When Darkness Comes

We were so thrilled. Our baby would be due in April. Having already had two lovely little girls that made our lives, our marriage, our home, so much richer, we were truly overjoyed when we discovered back in August that I was pregnant.

We'd had a very full summer--complete with a 34-day road trip that began all the way west in Portland, OR, and took us as far north as Toronto, CA, as far east as the Jersey shore, and as far south as Houston, TX. There was a brief pause to the chaos when we got back to Portland. But we still had so many people to see and connect with, so we kept going. There was no time to schedule an appointment to check on the baby's progress but at six weeks along I was already experiencing my normal full-on nausea and revulsion towards anything with onion and garlic. This was a good sign. I had a miscarriage almost four years ago and with that pregnancy I never did feel sick or even very tired at all. Nevertheless, we still determined that as soon as we got back to Quito we would schedule an appointment with my doctor. After all, I would be ten weeks by the time we got back and we would definitely be able to hear the heartbeat! Easily one of my most favorite experience in life—hearing a new little heart pounding away!

We got back on a Wednesday and that following Monday we went in for our first doctor appointment. That morning I woke up so excited, almost like a little child waking up on Christmas morning! I was the first patient so we went in right away and after the routine check, I was ushered into the sonogram room. So clean and organized, so high tech and professional, I felt very at ease. The ultrasound technician went ahead and did the initial check, measuring the baby from the head to the bottom. We could see the shapes of the little hands and feet, the curve of the spine—my heart was soaring!

So when the technician asked for my doctor not long after his first initial check I quickly assumed he wanted my doctor there to share his findings with me. My doctor carefully looked over the monitor and the scans, they discussed a few things in Spanish and after a few minutes, he walked over to the other side of me, put one hand on my knee, looked at my bright, expectant face and said, "I'm very sorry Rea, there is no heartbeat."

My smile remained plastered on my face and I must have blinked a couple of times, not completely hearing what he said. He patiently repeated, "I'm sorry. There is no heartbeat. Come in to my office and we can talk."

I felt all the joy and life inside of me drain out so quickly. The rapid shift in my reality was dizzying. I mechanically got up and walked myself to the changing room. The world felt like it had stopped spinning. I felt frozen as I watched my limbs dress the rest of my body. Then came the tears, so many, many tears. I couldn't look at Phil. It felt like everything was happening so quickly, a beautiful picture torn apart in the blink of an eye, the tender and hopeful expectancy I felt moments ago was instantly replaced by such a suffocating darkness, my heart and mind couldn't keep up with it all.

Phil and I both sat down with my doctor and he explained that in his profession he sees one miscarriage out of every five pregnancies. He shared how he and his wife experienced a very similar miscarriage to mine, one where the baby looked perfectly normal and one where there were no prior signs indicating any abnormality with the pregnancy. He quickly went on to say that there was nothing I could've done or not done to prevent this. He shared how his wife blamed herself too, and he explained that it is difficult to determine the real cause of a miscarriage but that in most cases it is due to a chromosome abnormality.

My doctor was so kind and patient and took the time to comfort me and put me at ease as much as he could. Phil had been quietly listening the whole time, but right before we left he asked my doctor how accurate that sonogram was? Is there a margin of error and if so, what was it? Unfortunately for us, we were at the best hospital in Quito, and my doctor is probably the best OBGYN in the country, and the ultrasound machine that they use is the most current and high-tech that there is out there. He shook his head apologetically and said, there is no error, our baby did not make it.

The sky was that weird fluorescent white, no blue, just all clouds and that ugly white. But even with all that white, darkness had come. And that blinding darkness was all I could see.

The next step was to take prescribed medication to help my body expel the dead tissue, placenta, and baby. I hadn't been spotting at all so there was no way of knowing how long this could take. My doctor (and I highly recommend him) advised me to allow my body to expel the placenta naturally rather than having a D&C. I think he may have suggested this for me because he knew I preferred the natural route whenever possible.

The next day, he left for a two-week long trip to the U.S. The medication did little except unleash its unpleasant side effects on me (fever, chills, nausea). By Wednesday we were back in to see the doctor filling in for my doctor. She went ahead and did another sonogram and again thoroughly checked for any blood circulation, pumping heart, and heartbeat. None of which showed up. It was somewhat of a strange relief seeing it the second time. Sure enough, there was little change in my uterus and everything was still intact. I was given a second dose of the medication, which again gave me the unpleasant side effects, but resulted in very little bleeding and expelling of anything. I wrote my doctor an update. I think he could sense my frustration and impatience. He advised me to wait at least another week. And to be patient. I wanted to scream, "How dare you tell me to be PATIENT! My baby is dead inside me, I have taken two doses of your prescribed medication, both times coming down with chills, a fever, diarrhea, and throwing up, and now you are telling me to be patient?!!"

