And then came Kyle

First off, thanks for the prayers. Our daughter, Emily, is recovering nicely from a tonsillectomy. I guess the most painful part is ahead, so please keep praying. Thank you!

As promised, and long overdue, I’m blogging about a visitor. Yep, I’ve had a house guest.

On St Patrick’s Day he arrived, hungry and weary….

A shower and a ham and cheese sandwich brought a smile. 20160317_201358Kyle Hilding, a fellow Gustie and a dear friend’s nephew, teaches English at a Quito university. He had a week to kill and wanted to see Cuenca. I was pining for company. It was perfect.

Outings happened, like a guided trek in Cajas National Park. It’s crazy, but not once did I feel like a bull fighter on the Toreadora Trail.

At 14,000 feet with a high level of difficulty and mud everywhere, I found myself, after landing on my backside more than once, quoting scripture, and singing songs that mention angels.

I almost quit, but then realized they’d have to airlift me out.

Kyle’s smile never faded as he skipped through the three hour ordeal.

Thick fog blocked beautiful views, I’m sure…


Museum visits, hot springs soaking, musical performances, and many moments around restaurant tables gave us time to hang out, get to know one another, and enjoy this great city.

I hope Kyle visits again and soon. Being with him reminds me that God’s busy blessing the world through some very special young people.

More pics of his week with me.

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Videos of some of the great music we enjoyed
Cuenca Orchestra
Playing Rossini:
Playing Sibelius (violinist: Aisha Syed Castro)
Jazz Society Cafe
Cuenca University Orchestra (flautist: Jamil Erazo)


Me and Andre

What’s new and different here in Cuenca?

I’m a giant.

At 5’5″ I’m about 5 inches taller than most women and at least 2 inches taller than most men.

It is really weird to be tall and…I’ve become pretty pudgy too, and most people here are tiny, in every way. There’s no easy clothes shopping options for me.

I feel like Andre the Giant.



Eggs (huevos) are sold on shelves next to cooking oil, none are in the refrigerated aisle.
Butter (mantiquilla) is hard to find. Margarina rules in Cuenca, it’s on store shelves AND in the dairy aisle. I about kissed the vendor on my block when I realized he sold butter!

Cars (autos) are parked like this, per the bomberos (not homeland security, but the firemen). Easier to exit when there’s a fire, perhaps?20160211_113812

They sell tiaras in jewelry shops. Girls, you know you want one, you deserve one. C’mon on down, the selection is fabulous!

Toilet paper goes in the trash, not the toilet. No flushy, no matter whaty. (no pic for this one. You’ll have to use your imagination)

Super loud car alarms that make you stand at attention and have you looking for the militia. Everybody has one…

Dogs (perros) rule and are everywhere, big, small, strays and pets. They’re allowed to bark til they physically cannot, which is never.

The only cats (gatos) I’ve seen have been rooftop prowlers. Poor babies…

So, some of you are still here and a subset of you are wondering…

But WHAT are you doing?

Here’s some of the highlights:

  • contract working for The Dwelling Place (that new website launch is getting closer)
  • volunteering for Door of Hope (a sister ministry to The Dwelling Place that has an international reach)
  • getting myself out there: updating and relaunching my freelance copy writing website: Word by Word. I already have one promising lead! :D Thanks to all you amazing friends who liked my Word by Word Facebook page! YOU ARE THE BEST!
  • Church shopping:
    • The Gathering, their worship leader doubles as the lead for Rubber Biscuit, which expats recently voted the best band in Cuenca. Rubber Biscuit may find me on their dance floor soon.
    • International Christian Community, voted best place of worship by expats, this may be where God wants me to land. I’m praying about it. (PS met a St Olaf grad in the midst of this small congregation–there couldn’t have been more than 70 of us).
  • Museum visits:
    • Museo del Monastario de las Conceptas which is also an active convent. They were piping in Taize music when I was there. I stayed until they shut off the lights and locked exhibit doors behind me. I will be back, this may become one of my regular haunts.
    • five museum bus tour last Saturday, that has to become its own post soon. What a day!
  • Signed up for Coffee Club Spanish classes that start in March and go for 6 weeks. I desperately need these lessons!
  • For too common and distracting migraines (missing you Diane!): weekly two hour massage by this wonder worker, Maria Eugenia Cobos. $40. She speaks no English and I no Spanish, but we communicate anyway. Her brother lives in Minneapolis!
  • Joined a writers support group, Writing our World. We’re all expats and all speak English. Whew.
  • Praying, for many of you.
  • Reading, mostly about how to live here.
  • Lots of walking around the city, there’s a vibe here that puts a skip in your step and, besides, the weather is almost always FANTASTIC!

AND, the BIG NEWS is (are you still reading?) is that my degree from Gustavus Adolphus College was accepted, and this Friday I am going with my lawyer to Azogues (neighboring town) to apply for my professional residency visa.

Gusties, go ahead and sing that rouser,we’re legit in Ecuador!

