I Married An Investigator

I (Jody) first heard of the Enneagram late last year when a fellow missionary offered to teach an Enneagram class. He used as his main text, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-discovery, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.

Scott and I took the class and gained from it. We learned the Enneagram describes nine personality types: their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and connections to each other. Although we didn’t agree with everything, we found a lot that rang true and was helpful. (If you want to know more, just search “Enneagram” for lots of information.)

I decided that I identify as type 2, the Helper or Giver, although I lean a bit toward type 1, the Reformer or Perfectionist. It took a few weeks to reach type 5, the Investigator or Observer. It’s described as intense, cerebral, perceptive, innovative, private, and able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Scott identifies as this type (and I can see our family and friends nodding heads in agreement).

Last Saturday morning illustrated what it’s like being married to an Investigator: it’s a bit of an adventure! I learned about ultra-black fish, VantaBlack, carbon nanotubes, the VantaBlack Hyundai Pavilion in Korea, Anish Kapoor (the only artist who can use VantaBlack paint), Black 3.0 (what all the other artists can use), an even blacker black developed by MIT, color absorption, what colors our eyes can see (basically the spectrum in the rainbow plus purple), and how hummingbirds can see colors we can’t (according to a three-year study by the Rocky Mountain Research Institute).

Like I said, it’s an adventure, and one I thoroughly enjoy. Scott introduces me to topics I would never explore on my own and broadens my world.

Posted in Books & Classes | Tagged | 1 Comment

Glimpses of Heaven

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed; and then cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” (The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis)

At times here in Ecuador I (Jody) look at the Andes and my heart aches both for their beauty and with the knowledge that someday I won’t be here to see them.

While I know that Heaven is going to be so different that no one can imagine it accurately—as different as the seed is from the plant—the Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth. I like Lewis’ idea that our love for this earth springs from its resemblance to our real home. It eases the ache of the transitory nature of this life.

“You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”

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The Trip That Wasn’t

Today was supposed to be a special day. We were going to leave for our eighth trip to the U.S. Besides time with family and supporters in Oregon and Colorado, we would attend that debriefing session in Colorado which we couldn’t get into last summer.

In late May we bought tickets, July 18-September 22 on American Airlines, telling ourselves we needed to hold very lightly to our plans, as no one knew what the COVID-19 situation would be here and in the U.S. this summer. At that point COVID-19 seemed to be calming down here and in the U.S. and we were hopeful things would continue to improve.

Our plan was to voluntarily quarantine for two weeks in Oregon (doing our Ecuador work remotely), then see family and supporters in outside settings in early August. I (Jody) would go to my 50-year high school reunion. We’d go to Colorado for the debriefing, see friends and supporters there, and maybe even go to Texas to see a long-time friend. Then back to Oregon, probably working remotely during the week but connecting with people evenings and weekends. And—if the Ride the Rim around Crater Lake happened—Scott would get to ride it again on his big-wheel unicycle.

For me, there’s a certain rhythm in preparing for a trip to the U.S. I have an on-going list of things I want to bring back, and I start ordering things on Amazon. I plan my groceries here so that my fresh stuff runs out right when we leave. I make a packing list and a to-do list. What gifts do we want to take? Do we need to make doctor appointments in the U.S.? Who will to water the plants and check on our apartment here?

A big question this trip was, “Where will we self-quarantine?” “We’ll put the need in our June newsletter,” we said. So we got the newsletter done in mid-June and sent it off to our wonderful family member who formats our newsletters. He emailed saying he’d do it that weekend. But then he got a stomach flu and spent his weekend very sick. The thought crossed my mind, “Maybe something is going to change this week and we’ll need to change the newsletter.”

So we’re into the last week of June and it was full of hard news. COVID-19 cases were increasing in the U.S. We were going through Customs in Miami, a current COVID-19 hot spot. Our debriefing session was still on, but did we want to travel by plane in the U.S. in August? Also, cases were rising in Quito after three weeks of relaxed restrictions. Our neighborhood has good compliance with mask wearing and social distancing, but a lot of the rest of Quito does not have good compliance, mostly due to poverty and extreme crowding. The case numbers were soaring and hospitals were maxing out.

