Tag Archives: Alliance Academy International

What we’ve been up to…

It’s been almost two months since we’ve arrived back in Ecuador.  Although cliché, the time really does fly.  The past few months have definitely been a time of transition and settling into new routines.  It’s been kind of crazy as we’ve tried to make decisions about where to live, what we really are doing, how God wants to use us.  He doesn’t always provide the “ah-ha” light bulb moments, but we are learning that if we continue to seek his guidance and stay in the Word, we can walk WITH HIM in his will, rather than continually trying to “find” it.  So, as we walk, we learn.  Here’s a glimpse of our journey –

Brad is adjusting to his new role as Director of Spiritual Life at the Alliance Academy International School.  More on that in a future post, but, in a nutshell, he is charged with “keeping the main thing the main thing” at the school.  This is a challenging and exciting role for him, and he is working hard to get up to speed and help set direction to support the faculty and staff as they work within the school to reach the future generation.  His white board is out and full of ideas and goals…managing the brainstorm is a work in progress.DSC_0034 DSC_0038

We moved to Quito.  With Brad’s new role and the unpredictability of living outside the city, we found a reasonable, furnished apartment about 15 minutes walking distance from the school.  Being close allows us to pretty much park the truck for the week when we are in town and then walk to most of our destinations.  It’s often times easier to take a bus or taxi to get groceries rather than negotiating traffic, so this has been a blessing for us.  There’s plenty of busy streets to cross as we walk back and forth to school, but so far it has seemed very safe as we vary our routes and don’t walk much after dark.  We’re adjusting to the noise of the city (hello, we live next to a bus station!) and finding our new favorite places in the area.  Being in Quito also allows us the opportunity to strengthen and deepen relationships through playing sports at the school gym for fun (Jacob is helping coach a local baseball team and Brad will be helping with the JV basketball team), lead and participate in bible studies to further delve into God’s word, and have people over to support and encourage the people we are surrounded by.DSC_0020 DSC_0001DSC_0015 (2)

We commute to Calacali for the weekends.  Guess you can say we have a country house and a city house…our plan is to be out at Calacali two weekends a month, but so far the schedule DSC_0245has dictated us to be there more often.  We are trying to focus our efforts on having two times a month be “Spiritual Life weekends” – intentionally seeking out and inviting faculty and staff to stay at the retreat center, supporting them in prayer and encouragement, and providing a weekend of respite and recharge that can only be found in the Spirit.

Calacali worship – the second weekend of the month, we have started to hold either Saturday night or Sunday morning worship services out at Calacali.  While casual in setting, we are able to join together for worship and fellowship, often coupled with a meal of some sort.  Whether it be around the bonfire or in the conference room, we are focusing on the bonds that tie us all together as believers…the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.DSC_0191 DSC_0187 DSC_0183

School – the kids are continuing their online schooling this year and we have been blessed toDSC_0308 be able to use the Black Hills Online Learning Community to support our efforts.  Homeschooling has provided us the flexibility to be able to work out at Calacali when needed, and be flexible with travel and people visiting.

AWANA – The school has set aside Wednesdays after school for Christian Service Outreach programs (CSO).  One of the programs that was on Brad’s heart was the AWANA outreach.  He grew up with AWANA as a child, and had great memories of deepening his faith through that program.  So, Brad, along with several other faculty and close to twenty high school student leaders,  will start a pre-K through 6th grade AWANA program at the school in October.  The boys are both going to be leaders and Tessa will be a participant.  We’re excited about how the high school students are embracing this opportunity and look forward to seeing them develop as young leaders.

