Wednesday, December 8, 2010

WOW! Wonderful Ongoing Weeks!

We've been here almost 4 weeks now.  What can we say but WOW! - Wonderful things are happening each day, each week.  The best part is meeting such wonderful people already, both Cuencanans and Americans.  

Friday was a real treat for us.  Our landlords, Nilo and Ana took us to their farm in Nutli, about 8 minutes from where we currently live in their charming "casa" (house).  What a view.  Here's Ana and Nilo, a picture of their living room taken from the loft, and a marvelous view of Cuenca from their mountaintop.

The day before, (Thursday), was very special.   We visisted a school started by a young pastor. Our friend and CEO of Unsion Television, Bill McDonald took us there to the school - he wanted us to see this very special work which had been started by him.  "Bolley" is his nickname - short for Bolivar!

Bill McDonald has been heading up Unsion for 7 years now.  Unsion is regarded as the number one station in Cuenca.  Through Bill's enablement, we will be starting an English Bible Study in January at the station.  We are hoping not only for English participants, but also for Spanish ones who either know English or are learning English.

Going to this school was a special treat.  The children are what we would call in America "latch key" children, whose parents work and need a place for their kids to come after school.  At this school they receive lunch, further instruction, they can play, and they also hear about the love of Jesus Christ.  WOW!

Couldn't resist taking a picture of some of them! 

On Sunday, we visited a nearby church in the community and made our way through an all Spanish service.  The language was not fully comprehendable, but no problem comprehending the love of Christ.  We followed along nicely in our Spanish/American Bible.  The pastor spoke very clearly and succinctly.  We even recognized a chorus sung in the States which they sang.  The sweetest part was when a widow woman, who spoke nothing but Spanish, invited us to her home for juice.  Although we had to work at communicating with each other, again there was no problem communicating the love of Christ Jesus.  This was so special!

Yesterday was such a marvelous day too.  Sue had lunch with her newfound American friend, Connie.  Connie and her husband, Mark have been in Cuenca for 6 months.  However, Sue introduced her to Yucca Fritas - they both had a plateful for lunch!  Except Sue had a plateful of "broccoli vapor!" (Steamed Broccoli!).  Yucca Frita is grown like a potato except it is very light.  "Frita" means fried however, they are fried very lightly - the oil does not "stick" to the yucca like it does with potatoes, so therefore it's not heavy.
And of course, Sue's favorite these days is "Agua Con Gas!" (Naturally carbonated water!) 

It was wonderful to share and be with Connie.  And how marvelous to have found a kindred spirit so many miles from home.  We'll be together again for sure!

Gary was off with Arturo - a native who specializes in helping Americans when they come to Cuenca!  Arturo helped us with our bank account at Banco Pichincha among other things.  Gary took him to VAZ Corp, a financial institution where we also have met some new friends and have opened an account. 

After Sue was finished with her lunch, she met Gary at VAZ Corp and we chatted with our friend, (amiga) Diana.  Diana is the manager of the department and helped us GREATLY with establishing an account there which was very much needed for our visa.

Diana invited us to go to lunch with her and her fellow employee and friend, Marisela.  So off we went.  Gary had not eaten, so Diana treated Gary to a wonderful lunch at a nearby hotel, where she and Marisela eat everyday for only $2.50.  It was such fun getting to know Diana and Marisela more - such two wonderful ladies and now very special friends.  

Diana's birthday was this past Saturday.  Gary gave her a small book "The Gospel of Juan" written in Spanish.  She was so appreciative and it meant much to her.  As she teared up, her comment is that she is trusting in God.  Nothing could be more dear to us than to have them brought into our lives.  Marisela is left, Diana is to the right.

Part of a day includes riding the bus and/or taxi to town, stopping by the Super Maxi, meeting new people all along the way.  Days are full and each day brings something special. 

Stay tuned as we continue our journey in Cuenca!

Hasta Luego!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Where We Live

Two weeks - that's how long we have now been in Cuenca.  What can possibly happen in two weeks?  Well for one, God provided a place to live - right down the street from where we were staying with friends, Jack & Claudia Johansen.

We moved in our little house five days ago and have been settling in ever since.  Who would ever believe 6 large suitcases, two carry ons, two laptops, a dog, and little bags of this and that (since we've been there) would take some time to unpack.  Yet it did.

But here we are and it feels like home.  Our landlords are gracious and warm.  The husband, Nilo and son, Francisco speak English, and the wife, Ana, a little.  Nonetheless, there's been fine communication exchanged and we're all "happy campers."  Below are pictures of the place.  Stover's happy too.

