Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Newest Blog Ever

I have proven myself to be horrendous at updating this thing, especially this month. And I have no excuses. If you only knew how much time I've wasted on Facebook.

Today was a very odd day. (You're going to have to catch up now with mainly current way am I recounting everything in May. If you're really distraught about that, join Facebook. It's a lot easier to write a one sentence status than a 40 paragraph blog.) Last night I had a dream that someone died. I was woken up this morning by a phone call stating that one of the babies named Joel had died in his sleep last night. Only 3 months old. He was being taken care of by 2 of my friends, Nikki and Alie, at their home for a long time, and was back in the orphanage when he died. They're still not sure what happened, only that his lungs filled up with fluid, and his heart stopped. Needless to say, Nikki and Alie are heartbroken, as are many of us who knew baby Joel. He was precious. One of the cutest kids you've ever seen, to the point that people regularly stopped Nikki walking down the street with him to hold him, kiss him, whatever.

In conjunction with the grief of today, it was the first cloudy day I've had since being in Cochabamba...exactly one month ago did I arrive. I can't help but think that God was responsible for that, showing His nearness in our grief, as He is described in the Bible as one who is near to the brokenhearted.

If anyone who reads this prays, pray for my friends Nikki and Alie, a mother and daughter from New Zealand, who are dealing with Joel's loss deeper than anyone, as they were the closest to Joel, essentially his family.

In spite of today's grief, I can say honestly that the past month has been a month of happiness, of great work, of great friendships, and of my plans to leave Cochabamba being continually foiled. In a good way. As for the building that was my "purpose" for coming...well, I'll just show you...

From this:

To this:

To this:

Didn't turn out too bad. They're going to hire out the rest. Dan and I didn't get as far as we wanted, but whatever.

The construction allowed a lot of breaks and time with the kids. I have had an absolute blast with them, especially the babies at Casa 1 (the house I've been working at...there are 3 total). Here are a couple of my faves...

Not uploading right...

Beyond the kiddos, the people I've met have been amazing here. Dan, for one, is the dude. Officially. He and I had a blast climbing mountains, riding motorcycles (to his credit, I rode on the back of a motorcycle for the first time with him. I may be hooked...), and other troublemaking that shan't be mentioned in a public forum. I was sad to see him go back to the States, and figured I'd be ready to leave for Ecuador soon after, as was my plan...not so much. When he left, I started realizing how close I was with my host family here, as well as everyone else I'd met. Long story short, I'm still here. People are still coming up to me and saying "I thought you already left!" Yeah, yeah.

I've gotten quite attached to the place.

I'm tired. I'll update more when I'm not tired. Cool? Cool.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Hey everyone.

I'm way too tired to be doing this right now, but here's to trying.

So I'm in Bolivia, finally. Paid my $135 gringo tax at the border, got to go through the "special" customs process while the rest of my non-estadounidense bus waited on me, and off I went to Bolivia. The trip from Chile to La Paz was absolutely stunning. Some of the craziest, most beautiful mountains I've seen in my life. Here's a sample:

La Paz is a crazy city. I was only there for like 14 hours, but it was enough for the time being. I'll go back and experience it for real sometime. All I got from it was that it's crowded, full of traffic, no roadsigns anywhere, construction everywhere, and cold as junk.

La Paz = Loco

So after my one night there, off I went to Cochabamba. Just like 7 hours, not bad at all. Got there, called the orphanage director, and she sent Dan to pick me up. Dan is the guy who is doing the construction of the extra room with me. He's from Indiana, he's a fellow bassist, fellow homeschooler, and he's only 19. He and I have been getting along great. I was pretty stoked to have someone like him to work with. Having the wrong person to work with in a job as intensive as this one for 3 weeks would be miserable. My host family is awesome too. They're currently out of town on a church retreat, but their kids, parents, and tons of other relatives are staying here in the house for a big family get together this weekend. So I've been a little anti-social so I don't have to have too many awkward introductions.

Construction has been going, well, ok. You'd think from my sunburn and the blisters on my hands that we would have made tons of progress. Not so much. When I first got to the job, we were mixing concrete for the foundation in a wheelbarrow, and we finished that part well enough. Dan had already laid the molds for the foundation so all we had to do was mix and pour. Next was the floor. That was exhausting. We did that on Thursday, and got about halfway done. We also bought all the bricks for the walls. It was a long day.

I got there today (Friday) and was supposed to meet with some construction guy so he could give us tips and pointers and check on our progress. He proceeds to walk right past me when he comes in, walks around to the room, looks close for a couple seconds, and the first words out of his mouth are, "Excuse my language, but this is ****." Well that's not what I wanted to hear. He picks apart everything we'd done and tells us we've got to tear up the floor and start over. I was quite honestly ready to walk out at that point. Dan wasn't there at that point. He refused to talk to me, he just talked to the director of the orphanage and talked about Dan and me in 3rd person and all we needed to do. Not cool.

So, I began to crush the floor apart that we'd worked all afternoon to make the day before. Now, we get to start over on Monday.

The worksite, after laying the foundation, and pretty much what it looks like right now as well after ripping up the concrete.

On the back of the truck with our bricks, heading back to the orphanage

Dan smoothing the cement for the floor

I've gotten to be with the kids more than I expected. The orphanage actually has 3 different houses. The one that Dan and I are working at is the 1st one, and it houses kids between infancy and 5. Lots of crying, pretty constantly. Everyone's got a cough or a fever or something as seems to be the case with young uns. They're precious. Tonight I got to go to house 2 and work. Those kids are older...anywhere between 3 and 12. We had a blast doing dinner, playing tag, even watching Fox and the Hound and Dora the Explorer. It was just me and one other "tia" (aunt - all the workers and volunteers are tios and tias - uncles or aunts), and we had our hands full, especially when trying to put the kids to bed. They can sense lack of authority from a mile away, and they knew immediately when they saw me that I had no control over them whatsoever. Thus, getting them to go to bed, brush their teeth, say their prayers and then shut their mouths was a lengthy task. But I loved it. Hope to get to work with them some's cooler for me with them, because it's easier to make a connection than with nursery aged kids.

So yeah...all is well for the most part here in Cocha. Tomorrow, off to do a hike and test my lung capacity so far. We're not at the La Paz altitude, but we're also not anywhere close to sea level. Sorry this has been uber-boring. I'll try and update next time when it's not 2am and I'm dying for bed.


Let's backtrack, shall we? Valparaiso, Chile

Before moving on to current are some pix from the trip, starting with the ridiculous, crazy city of Valparaiso.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chile hangs on for a couple more hours...

Ok so now, I'm stuck at the border of Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in a Chilean city called Arica, and I'm waiting for buses to La Paz. There aren't any until 10am tomorrow morning...that's what I get for traveling on a Sunday. Whatever. The finish in Santiago was awesome, which made it all the sadder to leave. Great people, great times, great memories. Will fill in the gaps when I (finally) get to Bolivia. The poor orphanage is going to kill me when I do ever get there. I've been backing up my date of arrival for about a week now. Welcome to the explosive combination of my lack of planning and the South American bus system.

Peace childrens.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

um...still in Santiago

Hey there all you patient people. I have been a slacker, there's no denying it. Oh well. Where to start...

After my last entry, I was in Santiago another week or so. The hostel here, Casa Roja, is awesome, but it's a black hole too. No one ever seems to leave. It's so much fun, an old mansion that's been restored and has tons and tons of rooms, housing I would guess 70-80 people at a time. I have met a ridiculous amount of people here from all over the world, and I've made so many contacts for future travels. And all this has been through my normal ebbs and flows of socialness. I still get a little ancy for time to myself, and half the time find myself choosing the empty table out in the courtyard even if I have friends out there. Even so, I've found some great friends that don't take offense at my inconsistent social habits.

One in particular, named James, from California, had been working here at the hostel for about a month and a half, and he approached me the night before I left for Mendoza, Argentina, asking if he could catch up with me in a couple of days, at which of course I was thrilled to have someone else to travel with. So I left for Mendoza on Thursday, April 2nd. Got there, and the hostel had given away my bed even though I'd reserved it. I got in late, and that's a long story in and of itself which I can go over later. If you're lucky. So they put me up in another hostel down the road, and then I went back to the first hostel the next night. It's called Hostal Independencia, and it was much smaller than Casa Roja but still a great place to meet people and connect. James arrived a couple of days after me and I was able to save him a bed, because they stayed pretty full. While we were there we ate good steak which is one of the things Argentina is known for, and we did tours, and just walked around the city. It is a beautiful city, very green, lots of plazas, etc. Great vibe altogether. We also met some cool folks there - 3 girls from Holland that made every place and situation interesting - a 19 year old South African rugby player named Zach, and a Canadian named Joel. We did a good bit together.