Besides the issue of health risks, a caution we had about traveling was getting stuck in the U.S. In March, Ecuador closed its borders very abruptly, giving tourists one day to leave and out-of-country residents two days to come back. We had missionaries stuck in the U.S. and Cuba for months. If things continued to get worse here, Ecuador might abruptly close its borders again. Or if things continued to get worse in the U.S., Ecuador might refuse flights from the U.S.

Then on Friday American Airlines announced they were going to start filling up their flights; no more leaving the middle seat vacant. This was the deal breaker for me. While the air filters in planes are very effective, if someone is sitting next to me for four to six hours and removes his or her mask to eat, his or her breath is going to reach me before it reaches the filters.

So we talked over dinner and decided to cancel the trip. Scott promised that we’d take at least a vacation trip to see family as soon as we felt it was safe. And we’ll try to attend a debriefing session in 2021. We edited the now-July newsletter and sent it off to our formatter. And the rhythm of preparing to go came to an abrupt halt.

I am disappointed but at peace about the decision. In the last three weeks COVID-19 has surged both here and in the U.S. For us, 2020 is not a good summer to be traveling internationally. We’d prayed for wisdom and God gave us enough reasons to stay put. We have worthwhile work we can do here, and there’s always Zoom and Skype to connect with people.

And my Amazon purchases are waiting for me in Eugene; it will be like Christmas when we go, since I’ll probably forget what I’ve ordered!

(Disclaimer: please don’t think that we are ranking canceling a trip right up there with losing your job,  your health, or a loved one. We know this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things; we’re just sharing our experience.)

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July 2020 Newsletter

COVID-19 Lockdown
After three months of lockdown, Quito is cautiously opening up. Most businesses are reopening but working from home is still encouraged and social distancing and other protocols are in place for those that go to their workplace. Scott is transitioning to two days per week in the office, while Jody is continuing to work from home. COVID-19 cases are still increasing in Quito and ICU beds are currently full; if the pandemic worsens, Quito could be locked down again.

Our best news this week was that outdoor individual physical activity is now allowed for those under 70. Both cycling and mountaineering were specifically mentioned and Scott is delighted. He climbed our 16,000’ mountain last weekend.

Food Ministries

Although we’ve been confined to home, some of our missionaries are helping with food ministries in Shell and Quito. An estimated 40% to 50% of Ecuadorians live day-to-day and the three-month quarantine has put many families in desperate need of help.

In Shell our Community Ministries department has helped at least seven local churches provide food kits to vulnerable families. Each church develops a list of the families they would like to help and decides what portion of the food list they can supply. Our mission provides coordination, purchasing, vehicles, necessary legal permission, and the funding for the remainder of the shopping list.

The Shell shopping list includes 4 kg rice, 2 kg sugar, 2 lb soup noodles, 1 L palm oil, 1 kg lentils, 6 cans tuna, 2 kg salt, 1 lb oats, 1 pkg powdered milk, 1 pkg pasta, 1 pkg tapioca, $1.00 of plantain, $1.00 of yucca, 30 eggs, and a live chicken. The cost is about $25.00.

Pan de Vida (Bread of Life) is a Quito ministry close to where we work. In normal times they provide about 500 families with food, clothing, and job training. About half are immigrants, mostly from Venezuela. During the quarantine they have distributed food kits to 50-100 people, three times a week, more than 6,000 kits in all. The kits cost about $20 and supply a family of four for two weeks. The contents are similar to the Shell shopping list except there’s a frozen chicken instead of a live one. Because of the demand, most recipients have received one-time help.

The International Bible Society donates Bibles which are given to anyone who wants one. Volunteers pray with those who want prayer and encourage however they can. Two of our co-workers have helped in preparing and distributing food kits. In the photo below they’re the tall ones toward the front.

Pan de Vida has a website, pandevida.org.ec, and accepts donations in Ecuador and in the U.S. They also have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fundacionpandevida, with videos of people receiving help.

How to Pray

Thank God for the ways He is working through this pandemic and for opportunities to share His love and hope.

