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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Climbing, Closure and Coming Home

LIFTers spent this morning debriefing their experience here in Ecuador and are now using the afternoon to pack for their return trip home starting at 11:30 pm tonight - arriving at JFK around 10:30 am Thursday.  It was a rich time of reflecting on lessons learned and how they saw God working in many different ways.

The camping/climbing trip on Sincholagua went well.  The weather was dry for only a few hours in the morning then broke into rain, hail or snow depending on how high up the mountain the climbing teams were.  Four out of six teams reached the summit.  It was a long hard test of physical endurance and psychological strength.  The Lord watched over every group and kept everyone safe as they ascended through ominous and sinister looking rock formations.  It was said that base camp resembled The Shire and the mountain - Mordor (from Lord of the Rings).

The students are full of energy and eager to get home and have a bit of a break before finishing out the final weeks of the LIFT semester. 

Thank you for your prayers and support.  Be sure to get the full story of all that happened here in Ecuador the next chance you get to talk with one of the LIFTers from this team.

Tim


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Reflections on God’s Hand in Ecuador


Mary Farrar - 3/30

LIFT is back at El Refugio, our home base, for another day of work projects. The weather this morning is cloudy and cool as we paint walls, dig trenches, and whack at brush with machetes to clear trails for the upcoming adventure mud race called "Todo Lodo". 

Everyone’s spirits are high today as we feel filled from our time in Oyacachi. The past days spent in El Chaco and Oyacachi were very different experiences, but they were similar because we saw God working in our hearts and in the lives of the people we had the opportunity to work with. It is truly amazing to feel the presence of the Spirit in the churches here in Ecuador. How awesome is it that we can have a different skin color from one another and speak different languages, yet belong to the same God who created us in His image? I have spoken with LIFTers who admitted they are already grieving the thought of leaving this beautiful country in less than a week. I feel the same way. It is still hard to believe that our entire semester of LIFT has been building up to this mission trip and now we are here experiencing Jesus’ love and allowing Him to use us to grant His love upon others.

As it has been mentioned in previous blog posts, some of us have experienced sickness and injury. We are overwhelmed by the amount of people who committed to pray for us during this mission trip. Continue to pray that our bodies would be healed from any unsettling sickness in our stomachs and that those who are injured or weak would have relief from their pain. Despite several LIFTers experiencing physical deficiency in some way, the Lord is using this time to strengthen us spiritually and commanding us to lean fully on Him.

Tomorrow is the day that LIFTers must complete their timed Perimeter hike in order to participate in the summit attempt of the 16,000' peak, Sincholagua. We will also be practicing climbing and rapelling on El Refugio’s outdoor climbing wall and packing our backpacks. On Sunday morning, we will have a sunrise Easter service at El Refugio before embarking for our mountain climb. There will be a short hike to our base camp where will spend 2 nights. The LIFTers who are not able to summit Sincholagua will be able to stay and rest in the beautiful camp while the rest of the group makes the attempt.

Thank you again to everyone who is supporting us in prayer and gave financially. It is a blessing to be used as servants of the Almighty God.

3/31 - Tim's addition:  The hike to qualify for the mountaineering experience went very well this morning almost everyone completed it in the 48 minutes necessary.  Everyone improved their times significantly showing how much their bodies have acclimatized to the altitude already in the 2 weeks they have been here.  There will be about 6 people "holding down the fort" at base camp while about 32 start the climb to the summit early Monday morning.  

The LIFTers had a wonderful time of singing and sharing around the camp fire last night in addition to celebrating Lauren Thompson's birthday.  Today we all prayed for Jared Blizzard and Elizabeth Flannery (LIFT 36 & 37) on their wedding day.  Woot Woot!

LIFT will be having a special Easter service at El Refugio up at a place where a very large cross stands in a mountain meadow.  We will be joining with about 30 others (missionary families from the Youth World ministries in Quito). Tomorrow after our time of worshiping our Lord and Savior together we will drive then hike to our base camp.  We will return Tuesday evening and finish our time here on Wednesday with a day of debriefing and the students giving a test run of the new race course for Todo Lodo.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Oyacachi


Oyacachi
by Jason Krantz

I watched the mist moving with icy and deliberate intent through a yellow valley sprinkled with dark evergreens. Some ten yards away, a sheer drop of deadly distance marked where a mudslide had plunged into the abyss below, all too recently; and would do so again without warning. Giving the edge of the precipice a wide berth went without saying. But the clouds below me paid no heed to such perils, burdened as they were with the highest and most beautiful of callings – the command and guidance of God Himself. I considered what a holy and pure duty we ourselves have been called to – a crusade of life and love. Pure and tender as clouds, on us lay the delightful burden of strengthening the faith of the children of Oyacachi.
My reverie was disturbed by the horn of the bus. Our lunch stop had ended. You may imagine my alarm when the bus began to pull out onto the road without me…
           
