Friday, June 29, 2007

Ramblings - Progress Through Adversity

Victor came by the team house the other day and one look into eyes told me something was terribly wrong. There was intense pain in his eyes as he fought back tears. I asked him if he was okay, he lied through a half-hearted nod. I sat down beside him, placed my arm around him, and asked again. “Are you okay?” No sooner than the words left my mouth a second time, he started to tremble and cry and through his shaky voice said “I just got robbed!”

He explained that it all started when I was walking though the park with a mission team passing out prayer, gospel tracts, and empanadas to the drug addicts and alcoholics. Victor came running up to me explaining that he had “found” a bike for my six year old son Seth. My first question was “What do you mean found”? He explained that it wasn’t stolen, but someone he knew was selling it for four dollars. Sounded like a great deal. I gave him six dollars, Four dollars to pay for the bike, and two dollars as sort of a finder’s fee and for him to take the bike to my house.

Someone in the park must have seen me give him the money. They must have been following him and when the opportunity arose, “a big man with a big knife”, robbed little Victor. He had lost the money to purchase the bike. His solution was simple, he quickly ran home and sold one of his prize possessions. A few months ago Victor’s family bought a used Play Station 2. They had two games and two controllers, but now only have one game and one controller. Victor sold one of his games and controllers to get the money to buy the bike for Seth. Wow! I was blown away and encouraged by his integrity and humbled by his sacrifice.

I asked Victor if he was upset because he had to sell his game and controller. He looked at me as only Victor can, with eyes that say you are such a stupid gringo! He then explained “I don’t care about the game! I could have been killed!” Once again I’m amazed at how great I am at missing the point! It never occurred to me that people actually stab or let alone kill each other over six dollars! Furthermore, he had to keep it from his father, “because he didn’t want to cause problems for his dad.” I asked problems? What kind of problems could it cause your dad? He explained that if his dad found out he would go crazy, hunt this man down and probably kill him, and then he would end up in jail! Oh my! All I could think was “note to self…never rob little Victor.”

Anyway, this entire experience led to us having a great discussion about fearing death. I was able to explain that I don’t fear death, but rather embrace and welcome the thought of being in the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I explained that I can’t wait to get to heaven; that being said I hope it’s not anytime soon or by way of a big man with a big knife.

Victor confessed he wasn’t sure if he would go to heaven. He said sometimes he thinks he’s a Christian and other times he’s not sure. He has heard the gospel message so many times that he can recite it frontward and backwards. He’s just not sure if he really believes it. This is great progress! During my time here I’ve challenged Victor to grow in his faith. It’s been frustrating because with Victor it seems to be one step forward and two steps back. It sounds so easy “Go and make disciples” but as I’m learning it’s very hard to do. However, last night he went to a Bible study and this Sunday says he wants to go to church. These are all small steps of progress.

In closing I’m asking for all of you to cry out to God to continue to work in Victor’s life. Pray that God will continue to provide more experiences for me to share the gospel in a real ways with Victor. Pray that we, my family and I, will live out the gospel in such a way Victor will understand what it means to become a follower of Christ. Pray that we believe and live out the great commission everyday here in Costa Rica!

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ramblings - A New Beginning

Almost a year ago we moved my family to Costa Rica seeking God's calling on our lives. We weren't exactly sure what He was calling us to do, but we knew He wanted us to do it in Costa Rica. During our time here we believe He has clearly revealed how He wants to use us here in Alajuelita. I'm excited to tell you that we have joined with a few friends to start a new ministry called 6:8 Ministries. The significance of 6:8 is a reference to our key verse, Micah 6:8, which sums up the core values of the ministry "To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God".

This new ministry will focus in a few key areas of ministry that we believe will expand and strengthen the kingdom of God. One of these areas is hosting affordable, life-changing mission experiences. God has provided us a facility capable of hosting up to twenty-four people safely and comfortably. This facility will be used as a tool that will strengthen and expand the kingdom of God.

