Update: A Memorial Service Upcoming

This is just a short announcement blog regarding the blog written early about the missionary family who was called “home” a few weeks ago. 

Alliance Academy International of Quito, Ecuador  is planning to hold a memorial service for the Ladines family on Monday, March 8, at 3:45 p.m. in the school chapel.  All members of the community are invited and encouraged to attend.  (If parents of elementary-age children would like for your child to attend, but you are unable to be present, please communicate your wishes to the elementary office.)

Sincerely, Cristina Meier

Mid-Feb News

Date: February 16, 2010
Location: Quito, Ecuador

February 14 – The Meier Family Poses for a Valentine’s Day Picture.

Greetings to family and friends!  I (Cristina) am doing my best to try to get another update written now that it has been nearly 1 and ½ months since the last one.  Since January, we have sailed through the end of the first semester of school and straight into the second semester without taking hardly a breath in between.  Our school calendar change made it impossible to take a break between the two semesters.  Therefore, students finished their semester exams on Friday, January 29th and returned to school the following Monday to begin the second semester on the first of February.

The second semester began with a packed schedule.  The winter sports season culminated into final tournaments for both the girls’ soccer teams and the boys’ basketball teams.  The second week of the semester ushered in our spring spiritual emphasis week.  A team of seven from the U.S. came to speak during the week of special chapels.

Currently, preparations are being made that will go into a yearly event to celebrate and honor the flag of Ecuador called “Juramento a la Bandera.”  This event will take place on Friday, February 19.  I was unable to participate in the event last year, because I was on maternity leave with little Luke, so I am looking forward to being involved this year.

This is also the time of year in which students involved in Christian Service Outreach groups plan for a special 3-4 day trip to minister to groups of people outside of the city of Quito. Two teams left Friday afternoon and several others left this past weekend.  Ecuador is now celebrating “Carnaval” vacation for Monday and Tuesday (February 15-16), and our students have until Tuesday afternoon to return and get ready to come back class on Wednesday morning.

Please visit the links on this blog to find out about the following:

*Our February Prayer Requests (Home Page)
*A Missionary Family Goes “Home” (Ministry)
*An Emergency Graduation (TCK Views)
*Electricity Woes and Updates (TCK Views)
*Baby and Big Boy Updates (Family News)
*A “Published” Principal (Ministry)
*The Struggling A.B.D. (Family News)
*Support and Financial Update (Family News)

February Prayer Requests

“God is good all the time.” 

That is an easy quote to throw around.  However the words sometimes get choked in the middle of our throats when we are faced with deep sadness and pain. These days, tragedy seems to be spelled “H-A-I-T-I,” and it is hard to compare other hardships and sadness with the amount of devastation facing the people who live in and around Port-au-Prince. However, we ask that you keep the following prayer requests in mind.

1) Those working in Haiti to help the victims of the recent earthquake. We begin our list of prayer requests with a small international school in Port au Prince, Haiti, called Quisqueya Christian School (http://quisqueya.org/). Their story hits close to home as our school’s director has been communicating with the director at their school.  Fortunately, all the teachers survived the earthquake and their school experienced less damage than other locations.  However, many families and students have lost loved ones.  Their school has become a temporary home for many displaced staff members and has also become one of the major centers from which international relief efforts are currently being made. 

Here is an excerpt from their website, posted in early February. 

“Here at the Quisqueya earthquake relief center, more doctors are arriving daily to assist with medical needs. We have welcomed new teams from Long Island, Mercyworks (Seattle), Christian Medical Network, Colorado Springs,  One Heart Ministries (Kansas), University of Maryland, Catholic Relief Services, Aimer Haiti, Delta International (Oregon), Jesus in Haiti (Indiana), and Comprehensive Disaster Response Services. The 175 – 200 medical relief workers staying on our campus include firefighters, chaplains, paramedics, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and midwives.”

