Friday, May 4, 2018

UPS and DOWNS

We’ve been roller coasting up and down and all around lately and want to share with you a bit of the ride.



DOWNS:

The big trough over the past few months has been our son Luke’s health. He has been having intensely itchy allergic reactions all over his body, and despite visits to a top-notch allergy doctor, we have yet to determine a cause or a very effective treatment regimen. Missed school, missed sleep, rotating treatment attempts, and trying to eliminate the endless possible allergens are all taking their psychological toll on the family. Please keep us in your prayers in this trying time. 


Another emotional valley came with the decision to close the English service we’ve been part of the past several years (and headed up a good chunk of that time). The responsibilities involved kept increasing, and I (Beth) could not give the full-time attention required, on top of running our active home and addressing Luke’s health needs.  As sad as I feel to close that chapter, I’m also grateful for the wonderful people we met and grew with. We have encouraged our community to view this shift as a chance to integrate more completely into our vibrant Spanish-language congregation.

Prayers of blessing in our final English service

UPS:

We are finally official residents of Ecuador and proud owners of national ID cards, which will facilitate maaany transactions for us. So long as we meet physical presence requirements for the next two years, these visas are essentially permanent, and we couldn’t be happier. The only downside is we won’t make it to the U.S. this summer, but we’d love to have you visit us here.

Dave’s Koinonia project (where AAI staff pair up for monthly hosting of students for meals at home) has gotten off to a great start, with over 50 middle and high school kids involved. Our own family has had such fun opening our home (and even inspiring some impromptu pillowfighting). Memories!

Our kids enjoy having the high school students over to play

MORE PICS FROM THE ROLLERCOASTER:


A birthday photo of Abuelita Kathy with the five grandkids
she currently has in Ecuador

Assistant coach Dave with the AAI JV soccer team
Levi (top) on the stage crew of the AAI's spring
theater production
Our dining table surrounded by students and teachers -
just the way we like it!

Thanks so much for riding along on this roller coaster with us through your prayers, your messages, and your financial partnership, which makes what we do possible. "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness," (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Warmly,
The Saavedra Family








Sunday, December 31, 2017

NO MONUMENTS, ONLY FOOTPRINTS


"By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going…" (Hebrews 11:8)

I can’t help but laugh when I read that verse, identifying so much with befuddled Abraham. At the start of 2017, Dave and I committed to a time of prayer for a clear vision for the coming year. The response was not the desired one-year plan, a monument to 2017 that we could build and point to as a success. Instead, we heard, “Just obey for the next step.” So, we’ve forged ahead like Abraham, with “no idea” of a long-term destination, just praying over each decision as it comes, and trying to obey one day at a time.

And what a year it has been! We’re sharing glimpses with you in photos here, and we thank you for walking along with us in prayer, and in personal and financial support. Eugene Peterson describes following Jesus as a lifestyle on the move. He quotes Faulkner, who writes that we do not leave behind monuments, which only say, “At least I got this far.” Rather, we leave footprints, which say, “This is where I was when I moved again.”

The true monument building belongs not to us, but to God. We don’t see the master plan, but we can offer ourselves as obedient workers. We walk faithfully forward, like Abraham, who “did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations – the City designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

On the move into 2018,
Dave & Beth,
Levi, Luke, Aaron and Evangeline


These goofballs are sleeping much better at night. Thanks so much for your prayers!


Dave's 14-year-old nephew had such a great visit to Ecuador this summer that he's joining us for all of next semester. Please pray that we'll thrive with two teens in the house. 

Dave is currently teaching courses on Peter and Moses and keeps working on community building at the Alliance Academy International

Beth keeps expanding her role at our church, La Viña, continuing in music and teaching, while adding mentoring with Celebrate Recovery and serving on leadership council.

Due to changes in immigration law, we decided to submit a visa application for permanent residency. While the process is costly, we will no longer have to go through visa renewals every two years, which will be a relief. 

After three months in the shop, our car is back. We are super grateful for mobility to be able to visit beautiful places like this again. 

Everything we do is in partnership with our amazing team of supporters. You can make an impact with a donation to our work with Reach Beyond here. Thanks!


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

DAVE DOES DISCIPLESHIP

Dave tackles worldviews in the classroom

For some years, I (Dave) have felt that the Alliance Academy International's unique Christian identity has been under attack. Our chapel and discipleship programs were hijacked in many ways by the need to comply with new government regulations. Some of my Bible classes suffered a near 50% reduction in class time. Perhaps the most frustrating change to our Christian formation programming was the loss of our Christian Service Outreach (CSO) program. 

