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Home sweet home…

I know.  Two blog posts from me in the same day.  Some people might claim it’s a sign of the Second Coming.  Alas, no.

This summer, ER hosted two of what we call our “house teams”.  These amazing teams raise funds to build a house for a family from our Zambiza dump program, and then they come down here, roll up their sleeves and build it.  They learn to lay concrete block, dig trenches for sewer lines (twice, for this house!), put in tile, install sinks and tubs and toilets…

Today Dan and I went out to the house site to see the team dedicate the house to the family…and the family to the Lord.  There really are no words to describe seeing a family that had been living in a 10′ x 10′ room receive the keys to their very own house.  To see them walk through the door, knowing that everything in the house is theirs.  It’s clean and bright, and the pantry is stocked, and there are shoes and clothes and toys in the little girls’ room and towels in the bathroom and a sofa and chair in the living room, and a dining room table and chairs where they can sit down as a family and eat together every night. 

I love being at home.  I can only imagine how much more I would love being at home if I had never had one before.  I love having my things organized and “just so”.  I love thinking about Maria tonight, and how she is getting to organize her new things, and have them “just so”.  How she and her husband David will tuck their two little girls into their own beds, under their brand new comforters, and for the first time in their lives those little girls HAVE beds…not just beds, but their OWN beds.  Maria and David had never had a bed.  Tonight, they have a bed.  In a proper master bedroom. 

As I write this, the team is on their way to the airport.  Their work here is done, and they are heading home.  I watched tonight as they said goodbye to the people that they had worked alongside all week–Paul and Susan, Jose and Teresa, Ben and Lindsey, Ricardo and Luis.  There were so many tears being shed.  As I looked around, I remembered that I’ve been where they are.  I’ve led missions trips.  Fallen in love with people.  Had to leave and return “home”.  Tonight, I was reminded again how the Lord brought us down here, and how this has become home.  We don’t have to stay here–we get to stay here.  We are so privileged to be a part of what happens here, not just when the teams are on the ground, but all year round. 

Home.  Sweet.  Home. 

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Dining Room Table

Dining Room Table



Little girls room

Little girls room

House team

Dedicating the house to the family. Maria, David and their two little girls are in the center of the circle.


The Missionary’s Prayer

This morning I have been going through some things that I wrote way back when we first arrived on the field.  Things have changed so much since then.  This one particularly stuck out to me, for two reasons.  One, I wrote it in July of 2004, when we had been on the field for only seven months.  I wasn’t jaded or cynical at that point.  And two, I need to be reminded in my current jaded, cynical state that we are here for a reason, and it really has nothing to do with my own personal comfort.  Even after 10 years, I have so far to go…

The Missionary’s Prayer

   Father, help me to love these people as you love them.  Remind me that “Their ways are not my ways, nor are their thoughts my thoughts.”  Forgive my selfish pride in thinking that my way is always the best way.  Help me to see the differences between us as strengths, rather than weaknesses.  When I feel wronged, and I will, remind me that I am to forgive others as you have forgiven me.  I pray that they will also forgive me my trespasses, which will be many.
   When the opportunity for love comes my way, allow me to put off my foolish ideas.  Do not let an opportunity to show your love to someone pass, simply because I am worried about physical things.  I have the blessing of going home and washing, while many here do not.  When I am offered a meal of foods that are strange to me, prepared by hands that I do not know, remind me to accept it graciously and enjoy it in the spirit of sacrifice in which it is offered.    Take me beyond the ragged exterior to the heart within.
   When I am asked to be in places that offend my sensibilities, remind me that you left Heaven to come to a world that offended everything in you.  Yes, the places here where people live are dirty, and I wonder that they can survive in a garbage dump, or a village with no clean running water…You saw earth in much the same way.  Allow me to look past the physical to the eternal, as you did for me.  
   My purpose here is not to change their way of life, but to embrace it, and to see the beauty that their traditions merit.  Show me the wonder in their worship, in their music…in their living.  And when at last you call us home, I will find the joy that comes with kneeling at your feet with my brothers from this foreign land.  And our understanding of each other will be complete.

” So neither he who plants not he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow…”
                                                                                                                       1 Corinthians 3:7

I am not the brave one.