  • For Ecuador and the world, ask that God would work out His purposes, granting leaders wisdom in this challenging time.

New Blog Posts at AdventuresInMiddleEarth.com

Thank you for sharing this journey with us!

Scott & Jody

(Want to read the print version? Click here.)

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Sounds of Quito

[I (Jody) started this blog in early March, but before I got it published the coronavirus arrived and Quito, like the rest of the world, went silent. Now, three months later, Quito’s sounds are heard again.]

What’s it like to live in Quito, a city of two or three million people? Well, it’s a lot different from the much smaller western Oregon city where we lived for most of our lives. Besides the altitude (9,200 ft.), climate (eternal springtime), and language (Spanish), a big difference is the level of noise.

Sellers & Buyers

Our biggest noise source is trucks driving by with blaring loudspeakers. The most prominent is the (propane) gas truck song.

At least once each hour a truck will drive by playing this song to announce that they are selling 20 kg (44 lb) tanks of propane. When we moved here in 2014, gas trucks simply honked their horn (short beeps) as they drove the streets. But in 2016 the government mandated that this song be played instead. I can’t imagine how much the truck drivers hate hearing this all day long.

Many people use propane for their hot water and/or for cooking.  An 18 kilogram tank (about 40 pounds) only costs $3.50 delivered. We have a tank for our dryer too, and we average about one tank a month between the three appliances.

Most people hear the song in the distance and run outside to wave down a truck. We have a favorite driver, Ángel, so Scott just calls him when we need gas and he stops the next time he goes by. The last time Scott called, though, Ángel told him to just text him, “Monociclo” (unicycle) and the number of tanks we need!

Not every city’s gas song is as irritating as Quito’s.  Otavalo’s song sounds like a calliope or carousel. And Loja’s song sounds like pan pipes (called rondadores here). (Loja’s garbage trucks also play a distinctive song, maybe so people can quickly run their garbage down to the curb?) I couldn’t find any recordings for Otavalo or Loja, but here’s a sample of  the Ecuadorian rondador.

Also very common are trucks buying metal or plastics. “Compramos lavadoras, secadoras, refrigeradores, latas, botellas de plastica… ” (We buy washers, dryers, refrigerators, tin cans., plastic bottles…) In the last five hours I’ve heard four different trucks drive by.

We have two fruit trucks which regularly drive down our street. Both are pickups with a suspended tarp to shade the produce. They use a loudspeaker to announce their wares: fruits, vegetables, cheese, and snacks. In season, farmers will drive by announcing potatoes or mangoes or oranges. Right now it’s potatoes. At Christmas time it’s mangoes.

And there’s a guy who sells brooms. He walks down the street carrying brooms and yelling something indistinguishable at the top of his lungs. Once he saw me at the window looking down, so he just stopped in front of the apartment and yelled for about five minutes. (I don’t look anymore.)

[When the lockdown started March 16, we didn’t hear a single gas truck–or any other buyer/seller–from Monday evening to the next Sunday afternoon . “Weird” does not describe how strange that was.] 

Dogs

When someone is walking a dog, we can hear barking from almost every building as the dog goes down our street. Sometimes it seems like the barking is continuous, at pedestrians, cars, and trucks. During the night is the most irritating.

Traffic

We actually live on a fairly quiet street, only about 3 1/2 blocks long, with almost no through traffic. We’re half a block from a big high school, so we hear the school buses zoom by three times daily (schools here have two shifts, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.)

We’re one block up the hill from Avenida de las Américas (everyone just says “América”), one of Quito’s major streets. Our bedroom faces that direction, but the buses stop running about 10 p.m. and the traffic noise dies down until they start running again about 5:30 or 6 a.m.

The only time we get traffic noise from our street (Manuela Sáenz) is when traffic is backed up on América. Drivers will jog up to our street thinking they can bypass the traffic. They don’t realize that the only exit from our neighborhood is to jog back down to América. We’ll have solid traffic outside our apartment, everyone honking as no one can go anywhere.

