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Now that we are all back in the U.S., I wanted my last blog post about construction to give you a glimpse into the awesomeness of what was going on last week and hopefully encourage you to participate in our Ecuador activities in the future.

The first kind of building we did is summarized in the video above.  It doesn't look like much to you if you weren't there, but digging and pouring 16 piers, 13 columns, about 270 feet of footer, 200 feet of nine foot block wall, and all the form carpentry, re-bar bending/tying, block laying, and stump/dirt moving to make it happen is quite a lot.  Especially w/ 16 guys, 5 1/2 days, and only basic hand tools.  Anyway, the church went from a bamboo hut to having block walls everywhere except the doorway, complete with even windows and a "fellowship hall" like courtyard during our Ecuador tenure.  The pastor and his local help should be able to knock out the rest - pouring the floor and resetting the roof - pretty quick.  They had service there this morning and we all wish we could have been there.

The second kind of building we did is summarized in the second picture above - a group shot of most of our construction team, the local construction boss (who is also a church of God pastor/leader), the pastor of the church we were working on, and some of their family members.  There was an amazing spirit between the men and locals that came together to accomplish all that we did....a spirit that can only be supernatural and that you really have to experience to comprehend.  Only our Lord could bring together so many strong personalities together in such a submissive way to work together and under each other in so much.  It reminded me that sometimes we have said "I can do anything for a week" to describe how to approach this trip, but my experience with these men reminded me that "this week" can be every week.  If Christ can give me the ability to forgive even before it happens, to be completely submissive and flexible to His plan, and maintain a kingdom focus in harmony with other believers for a week, why can't He do that every week?

The final kind of building I think we did is summarized by the last photo above, and in my opinion, the most important.  I didn't take this picture - actually only my arm is pictured in it - but it is representative of how we are trying to life Jesus up in this community.  Each day we had a devotional, that always ends in singing.  Each day we tried to pray and praise and seek Christ in our physical and spiritual work.  Saturday we worked a half day, showing up at 7:45am to get started.  With no devotional planned, the floor was opened for people to speak and church basically broke out until about 8:30am as we shared, worshiped, and prayed.  Our time Saturday ended in prayer after Nixon, a local that lives in Trinitaria (one of the shanty squatter communities we visited last year) shared with us how God's love had inspired him to try and meet the needs of needy people in his community.  This guy supports himself, his wife, and their five children via odd jobs however he can while trying to keep them safe in an almost impossible living situation.....and he is sharing with us (through an interpreter) the burden God has put on his heart to share the gospel with and help the needy.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  God's love indeed.  Above all, Jesus was lifted up this week.

Anyway, we built a church, we built relationships, and we built up our Lord between ourselves and to all who would witness.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be obedient and go to Ecuador this year.  I sure hope you will consider joining us in 2013!

Mike

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

We are home from Ecuador.  I am thrilled that I got to share another wonderful week of missions work with my church family (and my wonderful wife, Beth).  Was I in my comfort zone?  NO WAY.  Was I physically comfortable.. NO, it was HOT and DUSTY.  Am I physically refreshed?  NO, I'M COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED.  Was it worth it?  ONEHUNDEREDPERCENTYESYESYES (interpreted as "you bet").  There is no better feeling in the world than knowing that you have obediently operated in the full will of God.  Looking to improve your connection to God?  Feel like you are not yet moving to the optimal place in your relationship with Him?  I urge you to consider taking part in next year's mission trip.  I guarantee you that your participation in real, engaging missions work will provide you with a new level of spiritual fulfillment and will bring your perspective on life and service more inline with God's plan for you.  Being inline with God's will is exactly where we all need to be.  Don't miss your opportunity!

 -- Jared

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

This week was amazing. It literally flew by. In a way it'd be nice to have longer just so we wouldn't be so rushed for the few days we have to work. To be honest though, I'm ready to get home. We are showered and clean, although I never really feel 100% clean here.  Same way with the eating. Although I can eat a meal here, I'm not filled up like a meal back in the states.

It felt alot busier this year...maybe a sense of urgency in these last days. I'm reminded of John 9:4. My body has taken some abuse. My feet ache and throat hurts. I can only imagine the construction guys pain. There are so many sights and sounds I will keep with me for a long time. We have several stories to tell...all of us. And plenty of pictures and videos. I also have something I want to begin when I get home. I noticed none of the churches we visited had children's bibles. The only Spainish Bibles were adult (some kind of Anglican version or something). My translator told me it is the Spainish verion of "KJV". Since it is essentially kids teaching kids here, I want to find an easy to read, well thought out, children's bible in the US to send here. I'm talking boxes of them. A few hundred at least.

