New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is a time when families gather together, make a scarecrow like figure they call the “Old Man”, which represents the year coming to a close, and burn that figure. Sometimes they make their scarecrow look like someone they don’t like, or make the figure take on aspects of something they want to change in their lives. Others make their old man to look like political figures or to represent negative things that have happened during the year. New Year’s Eve is a time for family, friends, food and fireworks. It is just one more way of expressing that it is time to go “Out with the old, and in with the new!”
What a privilege it has been to get to know many of the pastor’s wives in Loja and to form part of the pastors wives’ association. November 22-24 the association organized a province-wide ladies conference and the theme was “Women Who Leave Footprints.” Grace Ruperti and Martha Claudia Mosquera from Guayaquil shared excellent messages that challenged us all to live our faith in a way that will affect those around us and those that come after us. Approximately 250 women from all over the province and from many different denominations participated in the conference. Events like these not only allow us to hear great speakers but encourage unity among the different churches.
The last two weekends we’ve had the privilege of visiting two churches in Vilcabamba, a small town 45 minutes outside Loja. It is a tiny little town nestled in the Valley of Longevity with perfect weather. Tourists come from all over the world to experience great weather and a small town charm hard to find elsewhere. Many people come to recover their health and to enjoy a slower pace of life. I must say that Vilcabamba is one of my favorite places to visit. Our kids have had the opportunity to go horseback riding there a couple of times, and Jeff and I found a vegetarian restaurant we like there. My favorite place, though, is the Juice Factory located right on the plaza. Kind of a health food nut haven. Just my kind of place! After church we got some green smoothies at the Juice Factory to drink on the way home! Mmmm GOOD!
Since our last post so much has happened that I don’t know where to start. We have been busy as bees with a medical caravan, VBS, SIM spiritual life conference in Vilcabamba, a missions conference in Guayaquil, one trip to Quito and two trips to Cuenca. With so much traveling we are just now settling into our rented house. It has been a tremendous blessing to get to know several of the ministries of SIM Ecuador and to serve along side our teammates. I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves.
Some of you may be envisioning our life here in Loja Ecuador in terms of sunshine and palm trees, but the truth of the matter is that we Live in a very urban setting filled with busy streets, traffic and car alarms. Although the climate in Loja is very mild, the fact that we live in a cloud forest means there is a lot of moisture in the air and we have more rainy days than sunny ones. The city is often misty in the morning with general absence of sunshine, sometimes clearing off in the afternoon.
Despite the frequent rain we are enjoying our new cloud forest lifestyle in surprising ways. I never thought I could bundle up in a sweater and socks while eating wonderfully ripe tropical fruits and sip hot tea…but I do!
To check out some new ideas for an awesome tropical fruit salad click here.
You would think that only having one large supermarket in a city of almost 200,000 people would be a problem… but it isn’t. The city of Loja, Ecuador has hundreds of small shops that sell everything from A to Z and then some. There are shops called “mayoristas” where grain, legumes, nuts, spices, and pastas are sold in bulk. There are produce markets the size of some malls with piles and piles of every fruit you can think of and every vegetable known to man. What a beautiful sight to see the myriad of fruits and vegetables with their vibrant colors all in one place! You can also buy flowers, freshly ground coffee, meat, fish, candy, clothing, pots and pans, housewares and shoes at the market. And while you are there you can have some lunch, get your hair cut or polish your shoes. Not everything in Ecuador is this easy or convenient, but when I’m frustrated with city traffic, sick and tired of paperwork and delays in my schedule, it is encouraging to go to the market and enjoy some simple pleasures and conveniences.
Que viva Loja!
I couldn’t believe how good it was! This week we shared a meal with some friends. I made Key Lime Pie for dessert… and ohhh, was it good! Our friends couldn’t believe it was completely raw and healthy. It was a combination of the following recipes: Raw Key Lime Pudding and Zesty Macadamia Nut Pie Crust.