Periodically we get air traffic noise, mostly police helicopters. Maybe once or twice a day we’ll hear a jet high overhead. Before Quito’s airport moved into a lower valley 20 miles away in 2013, airplanes flew down Quito’s narrow valley and landed about ten minutes away. People talk about waiting to leave for the airport to pick up someone until they saw the jet fly by; the plane was close enough to see what airline it was!

Alarms

You’ve probably heard that car alarms are the national anthem of _____ (fill in the name of the Latin American country). That said, car alarms and building alarms actually seem to be less frequent in our neighborhood than when we first arrived. They are common enough, though, that people ignore them, which defeats their purpose.

For several months our downstairs neighbors had a building alarm which went off almost every Saturday morning at 6:30. It was incredibly loud and continued for about five minutes. We were very thankful when it stopped, but we still have no idea why it started and why it stopped.

People

Periodically the small convenience store across the street will attract a social gathering. Sometimes it’s three or four people, sometimes ten or fifteen, and a few times 100-200. Someone will have music playing in their car, and people will talk and laugh and joke. Friday nights and Saturday mornings are the most popular. If the group gets large, the noise level will rise and fall, but it’s not unpleasant. And the group always disperses when the little store closes, presumably because beer is no longer available. In contrast, friends who live close to our mission’s compound have had repeated problems with car parties outside their building at 3 or 4 a.m. with music loud enough to rattle their windows.

Every two or three months the high school has a large event which lasts for several hours. To our ears it sounds more like yelling into a microphone than music. Usually these events stop by bedtime, but a few times they have gone into the wee hours.

After 5 -1/2 years these noises are mostly just background noise, part of the neighborhood. We like the energy and activity of the big city more than we expected, especially since we have a mostly quiet apartment to escape to.

Posted in Quito | 3 Comments

Coronavirus #6

Today (June 3) our province moves from “red” to “yellow” in Ecuador’s traffic light system related to Covid-19. This cautious re-opening of the province means:

  • later curfew (8:00 p.m. instead of 2:00 p.m.)
  • more driving of personal vehicles (three days per week rather than one)
  • some workers returning to the office (but not us since we are seniors)
  • some restaurants opening (with restricted seating)
  • extended hours for supermarkets
  • some malls opening
  • some buses running (with restricted ridership)
  • some parks reopening for limited use

We stopped posting the weekly Covid-19 statistics because Ecuador’s statistics have been kind of crazy. The health authorities have more than once changed the way cases and deaths are counted, with the result that our “curve” looks a bit odd:


Ecuador’s June 1 Covid-19 numbers were 40,414 confirmed cases and 3,438 deaths yesterday. Our province has 4,087 cases. We are twelfth in the world in per capita deaths (201.24 deaths per million). For reference, the U.S. is ninth with 324.08 deaths per million.

Personally we are healthy and doing fine. We’re working from home, exercising regularly (in the apartment), and connecting with family and friends via the internet. The younger missionaries who were getting our groceries are now in the U.S., but we are well stocked and will only go to the supermarket every three weeks or so. We can buy fresh produce at a small market three blocks away.

Almost everyone wears face masks outside their home and there’s a substantial fine for not wearing one.

Thanks for your prayers for us and Ecuador. We are thankful for many blessings.

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 3 Comments

Coronavirus #5

Hello from Quito, where the sun is shining this morning. We’re in the heaviest part of our rainy season, so sunshine has been a rare treat in the last few weeks.

Quito and all Ecuador is still in a very strict lockdown, with personal car driving allowed only one day a week and a 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew. The government is preparing a “traffic-light system” of relaxing the restrictions province by province, but that’s still at least a week out.

We are physically healthy and have all that we need/ younger missionaries continue to pick up groceries for us each week. We’re working remotely and exercising. We feel supported by people’s prayers and we desire to be faithful in all that God is calling us to through this pandemic.

Nationally, there’s an increasing awareness that the count of confirmed Covid-19 cases is too low, as is the death count.

To illustrate, here are the official government Covid-19 numbers for Saturday, April 18:

  • 30,922     Persons tested
  •   9,022     Positive for Covid-19
  •   8,491     Negative for Covid-19

If you subtract the bottom two numbers from the top numbers, you get the number of tests which haven’t yet been processed: 13,109. Given the current ratio of positive to negative results, it’s likely that at least half of the pending tests will be positive.