Where we live for the time being is a 3 bedroom (one bedroom is an office), 1 1/2 bath townhouse like home with wood floors, tile and carpet upstairs.  There's also a loft upstairs - another sleeping area, but it's great for storage of our suitcases and such!

It comes completely furnished right down to the towels, bedspreads, dishes - you name it.  It's a lovely little place and we feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful place to work from as we learn Cuenca and develop our place here.

We've learned where a few stores are - Super Maxi is the best grocery store in town, a little like Ingles Supermarket.  The co-op is right down the street, along with the "lavaderia" (laundrymat).  We are presently getting in a routine, while we return to our learning of Spanish and building of relationships.

There's LOTS to do but it's one day at a time - same as at home.  God leads each step of the way, granting rest in Him as we walk.

One picture needs some explanation - the picture of teacups.  This is especially important for Sue since she has a long held story about teacups and how special they are in her life.  The first time we walked into this place to rent, there on the wall were these teacups.  Hmmm...not a coincidence.   It's kind of neat to go thousands of miles from home and there it is - something magnificent to once again, let us know in reality, how the Lord weaves such details into our lives.

Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned as this adventure unfolds!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our New Home

Dear Friends,
          " Hola" from the city of four rivers in the Andes.
    After roaming all over town last week we rented a row house yesterday
.So, with our 8 suitcases of worldly goods, we are settling into our new home. Small, but confortably furnished, 3/1.5 so we have room for guests. 
     And only $450 plus  est. water $8/mo,  gas $3/week, elect $25/mo.  Oh yes... a weekly maid- $10 for 4 hours. We get to walk every day to the produce mkt, bus stops (bus fare .25) and along the river in front of our house. Cabs are $ 1 to $3.
    Stover loves our small back yard with manicured grass, blooming roses and shrubs. Yes, all taken care of by a monthly visit by the gardener. So, half the income, but a staff of two and a personal driver (taxi).
   We have to allow more time for most things, but this is an improvement - more time to reflect and enjoy our new environment.
Daily we are amazed at the warmth and friendliness of the Cuancanos here. Our neighbors are a family of doctors. Dad is an internist and son a pediatrician. Other neighbors are friendly with their minimal English and our poco espanol.
  We went to church with Billl McDonald and Edwardo from Unsion TV -nearly all in Spanish, but we are learning. Friday evening was a bilingual home church led by a couple from So Africa.  We enjoyed sharing The Great Exchange (II Cor 5 ) and meeting several folks.
  We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  See ya in March 2011.
                              Confused but learning,
                                  and... rejoicing,
                                                  Gary & Sue

First Days in Cuenca

What would you do if only two days you moved into your home you had company?  Not just overnight company, but "don't know how long you're gonna stay company" with 8 suitcases, an airline carrier and a dog to boot!

This is what happened to Jack & Claudia Johansen (left) when the Gaithers arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador November 13, 2010.

The Johansens left their abode in Oregon, USA only 10 days before.  Little did they know that the home they planned to live in did not work out and they were frantically looking for a place before we arrived.    We had planned to stay with them when we arrived but no one knew they would have such an ordeal happen to them.

But here we are....all nestled in a two bedroom home with 1 1/2 baths, two dogs (ours and theirs), with everyone adjusting to the new arrival to Cuenca.  It's been a week for sure and to follow are the highlights of such a week!

On the next morning of our arrival, Claudia had already been informed of a house down the street from them for rent.  We looked at it but weren't quite ready to make the plunge without looking to see what was out there. 

And so we did.  Read the next post and you'll find out the conclusion...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Second Day in Cuenca 14 Nov 2010

What's It Like?
The Past Two Days

I've known a few people to move to another country or go back to one after a long stay in the States and wondered "what's it like?" to be in another country immersed in an unknown language and culture.  Little did we realize we get to answer the question.

We arrived in Guayguil, Ecuador after a 4 hour flight from Miami.  Just checking into the international airport is an ordeal in itself.  However, we found this time it was a lot easier than our departure in June (when we visited Ecuador for the first time).

What was different?  For one, the line!  We got waited on almost immediately.  It was HUGE in that we had 6 large suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 2 laptops, a LARGE airline carrier for "Stover",  AND the DOG!

Gary paid the ticket agent for the extra two bags we were taking (we were allowed 4 free ones) AND our beloved dog, Stover (BTW - he cost $150!).  I was expecting the Jeopordy music to begin as he weighed our bags.  "Nah, nah, nah, nah...nah, nah, nah, nah"  Fifty pounds is the limit.