DNA (Discipleship, Nurturing, Accountability) group – The last period of the school day on Wednesdays is set aside for DNA groups.  These groups, which meet three times a month, are small cells of kids who come together with a common interest which is used as a launching pad to develop relationships and deepen their walk with Christ.  Many of the high schoolers are non-Christian, so the traditional chapel (which is still held once a month) was not meeting the needs of the majority of students.  Knowing that relationships are often the key to going deeper and being transparent, the DNA groups are a bridge to fill this need and focus on small groups of kids with the intention of developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  My friend Ashley and I have developed a “Diner’s Club Challenge” cooking group in which we collect funds from faculty and staff and use the funds to bless others.  The past two weeks, our group has received funds to bake dozens of cookies which were used to share with faculty at a professional development meeting along with sharing baked goods with the maintenance staff as a thank you for all their hard work.  We have a group of nine students and we are trusting God to do a mighty work in these kids as we prepare to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Just a glimpse, but we ask that you would continue to keep us in your prayers as we seek to serve God first and foremost in these areas.  May we continue to serve him faithfully no matter our location or vocation as we plant the seeds that only the Spirit can bring to fruit.

RC Sproul

Blessed to be held in his hands,

Sarah

 

 

 

Walking His Path

Some days, it just seems so surreal.  When we stop and take a step back to look at the big picture, we can get knocked to our knees with the wonder of what happens when we finally resolved to let God totally lead our lives.  One year ago, Brad and I were here in EcuaIMG_9507dor, taking a “vision trip” of sorts.  There were a number of reasons for the trip – seeking out ministry opportunities, searching for a tangible peace to all of the ideas and thoughts that we felt God had placed upon our hearts, and seeking discernment on final decisions to actually move forward with selling all of our accumulated goods to go “all in” and give up “worldly” security for eternal pursuits.  Now, a year later, we find ourselves in the same scenario as a year ago, here now in Ecuador, reviewing ministry opportunities, seeking peace and discernment for final decisions on our upcoming year.  Amazing how God has brought us full circle.

Last year, when we were here in Ecuador, Brad and I found ourselves struggling with our thoughts about mid-week.  We had met with so many people who had great opportunities.  We were torn about how God wanted us to proceed.  We felt pulled in many directions, all of them good, but yet we were so hoping that God would give us that specific peace about one area so we would at least know how to proceed.  So far, he had led us so specifically in our decision making – selling the house, selling the business…it was disconcerting to be in the IMG_9510middle of the place we felt God wanted us to be with no peace about what we were to do.  So, after praying for guidance, we made a list of why we felt led to follow this crazy path.  We brainstormed item after item, consolidating all the praying, seeking, and guidance that had brought us to this point.  As a result, we wrote down twenty-nine items that we felt were the vital reasons for changing our life and being more intentional about following Christ.  It affirmed to us what we both had been thinking, but, more importantly, it gave us a starting point along with a foundation for determining ministry direction.

We have been blessed to again have a number of amazing opportunities in front of us.  So, as we have been continually seeking direction for the next year, we pulled out the original list.  It was validating to look at something we wrote last May and seeIMG_9505 how God has been at work in so many different areas.  It challenged us to keep pushing and growing in the spots that we didn’t do so well in.  It helped us to regroup and see if our priorities have remained focused, matching them to the possibilities in front of us, providing further support for upcoming decisions that need to be made.  Finally, we could discern if we are continuing to strive to seek his way with the life verse he has placed before us as a family:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.                                                                                                                 – Colossians 2:6-7

So, we continue to let God lead.  We are trusting Him to set course in whatever decision is made.  We realize, when determining the will of God, it is not so much a turn from one path to another, or changing course, but, instead, it is to walk in God’s will on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis.  As Oswald Chambers writes,

When you are rightly related to God, it is a life of freedom and liberty and delight, you are God’s will, and all your common-sense decisions are His will for you unless He checks.  You decide things in perfect delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will always check; when He checks, stop at once.                                                                                      – My Utmost For His Highest

We continue to seek Him, to learn more about Him, to commune with Him through His Word, to live in total surrender to Him.  We fail, and we fail miserably.  We want things, we want comforts, we want the easy way.  But, we remain convicted that, by saying to God that we will go wherever he leads and do whatever he asks, He, as our Father, will do what is best for us 100% of the time.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
– Matthew 7:11 ESV

IMG_9515In Him, we continue to move forward.  Armed with the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we seek to be purposeful and intentional with sharing the gospel.  God is preparing the way so we have no reason to fear.  Instead, we have reason for our faith, and, in turn, a necessity to share it with others.  Shouldn’t that be our natural reaction to his best gift to us?  Yet it is not, at least in my own life.  I pray we will continue to turn from the entrapments of this world and seek God with our whole heart.

