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Getting Food on the Table

Are there ever any times during the year when there is absolutely no food for your table? The kids are hungry and Dad and Mom are in despair. Read on!

The last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind for us. I started of in El Salvador spending 4 days with C&MA pastors from all over Central America. Once they understood that our ministry was in compassion work, we heard many stories of needs, usually centered around the poverty conditions for the kids in their communities. I am planning a driving trip through 3-4 countries to meet with the pastors and assess needs in the New Year. During my time there, I received word that a person from an Alliance church wanting to donate a sum of money for a clean water project so I was scrambling to gather information. It appears that a clean water source will be built for a children’s ministry in Honduras with the help of a partnering ministry (eMi). Pray for the details to work out.

After a 12 hour “layover” at home, I joined a Canadian Food Grains Bank delegation in Honduras. We visited with poor Honduran farmers and local development organizations about conservation agriculture. Through conservation/organic techniques, small-plot farmers (less than 2 acres) are able to increase their yields to beyond “subsistence” to actual selling produce at a market. This means that many farmers have been able to go from having no food to eat several times a year to having food to put on the table and actually think about having enough seed for the next crop. All of these farmers live in poor areas with varying soil conditions. After adopting new organic techniques, some farmers were able to afford to send some of their kids to school. It was very gratifying to see that through changing  their farming techniques to that of respect for the land around them, the land gave back. Reforestation, erosion prevention, water retention, crop rotations were some of the transferable and organic principles we worked with. These farmers had a history of killing the soil with crop burning and heavy use of insecticides/herbicides. To paint a clearer picture, this all occurred up in the mountains where soil differed from place to place and farming was being done on slopes up to 60 degrees. Very steep! Needless to say, we walked many mountain-sides.  I learned many new ways of assessing and enabling communities in their food needs towards poverty reduction.


Linda kept busy and adventurous while I was gone. She drove by herself for the first time with the local traffic conditions. Our regional directors were traveling too so Linda helped keep their household organized and making sure the girls got to school. She continues to develop her prayer ministry. I know that she communicates with several of you.

Continue to pray for the needs of the Alliance workers world-wide. Financial support was very short of the needed goal last month to provide for the basic living needs of the international workers. This has created budget issues. Linda and I remain faithful that our needs of funds to purchase our ministry vehicle will be supplied. As we look to the future, pray that God goes before us as we strive to work compassionately through the local churches to reach out to those in their communities that don’t know Jesus.

The Horizon is Huge!

Coming back from Canada, the focus has been about “getting focused”. The title of the blog says it all – “The Horizon is Huge”. When we look at where our Relief and Development ministry can go, it is overwhelming when you know the depth of the physical and spiritual needs that are all around us. God has been working in us too. Over the last 2 years, one of my prayers is that God will show us our niche, a ministry direction that we can have direct impact for Him by not doubling up on what others are doing (especially in terms of dollars and time), but being able to increase out effectiveness through relationships and partnerships. We want the local churches in our region to be the “hero”. We want to equip the local church to be more effective in being the hands and feet of Jesus in their community.

For those that are interested, here are our Ministry Objectives for 2012. I welcome any thoughts or questions.

My next 2 weeks is filled with travel. I am in El Salvador for the Alianza Congresso. This is a gathering of Alliance pastors from Central America. I am looking forward to this opportunity to network and hear what God is doing in the various churches. Also, this is a great opportunity to help to me know what and where there are areas that we can look at assisting with. It should be easier this year as my Spanish speaking has improved abit. I have a one day break at home and then I am part of a CFGB delegation (Canadian Food Grains Bank) to Honduras. I am joining 4 others from Canada to visit Honduran farmers and learn about how they are adapting their agriculture practices to farming on mountain-sides and steep slopes. We will also be evaluating how to improve farming practices and how to improve market access.  What we learn from here can now be transferred to other parts of the world. This is especially important to our ministry as Central America has the mountain chain running down the middle and we want to focus on improving food security issues for the poor. Honduras has similar statistics to other nearby countries. From a recent report, 49% of Hondurans living in the rural areas live in extreme poverty.