 

Time to go. Pray us home.

 

Thanks

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

We had a kid's crusade today. Over 1000 children present... praise God. Overwhelming success. -- Jared

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

Let's try this again.

 

It is 5:36 Thursday morning is I begin writing this, getting it ready to post hopefully sometime later today. Like last year, it has been difficult to write. The internet has become almost unusable here and there’s just so little time in each day and everyone is just extremely tired. We’ve seen little of the other team members.  It was the hottest day in Ecuador so far.  The sun was incredibly intense. As a result, several of us are sun burnt. By the end of each day we are dirty, dusty, sweaty and very stinky. I was telling someone on the bus back to the hotel that it’s best to just completely write off your sense of smell here. The odors run the full spectrum. Whether it’s hanging meat and fish from the vendor on the curb, mangy dogs running alongside the kids or the diesel exhaust from the city traffic and buses. By the time we make it back to the room we are emitting, some shall we say, ‘nice’ fragrances.

 

Brandon had a good 15th birthday yesterday. He, Emily and Pastor Josh played football (soccer) with a bunch of the kids at a school that we had extra time at, then later at a ‘street party’. At the school Brandon was asked to dance by a girl, Kayla (very cute) on our team named. We were sitting at the school eating our lunch (PB & J of course), and several of the children and their instructor begin to do the dance moves. I thought it was neat that they’d let us gringo’s participate (the people are so sweet here). Don’t worry; I got the whole dance thing on video. I’ll see if I can get that up later. Turns out, it was the official dance of Ecuador.

 

There are tons and tons and tons of children here in this massive city. As we were driving on an old crumbly overpass, I could see an endless number of shanty dwellings completely littering every hillside my eyes could see- each no doubt with several kids living in them. In my opinion, that’s mainly the people we are here for. The “untouchables” from Mark 1:40 is what one of our nightly speakers called them.  The interaction with the kids and their families is what makes the trip for me. You can’t help to be moved by what you see here. You just can't. To ignore it would be one thing. To forget it is another. It's that impacting. Yes it's THAT life changing. And for me, it’s an experience that doesn’t get old. We are literally touching their lives by noticing them, loving them, spending time with them (not something that most of them are probably used to).

 

There’s a power in that personal one on one interaction. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe that’s how I have finally come to realize a truth I have heard many times before, and I just  was not willing to be used for God to put into action in me. It’s a truth which is but one of the myriad of ways our God works.

 

 God works through people.

 

He works through people.

 

Simple really. No need to make it complex. I went up to a lady that was watching us from afar. Asked her  (speaking my southern Spainglish) if she knew Jesus. She shook her head ‘no’ and gave me a look of emptiness. I asked her if I could pray for her and she nodded ‘yes’.  I prayed a thirty second prayer asking  the Lord to soften her heart and open her eyes. That was it. No response at all from her. Then I walked away. Who knows what will happen to her?  I can say I at least hopefully planted a seed… maybe even put a stone in her shoe that I hope nags her every day.

 

That’s all for now. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for us and read our thoughts. 

 

 

 

He is great and greatly to be praised,

 

 

 

Lance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

 

Before I get to the "So....why?" thing, take a look at the pics above.  The first is the church we are building in a community called "Bastion Popular".  It is basically a squatters community about an hour north of where we are staying.  Dirt roads, open sewers in the street, bamboo houses, and actually a little sporty from a safety perspective (we have to leave every night by 5pm because they are worried about kidnapping, etc.).  The medical and evangelism teams have also spent quite a bit of time in this area.  The bamboo building on the right side of the 1st picture with the blue sign (that reads "Church of God, Jehovah is Our Refuge" is the church we are trying to move from bamboo walls w/ a dirt floor to concrete block walls with a concrete floor.  The second pic is of Greg Bigbee being his usual useful self.  The guy works and works hard.  The last is a victory photo of Josh with some guys from the team after they spent almost two hours yanking this 300 lb stump from it's home of decades because it was in the way of where we wanted to pour a concrete pier foundation.  Bottom line, the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs stretch for miles here, so here we are trying to submit and be used.

As for the "So...why?" part, I've gotten this question a few times from folks in the church and out.  It mostly comes in the form of folks wondering if this would be a "better" use of their charitable giving than what they might be currently doing or they wonder, if I'm gonna go someplace, why don't I go someplace in the states that is racked with the needy.  Those are good questions.  I wanted to use this post to communicate a more thoughtful answer than what I'm usually able to provide real time.