James and I spent a week altogether there, and then headed back to Santiago to Casa Roja. After a day or two here, we went to Valaparaiso which is a city on the coast of Chile, just a couple hours from here. I was blown away by was full of graffiti, but really stunning graffiti. We spent a whole day just wandering and seeing as much of the graffiti as we could. It's a fascinating city to just get lost in because everyone agrees that the roads make absolutely no sense whatsoever. They wind up hills, around, you take back alleys, through neighborhoods, and you never seem to get to the end of them.

We stayed in Valpo a week as well, and came back to - where else - Santiago. It's been really nice coming back here repeatedly, as it's a nice familiar place that's really easy to live in and get your bearings about you.

A big question has been where to from here. James and I had been planning to head south together and get as far south as we could in Chile before winter makes travel impossible. However, my current cash situation has sort of limited my opportunities as well. It's been a big question for me if I need to go ahead and find work here in Santiago (which honestly wouldn't be too hard), go on south and be as cheap as possible, or find a viable 3rd option. The 3rd option, thankfully has surfaced and worked out well. I've been talking to an orphanage in Bolivia for a bit, and at first, they told me they were full and didn't need help. But they got back with me a week later and told me that they were working on a construction project there at the home, adding a room, and there was only one guy working on it. He's obviously desperate if he wants me to help with construction :). And so long story short, they've accepted me there at Casa de Amor in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I'm pretty stoked to be doing something with a little more purpose to it again. Of course I will have to find work eventually, but for now, at least for 3 weeks, I'm squared away.

The plan was to leave tomorrow, but I am feeling a bit under the weather with a pretty nasty cough. So the orphanage has been very cool with me, and so I'll probably wait till Friday to leave now so that I'm not traveling sick.

In other news...some of you heard my iPod got stolen, which was royally crappy. Fortunately, the staff here at the hostel found out who did it and got it back, which I certainly was not expecting. The bad thing is, it was wiped clean by whoever stole it, and all my music is back in Ecuador on my hard drive, sitting there in Quito. I also have music on Tyler's network back in Roswell, and I am attempting to transfer it to my friend Oli's laptop as we speak. I've been on his computer for probably 3 hours now transferring files, and it has transferred...wait for it...0.1 gigs out of 15.4 total. Not looking real promising.

Whatever. I've met so many people who have had their iPods jacked or broken and they've been without music for up to 4 months now. And they still seem to be living and breathing like other human beings with iPods. There's still time, sort of.

Ok so this was way too long. Thanks if you've made it this far. to hear traditional Chilean music with friends. Even with a cough and without is good.

Cheers folks.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

more pix...

I realize some of you don't have facebook and have not seen the 1st pic from the trip...thus, here's a random sampling of Ecuador, Perú, and Chile...enjoy.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cuzco, 45 hours on a bus, Santiago, Radiohead!!!

Cuzco finished up quite nicely. Never ended up doing Machu Picchu because I want to do the full 4 day trip when I do it. Even so, I got to climb ruins in a nearby city called Pisac...unbelievable. I also made some good friends while I was there who really made my experience in Cuzco a lot of fun. Even though I didn't end up in the 'Party Hostel' (Loki) I still got to do a lot of fun stuff, and still broke in to Loki several times to play pool and such. Went dancing, ate very well, wandered the streets, climbed up the city and got into a monument for free because I walked in the back way, all sorts of good stuff. I look forward to going back, hopefully very soon.

Next...the bus ride. Sunday I hopped on a bus from Cuzco to Tacna (the border with Chile) and that was about 15 hours, not too bad, but the people on the bus were obnoxious. It's just the luck of the draw. Some busrides go great, others seem to be weeks long. That and I almost got shipped to the wrong city - at one of our stops, I got out to look for food...I turn around, and the bus is I run back, bang on the door, get back in, and something feels weird...I GOT ON THE WRONG BUS! So I yell at the driver to open the door, and he ignores me...he's getting ready to pull out of the takes 3 yells for him to pay me attention. Finally...he let me off. It wasn't that embarrassing cuz I was in such a panic. I was careful to note my bus number from then on, and I can never rest at our rest stops...I'm rather in knots.

The border crossing was a lot smoother than from Ecuador to Peru. Got on a colectivo, that took us through all the customs offices for both countries and then to the first big bus station in Chile (Arica). When I got to the bus station, there was a bus leaving for Santiago in 10 minutes. Worked out perfect. Got my ticket, paid my tax (not the $131, just like $2 - thankfully), and then jumped on a bus for 30 hours. It flew by, honestly. It was a very smooth ride, lots of good movies and plenty of space to myself. My iPod even died and I was still fine without music (by the way - Chile has a different electrical current - thanks for the converter Lizzy!).

I got to Santiago and got checked into the hostel just fine. They have a subway system here that is super easy to use, so I've done a little exploring on that, and just walking and wandering. The hostel's cool enough but it's been a little slower getting to know people. That's fine. I've got time now to decide if I'm going to stay in Santiago for a bit or keep moving.

And last night at last was Radiohead. It was so good. People were going mental as it was the first show Radiohead's ever done in Chile. The weather was perfect, the opener Kraftwerk was crazy good, and Radiohead put on yet another amazing show. At one point Thom got pissed like 4 songs in and walked off the stage - something about the monitors not working on stage. It was a little scary, you could tell the band was a little taken aback, kind of wondering what to do. They waited, and people started chanting "Olé, olé olé olé, Thom Yorke, Thom Yorke!" It was classic! He came back out, and eventually the stage levels got ironed out. The only song they did that I hadn't heard before live was "True Love Waits". Thom did it like an intro for "Everything In Its Right Place".

So now, got time to figure out what to do next. I've heard the beaches are quite nice here, but I still want to head south to Tierra del Fuego, and preferably not on a tour. I've also solicited some info on TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) to see about doing an online certification to be able to teach and support myself on the road...would be stellar. If any of you have any info on that, any inside info, I'd love to know.

That's it for now. Oh one more thing...I'm trying to post videos right now to my YouTube account, and they're ridiculously slow, but I've got a couple. Feel free to check them out. A couple stupid ones, a couple with footage from meetings, and if it'll ever hurry up, some footage from the show last night. The link is:

Off I go...they're doing BBQ tonight at the hostel and I was supposed to sign up an hour ago. Oops. Laters.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Avoiding the Gringo Tax

So you ask, what is the gringo tax? Well, the gringo tax comes in so many different forms. I just found out yesterday that Chile has a gringo tax of $131 if I fly into Santiago. But, jajaja, they apparently don't pull that mess if I ride in by bus. Done, and done. The ridiculous part is that it's actually a reciprocal tax. The US charges Chileans $131 for entering the country, so it's Chile's way of saying, you screw us, we'll be happy to screw you too. Can't really say I blame them at all, to be perfectly honest. But hopefully, if my info is right, I'll be able to skip that mess, get my 90 day tourist visa, and then on to Santiago.

I just booked my hostel in Santiago. I've learned from being here in Cuzco that it is pretty important to work out the hostel in advance if it's a good one. Joe had tried to book me a room in his hostel a few days before. I got here, and had no room. Now, I ended up finding another hostel for the same price, and instead of the dorm thing, I have a private room and bathroom. It's just not the place to meet people.

Joe and I were supposed to hook up the night I got here as he got back from the Inca Trail. But he got back late, and I didn't have a place at his hostel, so we missed eachother. I figured he was going to fly out the next day, but he got a stomach bug on the trail and ended up waiting in Cuzco for a later flight. Thus, he and I finally hooked up yesterday and had a grand time catching up and scheming for the future. He should be in Lima right now, on his way back to Antigua for a month and a half...lucky! Talking to him yesterday got me jonesing again to go back to Antigua. Who knows?

Cuzco has been stellar. The city is clean, beautiful, weather is perfect, people are cool, and the food has been quite good too. Still haven't had cuy (guinea pig) which is what everyone says you have to eat for novelty's sake...think I'm good, thanks. It's a lot of money for a little meat from what I hear. Call me crazy, but I'm among those who believe cuy belongs in cages running on wheels.

It looks like, if my calculations are right, I can stay here til Sunday and still get to Santiago in time to make my reservation in the hostel (Tuesday), and plenty of time before the Radiohead show (Thursday). So I think I'll chill here a bit longer, since it doesn't appear to be the marathon trip I feared it would be. 15 hours from Cuzco to the border, check out of Peru, walk across, get my stamps, and then 30ish hours from the border to Santiago. Sounds rough, I know, but me and the bus are getting along pretty good up til now. Especially the buses with semi-camas - the seat is nearly horizontal. Muy chevere.