The school provides a link where people can donate directly to these efforts at their website: http://quisqueya.org/

 2) A Fifth Grade student who recently lost her entire immediate family in a tragic car accident.  Just this past weekend, a family of four was traveling out of Quito to begin their vacation when they were involved in a car accident.  Both parents and one of the children died.  However, the older child, a 10 year old girl, survived the accident without any major injury.  The girl is currently staying with extended family (as her parents were Ecuadorian) as plans are being made for the funerals of her family members.  You can read more about this story in “A Missionary Family goes ‘home’.”

3) A Korean 12th grade student was forced to graduate early only to get an extended visa a couple days later. Please pray for her as she decides whether to follow through with her family’s decision to leave the country and return to South Korea.  She has officially graduated from high school, but has recently been given an extended visa to stay in Ecuador through the end of the school year.  More about this story can be found in “An Emergency Graduation.”

4) Praise reports concerning our new nephews. For those of you who have been following the progress of little Joshua Alexander Cobb (son of Philip and Chrissy Cobb), he is slowly but surely progressing toward his release date from the hospital.  He is currently over 5 lbs and transitioning from the “preemie” stage to the “new born” stage.  His due date would have been March 6 if he had stayed in “the oven.”  (RECENT UPDATE: Hold everything, folks! I just heard that they were able to take little Josh home today (February 16). To find out how to pray for them best as they continue to care for their son’s needs at home, check out their web blog at: http://joshuacobb.blogspot.com/

We are also excited to report that Cristina’s sister, Anita, and her husband, Nick, gave birth to their first son, Noah William Gamblin on February 2.  He was nearly a week past his due date and put his mother through approximately 22 hours of labor.  However, he was born without any complications at nearly 8 and ½ lbs and is currently blessing his parents’ lives with his presence.  Look for Anita Gamblin on Facebook if you’re interested in seeing pictures of their precious bundle.

A Missionary Family goes “Home”

February 25 Update –

The Alliance Academy International of Quito, Ecaudor is planning to hold a memorial service for the Ladines family on Monday, March 8, at 3:45 p.m. in the school chapel.  All members of the community are invited and encouraged to attend.  (If parents of elementary-age children would like for your child to attend, but you are unable to be present, please communicate your wishes to the elementaryoffice.)

We are very grateful to those who have made donations to the fund being collected to assist the Porras and Ladines families with expenses related to the tragedy they have experienced.  We will continue to collect donations through the receptionist office at least until the day of the memorial service.

I first became acquainted with Ana and her family when she stood up in our first faculty / staff chapel at the end of the summer of 2008.  She had an interesting story to tell.  She is Ecuadorian and so is her husband, Emilio, and two children.  However, they had been missionaries in Kazakhstan for several years, and had come back to Ecuador to raise more support so that they can return to Central Asia where God has set their hearts.  Ana was excited that she has been accepted as a permanent substitute teacher and that her children were given scholarships to attend the school. Last year, their son, Asaf, was in first grade and their daughter, Alejandra, was in fourth grade.  Ana expressed her desire to serve the Lord here while her family waited for his provision for them to return to Central Asia to continue their ministry there. 

The 2008-2009 school year ended without the door opening for them to leave Ecuador.  However, it was during the first semester of this school year that their mission board (Christian and Missionary Alliance) gave them clearance to return at the end of this school year.  They began the process of obtaining visas to leave Ecuador for this coming summer.  At the end of the first semester, they withdrew their children from AAI and moved the family to Guayaquil to spend some time with their extended family before leaving the country.

But God had different plans.  On February 12, 2010, God called three of them home. 

It was a busy night for traffic. It was the beginning of the “Carnaval” vacation.  Most businesses close over the weekend and into Monday and Tuesday of the following week to give employees four days of vacation.   Many residents of Quito leave the city to spend their extended families outside of the city or simply to visit “the beach” somewhere along the coast of Ecuador.  Several beaches have become popular tourist attractions. 

On top of the busy road conditions, it was also a rainy evening with a decreased visibility in driving conditions.  Reports would confirm that Emilio was driving down a narrow, two lane mountain road when the accident occurred.  His father in law was in the passenger seat beside him.  His wife, Ana, was sitting behind the driver’s seat with her sleeping son in her lap (seat belt regulations are not the same in Ecuador as they are in the U.S.).  Their daughter Alejandra was sitting next to her mother. A truck going the other direction was trying to pass another car, but didn’t quite make it back into his lane.  He ended up losing control and slamming into the their car on the driver’s side.  Everyone sitting in the left side of the car were fatally injured in the accident. 