Let me take what I think is the easier one first - why out of the country?  My thinking here comes down to making a distinction about the level of need.  In our country, many of the poorest have cell phones, utilities, access to some kind of assistance, and at least have someone, somewhere in their family with access to some kind of resources they could call on if they absolutely needed to.  And if not, there are churches on every corner and a multitude of faith-based organizations available to them.  They mostly also live in safety.  I recognize there are groups of exceptions to those generalizations, but all I'm saying is that, in general, America is still a pretty safe and blessed place to live.  My exposure - personally and through talking with others and research - is that the difference between being "needy" in the US and being "needy" in a place like Ecuador is more like the difference between "comfortable" and "Bill Gates comfortable" in the US.  As Pastor Dial recently said, these kids have no hope.  Most are pregnant or kidnapped by their early teens as girls, or hooked on sniffing glue or in jail if they are boys.  Unless somebody shows up and tells them that God loves them, introduces them to a pastor, and invites them to a church built for them to take refuge or worship in, how is tht gonna change?  So that is my reason for thinking outside the US about this stuff.

Now for the charitable giving thing.  This is harder because it obviously involves very personal decisions about priorities.  So, I wll just share my thoughts for you to take as you will.  I came to quite a while ago where I began asking myself, given that God owns everything I have, am I doing what is scriptural with what is His?  My job, my resources, my house, my truck, even my family, etc., and surely my time.  He has made me a steward of those things and I'm responsible for what I do with them.  Matter of fact, all of God's resources on earth are in the hands of people - all the money, experience, knowledge, time, and even the gospel message of his love (somewhat) is at the mercy of human beings and their free will decisions.  Some people are very blessed and/or know Jesus, some are very needy and may not know Jesus.  So, how does God get His resources and the gospel message of His love, which we steward, to people in need?  The answer that is still coming clear to me, the answer that draws me to Manna House and Ecuador and things like that, is that ultimately all those things are dependent on people.  Somebody has to take money donated for Ecuador trips and actually do something with it.  Somebody has to actually be at Manna House to give out all the stuff people donate.  Most people are led to Christ by somebody who went to where they were at and actively shared Christ with them.  I could go on and on....hopefully you get what I mean....all the things made possible by the donations of believers are at the mercy of somebody actually doing something.  So, for me, the question became, "Why not me?".  If I look at Christ's example of going "outside the gate", into the country, to share resources, healing, prayer, and the message of salvation with those who were unsaved, how am I not responsible to do the same?  My seeking brought me to believe that these are responsibilities of every believer.  So then the question became what I was going to do about it.  So that is the simple version of how I ended up in Ecuador typing a blog about it :-).

Speaking of Ecuador, it is amazing.  Dozens led to Christ every day, miracles, a woman delivered from a demon (as told by a pastor who is, by his own admission, as just as much the "chief among skeptics" as Paul was the "chief among sinners).  I'm sure the experience varies person to person, but as pastor Dial said tonight, it is real kingdom building stuff that would not be happening if real people had not left their comfortable jobs and comfortable environments and spent their own money to come here and be Christ's hands, feet, and mouth.  And at the base of it all, that is "why".

Love you all and appreciate your prayers,

Mike

 

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Construction day two brought more of the same from day one.  This year is extremely hard for some reason.  The humidity seems to be higher but it's not hot.  All of my clothes are completely soaked before 9AM in the morning.  Every muscle of my body is now aching and every bone just plain hurts.  I'm fully invested in the ministry of what we are trying to accomplish, and after getting to visit the church we built last year this past Sunday, it's worth every ounce of blood, sweat, tears, and pain that I must endure.  This is a sacrifice.  No amount of money that I could ever give to charity or some other cause, can match the level of God's blessing that I feel from doing the work myself.  My heart is overwhelmed with joy even through the pain.  If Jesus is all I want, then I have need of nothing.  Keep us in your prayers.  Pray that we'll have the strength to finish what God wants us to and that the people we meet, will see the love of God in us.  

I've included some photos from Sunday, Monday and Today.

Joshua

 

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

 

 

 

Hello people of the United States,

 

I got to bed at 1am and slept 5 hrs. Pastor Josh, Brandon and I are sharing a room. We tagged along with the construction guys this morninng to a church service in the very church that they labored on so hard last year (along with Blake and Allen).  I have to say it was a pretty special site to see, and was a great experience. I only have time to post pics and vids of the service, and I think it'd be more poignant for josh or Mike to post about the effect it had on them today.

