One Year Later…

Well, today marks one year since the devastating 7.8 earthquake that rocked Ecuador last April.  I find it very fitting that the anniversary falls on Easter/Resurrection Sunday, a day that celebrates the new life we have been offered in Jesus.  My friend, Aileen, wrote a short, but fitting Easter blog post, and I would encourage you to take a look.  But I would like to briefly update you on the earthquake recovery efforts in my area.

Demolition in the devastated Tarqui area following the earthquake

My shopping city of Manta has made an amazing comeback!  Many buildings have been repaired or torn down, although there are still others awaiting either.  Most impressive has been the efforts towards helping the many home and store owners/vendors of the destroyed Tarqui area.  For the most part, Tarqui still remains closed off and demolished.  I have been told eventually all of it will be torn down and turned into a large city park.  But the government has done a fabulous job of building a whole new area, even closer to the bus terminal, for the venders to relocate and sell their wares.  There are three large sections side by side, with two sections being rows and rows of garage style stalls.  The third section is larger stores made out of railroad car containers!  This area has some of the bigger chain stores here, including appliance stores, pharmacies and even a bank, as well as a food court area.  All of this opened within about six months after the earthquake.  There is also a new mall that was under construction prior to the earthquake, but afterwards they really stepped up the pace, with the goal of opening it in time for the anniversary.  They are falling a few days short, but I’ve heard it will be open this week – we are all very excited!

Edwin playing tour guide during Mike & Dana’s visit. We rode in the car he purchased with your GoFundMe contributions.

In addition, the people many of you personally helped are doing very well.  As I’ve mentioned several times before, my friend Edwin was able to get back on his feet quickly with the vehicle that was purchased with funds many of you donated.  As is true of many hard working Ecuadorians, he wears several entrepreneurial hats to make a good life for his family.  He now is in partnership with another friend of ours and has started a successful car rental business.  He also has been buying and selling silver jewelry, as well as doing private taxi and tour guiding when the opportunities come.

Edwin has also reported to me that his church has raised enough funds to begin work on a new building.  It is truly amazing that they could manage to do so in such a short time, considering all the personal devastation suffered by so many families in the earthquake.

The funds some of you donated helped erect this structure for Leonardo and Maria: foundation, columns and roof, all built to better earthquake standards. Part of it is now enclosed, with the hope that he can add more rooms later.

And finally, the couple from Edwin’s church, Leonardo and Maria, that some of you helped fund their rebuilding effort, are doing well.  It took quite a while from my initial appeal, to make it happen.  Funds came in slowly, and the work had to be done as we received the money and had volunteers to help.  A neighbor allowed them to build next to and use their existing wall, and we were able to make a good concrete foundation, support pillars and roof for them, as well as buy some bricks for the remaining three walls.  We fell short of the amount we needed to raise, but in the end God blessed Leonardo with a significant sized plumbing job, and he was able to contribute the remaining money to purchase what else was needed and finish putting up the walls.  That has only been completed in the past few months, and he will add water, electricity, more rooms, etc. as he is able.  But I’m happy to be able to show you these pictures that Edwin just recently took of an inaugural gathering Leonardo and Maria hosted in their new home:

The earthquake I went through was truly one of the most surreal events I’ve ever experienced and something I hope to never repeat in my lifetime.  However my damage was minimal and repaired within six months.  Many other people suffered loss of homes, livelihoods and even loved ones.  But I have been so impressed with the solidarity I’ve continued to see on every level, from individuals, to organizations and even the government, to help get Ecuador and its people back on their feet.  I am thankful, one year later on this Easter Sunday, to be able to look around so many places and see “beauty instead of ashes.” (Isaiah 61:3)

A Little Goes A Long Way

Leonardo working hard to tie the rebar supports for his new house

Leonardo working hard to tie the rebar supports for his new house

In my last post, I shared with you the story of Leonardo and Maria, and their basically homeless situation as a result of the earthquake this past April.  I am grateful for the response of those that have helped us raise $1,850 so far, towards giving them a basic, one room livable space.  We have purchased some materials, including rebar, cement and bricks, and Leonardo, along with the help of some friends, has gotten to work on the frame and foundation.  This house will be constructed with more support than the previous one they lived in, and will also only be one story high.  In the beginning, it will just be one room, but is being built in such a way that they can add on later if they are able.

 

At this point, we still need roughly $1,200 to purchase the rest of what is needed in order to give them a very basic finished product.  Would you please consider helping with this?  A little goes a long way here towards providing the materials needed to give this couple a decent roof over their heads.  Below is a link to send the funds to my PayPal account, or you can contact me directly if you prefer another giving method.