I am not sure exactly where the family was headed.  These details have not been made clear yet.  However, God knew exactly where they were going when this car accident took the lives of Ana, Emilio and little Asaf.  As he holds these three in the palm of his hand, we know that angels must have been protecting the lives of the other passengers of the car. The amazing fact that they survived the crash has not quite been explained as of yet.  All we know right now is that Alejandra did not require a hospital stay and that she is with her grandparents and extended family in Guayaquil. 

Please pray for Alejandra and her extended family, in their grief, that they will find peace in knowing that Ana, Emilio and Asaf are heaven.  Just a few days ago, this little girl was expecting to move to Central Asia with her family this year. Now, she will live in the home of her extended family in Guayaquil.  Pray that she will find God’s presence in her new “home” here on earth even as she struggles to comprehend why God took her family “home” to be with Him.

An Emergency Graduation

About mid-December of last year, one of our senior students at Alliance Academy International (AAI) was stopped by local police in Quito.  It is uncertain why they decided to pick on this particular Korean student on that day.  However, we know that they decided to take Kay Jang down to the police station.  That was when she was told the news that the visa that she and her parents were using had been invalid for several years.  We were told that they had originally obtained visas to live in Ecuador about five years ago. 

It is a mystery as to why it took the government this long to figure out that the visas had been processed incorrectly, unless you take into account the amount of corruption and legal loopholes present in this country. 

Kay and her parents were forced to leave the country “immediately.”  They left the country during Christmas vacation.  Her father returned to South Korea, but Kay and her mother were allowed to return to Ecuador under a temporary visa to take care of their home and all the belongings that they had been forced to leave so abruptly.  During that time, Kay was allowed to continue to attend the Alliance Academy International and finish her first semester of her senior year.  In the meanwhile, different people at AAI were working feverishly to get the visa situation worked out so that Kay would be able to finish her senior year and graduate with her class.

However, it became apparent that it would not be possible for her to stay in Ecuador past mid-February.  In light of that situation, Stephen and other administrators and the school worked out a way for Kay to graduate early with a general education diploma.  She would also be able to obtain her college prep diploma by completing two more classes through correspondence with her teachers and receive that diploma at the end of the school year. 

Kay gives her speech at her special graduation.

Kay and her mother purchased plane tickets back to South Korea for Tuesday, February 16, and the school scheduled a special graduation for her on Wednesday, February 10.  The afternoon classes were shortened to allow for a special graduation ceremony for all of high school (9th through 12th grade) to attend. 

Kay gave a special senior address that was a testimony to God’s grace in her life.  She expressed her struggle to understand why God would let this happen to her, but she wanted her fellow classmates to know that she saw God working through the situation and she knew was teaching her through the process.  There were many tears as she finished speaking and as each senior came to the front of the stage to hand her a rose and give her a hug.

Kay expressed her faith in God’s timing, realizing it was not her timing.  Then, God worked a miracle.  Two days after this special day of closure, Kay and her mother met with someone who had connections with immigration.  One small meeting was all it took for Kay and her mother to get special “student” visas that would allow Kay to stay in Ecuador until this coming summer. 

Now they are faced with a dilemma.  They have already purchased tickets to return to South Korea and Kay has officially graduated from AAI.  Do they really have a reason to stay any longer?  For Kay, it would be a bit awkward and embarrassing to return to school after so much has been done to help her graduate early. 

Kay has left the “stage” of her high school life, but now she can return to it and say “Wait, there is still one more act!”  It will be interesting to find out if she decides to do that or not.

Electricity Woes and Updates

Our adventures by candlelight first began in early November.  We were attending an evening coffee shop event when the light went out.  Those in charge grumbled that they didn’t know why our generator wasn’t kicking in.  Stephen and I picked up our two boys and groped our way through the dark to find our way out of the building and to go home.  By the time we had gotten in the house and lit a few candles, the lights were back on. 