I was not forgotten, and in a state of slight embarrassment I huddled against the window, watching the quaint village of Oyacachi creep up around us. Thatch-roofed huts mixed with cement-and-tin structures, and canals of water crisscrossed our path. The people of Oyacachi    (population around 700) were isolated until a about 20 years ago, as no road pierced so deep into the wilderness. Missionaries spread the Gospel to Oyacachi, and at first, almost the entire village became saved. With dark influences of the outside world, the church has shrunk to a still-sizable portion of the small population – about three hundred strong.
           
Our purpose in visiting the village was to help this small church wherever our abilities were needed. LIFT has been visiting this village for a number of years and helps the children by providing Sunday school style lessons, English as a second language lessons, and “high-energy” games, along with some testimonies for the youth and singles, and a few skits.
           
Almost from the moment we got off the bus, there were children everywhere. I was overwhelmed, and could only watch in disbelief as children anywhere from four to fourteen threw themselves into the arms of white strangers, eagerly chattering in Spanish and the indigenous language, Quichua. I was stunned by the unconditional and unprovoked love these children had for us, the total trust in their eyes. Their sweet innocence conquered our hearts.
           
The village itself is a legacy of the Incan Empire, in which the Quichua were a strong and reliable (often abused) work force. Now they work the ground in relative contentment, subsistent except for fear of the occasional mudslide. Wriggling with activity like a child in the arms of the mighty Andes mountains, they are industrious in producing lumber, wood carvings, potatoes, onions, and farmed trout (which we dined on sumptuously, despite the enduring and unappetizing accompaniment of the head and tail).  They also rely on tourisum centered on natural hot springs at the east end of town (a pleasant and all-too-brief retreat on our last day). Some of the wooden bowls and hand-made articles were as beautiful as the scenery around us.
           
Our first night, the older ladies of the church sang songs of welcome, with maracas, drums, and a guitar. Weathered by life on this forbidding and beautiful landscape, in a village perched in the clouds, they seemed to be changeless pillars of tradition and virtue in the face of an expanding and encompassing world. In the morning, volunteers from El Refugio who had accompanied us shared their testimonies – amid which the love of strangers, foreigners, fellow believers from an alien world who could not speak Spanish, and could only love with hugs and smiles, had bolstered their childhood faith and helped shape them into the leaders and strong men of God they are today. They are the soon-coming defenders of the faith, the caretakers of the balance between tradition and technology. They are well on their way to someday standing like those ladies, poised in the gap between Christ and those he calls to follow Him, leaders of the church.

LIFT is the only group “from the outside” that visits Oyacachi, and has been for 9 years. By our prayers, by our work, and by God’s love in us that was shown to the children of Oyacachi, someday God will raise up the next generation of leaders from among them. What a privilege to be part of a new tradition, one in which cultures meet and the sounds and colors of God’s people blend in harmony.  Seeds have been planted and with a few years of growth and our prayers behind them, who knows what these children can do?

Remember to check out our photos of the trip in the LIFT 39 Photo Album on the LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Christ Our Only Hope


By Mary Farrar

On Thursday, March 22, LIFT traveled from El Refugio to El Chaco. We stopped at El Mitad del Mundo in Quito where the equator is. After taking some photos ,we shopped for souvenirs and climbed into our bus to continue to El Chaco. The drive was several hours long - full of beautiful scenery as the bus traveled up over the mountains then down into the jungle. We reached El Chaco and were able to move into our accommodations. We stayed in a hotel that is owned by a Christian woman, Teresa, who attends the church in Chaco.  The rooms in the hotel are small. We paired up into rooms and all shared a twin-sized bed with another person. There were two toilets and showers to share among ourselves. We ate all of our meals at the church. Some members of the church graciously cooked our food for us and it was very delicious. That day when we arrived, the church (called Cristo El Unica Esperanza - meaning Christ our only hope) held a welcome service for LIFT. Pastor Enrique began by reminding us that although they are from Ecuador and we are from the United States, we are all united under Christ no matter our nationality. We immediately felt welcomed and loved by the people of Chaco.

On Friday morning, we got to choose to go on a jungle hike led by our Ecuador host, Rick Borman, or white water rafting down the river in town. We had a lot of fun exploring more of the jungle that Ecuador has to offer by either hiking up a creek with multiple beautiful cascades or floating on down a wild river in a deep gorge. After we returned from the excursions, our dance team joined with the church’s dance team for practice so they could teach each other new styles of dance. The others got to rest, work on LIFT homework, or go over their lessons for Sunday school the next day. On this day, a few of our students started to feel sick due to change in diet and some were still experiencing altitude sickness. Please pray that our bodies would continue to adjust to the new things we are being exposed to.