Give a Gift

Help Leonardo & Maria Rebuild

THANK YOU!!!

It’s Still Not Over

It has amazed me how fast my life has returned to “normal” following the earthquake we experienced this past April.  I thought it would be many months before I could go back to my weekly shopping outings in Manta, or would be safe to walk around the streets there as I was accustomed to doing.  But it has been incredible to watch the rapid progress that the government and people have made to not only recover, but improve things over what they were before.  Although many buildings (especially in the Tarqui shopping area) had to be demolished, many people have received help from the government to rebuild their homes and businesses.  Everywhere you look there is rapid progress being made to build new areas for people to work and live.

But as always happens in these types of situations, there are still some people who fall through the cracks.  Many of you helped me to help my friend Edwin and his family recover, by giving funds that enabled him to purchase another car when his was demolished in the earthquake.  He is now using that car to transport people and items again.  In addition, he has started a rental car business with the help of another of our friends, and even in its first few months, it is doing quite well.

But there are other people whose earthquake recovery is still not over.  They have not received any help and are left living in rubble.  Several weeks after the earthquake, I visited Edwin’s church in Manta and in my blog afterwards, made an appeal for churches in America to help the people with their recovery.  The response was slow and minimal and as I waited, some people received help from other sources.  Gratefully, my former church in Dallas recently offered some funds for assistance.  I’ve also had a few individuals who have donated.  So I spoke with Edwin and learned of one family who attends his church, that is still homeless.

Leonardo & Maria

Leonardo & Maria

Leonardo and Maria lived in a small room in the back of a house belonging to his grandmother, where his uncle also lived.  The earthquake destroyed the structure.  His grandmother was able to move in with other family members and his uncle relocated outside the city.  That has left Leonardo and Maria with nothing but a bare piece of land where the earthquake rubble has been cleared.  At present, they are living in the shed that was the workshop for his uncle, who repaired electronics.  They do not qualify for government help to rebuild the home, because the land is in his deceased grandfather’s name.  Leonard works as a plumber, which is not a high paying job in Ecuador.  Without assistance, he would likely remain in this situation indefinitely.  But I’m hoping for your help to change that!

At this point, we’ve raised $1,200.  The goal is to build at least a small, basic one room structure, measuring approximately 30 ft x 10 ft, with a sink.  At a minimum we need to raise $3,000, but if we raise more, we can do more for them.

Starfish storyWould you please be willing to help show compassion and love to this couple who has still not been able to piece their lives back together?  Ask your churches, share with your friends and help Edwin and me help another “starfish.”  I am not using a fundraising website, so that every bit of money donated can go to help this couple.  I will obtain receipts for all supplies purchased, and we have made arrangements for people to donate their labor skills to build the house.  So please click on the link below to send your donations to my PayPal account.  If you need another giving option or more information, please contact me directly.

Give a Gift

Help Leonardo & Maria Rebuild

THANK YOU!!!

Finally!

Sorry I haven’t been blogging lately, but I’ve had several things that have been occupying my time.  However, here are a few random updates.

After a long time coming, I finally installed a Wifi booster that enables me to get internet up on my deck!  This allows me to spend a lot more time up there, and even answer my bee calls through the Vonage extensions app on my iPhone (my cordless phone range won’t quite reach).  So here is my view while slaving away at the office:

Deck view

Second, I finally tackled getting my earthquake damage repaired, so I’ve had workers here over the past week replacing the glass blocks in my showers (the ones in my guest bath were also loose and had to be taken down and totally rebuilt), in addition to repairing some places that were damaged on my fence.  They were not able to find any place to purchase only the tank for my toilet, so I will still need to buy a whole new one. 😦  But I’m thankful to have these other repairs behind me.

And lastly, yesterday I finally picked up Nadine’s photo from the framer’s.  A big thanks to my good friend, Andrew, for helping me format it for print.  It was no small feat to get it printed and framed here, especially with an earthquake interrupting the process, but I’m thrilled with the finished result:

 

Here We Go Again

Some of you may have heard that we had two more significant earthquakes yesterday.  The first one woke me up just before 3:00 a.m. and I laid there for the longest time, waiting to see if it would get better or worse.  It reminded me of how the first earthquake started, and I felt like I was in limbo forever before it finally began to subside.  I was thankful when it was all over and I went to look for Charcoal, that she was right outside my room at the top of the stairs and not under the guest bed.  I noted the time so I could check the earthquake site the next morning and later learned that it was a 6.6 quake in the same general northern part of the coast as the original.  It lasted around 15 seconds (which is a long time when everything is shaking!)

