Firstly, let me wish you a belated happy New Year! I pray that Christmas was a time of true blessings. Thank you for your kind wishes, cards, gifts, emails and prayers.
As I write this, I am now in possession of all documents that the Ecuador government require me to have. I received my visa on 3 December, and then had to apply for a Cedula (ID card). You didn’t have to do that previously, but it was one of the changes made last year. All done to make the process easier! Two years ago I needed just two weeks, this time I started the process on 18 September and got the ID card on 9 January. I have to repeat the process in two years’ time if I am still here then.
Most of you now know that I will be back in the UK for two months from 26 February. I have four church speaking engagements planned, a three-day conference in Oxford, a wedding in Doncaster and 60th birthday celebrations in Berkshire and Scarborough. I also want to visit my mother in Bath for her birthday and Mother’s Day. I am not sure when I will have time to rest but I am looking forward to spending Easter with my home church family in Thatcham. Please pray that I will have time to rest, as well as enjoy all that I plan to do.
Since my last link letter, The Orchid programme has continued. We harvested the last tomatoes in December and pulled up everything, leaving the ground covered in plastic sheeting to halt the growth of the weeds during the rainy season. We will not start gardening again until I get back from England. The group have continued practising their life skills, as well as making new things, and on 8 December we had our second open day. It was again well supported by the church, and the youngsters were pleased to receive $20 each as a result. They are really excited when they see that people want the things they have made and it is a great motivation to continue to work hard.
On the last day before we broke for Christmas, the fellowship ministry team that I am part of in the Baptist church visited us to give the group bags of sweets and biscuits. This was followed with the parents providing us all with a Christmas lunch (chicken, rice and salad followed by jelly and chocolate cake, all washed down with fizzy pop). The ministry team also visited the Life In Abundance Trust and the Orphaids Orphanage which are also supported by the Baptist church. We also gave out 200 handmade Christmas cards, to the children at the Baptist Church School.
I thank God that I was able to spend Christmas in Quito with my American friend, with several of her friends and church family joining us for meals at various times. It was lovely to be away from the rain and to enjoy some sunshine, although I still find it odd eating turkey and all the trimmings in hot weather.
The winter rainy season is well and truly upon us in Santo Domingo, and at the beginning of January the rain was heavier than I think I have known it. I soon discovered that the man who fixed the leaky wall in my flat did not do a very good job. He painted the outside of the wall with waterproof paint. I am currently living with towels on the floor waiting for another workman to come to see if there is a broken pipe in the wall which is causing water to pour in. Ironically, we are currently without a domestic water supply due to broken pipelines in Santo Domingo.
The rain almost put a stop to the New Year’s Eve celebrations, when people burn an effigy of someone who was unpopular during the year and set off fireworks. It stopped for an hour at 11.30pm, giving people enough time to celebrate in style. It also meant that people were not outside playing loud music all night, which was good.
Please pray for safety for all of us who need to travel as there is a real possibility of landslides as there have been many in previous years. (We have had two near us in the past two weeks.)
Pray also for the construction work which restarted at the beginning of January in the church where I work. This is the continuation of the work started in July by the Latin Link Step Team. Pray that they will be able to complete it with all the rain.
Thank you for praying with me about expanding the Life Skills Programme. I have someone who has said she will join us from April as a volunteer one day per week, God willing. She is known to the group and it would be great to have her. I thank God that on 10 January we received our eighth student, Eli, and have heard from someone else that he wants to join us in April when the New Year starts. If we reach 10 students, we will definitely need more volunteers. Eli has been sitting at home for the past 12 months, as he had to leave where he was when he turned 19 (he is now 20). He is a very sociable young man who says he just wants to make new friends. Pray he will also learn some new things too.
Once again thank you for being on this journey with me, and I hope to see many of you very soon.