I have been on a plant based diet for eleven months now, and it amazes me how delicious whole, natural foods are. My daughter, Kaitlyn, is helping me change our favorite recipes to new, improved, out-of-this-world healthy ones.
At a conference I attended March 7-9, I was challenged to offer my body as a living sacrifice by pursuing excellence in my eating habits. God showed me this is my spiritual act of worship.* I struggle in this is an area of my life daily, but it excites me to discover new recipes and to make improvements, little by little. I am amazed that God has created so many wonderful plants to help us in our journey. He truly does satisfy my mouth with good things (Psalm 103:5, KJV).
As I was driving to work one night in November, I heard a song that thrilled me with its harmonies and helped me start the Christmas season off right. The lyrics of the chorus reminded me what an awesome event it was when God laid aside His divinity to be born as a helpless baby. His coming brought light and hope.*
This is the dramatic part of the movie, if you will, when the hero comes on the scene to bravely battle all the forces of evil and to save the day. This is when the tide of evil is turned and our Savior comes to our rescue.
Truly, history reads like a fascinating novel, full of deception, tragedy, love and loyalty. We re-live the suspense and drama of history at Christmas as we celebrate the glorious moment when our Savior stepped onto the stage of human history to bring light and hope to all mankind. How tender that He chose to come as a helpless babe, and how ironic that this babe would defeat the powers of sin and death that held us so tightly in its grip.
Hallelujah! Light has come; A Savior who will set us free.
* To listen to the song, click here.
As we look forward to returning to Ecuador as missionaries with SIM, almost any memory from our time there can transport us in spirit back to those wonderful places we knew and loved. If you even mention bread, for example, we all moan with longing, and our mouths begin to water as we think of the hot, delicious bread available on almost any street corner.
Bread is the breakfast of champions in Ecuador 🙂 A simple breakfast consists of bread and coffee. A larger breakfast might include juice, egg or cheese, but it is just not breakfast without bread. At 10:00 am in the morning, everyone’s mind is on coffee break and, that’s right, you guessed it… you need some bread to go with your coffee: yummy little rolls of all sizes and shapes, some salty, some sweet. And what a fitting end to the day to have your favorite beverage with a nice roll filled with meat or cheese. Bread is life-giving and very satisfying. See pita recipe.
In John 6:35 Jesus states that He is the bread of life. Many who heard him teach had no idea that Jesus was the creator who spoke all of creation into existence (John 1:1-4) and that He would, by his death, purchase their pardon and give them eternal life (John 3:16). Yes, Jesus is life-giving. He is essential to life, and oh, so satisfying! Got Jesus?
The origin of Chocolate dates back 4000 years to the time when the Mayas undertook a massive migration from Central America to the Amazon or Orinoco basin of South America. While the Mayas may have been familiar with the cacao tree for a couple of centuries, the first known Cacao plantations were found in the Yucatan Peninsula in A.D. 600. Coco beans were highly valued and used as currency and as a bitter frothy cold drink enjoyed by the wealthy. The Mayas called it the “drink of the gods”. The Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and that it had nourishing and fortifying qualities.
It was not until 1502 that Europeans first learned about these wonderful beans. In the early 1700s, chocolate houses began opening in Europe to rival the many coffee houses. In 1848 the Dutch chemist Conrad, Van Houten, added cocoa butter and sugar to chocolate liquor to produce the first eating chocolate. And we’ve been eating it ever since.
Ecuador: Flavor Capital of the World
Unlike the forastero chocolate beans that go into the majority of mass produced chocolate, the chocolate beans grown in Ecuador produce a fruity, floral chocolate full of old world flavor. These beans are called criollo or flavor beans. While criollo beans are more expensive to produce, they yield an exceptional fruity chocolate that is very unique. Ecuador is the flavor bean capital of the world producing over 70 tons of criollo flavor beans each year.
We would love to sit down with you over a cup of hot chocolate, hear what is going on in your life and share the vision God has given us for ministry in Loja, Ecuador. To get in touch with us, see our Contact Us page.
Jeff & Terri