I know he meant well. And he really is the best doctor I have ever had. So, I wrote back a kind message and told him I would continue to wait.

So here we are. Six days after receiving that heart-wrenching news. Still waiting.

I have since discovered that my type of miscarriage is appropriately called a Silent Miscarriage or a Missed Miscarriage. It is when the baby stops developing and dies but the body doesn't recognize it and so the placenta continues as if the pregnancy is perfectly normal.

After almost two more weeks, my doctor had returned from his trip and I was very ready for the D&C. One thing that complicated the situation further, however, is that our health insurance was not going to cover the cost! I remember feeling so frustrated that a financial constraint had to be a factor in all of this! But God’s goodness and mercy revealed itself to us in the form of friends who came forward offering to pay for the entire cost of the procedure!

I don't understand a lot of things, and most of the time I live very accepting of that fact. My heart felt so broken but I also felt stable, held-together by a deep peace. God allowed for my baby to enter into His presence before I could cradle that precious little body in my arms. God is sovereign and I am not. And in my brokenness I felt no pride, just complete and utter brokenness. Humbled by this brokenness.

I accepted the death of my child and I cried on my knees as I craved for the Father's comforting presence. And He answered me. He gave me peace. The kind that is so palpable but so unfathomable. I know not where exactly it is coming from, is it from without or within, or both? It is so strong that there is no mistaking it. Despite my shattered heart, my shattered dreams, and my shattered plans, I could sense Jesus right there with me. Holding the pieces of me together. God is whole, in Him everything holds together, and finds their purpose. And while I felt wholly broken at that moment, I also knew with complete certainty that this was not the end, one day I will see my baby. One day we shall all enter into the presence of our Maker.

We named the baby Shalom. There wasn't a more perfect name. Shalom. Even the sound of it is so soothing, healing.


I love you, baby Shalom.


Day 34: Wrapping it All Up! - Portland, OR

34 days of travel. 36 states covered. 9,000 miles on the road. 170 hours in the car. 33 families visited. A few additional ministry partners! 0 problems with the car and no accidents!

And lots and lots of lessons learned on the vital role of prayer, the many faces of hospitality, important elements of community-building, people’s varied experiences and views on mentorship and discipleship, and what it means to be a sojourner and foreigner to this world.

We didn't get a photo of every state we visited or drove through, so there are a few missing in this collage.

We didn't get a photo of every state we visited or drove through, so there are a few missing in this collage.

Thank you again to all of you that prayed for us regularly during our entire trip. It truly went far beyond our very best expectations (even though we didn’t really have very high expectations to begin with…). The girls really did amazingly well. Both welcomed and enjoyed each new adventure that each day brought and provided daily comic relief and much encouragement to Phil and I. This mammoth road trip will definitely be one of those treasured experiences we've had as a family.

And last, but not least, THANK YOU again to all of you who carved time out of your summer schedule to welcome us, host us, embrace us, and shower us with your kindness! We so enjoyed spending time with each of you!

Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo with every person we visited. So, there are a few missing here too.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo with every person we visited. So, there are a few missing here too.


T H E   E N D

Day 33: Finding Encouragement in Christ-like Humility - Bend, OR

We have come to our final day on the road!

The finish line is just ahead and we are ready to sprint the last little bit!

Our last stop is Bend, OR. Here we are visiting our pastor's daughter (from our church in Portland) and her family. We got to know Andy and Naomi when both Phil and Andy were part of the leadership team that led the (then) small Saturday Night service at Southwest Hills Baptist Church. We were immediately attracted to their servant hearts and genuine desire to continually learn from others. It takes a deep kind of humility to be willing to "consider others as better than yourself" (Philippians 2:3) and they live that out distinctly. Even though it's been several years since we last saw them, they are still the same in that sense. Thank you Andy and Naomi for encouraging us with your Christ-like humility and desire to grow and learn from those around you. We truly enjoyed our time with you and getting to know your little ones!


Day 31 & 32: The Things That Refresh Us - Boise, ID

Despite 100 degree weather in Boise, our visit with Ben, Nicole, and Kyler Anderson was refreshing! Nicole’s parents graciously allowed us to stay at their house, which is close to the Andersons, and we really enjoyed getting to know both of them better as well. 


My (Phil) relationship with Ben goes all the way back 20 years when we were both new kids in a small school in Washington state. Our friendship became deep quickly and has continued in some form ever since. So, even though we have not seen each other for a couple of years, it felt like seeing family again. 

Ben and Nicole treated us to dinner at a burrito place they highly recommended and we spent much needed time catching up. One of the things we really appreciate about Ben and Nicole is how deeply they think about life and how honest they are willing to be with their own thoughts and experiences. The depth, honesty, and sincerity of the conversation was refreshing! While we talked, our kids played together as though they had been friends for years.


