Thursday, December 31, 2009
The feeding center is designed to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the homeless population in Alajuelita.
The feeding center is sponsored by Mason Community Church of Mason, Michigan.
The feeding center will serve 150 meals per week, and there will be a devotional before each meal. There will also be ongoing counseling for those in need.
Friday, October 30, 2009
These are the rumors that I returned home to a couple days ago. It's tragically sad, and at the same time ridiculously funny. Over the past three years there have been rumors of me being an adulterer, pedophile, and a drug dealer.
When I first moved to Costa Rica I was discouraged by the lies that were being spread about me. The same people I was trying to help were the ones spreading the hurtful lies. However, the most frustrating part was that most of the lies were rooted in my attempts to love like Christ. What I've learned is that the world can't understand true Christian love.
The voice of a lost and broken world says: "Nobody gives away a new house, he must be sleeping with her.", "Why would a middle-aged man spend time hanging out with teens? He must be some kind of sick pedophile!", "Spencer has money and spends time with the drug-addicts, he must be a drug dealer."
It would be easy to allow these lies to cause me to become cynical and jaded. Honestly, sometimes I just want to quit trying, or at a minimum give the same weak and conditional love in return. However, quitting would be tragic and would allow the enemy to win. Furthermore, a choice to love like the world is a choice to not to love at all.
In contrast, when my love is rooted in Christ it's powerful and life changing! Christ-like love is unconditional and always requires some level of sacrifice. I guess it comes down to a simple reality. Can I love those who hate and speak lies against me? Is my love for others contingent on being loved in return?
Truth is, I rarely get it right and I fail more times than I succeed. However, I'm learning. The more I experience Christ's love for me; the more natural it feels to try to love others the same way.
So I'm asking you to join me in learning to love better. Let's love sacrificially and unconditionally. Let's love with a crazy love the world won't understand; and in the process we can change the world!
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." - Jesus
Love and miss you all,
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I would like to preface this "Rambling" with a couple disclaimers.
First, I want you to know that I'm hesitant to share this experience. I suspect that many of you are as skeptical as I am when it comes to stories of the supernatural. However, I hope my skepticism only adds validity of my account. I don't feel that I have exaggerated or embellished the experience in any form or fashion. Plus, most of you think I'm a little crazy anyway...so no harm done.
Secondly, please know that I'm only sharing this experience to bring glory to God. It's for His glory and His fame that I feel compelled to share what He has done. I hope that it challenges and convicts you as it has me.
That being said...
An incredible thing happened after church last Sunday. It all started when I heard a woman screaming "Shut-up! I don't want to hear this...Shut-up!" (She was speaking in Spanish, as expected as I live in Costa Rica). I quickly moved to the back of the church to discover the cause of the commotion. I was thinking that it might be a married couple arguing or physically fighting. When I entered the room I was surprised by what I found.
There were only two women in the room. One of the women was Melba, a sweet, and somewhat timid lady, who is a leader in the church. The other woman was a short 5' woman in a tight, low-cut top, and short skirt. She looked like she might live on the streets and work as a prostitute. (This is not uncommon for the church as we live in the poorest county in Costa Rica. The church is full of drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless people...and I love it!) She was the one that was upset, screaming and flailing her arms in an effort to strike the other woman. I got between them and asked Melba what happened. She said that she was praying for Christ to reveal Himself to this woman and she freaked out.
While I was trying to understand the situation Pastor Jorge, the Pastor of the church, entered the room. He immediately tried to subdue the woman and started praying for her in a very loud voice. In my broken Spanish I soon realized that he was trying to cast out a demon! Yes, I said a demon! In my skeptical mind I was thinking, "oh please lady, stop faking it." However, I noticed he was struggling to restrain her as she was becoming increasingly enraged! (Note Pastor Jorge is 6', 185 pounds)
I decided to help control the woman, after all she was only 5' and maybe 105 pounds. I figured "I can take her". After all, I'm 5'7", 180 pounds, not to mention I have some training in hand-to-hand combat from my military experience. I moved in and grabbed her arms by the wrist. I immediately realized two things. She was stronger than the both of us combined, and something evil was radiating from her. Suddenly a thought rushed into my mind "she isn't faking it...which means...uh oh". As she continued to push both of us away I realized that I needed to find a better way to subdue her. I quickly slipped behind her and placed her into an arm bar, and then was able to get her in a full-nelson shoulder hold. She was so strong it was scary! I was able to hold back her arms and Pastor Jorge continued to pray over her. He was praying very loudly, and soon Melba joined in. Together they prayed, to no avail. I was becoming fatigued and felt like she might break free. Plus, I was getting tired of her slamming me into the wall.
