Thursday, December 15, 2016

Learning Never Ends

Hello everybody, instead of the usual update written by my Dad, this is actually Joel writing to you! Question: when you guys finished with high school or college, did you ever feel like that was the end of your involvement with school? I have thought that I would feel that, but for the Edgren family, we can’t seem to get away from schooling and teaching. Maybe one day.

Joel at Moody
So, seeing as I am writing this update, I can tell you all that life at Moody Spokane is amazing! We’ve finished with our first semester, and everything has gone well. Most importantly though, I’ve made plenty of friends. My friends range anywhere from people I have had a few conversations with and enjoy having around to my closest friend, Jack, with whom I can just be goofy and not worry about anything. Like that running joke about starting a rebellion just for the fun of it. Prayers that the second semester would go equally as swimmingly are welcome.

The Newlyweds
We were overjoyed to add a new addition to the family when Shelby and David got married in August. Reportedly, David is more head over heels in love with and devoted to Shelby than ever. In addition, Shelby recently started her job as a nurse on the Mother Baby floor at Rush University Medical Center, which is where she graduated.

My Dad got the chance a couple weeks ago, to go to Machala and teach the Pentateuch. Machala is a coastal city with a very warm friendly culture, and so it is always a pleasure for him when he gets to teach at that location. Not only that, but I personally know that the Pentateuch is his favourite topic to teach on, so it is no surprise that he enjoyed his time teaching quite a great deal. Machala is also near the border of Peru, so he was able to head to Peru and try some Peruvian food while he was in the area. We can pray that Dad’s students may continue to grow and that their future ministries will be blessed.

My Mom, on the other hand is still teaching. She is back to teaching Math and Science to 6th graders. This year, she has Lindsey in her class as well, but really, she loves all her students dearly. As we speak, this evening, she and Lindsey will be busy with their parts in the elementary Christmas program at Alliance.

Avant Latin America Conference
Avant Missionaries from Columbia, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Bolivia met last month in Quito. A highlight was the encouraging speaker who spoke at the conference. At the conference, they talked about different ministry strategies as well as administrative details with the home was held in Quito so my parents were the only ones who did not have to travel far. We obviously aren’t the only missionaries here in Latin America, so it is important that we use this as a reminder to pray for other missionaries around Latin America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No Joke!

Greetings from Kansas! We are back in the US for the summer seeking to connect with supporters and share about the Lord's work in Ecuador. Kansas people get kind of tired of jokes related to the Wizard of Oz, so I think I'll just move on. If you were expecting some kind of wisecrack, you'll have to formulate it yourself. I've got a prize for the best one to arrive in our inbox!

Earthquake Update
Please continue to pray for the people of Ecuador's northwest coast who were affected by the major earthquake on April 16. More than 30,000 people have been displaced from their homes. One interesting article I read discussed some of the challenges they are facing: overcrowding in shelters, increased domestic violence, and health issues. Pray that the Ecuadorian church will know how to respond to the need. Pray also for the churches whose buildings have been flattened or with homeless members. Pray for comfort and protection as the number of aftershocks continues to rise over 2000.

The next few weeks will be very busy for us as we travel and meet with churches and individual supporters. We are in Kansas for most of July, with a few days in Omaha and a weekend in Oklahoma. In August we will return to Omaha and then begin a trip to the west coast for both ministry and family purposes.

We are excited that Joel will be attending Moody Bible Institute's Spokane campus this fall. One of the stops on our long road trip will be in Washington to help him settle in to his new environment there. Joel is currently looking for work in the Newton, Kansas area to help prepare for the upcoming year. Please pray for a short-term job that would be a good fit for him.

The highlight of the summer will be adding a new daughter to the family! David will be marrying Shelby Patty on August 20th in California. They attended Wheaton College together and now Shelby is finishing up nursing school in Chicago in early August. From the first time we met Shelby, we were confident she was the perfect match for David. Their plans are to continue living in Chicago.

Click here to read more about David and Shelby:

Luke is staying alone in our house in Quito right now. He is helping with translation for a couple of ministry teams and working with Alliance Academy's summer school program.

He is a capable young man and there are also several families close by who are willing to help him if he needs it. Nevertheless, we appreciate your prayers for him during these weeks. He'll be joining us here at the end of July.

Phil and Rea
Phil and Rea Holcomb are very close friends of ours who are making a change in their ministry focus in Ecuador. Phil will be joining the pastoral staff of our church in Quito, and they need to raise additional funds for their financial support. If you are looking for a very strategic way to invest in the Lord's work in Ecuador, I can assure you that this one is key. Click here to read more, or visit their webpage. Let us know if you would like more information.