Alajuelita is the poorest county in Costa Rica, and because of this many of the children suffer in ways that most of us can't imagine. We believe that God is calling us to minister to these impoverished children through a child sponsorship program. This will provide uniforms and books for those who could not otherwise afford to go to school.

Another area of focus is planting children's feeding centers. We believe that planting feeding centers are a great way to transform entire communities. We partner with local churches and provide the financial resources to plant and operate the feeding center, while the church provides the space and the volunteers. The effects of the feeding centers are far greater than simply feeding hungry children. The feeding centers increase the church's presence in the community, provides lay people in the church opportunities to serve and provides children with spiritual food through teaching lessons from the Bible before each feeding.

The final area we believe that God is calling us to minister through teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). This ministry has many benefits as it strengthens our presence in the community, provides opportunities to building new relationships, as well as provides individuals a great skill that will assist in finding employment. We use the Bible for teaching references and are currently working on a curriculum that will combine teaching English and the Bible at the same time.

As we start this new endeavor we need your continued prayers and support. For clarification I will not receive a salary for my work with 6:8 Ministries. We will continue to trust God to provide for our family through churches and individuals. We are missionaries working with 6:8 Ministries, but raising our own support.

In closing I hope this email has encouraged you to see how God in working in Costa Rica. He has used your prayers and support to bring much fruit. I'm confident He will continue to bless and multiply them. All I can think to say is..."Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" Eph 3:20

Ramblings - A Costa Rican Twister!

The past 36 hours have been amazing! Late Thursday afternoon a tornado ripped through parts of Alajuelita destroying homes and reeking havoc on the city. My family and home are fine, but the team house took a rather serious hit. It looks as though some debris entered though a wall on the upper level toward the back of the house and blew through and exited on the opposite wall.
I've been amazed at God's provision through the whole experience. The first way God protected us is physically. My family was uninjured even though the tornado passed within 400 meters of my house. My daughter and her friend Laine had just run up to the "MegaSuper" to pick-up a few things for Molly. MegaSuper is about two blocks away from my house and is similar to a grocery store back home. While they were in the store it started to rain, and then within a few minutes part of the roof came off!

The second way God has provided is through our great friends. I was not home when the storm hit, but our friends Duke and Candy helped Molly and the boys with the immediate crises. By the time I got home Duke had left to check on the girls at the MegaSuper, while Candy kept my boys calm. They made the experience less frightening and later that night they had an ice cream candlelight dinner. They had no electricity and all of the of ice cream in the freezer was going to melt! In caring for my family they freed me to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

I went to the team house and assessed the damage and stayed to protect the house from looters! I called my other good friend Ernie, to tell him what had happened, and that his house here in Alajuelita was undamaged, in spite of the fact that the house four houses down lost the entire roof! He wanted to help, so he sent a generator with his son Storm, who drove late into the night to deliver the generator!

Then within an hour my cell phone started to ring! Many of our Tico friends were calling to see if we were safe and what they could do help us! It was an amazing thing to experience. I had several of my homeless drug addict friends come to check on me and offer to help.

The next day people showed-up with tools and strong backs and helped us repair and clean the team house. God used these friends to transform our disaster site back in a team house. Needless to say we are not completely prepared for our mission team to arrive today, but we are a lot better off than we were 24 hours ago.

Tornados are an extremely rare occurrence in Costa Rica and this is the first one ever to hit Alajuelita. Because of this, the homes are not designed to withstand a tornado. The news has reported that an estimated 3,000 homes were destroyed or lost their roofs. God has provided for some of these families as well as we are planning to use this upcoming team to bring some relief and assistance to the families effected by the storm. The mayor stopped by the house yesterday to ask if we could was neat to be able to say to him "Yes we have a team coming Saturday, and we can help."

In closing I want to ask you pray. Pray that God would use all this chaos and tragedy to bring Him glory. Pray that this team will be able to minister during this time of crisis. Pray that God will continue to keep us safe dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Pray they will be able to get the electricity at the team house on quickly. Pray that God will continue to provide teams and the much needed resources to help our community recover.