Walking After Midnight...

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

I ran across this quote sometime last week.  It struck me so forcefully that I immediately made it my Facebook status…and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

I am not the brave one.  I don’t take risks.  I have a soul-gripping fear of the unknown, and it doesn’t have to be the “great” unknown.  Shopping at an unfamiliar grocery store is enough to raise my anxiety levels.  People say “Oh!  You’re so brave to live where you do!”  I am here to dispel the myth.  No bravery.  Not even a squeak.  I am one of five children, and all four of my siblings will tell you that I’m not the brave one.  No taking risks.  Slow and steady.  And boring.

I don’t think I’m alone. …

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Love in action.

For some time now, our dream at Extreme Response has been to extend our vision to the women and children who are connected with the Quito City dump.  Our daycare has been functioning since 2006, and all of the children that have gone through our program are now in public school.  For the first few years our children were doing quite well, however as the work at school has gotten more difficult, they have started to fall behind.  The parents of our students have a high illiteracy rate, and therefore cannot help their children with schoolwork.

At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, we identified 12 children who were in “crisis”–in danger of failing or dropping out.  When we opened our Women’s Center, we intended to start an after school program for students where they could come and get homework help, tutoring and a hot meal.  These children would otherwise be at home unsupervised or out on the streets until their parents got off of work around 6:00.  The goal was to begin the tutoring program in 2014, however it soon became apparent that these twelve children could not wait that long.

In September of this year, with no school supplies and precious few resources, Teresa Jimenez began receiving these twelve children after school every day.  They arrive about 12:30, receive a hot meal (schools here do not provide lunches for students), spend some time doing light chores (to provide a sense of “ownership” for the facility that they are using), play games and do homework.  They are there until about 5:00 or so.  Since we began the program, 15 more children have been brought to our attention as being in the same situation as the other students.  They are on a waiting list at the moment as we try to muster our limited resources and figure out what to do.   Our goal is to be able to hire someone full time who would come and cook lunch for the children and then be there in the afternoon to help them with their schoolwork and other activities.

This picture was taken last week.  Teresa is to the left, kneeling down and her husband Jose is standing behind her.  The big kid in the middle is my sweet hubby, and Jerry, our president is on the right.

After school

If you would like to know more about the After School program, or the Quito Women’s Resource Center, or anything else that we do down here, feel free to email me at

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5:14

A Different Kind of Christmas…

A Different Kind Of Christmas

“The lights around the Christmas tree don’t burn as bright
And all around the world it isn’t a silent night
Outside I hear the voices sing the sweetest sounds of caroling
But somehow there’s a sadness in the song
In our hearts we know that something’s wrong

It’s a different kind of Christmas
In a different kind of world
Even though it looks the same

Everything has changed
It’s a different kind of Christmas…”


I love Christmas.  It is hands down my favorite time of the year.  As I type this, it is the 27th of October, and by the end of this week at least one of my Christmas trees will be up, the mantel will be decorated and Christmas music will be playing all day (at least until the Sweet Hubby gets home.  He’s Scroogey.)  I love the lights and the decorations and the music, and the sense of wonder and awe at a Savior who was willing to leave Heaven and come to Earth for someone like me.  Christmas makes me feel like maybe there’s hope for our world…at least for a little while.

I get to do all of these things.  I can decorate my house.  Play Christmas music until the SH runs screaming from the room.  Dress my dachshund up in his Christmas sweater and boots and watch him glare at me from behind the couch.  There will be feasting and fun.

Less than five miles from where I live sits the El Inca women’s prison.  Originally designed to hold about 300 women, it is full to bursting with almost 800 inmates.  It is a grim place.  Most of the women are there because of drugs.  They were used as “mules” by some unscrupulous “boyfriend” who promised them the moon, and then disappeared when they got caught.

We’ve all seen the TV shows where prison inmates have clean cells, bedding, food, privileges…in El Inca when they push you through the door and lock it behind you, you don’t even have a toothbrush.  You want a bed?  Find a way to buy a mattress.  Need soap?  Find something to trade for it.  Hungry?  Too bad.  You’re going to get one meal a day, if you’re lucky.   You spend Christmas in the prison.  Your birthday in the prison.  Watching through the barred windows as life goes on without you.  Anything you need you have a find a way to get.  Women do whatever they can to get a little money.