Our stay was short as we headed out the next day for Bend, Oregon. Before heading out, they made some scrambled eggs and pancakes filled with recently picked, prized mountain huckleberries! Thank you so much for your friendship, Ben and Nicole. We really hope that some day we can live near enough that our lives overlap more than once every couple years. We love you!


Day 29 & 30: Big Mountains = Big Picture - Colorado Springs & Denver, CO

We are nearing the end of our road trip. And we can all feel it. It’s like that last 100m in a 400m dash. Or that last mile in a 10K race. We have been stretched and our limits tested and pushed during this trip. And it has been very good for us. Endurance. Strength of character. Hope. Romans 5:3-5.

So here we are in Colorado Springs and Denver. In Denver we had a short visit over lunch with Phil's uncle and cousin. The last time we saw them was six years ago! Uncle Ray and Clarissa thanks for taking some time to see us!

Phil's attempt at a selfie :) Not bad.

Phil's attempt at a selfie :) Not bad.

In Colorado Springs, we stayed overnight at the Paton’s. Hannah was Phil’s student teacher last year and is now teaching at a school in Bangladesh. We enjoyed getting to know the Paton family as they had been in Ecuador a number of years ago and also worked for the same organization, Reach Beyond, that we recently switched to.

Hannah showed us around Colorado Springs a little by taking us to Garden of the Gods. The high altitude of the city as well as the surrounding 14,000 foot mountains made Colorado Springs remind us of Quito. Sometimes when our days are filled with lots of doing it's easy to forget about the bigger picture. The reminder of where we will be in a few weeks--Quito--brought us the big picture perspective and this often makes the daily frustrating and challenging things we face seem so small and trivial. We are ready to finish this trip well!

Hannah and the Paton family, thank you for your hospitality, making Maiya’s day by playing Ticket to Ride, and for sharing about your ministry on the other side of the world!

With Hannah
Garden of the Gods

Day 27 & 28: Multiplying Goodness - Oklahoma City, OK

From Garden to Garden, Scripture recounts the story of God being in relationship with us so that we might multiply His goodness. This is the idea of being created in His image. This is the idea of knowing Jesus Christ so that we might better reflect our Creator and then go and multiply His goodness. 

Mike and I have been friends for 20 years, so visiting him in Oklahoma was an incredible treat. What really struck me, though, was the gift of seeing this idea of multiplying goodness play out. Having a relationship with Mike for such a long time, I can look back and clearly identify times where our goal was not to multiply God’s goodness–sometimes it was the exact opposite! The two days we enjoyed with the Sandford crew, however, was a precious gift reminding us of God’s desire and invitation to us to multiply His goodness. Let me recount a few of the blessings we experienced in OKC.

Noah, Caleb, and Daniel are 3 energy-filled boys who brought our family so much joy.  Noah and Caleb gave up their bedroom and playroom to bless us with a place to sleep.  They played from sunrise to sunset with our 2 girls and blessed them with creativity and imagination and lots and lost of fun. We read stories together. We ate together. We made memories together. As we headed to our car to leave, we realized Maiya was gone! Noah and Maiya had sneakily crafted a plan for Maiya to stay with their family and so she was hidden from us, in a spacious closet in the boys’ room Thank you Sandfords for literally multiplying goodness with your 3 boys but then giving endlessly of yourselves to model what Christ-like life should look like. You have precious kids and they blessed us.


Another unforeseen blessing on this trip is hearing multiple perspectives of church community, discipleship, and the necessary relationships of mentorship. Another way that Mike and Mariah multiplied goodness was to share their own experience and interactions with followers of Christ specifically with small groups and mentoring relationships. I learned so much from their stories and perspectives. Thank you for multiplying goodness by being willing to share your experiences and desires in this area. 

Familiarity in a relationship can be used to multiply goodness–even in seemingly simple ways. After nearly 7 years of living life apart, Mike still remembered my love for chocolate and even my favorite kind, which we are unable to get in Ecuador. Mariah had gone out and purchased this treat and it was waiting for me after our drive from Dallas. Yes, this was a “small” thing but it was a symbol of much more. We are created as relational creatures. Our life is full when we are in relationship with our Creator and those he has created–think of Adam and Eve and their walks with God in Eden. Thank you for multiplying goodness by “walking” with us so that we might be known by you.    

Much more happened during our short stay–including fresh picked watermelon and cantaloupe from their garden, incredibly delicious homemade meals, thoughtful gifts for our girls to keep them occupied as they sit in the car for hours, a refreshing time of prayer together, shared reflections on parenting…thank you Sandfords for allowing us to enjoy your desire to multiply God’s goodness!


Day 25 & 26: A Friend For Always - Dallas, TX

While I have enjoyed the many different places we've been to on this trip, being with my dear friend, Meredith, these past couple of days in Dallas, TX, was definitely the highlight for me!

