We returned to Ecuador a little over a month ago and with our return new troubles began to arise. The work with the girls is going well as is construction, with a few minor things here are there. However the first trial we have begun has been with our visa applications. For A.T. his visa went relatively smooth but when applying for Crystal’s many problems have arrived. We have learned the hard way that laws have changed and what was once an acceptable practice is now illegal. Our initial understanding of the laws here was that a 90 day tourist visa is issued when entering the country, when that visa expires one has to leave the country for a period of 10 days and then return to a new 90 day visa. These practices have now ended and now a tourist can only be in Ecuador for 90 days in a period of a year, this means that when we returned there was an error in the system and they allowed us to enter back into Ecuador by mistake. For some reason A.T.’s visa was approved anyway but Crystal's was not. We have been seeking prayer, wisdom, and understanding about what to do next. We have had a lot of meetings with officials here and have had a lawyer throughout the whole process.
What our lawyer and the officials have informed us to do is to go to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Columbia and buy a new tourist visa. This whole process has been emotionally draining, stressful, and increasingly more expensive but God has been faithful throughout all of it. At one point we thought we might go to jail, be deported, or lose access to the country indefinitely. By comparison to these thoughts we have to remind ourselves that our sovereign God is still full of grace and mercy to us.
While facing the visa complications A.T. has been studying to get an Ecuadorian driver's license as a U.S. license is now only good for 30 days, we were originally told 90 days but A.T. was pulled over by the police and learned otherwise. The drivers test consists of 5 parts but the most difficult two are the driving exam and laws test. A.T. went to take the driving exam last week and in a story that cannot be shared yet was able to pass, it was a miracle and only by God’s divine appointments was this possible. The law test he will be taking tomorrow which is a selection of 20 questions from over +300, both of these tests are completely in Spanish.
It is easy to become comfortable with the jobs we have here and forget the nature of the work itself. Crystal interacts with these young girls many hours a week and loves them deeply. We know and have seen the power of Christ at work each day within the Dunamis ministry. We praise God for his protection and steadfast love, yet we know that the powers of darkness linger and tempt, and that we are facing a very real enemy each day. Recently, there was a security incident at the full-time shelter the girls live in ( as you may know, the girls currently visit the Dunamis foundation each week.) Praise God, as no girl or staff was harmed, but the reality we must daily lay at the Lord’s feet is that before the girls sat with us, they were captives in heinous, dark places with evil people who believe the girls are their property- to be sold and used how they desire and for their benefit. This month, this resulted in the shelter being targeted and a non-hostile attempt was made to retrieve one of the girls from her previous pimp. Along with fierce prayer, Crystal has been working with the Dunamis team on a safety plan and a proactive, wisdom based approach in the day to day operations of the foundation for security. We thank you for your continued prayer over the protection of the girls and Dunamis ministry. Crystal has been serving at Dunamis since this security breach transpired, and has peace and confidence in the Lord’s hand upholding and defending the girls, staff and volunteers.
The construction is going well and the welders are currently working hard to put up the structure. God has been providing generously and continuing to provide in great ways so that we can continue to work. We were close to shutting down two weeks ago when God opened up some floodgates and funded a major part of the next phase. Here is a picture of a welder welding on a plate where columns will soon be attached. We are currently ending phase 1 and beginning the second phase of the project, which means we are still on schedule to finish the project by May, God willing.
Majo, the project coordinator we previously asked you to pray for has returned. We are thankful for Majos return and continue to pray and entrust the Lord to the care of her family in Chile. Dunamis has received several new girls to the foundation. Every group is different but all are treasured by the staff and loved no matter what stage of recovery they are in. We rejoice daily as we continue to see God softening hearts. Crystal continues to teach clase de inglés and she is excited to begin another class on valores exploring with the girls what love, humility, respect, etc means.
Lastly, we want you to meet Cascabel Marigold Holder! She has two names because Marigold is hard to pronounce to the Ecuadorian tongue. We thought the word cascabel was very pretty and it means jinglebells which seemed fitting. Later we found out this word also means rattlesnake… but if you look at her tail you’ll see that this name fits as well. God continues to provide miracles here, sometimes it seem on a daily basis, and in his goodness we continue to try and serve here. Many obstacles have arisen in the last month but none that he can not handle.
We are so grateful for your prayers, support and partnership. Please keep us, the girls, Dunamis, the construction project, and even our cute Cascabel in your prayers.