For decades, the AAI provided a variety of CSO ministries to equip our students to put their faith into practice through the visual arts, community service, youth ministry and evangelism. Alumni have frequently commented that our CSO programs were a life-giving highlight of their AAI experience. The closure of CSO two years ago – amidst intense transitions at AAI– was greatly lamented by many alums. A painful consequence of this loss is a growing disconnect between the vision of AAI for Christian identity formation and a narrower academic focus of many of our families. My conclusion is that we need a broader, specifically Christian perspective on how their faith integrates with the rest of their lives. 

Thus, it was a tremendous honor when our new school director tasked me with resurrecting our CSO programs. In partnership with a former student of mine, we began the revitalization of CSO with the Guardians ministry. Guardians is based on the principles of discipleship development in 2 Timothy 2:2. Our team of adult leaders is training 20+ high school students to study the Bible, craft an interactive devotional, lead a variety of team building exercises, and facilitate small group discussions and prayer times with 4th – 8th graders.  Our hope is that Guardians will help our students value their Christian education for more than just their diploma, but as God’s tool for developing them as the next generation of Christian leaders. Check out the video from our kick-off retreat (below) and please join us in prayer each Wednesday for our Guardians leaders. Thanks!



Guardians leaders growing their skills

A BROKEN CAR IS LIKE A BROKEN HEART

...It takes time and patience to fix! We’ve been carless for several weeks, relying on Dave’s parents’ very kind lending of their vehicle as we wait for the repair of our Ford Explorer. Getting parts and navigating repairs have been complicated and expensive. 


Back when our car - and the Chicago Cubs! - were functional

Thankfully, though, our hearts aren’t broken over it. However, we do feel our patience tested recently from our kids’ recurring sleep troubles. Sometimes it feels like a whack-a-mole game as different kids pop in during the night. We do live in a noisy city apartment, but some of their sleep troubles seem to be anxiety-related. We are still working on getting to the root of these issues.   

You can help with both these scenarios! How? Please pray for peace for the hearts of our kiddos and for grace and wisdom for us as we parent. And please consider a year-end donation to help us get our wheels operational again. Our happy (hopefully well-rested) hearts thank you!



Saturday, July 29, 2017

SEASONS OF SOWING AND REAPING


In recent months, we’ve been reflecting on the tears of this past year and also composing some songs of joy we hope to sing with increasing volume! Specifically, our weeping over mandatory changes at AAI that have edged out some discipleship time during the school day is now turning into excitement as Dave plans new ministry ideas for outside school hours. Brainstorming with other teachers, he’s seen interest in building spiritual community through peer mentoring teams, an open-home hospitality rotation, outdoor adventure club, sports and other service ideas. Please pray with us for the organization of these opportunities, as well as the hands needed to make them all happen!

Prayers of goodbye blessings for our dear friends

We’ve also just experienced the perennial goodbyes of summer, this time including some of our oldest friends here. I (Beth) have been praying Bifrost Art's beautiful musical rendition of Psalm 126:

Although we are weeping/Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom/For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry/Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping/will go out with songs of joy


The hopeful image of sowing seeds of the Kingdom even while weeping, has strengthened my heart, as I hope it does yours. Your partnership with us in Quito is part of the greater purposes of God to yield sheaves of blessing! We are so grateful for your prayers, which lift us up and keep us planting. 

SOME SUMMER SHOTS


We celebrated Levi's 6th grade graduation
along with Dave's extended family


The abuelos (grandparents) showed ten grandkids
the windy ruins of Ingapirca


Saavedra and Sons posed at the Cuenca Zoo


Luke cozied up
with a praying mantis in Baños



Aaron soared on the
"Swing at the End of the World"


Evangeline enjoyed the view
at the top of Pichincha volcano

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

TAKE OFF THE GRAVE CLOTHES!

Special guest speaker at La Viña 
Our church recently had the joy of hosting author Becky Harling (wife of new Reach Beyond president, Steve) at our Sunday services, where she taught from John 11, on Lazarus being raised from the dead. She highlighted an element of the story I hadn’t seen before: that when Lazarus stepped (hopped?) out of the tomb, he was still bound up in grave clothes and needed the gathered people to unwrap him. What an image! And what a metaphor for our lives! Even after we experience the healing power of Jesus’ resurrection life, we depend on the community around us to help us take off the grave clothes. 

The Raising of Lazarus by Giotto di Bondone, 1304
For me (Beth), these last few months have been a journey of being helped out of burial cloths, as God continues to restore my heart. I’ve been seeing a counselor (via Skype), who pointed out to me that times of big transition (like our kids now all being in school, and me taking a large volunteer position at our church) can be catalysts for stirring up internal struggles that we’ve conveniently ignored in the past. Thankfully, I have some wonderful friends here who have been walking alongside me on the grave-cloth removal crew, along with my best friend, Dave! 