Later in the morning, I went with my friend Sigrid to meet Edwin, his wife and father at the home of Galina & Robert (another couple that was involved in the fundraising campaign).  We had a wonderful time together, and Edwin once again expressed his profound gratitude that he would receive such help from so many people that didn’t even know him.  He said once he realized the damage to his car after the earthquake, he knew it meant a loss of his livelihood.  He had no idea what he would do, but he trusted God would provide for him and his family.  He gives God all the glory, but is abundantly grateful to those of you who gave.  He has been searching for a vehicle and Lord willing, hopes he has found the right one, but there are a few hurdles to jump over before the deal can be completed – I will keep you posted.

After our meeting, Edwin drove Galina, Sigrid and me through the severely damaged Tarqui area.  Sigrid wanted to see it and take some photos.  He took us all around – the devastation was so unbelievable!  It was then I learned that the reason this area suffered so much damage is that it was built on a landfill.  Afterwards, Edwin wanted to go to the shelter area to hand out money that Robert had given him.  Edwin said normally he just goes through Tarqui and subtly talks to people and asks their stories and then gives them the money.  But he wanted to go where the shelters had been set up.  We are talking about crude stalls made out of wood and bamboo, covered in plastic.  Galina had about 30 pairs of Dollar Store reading glasses she’d brought back from the states and Sigrid had a few clothes people had sent back with her and asked her to donate.

Edwin warned us that we were going to be swarmed as soon as the people saw us and sure enough, when we pulled in and slowed the car down, over the people came.  Edwin turned off the car and everyone else got out, but then I realized my window was down and we could not go off and leave the car that way, so I called out to Sigrid to come put my window up before I got out.  She got the keys from Edwin and while she was trying to start the car again, made the comment that she didn’t want to open the back hatch because all the people were crowded back there, but she needed to get the clothes out.  I told her I could reach over the back to get them.  Edwin and Galina were behind the truck handing out money and glasses with people all around them.  Suddenly the car started rocking back and forth and I thought the people were mobbing it because Edwin & Galina had just told them they were out of money and glasses.  But then I looked out the back window and saw that people didn’t really have their hands on the car.  They were standing there somewhat frozen, looking frightened and confused and suddenly I realized we were having another earthquake!  Just about that time Sigrid (who later told me she thought I was doing something to rock the car) said, “I think we are having another earthquake,” and I said, “We are!”  Then Edwin started shouting for Sigrid to move the car because we were next to some tall buildings.  Once she finally got it started and was moving it, the earthquake had subsided.  But seeing the faces of those poor people who were there because they’d already lost their homes in the last earthquake was so hard.  They were so afraid and it was so sad – they continue to be so traumatized.

Afterwards, we ran a few more errands for Sigrid and then tried to go pick up the picture I’d left to have printed the week before the earthquake.  But we started noticing everything was closed and a lot of people were standing outside.  We finally realized the power was out and people were still shaken from the quake (I later learned they let the schools out too).  We found out a short time later that this one was a 6.8, again not far from the one earlier in the morning.  Shortly after it happened, people in Puerto Cayo began messaging me and asking if I was home and OK.  They stated it felt very strong to them here as well.

Below are a few photos of what we experienced yesterday.   I didn’t caption any of them – what could I say?  If a picture is worth a thousand words, I hope these speak volumes to you (I credit my friend Sigrid for some of them as well).

Thank You For Your Support

Thank you so much to those of you who gave towards the purchase of a car, to help my friend Edwin get back on his feet following the earthquake.  He is in the process of looking for a good, reliable vehicle that will enable him to continue his taxi business.  I will keep you posted on the progress of his story.

But this past Sunday, I asked Edwin if I might visit his church in Manta, and he heartily agreed.  The previous week, I had messaged him and asked if he knew of any families that would be able to temporarily take in some displaced orphans from an orphanage that was destroyed up north in Bahia.  He responded that he would ask around and see, but then said, “The church I go to, the people are very limited in resources and many of them are in shelters.  It is getting rough.  People are running out of their savings and desperation is knocking on their door.  I hope they understand God never leaves us in difficult moments.”  That morning, as I thought about the orphans and the people at Edwin’s church, I started feeling overwhelmed.  I cried out to God, begging for Him to provide help for both of these situations.  Shortly after, I emailed a close friend back home who regularly prays for me and told her what Edwin said and asked her to pray for his church.  She then responded, “I know a church that might want to help.”  We discussed it further and she is now looking into it.

Edwin's church is currently worshipping in their parking lot because of the earthquake damage to their building.

Edwin’s church is currently worshipping in their parking lot because of the earthquake damage to their building.