This needed to end, so I decided to try something I've never done before. I leaned forward and in calmly said in English, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave this woman". Immediately, like flipping switch, she went completely limp. Actually, I thought I might have caused her to pass out from the force I was exerting on her neck and shoulders. Then I realized, it wasn't me, it was Him! The Holy Spirit had given me the power to do what I couldn't do in my flesh. I had tapped into the power of God in a super natural way. The rage and anger disappeared and she lay there peacefully for what seemed ten minutes. When she came to, she hugged me deeply and I kissed her on the forehead. She held me crying for a long time. It was a good cry, a cry like she was free for the first time in a long time. Soon, Pastor Jorge stepped in and started to minister to her. I left the room to find my wife and share the story with her. Crazy stuff!
An interesting thing is this....I had just finished reading Francis Chan's new book Forgotten God the morning of this event. While I was reading the book I prayed for God to help me embrace the presence of His Spirit in my life. I asked for His leading in my life in a more powerful way. I committed to stop looking for ways to excuse Him or "quench" His presence in my life. So far it seems to be working and I'm excited to see how He is going to continue to lead me.
In closing, thank you all for all of your prayers and support. Please be praying that God will continue to use us in powerful way. Pray that He will continue to build His ministry though us, and please pray for our family's personal support.
Love and miss you all,
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Mission Teams -
Since May, God has allowed us to host 224 team members from 22 mission teams, representing 18 different churches, from 9 different states. That is 224 believers challenged and inspired to live for Christ with reckless abandon.
This summer alone God used the mission teams to...
medically treat and prescribe free medicines to over 3,500 people;
construct 6 new homes, and 4 new chicken coops;
paint or remodel 8 houses, 2 schools, 1 park, 2 community centers, and 1 church;
teach English to hundreds of children in 3 different elementary schools;
conduct 4 Vacation Bible Schools and 2 soccer camps;
deliver clothing, food, wheelchairs, and diapers to dozens of needy families;
plant a garden for an orphanage, feed five orphans, serve hundreds of meals to the homeless; and pray with countless local people in Costa Rica and Guatemala.
New Staff -
God has brought new staff members to 6:8 Ministries. Omar and Bonnie Bravo have committed to serve with 6:8 Ministries. They will be serving alongside Dave and Leisa DeVaney in Costa Rica. Omar will oversee operations while Dave oversees teams. Amy Mikul has committed to serve with 6:8 Ministries in Guatemala. God has also brought four other families that are prayerfully considering about serving with 6:8 Ministries.
New Ministry Opportunities -
Thanks be to God that the Guatemala expansion is up and running. This expansion has already provided many new ministry opportunities. God has allowed us to build working relationships with a thriving local ministry, a local orphanage, a children's art school, a Downs Syndrome school, a clean water project, a house building ministry, and much more.
New Team House -
God has provided a new team house in Guatemala. It's going to be a great tool for His use and glory for years to come.
Purchase of the staff house -
God has provided the funding for us to purchase the Staff house in Costa Rica! We are currently renting the staff house. However this purchase will not only save the ministry money, but will also secure the use of the facility.
New Church Plant -
God has used this ministry to help start a new church plant in Costa Rica. Celebration Church of Costa Rica is reaching a segment of people that no other church is reaching. Each week drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless, stumble in to hear a message of love and grace. God is radically changing lives through His new church plant.
New Feeding Center -
God has provided the funding to start a new soup kitchen / feeding center this fall!
As I said before, I could go on and on about the great things God has done...and is doing. We are humbled and honored that He allows us to be part of it. We completely recognize that He is working and He alone deserves all the glory and credit. I echo the psalmist as he writes...
Give thanks to the Lord,
for His love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or
fully declare His praise?
Amazed and full of praise,
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
First thing today, the team split up: Half of us went to deliver food (rice, beans, salt, sugar, spaghetti, etc) to a family in Jasmine the rest of us went to deliver food to two families in Juan Pablo. After that, we headed down to Aurora to visit Jose Antonio (the little boy with mental disabilities). He continues to do so much better!! This boy (who is 6 years old) couldn’t walk 9 months ago, and now he is walking and on the verge of speaking!!
While at Jose Antonio’s house, the neighbor’s across the alley (a little old lady) asked me if we were there to pray. When I told her “yes”, she asked me if we could come pray in her house as well! Talk about a testament to what she has seen prayer do in her neighbors lives! It turns out that the lady had just had an operation on her eyes and her husband was bed-ridden from a leg injury about four years ago. Thus, we prayed over them and their house and then one of the doctors taught the old man a couple of exercises that he could do to undo the atrophy in his leg and increase the blood flow to his foot.