Gusties will shine tonight, Gusties will shine, Gusties will shine tonight, Gusties will shine…

Another couple of days trying to find my way…


  • enjoyed the hostel’s complimentary breakfast of yogurt and muesli, just like every day. Only this day a traveler, Herman from Austria, came and joined me. Herman is quick to share with all that he is “handsome and strong.” :)


  • met my lawyer who is processing my professional residency visa. I signed a letter giving her permission to represent me to the authorities, in the hopes they’ll acknowledge Gustavus Adolphus College as an institution of higher education worthy of this type of visa. They recognize diplomas from government run universities and state schools, but not private schools…not without some convincing. Will see… GAC readers, please say a prayer…
  • looked at a few apartments in the afternoon with Isabel, my facilitator. One seemed promising, yet it wasn’t furnished and would have required furniture to be hoisted to the third floor through a common floor-to-rooftop area. Well, that and a few other things. I found the landlord trustworthy and helpful, as he seemed to go above and beyond to try and accommodate me. He founded and runs Colegio a distancia Promoción Social. To me, it looks like a vocational technical school. The school is located across the street from the apartment building. I fell in love with the neighborhood. From one of the apartment’s rooms and the rooftop terrace I would have had the view of San Roque’s church bells. Yeah, I’m a complete sucker for churches…


  • delighted in a delicious mochaccino at the Magnolia Caffe between showings. ($2.75)


  • Skyped with my husband, Rich, for 90 minutes. Rich is in the States (Minnesota) selling our house and downsizing. It was wonderful to catch up and see his face and hear his voice again.
  • Downloaded to my Kindle, Blessings for the Evening, by Susie Larson. I tried packing the hard copy version but it made my luggage too heavy. Books are like that…so I read my first evening devotional in Cuenca. Romans 8:28-29 was the Scripture reference. I cried and prayed… And then I fell asleep with a smile, remembering God is perpetually wrapping me in His love.


  • a tip came to me from a local about an unlisted apartment available. That’s all I can say about that, peeps.
  • Isabel and I went and looked at it and decided it would be a good place for me to land, at least for awhile. I’m renting month-to-month a third story two-bedroom, fully furnished apartment in El Centro (the center part of the city, within walking distance of all the good stuff). It is lovely and has stunning views from many of the rooms. The only downside we spotted is the leaky roof in the master bedroom and in the living room, which they promise to fix. Oh, and it needs a healthy scouring, which they promise too. It includes all utilities, even excellent wifi (which I require for my freelance work).  $440 a month. I move in Sunday. Look for pics next week.
  • ate a mid-afternoon lunch/dinner at La Cuchara Magica. I had the Seco de Pollo, a traditional Ecuadorian dish. That and a cappuccino and a bottled water. $10.98.


  • walked around a bit, got lost again, but this time it didn’t scare me. Then I stumbled on THIS!

Many of you know domestic abuse is the work God has called me to. I’ve spent years praying for survivors and for God’s people to get involved, and nearly four years working for a Christian domestic abuse transitional housing program, The Dwelling Place. I didn’t walk through that blue door, but I did note the location. It sure felt like a God moment.

Of course, there is so much more to tell. The people, the altitude, the sights and smells, the weather. Stay tuned…

Tomorrow will be one week since I left Minnesota. God is good, and He is with me and, through Him, all things are possible.

More photos

Christ Chapel Wedding, Tornado and Cross


Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and, with Rich unemployed, we had time to spend together.  So, we headed south to our Alma mater, to not only the place we went to college, the place we met, but to the place we were married.  As we walked the campus of Gustavus, we marveled at the renovations and waxed nostalgic at the old standbys. Our final stop was the chapel of our wedding.  It is a beautiful chapel, a highly sought spot for weddings:

Gustavus Chapel

Besides a workman hoisted high, we had the place to ourselves.  We walked up the aisle, stood at the altar and reminisced a bit about that blessed day 23 years ago (1986). It was hot and sunny (no air conditioning in Christ Chapel back then), in the 90’s (Fahrenheit).  Although attendees were a wee bit wilty, the ceremony was undeniably beautiful.  Breathtaking music sung by people we loved, flute and organ masterfully played by friends.  Bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, parents, family, friends–all came to witness our beginning and support our union.  (If you were there, THANK YOU for coming!) We kept it simple: Scripture readings, unity candle lit, hymns sung, message given, vows said, first kiss.  I cried, Rich was terrified–just as you might expect. :)

Upon entering the chapel yesterday we witnessed a new addition.  Just inside the sanctuary hangs a bent cross over the baptismal font (see pic below).  In 1998, during spring break, a tornado whipped through the campus.  Containing winds in excess of 200 miles an hour the tornado took out 80% of the campus windows, took down over 2,000 trees and damaged 50 buildings, including the chapel.  The chapel’s windows were blown out and its spire went down:

Chapel spire post tornado

No one on campus died and, even with blown out windows, roof damage and water seepage, the chapel’s eternal flame remained lit.  God was still present, God was still God. 

The cross at the top of the spire was found across campus.  It was bent, beautifully so and now hangs inside the chapel for all to see: 

Gustavus Chapel Cross

Is it a testament to how storms can destroy?  Yes, I can see how some would think that…I think, though, that it better serves as a witness to the fact that even when wrenched by storms we can still be beautiful, that in Christ brokenness can bend us into compassionate beings who, like the posture of the cross above, reach toward others.  That by suffering in Christ we become, like Christ, overcomers, we become wounded healers.  Like the steeple cross and Jesus on the day of His crucifixion, storms can take us down, whip us around and do real damage, yet the story doesn’t end there for, in Christ, we rise again in wholeness and beauty.  Christ brings hope, brings restoration.  He provides the strength, power, wisdom, faith and healing to rise again…to rise again and raise the Cross, raise the Cross of Christ.