Hello, Thursday Morning readers! I’m so glad you’re here and it’s actually Thursday, not Wednesday (like last week). November is here, and the whirlwind of activities begin for some as we prepare for the holidays and the end of another year.
I have a very special story to share with you today from my friend Leah Diaz, missionary in Cuenca, Ecuador. I first met her when I visited Cuenca a couple of years ago. She’s managing director at Unsion Plus. Unsion is a television station in Cuenca. Her efforts there include a program called The April Project, to help those struggling with addiction.
So, this is what getting lost looks like, or is it? Let me share a story with you.
A couple of weeks ago at the construction site for our new church plant and counseling center in Jima, one of the locals walks by and asks why we were there. Among the reasons, one thing I shared is that we hope to help families struggling with addiction.
He then points to the mountains to an area that from a distance appeared to be a bunch of trees. He said “there”! You must go “there”. He shared with me that the entire community struggles with addiction in a way that he has never seen and that there is no one to help them. He then told me the name of the community.
Every day since, that name has been on my heart and in my prayers. So today on the way to Jima I got lost, really lost. It was the no GPS, no phone signal, no people around, also fun, but also scary kind of lost.
Well, to my sweet surprise the first sign I see just happens to have the name of that same community on it! I could NOT believe it. I somehow stumbled upon the trees of San José de Raranga!
It was not part of the plan, or was it? I just love how God leads us even when we are lost. Found. Loved. Chosen. We can completely lose our “way” and find our “why”!
We’ve heard a lot of negative words lately. And let’s face it, negative words make you feel bad.
So it was a relief to spend a few days outside the U.S., in a place where we saw very little television, and had limited access to the internet. When I did log on to Facebook, I found it easy to ignore the negative stuff. I skimmed through to find the important, like what the family was up to now. Their vacation pictures made me smile.
We’re smiling here, though it’s the predawn hours at Louisville International, waiting to board our flight to Miami. Some of us had not slept, or had at least gotten very little sleep.
This next picture was taken about 19 hours later, on the other side – in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After facing long lines in customs, a friendly face was most welcome. Our host, Bill McDonald got us quickly to our hotel room and sleep, at last…
Cuenca had a calming effect on us. We were very busy, but it wasn’t frenzied busy. We were able to share on a personal level with some of the most important people in the world. Those right in front of us.
We met a lot of people–missionaries, interns, ex-pats, and native Ecuadorians. We worked with them, talked to them, played football (actual American-style football!), went on adventures, and shared wonderful meals with them.
We bonded with a few of them and they became family.
Bob (middle photo) was very serious about his encounter with one of the ancients.
Back outside, the weather was unusually warm and sunny for a winter’s day at 10,000 feet. Regarding the end photo – I am not trying to connect to Facebook. I was trying to find pictures I’d taken. Honest.
We spent Sunday with some very special people, first at an inner city church, where I shared a message of forgiveness. I look like a giantess here, but I’m only 5’7″ and wearing flat shoes. The girl who’s interpreting for me is quite a bit shorter than that, but she was an excellent interpreter and so cute.
She and a number of others joined us for dinner after the service. I loved that table. I could use one just like it for our holiday dinners at home. I’m afraid we’d have to open the front and back door to make room for the thing, though.
Besides Pastor Miquel and his family, we were joined by short-term missionaries, summer interns from the television station, missionary Leah Diaz, fellow Kentuckians, Jeremy and Tiffany Riggs and their family, and Thom and Becky Davis of Unsion Television. Most of these accompanied us on a trip into the Andes to El Chorro de Giron, a beautiful cascade down a mountainside.
We climbed, though I had to stop a couple of times just to breathe. We were at a high altitude, after all. Everyone was relieved when I stopped, since they didn’t want to be the one. Now that I’ve caught my breath…
Of course these two never ran out of breath. We later joined them at the midpoint where we all got wet from the spray. But we loved it!
Thus ends another week in Cuenca. The following day, we headed back to Guayaquil to spend our last night in Ecuador. It went so fast!
Later this week, I’ll be posting about some of the interesting buildings we discovered in Cuenca. For further adventures and lots more pictures, you can check out our group page on Facebook at Owens to Ecuador.
I’m writing this post from the coffee shop at Unsion Television in Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s quiet at this hour, but will soon fill to capacity. We’ve had a wonderful week so far in Cuenca. I’ve been busy talking about Annabelle’s Ruth, speaking at various locations and teaching a workshop on creative writing. It’s been a great experience. I’m so thankful to our dear friend, missionary Bill McDonald, for the opportunity.
Meanwhile, my team members have been busy working. The guys are helping Mario renovate the television studio upstairs. They love Mario, whom they dubbed “Super Mario.” April is working here in the coffee shop, alongside our beloved Rocio Romo Ortiz. Rocio is gracious and funny and tends to “adopt” her helpers as family. I loved her smiles and hugs and wonderful cappuccinos.
Later today, we’re headed to the marketplace to find gifts for our family and friends. The picture to the left is of a vendor we met. My son, Todd, tried on a pair of too-small gauchos, just for fun. They may fit the vendor, but not my big ole gringo son.
And of course, I have to show you the world-famous flower market. Their prices are low and the flowers are amazing. You can smell the place a block away.
I’ve been impressed with Cuenca. The people are kind and generous and hard-working. Most of what they do is done by hand, the old-fashioned way. We’re staying in the old downtown area with its cobblestone streets and amazing mountain views. The hotel was once the home of a well-to-do Spaniard. It has the inner courtyards and patio, though a glass roof has been added to protect from the elements. It does tend to rain more often this time of year. And though it gets quite chilly at night, they don’t have heat. They don’t have air conditioning, either. I don’t think they really need it, since it never gets really hot here.