Toss a prayer up for my stomach again, if it comes to mind. Something's still not totally right, though I don't feel dehabilitated and weak like I did in Quito. Trying to avoid cipro again if at all possible.

Ok, done for now. Off to figure out what I'm going to do with myself with all these extra days here...I may get to hit Machu Picchu after all...vamos a ver. Laters.


Friday, March 13, 2009


Hey kiddos! Here safe in Lima, after a couple very long, speedy bus rides down the coast. Just got here around 7am, got some sleep, as much as my neck would allow.

The border experience was, well, bad. Partially due to my own stupidity, partially due to people at the border wanting to be my 'amigo'. Note: when someone has to tell you that you're their friend, YOU'RE NOT THEIR FRIEND!!! With that said, and with little time to give detail, I'll say that the taxista that 'helped' me across the border charged me $30 because I didn't ask him ahead of time what he charged...don't do that. I knew not to do that, but was in a hurry, and had no idea what to do or where to go. The guy manipulated me, and I was ticked. Also, I pulled out dollars out of the ATM, and it was fake! Out of an ATM!!! So I was thoroughly beside myself by the time I made it to Tumbes, to the first big city in Peru where I needed to catch the bus to Lima.

But God showed some kindness to me and answered a prayer I'd prayed the day before for a travel companion...a girl named Silvia saw me at the customs office, I shared my pen with her there, and then she saw me at the ticket counter in utter disgust after they rejected my $20. She came up to me with compassion to make sure all was well, and I told her all that had happened. Turns out she's Ecuadorian, and is traveling to Argentina to play music for a bit with friends and sell cds for them. She was on the same bus from the border to Lima, and so we moved seats a bit and rode together. It made a 20 hour bus ride a bit more palletable. Oh and she made me a hat! Right while I was sitting with her, she sewed me a hat! And it is pimp...I can't wait to show a pic.

So all is well...the tummy's much better, thanks for your prayers. Just about to finish my prescription of Cipro. Good timing...I'm craving some Peruvian ceviche. The bus for Cuzco leaves at 3:30 this afternoon!

Grace and peace...He is real, and still moving, and not silent.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

¡Bendito burrito!

So I have been a bit sick to my stomach for the last week...haven't kept much of anything in there for more than a couple hours and have lost 10+ lbs. Not good for a dude who's approx 20 lbs underweight to begin with. But, God in His great mercy illuminated a Taco Bell in my path today, and it is still in my stomach. I could not resist the Bell. It called. Or rang. Whatever. I was dreaming of salsa in El Jinete know what I mean...and well, it's not the Nete, but it'll do.

The stomach bug has delayed my departure to Peru. I'm now skipping Cuenca for now and hoping to make it to Cuzco in time to meet up with my friend Joe this Saturday. He was my roommate in Guat, a super cool guy who's in the same stage of life as me with quitting work and such. He hasn't been in the States since October, if I'm not mistaken.

Oh yeah...I forgot to report the legitimate reason I feel better this afternoon...I started back on Cipro. It's basically legalized poison, from what I know, killing everything in it's path, good and bad. Just the thing you want floating around in your system. But since I've got to be going, and nothing else has worked, and the lab report said I have amoebas in abundance, Cipro it is. Hasta nunca duendes.

Toss a prayer up if you think of it...Quito to Cuzco is a long busride even without stomach issues.

Thanks folks.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

La Sierra

Well, Rafa and I arrived in Yaruquí yesterday, and it feels like I´m back in Antigua, just without oxygen. We´re approx 2 miles high, and parked on the ecuator. Rafa´s family is wonderful. His Mom is one of the kindest ladies and I see where Rafa gets his servant spirit from. I now have one week here in Quito (Yaruquí is just 30 minutes from Quito), and then I hit the road. David and Mónica just got back in the country from the US, and we haven´t seen them or talked to them yet.

I heard that you guys in the ATL got snow...not fair. Now I´m going to have to find some down here too.

Peace out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carnival, Gozo. Más Gozo que Carnival.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Didn't sleep well last night either, thanks to coffee, chocolate, and sleeping till 1pm yesterday. Oh well, we've been moving so much today that it hasn't made much of a difference. Rafa and I headed to Murciélago around 10:30 to see who was left of the Carnival crowd. There turned out to be a ton, and it was good that we got there when we did, cuz it filled up, and they stopped allowing trucks into the area. We set up, and had the help of Clever, Máximo, and some other random folks I didn't know. We had 5 meetings in that place! And they were huge meetings, one in particular where we easily had 100. I only played a song or two, and a crowd was there, and I gave up the mic. (Side note, I've started playing Optimistic by Radiohead a lot as a crowd draw...Rafa told me today before one of the meetings, "Play 1 or 2 songs, and make sure they're really happy songs." I assume that was his way of saying "Don't play Radiohead.") One dude named Irving came up to me after one of the first meetings, and told me he heard me playing "Here I Am To Worship". He leads worship in a city close to here, and he had 2 girls named Allison and Kimberly who were believers from Guayaquil with him. He came back later in the day and he played and sang "I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever" in Spanish, and me in English. Super cool. I love all the random people I'm meeting at our campaigns. I got super burned today, because I applied 2 hours worth of sunscreen, not 6. Just face and arms got burned.

Tonight made me not want to leave Manta. Clever invited us over (it was more Vivi and Eliza than him, but he seems to be the spokesperson) and we ate a delicious meal of tuna, rice, grilled fish, plátanos, and mangoes. Shrek was on, and then Click followed it, so we just chilled, watched some of the movies, and chatted. I played with Samuel (Chinito) who is Clever's 5 year old son. Cutest kid. We were over there for a long time. I was a little tired at that point after 5 meetings and 4 basketball games and 3 hours of sleep, so my Spanish was in and out. Everyone was super emotional and focused on us leaving for Quito soon...poor Chinito has taken quite the liking to me, and as it was explained to him how soon we're leaving, he started crying! He gave me his harmonica and a jack as a 'recuerdo' to remember him was the sweetest thing, and I kind of don't think I get the depth of it, cuz they were probably things that meant a lot to him for all I know. As he started crying, Yvonne followed, and Vivi, and eventually Eliza and Vanessa as well. We all hugged and kissed and said bye. I don't know if I've ever been around a group of believers that was this affectionate and in such a short time of being with them. I want to come back already, and I haven't left yet...I get to see them again this weekend as we have a campaign in Cuba on Saturday night and then church on Sunday. Rafa and I left and were in a sort of shock at the sort of emotions that were shed. It is a beautiful thing to love and be loved within the body of Christ, where the bonds go so much deeper than the time you've known someone.

Monday, February 23, 2009

We didn't really sleep well last night, even though I slept until after 1pm. The party was still going at like 5am. And then the power went off at like 6, so I had no fan. Anyway.

Today was the alleged day of rest, but I stayed pretty busy. We went to Murciélago and tried to do some was nuts. We set up by one of the exits from the beach, and had 2 meetings, with moderate turnouts. We couldn't get the truck down there because of it being blocked off, so we didn't take amplification. Rafa was about tired of screaming over subs by the end of it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We just got home from a very long but fulfilling day. Went to Alfa y Omega this morning, had a great service, and the take away for me was, "What are you looking for?" Pastor Muentes spoke from Isaiah 55..."Seek the Lord while He may found." Am I seeking the Lord? If not, what? I think I'll find what I'm looking for, whatever it may be.

Eliza and Viviana invited us for lunch today, twas great. Rafa and I hung out there for a bit afterwards chatting with the girls and the family, and then we played some soccer out on the field. It was a smaller group this time...still a lot of fun...more so for me, cuz I actually had shoes that were worth a flip to play in this time, and I scored some goals too, didn't kick too much air this time. Good stuff.

We went back to change at the girls' place, and lo and behold, they had more food for us. I love this church. They have not stopped supporting us, feeding us, encouraging us, praying with and for us, and just loving us. I don't want to leave Manta because of them.

As Rafa and I tried to head home, they had the Ruta del Sol blocked off so that there could be 2 inbound lanes to Manta (for Carnival evidently), and none going out. Hence, we had no way to get home. It was asinine. We had to go all the way back to Rafa's place on the other side of the city to shower and get ready for the meetings tonight.