The government acknowledges that the testing is too little and the processing is too slow, and they are working on improving both.

Concerning the problems with the death count, the government lists the current Covid-19 deaths as 456, but acknowledges that at least another 675 are suspected to be Covid-19. In addition, deaths by unknown causes have exploded in Guayas Province, the location of Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city). Normally about 1,000 people would die in the first two weeks of April, but this year over 6,000 have died. Some of these deaths were almost certainly Covid-19 deaths not included in the official count.

This NPR story on Guayaquil gives a good summary of the situation, By the way, Guayaquil is several hours away from us. It is on the coast and the climate and culture are very different than in Quito. The climate is hot and humid and the people are easy-going and spend a lot of time outdoors. The compliance with government restrictions has been much lower there than in the mountains where we live. What the NPR article is describing is not the situation here in Quito, at least not yet.

Here’s another Saturday to Saturday listing of the official government numbers. As you can see the numbers are continuing to climb.

  • April 11 (7,257 Ecuador cases) 315 deaths (606 Pichincha cases)
  • April 12 (7,466) 333 deaths (627)
  • April 13 (7,529) 355 deaths(634)
  • April 14 (7,603) 314 deaths (646)
  • April 15 (7,858) 388 deaths (674)
  • April 16 (8,225) 403 deaths (736)
  • April 17 (8,450) 421  deaths (779)
  • April 18 (9,022) 456 deaths (794)

Since it’s Sunday morning, we just watched our church’s Sunday morning service. If you’d like to have 90 minutes of Spanish practice, here it is! Here’s the scripture passage for today; we hope it encourages you as it did us:

The Lord is good,
    a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,.. (Nahum 1:7)

 

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 3 Comments

Coronavirus #4

Here’s another Saturday to Saturday summary of our Covid-19 numbers in Ecuador. One thing to note is that on April 9, Ecuador changed their method of counting Covid-19 cases, retroactively adding cases to the day that symptoms first appeared. Before, they were counting confirmed cases based on test results. This totally messed up our daily counts, but you can see the change between April 4 and April 11 (3465 to 7257).

We’ve started tracking cases in our province of Pichincha; we don’t have a way yet to track deaths here. So in the list the first and larger number is cases in Ecuador (in parenthesis), then Ecuador deaths, then Pichincha numbers (in parenthesis).

  • April 4 (3465) 172 deaths
  • April 5 (3646) 180 deaths
  • April 6 (3747) 191 deaths
  • April 7 (3995) 220 deaths
  • April 8 (4450) 242 deaths (404 cases in Pichincha Province)
  • April 9 (4965) 272 deaths (494  in Pichincha)
  • April 10 (7161) 291 deaths (579 in Pichincha)
  • April 11 (7257) 315 deaths (606 in Pichincha)

We continue under a strict curfew (2 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and strict driving restrictions. We continue to work from home, exercise, and keep contact with family and friends in the U.S. We really don’t see an end in sight to this situation here, as our Covid-19 numbers continue to increase. We’re going on four weeks of quarantine because of our age.

This weekend is the first weekend ever with no private vehicles allowed on the road; during the week people can drive their cars one day a week based on the last digit of their license plate. Nationally it is not clear if this applies also to taxis, but Quito is insisting that it does. We thought you would enjoy a few of the city notices from social media.

Driving Restrictions:

And here’s some encouragement to fly the Ecuadorian flag at home Easter Sunday (“ring bells of hope”):

Posted in Ecuador, Quito | Tagged | 2 Comments

Coronavirus #3

We are fine, still confined to our home because we are over 55. We’re able to do our work by vpn and can exercise too by using the multiple stairs and hallways in our home. Younger missionaries are picking up groceries for us every week or two.

We were encouraged March 29 and March 30 when the number of new cases was under 100 each day. But the increases jumped the next three days (new cases were 277, 508, and 415). The last two days of the week the increases have slowed (205 and 97), so maybe things are slowing again.