Our friendship began in the 9th grade. Meredith and I went to the same missionary kids’ school in Nairobi, Kenya. We played on the soccer team together and even assisted each other in scoring the winning goals. We navigated hormonal girl-dramas together. And treasured memorable sleepovers where we laughed and giggled the night away until our bellies ached.

Mere & Rea

Like most TCK’s, we weren’t great at “staying in touch.” But we did make the effort to see each other whenever the opportunity arose. Our friendship has gone with us through college, starting out life as young adults, and now, marriage and family. We have outgrown many things, but our friendship is one that continues to grow with us.


I love this girl so much. Every time we are together I feel like a care-free high school girl with her best friend. Mere, thank you for taking time off work to spend with us! We are so glad to finally meet Alan. He is incredible and quite perfect for you. Take good care of him, too. Thank you for introducing us to Moods (which is now my new favorite game), I wish we had more time to play it. So fun!

Mere, you are one of a kind and I love that about you. Please don’t ever stop being silly and weird, caring and compassionate, faithfully following Jesus and thinking deeply about the world around you. It is goodbye again for now. But in the meantime, let’s plan our next adventure together!

Dallas 2016

Day 24: Visiting the Gardeens - Houston, TX

I can genuinely say that I have enjoyed every place we have been to in this trip so far. Each place is unique and different just like the people we visit. Phil and I were discussing, the other day, though, that there does seem to be a common denominator with all of these people we’ve visited so far—we have some type of TCK connection with most of them.

On our way from Houston to Dallas we stopped to see some Quito friends that moved back stateside a couple of years ago. Dave grew up in Quito and went to AAI. When we met them in 2012 he was on the pastoral staff at EFC and Linsey was working in the counseling department at AAI. They were the friends that showed us the first Indian restaurant we had ever been to in Quito and also our go-to friends when we wanted someone to enjoy delicious middle-eastern food with!

Dave and Linsey, and Elias and Amos, it was so good to see you and spend a little bit of time with you all. I can't believe how big Elias has gotten and how much in common he and Maiya have. We hope to see you in Quito when you make it back down to visit!


Day 23: Rain, Rain, Go Away - Birmingham, AL

I didn't realize how common storms were in the summer all over the U.S. Or maybe this is just a strange thing that's happening this summer? Rainstorms has followed us almost every state we've driven through! It started on our drive to Bozeman, MT. That wasn't so much a rainstorm as just rain. I wish I had taken a photo each time we passed right under a rainstorm. By the time I started snapping a shot we were already half-way through our trip. It didn't rain at all on our drive to Dallas and we were greeted by such an oppressive heat it was like entering an oven every time you walked out the door!


What a pleasant thing it was to spend even just a short time with the Coe’s at their Birmingham home in Alabama. We were warmly welcomed and then embraced by this Christ-rooted-joy that radiates from this family. Carina definitely bonded with Osa. This girl loves pets!

Coe’s it was short and very sweet! So short that we forgot to take a photo with you all. Thank you for letting us spend the night at your place and loving on us! We love you!


Day 21 & 22: The Bond Between TCK's - Columbia, SC

We are in South Carolina!

And I am marveling at how perfectly timed our journey was, and that we are here right now at this time. I had shared in a previous post a little glimpse of some of the struggles we are having. The exhausting swim upstream and how lonely it feels to be an outsider. No speed boat has come to tug us upstream but, here, we are met with fellow sojourners to whom we share a strong, and almost tangible, connection.

For Third Culture Kids, even if we didn’t grow up together in the same place, the life-shaping experience of having spent our formative years, and making sense of the world in a foreign country, creates an almost immediate bond so strong and natural it’s hard to explain or break. We might have just met two minutes ago and yet as we comfortably and naturally by-pass the small talk and dive right into deeper conversation it feels as if we’ve known each other our whole life.

TCK Meme

“TCK’s build relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging (or feeling at home) is in relationship to others of similar background.” (Dr. David Pollock, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds).

Whether we’ve just met, or, as is the case with Megan and Gerad, and Dan and Laura, several years may have spanned since the last time we've seen each other, but once we are together we can pick up seamlessly from where we left off.

In a strange, and at once, familiar sense it is like coming home.

Both Phil and I came away from our time with these friends so refreshed and renewed. Deeply encouraged and strengthened to keep going. To keep walking in the footsteps of Jesus and embrace the reality that we will never belong to any place in this world. And what a treasured gift it is, when we are fortunate to get a glimpse of what it might be like to come Home.

Megan and Gerad, Dan and Laura, I can’t tell you how much it meant to us to spend time with you. Without even knowing it, you have truly refreshed, encouraged, inspired, and motivated us anew. We love you and we are so grateful to call you our friends!