On the way to the park, we picked up a whole truckload of Alfa y Omega-ites to bring them to the park. It was awesome...they really made tonight happen by coming close to the sketchboard as Rafa was doing the numbers, because I didn't have my guitar since we couldn't get to the house. We ended up doing 3 meetings there, and they were all pretty well attended. One particular couple stuck around for 2 of the meetings and had a long talk with both Rafa and Vivi.

My new addiction: Jamileth. That restaurant is so good, and the batidos, my goodness, I could drink my weight in those things. And everything that comes off that grill goes very well in my stomach. We had Jamileth for the 2nd night in a row. And it's open after midnight. Perfect for those late night campaigns.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Back in Manta

The latest. Enjoy.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just got done watching Facing the Giants with Rafa. I'd never seen it, so I was thoroughly delighted when Mark Richt walks into the movie, and Rafa understood maybe a smidge more of my fanaticism over UGA football and the sport in general. Good times. The movie was ok, a bit over the top in the amount of preaching and the gratuitous predictability, but I admit, if nothing else, Christian films are getting maybe the slightest bit better. It was better than Left Behind (not saying much, I know). It was no Mirad, Cuanto Amor though. That is an everlasting classic...the movie that David used like 6 years ago in his campaigns where the acting was so bad, they had one character who died come back later in the movie in different clothes as an extra, and he just held his head down (in a scene with like only 5 other people in it) and hoped no one would notice who he really was. Gotcha, you resurrected extra. I saw you.

Today we had 3 meetings at Murciélago, where we set up at the cement area just a spit from the beach. We had ok groups each time, like 30 people max. But the cool part was that Doris, her daughter Abigail, and Elizabeth (all from Alfa y Omega) all came out to support us, and we got to eat together afterwards as Elizabeth treated us. I played mucho guitar in between, and my fingers were about to collapse. And it showed in my playing, that's for sure. Also, there was a girl there from Dominican Republic named Maribel who was a believer and was super stoked about the meeting and everything. She came up and sang with Rafa when he took the mic on 'Tu Nombre Levantaré'. I was thankful she did that.

We were supposed to have a meeting in Parque de la Madre, but the park was pretty dead tonight even with it being Carnival and all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I forgot one more highlight from yesterday. As we were helping Brenda move, we all forgot that we had mattresses tied on top of the truck, and at one point, a taxi driver comes flying up to us and lets us know that they have flown which point we turn around in a panic, and they had evidently fallen off a bit farther back than we thought. When we got to the spot, they were already being 'saved' for us...more correctly, claimed by someone else who already had one in his yard, and his son was carrying the other...30 seconds longer, and Brenda wouldn't have had a bed. It was pretty funny.

Today we went to Bahía with Ángel and Brenda so that they could look into doing a concert there, and so that we could potentially get in the water and do a meeting too. There turned out to be more water than beach, and it was really overcast and messy, but all the same, we got done what we went to do. We had a couple really good meals, and thoroughly enjoyed the city itself. I'd totally go back. (It's all about the Ruta del Sol.) Rafa hooked up with a Pastor there who helped us get permits to do a meeting there. We ended up doing the meeting in a skate park, and ended up with 150 people, which was apparently pretty unheard of on a Thursday night. Cool. I met a dude from Finland who heard me warming up to Pumpkins, and he told me they were his favorite band! Let me get this straight...a Finnish Pumpkins fan in Ecuador... We met a couple of random believers while we were there too, one in particular named Daniel who leads worship at his church.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Perhaps the highlight of the day was Rafa telling me about a girl he dated. Her Dad's name was Inocente, and he had 15 children.

Another pretty relaxed day. This morning we went to help Brenda move into a new house smack dab in the middle of Manta, right next to the catholic church. Ángel, Kevin, and Wacho all came along with Rafa and me to help. We had to make 3 trips, but we were done by like 12:30. Rafa and I had lunch after that. When we got home, I was a little tired, so I laid down to rest a bit. I slept till almost 5! It was so good...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today was laid back. Rafa played for me a tape of a preacher who said that certain types of music are wrong. Needless to say, I disagreed. Ángel came over for a while, and he was on my side even though he is not a rock fan. I got very irritated at Rafa's belligerence and seemingly blind acceptance of some vague Scriptures that this guy tried to use to prove his point that certain rhythms are 'displeasing to God'. Ridiculous.

Thankfully, that discussion finally ended. We went to the mall to use the internet and eat, and there was some fashion show going on, and I had no connection, so I had to use the cafe they have there. Thankfully, I caught the fam, and we were able to talk for an hour.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So much to say for such an uneventful day...

I'm still feeling whatever it is living in my stomach. It hasn't been right since last Thursday, and I had no energy today (I also didn't have coffee this morning, could be one reason). I slept till almost noon, and fell asleep on the couch this afternoon for a bit, and didn't feel like doing much of anything. I did start some meds today. The pharmacy didn't have Cipro but they gave me something similar, and we'll see if that kills the critter. I'm about ready to be done with him. On a lighter note, Rafa and I had some great lunch good that I had 2 of them (the only soup they had was cheese soup, so I helped my self to 2 of the main dishes). And for 3 lunches, we paid $4.20 total. I love this place.

- "What will your order be sir?"
- "I'll have 2 pieces of burnt toast and a rotten egg."
- "Burnt toast and a rotten egg? What do you want that for?"
- "I've got a tapeworm, and that's good enough for him." (3 Stooges)

Rafa and I just did tuna for dinner and I had some of his world famous powdered hot chocolate to go along with it. As the meal went along, he gave me his full testimony about where he'd been since he'd come to know Christ and shared some of his scars. It was so good, and to hear someone as outwardly strong to show the openness and humility he has, it's quite 'impresionante' (there's not a better word in english to use). He spoke to a lot of the stuff that I've dealt with and that I need to hear.

"And as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone's broken heart...and there's no greater love, than that one shed his blood for his friends."
Thrice - "For Miles"

After dinner, he went upstairs and watched some sports show, and I wandered onto the terrace. It has been amazing weather today, and tonight has been maybe the nicest night since I've been here. And what a rarity...I could actually see stars tonight! It's pretty amazing to look up, here in the Southern Hemisphere, and really not recognize much of anything, save for Venus and Orion. Other than that, pretty much a brand new sky. I tried to actually sleep up there on the hammock, but the mosquitoes here apparently didn't read the Off contract where you treat people with said repellent as non-existent. Gringo meat is apparently worth contract violation to them. When I came inside, to my delight, Rafa was watching Grey's Anatomy with overdubs. He seemed quite amused.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Woot. What an amazing day! Went to Alfa y Omega this morning, had a good message there about the good works we do and the recompense that follows, and then was planning on playing soccer this afternoon with the same peeps from last week, but when Rafa showed up to pick me up, he told me and Ángel that there was a big game being played today in Portoviejo between Liga and Nacional. So we had some lunch, and the 3 of us and Brenda went to the game. It was awesome! It was as close to a game of American Football in terms of intensity I've seen in another sport. Several fights broke out in the crowd, obviously increasing the overall entertainment level. Nacional (Rafa's team) won 1-0 by a goal they scored in the 2nd minute of the game. It was quite appropriate that they won...their color is red. No coincidence there.

After that we headed back to Manta, grabbed a bite of encebollada for dinner, some coffee, and then to the mall so I could wish David a happy birthday and Skype with the fam for a minute. Good times, although their microphone wasn't working, so I got to blab on to them and watch them make funny faces at me. We headed to the Parque after that to do a meeting, and Ángel and Brenda still came along. We did some music beforehand, and on a fairly non-crowded night at the park, had a huge crowd. Some other folks from Rafa's church came, and after he did the message, there were still people hanging around, so we did another song, and he actually did a Q&A session, and it went really well, I certainly had not seen something like it before, not in an evangelistic campaign at least. Went great. When we left, on Ángel's request, we went and had these taco things at some random stand, and they were awesome, beans, meat, sausage, onions, guac, all sorts of goodness all wrapped in a flour tortilla. If they sold these in the States, they'd put Taco Bell out of business.

And to close, a bit from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:

"The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water."

"Burn the fleet!
We can never go home
It's on to victory or underground
Burn the fleet!
We'll be heroes or ghosts
But we won't be turned around"
Thrice - "Burn the Fleet"

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Departure of Marquitos, Guayaquil, and stomach bug

Hey kiddos. This is all you get for a blog this week. I´m a little claustrophobic right now due to homeboy next to me pressing his butt against my shoulder as he sets up someone´s email addy, who is yelling into their cellphone. He was preceded by 2 love birds celebrating the day by sitting in eachother´s lap and smooching. Lack of space is bad enough without PDA.