Linda has been working hard at developing a prayer network of individuals and Canadian churches. She has lofty goals of how to make this interactive. We desperately need you to be praying for us but vice versa, you need prayer too. Drop Linda an email with any questions or requests.

With our family, there has been a change. No, Linda is not pregnant! Briana has chosen not to go back to college this year. She is pursuing her dreams of being an EMT/Paramedic. Jordan is back for his 3rd year at Ambrose University College. He has changed programs to International Ministry.  We were wondering how we could have a family Christmas together. With using some airmiles, we have Jordan coming down during his Christmas break. We are still unsure of if and how Briana will make it down. That’s something to pray about.

Last but not least, I will close with a huge concern for us. Many of you have been following our vehicle saga. Our ministry vehicle was in the shop for 4 months due to transmission issues. We have it back now but it is not 100%. There are still computer codes errors showing. As one person put it, Linda and I have experienced “longsuffering” through this months-long ordeal. We pray for completion with this. The major concern for us on-top of this is our ministry vehicle funding. We are at just over 50% of raising support to purchase this. We have $6000 left to repay an account (for other international workers to get their vehicle). If you feel led to assist us with this, we would be grateful. Direct your giving to the Doell Vehicle Fund, through any Alliance church or through the C&MA office in Toronto. Until next time…..bendiciones.

“Mini” Cultural Adjustments

It’s been just over 3 weeks since we arrived back in Costa Rica. It felt like we went through a series of “mini” cultural adjustments as we were back in Canada for 3 months and then again when returning back to the spanish culture that we want to integrate as fully as we can in to. I lost some vocab but as we speak it daily, it is coming back slowly.

Our time back has been full of fun and excitement as we welcomed in a new member to our family. Maxima or Max is a Great Dane pup that we are getting to know. She is about 6 months old and like all Great Danes, seems to grow every day. She is about 50 lbs and should be double that when full-grown. She loves to cuddle and she tries to take up the whole couch when she relaxes with Linda.

As we look back on our 3 months in Canada, we think of all the blessings we received through the building of new friendships and strengthening of old ones. We didn’t plan on being part of the Alliance response to the Slave Lake (SP video reportwildfires but it was a highlight as we met amazing people and say God’s hand at work amongst the strife and heartache. We touch based with 12 churches and we walked away encouraged by what we saw God doing with His people. I was invited to observe the Canadian Food Grain Bank (CFGB) board meetings as an Alliance attendee. I am excited as I envision the food programming needs we can look towards within our community development focus. I will be joining a CFGB group as we tour food programs in Honduras this fall. As I write, I’m distracted as I think about all that we saw and did and the people we met. It was a rich time for us.

Our kids and our extended family were a highlight too. For the summer, Jordan and Briana are working out at Lake of the Trees Camp in BC. We were able to spend a day with them and see why they thrive out there as they invest in the lives of others. Pray for this fall as they look for guidance in their decision making. Jordan is returning to Ambrose for his 3rd year. Briana has very recently shifted directions and will be pursuing her EMT/Medic qualifications.

I mentioned earlier about “mini’ culture shocks. We are experiencing one right now. As many of you know, while we were in Canada, other Alliance personnel had borrowed our vehicle and the transmission gave out on them. Well, after approx. 2 months, it is still in the shop. My plan this week is to sit at the shop every day until it’s done and done well. (Another one) As I write, I’m munching on a cookie that some ants had got to. You can’t waste a good chocolate chip oatmeal cookie so you throw them in the freezer, kill the ants and voila, just brush the dead ants off. In the last weeks, our time has been filled with more ministry development as I am starting to put together the package for our disaster response teams as well as doing some translation work for a community development program. Linda is exploring how we can initiate an intentional daily prayer program that will provide the basis for a sharing of our prayer needs with you and you sharing your prayer needs with us. Before I forget, Linda and I need to return to Canada (Calgary) for a few days in August to meet with Alliance medical personnel as part of our insurance fulfillment responsibilities. Maybe we might run into each other.

