Brazil update…

14JAN

An update on our Brazilian visa saga:  We spent most of the day working on our visas for Brazil.  The hang up is that in addition to a pile of paperwork, new passport photos, our passports, and money; they also need a notarized copy of each of the kids birth certificates.  In an effort to pack as little as possible, we neglected to bring the birth certificates (and who would think you would need those if you had valid passports?!?).  We even had a friend looking in Madison through our packed boxes at home for the birth certificates (a HUGE thanks to Greg!).  Anyways, according to the Brazilian Embassy, we are not allowed in the country.

Our only hope is a meeting with the US Embassy tomorrow morning at 9 am.  We are hopeful that Brazil will still work out.  We are also fully relying on God’s direction for the remainder of our trip.  We have looked at a map and have a “Plan B” starting to form if need be.  We will keep you posted after our meeting tomorrow.

Another thing to pray for:  Donnie is needing to remove his stitches.  Luckily, Isaiah has given him a lot of practice with stitches (Isaiah has had at least 5 stitch injuries in his short life).  Since I am absolutely NO help with medical stuff, one of the kids is up to play nurse and will assist Don in this one. I will try to capture a few photos of this endeavor.

One last thing…Lima has Starbucks!  We have had terrible coffee on this trip and I feel fully alive again after a great cup of strong coffee.  Praise God!  That is all.  Just rejoicing in the good stuff.  :)

 

Hospitality…

11JAN

We said goodbye to the beach and new friends in Montanita on Tuesday and boarded a bus for Guayaquil (3 hours).  Upon arriving in Guayaquil, we expected to catch the bus for Lima, Peru an hour later.   The bus we intended to take had left early…just because time means nothing down here. We checked our other option for a bus and they were booked until Friday. Hmmmm…we stopped to pray and see what our other options were.
A guy recommended a bus company that was not direct to Lima, but that would still be a better option than waiting 4 days in Guayaquil.
The bus was a bit cheaper than the other we had planned on, left that night from Guayaquil, had a layover the next day in a beach town for a few hours and had 5 seats left on it…sold!  Well, that plan worked out better than we had hoped…thank-you Jesus.
Next up was figuring how we would spend the next 8 hours in Guayaquil. The girls and I went to use the bathroom (a whole different blog post on that experience!) and left Don and Isaiah to figure out a plan. As we came out, I said that we should just pray we find someone to ask that lives in Guayaquil to tell us what to see with our few hours there. Lille saw a woman that had talked to her in the bathroom and said to ask her.  As she walked by and smiled, we asked her if she was from Guayaquil. The next thing we know, we are getting in a taxi with our new friend and our tour guide for the day.
Enma Lorena, our new friend, also had a few hours in Guayaquil before a doctors appointment and was thrilled at the opportunity to show us around Guayaquil. We had simply asked where to go, never expecting that someone would actually want to take us!
Enma Lorena took us downtown to show off some of the architecture and then to the port of Guayaguil and gardens to see “the best of the town”. We enjoyed lunch together and were then planning to go back to the bus station.
Enma Lorena insisted on allowing us to rest at her sisters before our overnight bus trip.  We went back with her and had coffee and sat by a pool. It was lovely!
She then made dinner for us and sent us off with her email address and a promise that the next time we are in Ecuador we would come and visit her home. Enma Lorena showed us true hospitality.  Amazing!
As we sat waiting for our bus, the kids all said that even trying to explain the events of the day would never do justice to our prayers being answered. We prayed, God directed clearly and we were blessed beyond measure.
We are glad we took Enma Lorena up on her insistence to rest at the pool because the bus trip was less than restful!  We had 14 hours (9 pm-11 am) with a border crossing (where everyone is required to get off the bus and walk over the border), a bag check for drugs and a stop in a town. We ended up stopping every 3 hours, not the most conducive to sleeping!
We arrived in Chiclayo, Peru at 11 am and had the day to explore. Isaiah asked that we just find the beach on our own and NOT ask anyone (or God) for someone to show us around.  We enjoyed the beach and Isaiah rented a surfboard to try the waves in Peru.
That night we boarded the bus again for another 12 hours to Lima. This time we asked if any seats were available on the first floor, which is the “first class” of bus travel. They had 5 seats available but they were $10 a piece more. We got them and I think that may have been the best $50 we have spent the whole trip!  A great nights sleep does wonders.  :)
We are now in Lima, Peru with a friend of Don’s from soccer in college. We are enjoying getting to know their family and ministry.  More on that soon…

More to celebrate…

06JAN

We are concluding our time in Montanita, Ecuador and moving on to Peru tomorrow.  After celebrating Christmas, New Year’s and Isaiah’s 14th birthday here, we have exhausted the town of celebration.  Ha!  That is not true.  We barely partook in the celebrations around Montanita and it is just gearing up for their busy time here at the beach.