We are passionate about our ministry in Ecuador, and that is no joke. Thank you for your part in making it possible! We're looking forward to sharing more about it with many of you!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Update from Jama

I got back from the coast this morning. Thank you for praying for our trip and for the people affected by the earthquake. The devastation is indeed terrible. We saw things that were extremely sad, and other things that gave encouragement in the middle of the suffering. Since I'm getting a lot of questions, I thought I'd start by writing a summary of some of my observations. This got longer than I intended; if you feel like it's too much to read, I understand.

I went with a couple of guys from a non-governmental organization which builds houses for people with low resources. They bring young people from Canada as volunteers for the construction. Before the earthquake they began organizing a trip to Jama to build about 20 new houses. The volunteers were scheduled to arrive at the beginning of next month. Their contact in Jama is the local Catholic priest. The purpose of our trip was to deliver donations of basic supplies to the priest to help with relief from the earthquake, to re-evaluate their constructions plans, and to consider other ways to help from this point forward. We loaded their bus with maybe about 3 tons of supplies like water, rice, beans, canned meat, cereal, toilet paper, bedding and other donations they had collected.

Jama is about 125 miles directly west of Quito. Because of challenges in the mountains and roads of Ecuador, the trip is normally extended to 6 or 7 hours. To make a long story short, this time we spent 26 hours getting there and 15 hours returning. Not all of our delays were directly related to effects from the earthquake, but most of them were at least exacerbated by them.

Concerns about travel safety are heightened because of highway robberies that have occurred since the earthquake. Some people have been ambushing the trucks that are taking supplies for victims. Our vehicle was, unfortunately, extra visibility, but police were very helpful for us, and during the most crucial major portions of our trip they gave us a police escort. Pedernales is one of the larger towns/small cities close to the epicenter, and we had to pass through it to get to Jama. Pedernales suffered tremendously from looting and other crime during the first couple of days in the aftermath, but by the time we arrived, there was a very strong police and military presence.

It is very difficult to sort between rumors and facts. Most people in and around Pedernales are under the impression that the number of casualties in that city alone is about 2000. They say that bodies were being laid out for identification, and only the ones which are identified are added to the official numbers the government is reporting. During our short time in Pedernales, however, we didn't find any evidence to support this, so it might not be true. We had also heard that Jama had not yet received any help. But by the time we got there, we found the city had received emergency rescuers and donations of goods. It's likely it arrived at Jama later than Pedernales, but it is there now. As we were leaving, we received news that San Vicente, had not yet received any help. I have no way of confirming or denying this. Hopefully, all towns and cities in the area are or will soon be receiving the help they need.

The condition of the buildings is terrible. My un-expert opinion is that 80% or more of the buildings are destroyed beyond repair, confirming the information I've seen elsewhere. The situation in Jama is at least as bad as Pedernales. It actually seemed that the percentage of flattened structures in Jama was worse than in Pedernales—probably due to lower standards of construction. It is clear that in most cases, the extent of the damage was increased by poor construction. Interestingly enough, some of the very poorest people are currently in the best situation. Those whose houses were built from caña (similar to bamboο) are the most likely to currently have a shelter.

The smell of death in these towns is terrible. As one walks down the street, one passes different spots that are worse than others; then maybe half a block later it gets a little better. The smell is probably an indication of where a body might have laid for a while or hasn't even been discovered yet. In some cases it could also be as simple as a refrigerator that has been without power for too long, and the chicken is spoiling. Every once in a while I have the sensation that I'm still smelling the odor that I left behind over a day ago.

I saw a few minor injuries, but I didn't visit any areas where people with more serious wounds were being cared for, so I don't have much to report in that way.

It was encouraging to see many trucks making the trip from Quito and other places to deliver donations to these communities. Both Pedernales and Jama have distribution centers where people can receive what they need. We can be assured that at least many of the donations in Quito are indeed making their way to their intended destiny.

There are, of course, some people who have been less affected by the earthquake (like those with houses of made of caña and who live out in the country). Unfortunately, some of them are taking advantage of the situation and seeking to accept as many donations as possible. Some of them are camping in makeshift shelters along the roads to appear as if they are needy. It's nearly impossible for outsiders to determine who truly needs help, and it is imperative that those taking donations work together closely with local people who know the difference.

