Well, Josh and I have our car now and in the past month we have seen a LOT of Ecuador!!
We have been driving using our US driver's license and we have about 6 weeks left to drive on that, but we are still working on getting our Ecuadorian drivers license. We think that we can go to Quito and get it because the laws are different there than here in Guayaquil. We have some wonderful missionary friends in Quito who have said that we can stay with them and they are helping us out a TON. Even though its frustrating, we have to remember that God is in control - even of the little details.
This past weekend we went on a 1000 mile journey through the mountainous province of Loja, Ecuador. Jone and Abner (the MMI architects that we are living with) were nice enough to be our guides and took us to 8 different cities to see if any of them were possible locations for the new permanent center that we will be building.
Here is the map of the cities that we visited:
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We started on Friday, March 4th and planned to drive along the coast to Huaqiullas to stay the night. Unfortunately, about 2 1/2 hours into the journey we encountered a really bad wreck between a bus and a tractor trailer and we ended up turning around to go back to Guayaquil to spend the night. We started again on Saturday morning and drove to Machala (B) to eat lunch. From Machala we drove to Alamor (C) where we stayed the night. Alamor is a small town on top of a mountain - beautiful!! The next day we drove to Casanga (D) where we met a pastor and his family and attended a church service at his church. He told us the story of planting and growing the church in the midst of a lot of persecution. It was a beautiful service and from there a member of the church accompanied us to Catamayo (E) and on to Loja (F) where we spent the night.
After visiting Catamayo, Josh and I think that it could be a strong candidate for the medical center. It has the right population, limited access to medical services currently, and a wonderful mountain climate. We plan to spend at least a few more weeks in Catamayo this year to find out more about it.
From Loja, we drove to Amaluza (G) and visited with a man living there who does a lot of mission work in both southern Ecuador and northern Peru. He and his family live humbly, but they love the Lord so much and do the work they've been given with joy. It was very inspiring to meet them. Although it was too small to be considered for the permanent center, we think it would be a great location for future 2-week MMI projects.
We returned to Loja from Amaluza and then continued on to Balsas (H) to stay the night Monday night. Tuesday morning we drove to Piñas (I) and Zaruma (J) before heading back to Guayaquil.
It was an exhausting trip, but we made a lot of contacts and we also have at least one potential location for the hospital!
In the next few weeks we will be working more on getting our license and also planning our trips to other parts of the country. Things are definitely getting busy and with so many things on our plate we pray that we can be good stewards of our time and resources.
Please pray for us with regard to getting our driver's license. It seems like a small thing, but it is vital to our job here. Also, we realized quickly that traveling in Ecuador, while beautiful, is extremely challenging. Please pray for our safety as we begin to travel outside of Guayaquil more often.
Copy and paste this link to see pictures from our journey through the province of Loja:
Love and God Bless,
Stephanie and Josh