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”!
On our recent trip to Cuenca, Ecuador, we were hosted by our friend, missionary Bill McDonald. Bill has lived in Cuenca for a number of years. He and his wife, Connie, founded Unsion TV and Unsion Foundation in Cuenca.
While we were there, Bill had a lot of fun introducing me as an old friend from our youth group days. He likes to say, he was in youth, and I was in children’s church. Ha. Ha. Ha. Of course it was stretching the truth a little, but we won’t discuss the direction of the stretch. Suffice it to say, one of us is older than the other. And one tells tall tales.
So where is Bill now? He is in Spain, walking the Way of St. James Hike (Camino de Santiago). He’s been walking for nineteen days and is closing in on the 300-mile marker. The walk is 500 miles. Some of you may have seen the movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen. He plays a father who goes to Spain to recover the body of his estranged son (played by real-life son, Emilio Estevez), who died while making the trek. The dad decides to make the trek himself.
Crazy? Maybe. Walking fifteen-plus miles per day for a month or so doesn’t appeal to me all that much. But my friend, Bill, has a good reason for doing it. He’s raising awareness and funds for Unsion TV. You see, they had a devastating fire a few years ago, and had to rebuild. Bill wants to see that debt cleared out, which would give them more financial freedom. And he’s a representative for his television network to the Latin-speaking nations.
Unsion TV has a great opportunity for ministry. I saw what they do up close and personal. It’s impressive. Check out the beautiful website they’ve created here.
If you’d like to keep up with Bill McDonald’s trek, here’s his Facebook page. Every few days, he posts a video clip with a personal message to his followers.
If you’d like to contribute, please leave me a message or send me an email via the contact tab. I’ll put you in touch with Bill’s team.
If nothing else, Bill, we’ve enjoyed watching you grow a beard. 🙂
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.
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!
If you live your life for yourself alone, never reaching out to others, it is as though you sleep. It’s a great waste of a life.
Opportunities arise, just to be ignored because you just want to be left alone, to live your life and be comfortable.
I want that, too, but I can never be comfortable with that itch irritating me.
The itch to do something real.
To reach out to others and help them past a difficult time.
Mothers know how it is. Once that tiny creature is in your care, you know you’re locked in for a certain number of years and maybe, forever. All your life, you will be Mother. Whether it’s the middle of the night, or halfway through your workday, when they call, you have to answer. You have to go and see to their needs.
I made it past some obstacles in life. I made it through because of God’s grace. First, there was grace, then there was faith. And I overcame through that faith because I found the strength to move beyond my past. I, who am forgiven, found strength to forgive others, and to forgive myself.
And now I have the opportunity to help others do the same. It was like being awakened in the dead of night by a child’s cry. My mother’s heart said yes.
In less than eight weeks, I’ll step onto a jet that will set me down in Ecuador–into the direct path of God’s call. Not that I am anything. He could speak through a donkey, or an alpaca, for that matter.
The opportunity came, and I will go.
My life will change and probably never really be the same afterwards. That could be a good thing. When you get too lazy, you end up wasting your life. Yes, I’m writing words on paper and cluttering your screen with ‘isms, but my life is a blank sheet. I’m hoping to end up with a page filled with life-giving words. A story well told. A life well lived.
I would appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks, as I prepare my heart, mind, and spirit for the task God has placed upon me. I want to carry the good news of His forgiveness and grace to those whose hearts are in deepest need. And I want to be a vessel He can use. Just an ordinary vessel, prepared and ready.
There, when needed.
To encourage those who need strength to believe in themselves, that they can accomplish what may seem to be impossible. A dream? Perhaps, but we must dream in order to achieve. I dare to dream and even if my dreams never come true (to the extent I dream them) I want to be able to say I ventured.
Nothing ventured. . . nothing gained.
I am especially grateful to all of those who have sent funds to help us on our way. You’ve pledged your thoughts and prayers and the wish to be a part of the call. I can’t really put into words how grateful I am for your faith in us and in the God who called us. I pray God’s blessing over your life.
Below these photos, you’ll find links to several places you can go to help. Some of these are long-term missions–in it for the long haul. They need strong shoulders to help them bear up under pressure. Even if you can’t help them financially, maybe you can commit to pray, or just help them by publicizing their presence and what they do.