Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The story of the CMS conference

Actually it wasn't so much of a story as a saga. In fact as we are both old enough it would have been easier to book by Saga!
Way back in November -ish time Andrew found a pub that did B& B near CMS HQ in Oxford who assured us they would look after the dog, take her for a walk several times a day etc etc. then at the beginning of May we realised we hadn't actually booked for the conference & the cut off date was the end of April, anyway Jo was able to squeeze us in & at the same time Andrew rang the pub again who again assured us that the dog could be with their dogs & even told Andrew the room we would be in but no everything was fine and they didn't need a deposit. It all sounded too good to be true - it was!
We arrived in plenty of time to get the dog settled in, about 4 pm, but the girl at the bar said ' O are you the people with the dog, we got doublebooked so we have rebooked you' and muttered something about them being booked up by Late Rooms bookings. So she proceeded to say we had been rebooked at a pub in the next village. As it was a bit of a complicated journey a customer said he'd show us the way. At the pub they said they had had no bookings from this place, were booked up & they didn't take dogs anyway, so they suggested somewhere else. When we got arrived there was the sweetest girl at reception who got special permission for us to have a dog there but as it was quite expensive we didn't know what to do. By that time the meal at the conference was about to start so we went to CMS. Jo & Henry gave us such a lovely welcome & said the dog could come to the conference if that would help, so we booked up the Hotel & stayed, otherwise we would have had to come home!!
As it was the conference was excellent as usual, we all loved the Latin food, including Leila, who was very well behaved 
Below is a photo of the 3types of paella which was Saturday nights meal & made outside under a gazebo on BBQs

Above is Ronald ( with the beard) who was brought over from L America as the keynote speaker & we heard his remarkable testimony. Next to him is Ollie from Riobamba, Ecuador, who I didn't know until I prayed for him on the Sunday morning. He has just started a jewellery business in Birmingham. He says he met Jill at Francesca's funeral. His children used to play with her. We have his details to stay in touch.

Above are the 3 stalls -Siwok, a charity from Patagonia & ours which is on the right at the back

The other main speaker was Alf Cooper who came to fame because he was the chaplain involved in rescuing the miners in the disaster in Chile a few years ago. His son & daughter in law, presently at St Johns Theological College in Nottingham, led the worship and  Andrew accompanied them on the piano. He did very well playing songs he'd never played before by ear.
Alf is an absolutely inspiring speaker & personality. It was he who started off the Saturday night so I felt a bit daunted as he was a hard act to follow, but there were a few others before me. I prayed hard! Andrew had put together a power point from Jills, Jennifer's & Blancas pictures which seemed to go down quite well. The picture of Ruth's new baby at the onset training went down well & also the fact that it is obvious there are a lot of people being helped in the women's work. Several people came up to me to thank me afterwards.
Sunday was our day of making connections -like Ollie; the wife of the man who was the curate at the church I was at in Sheffield as a student; a couple whose son who I know, is the deputy head of our local special school 5 minutes walk from home; the Latin link rep;  etc etc
Also it turned out that the Brazilian receptionist at the hotel was a Christian & goes to a Brazilian church in Oxford, so we gave her some of the prayer  letters about missionaries in Brazil,& just before we left we were able to share our faith with a young man staying there so that was good.
Below a final picture of something one would expect to see possibly in Ecuador but probably not in the UK-a car & motorbike inside a van which was on a rescue vehicle ! 
It was a very good conference-we are always impressed by the quality of people  at these conferences ( I am sure that's not just because there were 8 bishops there). Look out for The name Marcus Throup a missionary in Brazil who did the Bible studies-excellent. And of course it was the first CMS weekend conference Leila has attended and at 16 months she did very well indeed. It may well be the first time a dog has attended a CMS conference- I leave CMS to work out if that is so!

Avril Betts-Brown 19/5/15

Monday, 8 June 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 7

I have the enormous privilege of being considered” family” here and so was asked to the Baptist Church Deacons’ meeting on Saturday. It  was a beautiful setting, sitting on a terrace overlooking the town, with God’s presence there.  After the meeting we visited some sick folk and ended the morning with a great dish of chicken and rice, with chips. Wonderful.
 Monday May 1st was Día del Niño, Day of the Child, and the whole school had a trip to the park. Pastor Rodrigo led everyone in some Christian choruses and a Bible story. Then   our PE teacher got us doing dance sequences, they call it Bailaterapia; thoroughly enjoyed by staff and pupils alike. A special day like this has to include plenty of food, and large quantities of chicken and rice, bread, cake and cola were consumed.
We have been filming the work of the charity, and on Thursday it was the school’s turn. Everyone looked especially scrubbed up for the occasion; the teachers in their new orange tea shirts, the children in their clean white ones. One of the teachers was quite ill, but had come in for the filming. What you call a star.
The Freedom in Christ course is in its fourth week, and the group is beginning to participate more freely, something not really in the culture here. Well, someone else wants to join, which is encouraging.
But for me the high spot of the week is that all the children in our top class can now read simple stories of varying lengths. I have been saying for ages that our children can read, and now  I have it on film to prove it. If you could have seen the children’s faces when I congratulated them: it was something truly beautiful to behold.