We have LOVED our time here and the people we have met.  I would love to share about each of our new friends and the fun we had in talking, having dinner, playing games and just hanging out together but there just isn’t enough time.  We know that nothing happens by “coincidence” and are confident that God led us to each new friendship.  We are reminded of the verses in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose.  For we are God’s fellow workers…” We pray that as we invested our time into new friendships, that the Lord will make Truth known and cause seeds that were planted to grow.  (Check out our new friends and some pictures on Facebook…we hope to stay connected through technology!)

We celebrated Isaiah’s birthday yesterday with his 2 simple requests:  surfing and eating.  He chose his favorite foods to eat and requested surfing with Don. IMG_3146 We had a fabulous breakfast of bolon (authentic Ecuadorian: mashed plaintain with cheese, rolled into a big ball and fried) and fresh fruit smoothies.  Then the guys hit the waves.

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Isaiah has gotten to be a pro at surfing and is keeping up with all the locals.  Don tangled with a wave and got hit by the fin of his surfboard.  He thought he would have a good bruise, and kept surfing but later realized he was bleeding pretty well and needed stitches.

He grabbed a cab and took a quick trip to the hospital for 7 stitches. He is taking some penicillin to keep any infections out and is bummed that his surfing is over for the next few weeks.  One of the hazards of living life to the fullest…but totally worth it!

Have I mentioned the laundry here?!?  You drop off your laundry:  they wash it, dry it, fold it and then you pick it up.  It is $1/lb.  I could get used it the laundry situation here.  I need to go pick up our laundry today since all of my tank tops are in the wash.  It is hot here today!  Oh yeah, what is the weather like in Wisconsin?!?  :)

I saw a rat.  We were cooking in the outdoor kitchen here and decided to make a smoothie. I pulled out the blender, added the fruit and turned it on.  Out ran a rat from the base of the blender.  I screamed.  I danced.  I ran out of the kitchen.  You probably heard me screaming in Wisconsin if you had been listening.  Isaiah claims that we don’t need to worry about that rat again…I gave it a heart attack.  My heart still races at the thought of that nasty thing running out at me.

Tomorrow we catch a bus back to Guayaguil and then board a bus for Lima, Peru.  In all, we will have about 29 hours on a bus in the next two days.  That should give us plenty of time to catch up on some sleep and school…

New Year’s experience…

02JAN

Happy New Year!  We did not plan to blog today, but after our experience last night we just had to share it.  After reading through a few posts on Facebook this morning, we did not have a typical family celebration.

We started at 5 pm with cooking a huge feast with all of our world guests.  We had someone from every continent (except Antartica).  Don was the grill master, cooking up carne asada, chorizo, and chicken (30 lbs of meat!).  The rest of us chopped up pico de gallo, guacamole, fresh fruits, etc. It was great getting to know everyone and celebrating the New Year repeatedly as the clock struck midnight around the world.   Around 9 pm, they kicked off a “card game” for the New Year (that involved drinking).  We kicked off a tough game of Uno at the next table.  :)

Isaiah talked for hours with a few guys from Sweden about snowboarding.  Then he ran into town to buy some fireworks to end out our party.  From here, the Ecuadorian traditions start…

We are still trying to figure out what is Ecuadorian tradition and what is a Montanita beach tradition, but we can still share the tradition that we experienced last night.  At 11 pm everyone (it seemed like the whole town!) goes to the beach and lights campfires and fireworks.  Lots of fireworks.

All week we have been watching the locals make paper mache masks and figures.  Each figure and mask is elaborately painted and carved.  A lot of time and work are put into these and displayed all over town.  Everyone brings their mask to the beach at 11 pm and sets them up all over the beach.

