Monday, November 12, 2012

Hello friends and family!

As most of you know, Noah has arrived, and life has been a whirlwind!!  We are learning to be parents and are head-over-heels in love with our little boy.

The past 6 months have been very emotional for us for a lot of reasons - not only as we prepared for Noah's arrival, but also as changes have taken place within our ministry.  For a lot of reasons, many out of our control, we slowly became aware that the time was approaching for us to return to the United States.  We have been praying about this decision daily for a long time, and we both feel confident that, although we may feel that there is more to be done here in Ecuador, the Lord is leading us to return to North Carolina.  Tomorrow at 8:15am, we will be boarding a plane and coming home for the foreseeable future.  We are beyond excited to be closer to our family and friends as we have missed you all so much, but of course these feelings are accompanied by feelings of sadness as we leave the friends we have made here.

We want to thank God for giving us the opportunity to take this adventure with him and we pray that, by his hands, we may have made a small difference here in Ecuador.  We have no doubt that he has been working on us and in our hearts each and every day during our time here and that we are leaving having received from him and from the people here much more than we could have possibly given them.

We also want to say thank you to each and every one of you.  We cannot express the gratitude we feel toward you all for the encouragement, love, and support - financial and otherwise - that we have received from you for the past three years.  You have all been right beside us in this ministry and we could not have done it without you.  

We will continue to receive your donations through the month of January as we re-settle in the US.  After that point, you are free to transfer your donation to the MMI General Fund or to a specific person within MMI, or cancel your donation.  If you do not reach out to MMI to either transfer or cancel your automatic donation (972-727-5864) it will be applied to the MMI General Fund.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have:,, 910-508-7391.

We look forward to seeing all of you very soon!

Love and God bless,

Stephanie, Joshua, and Noah

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We hope everyone is enjoying some cooler temperatures as fall approaches!  Josh and I won't get to enjoy any changing leaves or apple cider, but we have been excited to catch the occasional NFL game in the past week on ESPN Vivo!  We are counting down the days until Noah enters the world and doing everything we can to prepare emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Praise to the Lord, I have been feeling very well and getting stronger since the kidney stone incident.  We appreciate your prayers for our family and we ask for continued prayers as the due date approaches!

We would also like to report on a fantastic MMI one-week project that we had in August.  A small team of 11 participants and 2 translators came to the permanent center in Milagro and performed 8 total knee replacement surgeries and completed over 100 physical therapy consults!  The week started off a little later than expected because the donated prosthetic knees were unavoidably held up in customs, but this group's flexibility, trust in the Lord, and joy in the midst of difficulty were a real inspiration to Josh and I.  Some incredible bonding occurred between the Milagro hospital staff and the North American participants despite the language barrier and, God-willing, they are excited to repeat the trip in 2013.  We had far more potential patients than we had space for surgeries, so the team will definitely be busy if they are able to come back!  We cannot express clearly enough our gratitude to all of the members of the team and all of the people that made this project happen.  It was a humbling experience and we were blessed to have been involved.

Josh is still hard at work every day at the permanent center and is making strides forward in many areas.  We have a new student from Haiti in our Ophthalmic Tech program and we are looking for a second student to join him as he starts classes in a couple of weeks.  The internal audit of the hospital has been completed and shows that while we have areas in which we can improve, the hospital has been keeping accurate books for the past three years and is in line legally.  Josh is also mentoring one of our employees who has serious potential for management in the future and we are excited about the possibilities for him within the hospital.  The Lord continues to open doors and we are excited to be a part of serving those in need here in Milagro.

We promise to keep you all informed as the due date draws nearer, and we will post pictures of our new little one as soon as we can!  Thank you for your prayers and support!

Love and God bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Rachel and I

The team at work in the OR

Jennifer providing physical therapy post-surgery

The North-American participants and the Milagro Permanent Center Staff 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ups and Downs

Hello everyone!

Summer is in full swing and, ironically, we are enjoying some cooler days here in Ecuador!  May, June, and July have been busy and we have experienced many joys and a few obstacles, but our faith in God and his plan has carried us through it all.