Jill Ball 5/6/15

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 6

This has not been the best of weeks. One of our younger children has died following respiratory problems. We visited the hospital where he was on a life support machine. It is extremely sad when a much loved child dies so young.

Our new worker for the Skills for Life project has had major surgery. We visited her yesterday and prayed with her. She is beginning to make a recovery. Another member of staff has a mosquito related illness.

On a brighter note we now have over thirty children in our classes. Gradually things are coming together; the electric fans, the clocks, the tables and cupboards which make up the furniture of a classroom. The P.E. classes are up and running and the children have adapted to the new school routine. I spend some of each day visiting the classes and making sure everything is going smoothly.

I keep running into folk I have worked with or have been associated with over the years here. It is a great delight for me to see them again.

Great fun was had at the Mothers Day event. In teams you had to answer questions like"how many injections does a child receive by the age of six?" Not so easy if you don't happen to have the care of an ecuadorian infant, but my team was quite with it and although I didn't know any of the answers to the questions, we managed to win.

The Freedom in Christ course is going well. I have been hoping to introduce a Healing Rooms type prayer ministry into the church , but there is no space between the first service (150 congregants), the Sunday schools (80 people in the couples group, 22 in the older persons group, plus all the other age groups and categories) and the second service, but we managed to pray for some of the sick anyway. I am hoping to train up a small team in prYer for the sick.

We are still getting torrential rains here. They sound wonderful , especially when you are under a watertight roof, which fortunately, we are.

Jill Ball 25/5/15

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 5

This week we have got into a steady rhythm of working in the school in the mornings, still lots to sort out with many adjustments, but we have a better idea of the number of children who will attend this year.
We are just starting the planning process for another film about the charity, which will be produced in Spanish and in English; a bit more complicated now, with things going on in different locations. I have to write the text…….

We started the” Freedom in Christ” course with a small group of students and some leaders. There has been very positive feedback on this. I also gave a talk to the Ladies Group, and another to the Elderly People’s Group. They have saved some money and bought some massage equipment which was fun to try out.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 4

This has been a mixed week. We started the school year in earnest. The working day starts at 7.30; the children arrive at 8.00 and leave at 12.00, but the teachers stay on till 1.00. The last hour is used for planning and meetings. We all seem to be coping with that very well. Maria and Natty's classes filled up quickly and the other two getting a slow but steady stream of children. The whole process of educating begins again. Some teething problems over the use of the communal spaces in the school, but we have negotiated successfully- well, let's hope so.

We had a smaller group for the English fellowship this week as one of the group had to go to hospital, but fortunately it was not too serious. A common cure here is a saline drip and chicken broth; I think it works well no matter what the age of the patient.

The inauguration of our school year was on Friday, but the sudden and unexpected death of a widely known and well loved church member, Bertha, and also mother to our music teacher, sent a shock wave through us all. Our president Danny stepped up to give the opening talk. He spoke about our being a Christian organization and encouraged everyone to pray every day. He had bought a New Testament for each parent.

Here, when someone passes away, the body is accompanied till burial.
Katy, Sharon and I picked up some flowers in bright oranges and pinks to take to the wake. We passed a grey clad military brass band  playing brightly for Mothers Day. The different colors and tones of celebrations of life and death all in one very hot afternoon seemed to typify this town, this culture- gaiety and tragedy in a single breath.

Over 100 people accompanied the main mourners till midnight. Some of our parents and children made an appearance. Sadly, three of Bertha's four children were unable to attend. They  live in Europe and could not get flights. Different pastors spoke in turn about the Christian hope in the afterlife and ......we sang songs. One I really like has the words" mas alla del sol, mas alla del sol, mi hogar, oh Jehova es mas alla del sol", which, translated is"beyond the sun , beyond than the sun, oh Lord, our home is beyond the sun"

Jill Ball 09/05/15

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 3

From the first floor of the Baptist School I watched the procession of fruit-sellers on tricycles, public health employees, and many others as it moved steadily through the streets of Santo Domingo. It is May 1st, and people are unhappy about taxes and prices going up. Sound familiar?

This week was the last before classes start and the teachers have been busy with last minute planning. We have a new teacher , Gina , who will take the older children and prepare those who are able for reinsertion into the regular school system. We will have three classes for children with Moderate Learning Difficulties and one for children with Autism. As far as  we know , it is the only one in this town of half a million people. We continue to be able to speak weekly on the radio, informing people of the services the charity offers .

I visited El Paraiso, where Blanca and Rodrigo have another handicrafts class. The women had brought their work to show me, and there was a "brindis", which meant coca cola , biscuits and a tuna fish sauce. You can't help but be impressed by the enthusiasm of the women, and the quality of the goods they are turning out.

There is now a shelter on our piece  of land. When we arrived we were met by a pack of wolf like dogs, which turned out to be quite amicable- Ernesto ' s dogs with four of their young. Phew......we just need to put in the loos and then it will be all systems go- young peoples project, women's ministry, and Blanca and Rodrigo want to start a Christian outreach there.