If your bags are over 50 lbs, it may cost you $60.  One of the two extra bags was "over the limit."  But as to how much over the limit, well we were holding our breath!  So we saved it as the last one to be weighed.  It registered 71.5 lbs.   Oops.  If you're going to be over the limit, you can only do so at 70 lbs.

So are you now holding your breath?  Did they make us take something out?  Nope.  He let 'er fly.  We were in!  And the next step was checking Stover into security.  We got to spend another hour with him, before he was taken down to the cargo area.  They load animals the very last thing.

We arrived in Guayguil at 11:25 p.m. on Thursday night.  Little did we know we had to get all our luggage, then wait in a line to go through a security scan again as well as immigrations.  By the time we finished at the airport and snuggled into bed, it was 1:30 a.m.  20-hours travel time.

Next day we had a MARVELOUS Latin breakfast, with "Moon River" playing in the hotel. Now we were ready for our 4 hour van ride over the Andes and through Cajas National Park (think Rocky Mtn National Park) to Cuenca. We rose above the cloud filled valleys and finally, the sky opened up our views. Thank God for new road construction with curbs around precipices.  Stover was adjusting nicely even though he had his moments.

We arrived at our hosts' home at almost 2:00 p.m.   Jack and Claudia had just been in their home for only two days yet had GRACIOUSLY invited us to stay with them, until we found a place of our own.  Their dog "Iggy" quickly became friends with Stover.  Not only had we "dubbed" Stover as an "Ecua-Dog," he now had an "Ecua-Buddy!"

Not long after we were here, the doorbell rang.  The Gaithers had visitors?  Unsion Television's receptionist's husband and daughter were here to deliver flowers to welcome us to Cuenca!  What a surprise!

We had become fast friends with her (Leonor) this past June on our first visit and stayed in touch via email.  It was such a blessing to meet her husband, Alfred and daughter, Sarah with their flower arrangement!

Our hosts took us to an Italian Restaurant in downtown Cuenca.  By the time we finished and arrived back at their home, we were ready for the bed!  And almost to bed we went.  We fellowshipped a little more, getting to know Jack and Claudia.

Next day was Saturday and we awakened with an itinerary already!  Claudia arranged for us to meet the neighbors 5 doors down with a potential furnished apartment for rent.  At 10:00 a.m. we met up with a lady (la mujer!) who arranged for us to see a house, also for rent.  We ended up spending some time with her (Macrina) and seeing another hopeful place.  The real estate hunt has begun!

Macrina introduced us to what she calls, "the best massage therapist in Cuenca" - Nona.  We went ahead and each had a 40 minute "unforgettable" massage.  Macrina is right!  We're going back.  We will have a massage next week for $20 - for the both of us!

We asked Nona to help us call a cab (Nona speaks NO English) so she shouted up to the woman upstairs.  Upon her arrival, we learned she owned the building and spoke excellent English.  Jeanette invited us upstairs to see their apartment.  She and her husband have two "ninos." (boys!)  I commented on the flavorable smell I detected coming from the kitchen so she motioned us her way - to the kitchen! 

Before we could say anything further, she had a dish out piling on steaming hominy corn.  This is a tradition here in Cuenca.  Go to certain restaurants and they bring you a bowl of it.  You dig in - just like eating popcorn!  Next thing you know, Jeanette is bringing out the cheese.  We felt like family - at least we were being treated that way.

We hailed a cab and were on our way back to the house with lots of stories to share with Jack and Claudia over her homemade spaghetti dinner.   Jack is a former CIA agent, prison warden, hearing aid specialist, insurance agent, rancher, and military man.  He gives true meaning to the phrase, "Jack of all trades!"

Claudia has a Master's in agriculture and for many years worked in environmental applications.  She even had her own consulting business after retirement from the State of Oregon.  Now she's really retired!  She is going to teach English to the staff at Unsion Television. 

Now it's off to bed by 10:00 p.m. 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Remember the song, "I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again..."

We're leaving on a jet plane, November 11, 2010 bound for Cuenca, Ecuador!  We'll be back though, after we've gained a full picture of what the Lord desires for us to do in Cuenca.  Once that is settled, we may be in Ecuador for a longer assignment than we have been able to conceive.

So what led us to this point? 

