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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

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

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.



An exciting new direction…


Extreme Response exists “to meet the needs of men, women and children living in extreme, often life-threatening situations.”  When I think of a life-threatening situation, I think of things like children not being vaccinated against diseases that could take their lives, or consuming food and drink that is filled with bacteria.  There is, however, another reality to “life-threatening.”  It is living in a situation where abuse is a daily occurrence, having to provide for children with little or no resources, and having no support of any kind from anywhere.


Women bear the brunt of poverty.  When there are no skills…no money…no food…they are ultimately held responsible by society.  And they hold themselves responsible.  We as mothers want what’s best for our children, and when we can’t provide for even their most elemental needs, it tears at our very souls.


For some time, we at Extreme Response have been looking at “what’s next” with the daycare.  It has become clear to us that our next step is the women who work at the dump.  They are the mothers, grandmothers and aunts of the children that we care for, and if we are to break the cycle of poverty, we must help them.  In January we presented the idea of a “women’s center” to our board.  We laid out the logistics, the reasoning and the ideas that we had come up with.  They were very supportive, however they made it very clear that there was no money in the budget this year.  We left agreeing to pray about it, both corporately and individually.


Jose, who runs our Zambiza program, is possibly the most optimistic man I’ve ever met.  He KNOWS that God will provide.  And he BELIEVES it with all his heart.  When we told him that there were no funds for this year, he just smiled and said “Ok.”


Our board meetings took place at the end of January.  Toward the end of April, Jose was talking with one of the dentists that offers her time at Zambiza.  He told her about the dream of a women’s center, and he told her exactly what we were looking for.  A large meeting room where classes could be held, smaller rooms that could be used for after-school tutoring, shower facilities and a room that could be used as a temporary shelter if needed, and a space that would function as a dining room.  She said “Really?  I’ve got that space, and it’s for rent.”  Jose went to look at it, and called Dan with the news that it was perfect.  Dan agreed to go and check it out, still knowing that there was no money, and rather skeptically believing that it was as perfect as Jose said it was.


It was perfect.


Located less than one kilometer from the daycare (another goal), with every single space that we were looking for.  As they were talking, the lady made it clear that she was putting the space up for rent on the 1st of June, so any decisions would have to be made quickly.  She also told them the price per month, but then told them that since it would be used to help women, she was going to lower the price by several hundred dollars.


The guys left the building knowing that they had found what they were looking for, but also knowing that there was no money to be had.  Dan went back to his office and emailed Jerry.  Jerry responded back saying that there was still no money, but we needed to keep praying.  Several minutes after this conversation took place, Jerry received an email from a woman who told him that she had felt a burden that morning to help women, and she was wondering if we had any projects in place that were specifically for women.  OH.  MY.  Jerry wrote back to her and explained the situation, and explained that we were looking for funding through January of 2014 to get the women’s center off the ground.  She immediately responded that we could consider it done.


The center is now open.  Teresa, who is Jose’s wife, meets with the women of Zambiza and holds a Bible study with them, teaches them life-skills, works on crafts with them, and helps them find value in who they are.  These women are learning for the first time that they are beautiful, and that they can create beauty.  The first day that the center was open, there were almost 20 women there, taking unpaid time off to come and learn.  School will start back in September, and our goal is to have a program in place to help the children with their schoolwork, and to give them a place to go after school instead of going home and either running the neighborhood or having to be in charge of smaller children while their parents work.  Many, if not most, of our parents are illiterate, and cannot help their children with their schoolwork.  Eventually we hope to be able to offer classes to the women, to help them learn to read and write.  We are also hoping to offer medical, legal and psychological services to them, and we already have doctors, lawyers and psychologists talking to their colleagues about providing a few hours a month pro bono.

“There are women who make things better… simply by showing up. There are women who make things happen. There are women who make their way. There are women who make a difference. And women who make us smile. There are women of wit and wisdom who- through strength and courage- make it through. There are women who change the world everyday… Women like you.”
Ashley Rice


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I have been a missionary for over 9 years.  I would consider myself “seasoned.’  I have seen abject poverty that words cannot even begin to describe.  I know what desperation looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like and tastes like.  I have seen people surrender every last shred of their humanity and fight like the hounds of hell were on their tail to get to a one pound bag of rice.  And I’ve cried, knowing that it was the only thing holding off starvation for their babies, and that when it was gone, they would have no idea where the next pound of rice would come from.  And after all of this time.  All of these experiences.  All of this…life…I still have one question that eats at my very soul.


Why do they keep having babies?  Why do they keep having babies that they cannot feed and care for?  And please know that I am not speaking from a “two cars in the nice suburban garage and an iPod under the Christmas tree” mindset.  I came into this life with that mindset–if they can’t take care of their babies to my standards, then they aren’t doing a good job.  I have learned that I was totally, completely wrong.  I am talking about basic necessities like food and clothing.  Every day I pass mothers selling candy in the streets, just trying to earn enough to buy their little ones a piece of bread.  Typically, there are two or three playing in the median strip, one baby on her back, and most likely more children that have gotten old enough to fend for themselves, whatever that looks like.  There is no man in the picture–he left long ago.  She looks old.  Defeated.  Beaten down.  Do they love their babies?  My mama’s heart wants desperately to believe that they do, but I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I can’t help but wonder if the desperation and the fear and the helplessness has pushed aside the love, and if all they see is another mouth to feed.

Yesterday the authorities removed five children from one of these mamas.  We know this mama personally–she is part of the ministry at the dump.  They took five of her nine children.  Two others died at birth, and one precious baby died before his first birthday of malnutrition.  I do not know where the sixth child is–presumably he is old enough to take care of himself.  I know some of you are asking why we didn’t do enough to prevent this.  Please believe me when I tell you we’ve done all we can, but sometimes all you can do is still not enough. 

Most of these precious babies have different fathers, and not one of them is around to help.  They took what they wanted, and she let them, either because she was hoping desperately that one of them would finally see her as beautiful and care enough to stay…or because she no longer believes that it’s possible for someone to see her as beautiful, and she just doesn’t care any more.  Birth control is not an option.  Even if she could afford it, she wouldn’t take it, because at this level of poverty, women believe that they only thing that will keep their man around is if they can give him babies.  And it almost never keeps him around. 

I know that I am not here to judge, but to help.  I know that there is probably something terribly wrong with me for even thinking this way.  And I realize that I have probably caused some of you to wonder why I’m here.    It’s about breaking the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.  It’s about change.

I love those babies.  I love holding them and playing with them.  I love their grubby little faces.  I love making them smile and giggle–especially the tiny ones who have already lost the sparkle in their eyes–they already know that life is hard and hungry and that it isn’t going to get any better. 

I love what I have been called to do.  But I still wonder…Why?