One of the great side effects of getting more “unbound” is more freedom to confidently reach out to those around me. The learning curve for our lay-pastor work in the English congregation here is challenging, but God continually surprises us with the growth of people in our church. An English-language youth group, run by one of our small group attendees, just started, and a second English-language small group opened in February. Please join us in praying for even more growth.

Beth in the studio at HCJB
I’m also growing in confidence in teaching, along with the help of a wonderful radio producer, Veronica Saavedra, as we continue our programs for moms via HCJB en Casa. Since January, they are now available online for download, along with a summary article I write. This way, we can track their impact more easily, and have seen that they are reaching hundreds of people, in addition to the on-air broadcast listeners. This is super encouraging. Thanks for your part in making this outreach possible!


RESURRECTING INTERCESSORS

I (Dave) have also been thinking about the dynamics of resurrection. In Philippians 3:8-10, the Apostle Paul confesses that he has counted everything a loss that he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection. These words have challenged me to look for signs of God’s continued work of resurrection, even as these last few years have been marked by consistent, and at times, very painful losses. 

The Raising of Lazarus, by Duccio di Buoningsegna, 1310-11
One loss has been due to a significant shift in student population, as most students no longer come from Christian homes. In the past, a consistent small group of young people from Christian backgrounds desired to grow via a prayer team I led, called Intercessors. However, seemingly overnight, student participation in my class on discipleship and Intercessors waned, and about four years ago, neither were offered due to lack of student interest and commitment.


Checking in with students during the lunch hour
But God likes to surprise us with signs of the power of his resurrection. Due to new requirements from the Ministry of Education (MOE), the AAI is now required to provide community service hours for all high school students. To fulfill this, we submitted requests to the MOE, including mine: to allow a student prayer team under the category of “Community Health.” By God’s grace and much to our surprise, we were given the green light to officially establish a student prayer team as part of the AAI curriculum.


Praying for their teacher
Six month later, our small team of four sophomores and juniors have been praying for teachers, peers and staff every Wednesday for an hour. For the first time in several years we have a group of student intercessors!

Huge thanks to you, our support team, for your prayers and your financial partnership, which make our work with Reach Beyond possible. We are deeply grateful for your role in our lives, so that “one generation shall commend [God’s] works to another, and shall declare [God’s] mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

Saturday, December 31, 2016

SAAVEDRAS SEND OUT 2016!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Saavedra Kids Update
Levi Matteo
Age: 12
Grade: 6th
Hobbies: Reading book series & playing strategy board games
2017 Goals: I want a big part in the sixth grade year-end play. I want to practice driving the car more (parent note: this only happens on private, off-road property!). I want to host lots of game nights with friends. I want to keep running the media (lyrics, sermon slides) at church.


Luke Isaiah
Age: 10
Grade: 5th
Hobbies: Learning science facts and comic book sketching
2017 Goals: I want to start learning to drive. I want to design a video game. I want to do some big paintings on large canvases.
 
Aaron James
Age: 8
Grade: 3rd
Hobbies: Playing soccer and entertaining friends and family with humor
2017 Goals: I want to keep playing on my soccer team. I want to get better in math and social studies. I want to run a 5K road race. I want to have sleep overs with my friends.

Evangeline Joy
Age: 7
Grade: 1st
Hobbies: Composing and singing songs and cooking with mom.
2017 Goals: I want to make every recipe in my Princess Cookbook. I want to play violin. I want to get baptized. I want to have a cooking-themed birthday. I want to read chapter books.

2016 Highlights

2017 Opportunities and Prayer Needs


Beth’s News:

In addition to being our lead pastor at La Viña, Oscar Palma is also a music teacher. He has long held a vision to open a school of music as a means of outreach into the community, as well as to train up musicians and songwriters to serve in the church and to shape and influence the broader Ecuadorian culture. God is bringing that dream closer to reality through an unexpected source: the influx into La Viña of Venezuelans fleeing the instability of their country. Recent arrivals have included several music teachers, a production studio owner, and a Christian business consultancy team.  With their expertise on board, Viñarte, our music school, will open in February (our kids will be some of the first students!). And our congregation’s first songwriting workshop yielded three worship songs toward a total of ten that we plan to record for a 2017 album release. Currently, most of the songs we sing are Spanish translations of well-known English worship songs, so we are excited to “home-grow” music that speaks from and to the heart of our Latin culture here. Please pray that the community of La Viña can complete these projects with great skill and creativity.  And pray that I can draft top-quality English translations of our new songs for our English-speaking service.  Thanks!