We had the privilege and pleasure of hosting Josh's college roommate and friend, James Franklin, here in Milagro for 4 weeks starting back in June.  James is currently 1 year away from his Masters in Divinity from the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, TX and he has some fantastic experience both training and working as a hospital chaplain.  This year, he applied for and received a grant to come to Ecuador and work with us at the MMI hospital in Milagro.  During his time here, he worked one-on-one with our hospital pastor, had meetings with our staff, and spoke at 4 different local churches to try to encourage pastoral care for the sick and hurting.  I worked side-by-side with him as his translator while he was in Ecuador and it was a wonderful learning experience for me as well.  He spoke a lot about the importance of spending time with people who are suffering as opposed to only trying to do things for them and how your physical presence can do so much more than just a phone call or Facebook message can.  We had a lot of fun while James was with us too!  We celebrated Josh's 27th birthday with an Avengers-themed party thrown by our friends here in Milagro (they even made Josh an awesome Thor costume), and for the 4th of July,  we had a hot dogs, baked beans, and James made a very patriotic Rice-Crispy Treat American flag!  See pictures below :).

During the last week of his stay with us, we went to Quito for a couple of days so he could see some more of the country, and then we traveled down to Latacunga to participate on the first week of a two-week mission trip there.  It always makes such a difference having a spiritual leader on the trips and I think that the participants and the patients really benefited from James' presence.  

Unfortunately, Josh and I were only able to enjoy two days of the mission trip because on the Tuesday evening of the trip, a kidney stone that had previously been tucked quietly in my right kidney decided to make an appearance.  After a couple of hours of pain, we decided that I should go to a local private clinic where they realized that I had started having minor contractions.  They quickly got the contractions under control, started monitoring Noah, and gave me something for the pain that wouldn't affect the baby.  I ended up staying at the clinic in Latacunga until Friday morning when we were able to arrange a flight to Guayaquil where I could be monitored by my OB at a private hospital there.  I spent the next 6 days waiting for the stone to pass on its own, but after several ultrasounds, it became apparent that it was stuck just above my bladder and wasn't moving anytime soon.  Because I was still having significant pain, we decided that I would have a procedure to have the stone removed.  Praise the Lord, everything went well and I was able to go home after 48 hours recuperating.  That was my first experience in the hospital, and I do NOT want to be back there before Noah is born!  But, Josh and I were well taken care of and I am definitely taking it easy for the next three months.  I still have a small stone in each of my kidneys, so we are doing everything we can to make sure that they stay where they are.  We appreciate the prayers and love that we received from friends and family while I was in the hospital and we know that we were strengthened by them.

Things are starting to get back to normal and the next big event on the calendar is a mission project that is coming to the hospital in mid-August.  They will be performing knee-replacement surgeries and providing physical therapy for the patients after their surgeries.  We are looking forward to recharging our batteries and preparing for the team's arrival over the next few weeks.  We know that God has a lot of wonderful things in store for the second half of 2012 and we can't wait to share them with you!

Here are a few pictures from our time with James:

James speaking at a church with me translating

4th of July rice-crispy treat flag

Josh's Avengers Birthday Party

A sweet little patient we saw in Latacunga

Some visitors who came to see me in the hospital

Love and God bless,

Stephanie and Joshua        

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hello Friends and Family and Happy Belated Easter!

April is here and with it, some very exciting news . . . Josh and I are expecting a baby in October!  We are completely ecstatic and have been chomping at the bit to share the news.  I am doing well and very happy to be finishing up the first trimester.  We ask for your prayers for us and our new addition and we will definitely keep you up to date on all the baby news!

We also just completed the Vacation Bible School that we have been planning for the past few months.  We worked with the local Missionary Alliance Church in Milagro and they were incredible.  The church sent a team of about 14 people each day, mostly teenagers, who led the VBS and it was so encouraging to see the Lord working through them.  They loved working with the kids and the kids loved learning about God.

As I have mentioned before, the hospital is located in a neighborhood called Las Piñas, which is extremely poor.  Most families in the neighborhood live in houses made of sugarcane and reeds.  The kids of the area are on their own a lot of the time and playing outside in filthy conditions and so we were really excited about bringing them to the auditorium of the hospital and sharing God's love with them and giving them some attention for a couple of hours each day.

Thursday and Friday of the week before the VBS we publicized that we were hosting it and handed out fliers, and we got a great response from the parents we talked to.  Monday rolled around however, and when the team arrived to teach at 2pm, there were no kids!  I was extremely nervous and felt horrible about not being prepared, but the team from the church and some hospital employees happily went out into Las Piñas and rounded up the kids.  By 2:45, there were 60 kids in the auditorium and we had 50 to 60 kids come each day after that.

The team prayed with the kids and led them in songs and stories about missionaries and then split them into groups by their age and told the story of Moses.  By the last day, the kids knew 5 or 6 new songs, could retell the story of Moses and were asking when the next VBS was going to be!  I pray that we were able to plant a seed in their hearts and that God would grow that seed with his love as they grow up.  