Day 19 & 20: You Can't Go Home Again - Lake Junaluska, NC

Today we are headed down to Lake Junaluska. But first we made a little rendevouz with a former student of Phil’s. I knew only a little bit about this student and most of what I did know was that he asked really good questions during Bible. Shannon, Tyler, and Ruby, thanks for taking time to see us and for feeding us a delicious lunch! The next time we are in this area, hopefully it can be for longer.


We then continued west toward the “mountains” of North Carolina. The beauty and the cooler air were both remarkably refreshing as we made our way out to a small town near Ashville that surrounds the Junaluska lake. We were visiting Bob and Sally Christian who had been missionaries and dorm parents at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya for nearly 30 years. Sally went to Houghton College and Bob to Kings – both connections for our family. They know many of the same people that Phil knew growing up. After Kenya, they returned to the U.S. and Sally became the dorm mom at Houghton Academy for many years. That is where my path crossed with hers. For my last year and a half in college I lived as a resident assistant in the girls’ dorm at Houghton Academy providing respite for Mama C. After I graduated, I worked as the Boarding Student Advisor there for their 80+ international students.

Missionaries often marvel at how “small” the world seems as we discover obscure connections and relationships with people that we know from one place who meet other people we know from another place. We share so many of these types of connections with the Christians and it inevitably strengthens our bond with them.

Their “Kivulini” (swhaili for ‘a place in the shade’), is tucked in the wooded hills of South Carolina right next to the beautiful and tranquil lake Junaluska. We had a completely separate space in their fully furnished and recently renovated basement. The girls even got their own room and bathroom!


At one point in a conversation, Bob referred to the book by Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again. As life marches on I think we are all aware that the idea of home is not as concrete as it once seemed. This trip has only served to magnify this reality as our constant rooting and uprooting has resulted in friends all over the United States, not to mention around the globe. Each house we stop at, or group we visit, are so different in personality, experiences, and passions. So, this can often remind us of how we can’t go home again. But, home is something we see shadows of and our time with Bob and Sally reminded us of the promise of our true home. There was something about the multiple points of similarity and shared experience that made us feel that we had somehow found a small part of home. Thanks Bob and Sally for the special time with you both. 

Lake Junaluska was stunning! So serene.

Lake Junaluska was stunning! So serene.

Day 18: “Sleep-over” at Maiya’s Teacher’s U.S. Home - Raleigh, NC

Phil had a very different idea of what North Carolina would be like so when we finally rolled in to the tar-heel-state, he was very surprised to see the mountainous, and lush scenery. It was very green and beautiful, with evergreens even!

Here, we stayed at Maiya’s kindergarten teacher’s home. You can imagine how very tickled she was to be having a “sleep-over” at her teacher’s house (well, it’s her parents house, but it’s all the same to a 6-year-old). Phil and I even joked about how, after this, Maiya won’t have anything to look forward to.

We were greeted by this festive banner and balloons that Mandi had made and put up.


To have an adult that loves your child and is willing to guide and direct them, and then is also able to connect with them deeply is a very valuable thing to a parent. Mandi, thank you so much for you, for your evident love for your students and genuine desire for their spiritual well-being, and for your wonderful relationship with our daughter. AAI is fortunate to have you! Thanks for inviting us into your home. We enjoyed very much, our time with you and your parents. Thanks for giving us a little taste of the south!


Day 16 & 17: My Birthday - Washington DC

We had no idea how many people we knew lived in the DC area. Though we stayed here two nights we really only had one whole day to see people and unfortunately it wasn’t a weekend. We didn’t get to see everyone we would have liked but we did get to see a few friends from college.

It’s kind of a strange thing to visit friends that belong to a very specific chapter of life and see them years later. On the one hand, they were exactly the same people (for the most part), with all their unique traits and quirks, but now they have kids, and/or they have a career and are all grown up, and yet all of my memories of them are from our days in college, back when we were still kids trying to grow up.


We also celebrated my birthday here. Phil and Maiya had searched for a nice cupcake place since I am crazy about St. Cupcakes in Portland, and we had often done that for my birthday. What I really wanted was to have some Ethiopian food, which we got to do, and was definitely a great birthday gift!

Our time in DC was a little too short, but it was meaningful still. Thank you Mark & Kristina for letting us stay at your place. Thanks to HiUan, Ritter, and the kids, to Heather, and to JulieAnn and her kids, for making time to see us! We hope to see you all again sometime!


Day 14 & 15: It's Not All Sunshine & Roses--Honesty From Rea's Heart - Linwood, NJ

We made it to New Jersey in time to join the Bergers and Bekah’s family at the beach! It was a first for Phil and the girls to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. We stayed at a hotel nearby and close to where the Bergers were staying. We would not have been able to afford anything near the shore since our time here landed on a weekend when prices for sleeping accommodations sky-rocket! Even the Super 8 Motel was over $100 per night! Fortunately, Phil’s long-time friend from his growing-up years in Trout Lake, WA, and Portland, offered to put us up for a couple of nights at any hotel for a cost up to $150 per night. So he did that for us in Jersey Shore. Thank you Alec!