The week has been laid back, just chilling with Mark as David and Monica have been in Quito. Mark and I have hit the beach a couple times, recorded a bit of a new song, and listened to music up on the roof at night. Quite fun.

Just dropped Mark off at the airport in Guayaquil this morning, and I´m at Malecón right now, about to grab a bite and then find me a bus back to Manta. Poor Rafa was expecting me to be there at 4, but it´ll be more like 6 now.

David and Monica head for the States tomorrow, and Rafa and I will be here doing meetings in their absence. Then, we´ll join up with them in a couple weeks up in Quito where we´ll be scouting out spots for meetings for when the team from FBC comes in April. Then, after a week or so there, Lordwilling and the creeks don´t rise, I´ll be heading south, solo, and with the hope of making it to Santiago by March 26 to see Radiohead!!! (If anyone wants to meet up beforehand and go, just holler...or we can grab WaHo afterwards...)

My love for the human race is quickly diminshing as homeboy continues to yell in his cellphone.

Oh yeah, and my stomach is pretty bad right now...going to try and find me some Cipro (sp?).

Take care folks, let me know what´s up!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The internet mice of Manta aren't running quite so fast today

Here's the latest and greatest kiddos. Mark and I are here solo with the Proaños in Quito at the moment, and without internet at the house, so I apologize in advance for the lack of communication for the next 3 weeks, as it will be dodgy. Mark leaves Saturday, and I'll be heading to Guayaquil with him to see him off. I'll try to send updates as I can. Blessings!

Monday, February 9, 2009

This morning D&M and the girls left for Quito, which left Mark and me to fend for ourselves. They left us the truck, and we were able to hit Murciélago for lunch and beach. The blister that I rubbed on my right foot yesterday playing soccer did not really allow me to enjoy the beach experience hurt to walk, especially in salt water. So we didn't stay real long, which was fortunate for Rafa, who was waiting back at the house when we got there. We ran errands with him, dropped him off at his place, and then had dinner, and came home and listened to music up on the terrace. A nice, almost free day.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I am so tired yet again! We had church at Aurora to start with where Mark and I played 2 songs in their service, and we got to talk to the gringo pastor for a bit before we left for Alfa y Omega. Oh my gosh...what a beautiful time! They have outdone themselves in generosity. We got there to the church, and they had us come on stage and they gave all of us gifts for our service during the VBS. These people do not have money, and yet they gave us all individual gifts. Then I got to speak in front of them for a bit as they asked for a 'speech'. It went surprisingly well, I think I was able to express my heart on the fly in Spanish. Hope more ops like that come about. It was cool. Afterwards it turned into a mad rush to get a picture with the gringoes. I hope I can end up getting some copies.

We had lunch at the Pastor's house, which was some yummy viche along with tuna salad. Afterwards, we watched the presentation of the play that Ángel directed the music for. Then, fútbol for 3 hours! It was a blast, although I didn't have shoes other than my church shoes, and my feet are blistered and sore now. I was pretty crappy I think, though they were really encouraging and kind. Afterwards one of the hermanos bought 2 3-liters of cola and we devoured them in a matter of minutes. It was so great. The generosity is a great lesson and example for me. Tonight, we came back and we went out for dinner at the first restaurant David and Mónica ever ate at in Manta. So good! So much food...and some unbelievable milkshakes, huge, for $.90!!! Oh my! I'll be back for shizzle.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What a joy, that conquers exhaustion beyond exhaustion!

We got up this morning at 5 something. The outing was as both of us had feared: our presence was pointless (at least by all human calculation). I'm not sure what I misunderstood along the way. I could swear Mónica told me we'd be back by like 8am. Not quite. I don't think we even made it to Santa Ana by 8. Not to mention, we picked up 4 other people on the way, which meant there were 7 of us crammed into the truck. Not cool. So Mark and I sat around while they tried to sell clothes at this open market. Even Rafa told me he didn't really feel useful. But he at least was able to drive everyone there and enable the day to happen. Mark and I just made people crammed in. Whatever. I was trying to have a good attitude and try and see our purpose, but I was not stoked about losing our free time to go to Murciélago.

When we actually did get back at like 1:50, we had a mere 40 minutes before we had to put all the equipment back in the truck and head to practice at Alfa y Omega. I checked e-mail real fast, and then went to take a quick, 2 song snooze. I ended up sleeping about 30 minutes, and I'm not sure if that helped things or not.

Practice went well, we got a good bit of the questionable stuff nailed down. Mark and I were sort of shells of people. My voice was a little tired, but poor Mark's fingers were on fire - he's losing his callouses from playing so much. His hands were cramping too. We made like 5 different trips in the truck from the church to the field where the meeting was, taking drums, chairs, equipment, everything from practice. When we were setting up, we had a small crowd compared to before. But as we finally started playing, after tons of technical problems, it finally filled up some. We had about 90 by Rafa's count.

It was a long, tiring day, one that made me run away from people for a bit during the movie, cuz I hadn't been unwound or quiet for the entirety of the day. But the end of the day with the creyentes at Alfa y Omega, tearing down equipment, taking pictures with the kids, praying with eachother, eating hamburgers after the meeting, laughing at bad spanish, bad english, and every possible idiomatic fallacy inbetween, I was so happy, joyful, and even at 11:30pm after the day we had, I was bummed when Rafa said we needed to leave. The pastor and his family are amazing, and they have been amazingly hospitable. The others have been great...they were genuinely disappointed when Mark and I said we couldn't go to Alfa y Omega tomorrow (we promised to play in D&M's church). I think I'd like to go to that church regularly while I'm here. And they've apparently got some gift or something for us. It's too much! I love these people. I'm stoked about getting together with Ángel and doing some music stuff maybe. It works out well with his University being just down the road from D&M's. Anyhoo. Splendid night.

Friday, February 6, 2009

In the wake of the talk Mark and I had, today has been filled with joy and freedom, both around him and otherwise. The VBS, in spite of the car not starting for D&M and Rafa having to go back and getting them, ended well, albeit with a bit of frustration on my part as we could scarcely get anything done in terms of practice for our little gig tomorrow night. We had a nice lunch at an hermana's house down the road from the church, and then packed in the truck as we took like 10 people back including Ángel and Brenda to their classes. They ended up coming over for a bit after class to go over music, and it went quite well, we made progress even though none of us really had our instruments, nor did we have a full band. Then Mark and I went down to the pool to hang out with Mónica, and the place was packed. She told us that she'd just had an 'encounter' with a lady in the neighborhood who did not pay for the pool, but was bound and determined to let her kids use it. M explained that it was for those who paid for it ($7 per month - and she was ready to fight Mónica over it), that the fees they paid for the neighborhood didn't cover it. The lady, who didn't get the keys from Mónica, proceeded to lift her children over the fence, and they tumbled down the steep grass hill on the other side onto the tile by the pool. She stood at the top of the hill for a bit, watching her kids even now as the pool had come to be quite full of people (who do pay). We all had a good laugh looking at her watching from afar, probably scared of Mónica coming and opening a can on her. All my money would've been on Mónica for sure.

Mónica went shopping with one of her friends, and we stayed and looked after Micaela. Anita came and sat with Mark and me for a bit as we talked music, snobby people, and humility. Against her will, she's begun speaking more English and has actually proven to be quite good at it...which has pleased Mark since he can now participate in the conversations, but which also has me and Mark a little worried about the English comments we unwarily made around her before we realized how good her English actually is. Eventually Anita left, and Mark went back inside, and I stayed by the pool to watch Mica with my iPod and lots of mosquitoes to keep me company. As I sat listening to the new Anberlin record, just sitting by the pool not really doing any great spiritual feats, simply watching my friends' daughter swim in the pool with her friends, it occurred to me how joyful I felt. It was a quiet, beautiful, transcendent moment of clarity. I'm still frustrated when my plans get interrupted, which seems to be a frequent occurrence here, but I feel more and more detached from firm and solid plans for my time, and more and more willing to jump when told to jump. Even as I type, I fear making firm conclusions about changes in character as I write from the perspective of the very cage of flesh I reference. Nevertheless, here I am, and this is where God has me, with some of my favorite people on earth, making dents in the Spanish language, and peering wide-eyed into the days ahead that may hold any number of destinations and people I do not yet know.

One such departure from plans is in a mere 4 hours, when I get to wake up on a Saturday morning at 5:15 to go and help a guy at their church have a garage sale so he can get back off the ground and raise money to start his own fish business. Yeah, I'd rather be asleep. But I also feel like I wouldn't want to miss it for the world, and I couldn't turn it down when Mónica told me about it. And then, hopefully, Murciélago! And then, practice, and the 'gig' in Cuba tomorrow night with Ángel and everyone.

