Chimarro Family & Compassion International

30 06 2009

The Chimarro family has been living in Cayambe for all their lives. The extended family is only a few blocks away from each other and the patriarch Luis Chimarro has been working for the local municipality for the past 28 years. Luis and Maria have six children (Gustavo, Norma, Kathy, Juan Ca, Pablo and Diego). The Chimarros were one of the first people to come to trust Christ in their neighborhood. They live in the Juan Montalvo barrio and I noticed driving in the area that their church Iglesia Emmanuel was the only Christian church. The Chimarros helped start this church and I was touched by how friendly everyone was. So when in Latin America, greet everyone with a kiss (at least the women).


Juan Ca took me to the church early Saturday and gave me a tour of the grounds. Teams from the states have been coming since 2001 to help with construction, conduct VBS and be immersed in country living. When I first arrived late Friday night, they asked me if I knew anyone from the Sacramento church that has been coming every year. I said no, but Allen was my junior high camp counselor and he made quite an impact on my life. That brought a smile to Maria. They love and respect Allen. I do too. Of course I still think he is a gwai-lo.



As Juan Ca was showing me the new sanctuary they are building, he told me that Iglesia Emmanuel is a Compassion church. What this means is that the children who live in Cayambe and are sponsored through Compassion come to the church to get afternoon tutoring and schooling. I’m not sure of all the details but Juan Ca told me that there are over 100 children. This got me teary eye because I’ve been sponsoring a child in the Philippines for the past four years. The money that you and I give monthly really does transfer to the child. Compassion is one of the organizations I’m looking into so it was providential that Juan Ca told me about this.

I don’t know how many of the readers have thought about sponsoring a child but I want to encourage you to pray about it. Whether it’s World Vision or Compassion, the money you spend each month on cable, Starbucks, or your cell phone could be really used to impact a child. I know I sound like a pitchman, but this is why I know it works. Allen sponsored a child (Marcos) in Guayaquil (coastal Ecuador) for years and in 1989 came down as a working visitor and got to meet Marcos. He didn’t speak a lick of Spanish and Marcos didn’t know English, but that chance meeting proved to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Marcos to this day calls Allen “dad” because he is the only father he has ever known. Marcos is married and has two small boys and keeps in frequent contact with Allen. So please pray about this. It’s only $38 a month and you can actually visit your sponsored child.



30 06 2009

John Muir once said “keep close to nature’s heart… and break clear away once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”. I love the great outdoors. The air is clean, there are no cars polluting it and you get to actually see the stars at night.

Allen had to head to the states to translate for a conference and so he left me in the trustworthy hands of Juan Carlos Chimarro or Juan Ca. Juan Ca and two of his brothers (Pablo & Diego) live with Allen during the week in Quito where they are studying at the University. On the weekends though, they head to the mountains – literally. And why wouldn’t they, after all they grew up in Cayambe. Cayambe is about 50 miles northeast of Quito and is the third highest mountain in Ecuador at about 19,000 feet. I had already gotten used to the altitude in Quito and now I was going further up. Needless to say I could have used an oxygen tank to walk around Cayambe. Juan Ca told me that Cayambe is the second leading exporter of roses and I saw hundreds of plantations on the hillside. Next time you smell your roses, it was probably from Ecuador. It is also the second Mitad del Mundo since the equatorial line runs through the edge of town. Most people know the one outside of Quito since it is frequented by most tourists. It was a great weekend trip as I got to relax with the Chimarros, walk around downtown Cayambe, see a parade and fireworks show and wake up to Cayambe Volcano every morning. This is what awaited outside my window when I woke up each morning.




After we dropped off the cuy on Saturday, Juan Ca picked up some friends and we took the scenic route into Otavalo. The car ride took over an hour with multiple mirador (lookout) stops. There were lakes, rocky mountains and lots of cold weather. The ride reminded me of last summer in Batopilas, MX where the shocks were worn out because of multiple rocks, pot holes and sharp inclines.




But we finally got to Otavalo. Otavalo is an indigenous town about 30 minutes from Cayambe and is known mostly for its Saturday market where they sell the colorful woven fabrics of the indigenous people. With over 200 stalls, everything started looking the same but I told Juan Ca what I was shopping for and he helped me haggle with the best of them. Since it was so crowded I kept checking for my wallet to make sure I wasn’t pick-pocketed.


Ladies if you’re into shopping, Otavalo is the place for you. For my Texas friends, think of it as Canton… but more rugged. Lots of merchandise, some good, some bad, but overall a great experience to practice Spanish and buy some souvenirs.

I think the best part was being able to breathe good clean air.