We had a sweet time with Bill, Bekah, her parents, and her brother, Mike, and his wife. They took us to the beach, to the boardwalk, treated us to some delicious NJ Frozen Custard, and the kids enjoyed playing together. We also attended church with them at Bekah’s parents’ church where Bill was preaching that day. Bill shared about accepting adversity—a topic that spoke to us deeply.

During this time, I had been wrestling with some deep questions of life-choices we’ve made and the ones we are currently making as we stand at a fork in the road. This left me mostly discouraged. Each time we come back to the U.S. I increasingly feel awkwardly out of place. It is built into us to want to have that sense of belong. Coming here, for me, is like plunging into a current that is forcefully headed downstream but I find myself swimming upstream. And after a week or two of it, my aching and tired self wants to just give up and let the current take me where it is going. Can’t a speed boat come along and tug me upstream with one of those round floating thingys?

There are so many comforts to be had, conveniences to enjoy, and an endless stream of ways to supposedly satisfy each and every craving and desire (as if that is even possible). The pull is to live life with minimal displeasure and maximum self-fulfillment. Now, I know that where ever I go I will always encounter that pull. But somehow here in the U.S. it’s right in your face all the time! The concept of allowing Christ (rather than ourselves) to define life seem so foreign. Perhaps I am also worn thin by the unending and unnatural demands of this trip (I mean, unpacking and packing every single day with two little ones running around can get old really fast). But even if we decided to give up and float downstream, we have lived so far outside this culture that we’d be starting at the very bottom of the totem pole, so to speak. I realize that the more I fix my mind on the things of this world, the more our Christ-centered values, passions, and motivation seem so “foolish.” A verse I often find myself dwelling on is this:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
— Romans 12:2

So I would pray. I would ask and beg God to help me to not dwell on wisdom that is not from Him. I would spend some time reading the scriptures and praying and listening.

As my thoughts and emotions take me soaring up high on the good days, and then diving to such low depths on the hard days, God remains faithful and full of love. Right in the midst of my gloom He gave me such a rich encouragement. As we were heading out of NJ and bidding the Bergers farewell they pulled us close to share with us a decision they had made. They expressed to us how grateful they were for the new direction of our ministry in Quito. They communicated how much they support what we are doing and will continue to be doing in even greater capacity. And furthermore, they wanted to partner with us and support us financially on a monthly basis!

I broke down in tears. It was as if God was affirming this path we’ve committed to live out (all of it, including the support-raising part), right at the moment that I had been doubting and needing affirmation.

Sometimes God will seem so silent and distant and at other times He may reveal Himself so palpably clear, but regardless, He is sovereign, He is steadfast, and He is lovingly faithful.

Bill & Bekah, thank you for allowing Him to use your obedience to minister and bless our family, and the others that will be impacted for His glory through our ministry. We hope to be a blessing to you too! We love you!

Enjoying some delicious New Jersey frozen custard with some jimmies!

Enjoying some delicious New Jersey frozen custard with some jimmies!

Bekah's brother, Mike, also went to Houghton and was in the same class as Rea's sister, Regina.

Bekah's brother, Mike, also went to Houghton and was in the same class as Rea's sister, Regina.

Day 12 & 13: The Sweetest & Kindest People We Know - Boston, MA

We have met few people as sweet, humble, kind, and gracious as Jo and Andy. And it was so so so very wonderful to see them again.


Jo and Andy are Houghton grads as well but now live in the Boston area. They are both counselors and people who are just naturally refreshing to be around. Our friendship began in Houghton, NY. It has taken us to Pasadena, CA when we drove to see them while they were grad students. We almost lived in the same place again when Andy got his internship just outside of Portland, but that was the year we headed to Quito. Now we’ve met again back on the east coast. Perhaps the next time will be in Quito?

Our kids were old enough this time, to play with each other and that was really special too.


We love your family so much and eagerly await the next time we can spend quality time with you all again! And we may take you up on the offer to have your place be a home-base/furlough option for our East Coast trips!

Day 11: Where I Became a Lifelong Learner - Houghton, NY

So far we’ve visited people that mean so much to us that live in places that don’t hold that much significance to us personally.

But Houghton is different.

There are few physical places that serve as monumental markers for critical turning points in my life. And Houghton is one of them. I came to Houghton after hearing Dr. Dave Pollock speak on Culture Shock & Transition and Adjustment during a weekend-long retreat in my 11th grade year of high school at Faith Academy. I hadn’t met a person more passionate about TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) and the subject of transition and adjustment. I discovered that Uncle Dave was an adjunct professor at Houghton and taught several classes when he wasn’t traveling and speaking at conferences. After meeting him and exchanging stories about cross cultural experiences, I thought to myself, “If these are the types of professors that teach at Houghton College, then that’s where I want to go!”