Alma Libre (Free Soul) is a women’s ministry working here in Quito with the women of the prison.  The goal is to help women accept responsibility for their actions, and make changes on the inside that will allow them to get a fresh start on life when they are released.  Last year for Christmas, Alma Libre was able to give each woman in the prison a gallon bucket filled with soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, washcloths, lotion…things that allow the women to keep themselves clean and maintain some of their dignity.  This year, they would like to be able to provide each of the women with a set of dishes, a set of silverware, a mug and something pretty such as a bottle of lotion.  The total cost for this project is $10/woman.  For a gift of $10, you can give a woman in prison a plate and silverware so that she doesn’t have to eat with her hands.  A mug that will allow her to have a cup of coffee.  Something pretty to remind her that she is loved.

These women are not all from here…in fact many of them come from other countries.  They grew up in good homes.  They spent Christmas with families who loved them.  They listened to carols.  Ice-skated under the stars.  Drank hot chocolate by a roaring fire.  And they remember doing these things.  When Christmas comes, they remember their “other life”.  The one where they were free.

We cannot shorten their sentence for them.  We cannot get them out and bring them home with us to celebrate Christmas.  There will be no decorated tree in their cell, no special turkey dinner to enjoy…no presents, no family, no nothing.  They will spend Christmas as they have since they arrived–alone.  It is our hope that this year maybe they will realize that they are loved–that the baby came for all of us, including them.  $10 is all it takes to bring Christmas to one of these women.  $10 to let them know that someone, somewhere, cares.

If you would like to help with this outreach, donations may be sent to

Extreme Response International

PO Box 345

Snellville, GA.  30078

Please mark your gift “Alma Libre–Christmas 2013”.


“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.” ~Emily Dickinson




Back in the game.

Yesterday, for the first time in probably 7 years, I attended the weekly kid’s club at the dump.  One of the drawbacks (among the MANY blessings) of working at the Alliance Academy was that it kept me out of the ministry loop, other than the yearly Christmas parties.  During the last several party weeks, I have found myself very disturbed at the fact that I was essentially just like most of our team members–coming in for the week of the parties but not having much involvement throughout the rest of the year.  Working full-time drained what little energy that my fibromyalgia consented to give me, and left me too exhausted for much else.

At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Dan and I did a lot of talking and praying about whether or not it was time for me to resign from the school and become more actively involved with Extreme Response.  It was not an easy decision.  I have worked very hard to get my degree in Special Education, and last year I was moved from the library to the classroom.  I was beyond excited and yet I knew in my heart of hearts that it would only be for the one year.  Kristina was graduating, and Patrick’s educational needs were becoming more intense.  In October I talked to my supervisor and essentially turned in a 7 month notice.  There was an immediate peace.  At the end of the year I cleaned out my much-loved classroom, turned in my key, withdrew Patrick and walked out the door into the unknown.

Patrick is being home-schooled now, and so far things are going well for the most part.  I home-schooled my other children when they were small, but even so I found myself very nervous at the prospect of starting over.  I now have three children in college, and the identity crisis that has resulted from this development has left me reeling.  I have no specific job assignment with Extreme Response, which is unnerving for me.  We joined ER in December of 2006, and I went to work at the school in February of 2007.  For the last seven years, Dan and I have had separate identities.  Now all of a sudden he still has his, and I am floating out here without mine.  I now have one child at home instead of four, I’m not working for the first time in years, and the things that I think I want to do don’t seem to be on anyone else’s agenda, including Gods.  He is being conspicuously silent on just exactly what it is He would like for me to throw myself into next.

I mentioned before that I had complete peace about resigning–I still have that.  I know that my time at the school had ended, and so this isn’t really meant to be a “Gee, I really wish I hadn’t done that” post.  It’s more of a “what now?” post.  Going to the dump yesterday felt good, and right, and I enjoyed it.  I told Dan that I would help with it this year, and I am looking forward to that, but it can’t be all that I do.  For one thing, it’s an established ministry…someone else’s passion.