On Saturday we had the amazing opportunity to be split into groups and go into homes in Chaco. Pastor Enrique arranged for us to visit people in the community who were disabled, sick, or struggling in some way and in need of encouragement. Many of these people unfortunately cannot attend church for their various reasons. We were able to hear their stories, read the Bible with them and sing songs. We all had unique and eye opening experiences during this part of our time in Chaco. In the afternoon we got to explore more of the jungle with people from the church. We went to a national park of Ecuador and saw the country's largest waterfall. Then we went to another waterfall, Cascada Rio Malo, that we got to swim at. We were certainly lucky to be able to see so much of the Ecuadorian jungle and spend time with people from the church.

On Palm Sunday there was a special service held outside down by the river along the gravel beach. There was worship music and then we were split into groups for Sunday school: kids, teens, and young adults while the adults listened to testimonies from some LIFT students. Prior to arriving in Ecuador, LIFT had been split into ministry teams and prepared lessons, skits, games, etc. to bring to the Ecuadorians. Sunday was a great opportunity for the Sunday school ministry teams to share what they had worked on for the weeks prior to arriving. The weather was beautiful for this day,, an answer to prayers. We praise God for this blessing because it rains a lot in the jungle of Ecuador and it was very likely that we would not have been able to have our service outside. That night the church held a farewell service for LIFT to thank us for the encouragement we had brought to their church. The women of the church had made pillows for us to thank us for our service to them and to remind us to pray for them. Pastor Enrique told us that he forgot that we do not all speak the same language and he felt like heaven had already come with us. The people of El Chaco were so kind and welcoming. They truly showed us the love that Jesus has for everyone.

Today is Monday and we head back to El Refugio to do some laundry and rest before heading to Oyacachi tomorrow (Tuesday). Please continue to pray for safe travels, health, and for the work of God to be done through us and in us.

Be sure to check out the pictures posted under the LIFT 39 Album on the LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/liftdiscipleshipprogram/


Friday, March 23, 2018

Better Late Than Never


Tim: Hi everyone.  I finally have reliable internet service and was able to get the blog post Alexa sent me just prior to the trip when I had no time in the office because of packing and last-minute logistics of traveling to Ecuador.  So here is her post a week later but still very informative in helping to understand some of what LIFT has done to prepare for our time in Ecuador.  

Friday, March  16

After much long-awaited anticipation, our trip to Ecuador is finally here! This past week, we were continuing in our preparations, from finishing up lesson plans for Sunday School, to practicing worship music, to working on the skits and dances we have all been planning and practicing with each of our ministry teams. 

Aside from this, we have been spiritually preparing our hearts by spending this week to focus on prayer and fasting. We all partook in the infamous LIFT “rice and beans” week, which is a week where we are challenged to eat only rice and beans for every meal. This fast is designed to remind ourselves that having abundance and variety with food is something we become so accustomed to that we can often take it for-granted. In Kate’s Spiritual Transformation class, we have been learning and practicing the spiritual disciplines and experiencing how they can help us grow spiritually and have better fellowship with God. The purpose is to empty ourselves in order for God to fill us up and to rid ourselves of the things that curb our appetite for God. Some decided to also fast from entire meals, or from things such as social media, or listening to music. Tonight we celebrated the culmination of our week with a time of sharing what we have learned, partaking in communion, and eating a home-cooked meal together (which tasted so good after rice and beans all week!). We were reflecting on what John 6:35 means, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” All of LIFT would unanimously agree that this communal fast has been really challenging, but incredibly growing and valuable in helping us prepare for ministry work. Some valuable lessons God has taught us this week has been true reliance on God when we feel weak, discipline and self-control, thankfulness for God’s provision, and an increased ability to commune with God without the distractions of food or technology. 

I ask that you keep us in prayer as we embark on our long trek from the Adirondack Mountains to the Andes Mountains, that travel will go smoothly and safely. I also ask that you pray that we can put to practice everything we have learned this semester and do it all for the glory of God. ¡Adios, America!

