Cloud Forest sunset





I have been blessed to travel to Vilcabamba for five years on medical/dental mission projects with GHO. We stay at Izhcayluma, a hotel above the town that looks over and up to the cloud forest of Podocarpus National Park. Normally the forest is indeed clouded over. This year, however, the rains were late, and we enjoyed a fantastic display of light at one evening’s sunset.

Whether or not one believes in a Creator, scenes like these are a reminder of the infinitude of nature and the universe in which we live, breathe, and have our being. We breathe the same air that our long distant ancestors did, and we are irretrievably linked to past, present, and future with each other.

Replenishing at the Source



We intuitively know that kindness and love, toward others and ourselves, is the key to spiritual and emotional well being. Yet people–spouses, family, friends, the “world” — are so demanding and draining. God, however, is infinite and eternal. His love is a well, a spring, a river that never runs dry. As Christ tells us, when we drink of His waters, we are never thirsty. “Come, let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.” Revelation 22:17. Drink FREELY. What a wonderful invitation, fulfilling what was written so long ago in Isaiah 55.

The pursuit of truth and beauty



“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”
Albert Einstein

We all carry baggage and brokenness of one sort or another. Yet through love and forgiveness, recovery is possible. We can regain a childlike wonder. As children of God, given His original blessing, our lives are unique and beautiful. Whether we or society see this beauty is incidental to its existence–our Creator sees it.

And we too can see beauty in obscure and forlorn places. The purple flower was growing in a back alley of La Grande against the peeling paint of an abandoned garage. And the yellow hibiscus, growing above and beyond the barbed wire fence, bringing beauty to a dusty street yard, found sustenance in Catamayo, Ecuador.

If you are inclined, check my web site at www.praisephotography.com and click on Alleys of La Grande to see similar pictures.



I arrived home early yesterday afternoon. My flight from Houston was delayed, so I did not arrive at my Portland motel until late Saturday night. Since I had gotten up at 4:00AM in Quito,my day was a 22 hour one. So, I am catching up on my sleep, and will need some time to process the experience, I but I am deeply amazed and lifted up by the quality of the group and the way personalities merged together under the common purpose to share God’s love as His hands, feet, and voices.
Over forty people joined us, from ages in the twenties to one doctor who celebrated his 80th birthday last night in Quito at our farewell dinner overlooking the lights of the city. The group included a number of dedicated Ecuadorian translators. We had two surgeons, a nurse anethesist, two ob-gyn’s, three family docs, a pediatrician, two nurses, and four pharmacists, two of whom were bi lingual, as was one of the surgeons. The intensity of the work was incredible–long lines of people and long hours, but the happiness and the gratitude of the patients was, as with past trips, always awesome. I spent a good deal of time working with reading glasses–exhaustingly intense but good.
WARNING: what follows is explicitly religious, so just skip to the pictures if you want.
While sitting in Houston at the waiting area of my Portland departure gate, I saw a poster for Continental Airlines. It set out an impressive statement:
“There are industry standards. Thankfully, we have our own.”
Traveling and serving with Global Health Outreach, the mission arm of the Christian Medical Dental Association, our time with the people of Ecuador is more than the “industry standard” of good thoughts/good deeds. As we pray with and for patients, as we share morning devotions and life journeys, we know we are the branches of Christ’s vine. We are His hands, feet, and voice.The pills run out, the bodily aches and pains return, but the love, forgiveness, grace, hope, joy, and salvation of Jesus Christ is eternal.
More pictures will follow as I readjust at home, but these two images of the people and the scenery reflect the profound intensity of our trip. Blessings, Eric

The Purity of Work




Outside of Otavolo lies a a small township, Carabuela. The roads are unpaved, dusty when dry, muddy when wet. Amidst the simple houses of mainly Quechua Indians is a small children’s center that Secondo, a Quechua native runs for children whose parents work long hours of the day. Meg and I were introduced to this center by Karen and Carlos, whose medical and mission skills serve many people and programs from Quito to the coast.
Secondo’s father and mother live in a one room house, smaller than the average American living room. There they cook over a wood fire, wash dishes by hand, sleep, and store their minimal possessions. Their real treasures of heart and love for each and their children are stored in Heaven.
Two years ago, the father also did all his weaving inside the house. Now, his work area has moved outside to a covered shed that is open in the front. He raises the sheep, shears them himself, cards the wool, spins it into yarn, dyes it and then weaves it into a variety of products. I bought an incredible heavy scarf from him. It reminds me of the contrast between his simplicity and my complications.
Day in, day out, he focuses on his wool. I have no idea how long he has been at this work. And, as you can also see,his wife is there with him, in the simple sweetness of companionship. I was truly privileged to be there.

Children of God (Ecuador)







An essential reminder for me on any of these mission trips is that we are all God’s children, created by Him out of His abundant, unfailing love. We come to Him not out of our supposed power, position or prestige, but out of humility and poverty. He is totally indifferent to my status as a retired judge, although I honor by using the gifts He has blessed me with.
I have always enjoyed the AW Tozer statement that “an infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children as fully as if there were no others.” Indeed we each of His beloved. “We belong to God who claims us as beloved children and holds us close in the embrace of strength and love.” (Rueben Job)

Time in Ecuador

Our medical mission trip to Vilcabamba and Catamayo, Ecuador lasted two weeks. Despite fully absorbing the sights, sounds, smells, moods, light of each day, I still could not believe how fast the time slipped down the hour glass. Two weeks felt like two days.

I returned home to La Grande early Sunday afternoon. As I hugged Meg, petted our golden retriever, looked around the familiar surroundings of our house, I felt that I had been gone for two months.

Two weeks are two weeks. However, from my perspective in Ecuador the time flew by, yet from my vantage point in La Grande, the time was greatly lengthened. To come to the end of experience is to make a new beginning. My “time past” is now my present and my future. New experiences await here at my earthly home, yet more and more, I wonder what my eternal home will be like. Blessings, Eric

Photos by Eric Valentine