We were asked to visit a young man paralyzed after a motor bike accident. He was very despondent when we arrived. We spoke to him about The Lord and managed to put a small rehabilitation plan in place. He is called Jaime if you would like to pray for him.

I started a house group for English speakers this week, which I hope will bless those who have little opportunity to express themselves in their mother tongue during the rest of the week.

God was very much at work in the  Tuesday prayer service. Many people need healing from past traumas. The  church welcomes all;  we now have Cubans and Columbians with the distinctive linguistic lilts and rhythms they bring to the  Spanish Language. It is a privilege to be included in this ministry.

We have running water again, but it only comes out cold. "Grateful for small mercies" is the attitude to embrace.

Another good week. Thank you Lord.

Jill Ball 1/5/15 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 2

Sunlight reflects off a big box of oranges perched on the front basket of a trade bicycle whose rider weaves precariously through pedestrians ; little fluffy chicks, different shades of yellow, interspersed with some in grey, cheep and scratch in a carton; piglets, in nail varnish pinks and speckled , root for food in an overcrowded crate. I found myself in the market in Santo Domingo this week and rediscovered the vibrancy and color of this country town , which, combined with the heat and the noise, both invigorates and exhausts.

I visited the work in Juan Eulogio . Blanca and Rodrigo are teaching a group of women sewing skills on electric Singer sewing machines which must date from before the Second World War , but they work wonderfully.

Most days I have been giving teacher training in the school. On Thursday Luzcelli asked me if I would have a main stream teacher in as well. To my surprise six turned up, but it was good fun. We , the teachers and I, got invited to a farm high in the hills near Allurinquin, a town just outside Santo Domingo. We got shown the sugar cane press which looks as if it was manufactured during the industrial revolution. It stands at an uppermost point on the hill overlooking hundreds of miles of semi tropical forest. The family is almost self sufficient in all goods needed to sustain life. The farmer showed us snakes preserved in alcohol which apparently prevent cancer. He gets them ,well, before they get him. The eighty five year old grandmother, well able to carry 10 lb. of lemons ,seemed to be a living proof of the beneficial effects of the grog, but we declined tasting it. We returned loaded with lemons, oranges, zapallo and noni. I narrowly escaped being bitten by an enraged dog, and we laughed till our sides ached.

The Baptist church is bursting at the seams, with two services, classes for children , adolescents, married couples, singles , the elderly. No one is left out.

The water pump has broken again, so back to the cold water and bucket routine. Altogether an excellent week.

Jill Ball

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Jill's Blog Entry 1

Jill returns to Ecuador. She will be blogging during her time there.

"I arrived in Quito Ecuador on Sunday 12th April, after a good flight. My hope, as always, was that all suitcases would appear on the carousel.The first one did. Still waiting expectantly at the carousel I heard this message on the loudspeaker "can Ball Jill come to the lost baggage desk. "Sure enough one case had been left in London , but not to worry, they would collect it from the plane when it arrived and send it on to Santo Domingo. Not a big deal apparently.

To my utter delight and not to say surprise, the company were true to their word and I collected the case on Wednesday from a package sending office in Santo Domingo. This has not always been my experience with mislaid baggage, so I felt especially favored and blessed
Altogether I have had  a very good week, meeting up with dear folk I have not seen in seven months. I was asked to speak to the ladies in a barrio with Blanca and Rodrigo ,and then asked to speak at the monthly meeting for retired people. Both events were well attended and people were very kind
I was given a lovely reception party by William and some friends with an enormous bouquet in the shape of a dog.

Temperatures in the 40s, a bit different to Leigh on Sea. To complete the week the water pump broke, so washing in cold water out of a bucket, but in this climate, that is no hardship."

Jill Ball 20/04/15

Friday, 10 April 2015

Pioneering new project

In February, it was decided that we should begin a new project for school leavers & adults with learning disabilities, in Santo Domingo. At present there is very little for   children, leaving the Foundation’s school, to engage in (unless there is a family business, and they are able to help with that). There is very little available for them throughout Ecuador. A fact not lost on Jill and Sharon. Last year Sharon wrote a manual explaining how the school leavers could be trained, occupied and possibly employed, through the development of Life Skills. She ran a pilot scheme, with the older school children, so that the Directors could see what a project might look like.

A year later we are in the process of looking to employ a Leader, and Sharon will spend her final year working alongside this person, guiding and advising them. We need to advertise locally for young adults who may be interested in learning and working in a sheltered business environment, as well as developing other life skills.

We have a piece of land, which we plan to share with the Women’s Projects, being crafted to accommodate a small business. At present no decisions have been made, but the ideas include; growing ornamental plants, cacao, fruit & vegetables, making wooden craft items or clothes making. Any of these the young people would be able to assist with, until they develop the skills to be able to run a business of their own.

The programme will also include horse riding, cooking, housekeeping, hobbies, shopping and visiting useful places (like banks, markets etc).
This is an exciting time for LIAT(Ecuador), and we know that it will make a huge difference to the quality of life of the young people.

Sharon. March 2015.