Cuy – not just your household pet

30 06 2009

I headed out to Cayambe this weekend with the Chimarro’s. I’ll blog about them in a later post but I wanted to write about my experience with cuy. Cuy is guinea pig and is named because of the sound it makes when it’s scared. I would be scared too if I was going to be dinner for a family. On Saturday morning we stopped by Juan Ca’s grandmother’s house to catch our meal. After bagging a couple of cuy, we dropped it off at the Chimarro house to be prepared.




After a day of sightseeing in Otavalo and Cayambe, I came back to the kitchen to see that Mama Chimarro had caught a couple more, skinned it and was prepped to cook. Below you’ll see Glenda (one of the friends I met in Cayambe) displaying the main dish.



The time had finally arrived on Sunday afternoon. It was Pablo’s 25th birthday and we celebrated the day with a platter of cuy. Now before you get grossed out and all snooty about people eating pets, let me say that cuy is a household dish in Ecuador especially in the mountains. It’s an expensive dish at about $20 per plate. And let me answer the question “What does it taste like?” – it tastes like chicken. I’m not kidding. It was finger lickin’ good. I really enjoyed the cuy with a side of mote (corn).

The Chimarro’s were such an hospitable family. I know they took the time to make sure I was okay eating the dish. If you want to know about a country and get away from the tourist spots, branch out and try the traditional food. Don’t be afraid to eat from a street vendor or ask to try something. The best way to be a great explorer and fun traveler is to try new things. You’ll really get to know the people, learn new traditions and have fun!!!

Cuy – it’s not just your household pet…. it’s what for dinner.

Mitad del Mundo – Middle of the World

24 06 2009

The Mitad del Mundo is a piece of land owned by the government about 20 minutes outside of the center of Quito. If you visit, you’ll notice that there are two sites that say they are the middle of the world. The first one was discovered back in the 1700’s by French scientists. In the early 1900’s, it was confirmed by the French and Ecuadorean government and a monument was erected to mark the spot of latitude 00º00’00”. The government poured a bunch of money at the first spot to build a museum and other tourist attractions.


However, thanks to GPS, the actual location of the middle of the world is a couple blocks from the Mitad del Mundo attraction and the Intiñan Solar Museum was built to mark the true location of the equatorial line. It sits on a family farm and Allen knows the owner. He’s probably raking in some serious dough from tourists. So what can you do at the middle of the world that you can’t do anywhere else?

  1. Balance an egg on a nail.
  2. Watch water flow directly down a drain. If you live north of the equatorial line, water drains counter-clockwise vortex. If you live south of the equatorial line, it drains clockwise.
  3. Weigh less because of the bulge of the earth. Supposedly the force of gravity is less. I didn’t have a scale with me, but I felt like I was ten pounds lighter.





I was too cheap to pay to see the first site so I took Allen at his word and saw the 30m monument from a distance. We headed out to see a crater a few miles away and did some market shopping. Hopefully I will blog about my first experience eating cuy (your household guinea pig) this weekend!

Extreme Response Part 2

24 06 2009

There is a phrase that I wrote down while sitting at one of my favorite restaurants in Chihuahua. I don’t know many restaurants that posts their mission and values, but they do. It’s probably why they’re so successful. One of the values is “pasion dejar de huella”. The passion to leave a fingerprint or mark. I’m asking myself what makes me come alive and be passionate to leave my mark for Christ. Yesterday God stirred in me and broke my heart for the least of these.

Mike Bishop from Extreme Response took me to the local dump and an assisted living facility. The garbage dump is outside of Quito and he informed me that it is so much better than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago the founder of ER was passing by the dumps and saw hundreds of people rummaging through garbage for recyclables. Back then it was a huge ravine and the garbage trucks would just back up and dump their load. It was dangerous, unsanitary and filled with disease. This is how some of the people would make their living. Mike told me that this has been going on for four generations in some families. Mothers would bring their children to work with them and the babies would be put in a cardboard box amongst all the garbage. Over the years there were lots of death either because they were crushed by the load of the garbage being dumped, hit by a swinging crane or had their limbs severed by banding machines.



Since that time ER has been working with a conservation company that owns a portion of the land to make things safer for the people who make a living out of recycling. No one under 18 can go into the landfill where the garbage is dumped. There is a daycare center onsite that cares for about 50 children each day. They get three nutritious meals a day staffed by a full time cook and an education. The hope is to get the children up to speed so that they can attend public school. There is also a medical clinic to keep track of children’s medical history and to make sure they have the vaccines. The clinic also serves the adults and teaches proper hygiene. And ER serves meals at a minimum cost to the workers.




