Friday, August 28, 2015

Ecuador Arrival and First Thoughts

Quito, Ecuador
Waterfall in the Andes
We have arrived in Ecuador and settled in here at Shell after traveling from Quito.  We are staying at the Nate Saint house.  The travel was pretty uneventful, though our checked bag has yet to catch up with us. We hope it is arriving today, but there are no guarantees.

Typical Ice Cream Shop with Clown Garbage Can
Our time here has been filled with both things we expected and things that we did not expect. One of the things that has surprised us is the lack of heat here in Shell. It is pleasant to warm during the day and cools nicely at night, especially if it rains, which is a frequent occurrence. 

David, who drove us to Shell from Quito

We have met many people already, both in ADSE and outside of it, mostly in the missionary community. Language barrier is a challenge in meeting and interfacing with the locals, but both we and they try. The locals are very friendly and we really are enjoying our time here. Shell is a nice city with most of the comforts and amenities you could desire. They even have pizza and hamburgers, though we have been eating mostly Ecuadorian food in an attempt at cultural immersion.  Food is relatively inexpensive compared to the United States.

Performing a Brake Overhaul

Aerial View of Toñampare on the Curary River
Karen has been interfacing with our hosts, Tracey and Dan, and plans to spend time volunteering at the orphanage and school here. She has made a number of friends and contacts among the missionary community here. Joe has been spending time mostly at the ADSE hangar, helping out as needed with maintenance and other tasks. He has had opportunity to go out on two flights, delivering supplies and people to two jungle airstrips -- Llamchamacocha (LLA) and Toñampare (TMP). Toñampare is the base that was established at the location of the death of Nate Saint at "Palm Beach." The jungle is much lower altitude than Shell and is significantly warmer. We may go to the jungle next week, to get out of the city and see what the real world is like. If so, we will be off the grid except for the HF radio.

Flight to Toñampare with Capt. Richard Morales
As this is being written, an ADSE plane is going on an emergency flight to pick up a sick baby from a base in the jungle so the baby can receive better medical care here in Shell. Yet the glamour of being a life saver is not even half the story. Several of the pilots and staff here have told us that they are motivated to do what they do because of the personal relationships and fellowship they have with the people here. The work is not just a service; when it is done correctly, intensely personal relationships are forged. This is intentional, for from these relationships will come the questions about why we are here and providing these services. The answer of course, is that because the infinite love of Jesus has been poured out on us, we are both called and compelled to share that love. As we share that love with others and they accept the source of that love, JESUS, they in turn can continue the cycle of sharing Jesus' love. For example, one of the mechanics in the shop grew up in a orphanage in Quito.  He was shown Jesus' love through missionary contact with the orphanage. Now he participates as a mechanic supporting the work of ADSE as it meets the needs of the people of Ecuador. 
Thanks to all for your prayers and support. We would appreciate your continued prayer for good health (so far, so good) and for as much learning and discovery as possible. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Departing For Ecuador!

As this post is being written, we are packing for our flight to Ecuador.  More about that later.  First, an update on the past few busy months.  In the middle of July, we reached our first year in Oregon. For each one of us it has been a year of change, learning and growth. While the grace of God in providing for us and protecting us is a little short of astounding, it would not be true to portray our lives as without trial or difficult days.  Were that true, we would learn little but self-reliance, which is certainly not the correct response to the hand of Providence. 

Gracie is growing up really fast. She has discovered that daddy is indulgent and takes advantage of it pretty regularly.  For example, she likes to dance or jump on his belly until he begs for mercy.  She is also obsessed with the Disney movie Frozen.  Her parents may go crazy if they hear the songs from the movie too many more times. However, to see her sing the songs and act them out is pretty adorable.  Gracie is staying with grandparents while we are in Ecuador. 

Karen has been enjoying making new friends at a mom's summer Bible study, working as a server at Old Spaghetti Factory, as well as coming up with new ideas for when Gracie wants to do "school". Karen is also contemplating going to India on a church mission trip in January. 

Sheet Metal Practice Project
Joe has continued his studies in aviation maintenance, and recently reached the halfway point. Two of the more interesting courses recently taken were on aircraft sheet metal and welding.  School will restart in late September.  Joe also continues to instruct at Hillsboro Aero Academy.  To further his career there and to widen his job options upon completion of mechanic training, he trained for and obtained his multiengine pilot rating in Helena, Montana this summer.  

Two Engines are better than One!
The main purpose of our seventeen day trip to Ecuador is to learn as much as we can about the missionary aviation work being done there and to assess how we might fit into a similar program (not necessarily in Ecuador). As we have been preparing for going to Ecuador, we compiled a list of questions we hope to answer through this trip.  The process of this compilation has involved intense introspection on basic issues. We have been asking questions like: What are our motivations for what we are doing? What does our personal relationship with God look like? How can we best use our God-given gifts and talents? How can we use our personal tendencies and strengths to maximize our effectiveness and how can we avoid pitfalls? Are we cut out for the missionary life?  If not, what other things does God want us to do? Are we exercising (or lacking) faith by asking these questions?  The process of facing these basic questions has been both humbling and exciting.

Aircraft in use by Alas de Socorro in Ecuador (from their Facebook page)
Since we are going to a mission aviation base, we hope to answer specific questions such as: what options are available for schooling and socializing for children?  What is every day life like for the non-pilot (Karen)?  Can Karen safely move around independently in society? What are some cultural norms and how do Westerners fit in and develop meaningful relationships across the culture? What is expected of the pilot-mechanic?  What is the safety culture and program like for the flight operations?  Who are the people being served by the mission and by the operation? Who is not being served and why? What are the joys of this service, and what are the hard parts?  How do the people there cope with that hardship?

We also want to get an idea from the pilot-mechanics and their spouses of how they knew that they were called to this mission in this place.  How did they receive and heed God's call? We want to find out what they have learned, what they did well and what they may wish they had done differently.  

Stay tuned -- as we experience the journey and some of these questions are answered, we will keep you informed about some of the things we learn.  If time and internet service permit, we will be posting several times while there.  We appreciate and yearn for your continued prayers and encouragement.