About this time, I had been reading one of Quito’s newspapers (the on-line version) and read that the city’s hydroelectric plant was struggling to meet the electric needs of the country.  Apparently, our rainy season was not producing enough rain to keep the water levels up at to the adequate amount needed to run our power.  An article I found on their website stated that the “Paute” (Ecuador’s name for their hydroelectric plant) was currently working at 20% of its normal capacity.  This was only a few percentage points away from the critical level in which electricity would start breaking down across the country.  The article stated that the government was “considering” rationing electricity to keep from burning out this main source of electricity for Ecuador. 

That is when the fun began.  For the first couple weeks, we were getting our electricity cut off at random hours of the night.  Sometimes it was 3 to 6pm or 5-9pm.  Other nights it was 6-11pm.  Different sectors of the city were being cut off at different times.  Eventually, they began to give us a weekly schedule of the rations.  Our schedule rotated to become 1-4pm on weekdays with no rations on weekends.  In early January, it was switched to 9-11am. As the first semester came to an end, so did the “apagones” (power outages). 

We are grateful to have access to electricity all day.  It’s easy to take things like electricity and water supply for granted until you no longer have it.

Baby and Big Boy Updates

Luke reaches out to see the flowers that Jared picked.

Our babies are growing so fast, it is hard to keep up with them.  Jared is now 2 ½ years old and Luke is one year old.  They had a doctor’s visit at the end of January.  I discovered that Jared had gained 2 ½ inches in height in the past six months but hadn’t gained a single ounce in weight.  He basically weighed the same amount that he did this summer.  He is nearly 37 inches tall, but only weighs 26 lbs.

It didn’t help that his body had to fight two different stomach flu attacks.  His first one was in mid-December and lasted until about Christmas time.  He was better for a few days when a really strong stomach flu hit him a week after New Year’s.  He was throwing up all of his food for a few days and his mom got concerned enough to take him to the doctor to get antibiotics. 

February has been a better month for him.  According to our bathroom scale, Jared has gained back the weight he lost while he was sick and hit a new record of 29 lbs on Sunday. 

We are still struggling to potty train him.  Jared is not interested in using his potty and does not let us know he needs to relieve himself until after he has done so…in his diaper.

In other areas, we are seeing lots of progress.  Jared is officially finished with bottle feeding and uses his sippy cups to drink all of his fluids.  His vocabulary continues to grow in both English and Spanish (although he prefers English when his parents are around).  He has learned to count (for the most part) to about 14.  Sometimes he’ll say “One, two, three…nine!”  Then he tries to fill in the numbers in between. 

Luke has gone from crawler to…climber.  He’s not confident to take those first walking steps on his own, but he will stand up and pull himself along furniture.  Anything that he can lean on, he will use to push himself across the room.  He has learned how to climb up on a tall couch and climb off without hurting himself.  I’ve seen him climb up on Jared’s “big boy” bed and climb off without any assistance. 

Once I saw him push a stool across the kitchen floor until he reached the stove.  He proceeded to climb up on the stool so that he could reach the knobs on the front of the stove.  His favorite button is the light switch to turn the light on in our stove. Of course, I took him off the stool before he started turning on any burners on our stove.

At this point, I’m sure it will only be a short time before Luke starts walking. In the meantime, he is learning how to talk.  Most of his talk is just babble right now. He knows who each of his family members are.  Stephen is “Da-da,” Cristina is “Ma-ma,” and Jared is “Ba-ba.” He is always full of curiosity to discover things that are within his reach.  This means more and more things have to be moved OUT of his reach.

One of Luke’s favorite places to be is in front of our bookshelf.  The bottom shelf contains puzzles and musical toys for both boys.  The second shelf (still in Luke’s reach) now contains only the books that Luke is allowed to play with.  Basically, those are the books that Luke can’t shred to pieces.  Luke enjoys reaching up into his second shelf and pulling down the books that he can look at.  I’ll often find him sitting in front of the book shelf with his puzzles, toys and books piled all around him.

