Tag Archives: Quito

We saw God today

In a little over a week, Brad, Tess, and I will head back to the States.  Our boys are already well immersed in the American culture, feasting on foods they have not had for ten months, and fully enjoying the joys of the much-beloved idiot box television.  From afar, it appears that they have re-acclimated nicely, and are treasuring their time with family and friends.

We are deeply excited to join them.  We are anxious to see all of our loved ones, have a Starbucks coffee, enjoy some creature comforts that we may miss here, and get reacquainted.

But, honestly, I think it is going to be WEIRD.

Not in a bad way…just different.  I’m not totally sure what to expect.  We’ve gotten used to some things here that we absolutely love.  We miss some things from our previous home.  Put that all together, mix it up, and I’m not sure what is going to happen once we get feet back on the ground in the good ol’ US of A.  People talk about culture shock and that it happens in both directions.  Our boys have eluded to a few observations they have made already, so we’ll need to debrief to see if it truly is a reality for us.  In the meantime, we’ll embrace the time we have together, revel in being with fellow believers, and reminisce about the simple and blessed life we have experienced over the past months.

While we’ve been in Ecuador, we’ve been working on being intentional in slowing down from the hectic pace of life, building relationships, listening to God’s voice, and living in the moment.   It’s often not easy – we get caught up in the “busy-ness” here just like everyone else.  It takes practice to remember, first and foremost, that we are put on this earth to bring people to Christ and serve others.  By taking away all the “noise” and seeing God’s fingerprints in our life, we are more apt to be focused on the true things that matter.  As we become more aware of what is going on around us, and how God is at work in each and every moment, we become less self-centered and inwardly focused.  We start to see the beauty in even the smallest of things, which, in turn, makes him even more real and brings us into His presence.

How do we see Him at work?

It’s full moons and cotton candy clouds at sunset…

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It’s horseback riding thanks to friends who share their expertise.

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It’s spending an entire day setting up a created game with just the supplies you have – and making it work.


It’s dogs you love and an extra who takes your bed.

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It’s working on projects that someday will make a difference.

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It’s drinking Coke out of real glass bottles.


Sleepovers in the prayer cabin,


and Superbowl drawings on the whiteboard.


It’s about watching luminescent hummingbirds actually land…


and playing extreme croquet.


It’s taking time to pet the dog…


and watch the art of a hard day’s work,


It’s taking time to wait for your alpha male to come home.


And a cozy fire.


It’s seeing a baby calf within a half hour of its birth, and watching it stand for the very first time…

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And playing guitar by yourself, or for others…

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It’s doing schoolwork on the porch swing on a beautiful day…


Or homemade donuts for breakfast, fried two at a time…

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It’s colorful quilts blowing in the breeze…

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Taking time to swing and hike –

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Stopping to notice the colors that are painted in the landscape,

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It’s not being fazed by a traffic jam of an unexpected sort…


Or having a different than normal view on your walk to town…


It’s having to slow the pace to get where you want to go, and enjoying the roads (steep as they are) as you meander your way to the destination…


Sometimes, just living a simple life helps us treasure every moment as it happens.  It is learning to see the beauty in the day to day, in the normal, in the now.  You don’t have to go to Ecuador to find it.  It’s about being intentional with everything you do and say.  It’s about seeing the Creator in the creation.  It’s how God intends us to live.

Just look around and see how the Creator is calling you to Himself.  He’s just waiting for you to notice.

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You.  Yours, Lord, is the kingdom and You are exalted as head over all.  1 Chronicles 29:11

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

Special words

I had the privilege of growing up in a large extended family (on both sides!), with plenty of same-age cousins to hang out with, and play childhood games like Seven Steps Around the House, and Colored Eggs.  My aunts and uncles were stable figures in our lives when my dad was fighting cancer,as both sides of the family would step in, often taking us into their homes and letting us, for instance, “work” on the farm while dad was getting chemo and radiation treatments.  Through losing grandparents, uncles, cousins, and my father, all in a short time frame, my childhood memories are wrapped up in an intertwining of joy and sorrow as my extended family experienced life and death together.  Some fought and clawed our way to understanding and peace while others provided a firm foundation of faith that we could look to and know that, someday, God would give us enough answers to move forward with a strength and a faith that was refined by the fires we had been through.