But in the meantime, I wanted to visit Edwin’s church to get a better feel for the needs.  He had told me their building was damaged and they were worshipping in the parking lot.  My friend Kelley (the one who Edwin helped buy a car just before the earthquake) agreed to go with me and drove.  We arrived just as they were getting settled and starting.  Over the next two hours, as I listened to the men who read scriptures, prayed prayers, led songs and gave lessons, I was humbled and moved to tears.  Over and over, each person who got up exhorted the people to remember that no matter what, God would not abandon them.  The Bible lesson started with Romans 8:28-29 (two of my favorite verses): “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  The pastor himself kept reminding them that, “Crisis brings opportunity.”  The pastor specifically mentioned individual people in the congregation with different professions and skills and encouraged that they should all come together to help each other with whatever needs they might have amongst themselves.  They were giving thanks that nobody had lost any family members.  They were encouraged to remember that no matter what happens in this life, nothing can separate them from God’s love.   I wish I could do a better job of recounting for you all that I was able to understand that was being said, but it was so moving.  Here were people who were already poor by most of our standards, made poorer by this recent tragedy, and they were singing, praying and praising God with the confidence that He would see them through this.

Afterwards, we all went to visit my friends Jim & Jane where they are now staying at the Donkey Den (the first opportunity I’ve had to see them since the earthquake).  We all had lunch together, and I was able to ask Edwin a little more about his church.  He told me he and his family had come to faith in Jesus there nine years ago and that he was a completely different person now from who he was before.  I asked if the building would be able to be repaired and he stated that the structural damage would require the walls to be taken down and for it to totally be rebuilt.  When I asked how they would have the funds to do this, he said, “We would normally raise them amongst ourselves over time, but there are other needs now.  We will still do it, but it will just take more time.  But God will see us through.”

Edwin's family and my friends - L to R: me, his daughter Shantal, Jane, his daughter Wendy, Kelley, his daughter Anai, his wife Mercy, Jim & Edwin.

Edwin’s precious family, along with me & my friends – L to R: me, his daughter Shantal, Jane, his daughter Wendy, Kelley, his daughter Anahi, his wife Mercy, Jim & Edwin.

I then told Edwin that I would like to try to help, but that I can only do what God enables me to do – to which he responded, “Amen!”  I shared with him my plan and vision, and now I’d like to share it with you.

Most of you that are friends and family of mine back in the states are connected with a church in some way.  I’m asking if you would be willing to pass along the story of Iglesia Bautista del Palmer in Manta, Ecuador, and see if your church would be willing to help.  Edwin will help me by finding out which families are most in need.  As I’ve stated before, many people not only lost their homes, but their businesses in one fell swoop.  But a little goes a long way here in helping people to rebuild and become productive again.  I will find out the specific needs of individual families and if your church, Sunday school class, small group, etc. would be willing to sponsor a family to get back on their feet, I am happy to work with them to let them know specifically how they can help.  In addition, if a church would like to be involved in helping rebuild the building, that is very important too.

The needs are great here and I am only one person with limited resources.  But what I do have is connections to other members of the body of Christ, who I can be a link to, and together our God can help us do “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Please share this post with people in your church, link this appeal on your Facebook sites and pass it along to your friends to share with their churches.  This is an opportunity for churches to help their brothers and sisters with earthquake relief efforts in a direct and personal way, and I promise to be very specific about the individual needs and how they can help.  Don’t worry about the answer in advance, just please, PLEASE simply ask.  And may God take our “mustard seed” efforts and multiply them greatly for His Kingdom and glory – THANK YOU!

Fundraising Update

Thank you so much to those of you who have given so generously to help my friend Edwin buy a vehicle that can put him back to work.  If you did not read my previous post, Edwin’s car, that I rode in just a few days prior to the earthquake, was his source of income and was totally destroyed.  Thanks to so many, we reached the fundraising goal we had set.  However, in all honesty, we set a bare minimum achievable goal.  Continuing to raise money will ensure we can fully fund a good, reliable replacement vehicle for Edwin.  In addition, anything raised beyond what is needed for that, will go towards helping some of Edwin’s clients get back on their feet with their businesses, so everyone can start being productive again.

You can trust that my friend Sigrid, who was formerly a non-profit fundraiser back in the U.S., has all the proper plans in place to make sure the money is used for exactly what it’s meant for.  So please, our campaign will remain open until next Wednesday, May 4.  If you haven’t given already, every little bit will go towards helping Edwin and others quickly get back to leading productive lives again.  Just click on the image below to go to our GoFundMe site to give, and please share it on your own social media sites as well – THANK YOU!

Help Edwin