Ecuador has been making the U.S. news this week because of the situation in Guayas Province. It’s on the coast, contains Guayaquil (Ecuador’s largest city), and has about 70% of the known cases. With the quarantine, mortuaries were not picking up bodies, and the government has had difficulty managing the pickup and disposal of bodies. It makes great headlines but is a long ways from us. Our neighborhood is quiet and everyone seems to be staying at home.

Please continue to pray for Ecuador, for 1) the many people who live from day to day and currently have no income and 2) that the body of Christ here would be a light during a dark time.

The list below is for Saturday through Saturday. It has the total cases diagnosed (in parenthesis), number of Covid-19 deaths, and any government action that happened that day.

  • March 28 (1835) 48 deaths
  • March 29 (1924) 58 deaths
  • March 30 (1963) 60 deaths
  • March 31 (2240) 75 deaths
  • April 1 (2748) 93 deaths
  • April 2 (3163) 120 deaths – government extends border closing to April 30, extends other restrictions related to gatherings and mobility
  • April 3 (3368) 145 deaths – government announces that beginning Monday, April 6, private cars can only be driven 1 day per week (Monday through Friday, based on the last digit of your license plate) and no private cars can drive on the weekend
  • April 4 (3465) 172 deaths
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March 2020 Newsletter

(Want to read the print version? Click here.)

Covid-19 has altered our activities in Ecuador indefinitely. At 11:59 p.m. Tuesday (March16),  Ecuador’s borders were closed. On March 17, Quito was locked down with very limited exceptions for purchasing food and attending to health issues.  Unless work is essential (communication, utilities, health services, grocery stores and food markets, pharmacies, and banks.), everyone is required to stay at home (violations are subject to a $6,000 fine). Because we are over 65, we have been quarantined in our home since March 18 and are dependent on younger missionaries for our groceries.

But we are doing fine.  Uncertain times remind us that God does not change and he still loves and cares for us.  So enough about the coronavirus; let’s think about something lighter. In our March 2015 newsletter we described  how life is different here than in the U.S. Now, five years later, here are a few more (pre-Covid-19) differences we’ve noticed:

  • Greetings (both hellos and goodbyes) typically include a kiss on the cheek (woman to woman, woman to man) or a handshake (man to man). It is expected to greet co-workers both in the morning and upon leaving at the end of the day. Outside of work, friends and acquaintances are greeted warmly, often with an added hug.  You kiss or shake hands and say “hello” and “goodbye,” even if the conversation only lasts half a minute.
  • Everyone having a job is a higher cultural value than being efficient. So most employees do their job and nothing more.  No one makes suggestions for improvement because less work could lead to someone losing their job.
  • Labor is cheap and materials are expensive (if you can find them).
  • In the U.S. our missionary salary and lifestyle probably wouldn’t meet middle-class standards, but here we are wealthy.
  • We can go anywhere in the city by bus for 12 cents.
  • We can afford to have a housekeeper come in once a week.
  • Our cell phone plans (with data) are $5.00 per month; our high-speed fiber optic internet is $30 per month; our other utilities are about $40.00 per month.
  • Our apartment doesn’t have insulation or weather-stripping; no one has air conditioning or central heating (yes it gets cold at night); we can hear the rain on the roof.
  • We can see a 16,000 foot mountain from our dining room table (Scott has climbed it 11 times).
  • Even after six plus years of study and living in Spanish-speaking countries, our Spanish still needs improvement (we’re glad we didn’t know how hard it would be).
  • For the most part our Spanish works, but there are still times when we whisper to each other, “What did he say?”or “Why is she crying?” or “What just happened?”
  • But we are encouraged when we have an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance and afterwards say to each other, “We couldn’t have had that conversation a year ago.”

How to Pray for Us (and Ecuador)

Thank God for who He is, that He’s in control, and for His many promises of protection and provision.

Ask God to work out His plans world-wide through this pandemic, that His church would be light and hope in this dark time, and that our leaders will make wise policy decisions.

Check out our new blog posts: Coronavirus #1 & Coronavirus #2

Once again, thanks for sharing this journey with us. We are blessed by your interest, prayers, and financial support.

Scott & Jody

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