When you walk through grief with people, you have a respect for them that goes beyond words.  They are a part of your soul, as you know they understand and feel deeply with you.  You are connected in a way that bonds you for life.  In a nutshell, the opinions and thoughts of the people closest to you matter the most.  Now, throw in a curve ball like moving to Ecuador…

This path of moving to Ecuador was so bathed in prayer and confirmation that Brad and I had a peace about God’s leading like none we had ever experienced in our life.  We knew the risks, but knew God had a plan.  Our only choice was obedience to his calling.  To take a quote from Kisses from Katie:

People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable…But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul: complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.  – Katie Davis, pg XIX

Brad and I had reached this point in the decision to move and be more intentional about having God as the primary focus of our life, and the life of our family.  When faced with the uncertainty of our future, we knew our stability was in eternal things, not in those of earthly fortune.  While nothing we were doing made sense from an earthly standard, it was God’s call on our lives to “get mobile” and leave behind the worldly possessions that were tying us down and keeping us from the best of things.

We were now getting closer to leaving for Ecuador.  Tessa and I were at our family reunion on my mom’s side, a wonderful event that is held every year.  I knew this would be the last time I would see these precious cousins, aunts, and uncles, for months and maybe years to come.  I knew they would be coming with me in spirit, because I know they would be some of the strongest pillars of faith who would be covering us with prayer.  But, it was also one of the few times that I would be able to sit face to face and tell these special people why we were walking this path.  Why we were walking away from life as we knew it.  Why we were leaving FAMILY.  These were people who mattered to me.  People who probably wondered what the heck we were doing, but were going to support us anyway.  People who loved us deep and wide.

Martha and me

So far in this process, I was able to guard my heart.   But, as I stepped up to my Uncle Steve for the last goodbye, and he enveloped me into a giant hug, he said something to me that will forever be a balm for my soul:

“Your dad would be so proud of you.”

My eyes overflowed with tears and I think I may have managed a  “thank you”.  All I know is, for the next two hours as I drove home, I cherished and pondered those words.  I didn’t realize how much I had needed to hear that precious thought.  Uncle Steve was an instrument of God that day, confirming yet again how God works mightily when we need it most through the people around us.  That simple sentence showed me the importance of a father’s love and acceptance, even when someone is 40+ years old.  It showed that, even though I had a void in my life from losing my father at the tender age of twelve, I am surrounded with people who love and accept me, and they have stood in the gap.  God is faithful through the years.  He always provides exactly what we need because he loves us with a depth we cannot even begin to understand.



As I write this, it is Easter Saturday.  I have been reflecting on the unbelievable sacrifice Jesus Christ has made for me.  It is beyond my scope of comprehension, and I truly don’t think I will ever grasp the amazingness of it all.  But, I do know that I am eternally grateful and I want him to use me for his glory.  My desire continues to have him guide our life and we pray we can be ambassadors for Him through all we do and say.

And, I pray, as he welcomes me into heaven someday, and envelopes me in a giant hug, he will say something that will forever be a balm for my soul:

“Your Father is so proud of you.”

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You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.  Psalm 16:11 HCSB

When the gringos go to town

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


$6 of fresh produce from the market

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

When hello means goodbye

We’ve been here over six months.

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.

And then Julia Marie.
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And, soon it will be Emily, followed by Katie.
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And Caitlin.

And Daniel.

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


December 2012:

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


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

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



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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Time to head up the mountain to the prayer chapel…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tour of Calacali

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

Section one, the entrance:

Driveway looking toward the road

Driveway looking toward the road

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

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

look what we found in the bodega!

look what we found in the bodega!


Section two, the common area:


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

See the soccer field to the right of the ox?

See the soccer field to the right of the ox?

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


Section three, the mountain:

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

view from the prayer chapel

view from the prayer chapel

Prayer chapel on the mountail

Prayer chapel on the mountain

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


The cabins:

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

Conference room

Conference room

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

Inside conference room

Inside conference room

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

white cabin kitchen

white cabin kitchen

outside white cabin

outside white cabin

Loft area in white cabin

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

living space in the white cabin

living space in the white cabin

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

Tan cabin bedroom

Tan cabin bedroom

Living space in the tan cabin

Living space in the tan cabin

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

The red barn

The red barn

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

kitchen in our house

kitchen in our house

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

fireside room in the red barn

fireside room in the red barn

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

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

Until then,

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





A much bigger dinner table was needed…

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

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

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

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

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

Making steps

Making steps

Digging out ping pong tables

Digging out ping pong tables

Conquering trees - and heights!

Conquering trees – and heights!








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

88 lbs of papas underway

88 lbs of papas underway


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


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

Ecuadorian can opener

Ecuadorian can opener

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

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Grills are scrubbed and ready for hotdogs and meat!


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


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

Morning Pristinos (fried bread)

Morning Pristinos (fried bread)

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

Scooping afternoon ice cream

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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.