I should've been asleep hours ago. But me Mark and Rafa watched Walk to Remember (of all movies - I still really like it, especially all the Switchfoot songs and late 90s rock stuff...) and drank coffee as we did, and then I got to a part in Return of the King when I couldn't put the book down. Éowyn is so awesome.

And to think, just months ago, I was seriously considering sticking with my job for its consistency, occasional bright spots, travel (to exotic destinations such as Alabama), and weekly paycheck. Praise God that He finally shined the flashlight on the next step.

"She woke in the morning, she knew that her life had passed her by. She called out a warning: 'Warning! Don't ever let life pass you by!" Incubus - "Warning"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"We are all lost in the sound of separation...oh Lord, have mercy, have mercy on us all." - Underoath "We Are The Involuntary"

First day of VBS today at Alfa y Omega. Great turnout! The kids did very well, well-behaved and all. We played music to start with, David did the ¡Señor Sálvanos! message and it went well. The games portion went well, they played that sitting version of soccer and flung their shoes around after that.

We tore down, had lunch at the house, and I found Mom on Skype...finally...that was great. The camera works at the house which is pretty awesome. Hope the internet keeps working when the Proaños head for the States.

After that was our 5th and final EuroFish meeting. Good experiences there (except for them fumigating right before our meeting today - my eyes were burning). It is cool how open they've been to us being there. I told David today afterwards that I think the openness of the culture here to the gospel is one of the main reasons I'm here right now. While I realize that it is the Spirit that draws people, it's also feels pretty foolish to not take advantage of the openness of the people and culture, since there is so much receptivity. All the same, I want to try someplace like Little 5 when I get home, just to see what the reaction would be. I always wuss out when I get home, so we'll see if this trip is any different for me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Had our 2nd to last EuroFish meeting this afternoon, and had a warmup to VBS tonight in Cuba. Tons of kids came out, maybe 150-200 people in all. Angel the worship leader was there, and it sounds like we're going to have a full band to play this Saturday on the same futbol court. I'm stoked!

VBS in the morning...and EuroFish...alarm is set for 7am...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tonight we had a campaign in El Palmar. It was aight...we had about 40 people, and from the looks of everything, they were all believers. No harm there for sure, but it was funny how last night in Porvenir 2 we had 300+ in a church of maybe 20. I felt really judgmental tonight of the church in Palmar, and I probably shouldn't have.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jan 28,29,30

Friday, January 30, 2009

Whew. Today we had another EuroFish meeting, and it was a bit smaller, but still plenty smelly even with less fishy smelling smocks in the room.

Tonight we were in Porvenir 2. The barrio is just a few minutes down the road from the Proanos house. It was certainly the biggest meeting we've had since I've been here. There were at the very least 300 people. And they were crazy! It was primarily kids, and they were quite fascinated with Mark and me. We spent our time telling them how to say 40 zillion different things in English, Mark let them play phone games, and they asked me things about gangs in the U.S., a subject I'm not quite well studied on being from Roswell, GA. One guy I talked with was an Ecuadorian non-practicing Messianic Jew. I'm not kidding. He was quite the philosopher too, and I got a little tired of listening after a bit. He must've sensed it, cuz he went back to his house and brought me a huge mango, which I felt I needed to eat in front of him...those things are unbelievably messy...I think I still need to floss was a very kind gesture. Another guy approached me during David's message, and had been drinking a little. And then he shot me a predicament I'd have a tough time tackling even in English...he and his partner of 9 years can't have children, and he's wondering why God won't answer him, or if He ever will. A couple folks from the local church were coming up every so often, and they both contributed their 2 cents, saying that if he repented and had faith, God was likely to grant his prayers. I tried to say in the most gentle way that I completely disagreed, that I sympathized as much as I could, and that I would pray for the situation. I don't know how much he will remember from our talk given his buzz, but he seemed mostly in his right mind. His name, aptly, is Christian.

The believers from the church were so kind. They all helped us set up and take down, fed us dinner before hand, and had us over to their house for dessert after the meeting. I love the way that the local believers, especially over the last 2 nights, have been so outwardly loving and generous, and interestingly enough, they've been 2 of the poorest areas we've been in.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You always wait to get answers to's something completely different to get to be an answer to someone's prayer.

Which we were, tonight, in Pacoche. We had a campaign in the tiny little village just of the Ruta del Sol. The pastors there at the little Mennonite church had been praying for some time for there to be some breathe of life in the city, as they are beginning their 8th year there in Pacoche with very little growth or signs of life. And just when they were getting discouraged, David made contact with them to do a meeting.

The whole town came out, and that's not really saying a whole lot...probably 100, maybe less. All the same, very cool. What darkness too! The movie was as clear as could be. The response was good to the preaching. There were also many ginormous moths. One fixed itself on David's shirt for the majority of his message, and it was about the size of his hand. They all were pretty nuts for the black light. Before the meeting, the pastor and his wife fed David, Mark and I some delish chicken and rice. It was a really special time with them altogether, for the outright joy and encouragement they felt tonight, and how it seemed very similar to the friendship we had with the 'Hermanos' of Pesillo some 6 years ago when I was here, the ones that faithfully followed, assisted us in whatever ways possible, and rode bicycles for miles just to participate in God's work.

Earlier, we had another meeting in Eurofish. Another 120 people heard the message of the gospel, and the Lord seems to have granted us favor with the Manager of the plant...she's seemed pretty stoked about our stuff.

We woke up this morning without water. Apparently the tank went dry, which it does a good bit around here, especially when it doesn't rain, which it has been unusually dry...great for meetings, but not for showers, dishes, toilets, etc.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not much to speak of today in terms of "ministry", as my stomach started feeling bad right before David left for the meeting at EuroFish, so I stayed back and chatted online for a bit. The meeting apparently went really well, and we have 4 more there. The busyness actually starts tomorrow with the multiple meeting days.

Had a nice time discussing the OAC brochure with Monica, trying to give ideas and such. As my stomach started feeling better, I went down and shot some hoops with Anita, and Mark came down too when he and David got back. We then headed to Pacoche to announce tomorrow night's campaign.

The evening was delightfully chill. The girls were in crummy moods, so they hit the sack early. That left Monica to keep working on the brochure till all hours of the morning, Mark to go and read and play guitar, and David and I sitting in the kitchen chatting after our hot dogs and fried potatoes.

He continues to develop. He seems to get older and younger simultaneously, every visit, every chat, every meeting. His heart intensifies, and his message gets simpler. His experience grows, but he talks a lot these days about how he knows so little about how to be a parent, or the right way to do ministry. In a lot of ways, his youth/maturity split reminds me a lot of Art VanderVeen as he seems to grow wiser and also more wide-eyed and humble as he moves on in his life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting in some semblance of a groove

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tomorrow is when the fun begins, and the busiest week we've had yet really kicks into gear. We've got 2 meetings a day I think for the next 3-4 days, and no day's meetings are going to be at the same place. Should be fun. We at least get to sleep in a little tomorrow.

We woke up this morning, had a nice bfast of fruit salad and omelets. Pretty soon, the house was full of Monica's friends from the neighborhood, and they all brought their young uns over to hang out. The dudes' reactions were funny...we all fled. David hit the computer, Mark hung out with Micaela and Cynthia and then fell asleep, and I read and screwed around on Gband. I also got to help David translate his newsletter and research some flights for an OAC Conference coming up. This afternoon, all the ladies in the neighborhood got together here to cook viche, which is like fish stew basically. Really good, except for the bananas they put in it. Anita baked a cake, of which David, Monica, and I partook after I made some quality french pressed coffee. The french press has become quite the popular item in the house. We sat around all afternoon and discussed everything from travel to submission, all the while remembering how hard it is to understand the Spanish they speak here on the coast.

The meeting tonight was at the police station in Manta. We had 45 officers, to which David presented the video about AIDS and then the gospel after that. Thanks to the fact that there's a new police chief, we were able to do all this. It went super well, and many officers raised their hands signaling that they'd made a decision for Christ.

Mark and I just got done watching Matrix on my computer, and it's such a cool way to remember some images and examples of our own rebirth. If you haven't watched it in light of the gospel, do it...the ending especially is pure worship, at least for me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The stomach is finally catching up with me and Mark...should've maybe laid off the ceviche mixto today. And the hot sauce. But encebollada...stellar. Never had it before today, but definitely hooking that up next time.

