were greeted by Lois Wells and Toby Travis, both from Alliance Academy International, the Christian school we are partnering with.  As it gets dark in Quito by around 6:30-7, our kids were not able to see much on the hour ride back to the school dorm, which is our home for the next few weeks.  However, Wednesday morning arrived bright and sunny, and Brad and I were up early to meet the faculty and staff at AAI and couldn’t have been more eager to have that first cup of coffee.

Wednesday was filled with meeting the administration and new arrivals at AAI, starting the visa process with Helga, obtaining internet and school email addresses, realizing our old cell phones are not global compatible so we need to get new ones to use, a quick trip to the grocery store, a walk to the bakery to get pan (bread), and a wonderful welcome dinner with Bill and Ellen Evans and their son, Jimmy.

Our dorm arrangements are fantastic…we will be living here the next few weeks to do business in the city before moving out to Calacali… the kids have a room with three beds and a bathroom, and we are across the hall with a bed and bathroom as well.  We’ve obviously made ourselves at home as is evident from the clutter already starting to accumulate…

Kids dorm room

Kids dorm room

Our dorm room

Our dorm room

The new dorm parents, Will and Ashley, who arrived to Quito Sunday night for their first experience here as well, have already become friends and we are sharing cooking and laundry facilities and are about to share our dinner meal this evening – leftover lasagna from last night and ramen noodles for the kiddos. 🙂  We are safely tucked in the walls of the school campus, with guards at both entrances,  excited to have internet access and anxious to share more details of our path as it continues to be revealed.

Today was a fun-filled explore Ecuador day, but is a post in itself as it demands a few pictures.  We truly appreciate all the prayers that have been sent up for us – we have felt them along the way and we know it has helped us feel connected to all of you through Christ!

God’s Word has been our guiding path, and Psalm 27:1 has been on my heart as of late…it was my dad’s favorite verse, and it resonates with me strongly these days:
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
We are venturing forth in faith, not fear, and we know the path will not be easy.  But, our eyes are turned towards him who gives all power and strength through his name.  We trust in this wholly.

Feeling blessed with his presence…

The Bierle’s