I went to Houghton College from 2002 to 2006 and then I remained in Houghton four more years working with the boarding international students at Houghton Academy. Phil completed his Associates Degree in Portland and then continued his studies and graduated from Houghton College as well.

I look back now and I am still immensely grateful for having gone to Houghton. Not only did the professors set the bar high academically, they were also followers of Jesus. They modeled and imparted to me a passion and desire to be a lifelong learner and to filter what I was learning and all of life, through Biblical truths.

We were only there a day, which felt too short, but we were still able to visit and catch up with friends, former colleagues and professors. We will have to return again soon and perhaps stay a bit longer. Thank you Kristina and Linnea for letting us stay with you!

We stopped in Buffalo to spend time with a dear friend & her husband and they treated us to a delicious Thai food dinner!

We stopped in Buffalo to spend time with a dear friend & her husband and they treated us to a delicious Thai food dinner!

Happy Birthday Phil!

Today was also Phil’s birthday (July 26th) and being Phil, he refused to do anything special to celebrate the day of his birth. Instead he wanted to maximize our time in Houghton visiting people. Well, happy, happy birthday to the man I love! You continually live out and model to me what it looks like to put others above yourself. And that itself is a gift you gave me on your birthday! I love you so much.

It won't be difficult to convince him, though, to go on a celebratory hike near the scenic Columbia gorge when we are back in Portland.

It was hard even just getting him to blow a candle. But he didn't turn down the gelato.

It was hard even just getting him to blow a candle. But he didn't turn down the gelato.

Day 10: Canada, China, & Ecuador? - Toronto, Canada

We have officially driven over 3,000 miles!

What’s really amazing is how well the girls have done so far. I am just blown away by their patience, endurance, and excitement. Thank you for blessing us by praying for our girls.

Today we drove to Toronto from Michigan. What a contrast it was to be so warmly welcomed into Toronto by the Canadian immigration officer and then to be so impersonally greeted and then sent off by the US immigration officer when we crossed back over the border. It reminded me just how much of an impression we make no matter how superficial and brief our encounter with others. I hope that as followers of Jesus we can continually have the courage to reflect the character of God to those we interact with in whatever situation brief or long.

We made it Toronto just in time to meet the Liu’s for dinner. During Phil’s first year of teaching, he had two Chinese twin brothers in his class. As the year progressed, we frequented their family’s restaurant and enjoyed the relationship with their family as well. We must have made a good impression as the relationship continued beyond the classroom to activities around Quito with the boys. We were trusted to take the boys for entire days joining some of our family outings.

May 2013 - We took Sam & Johnson to the Zoo   in   Guayllabamba, Ecuador.

May 2013 - We took Sam & Johnson to the Zoo in Guayllabamba, Ecuador.

At the end of 2013, their family relocated to Toronto, Canada and we have been determined to figure out a way to visit them. We finally had that opportunity and what a joy it was! They had grown so much in just a couple of years! The boys and their older sister are doing fantastic. The family fed us a delicious feast of really good Chinese food. We also enjoyed seeing their new home. It was so precious to watch the boys chatting with Phil and just enjoying being with their former teacher like he was an older brother.  Here we were in Canada with friends from China who grew up in Ecuador speaking a combination of Spanish and English! It was a reminder of the multi-cultural experiences we grew up with and how we are often blessed in unimaginable ways as we seek to be a blessing to others. What a joy it was to see these boys again and to be with their family in their new home!

We love you all! --Holcomb's to Liu's

We love you all! --Holcomb's to Liu's

From here we were headed down to Houghton and on our way, we stopped to visit Will and Ashley. Another one of those worlds-colliding experiences! Ashley had very thoughtfully made some incredibly delicious adobo! And we left their place with our bellies and hearts filled to the brim.


Day 8 & 9: Lessons in Hospitality - Nunica, MI

Today we drove from Madison, Wisconisin to Nunica, Michigan. It was over 7 hours of driving but it helped to know that we would be in Nunica for two nights. Phil’s aunt (his mom’s younger sister) lives here. The last time we were here was exactly 6 years ago when we moved from western New York back to Portland and drove across the country. Maiya was only 8 months old!

Here is a photo of the last time we were in Nunica visiting Phil's aunt and uncle. That is baby Maiya in the center.

Here is a photo of the last time we were in Nunica visiting Phil's aunt and uncle. That is baby Maiya in the center.

There was warm delicious pizza waiting for us when we arrived past dinner time. Phil’s aunt and uncle welcomed us and very kindly gave up their room for Phil and I to sleep in (they slept out in their camper!). WOW. Not only was the room perfectly clean and ready for us, there was also a bowl filled with candy and chocolates and a gift card to Applebee’s!

