Tag Archives: Ecuador

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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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

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