This morning David spoke in a small church here in Manta where we're doing a campaign this Friday, Lord-willing. Good message. Sketchboard about the 4 lepers in 2 Kings that found the enemy's camp abandoned, and then told the starving city of Samaria about the food and drink. Great story, and comparison to our opportunity to share what has happened in our lives, what we've discovered, where many of us have found satisfaction, fulfillment, and enough food to satisfy our whole starving cities.

Mark and I tried to give David and Monica some chill time this afternoon, so we went with the girls to the pool, and then of course, they're ready to head back to the house after 30 minutes. Can't say we didn't try...

David and I drooled and reminisced about grits, bacon, eggs, etc. today. He may be Ecuatoriano but he knows what's up when it comes to breakfast. He gets to enjoy it really soon, too.

We had a night meeting in Parque de la Madre again tonight. Good turnout, not quite as big as last time, but the crowd that stayed was super attentive. Loving getting to play guitar as much as I am...I've played pretty much every day since I've been here, and Mark and I are getting to open up every meeting with like 5-6 songs. It's awesome. Mostly old school worship stuff, My Glorious, You Alone, Lord I Lift Your Name, etc. Please do me a favor also, nobody tell David and Monica that Cherub Rock is not a Christian song. It makes for a great opener.

Saw a guy at the meeting tonight in a black UGA long sleeve shirt. I about peed myself. Of course when I asked him about it, he had no idea about the team, or school, or anything. But he cordially shook my hand anyway, and unfortunately wandered away from the meeting with his wife and kid before I could grab his picture. I'm sure he would've loved to learn what to chant at a UGA game too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What a stellar night. The meeting, for one thing, was awesome. We were in Cañitas, and what appeared to be a tiny town turned into a quite nice sized community. We had a good 200+ tonight - that's a conservative estimate. And since we ran out of Bible studies to give out, and since Rafa left for Quito today, we only did a quick presentation instead of the normal longer one. I told David that I really like doing the shorter meeting, since the longer ones feel like a bit of manipulation with people's time with interrupting the movie and everything. He was in agreement with me, and said he'd continue to think and pray about the format of the meetings. It reinforces that David is one of the most humble people I know, that he, with a doctorate, years and years of experience in ministry, will listen intently, respond, and act on the opinion of an opinionated 27 year old vagrant.

We also had a great talk on the way and on the way back about the fact that everything we do and everything we are is centered around Jesus, and obedience to Him. It's become so over-complicated for me to try and follow Him. He spoke so deeply to where I've been and how I've been feeling after all my screwups and all my related apathy for the things of God. Somehow I've come to think I need to muster up the solutions for all my issues and the righteousness and preparedness to be able to serve Him. David brought up the verse a couple different times from Isaiah: "Look to me, and be saved (healed?)" And also: "Come to me, all you weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." It's all Him, not stuff for Him, not formulas on how to know Him through quiet times or good works, just Him. And though I say it's all shot to hell, that I've totally failed, His view of me hasn't changed. My position is completeness and perfection in Jesus, in spite of myself.

I don't know where to go from there...I somehow have to translate all that talk into Christ and me in this moment, with whatever I'm doing or wherever I'm going. But for now, as David reminded me, I'm in Ecuador, and who knows about the road to Chile, Argentina, or anything like that...God has me here, and I'm not guaranteed anything past the moment, so I guess I'll live these moments up, knowing that God has me here, and I couldn't be doing anything better - not because of the actual things I'm doing, but because I'm simply obeying Him.

Blah blah...on the lighter side, I had my first craving for tuna tonight. I ate like 3 tuna sandwiches when I got back tonight (all on hot dog buns).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ah, Massive Attack. Just got 100th Window before I left, and it is amazing. So mellow, so smooth, and now the road from Portoviejo to Manta will have a soundtrack burned into my memory.

Tonight we tried to do a meeting in Cañitas, but the weather looked like it was going to be pretty bad when we got there. We spoke with the town community leader, who said she thought the best night would be tomorrow night for the meeting. So, we announced tomorrow's meeting, and them headed to San Jacinto, just on the other side of Charapotó from Cañitas.

The meeting went awesome. It was a great crowd, and right down from the beach. Beautiful sunset. Also met someone who goes to school at Rutgers but is in town with her family for a bit. Randomly we're buying cokes at a little store during the movie, and then Mark and I hear in English: "I'm from New Jersey." Ha!

We're all pretty zonked, and we get to drive back to Cañitas tomorrow, and we don't have Rafa to help with stuff cuz he's headed to Quito for a week. Poor David got up at 6 after sleeping 4 hours, and we got back after 1am.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ok, I think I'm more tired tonight (this morning?) than last night. It's 1:45 am and we just got back an hour ago, ate dinner, and took off all our wet clothes. Praise God we got a good meeting in just before the deluge began.

The meeting tonight was in a town an hour and change away from Manta called Charapotó. Huge turnout. We must've had 150-200 people come out to the central square tonight. We announced the meeting with the speakers on the truck around the town, set up, and Mark and I played a few songs to get things started. During our set, it began to rain, and they were the kind of drops that signal showers, not sprinkles. All the same, the rain held off. It sprinkled a bit more during the meeting, but the people stayed through the movie, the presentation, and the rain never got intense enough to scare anybody away. It wasn't until we tore down that the rain got bad.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm so tired, but what a great day, especially the afternoon. We had our early morning meeting 2 hours away at a little school in the middle of nowhere where the director of the school closely resembled the Dalai Lama. She was female too, which was weird. I looked for a sherpa or some llama alpaca looking thing, cuz I'm pretty sure that's what she rode in on, given that she's the Dalai Lama. (Mark and I did shake her hand, and we both felt a little wiser after it.) She was really not pleased with us being there, but Rafa had a guy who was with us talk to each of the teachers individually, and they allowed the kids to listen. We had to wait a bit for some of the kids to get done with their exams, and some of the original kids who came out waited over an hour for the meeting. It even started raining some, and the kids still stayed. We got served some rice and juice afterwards (not endorsed by the Dalai Lama, but surely not outside her knowledge...she's the Dalai Lama) which was much appreciated and needed.

Once we got back, I helped David and Monica download some photos for a brochure they have to make, and they had a Skype conference with FBC back in Roswell. Kinda funny to be talking to Roswell like that from Ecuador. In the afternoon, David, Rafa and I went to Pacoche to visit and see when we could do a village meeting there. Man, it was so cool and refreshing. The pastor and his wife met with us, and they were beyond appreciative. They said they'd been praying for something to happen to their little town spiritually (it's 30 minutes south of Manta, but very isolated and off the beaten path) as they had started to get a bit discouraged, and then we showed up. I've never seen people get so excited before a meeting's even taken place. The meeting is next Thursday the 29th. Really need prayer for no rain. Everyone stays indoors if it rains there because the meeting will be outside at the school soccer field, and the road into the town becomes a ginormous mud pit. But what a cool opportunity, and a pretty blatant answer to someone else's prayers.

We took a couple back to Manta with us who didn't have a ride. They repayed the 3 of us with sirhuelas...some sort of miniature apple thing, almost like a crabapple. The non-ripe ones were super tart, but good, and the ripe ones were right on. Great stuff.

And gosh, Monica has been too good to me...she bought me an artichoke at the grocery store and cooked it for me without even telling me. She remembered after 4 years how much I love those things. (They're huge here, and cost her 25 cents for one twice the size of anything I've seen in the States.) And then she made jugo de tomate de arbol (tree-tomato juice) which may be my absolute favorite juice of all time. The only place I've ever heard of these nifty little hybrid fruits is here in Ecuador.

Mark and I wrapped up the evening with some hot tea, putting the finishing touches on the song, and watching Animaniacs DVDs. ("He's a chicken I tell you, a giant chicken!")

It's late. Off to la bed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I'm officially addicted. I've been working on the song again for the last, oh, 3 hours, and I think it's nearing completion. This is so cool. Oh yeah, and I have to be up in 5 hours. Minor detail.

Today was a lesson in patience with boredom. Mark and I rode around with David and Rafa researching possibilities for meetings in factories and schools. We also stopped by the mall and dealt with incredibly slow connections there. For the most part, we did nothing but ride around. I guess we felt a little useless and pointless, but the great part is, I still think of us being exactly where God wanted us. I get so pointlessly busy in the States doing jack-crap that any time I have left over feels like a waste. In reality, I'm getting the impression I need more of that 'pointless' time, even if I'm doing nothing but riding around in a car. Lord-willing, tomorrow will cure the feelings of boredom, as we are doing a meeting in a school about 3 hours from here. It'll just be me and Mark and Rafa cuz David has a conference call with FBC.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The first week!

Ok, got a connection for a's what's up...