We have spoken with the leader of the VBS team and she is interested in setting up an after-school program once a week here at the hospital to keep up with the kids and continue their Christian education.  We told her we would be thrilled to work with them on that, so we will see what the Lord has in store!

Here are some pictures from the VBS:

The kids waiting to go in on the last day

A group of girls ready to learn about the Lord

The opening session

Welcome speech

Kids learning to pray

One of the songs they learned.  The lyrics mean:  "Do you know who Jesus is?  He is my Savior.  He never leaves me, he loves me, yes, he always helps me, he listens to me.  Even if I have problems, I can trust in him.  It is marvelous to know that he is my faithful friend."

One of the small group sessions

Some of the VBS teachers

We hope everyone is enjoying some spring-time weather and we thank you, as always, for your prayers and support.

Love and God bless,

Stephanie and Josh


Monday, March 5, 2012

Leaping into March

¡Hola Todos!

We hope everyone had a wonderful Leap Day and that you are looking forward to some "March Madness"! (Go Heels! - my one and only plug, promise!) Josh and I have been in our apartment for a month now, and we are loving it. We are cooking and having people over occassionally and just enjoying having a place to call our own.

We are continuing to take small steps forward here at the hospital. We celebrated its 11th anniversary on Valentine's Day and we should have the optical shop moved inside at some point this month. At end of next week, Josh and I are heading to Quito for a Conference with CBM (Christian Blind Mission). CBM has had a partnership with our hospital in Milagro for many years and we are excited to learn more about their organization and how we can continue to work together to spread the gospel and provide eye care to the poor. While we are there, we also have plans to spend time with our friends from Language School who live in Quito. They were so generous to us last year in letting us live in their home, and we were really sad to have to say goodbye when we moved here to Milagro. We are very excited to have this opportunity to get to see them again.

One of our goals that we have been working on recently is to have at least two MMI surgical mission projects come to the hospital during 2012. Last June, we had the pleasure of working with a doctor from Texas in Baños. This year, he is interested in spending one week in Baños with Susana on her project, and then coming down to Milagro to spend one week doing knee-replacements and other orthopedic surgeries here in the hospital. It was a joy working with him last year and we can't wait to have him back. We are looking for physical therapists, nurses, and an anesthesiologist and/or CRNA to help us on this June project (specific dates TBA), so if you are interested, please email me at There is another project in the works for October, but we don't have any details yet. We will keep you posted!

 Josh and I are so blessed to be here, and as always, we thank you for your prayers for us and for our ministry. Whether in the US or here in Ecuador, every day has its joys and also its challenges and difficulties. Josh shared a devotion with the staff this morning based on John 16:33 which says, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." We encourage you to find your hope in the Lord in every circumstance and always remember that Jesus already won the battle for us, so we just have to trust in Him. We are praying for you all as well and we send our love.

Here are some pics of the flooding that happens outside our apartment.  All that rain fell in about an hour!  Luckily, we are on the second floor so we stay pretty dry :).

God Bless,

Stephanie and Joshua

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hola 2012!