Let it begin with me.

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.                                                                           – Galatians 2:20 ESV

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

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AAI Soccer team

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Mennonite church youth group

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AAI 5th graders

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Celebrating Jorge’s birthday

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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 hello means goodbye

We’ve been here over six months.
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Hard to believe, but when we look back on these months, we are amazed at God’s hand and provision in our daily lives.  We know we have been uplifted and held up through prayer by many of our dearest friends and family.  It is by God’s grace alone that the transition for our family has been relatively smooth and seamless thus far.
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When we first arrived, we were ushered into the Alliance Academy International fold with a handful of “newbies”.  From the start, we were surrounded by a group of people that had that same “deer in the headlights” look as we plowed through finding bottled water, looking for small change as no one can break a $20 bill, navigating taxis without Spanish to get some basic foods from the grocery store, learning how to sleep through all the barking dogs, waking up to what we thought was the Muslim call to prayer but was really just a vendor driving through the city streets announcing via his megaphone that he was selling papas fritas, or fruit, or gathering metal scraps- yeah, that was the first day or so.

But, these first days, though stressful but exciting, bonded a group of people together in an amazing way.  These are the people that simply have to embrace the adventure and figure it out…and that is a quick way to jump start a friendship.  The term “we’re all in this together” has a whole new meaning when you’re starting over in a new country.IMG_8611   IMG_8456

So, as we are blindly moving forward, day by day, embracing the culture with a kiss on the cheek for and from more people than we will ever remember, you begin to notice how some people choose to instantly embrace the opportunity of relationships with the newcomer, while others stand more at a distance, prepared to guard their heart and reserve relationship until the time commitment has been established.   In short, if you were not sticking around for an extended length of time, you weren’t worth the time investment to forge friendships because you would just be leaving anyway.

Truth be told, my first reaction to this guardedness was a bit judgmental.  I mean, really, people said it to my face – if you weren’t sticking around, you weren’t worth the effort to invest.  Well, they didn’t exactly say it that way, but the filter I had up made it sound that way.  I quickly skipped ahead to thinking how “un-missionary” like this was – to not invest in the people around you simply because they weren’t necessarily going to be here for years on end.

But, then I realized how hello means goodbye.

By simply welcoming someone in the mission field into your life, you are, in a sense, committed to saying goodbye sooner versus later.  We began to see this in action.  In a short amount of time, we grew to love student teacher Mariah, and then said goodbye.Mariah (in the middle)
Caitlin, Mariah, Laura

And then the same thing happened with Laura.
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And Claire.
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And then Julia Marie.
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And, soon it will be Emily, followed by Katie.
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And Caitlin.
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And Daniel.
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And Steve, Kari, Marcos, Christi, Loren, Janelle, Dr. Olson, Bev, Ken, Ann, Keith…and on and on the list goes.

I was in Shell, Ecuador, a couple of weeks ago to visit a K-8 missionary school.  Eighteen kids moved at the end of last year.  The school averages 35 to 40 kids.  That’s a huge hit of enrollment, but, more importantly, that affects relationships.  It affects friendships.

But, is this really limited to the mission field?  This hello means goodbye phenomenon?  Unless the Lord comes in our lifetime, everyone we say hello to will leave in some way – friendships are broken, people move, people die.

We still need to invest.

Iron sharpens iron.  Strength for the downtrodden.  Hope for the weary.  Rest for the restless.  A body of believers.

Everyone can bring something to the table…ideas and thoughts that we can share, discuss, build upon, hope for, desire…and, through relationship, we can expand the kingdom.  Mentorship, multiplication – call it what you want.  But by growing and loving each other, we can shape, mold, correct, rebuke, and share…share God’s Word and truth.  Marriages can be strengthened, family dynamics positively restored.  Children can learn how they are loved and belong to a family with a Father who loves them unconditionally.  By building relationships intentionally, we pray that Christ will be seen through us and shine bright for all to see.