Linda and I are very excited to be back though there are always little apprehensions that occur as you ask yourself if God has the right person here for the job. Pray for us for these little spiritual battles. Pray for other international workers as these spiritual battles are very real for them too. We pray for the churches we met with and the needs that were shared. Pray for our continued stepping forward in faith as the Spirit leads. We have not had a financial update lately but also pray for the financial needs of our vehicle, and the general giving to the GAF fund that supports the work of C&MA international workers world-wide.

Keep updated with our Tweet address  @SunJustice

Slave Lake Incineration and More!

Who would have thought that Linda and I would be asked to go to Slave Lake for the C&MA relief effort? God knew! Linda and I had the privilege of spending 10 days in total in 2 different time frames coming along side the Slave Lake Alliance church. We arrived 3 days before the town people were allowed in. Having never have been there before, we were not quite sure where along highway 2 it was located. But as we drove over the red  fire retardant coating the highways and trees dropped from water bombers and smelled that old smoky smell that all firefighters know, we knew were getting close. The devastation as we entered the town left us speechless. That sensation did not leave us while we were there as we listened over and over to the individual stories of the people affected. To hear a story, all we had to do in passing was ask how the person was doing. Without fail, we stood there 20-30 minutes as we heard their story of escape, their feelings of desperation and their sense of hopelessness as they saw their homes and town burning around them.

The local Alliance church building was spared so as we partnered with the Disaster Response unit of Samaritan’s purse, this became our base of operations. This included twice daily briefings by the provincial emergency operations crew that included police, fire and town officials as well as some NGO representation. Approx. 30-50 people in a room making decisions on how best to save the town and how to bring life back to normal so that the people could return.

But as we worked with the community members in our response, we quickly realized that it will be many months, maybe even years before “normal” would be the norm. Once the people returned (those with undamaged houses), they began the hard work of cleaning up, removing fridges/freezers that had spoiled and rotted food from 2 weeks without electricity. The grieving process started as they saw the state of their homes and of their town. People feeling guilt and anger as their home stood undamaged in the middle of all the destruction while others felt guilt and anger as they looked and stood in the cinders of their home at the undamaged houses around them.

The Alliance church had been praying for an opening into the community. Pastor Ottenbreit said afterwards, that the door could not get wider than this. Seven homes within the Alliance congregation were destroyed. Everyone in the church, everyone in the town had difficulties with internalizing what had happened and how to respond as individuals and as a community. Coping skills are saturated and worn out. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team responded. These are chaplains trained in trauma counseling and critical incidence debriefing. Seventeen volunteers from Alliance churches across Alberta volunteered their time and emotional energy to come and serve the people of Slave Lake for 2-4 days. They received basic chaplain training and we sent them out to the hurting people. The stories we heard! But the exhilaration people felt as they saw God at work using them as the “hands and feet of Jesus” was indescribable. These volunteers went out to where the people were – in the coffee shops, in the campgrounds, in the donation sorting facility…wherever. The town has a long way to go. I ask that you continue to pray for the people of Slave Lake. Also pray for the Alliance church as they have made significant inroads in the community and town leadership for Christ.

 We did not know that this was going to be part of our 3 months in Canada. But we are thankful that we got to be part of it for many reasons. The relationships we formed will be life-lasting. The God-experiences we were part of were incredibly faith-building. We have less than three weeks to go before we head back to Costa Rica. We said goodbye to Jordan and Briana this weekend as they headed off to be camp counselors for the summer. We are hoping to see them once or twice more before we go. I fly off to Winnipeg to be an observer to the Canadian Food Grains Bank board meetings this week. This will give Linda to rest and catch her breath after a whirlwind few weeks of speaking in churches, back and forth from Slave Lake.  I have also been able to fit in some cardiologist appointments. It’s amazing how God can orchestrate our schedules.