Dave’s News:

Please keep our school community in regular prayer as the regulatory and financial difficulties faced continue to mount. This has contributed to the planned departure (at the end of the school year) of a larger number of staff than usual, especially in leadership positions. Please pray for the hiring process occurring now to fill those positions, that God brings anointed people with the right fit of talents and passion.  And pray for our hearts as we prepare to say goodbye to good friends, while at the same time staying open to and invested in sustaining the school community.

And speaking of prayer, a bright spot for 2017 is Dave’s work with several student leaders. He’s been training six students to increase student awareness and engagement with intercessory prayer. Starting in January, these students will be leading a weekly prayer meeting at which all secondary students are invited to pray for each other and the campus.  Please pray that these students will be encouraged and empowered in this much-needed student-led ministry.


From All of Us: 

Your prayers and financial support of our ministry in Ecuador with Reach Beyond mean the world to us! Thank you so much for partnering with us to make our work possible. We hope that you are encouraged to see your giving making an impact here in Quito. And we pray that you continue to see God’s love and transformation in your lives in 2017. May we all joyfully jump into the adventure that He has for each of us this coming year.

With love and thanks,
Dave & Beth, Levi, Luke, Aaron and Evangeline

COURAGE, DEAR HEART


COURAGE, DEAR HEART

 

“But no one except Lucy knew that as [the albatross] circled the mast it had whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan's...”

-C.S. Lewis, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

 

Last January, instead of making a list of New Year’s resolutions, I (Beth) picked just one word for 2016, that would center on my character and give me a vision for the future.    After reflection and prayer, I chose the word, “Courage.” In hindsight, that was   kinda nuts! Not long ago, I laughed out loud in recognition when I saw a meme that read, “You have no idea how far out of my comfort zone my entire life is.” Yes! I keep finding myself in crazy spots in which I’m sure the only reason I arrived is by God’s will, and the only way forward is to keep depending on Him.

One place that happens these days is in a radio program I was invited to begin in September with HCJB, our mission’s station. Our goal is to reach women in their child-rearing years with an informal conversation about the experiences of being a Christian mom. I am a guest every other week of the two regular hosts, and we discuss a theme (such as “discipline” or “family devotions”) for about ten minutes and then take call-ins for the next twenty minutes or so. I still get nervous every time we go on-air, but I take heart seeing how God prepared the way for me to be open to this project through the “Ex-pat Sisterhood” video series I’ve been making over the last year with my friend, Mari, on her FB page (@inspiredbyfamily). She and I cover some similar themes (in English) to what I’ve been discussing on the radio (in Spanish), which is great practice, plus the mental release of “perfection” that doing live videos has required has also given me courage to try the same on live radio.   

The other arena that requires a lot of courage (read: leaves me feeling terrified pretty often!) is our bilingual Vineyard church. Our Chilean pastor, Oscar Palma, asked Dave and me to take responsibility for the English-language service this school year. Oscar preaches in the English service once a month with a translator (usually me) and Dave and I teach the remaining Sundays, as well as overseeing English growth groups (we have just one currently). This has been an enormously stretching experience, and has given us a much deeper appreciation for the work of pastors everywhere! Just like Lucy, in Narnia (see quote), we know the strength to keep forging ahead comes from listening to the voice of our Savior leading us on. We appreciate your prayers for courage, hope, and wisdom so very much!

 


 

Teaching through our church's mission statement

SCHOOL UPDATE


We shared with many of you this summer about the challenges facing the Alliance Academy International (AAI) as it makes the transition to existing under the supervision of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education (MoE).  Arriving at compliance with the MoE standards, while meeting U.S. accrediting requirements and keeping our Christian distinctives is quite a bumpy road. We need your prayers for wisdom. One big change has been switching to block scheduling in high school, which means Dave has to re-work all his lesson plans for the longer class periods. He also sees his students fewer times each week, which makes building rapport more challenging. It is exceedingly challenging to fit chapel and discipleship small group times into the new requirements, so please pray for creativity and divine insight for the staff as they navigate all these obligatory changes. Thanks!

 

Creatively engaging our lively AAI students


We Got Our Car!


 At long last (but in God’s good timing!), we were able to complete the purchase a 2005 Ford Explorer at a reasonable price at the beginning of October. We were able to sell our car quickly to help finance the purchase. The kids christened the new blue vehicle “General Washington” and we have already been enjoying ferrying our family and loads of friends all over Quito and beyond. Thank you SO MUCH to all who gave and prayed for this process to be completed.
 

With gratitude, Dave & Beth,Levi, Luke, Aaron and Lina


But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15:57