The beach is filled with people…mostly drunk.  The smell of smoke is almost overwhelming (weed, campfires, fireworks).  I tried to take some pictures, but it was too dark to capture the beach scene, but it was quite a sight!

At 11:30 pm, the surfers all gather together to create a “surfer parade” up and down the beach.  They run with their boards, chant something, jump over fires and then lead everyone into the water at midnight.  Don and Isaiah were right in the swarm of people catching their first wave of 2014.

The tradition is then to burn the masks in the fires on the beach to symbolize the “letting go” of the past year.  We watched for about an hour on the beach and then realized they were also burning the masks in the streets in town.  Fascinating to watch!

Did I mention fireworks?!?  Yes, there was A LOT of fireworks.  Fireworks are not illegal here, so anyone can buy big, huge, explosives off the street.  It was like a continual 4th of July firework display for hours.  It was amazing to watch until a few were set off into the crowd and became more like missiles than fireworks.  :)  Drunk people setting off explosives is not a great idea.

We left the beach around 1:30 am and walked through the dancing streets of Montanita.  We got an ice cream and watched the continual celebrations and ended out our evening by 2 am.

The kids all exclaimed that it was by far their most memorable New Year’s Eve ever.  I would agree.  And just in case they thought all the drinking and dancing looked “fun” last night, we walked through town this morning to see the “fun” all those people are having now as they are holding their heads and a bit hung over.  It does not look quite so “fun” anymore.  :)

I cannot truly describe the atmosphere, but it was an experience.  We were thankful for the time to see the new culture and traditions, but also thankful that our hope does not lie in the “fun” of this world.  The verse “Be in the world, but not of the world” resonated with us last night.  We pray that the hope that is within us shines bright.

Happy New Year from Ecuador!

A few things we have learned in 2013…

31DEC

Today we are enjoying preparing a meal for all of our new friends here in Ecuador.  We will have a New Year’s Eve fiesta with friends from Switzerland, Sweden, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ecuador, Colombia, Holland and at least 6 other countries!  The tradition at the beach is to hang out at the beach until 12 am, and then EVERYONE races into the waves to catch the first wave of the new year.  We plan to join in the festivities and hit the waves at midnight.

As we are preparing the meal, we think back on 2013.  We have learned a lot this past year and will share some of those thoughts over the next few posts as we continue to process them.  One of my major lessons this past year has been the amazing things God will do if you are willing to allow Him to lead.  I have felt the thrill of living life to the fullest and most abundantly this past year as we have surrendered our plans and allowed His plans to lead us.  Walking by faith and not by sight is a daily surrender and we are still in the midst of the learning curve.  Life is too short to have it all figured out before taking a step and we are constantly relying more on His strength.  Pura vida! (Pure life!)

I have also learned some very practical things:  hot water is a luxury NOT to be taken for granted; septic systems in 3rd world countries DO NOT like toilet paper; there is good reason to pick up after your dog; cockroaches in warm climates grow to be as big as buses; water from the tap is not a friend to your digestive system.

We are enjoying the friendships we are making and love the chance to be the light of Jesus.  We are overwhelmed with the great gifts of hope, grace, love and joy we have in knowing we are here for a purpose and to build HIs Kingdom one person at a time.

Happy New Year from the Williams Family!

A whole new world…

29DEC

I have been in language school for one week.  I am progressing in my Spanish skills quite well and am enjoying practicing throughout the town.  I am now officially friends with the cleaning ladies and feel like a whole new world of friendship has opened up now that I can speak another language better than just ordering food.  I must admit, I am still better at charades than Spanish, but I will keep practicing.

The little town of Montanita is gearing up for New Year’s.  The flocks of people that come to the coast for New Year’s is amazing.  The next few days here will be similar to MTV Spring Break, but with nothing being illegal.  It is not bad during the day, but the nights get very loud.  In fact, the music at the discoteca just went off at 7 am.