We have 3 more churches to have meetings with or give presentations at. I don’t think we have a day free until we go due to family times and “things to do”. We have been richly blessed by the new relationships we have formed and by others that have been strengthened.

We ask you to uphold us in prayer for a few things
– safety in traveling
– closure as we leave Canada for another 2 years
– for the raising of $6000 for our ministry vehicle
– for continued learning of Spanish as we reintegrate back in to Spanish culture

– as we move forward in ministry initiatives focusing on transformational community development
– continues giving to the Global Advance Fund which funds International Workers

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.

Moving Right Along

Life continues to move right along here in Costa Rica. The whole country was recently deluged with hopefully the last heavy rain of the season. Parts of the country received over 40 inches creating deadly mudslides, floods and taking out bridges and roads. Our house was in danger for a short time of being undercut by a river but thankfully the rains stopped and the banks have been reinforced. This was all due to the widespread affects of Hurricane Tomas. It was also touch and go with having to pull a quick response together for Haiti as a result of the Hurricane. I recently was in North Carolina (Wow, the Smoky Mountains in the fall!!!) for a conference for engineers that I was invited to attend. God really impacted me with the importance of just not having water access for victims of disasters but having clean water, free from the issues of cholera and other similar health problems. Pray for me as we look to options in this area.

As part of our compassion ministry will involve the education of how to make the local church the hero when a disaster hits their community, Linda and I are attending a course at the end of November. The course is sponsored by CHE (Community Health Evangelism). The ideas learned here will form the nucleus of the education component of our disaster reduction ministry. Pray that God will go before us as we open up our hearts and minds to new ways of doing ministry.

Linda and I are really excited for Christmas. Air tickets are too expensive to fly back to Alberta so we have managed to have some of the family meet us at my sister’s in Kansas for 2 weeks. On that trip we will get to see some friends (best man at our wedding) that we have not seen in 10+ years. Plans are also being made for April, May and June of next year. We plan to be in the Calgary area for a home assignment time of  meeting with churches, friends and family. Which leads to a huge prayer request. The second half of our ministry is having people from Canada help with disaster respond by actually responding. The database surrounding the gather of information is quite daunting. Pray for development and implementation of this endeavor. I envision this growing into a database that C&MA can use all over the world, not just in Latin America. Part of our time in Canada will be building into the database with people who want to help others in a time of disaster.

God has been great. I am including some prayer requests and praise for answered prayer that I recently sent to churches.

Prayer
1. CMA Canada (specifically Jim Foster) has given each overseas worker the book called Power Praying by David Chotka. Pray for Linda and I and our accountability partners as we interact through this book that our prayer lives may be more real and intimate with our Father.
2. Pray for Linda as she has been diagnosed with exhaustion after our year of language school. Pray that she will find the rest she requires and a strengthened desire to continue her language learning.
3. We are in process of buying a ministry vehicle. The Caribbean Sun field has loaned us the money required to make this possible. Pray for our provision for financial support with this vehicle and our ministry, and for prayer support as we continue to search after God’s heart in our compassion ministry development. We have until June/July to reimburse this. It’s very simple to give and you receive tax help with the charitable donation.
4. Linda and I are in the Arizona for a week of training at the end of November. This training is the cornerstone of our disaster response ministry. We will be learning how to use the local church as a light within their local community when a disaster or crisis affects the people. We will then transpose this training to churches throughout Latin America.

Praise
1. I attended an engineer’s conference (eMi) in North Carolina 2 weeks ago for further training in disaster reduction. Not only did I connect with some great people,  our compassion ministry response capacity grew!
2. We just received a sizable financial donation promise  that will enable further training of ourselves, of Latino coordinators we want to build into and covering some of the travel. That is a great God story as I was directly praying for that only days before.
3. Only God could have orchestrated leading us to the right ministry car.  It turns out the seller is a strong believer and God was working through circumstances on her side in order to sell it to us. Pray that all of the financial and legal details will be worked out next week as we meet with the lawyer on Nov 19 to finalize the deal.