For one, missions and the word "missionary" has been a seed planted in our hearts for a very long time.  Gary has served on mission committees in the past.  He has also been on a number of short-term mission trips.  And Sue once left all to attend a Bible school with the thought of being a missionary.  While the timing of that was "off," she still found herself taking some of those short-term mission trips with Gary after they were married.

We like what someone said is their definition of a missionary:  "A missionary is a person who ministers to whoever is currently "in their face!" "

In that light, we've all been and are missionaries.  Yet the timing for us to go to Ecuador seems so right.  God has certainly confirmed this.

We took our first trip to Cuenca, Ecuador back in June.  In a short, two-week period, God connected us with a number of people to be in relationship with both personally and for ministry.  You could say "it was love at first sight" for both of us!

Cuenca is becoming a favorite retirement spot for North Americans.  Canadians go there too!  And Aussies!  "Ex-pats" tend to be a little adventurous and very friendly.  We have already begun to establish relationships.  Our hope is to begin an English-speaking Bible study and worship.

One of our connections is with Unsion Television, a secular broadcasting station with a Christian counseling emphasis.  There is a ticker at the bottom of their regular programs (i.e. cooking, sports, talk shows, etc.) that gives an 800 number for them to call if they desire prayer.

The counselors operate much like the Billy Graham organization using volunteers - they listen to the caller and then are leading many to faith in Christ.

We had an opportunity to speak to a group of these counselors this past June.  We also went with the President of Unsion Television, Bill McDonald to a church where he preached two a.m. services.  Gary gave a greeting and welcome and Sue was asked to sing a special, "Will You Marry Me."

The same need for every person exists everywhere in the world:  To know God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  And...that He loves them.

After our two week "tour" in Cuenca, Ecuador this past June, it was obvious God was leading us, that when we returned home, we were to put our house on the market.

Within a week or so after coming back to the States, our home went up for sale.  Inside of six weeks, we had an offer on our home.  Actually, we ended up with two offers the same day and weekend.  The offer we took was the one for cash BUT what a story behind it - that's another blog!  To us, it was a bonafide confirmation that God did indeed, wanted us to take this step.  But also, it was a bonafide miracle that our house sold in such a repressed real estate market.  We are so thankful.

The packing began, but it was more than usual "normal" packing.  Normally, you box it up and take it to another house.  This time there was no "other" house to take things to.  The course was to either store it, sell it, or give it away.

We ended up with two 10 X 10 storage units of our belongings.  We sold many of our things, not to mention spreading out some of our clothes and such among our friends (they wouldn't fit in the storage unit!).  Hey, there's a couple of things at our former home with the couple who bought our house!  That's pretty special!

Our home closed on September 28, 2010 yet on the day before, Gary had outpatient surgery for a hernia.  We had already planned to leave for Cuenca the first part of November.  However, the surgery ensured that we could not leave until he had recovered nicely.

We had another sweet, sweet provision of the Lord when we sold our home.  Our dilemna was to find a temporary place to live until we left for Ecuador.  The word was out.  One day the phone rang with an offer to live in a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in North Asheville. 

This was not only a perfect provision to us but an exciting one.  For the people we are staying with are just so dear and happen to live in a neighborhood that is one of our favorites for the fall season.  Every tree exudes with color as you drive down Kimberly Avenue. 

What a precious memory for us now as we realize we got to celebrate Sue's favorite season (Gary's 2nd favorite), enjoying immensely, God's creation and fellowship with our hosts.

There's another question:  What about our dog, Stover?

Answer: Stover's going to Ecuador!  He has been dubbed as "EquaDog!"  We are looking forward to taking him, although the process to learn what all needed to be done was quite extensive and laborious.  Gary spent hours on the phone to find a qualified person to give the exact details of what needed to be done.

It's fine now and Stover has his "checker number" along with our reservations and tickets!  And we are almost finalized in our plans.  Packing is the last thing we need to do.

So to recap:  We are departing from Asheville on November 10, 2010.  Our flight departure for Ecuador is the next day at 2:00 p.m.

We believe God will unfold the complete picture to establish us there and how long we are to dwell in Cuenca.  When we return in a few months, it may be that we'll be holding a big sale of belongings in our storage units.  It's all right though.  We are grateful for all of God's grace and leading!

Our email is:


Magic jack phone no. where you can call us in Ecuador - a free international call!  Free call period if you're in the 828 area code - otherwise it's just a regular long distance call for another area code.


Would love to hear from you!

Thank you too so much for your prayers as we go.  Thank you for your SWEET friendships and love of Christ! 

Cuenca here we come!
Sue & Gary Gaither