I asked Mike how much a family can make recycling and working in a dump. He said approximately $35 a week. You take out $15 for transportation and a family survives on $20 a week. Many go home to make shift shacks and the cycle starts again in the morning. The people are content because they’re making an honest living but ER is working with the families to share Christ to them, help with getting the children an education so that the cycle of poverty can stop, and to provide a better home. Once a year ER brings work teams to build a home for one of the families working in the dumps.

Mike and I agreed that they are making an honest living. It is still dangerous but the conditions are better. Trucks cannot randomly dump anywhere, it is all dropped off under a huge canopy.

But the children was what broke my heart. I saw smiling faces and children that were happy. I wanted to stay longer and play, but we were off to the next location.





Hogar de Bethania is an assisted living facility for the elderly. Culturally when adults get older, the family take them in and treat them with respect. But the people who live here are often ones who were on the streets for years, have been neglected by family or had health problems where the level of care was too great for a family.



Mike has such a heart for the elderly. He says it’s easier than working with youth. But I don’t think there’s much of a difference. Everyone wants to be loved, held and validated. Whether you’re 1 or 100, we want to be acknowledged. Mike graciously greeted each elderly adult there. There are between 40-50 people living there. Each has their own room and bathroom and they have various activities to help them pass their day. Twice a month, Mike and his wife along with other volunteers have church service in the dining hall and the residents look forward to it. Work teams from ER have been coming for the last couple of years to build new residences, laundry facilities and assist in medical care. Hogar de Bethania gets all their medical supplies through donations (wheelchairs, walkers, bandages, etc.)

Both these visits opened my heart more for Ecuador. I’m still meeting with other organizations but in the meantime continuing to be open to God’s work in my life to leave a mark.

Extreme Response

22 06 2009

I had my first meeting with Extreme Response today. They are a humanitarian organization committed to meeting the needs of people living in extreme situations. Extreme Response works with orphans, refugees, dump dwellers, and people in extreme poverty. They also provide help and hope to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and those who lack clean drinking water, education, and medical care. Ecuador is one of the many countries they work in and I’ll be able to visit with the director of personnel in the next few days to see some of the ministries. You’ll notice that I said “humanitarian organization”. Even though all the workers and staff are committed to the gospel and sharing it, they use humanitarian organization because of some of the countries they work in. If they were to say mission or religious organization, they could not be able to have the type of access in those countries. The second reason is the partner organizations they work with. Working with national leaders and ministries are a wonderful way to get the locals involved.

logo-extreme-responseAll workers are required to learn the language in the country they work in. I was very intrigued by what they do. I told Mike Bishop, director of personnel, that it seems that they are the jack of all trades and master of none. They do everything that I’m interested in. I picked Mike’s brain for over three hours asking everything from minute details about fund raising to office culture to philosophy and style. They are pretty laid back as an organization which is what I like to see. Mike and his family have been in Quito for almost 25 years and even knows my canadian buddy (eh) who grew up there. Extreme Response also hosts short term teams to come and work in the various partnering countries. From building churches to working in orphanages to assisting in hospitals, they truly are doing some great things for the name of Christ. With partnerships in fifteen different countries, there is always a need – short or long term. In fact, Mike asked if I knew of any auto mechanics because they need someone who can train people to work on cars in Kenya.

Life is too short. God has given us incredible gifts and talents that we can use to impact someone for Christ. You don’t have to make a career of living in another country. So whether you’re in IT, finance, medicine, trades, education, etc., take the opportunity to look into a short term trip to another country. I took my first trip back in 1994 and have kept on going. Who knew that I’d be doing this as a career one day. Si tu puede! You’ll love it!


21 06 2009

Ecuador is a democratic republic who declared their independence from Spain back in 1822. Quito is the capital and Guayaquil is the largest city with a population of over three million. There are over forty indigenous groups and Spanish is the official language though Quichua, the language of the Incas, is the most widely spoken indigenous language. English is commonly spoken among professionals and tourism providers.


I’m visiting my friend and old camp counselor Allen who works with HCJB radio as the regional radio training director. When I was in junior high, we called him the gwai-lo (the ghost man) since he stood out amongst a bunch of chinese kids at camp. Seriously, 300 junior and senior high Chinese students and counselors and one white guy lol. When Allen stopped by Dallas in May 2008, he asked me why I was still in Texas working at a predominantly caucasian church and I jokingly replied “Someone has to teach the students how to be Asian!” This coming from a suburban Chinese American who likes barbeque and sweet tea.

Allen is helping me get connected with some ministries and people who are serving in Ecuador. But today is a little R&R touring Quito. We went to the city centre and here are some shots of the various plazas. By the way, no need to exchange currency. Ecuador uses the USD.