After we delivered the donations we had taken, we spent a little time assessing the situation in Jama. I was prepared to stay a few days if there was a need I could fill, but there just didn't seem to be a clear one. Rescuers are there from other parts of Ecuador as well as other countries. They didn't seem overwhelmed by the amount of work to do, nor did they seem to be stressed or seeking help. The window of time for expecting to find survivors is coming to a close, and as an untrained person, there didn't seem to be anything I could add without potentially getting in the way. Hopefully donations will continue to arrive for as long as they are needed, and hopefully that will start to be coordinated better soon. The next steps will be to restore the power and water infrastructure and cell phone communication. Before too long the remaining buildings that are damaged need to be completely leveled to remove the hazards of unsafe structures.

Some people are moving away from these communities to the larger cities like Santo Domingo, Guayaquil and Quito. I saw several trucks moving furniture and household belongings out. Some are probably making a temporary move; others might be choosing to start all over. Those who are staying probably feel like the land they own is the only thing they have left and find it hard to abandon it. In every case, for those who stay and for those who leave, they need help to restore their lives.

The road between Jama and Pedernales was in pretty bad shape, but it was spotty. It seemed to especially be an issue wherever the original construction had involved filling in to make it level, and at junctures with bridges or other transitions. There were many places where the road had buckled, or some parts had risen or fallen. In one spot it had split apart into several strips. In most cases, slow and careful travel made it passable, a couple of the worst spots had already been repaired enough to get through. As we were leaving a few hours later, they had machinery spreading dirt over the spots that hadn't received any attention yet.

The stories of death and survival abound. I met one woman in front of her 3-story concrete house. The first floor crumbled while she was on that level, and floors two and three remained intact and came down on top of her and her two sons. She pointed out the spot where she crawled out from underneath what now looks like a 2-story house. It didn't look like there would have been room under there for her. Her aged father was crushed to his death in the adjoining room.

I also heard the story of a boy who was with his mom when the earthquake started. She had just enough time to push him out of the door before the house came down on top of her. The boy is the only one from his family who survived.

We saw dogs waiting faithfully by a pile of rubble that used to be the house of their owner.

It was extremely sad to see the destruction and the human suffering, but I don't regret going in the least. I am very glad that I had the chance to take this trip and help in the small ways that I did. As things continue to develop and needs arise, there may be more ways for all of us to get involved.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Leaving for Jama

Kristi and I have been really busy with ministry since the beginning of the year, and God has been doing some great things. My hope was to write an update this week to tell you all that has been going on, but something else happened that has changed our plans. I'm going to have to save a lot of our news for another time.

By now, most you have likely heard of the big earthquake that Ecuador had on Saturday. If you haven't, I'll let you google it. I don't have time to give many details now, but I want you to know of the need to pray.

Early tomorrow morning I am leaving for the coast with a team of people. We hope to provide relief for people in the town of Jama. It is town with about 40,000 inhabitants, located very close to the epicenter. It was one of several towns and cities that were hit very hard, and about 90% of the structures in the town are destroyed. We will be taking food, water and blankets. Our purpose is to distribute the relief items and ask the mayor and the local priest how we can help. We will likely encounter bodies of dead victims that are still needing to be processed, and people who need help with the most basic needs of life.

Jama is about 100 miles straight west of here. On a good day, it probably takes about 6 hours to get there. The roads in that area, however, are all ripped up. We aren't confident that we will even be able to drive all the way. Best case scenario, we are probably looking at a long day's trip. There is also a potential for carjacking and robberies on our way there.

I am taking much of my own water, food and camping equipment in a backpack. We may have some "luxuries" like a place to stay, but I'm planning for more extreme situations.

Please pray for God to open the way before us so we can reach these people who so desperately need help. Pray that he would enable me to find the needs I am suited for and to meet them well. Pray for the death toll to be stemmed by some of the efforts we are making. Pray that people will seek God with their whole heart as they face impossible physical circumstances.

I may not have any way to communicate while I am in the thick of the destruction. But if it is possible, I will continue to update Kristi as to my safety and the conditions we are facing. Please pray for God's strength for my family for the entire time I am gone. My plan is to return in about a week.

I have posted some good information by Facebook. Kristi has too, and she might put more updates there during my time away. You can find us on Facebook here:
Scott on Facebook
Kristi on Facebook

If anyone is interested in donating for the need in Ecuador, there are many good organizations. The following three are really good options:
Extreme Response
Samaritan's Purse