So, when hello means goodbye, and whether I know you for an hour, a day, a year or longer, I pray that the time we spend together will be firmly rooted in the love of Christ.  I choose being intentional, however difficult it may be.

Invest today…you never know how the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of those you touch.

 

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

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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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January:

  • 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

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February:

  • 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

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March:

  • 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.

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April:

  • 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

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May:

  • 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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June:

  • 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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IMG_20130627_054717_056July:

  • 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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August:

  • 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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September:

  • 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

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October:

  • 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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November:

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

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December:

  • 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.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
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…

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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!

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Section two, the common area:

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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.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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

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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.

Our dinner table will never look the same…

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38 -41

This post has been bouncing around in my head for the past few weeks, and I’m still not sure how to put it into words.  I’ve opened the computer multiple times to start the post, but I can’t seem to get past the first line.

Over the past 9 months or so, as we were preparing to transition to God’s new plan for our life, Brad and I reflected often on how we had done little to cultivate relationships in our lives.  We were saddened that it took us getting ready to leave to become more intentional with those we cared about.  Sure, we shared many great times with friends…we had great fellowship with other believers…we loved those around us deep and wide.  But, were we truly doing what God had instructed us to do?

We often fell back on the excuse of our “family time”.  We felt strongly that we had to preserve time just to grow together as a tiny family unit.  We occasionally would include extended family members here and there, when it was convenient for us, but our dinner table would often times look generic…day in and day out, the definition of “family” would be those who we were blood related to and no one else.

Ecuador has changed that definition.  In three short weeks.

I haven’t put my finger on it exactly yet – whether it is the sub-culture of gringos in a foreign land, yet still united within a Christian community.  Perhaps it is because of the transitional mentality that people have due to the steady flux of people coming and going as God calls them away or to this place of mission.  Maybe it is the underlying need to lean on others as we are all strangers in a foreign land, united in purpose but unable to carry the load solely on our own.  Whatever it is, it works here.  Family is beyond the small unit that we claim as our own.  Family are those around you, and, because of this place, my dinner table will never look the same.

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I was so self-centered.  Looking inwardly to what I wanted my family to look like, how I wanted to control our evenings, our weekends.  Being crazy busy was an excuse…we filled our lives with good things, but we may have missed the best of things.  The very thing I was doing to preserve our family unit was directly in opposition to God’s call to reach out, seek out, and minister to others.  There are people in every church, neighborhood, village, community, town, and city that need to be loved, accepted, cared for in various ways.  That is what the body of Christ is CALLED to do.  We were failing miserably, and, as a result, we were teaching our children the pattern of exclusiveness.   We stayed in the world of comfortable, and we missed opportunities to show and demonstrate God’s love to those around us.

Our eyes have seen things differently in the past few weeks.  We have been recipients of fellowship beyond what we could imagine.  We have been shown what it means to give freely, to give of yourself, and to lose yourself for the gain of others.  We saw this within our family and friendship circles back in America, but we didn’t appreciate it to the depths we do now.  Many of our friends and family did relationship well…but we have a lot to learn.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be a four course meal…it’s the fellowship around the table.  It doesn’t have to be a huge letter with flowery statements…it’s the heartfelt words that matter.  It doesn’t have to be hours of time together…it’s a hug to say you care.  It doesn’t have to be an entire day of help…it’s an hour or two of purposeful time that makes a difference.   It doesn’t have to be grand…it just has to be intentional.

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We are so caught up in our own lives that we fail to see the lives of those around us.

It’s never too late to see those around you, and reach out to love them.  If you do hospitality well, may God continue to open your eyes to see even more clearly the people that need to be loved.  But, if you feel too busy, too stressed, too tired, too whatever, just take a step and open your heart and your home to those around you.  Strive to be Mary, and choose what is better.  Your dinner table will never be the same, and neither will you.

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Blessed to be His,

Sarah

 

 

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