We escaped the busyness of the beach here yesterday and went to a Ecuadorian National Park, Isla de Plata.  Isla de Plata is known as the “poor man’s Galapagos”.  The smaller island has many of the same species of birds and animals that the famous Galapagos has, but much cheaper to visit.  We took a boat out about an hour into the ocean to the island.  We saw dolphins swimming next to us, large sea turtles that we fed watermelon to, and a whale.  We were able to hike on the island and saw  blue-footed boobies.  Blue-footed boobies are amazing birds that are only found in 3 places in the world:  Galapagos, Isla de Plata, and one other island in Ecuador.  We ended the day snorkeling on the island and a very choppy boat ride back to the mainland.

As we were coming off the boat, we saw a very unusual bug.  We stopped to inspect it and ran into 3 families that were also looking at the bug.  We started talking to them and found out that they all volunteer at Casa de Fe (the orphanage in Shell that we visited).  Since we are about 15 hours from that small jungle town, it was a surprise to see them here.  We talked for over an hour and were able to hear more of their heart for how they are serving in Ecuador and what led them to Casa de Fe.  We see clearly that God is at work and are waiting to see how it all fits together.

Today we are having church on the beach, surfing, and then getting all these Ecuadorian and European new friends to cheer on the Packers.  (I found a restaurant in town that is willing to switch channels from futbol to American futbol for a few hours this afternoon so we can have a Packer party!)  Go Pack Go!

From the mountains to the oceans….

24DEC

Good morning!  We left Quito on Friday evening and took an overnight bus to Guayaquil (the largest city in Ecuador that is along the coast of the Pacific).  We arrived in Guayaquil at 4:20 am and got a bus to the surfing/hippy/beach town of Montanita, where we will be staying for 2 weeks to do language school.

We are settled into language school and enjoying the beach and warm weather.  There are mostly college students here for break doing language school.  We have enjoyed getting to know many of them from Germany, Sweden, London, and 2 girls from Michigan and Texas. Lille and Eva are a hit amongst the college girls and enjoy listening to all their accents.

Isaiah is taking surfing lessons with a guy from New Zealand, Michael.  Michael is the surfing intern at the school and  has taken a liking to Isaiah’s zest for life and fearlessness in the water.  Michael has offered to take Isaiah out to “the big waves” and show him some tricks.  Isaiah is thrilled and loving every minute of his surfing experience….me not so much.

Don is enjoying his time talking with the locals and getting us all settled in to a new routine for 2 weeks, as well as planning our next legs of the trip.

I am reminded of how much I value cleanliness.  The cabanas we are staying at are convenient to the school, affordable for 2 weeks, and have a great community feel.  But they are definately not the Marriott.  I like clean…a lot. BUT I am getting over it a little and borrowed the cleaning ladies bucket yesterday to work on a few details on my own.  It is better today.  :). And my Spanish is getting so much better!  It has only been a day of class so far, but I am remembering more than I thought I would.  The teacher did laugh at me yeatsterday when she was looking for examples of words that start with every letter.  I gave a food word on every single letter.  I have my priorities:  food and clean.

We are all a little homesick as Christmas approaches.  The news of lots of snow at home actually made us all want to be there…snuggled in by the fire, eating Christmas cookies, watching the Packers, visiting with family.  We each expressed our homesickness and now are looking for ways to make a new memory for this Christmas. Please pray with us that we would be able to shine the light of Jesus and the hope He brings.  We plan to invite a few of the students out for pizza tonight and read the Christmas story with them.  A new tradition of sharing Jesus with strangers on the beach with pizza isn’t so bad.  :)

Catching up…

21DEC

Since we have been fighting flus, fevers and runny noses, I need to catch you up on our other activities this week!

On Tuesday, we had the chance to see another way God is at work here in Quito: La Roca Skate Ministry.  We met with Brock, the guy who leads this ministry here in the heart of the city.  La Roca Skate Ministry reaches out to street kids (mostly boys) that are interested in learning how to skateboard or who are already involved in skating.  The skateboard community in the city is known for drug and alcohol abuse, so La Roca seeks to be an alternative to the norm.  La Roca has partnered with a church and built a skate board park on the church’s property.  La Roca has numerous Bible studies throughout the week, small group mentoring, a skate church and a heart to spread the gospel in the city.  It was fun to meet with Brock and to see his heart for reaching youth in Quito.