We are back in Ecuador and ready for action! A lot has happened since our last blog, so I will back up a little. When I last wrote, we were preparing for our time in the Dominican Republic. The first week, we were at MMI's flagship hospital in Santo Domingo. Nicole and Janice Hunter were so helpful and showed us every part of their facility. We got a lot of ideas that we believe will translate nicely to the hospital in Milagro. The second week, we were at the MMI Director's Conference and it was fantastic as well! It was a joy to see all of my friends from the Dominican Republic and around the world. It really brought home the fact that we are all a family and, in happiness and in troubles, God has given us a group of people to support and help us. Not long after finishing the conference and returning to Ecuador, we headed home to North Carolina for Christmas and New Years. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to be home for a while. We ate, and ate, and then ate some more! We loved being able to go to our repective churches in Wilmington and Pinehurst, and also to visit other churches and individuals who are supporting us. It was very difficult to say goodbye (isn't it always?) but we headed back to Ecuador last week and we are back working in the hospital. In the few short days that we have been back, we have been busy! We are beginning a couple of exciting projects here in the hospital based on the insight we gained from the hospital in the Dominican Republic: Our first order of business was to revamp our optical shop. Previously, the optical shop for the hospital was located about 200 yards from the main building. By the time our patients finished with their appointments, frequently they just got in a taxi or on a motorcycle and headed home without visiting it. We are bringing the optical shop inside the main building and trying to make it a more inviting and comfortable space for our patients. Glasses are something that a patient is going to use A LOT, so we want them to feel completely at ease as they go through the process of choosing frames. Also, if the shop is inside the hospital, right by the waiting room, hopefully more people will want to purchase their glasses through us. Secondly, we would like to try to develop an audiology department within the hospital. This is more of a long-term goal, but we are trying to take some preliminary steps. At the Director's Conference, we spent a good bit of time with a pediatric audiologist who has worked with the hospital in Santo Domingo to develop their audiology department. She is eager to help us do the same! Unlike severe eye problems, hearing problems can be long-overlooked in children here in Ecuador and frequently, children with hearing problems are misdiagnosed as having autism. We are excited about the potential of this project and will keep you updated on its progress. Here in Ecuador, the children are out of school for their "summer vacation" until April, and it is my goal to offer a Vacation Bible School for the children of the poor neighborhood around the hospital called Las Piñas. I am working with a member of the local church to obtain materials and teachers for a program in March. Although Josh and I do have the goal of improving business practices and efficiency in the hospital, our primary goal of course is to share the gospel in words and actions with the world around us. VBS is a fantastic way to do that! We want these children to feel the love of Christ and desire to know him more. We also hope that, through the VBS, more people would learn about the hospital and we would be able to help more patients. On a more personal note, Josh and I will be moving into our very own apartment (first time in 3 years!) either this weekend or next week some time. Needless to say, I am beyond excited. It was COMPLETELY unfurnished - no furniture, no appliances, no blinds, not even lightbulbs! So we have been busy this week shopping for good deals on all of these things :). I can't wait to start cooking again! Once we get moved in, I will post some pictures of our new place. Yesterday was my birthday, and I was blessed enough to have calls and well-wishes from my family, and not one, but TWO surprise parties! The family that we are living with threw one for me the night before my birthday, and then yesterday the hospital staff had a cake for me. I was definitely feeling the love. The year is ripe with promise and we are very excited and priviledged to share it with you. Here are some pictures from the conference and from Christmas:
Joshua and I in the Dominican Republic with the Ecuador Team
Willie Hunter, CEO of MMI, speaking at the Director's Conference
The White/Tucker/Sorzano family in New Orleans for Christmas
The boys :)
Josh and I with his Grandfather
Baya with her Christmas present (A UNC hat!) Love and God Bless, Stephanie and Joshua

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What a Year!

10 months and 6 days ago Josh and I arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador to begin working towards the goal of finding a site for a new MMI Permanent Center. Far from being straightforward and basic, this task took us all over Ecuador and required that we investigate way more than just population statistics and pieces of land. We have been humbled by the work that we have done here and we feel confident with the information that we have presented to MMI regarding the potential new center. We know that ultimately, this decision is in the hands of the Lord and that we have fulfilled the job that we set out to do this year.

For the past 2 months, we have been working at the hospital here in Milagro, Ecuador and things are moving forward. Our priority from the beginning was to learn first and to act second. This hospital has been operating self-sufficiently since 2001 and, although there are areas that can be improved, we wanted to take the time to understand the processes and the culture of the hospital before charging ahead with changes. We have learned so much in the 2 months that we have spent in the hospital and we have a lot of ideas that we are anxious to implement in 2012. We will be sure to let all of you know how we are progressing!

During the past 2 months, we also worked on a week-long mission project in a coastal city called Daule. The team that came down was from Pennsylvania and they came to work! There were a total of 20 people on the team and we saw 1700 patients in just 1 week! Josh and I are so glad to have been able to help out with the Daule project and we are thrilled that we were able to get the hospital involved as well. One of the ophthalmic techs came with us and did general eye checks and also screened patients for cataracts and pterigions. Those patients who needed surgery were given the hospital's information and we are working to help them plan their surgeries.

Tomorrow, Josh and I leave for 2 weeks in the Dominican Republic - and not for a beach vacation! :) From Tuesday through Sunday we will be working in the MMI Permanent Center in Santo Domingo, and learning from the administration there. We have had several conversations with them and we are excited to get the opportunity to see how they operate and how we can improve Ecuador's MMI hospital in Milagro. In the second week of our time in the Dominican Republic, we will be attending the MMI Director's Conference in a city outside of Santiago. The conference will give us the chance to meet with MMI staff from all over the world and assess MMI as a whole and how it can improve.

We are so excited to come home and see everyone at Christmas - we miss you all so much! We are blessed by all that the Lord has done in our lives this year and we know that this is only the beginning of our work. We pray that everyone enjoys preparing for Christmas!

Here are some pictures from the September Sangolquí project:

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Joshua