On our way out of the neighborhood, we stopped by Maria’s house (who used to be a witch, but has now given her life to Christ) and we delivered our last load of food. While there, a young boy asked me for the cross I wear around my wrist… I gave it do him, of course. This is the third cross someone has asked for off of my wrist… Two here in Costa Rica, and one waitress in Florida.
Now, on to the “gun shots and hot dogs”…
After lunch, we took the team to the houses (shanti’s) down by the river. This is probably the roughest neighborhood we go into, even though we’ve never had anything bad happen. So, we headed down to the dead end street where we go with almost every team and handed out over 100 hot dogs, cookies, chips, pencils, tracts, and bubbles. We also had a great time jumping rope with the kids and adults alike. Even the local drug dealers came by and got a bite.
Once it was time to go, I rolled up the jump rope, we handed out the last of the bubbles and pencils, and began to walk out. As we were about half down the dead end street, a couple of the women came running after us…
“Wait, wait… There are some guys waiting for you at the end of the street! My husband heard them saying that they were going to be waiting for your group so that they could assault you!”
As I’m always bringing up the rear of the group, I quickly called the group back. As soon as I explained the situation, the woman said that her husband went ahead of us to be our escort. Two seconds later, “Bang! Bang!” Two gunshots rang out ahead of us down the street.
At that point, the crowd of women and children surrounding us said that the “coast was clear” and that we should continue on down the street. Not knowing what to do and aware that there was only one way in and out of this neighborhood, I simply told the group “start praying, we gotta go”. And so, escorted by a short portly woman and a gay man as our body guards, we headed out of the neighborhood.
It turns out that the gunshots came from the woman’s husband in an attempt to scare off the hoodlums who were planning to mug us. Nonetheless, the woman (with a rock in each hand, hidden behind her back) and the gay guy (with a couple of rocks in a grocery bag) escorted us out of the neighborhood all the way to the main street and the bus stop… No harm, no foul, though we were all a bit shaken up. On our way out, one of the hoodlums yelled at the team: “We want your money, you son-of-a-b#&*h!” One of the young boys who was walking with us remarked to me “Some people have no respect.”
What really amazed me today was how the community came together and actually stood up and surrounded us in this situation. What was the most ironic and humbling though was the action of the gay gentlemen who led us out of the neighborhood… In the Church today, I think that the gay population is the most shunned and persecuted demographic of all. Yet, when we were between a rock and a hard place, it was this man who stood up for the group of Christians. He could have very easily turned his back on us and allowed us to fend for ourselves, but he didn’t. And that, my friends, is the most accurate immitation of Jesus Christ and His love that I have seen all week. Jesus Christ shows up in different forms everyday in our lives; today, he was embodied as a gay man with a grocery bag full of rocks. For that, I am so very grateful.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Here is a glimpse of what a Sunday morning might look like:
Praying for healing of a sick baby...
A man taking a moment to read his new Bible...
One of the most beautiful moments was when Jorge asked if anyone wanted to pray. Among others, a shirtless man made his way down to pray. The heartbeat of this church is to be a place where even he feels welcomed and loved. It is going to be messy. But I firmly believe that Jesus loves the messy.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It's exciting for us to know that God has used 6:8 Ministries to fulfill our purpose. God has used us to strengthen and encourage the faith of over 200 team members from seventeen different churches and ministries!
This truly is a picture of God working all things together for good. We are awed by His provision and honored to be used in this capacity.
It's finally happened! God has called one of the mission team churches to plant a new church in Alajuelita. Evidence that God can use short-term mission experiences to make a long-term impact.
This past week, one of the mission teams spent time working on various remodeling projects at the church. The week ended with God bringing over 100 people to the Sunday service. After the service, the team hosted a cookout and served some of "the least of these". Some of those attending included the homeless, prostitutes, crippled, drug addicts, and gang members. Many attending left with new bibles, new clothing, and a new hope. To God be the glory for the great things He has done!
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Almost every team that has come through over the last two and a half years has gone down to Jose Antonio's house to pray for him and his family. To finally see him walking has been such a miracle! His mother gives the glory to God and is so thankful for all of your prayers. Celebrate God's glory with us!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Here is a glimpse of what we accomplished: (I know there are a lot of pictures, I don't expect you to sit through them all, but it may give you an idea of the task :o)
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
A special thanks to Cathy and Shellie who made a special trip to help with the distribution!