The third bookshelf is out of Luke’s reach, but is now within Jared’s reach.  We put all of Jared’s books up there that Luke could easy destroy if he was allowed to get to them.  By the time Luke gets tall enough to reach Jared’s shelf, we hope that he’ll be able to take care of the books as well as Jared does. 

I still have not weaned Luke completely, but he is learning to eat “big people” food.  He loves having small pieces of cheese or meat that he can put into his own mouth.  He’s gotten into the habit of fussing at being spoon fed.  I think he’s catching up with Jared in being able to feed himself.  Jared is still in the process of learning how to hold his own spoon and fork while he eats. 

We are proud of our boys progress and enjoy watching them play and interact with each other.

A “Published” Principal

Soon after the school year began, our school’s director approached Stephen with a project.  He had been asked by the “Christian School Education” magazine if he would write article about bullying to be put into their spring issue that would touch on topics regarding school safety.  He decided it was one thing that he didn’t have time for and asked Stephen if he might be interested.  He had told the editors of the magazine that he recommended Stephen to write it because he is the secondary principal who deals more with the issues of bullying and that is wife is a journalist and could help him to write a good article.

That is how I got drafted into editing Stephen’s article about his experiences dealing with bullying at Christian schools.  Being a busy man, Stephen waited until the morning that the article was due to have me edit the article.  He woke me up early one morning in November that I could edit it before he had to fax it to their main office.

As Stephen got our boys ready for the day, I read through his article while trying to ignore all the activity going on in the house.  Finally, I gave the article back to him and he sent it in.  Several months passed by.  Last week, Stephen received a box in the mail from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).  In the box was five copies of “Christian School Education,” Volume 13, Number 3, 2009/2010 and a letter thanking Stephen for contributing in their most recent edition of the magazine.  The title of the magazine on the front cover was, “Are Christian Schools Safe?”

Also on the front cover were the titles and authors of four of the articles to be found within the magazine.  The last title was “Confronting Bullying Using Justice and Love” with Stephen Meier’s name underneath. 

That was a special moment for Stephen and worth getting up early in the morning to help edit his writing.

The Struggling A.B.D.

Ever since I passed my oral exams for my Ph.D., I have been struggling with taking the next step in writing my dissertation.

The rest of life that I had put aside to study now came rushing in on me. My growing children demanded more of my time. The school’s schedule was now filled with more grading that I had faced in the early days of the quarter. I keep finding myself sitting in front of my computer and staring off into space wondering if I’ll ever get my dissertation written in time to graduate this year.

I got an official letter from my university in late November. The letter congratulated me for passing my exams and stated that I have now officially become part of the group of people who have finished everything except the dissertation. They called me an “A.B.D.” which stands for all but dissertation.

Now, I must decide whether or not I will settle for these initials at the end of my name or move on to complete my Ph.D.

I actually did start writing my dissertation a few days ago. My saved word document on my computer boasts of three pages. It’s a small start, but I’m hoping that I will be able to complete writing it before the end of 2010.

Cristina takes a moment to hang out with Luke and Jared in the playground.

Support and Financial Update

We have been very blessed this school year to have free housing in one of the apartments available on the Alliance Academy International campus.  We live in the basement level of the back wing of the Alliance dorm.  We share this basement level with the AAI Dining Commons that provides lunches for high school students.  A few dorm students live in the floors above and other wings have been rented out to other AAI teachers. 

We have also been able to keep up with our mortgage payments, because we had a renter staying in our townhouse since last March.

We have also been blessed with the additional financial support of different friends and family throughout the past few months.  Thank you so much for those who have prayed for us and those who have given of their finances to help us continue our ministry here.

We recently heard from our realtor that our renter is interested in moving out of the townhouse.  Our realtor also suggested that we find someone else to manage the renting of our home, because his business is moving more toward the leasing of business property as opposed to private property.

However, when we called him to discuss our options, he told us that the renter was not ready to leave the townhouse at the end of her lease (beginning of March).  She has requested to stay in our townhouse on a month to month basis until she finds the new job and new home that she is looking for.  It appears that our realtor will continue to take care of the rental until she leaves.

Therefore, our financial situation will remain steady until the end of March.  We will just have to wait and see what God brings us at that point.