If you go to Cuenca during their winter, take your flannel PJ’s and socks. You’ll be glad you did. They are in the mountains, after all.
Speaking of mountains, the trip over the Andes from Guayaquil (locally pronounced “why-a-keel”) to Cuenca was … an experience. We piped around hairpin turns to find anything from gigantic boulders in the road, llamas, or small herds of cattle. At one point, Bill jumped out to help recapture a runaway cow.
The bathrooms were an adventure as well. A little on the primitive side, and you can’t flush paper.
Before climbing into the mountains, we passed banana groves, cacao groves and rice paddies. Yes, rice is a staple here, along with the bananas, plantains, potatoes called “papas” and yucca root, which they fry like french fries, or boil.
Bill stopped to buy us a bunch of small bananas called “oritos.” Large bananas are oros, which means gold. The oritos were delicious and the potassium helped us make it through those hills and curves.
The city of Cuencalies in a valley that resembles a bowl. The altitude ranges between 7,710 to 8,370 feet. That’s higher than Denver–it took us a couple of days to settle in. We walked slower. Even the process of getting into bed at night made me wheeze.
The long name for the city is “Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca” — since there are four rivers which are part of the Amazon watershed. This place has been around for a long, long time. It was originally founded in April, 1557 by the Spanish. I noticed a definite mix of Spanish and natives among the citizens of Cuenca.
As you walk down the streets of the city, you’ll notice many who are dressed in traditional clothing. They’re not wearing costumes. This is their everyday wear. Many are Quichua (Kichwa), but may also be Huaorani, Shuar, or Chachi. They are polite and friendly and very patient, for the most part. They zip along the inner city sidewalks along the narrow cobblestone streets, headed to market or who knows where. Some of them have booths in the marketplace, where they sell handmade textiles, hats, and jewelry or other crafts.
Thus ends the first few days of our Cuenca mission trip.
Next post, I’ll have more to share, after we’ve visited the beautiful cathedrals and vistas. In the meantime, ¡hasta la vista! ¡Dios le bendiga!
I’ll start with a couple of questions. Feel free to comment with your answers and suggestions.
I’d like to know…
How to survive a long layover.
How to pack light when traveling from summer to winter.
How to cope with high altitude.
Yeah, that last one. I live just above sea level. The nearest mountain is oh, about 300 miles away and it’s highest point is around 6700 feet. We’re going to Cuenca, Ecuador where it’s winter (but not all that cold) and the altitude is 8500 feet above sea level.
I’ve been high before. Uh, no–let me rephrase that–I’ve been up a couple of mountains. Stood on top of Pike’s Peak (14,114 ft.) and had lunch between eight and nine thousand feet in the Cascades. I’m not really worried. But I’m accepting suggestions.
We’re getting ready. The suitcases–we haven’t used those in a long, long time–they probably need airing out. The last few trips were road trips. We carried several smaller bags and a couple of hangup bags. But this time, we’ll need the suitcases.
Jeans are a good bet for chilly weather, so I plan to pack those. Actually, I’m hot most of the time, so looking forward to a cooler climate. I’ll let you know how that goes.
And don’t worry, we’re not leaving things unattended at home.
Next week, I’m interviewing Patricia Talbert of The Final Ride. She’s a beautiful young woman and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her. Being a writer means you can converse with people who only exist in the pages of books. It’s loads of fun. I hope you enjoy the interview. I’m a big fan of Linda Yezak’s stories (she exists outside the books).
And don’t forget–book 2 of the Legacy series, Carlotta’s Legacy has released and is available at Amazon.com. In just a few days, my publisher is lowering the price of Amelia’s Legacy (Kindle edition) to celebrate the release. More about that in my July 18 post.
Here in the Owens household, the “Cuenca Countdown” has begun. From the date of this posting June 28, 2016, we are at nineteen days.
At this moment, the plans are still a bit sketchy. I’m teaching a Novel Writing class. I’m speaking at several different functions and meetings. My part in some of these will be brief. Brief is good. Especially for one who has never worked with a translator. I’ll let you know how that goes.
This past weekend, I sat on a fiction panel at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference. That’s me in purple. I learned two things. How to be brief, and how to pass the microphone to someone with more experience. I’m a quick-study at these things.
It was a great honor to sit on the stage with some of my favorite people.
One thing I am really looking forward to while in Cuenca–spending time with friends who have given their life to missions. Among them–Bill McDonald, and Jeremy and Tiffany Riggs. I’m sure you’ll hear more about them later. I hope to stay current on my blogging. I will be posting to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, so you can find our updates there.
It won’t be all work and no play. There is a little sight-seeing sandwiched in between the engagements. Shopping in the marketplace, visiting ancient ruins,sampling food and excellent coffees.
Oh, just a few of the things we’ll do. But most of all, I look forward to getting to know the people of Cuenca, enjoying the views, and learning about life at eight thousand feet above sea level. In a place where there are no mosquitoes. I so look forward to that!
In the meantime, I hope you’ll write these dates on your calendar and pray for our team while we’re in Ecuador. July 16 – July 26 Owens2Ecuador Mission Trip.
We are so thankful for all of the readers and special friends who are supporting us in this effort through prayers, thoughts, and donations. We pray all your time and gifts will be multiplied back to you abundantly.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.–2 Corinthians 9:8
The Owens to Ecuador Team
Stay tuned for more information about the mission next week!