I guess all of this is to ask you to pray for me.  I’m feeling anxious and panicky right now without a defined role anywhere.  I am not a very good “waiter”–I need answers and organization and direction in order to function.  I need a purpose.  A passion.  A hill to die on.  I need to find me.

“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Dear Jerry…

Two weeks ago, my friend Jerry (aka “Mr. President”) asked me to tell him why we’re here (Ecuador) and why we stay.  I figured if he wanted to know, then maybe other people want to know too…so here you are.


Dear Jerry,


Last week when we talked, you asked me a fairly short, simple question. 




Why do I do what I do?


I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I’ve come up with a fairly short, two-part simple answer that will take a lot of words to define.


Because people matter…and I have to. 


We’ve been on the mission field for almost 10 years.  I wish (sometimes) that I could say that I’m “super missionary”…completely fulfilled living and working overseas, basking in the Glory of the Lord…never bothered by the little things, but rather looking on them as temporary trials on the way to my eternal home…all while evangelizing the people we work with and seeing them come to the Lord by the bucketful…


Reality check.


I’m a grouch.  An introverted grouch, to be more precise.  I have anxiety issues courtesy of my genetics on my grandmother’s side.  The “little things” are enough to send me right straight out of my mind, and trust me—it’s a short trip.  I am not in any way, shape or form an evangelist.  I can’t even make small talk with people without breaking out in a cold sweat. 


But it’s not about me.  Wait.  Yes it is.  It’s all about me.  And all about you, and all about every one of the people that we live and serve with, because Jesus came for every one of them.  Because people matter. 


The simple reality is that I could pack up and move back to the US tomorrow if I really wanted to.  Although it might take some time, I could go back to living the way I used to live, and eventually put away the years on the mission field in a box, to be pulled out and passed around when I want to show off a little bit. 


I could.  But I seriously doubt that I would ever sleep again. 


I believe in Jesus, and I am certain of my salvation in Him.  I don’t have to DO anything for that.  I don’t, however, believe that I’ve got a free pass to spend the rest of my life doing nothing for the people around me. 


I’ve looked into eyes that are old and tired and look as though they’ve seen every misery that this planet has to throw at them…eyes that belonged to a four-year-old child.  I’ve seen people toss aside every last shred of their humanity and claw their way through a crowd to get to a one-pound bag of rice, because it’s the only thing standing between their children and starvation.  Desperation has a face, and I’ve met it head on. 


People matter.  Every one of the people that I encounter matters to Jesus.  He loves every single one of them as if they were His only child.  Their circumstances shock me.  They don’t shock Him—He knew that they would live in that shack, and work in the garbage dump, and have too many babies that they couldn’t take care of…and He loves them passionately. 


He commands us to care for the widows and the orphans.  The ones who are least able to care for themselves.  I can be pretty judgmental—I’m the one watching the lady with too many children standing in the middle of the street selling candy to support them and thinking, “Why does she continue to have children that she cannot support?”  I constantly have to jerk myself up short and remember that it’s none of my business why.  Jesus didn’t say “Here.  Why don’t you have a seat, and I’ll explain her situation to you, and then you’ll understand and you can go and help her and feel good about yourself.”  What He SAID was “Give her something to eat.  Hold her baby for a minute.  Listen to her.  And for heaven’s sake, stop thinking that you’re better than she is!”


People ask me why.  Why do I stay here?  It’s a tough question.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much.  Heard too much.  Held too many babies—looked into their eyes and seen their future—too many babies of their own and a box of Chiclets in the middle of the street seven days a week.  I’ve seen too many desperate parents, too many hungry children, too many angry teenagers, too many absent fathers, and too many overwhelmed mothers.  I can’t do everything.  I can’t change the world.  I can’t change Ecuador.  But if I can make someone’s life just a little easier, even for just a few minutes…if I can make that little four year old with the ancient eyes forget and just laugh for a little while…if just one person can go to bed tonight knowing that their children had enough food for today at least…If just ONE PERSON comes to Jesus because for the first time in forever he feels like someone loves him…then it’s all worth it.  It doesn’t happen every day.  But it happens.  And as long as there’s a chance, I have to stay here.


Because people matter.