The girls had their own room and Aunt Faith had beautifully made up their beds and had a bag for each of them, filled with a craft pad, color pencils, crayons, stickers, and toys. Next to the bags were two toy plastic buckets with shovels and sand toys that gave a hint at what awaited us the following day.

The next day we were fed a delicious brunch and we enjoyed the company of Phil’s cousins. Then we were taken to various places including the beach. Uncle Jeff did not allow us to pay for anything even though we kept trying.

But more than all of the generosity and evident effort to make us feel very welcomed I so enjoyed just talking and hanging out with Aunt Faith and Uncle Jeff and watching them enjoy our girls and play with them. Thank you for welcoming us and letting us stay with you! You were a blessing to us.

One of the things I am enjoying the most on this trip is learning the different ways that people extend hospitality. There are many things that I am challenged by and hope to learn and practice. What an unexpected gift it is to be able to learn from others the many different ways to be welcoming and hospitable.

Note: Unfortunately, I lost our very old point-and-shoot sony camera, so the only photos that were taken at Nunica were lost as well.

Day 6 & 7: Handcrafted Gift From God - Madison, WI

I went to the same international school in Mozambique from kindergarten to 8th grade. When my parents separated and my sisters and I moved to Kenya with my dad before my 8th grade year was over, I was devastated. My whole world felt like it was spinning off its axis.

I had never been to a Missionary Kids’ School and had never been part of an evangelical Christian community before Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi. My classmates and teachers were so genuinely warm and welcoming, it almost made me feel uncomfortable except that it was exactly what my hurting heart and desperate soul needed then.

My 9th grade year at Rosslyn will always hold a very dear place in my heart. It was the year my life changed forever. I responded to the Holy Spirit and made the commitment to become a follower of Jesus. It was also the year that I met this kind and caring boy that I grew to really like (little did I know then that I would one day be adventuring on the road, all across the US with this same boy and our two little girls!) So you can imagine my disbelief when, before the year was over, my dad informed me that we would be moving back to the Philippines!

This time I dug in my heels. Africa was my home and I refused to leave. Fortunately for me, my father kindly relented and made me a deal. If I could find a suitable host family to live with, then he would allow me to stay. Before heading to the Philippines for the summer I explained my dilemma to friends and teachers.

My dad and I returned in August even though I still had no options for where I would stay. I clearly remember attending registration day at Rosslyn that August morning. Going around different tables and signing up for classes with various teachers. I remember feeling nervous as the likelihood of me staying was looking very dim.

I remember getting to the table where Aunt Linda was sitting on the other side, signing up students for Spanish class. When it was my turn to sign up I remember Aunt Linda smiling her bright smile at me and asking me how I was doing. I don’t remember what I said but I do remember glumly fumbling around for a response. I remember her saying she had heard I was looking for a place to stay. And I remember feeling so dejected that it took me a little while to realize what she was saying. She informed me that she and Uncle Dave had been praying about it and that if I hadn’t yet found a place that they would very much like it if I lived with them! I remember being in a bit of a shocked state and I might have even asked if she was being serious.

I remember how seamless it was to join their family and how it quickly felt like home. The stability, consistency, and genuine love and forgiveness that flowed through them from the Father was like a precious handcrafted gift from God. It was such an emotionally charged time in my life and they loved me nonetheless, like one of their own. Even though the privilege of living under their roof spanned a short time, that whole experience deeply shaped me in ways that God continues to use.

I am so very grateful for this chance to re-connect and see them again. Thank you Uncle Dave, Aunt Linda, Elliot, Emily, and Juniper for taking time to see us and host us! We loved our time with you and we hope to see you again soon!

The Consigny's in Madison, WI (minus Moriah & Niles)

The Consigny's in Madison, WI (minus Moriah & Niles)

Note: My parents eventually reconciled and are back together. I did eventually move back to the Philippines with my whole family. After Rosslyn Academy Phil and I continued our friendship long-distance and eventually started dating (in college), and then got married.

Day 5: When Worlds Collide - Sioux Falls, SD

It is always a little bit strange when we get the privilege of getting together with Quito people stateside. Living in two vastly different worlds and having a community of people in each, and then having those people occasionally cross over to the “other” world may always seem a bit disorienting. Explaining that alone has gotten my mind a bit confused...

But all the strangeness aside, it was a real treat to see part of the Bierle clan (Sarah and Tessa) in Sioux Falls. We know the Bierle’s from working at Alliance Academy with them. Phil coached JV Basketball with Brad. This past year, I had asked Sarah to mentor me and keep me accountable in a couple of specific areas I hope to continue to grow in, so we have been meeting weekly. Tessa, their youngest (second from the left in the picture), has also baby sat for our girls on several occasions.

Thank you for feeding us and making time to see us, AND THEN stocking up our cooler with treats and yummy food! May the Lord continue to bless you too!

At Sioux Falls with Sarah & Tessa

At Sioux Falls with Sarah & Tessa