Alexa 

Tim: If you like to not just read what we are up to be also see it, I will start posting pictures on the LIFT 39 photo album on the LIFT Discipleship Program Facebook page as we get them. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Life That Bears Fruit


Day 3 at El Refugio (The Refuge)
Kate Trezise

Weary but excited, we arrived at El Refugio (www.haciendaelrefugio.org) Monday morning around 12:30 AM and settled into our comfortable rooms that would soon feel like “home” to us as we come and go from this base. The morning’s orientation sessions communicate the history and vision of the ministries here. Information taught in LIFT classes somehow penetrates more deeply as we see it lived out in the lives and ministries in this beautiful land on the equator.  The visionary principles of El Refugio, which are very similar to those of LIFT are: *Life from the Source, *Life-giving Rhythms, *Life Together, and *Missional Life.

After months of preparation and almost 24 hours of travel, we see the connections – common principles that articulate the vision where we’ve come from (LIFT at CAMP-of-the-WOODS) and where we’ve arrived (El Refugio).   

Our LIFT team of 33 people gathered at 7:00 AM this morning and read Romans 12 together, focusing on the Apostle Paul’s admonition for humble service in the Body of Christ: that we’ll share our spiritual gifts with others daily in life, but particularly as we look for opportunities to serve here in Ecuador. The catchy song “MontaƱa” resonated within the loft above our dining room as we sang - in Spanish - Jesus’ words from Matthew 17, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Our morning practice of corporately reading the Bible, singing worship to our Lord, and praying together set the tone for today.

After breakfast and individual quiet time to read and pray, our work projects resumed and will occupy our hands and minds throughout this Wednesday. Our hope and expectation are to know God’s presence and enabling as we do the work he’s prepared for us to do.  These three days working alongside El Refugio staff have helped “settle” us here, giving us a taste of consistency in people and place before we pack and head out to El Chaco early Thursday morning.  As our work projects wrap up at 4 PM, we’ll transition into ministry team sessions to put finishing touches on our planned outreaches. Thanks for your continued prayers for us to experience the Lord’s work in and through us, health and safety effective communication through word and deed, and open hearts to recognize opportunities that we can’t predict in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Our next blog post likely will not occur until next Monday or Tuesday, as our internet access will be unpredictable.
    
Tim Trezise - update from Thursday

We traveled over the continental divide today to descend into the Amazon basin and arrive at El Chaco.  We will be here through Monday morning serving with the evangelical church here.  Everyone quickly settled into the small hotel we are all staying at then we headed out to purchase rain boots and other various items while we got oriented to the town.  This evening we were welcomed at the church with a high energy worship service and a time to get to know the church members.  The LIFT group is doing very well and excited to jump into the opportunities ahead of them with serving and ministering through the different teams they have formed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ecuador 2018


Hi everyone - we have been busy with no office time since we hit the ground running here in Ecuador.  I apologize for the delay in getting the word out about our travel and arrival - everything was very smooth and things are flowing well.  The LIFTers are busy serving in a variety of work projects to help with the facilities and grounds of El Refugio and helping prepare for a big mud race that will host over 1,400 people here in two weeks.  I attempted to post our first blog when sitting in the Atlanta airport but could not access the file that Alexa emailed me, so we will have to wait on that post. Here is our first post from Ecuador that Rosie wrote while traveling.

Tim Trezise

Following Jesus: A Journey and Adventure
Rosie Robbins

This morning (Sunday, March 18) LIFT 39 woke up with a purpose. We had places to be. For today we begin our mission. After prayer with the full time staff in the basement of Delaware, we piled into vans amidst inky 3 A.M. blackness. The excitement of this day has been ripening since week 1 of LIFT, when Tim began his first Holistic Ministry Practicum class. During that first class, we spent time unpacking the meaning of missions. Tim spoke with passion in his eyes about how we would have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in Ecuador.  When the Lord calls his disciples, he is really inviting them on a journey, and a journey with Jesus is not something you want to pass up. When Jesus extends his hand and invites you on an adventure, you prepare your heart, draw near to Him, and you GO. 

Fast forward to week 11 and here we are, currently sitting on a flight to Atlanta. This is the first leg of our trip; from here we will have a 5 hour layover, and then hop on a plane leaving at 6 P.M. to Quito. Once we arrive, we spend an hour on a bus, driving to our first destination, El Refugio. That is one of the beautiful parts of going on a journey with Jesus, every moment becomes an adventure. He invites everyone, but only the feet of those who are willing to trust Him with the itinerary go. In the process of trusting Jesus with the journey, we are slowly shaped to see Him at work in every moment. From safety on the roads, and in the air, to the hands held in prayer… the Lord’s hand is ordering our every step. 

We are not sure exactly what Ecuador has for us, but we can look forward willing to go wherever God has called us as a team. He is our ultimate guide, and knows just how to use us in our unqualified state. He works through the logistics, valleys, and soiled knees. What a beautiful reality and blessing it is to embark on this present journey with Jesus.