Jan 14

I'm in Ecuador now, by the grace of God, even if my luggage is not. Freaking Delta. Oh well. We're staying in Guayaquil at this missions house one more night, and then David and Mark are heading back to Manta, and Rafael and I are staying here to hopefully grab my bags and hit the bus back home. Should be interesting considering the size of my bags. Ah, public transportation.

I'm digging Guayaquil so far, all except for the torrential downpours. We had lunch at Burger King, and then came back to the room for a great nap this afternoon that hopefully put my sleep back on schedule. (JFK is not real sleep conducive.) Tonight we've been watching David and Rafael work on a new sketchboard message for married couples, and I've been revisiting my old Spanish books and working on imperfect subjunctive...emphasis there on 'imperfect'. Had some killer chinese food for dinner, and the sopa pad pou rocked my world.

It's been great to be back here, and so good to be around David again. It's like we've never stopped hanging out. The time with Mark has been great too. He and I have talked much music and have been very comfy just coexisting so far.

Man it's muggy here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ok, that's better. Now we're in Manta. Pretty cool. Not quite the luxury beach town I'd pictured, but still nice, and the Proanos house is very nice, nice community, and a 15 minute walk from the beach.

Yesterday, after saying bye to David and Mark, Rafa and I stayed in Guayaquil to wait on my bags. We walked el Malecon and thoroughly enjoyed our time there in spite of the rain at first and then the oppressive sun and heat that followed. In the mall there I treated him to his first frappuccino at a cafe. It was a religious experience for him. After that we climbed the Cerro de Santa Ana where we saw a terrific view of all Guayaquil. Tremendous city...hope to get back there at some point. Of course, I forgot my camera.

After ceviche mixto and seco de chivo for lunch, we rocked a taxi to the airport, where thankfully my bags came in. The bus ride from Guayaquil to Manta was a breeze. I never knew seats on buses could lean back that far! Slept the first half, listened to metal the second half. And Rafa is the man. Loved spending time with him. He has such a tremendous heart for God, great love for people, and a shared humour over some of David's quirks...such as his lack of speed on the road...

When we got back, it was meeting time. They had a planned presentation to do at Micaela's's a Christian school where only 5 percent of the people are actually Christians. David created a new sketchboard message called 'El Hogar' (the home) for couples which he presented. It was a strong message, and was received well. He was very forceful, which he explained that he needed to be later because of the weak family structures that the community here along the coast has.

Today was a laid back day where we just followed them around as they paid electric bills, scouted new places to do meetings along the Ruta del Sol (Route of the Sun - an amazing drive along the coast of Ecuador that makes you want a motorcycle almost as much as Motorcycle Diaries does), ate lunch at the mall, discussed what function prophecy in today's church has, among other things. The family went out to visit some friends tonight, so Mark and I chilled at the house and had a nice college style dinner of cereal and mac and cheese. (Mac and soy sauce for me.) We also watched Motorcycle Diaries which only seemed appropriate given where we are.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Geez I slept late today! It was certainly a lazy Saturday to start. I'm starting to get my days back...they all got screwed up with the overnight layover. We had an afternoon meeting here in the neighborhood with the young uns. About 15 came, and David preached Cielo, and Mark and I made stabs at playing guitar to 'Dios es tan fuerte' and other favorites. It was our first time...hopefully it gets a lot better from here. The kids were very attentive and responsive. We played soccer for a bit afterwards, and no shock, I looked horrendous. As if I wasn't bad enough at sports in general, I come to a continent where all that's played is soccer. God's little chuckle at competitive me.

Tonight was a lot of fun. We had a lax dinner and Rafa hung out over here afterwards, and we fought with Micaela, who finally had the evening to herself since Cynthia went to bed early. She was a riot...she was fighting me and Mark and Rafa with straws for swords and pillows for shields. We also played Pictionary, which revealed both her artistic and competitive side bigtime...

Now, Mark and I are trying to sleep over Ecuadorian Idol going on outside our window...the most horrendous singing of karaoke in the history of mankind. And it's so stinking loud.

This still feels like I'm detoxing from the States. It feels like I've still got so much more to learn and experience, but it's gonna be a few before that happens. Maybe. Who ever planned trips like these out anyway...

I got the first shreds of Marissa down on GarageBand today. Rafa didn't seem overly taken with it after hearing the distorted guitar. Hehe. Guess I won't be sharing my iPod with him.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This morning started not at David's church, but one that he was guest teaching at. The church was really great, had a lot of quality stuff during the service like a choir that sang old hymns, a great baptism and testimony, and the dude who was leading the music (named Angel) was super talented...he did all the arranging and he even programmed the music in his Korg keyboard. We exchanged e-mails and hopefully can hang out one day this week and play. He's much more into classical stuff than rock or pop, but still misses playing in his band that just dis-banded.

We got served lunch there and ended up hanging out a bit as David and Monica socialized. We're doing a VBS at that church in February, so we'll get to see those folks again. This afternoon we just napped, chilled with the girls and had a big water-balloon war out back (about flooded their bathroom in the process). Lots of fun. Tonight, just to see what would happen, we went to Parque de las Mamas to see if there would be a bunch of folks there since it's vacations for the kids now til April. Man were there ever!! It was quite a crowd. Mark and I brought our guitars, thinking we might do a kids meeting. Turns out, as David and Rafa finished setting up, he and I started screwing around, and ended up drawing a nice crowd with our unrehearsed, out of tune worship songs...was way more effective than what I would've thought. By the time David was ready to start, there were around 70 people of all ages ready to hear the message. Most stuck around too, and a good number even stayed through the Bible study that Rafa gave after David presented the gospel. It's awesome how when the hearts are ready, it doesn't matter how long the meeting is, where the location is, or how bad the gringoes are at playing guitar. (Sorry sounded way better than me...)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today we went to the beach. It's was allegedly their day of rest, and they ended up talking about Christ to 2 people, one of whom prayed to receive Him! "If one of you has a donkey that falls in a pit on the Sabbath..."

Anyhoo...beach was cool. Good waves, and nobody else was there...I mean nobody at all. We went to a beach down from Manta where it's more secluded, and it was good. I still shouldn't put sunscreen on by myself though. I have some very creative and artistic patterns consisting mainly of red and white on my back and arms.

We got back and were all pretty zonked. All except for the girls, who were in the neighborhood pool as soon as we got back in the driveway. I made huge headway with GarageBand and wasted a solid 5 hours this afternoon and tonight on the song I wrote in Guat...mucho fun. I see many more hours being spent with it. The 2nd person that they witnessed to who accepted Christ was Anita, a girl who lives down the street and always comes to hang out with Monica and the girls. We had a devotional in the living room, played music, read from John 14, and talked at length about salvation. It is just amazing to me how ripe and ready people are to respond to the gospel here, as well as David and Monica's uncanny ability to communicate what needs to be communicated at whatever time and it whatever way it needs to be heard.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I´m here!

Hey folks, one quick note just to say I made it safe and sound to Guayaquil, but my bags so far have not. Toss up a prayer if you think about it that my bags will make it this afternoon. David and Mark headed back to Manta today, and Rafael and I are waiting here for the bags to show so we can take the bus back. (No door delivery for bags here.) But all is well, all is rainy, and God is still faithful as always.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Up til now

This really seems kinda self indulgent, but in Guatemala I found myself saying the same things to a lot of people over e-mail, and it got unnecessary and time consuming and it hindered better conversations that could've been happening. So forgive me if you find this blog way too dramatic or self-important. Sometimes that's just how I roll...

So...I was in Guat for 2 months studying Spanish, partially as a refresher, and mostly to get another bump in my knowledge of the language. The time was extremely profitable and I learned a bunch, and gained a lot more confidence even though my usage of the language still lags a bit. In terms of people, it was so good. The network of people through the school ( - highly recommend it) was amazing and I dearly hope to reconnect with many of the people I met there. A couple suggestions as well...if you ever go to Guat, check out If you look on my facebook, you will see it is quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth. True statement. And cheap. Well worth the effort to get there.

Now I'm in the States for 3 weeks (and it's already half over...geez...) and enjoying the heck out of being here and visiting with everyone. Thanks for all the calls and attention and such, it's certainly made me feel loved. It's been great being home but hard to process too since it's for such a short time. I know that if I was staying here, going back to work, and getting back in the routine, my heart would be screaming to leave. I know this is how my brain functions, so it doesn't surprise me that I'm a little bummed to be here for such a blink.

I also know that once the wheels touch down in Guayaquil on January 14, there won't be a question in my mind that I'm in the right place.