7 weeks in

It’s been 7 weeks in Canada, specifically in Calgary. Even though we grew up here, both Linda and I had a sense of trepidation stepping back into our passport culture. We  have had some hiccups but God has been faithful as we walked through some cultural changes. We had a lengthy ‘to-do” list and most of it is getting done. Unbelievable! We were provided a basement suite by a retired Wycliffe missionary and that has been great. Though I was thinking today (while driving), many of the days we have been here have required driving, alot of driving. Maybe not comparable to the typical Calgarian commute but in comparison to driving in a small country like Costa Rica….in CR the difference is mucho time for minimum distance while in Calgary less time in the driver’s seat but you see a lot of country. Whether it’s been visiting churches or spending time with the kids, it’s involved a lot of time. Now with being involved with the CMA response to the Slave Lake fires, I envision seeing alot more of the country. More about that later, probably in the next blog.

One major item on our “to-do” list has been downsizing our “stuff’ in storage (including our kid’s items) and moving from a pay-for storage area (thank you to the couple who has paid this for 4 years) to my sister’s garage where I built a more secure area. We had a lot of fun with our kids going through the memories.

Linda said to me yesterday we have been blessed by being able to spend time with “the cream of the crop”. We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with people and building relationships with the churches in the Southern Alberta cluster though we regret we have not been able to have the level of contact that we wanted with all 18 of them. There is just not enough time; though we did see many leaders at the Western District Conference. We have had many meals with people that have touched us personally. Yesterday over Vietnamese food, we listened to a couple that had escaped from Iran and had arrived in Canada 6 weeks ago. Their story was filled with intrigue and interrogations but more importantly it was a story of God’s blessings and  sovereignty. We walked away both humbled and blessed.

I was able to complete a DART (Disaster Assistance Response Training) course sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse. This was a God appointment. I had not planned on this.  In taking this  training, I was thinking that there is a large potential within this partnership for our justice and compassion ministry in Latin America. And then…during our course, the fires that devastated the community of Slave Lake where over 7000 people were evacuated and around 400 families were directly effected happened. I was asked by the Western Canadian District leadership to get involved heading a church response. Linda and I head up to Slave Lake this Thursday where we are working with Samaritan’s Purse’s response team.  There is so much to pray for. We ask that you think of us as you lift up your requests.

1. For the people of Slave Lake. The feelings of despair and frustration. For the town and provincial management teams as they try and work out a response that is best for the townspeople. For our response, that we can direct the Alliance church body in such a way that God’s love is shown to be real. For Pastor Tracy and his family, the pastor the the SL Alliance church.
2. For continued safety as we continue to meet with churches and their leadership about our ministry of justice and compassion in Latin America. It involves much traveling.
3. For continued support, both prayer and financial. Thank you for giving to GAF which support international worker in ministry all over the world. We have about $6,000 left to pay for our ministry vehicle. Also, we were told our transmission gave out as other CMA missionaries were using it. That’s about $1300. We had a couple in one church walk up and give us $500 towards the repairs. God is good! Donations can be given and directed to the Doell Vehicle fund.
4. Praise for much answered prayer.

Feeling abit Disembodied!

We are back in Canada (Calgary) and have experienced 3 or 4 snowstorms! Unbelievable! And very few days of temps above 10C. But the warmth of family and the people of several Alliance churches and 1 Baptist church we have met have more than made up for it. Well, truthfully, there was driving in one snowstorm where I just did not want to be here. Coming back to Canadian culture has been tougher than I thought it would be. We felt disembodied. Here but not really here. Feeling comfortable but not really…just having to wait for Canadian cultural norms to float to the top and feel more natural. It’s amazing how one can adjust to the Spanish culture in such a short time. There have been many times where I wanted to give a “beso and an abrazo” in welcome and saying good-bye but I think it would have thrown many for a loop. I thought for this blog update I would give a general ministry update via a note I sent out to a friend.

Our ministry focus continues to evolve. We have re-focused our name to Caribbean Justice and Compassion Team to better describe the direction of ministry. Over the last several months, we have been doing more program development than anything else. We were in C*b* to check out the micro-enterprise which was totally uplifting. What  a revival movement that is developing into! Nicaragua was a great experience. 2 weeks of working with a Alliance Men’s work team doing translation work. It was very cool how a small business loan opportunity was put in my lap. Got a guy started with a welder. I am working through the local church on this one hoping to start something bigger and develop with stronger CHE guidelines. It’s really a test for the Pastor’s leadership to see if he will buy into community leadership and development thinking. If it works well, I would like to start a business cooperative there. When we get back to Costa Rica, the plan is to start some development work in a Nicaraguan community (in CR). There is already a local feeding program and a couple of other small initiatives through a local Alliance church that I want to expand on. Maybe use a CFGB grant in the area. Lot’s of work to do. Lot’s of money to raise. I want to use this as a bit of a proving ground in basic community development as there are larger things on the horizon in other countries that we need to tackle. Start small. As our ministry is regional, this will build into enabling a system of national level leaders in the Caribbean area to work on local CHE style programs. I want to center on a combination of micro-business and disaster preparedness training at the local church level but use this to teach basic community-level problem solving working towards Kingdom transformation principles.
On the disaster response front, the National Ministry Centre is totally revamping their database structure. I managed to get a request in with our needs. Our plan is to create a interactive, national database of volunteers from Canadian churches that are able to respond to a disaster event.  I want to work out the kinks with this response program in my region first. Then as other Alliance compassion track leaders come on line in other world ministry areas, they would be able to use this database for their response needs. Right now, I am working through ideas of how to involve the local Canadian Alliance church at the grassroots level making them feel part of  a ministry response even though they never leave the pew. We’ll see how that goes.
At times I am feeling intimidated and overwhelmed at the scope of ministry in which I have been placed though it is exciting to see how God moves, opens doors, puts people in our path. I think my biggest struggle at this point is finding that niche in disaster response that enables us to come along side other organizations and not duplicate problems and procedures. Though this morning (by chance), met with the SP Project manager for Latin America and we seem to be on the same page stressing the need for disaster preparedness/reduction programs in smaller communities using the local church as a mitagating force. A great contact for some future work. He enrolled me in the national DART (Disaster & Response Team) training happening in May.
I have written enough. I need to get some work done before watching some hockey. It’s really nice to sit and watch the playoffs. I didn’t realize that it was something I missed!
ps While we are here in the Calgary area and you feel like sitting down for a coffee… Give us a call 403-617-6377