On Wednesday, we met again with Adalia House (I spelled it wrong last time, sorry!).  Adalia House rescues girls out of sex trafficking and provides for their emotional, spiritual, physical, and future needs.  We had a great time picking out jewelry and talking about how The Yada Project can further support their ministry.

Tonight we just returned from a 2 day trip off the mountain into the jungle. We will share that adventure with you tomorrow…

Into the jungle….

21DEC

We have met some amazing people on our trip so far!  Many are living here in Quito, some volunteer during their vacation time, and some are just here to serve however they can be used.  Dr. Bob volunteers here during his vacation time in the States.  We met Dr. Bob in the kitchen of the guest house we are staying at.  We struck up a conversation with him and heard how we comes to Ecuador a few times a year to lead medical students throughout the country in serving.  He heard our mission of The Yada Project and his eyes lit up.  He told us about an orphanage in the jungle that is amazing and needs their story shared.  We all thanked God for allowing us to meet in passing and went along our merry way.  A week later, after sickness, other meetings with missionaries, we realized we had an extra day open.  Hmmm…what to do with that day?  Sightsee?  Rest?  Nah, let’s go to the jungle!
Early on Thursday morning, we set out for the jungle town of Shell (about a 5 hour bus ride from Quito).  We were on a mission to find an orphanage that is growing by leaps and bounds.  Each missionary (starting with Dr. Bob) that heard we were looking for a way to show how God was at work in Ecuador mentioned La Casa de Fe.  We decided we should check it out…are we glad we did!  La Casa de Fe (The House of Faith) is located in the small town of Shell.  It is an orphanage for children that are orphaned, abandoned, abused, and those with special needs.
La Casa de Fe started from one single woman, Patty Sue, moving to Quito to repair wheelchairs.  Within her first few weeks of being here, someone dropped off a little girl with severe special needs.  Patty Sue took her in and in the next few weeks continued to find children dropped at her doorstep.  She decided that maybe God had placed her here in Quito to care for unwanted children instead of repairing wheelchairs.  She became a registered foster care parent in Ecuador and decided she could care for more children if she moved out of the city of Quito.  She moved to Shell about 10 years ago.  Up until 2 years ago, she lived in a 4 bedroom house and housed 48 children. Yes, you read that correctly…48 children in a less than 2000 square foot house.  Allow that to sink in.
La Casa de Fe has gotten some help from doctors, nurses, dentists, construction workers and many others!  They have purchased a property and completed building a 9000 sq ft building that houses now 82 children.  All of these children are between the ages of 9 months-13 years. They now have 6 bedrooms lined with bunk beds, a large kitchen, a homework room, a physical therapy room, and a few bathrooms.  (The kitchen serves 3 meals a day and 2 snacks EVERY SINGLE DAY to 100 people.)
This is the best environment these children have ever known.  Many still have parents living but for a variety of reasons, are not wanted or are unable to be cared for by their parents.  We loved watching the kids play and were reminded of the simple trusting nature that each child has.  They are being cared for, given an education, taught about Jesus and are being loved.
The property they have purchased currently has the house, a school, and a workshop on it.  Starting at 4K, the kids start going to the school on the property and will continue there through high school.  They hope to build another building so they have more space for more children.
We toured the property, heard the story of the beginnings of Casa de Fe, and met a bunch of the children.  What a joy to see how clearly God is at work in the small jungle town of Shell.  As we reflect on the Bible’s command to care for orphans and to “love the least of these”, La Casa de Fe is an excellent example.  We plan to feature more of the story of their orphanage on The Yada Project website and provide ways to partner with them in the future.

We are all working together…

18DEC

 

It has been a rough few days here in Quito for us.  We have been fighting a nasty fever/flu bug that Don, Isaiah and I all have had.  It has been terrible.  Isaiah has had it the worst and is just starting to show signs of improvement this evening.

One of our goals for The Yada Project is to bridge the gap from local churches to what God is doing around the world.  We will strive to make that happen by sharing stories and pictures.  Today we are feeling it within our family.  We have seen the Body of Christ (here in Ecuador and in the US)  work together to uplift us in prayer,  send notes of encouragement, bring movies for the girls to watch, and show genuine concern for our health and safety.  Our trip is truly a group effort.  We are thankful to be feeling better and trust that another good nights rest will continue to heal all of our bodies.