 

Keep praying please.

Enjoy the pics. I included some other misc pics. (Give the pics time to load. The site is slow.)

 

Lance

 

 

 

Josh and his idol (hero) at a  local store. What are the chances?

 

Lunch at the hotel. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches!!

 

 

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

...with 150+ other folks from all over the eastern US to try and share God's love to those in need.  As I watch all these folks work through a 20 hour travel day to just show up, it amazes me and reminds me how Jesus himself just.....WENT.  There are almost countless ways that a believer from a modern country can reflect God's love much further than they think.  Many people reading this "went" by sending clothes, glasses, prayers, or money.  We would have loved to share this with you firsthand, but short of that, we really appreciate all the help and support that will enable many in this area to see God's love in action.

Talk to you soon,

Mike

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

Hey everyone,

If you are reading this entry on Saturday July 14th in the afternoon, we are in Miami airport waiting on our flight to Quito Ecuador. From there we'll take another late flight to Guayaquil. It'll most likely be midnight by the time we get through customs and arrive at the Grand Hotel.

Thinking carnally I tell myself I need to be going on this mission trip like I need a hole in my head. But thinking spirituallly makes it well worth the trouble and sacrifice. From experience my body tells me that physically we will be worn out by the time we get in bed. But I know that spiritually it'll be uplifting in an awesome way. 

I bumped into (literally) Pastor Joe from Bunn NC and his team while walking through the terminal. We were assigned to his team last year. It pumped me up to see his team so excited (yet tired). Plese pray for the College Park team as well as ALL the missionaries who are traveling from all over. Pray for our safety and also that God will use us in a mighty way.

 

He is great and greatly to be praised.

 

Lance


 

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Posted by on in Ecuador Mission Trip 2012

This is my second mission trip to Ecuador so the material preparation was the same but the spiritual preparation was very different.  I didn't finish packing until 2AM the day of our departure which is not normal for a 10 day trip to another country.  It's had a different feeling to it the entire year and I can't put my finger on the cause.  Is it because I've been here before?  Is it because I somewhat know what to expect?  Or is it because until you fully give yourself away to "God's mission", you fail to see the Spirit working in your life.

I gave myself fully to the mission at hand and once again God has met me here.  Day one of construction is now over and the assessment has begun.  Once again God has put a control freak in a situation where he has no control.  We have the resources, knowledge, and skills to build the church faster and better, but that is not His plan.  His plan for us is to give ourselves fully to His plan.   His plan is for us to be servants and do the Master's work whatever that may be.  All the while, lifting Him up so that He, not I, may receive the glory for the work that has been done.   Because I can guarantee that without Him, what we do while we are here, would Not get done without Him in our presence.

Thank you for your prayers!  His blessings are flowing in our lives.

Joshua

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Only one day until we leave for Atlanta, then on to Miami and from there on to Ecuador.  Thanks to all who are going.  Your about to experience God and his blessing in a very different way.  I commend you.

 

Joshua

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Ecuador 2012 is fast approaching.  Please accelerate your prayers for our missionary team:

  • Pray that we will go forward in the boldness of the Spirit, overcoming any fear and spiritual inhibitions. 
  • Pray that the Spirit will begin working in the lives of the people in Ecuador in advance of our arrival. 
  • Pray that God will go before us opening doors into the prisons, universities, schools, and communities of Ecuador. 
  • Pray that the men, women, and children we encounter will see God in us and make a decision for God.
  • Pray that God will change the lives of our missionaries as much as He changes the lives of those to whom we minister.

Jared

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Matthew 6:19-21

19 "Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Ever said to yourself "I don't have a heart for missions."  I have... multiple times.  I felt that way up until I spent ~$1700 and six days of vacation time on a week long missionary trip to Ecuador.  Now, I wait in great anticipation for the next trip.

The 2011 Ecuador mission trip may be the single best investment of time and money I have ever made.  While I've not received the call for full-time mission work, the results I've seen in my own life back home are profound.

If you are looking for ways to obediently serve God, consider going with us to Ecuador this year.  There is still time to sign up.  Put your treasure -- money and time -- to work in the service of God, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with the results.

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Only 100 more days or so until this year's Ecuador mission trip.  I'm excited for the ones who have signed up but I wish there were 3 times as many going.  I will try anything to get them to go and I have often used guilt as a successful motivator.  :-)  God will provide the funds if you provide the vessel

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