Friday, January 08, 2010
Here in Puerto Viejo, life moves along at it’s own pace. It’s one of those immutable laws of nature akin to night following day and day following night. There’s no changing it so you just have to learn to roll with it. Case in point: at church, we have repeatedly emphasized how important it is for us to start “on time” (meaning within at least 1/2 hour of the official start time) so that new people who are being invited, along with everyone else, can have some idea of what to expect.
Something about the tropics though; schedules seem to be dictated more by the quality of the surf or the sunset than by a clock or watch. No one else seems to mind... why should we, right? Well, after five years of “learning to roll with it”, I still stress out every Sunday evening when no one is there “on time”. It makes me start doubting our calling, my abilities, etc... everything short of my salvation. It never ends and it never gets any easier for me having grown up in a very time oriented family. For those of you that know my dad, you know what I’m talking about.
The Sunday evening after Christmas was the most recent example. We had been inviting people for the past month to come celebrate Christmas with food, friends and a great message on hope. Our “official” start time is 5:30 pm but by 6:00 there were only about 4 people there (which included Amy and me) along with a large amount of food that was getting cold. Like every Sunday, I began to wonder if anyone was even going to show. Suddenly, by about 6:15 people started trickling in and by 6:30 we were up to a total of 21 people (a mob by Puerto Viejo standards).
We enjoyed eating and spending time together and then got into the message. I spoke about the reason that we, as Christians, celebrate Christmas... not because a baby was born but because of the hope that His birth brought to the human race. Hope for today and for eternity. Following that, we watched the second part of a video series by Louie Giglio entitled “Hope When Life Hurts Most” which led to some thought provoking discussion afterwards.
Our church is the only church in the entire community that is specifically reaching out to the third culture of foreigners that have have made Puerto Viejo home. Because we are non-denominational, people feel more comfortable. The fact that we don’t even have a name for the church is a plus in a town where people have fled institutions, structure and labels. We are Christians that love Jesus and want others to come to know him as revealed by the Bible. We have an opportunity here through the skatepark and church to share the good news of Jesus in a way that reaches out to a very non-traditional, un-churched crowd without compromising the message. We need your help in doing this. Pray with us as we make visits to people’s houses and places of business in an effort to build relationships with them. After 5 years of living here, inviting people, etc... we have come to learn that there is no substitute for time. The most effective way to share the message of Jesus is through personal relationships and that can only happen with time.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
We made it! After two months of traveling, visiting and speaking we are finally back in Puerto Viejo. While we were in the states, we traveled to South Florida to visit friends and supporters in our home church, Calvary Jupiter. We then headed up to Tallahassee to visit my family and speak at Thomasville Road Baptist Church. The next stop was Tucson, Arizona where we spent time with Amy’s family and spoke to a group from Calvary Chapel Tucson. During the first part of October, we drove up to Ridgway, Colorado to spend some time with our director and meet the new board of directors for Alternative Missions Costa Rica. After a brief return to Tucson, we took off for San Diego where I spoke to over 100 students and faculty at the Horizon School of Evangelism. Our final stop was back in Tucson where we spent the last few days with family, packing and one final speaking engagement at Calvary Chapel Sahuarita, just south of Tucson.
Fortunately, even with all of the travel and speaking, we were able to get in a few days of fun together. We visited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and spent a couple of days in Durango, Colorado. We also had the opportunity to let the girls play in the snow as we passed through the mountains.
Overall, it was a great trip. We have found that it is so important for us to get away from time to time so that we can spend time with friends and family and get recharged. It also helps to bring a fresh perspective to our work here in Puerto. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks, especially being so short-handed, that you lose sight of the big picture. Life becomes one fire to put out after another which begins to take a toll physically, emotionally and spiritually. We need these times to get away so that we can recharge and come back in with fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.
I’m looking forward to changing a few things up with church in an effort to reach out to more people. I am also planning to go deeper with several of the guys that have become the core by spending more targeted personal time with them... working with them to help them realize God’s plan for their lives. I want to help them see beyond tomorrow and get a vision of what is possible when they truly surrender their lives to God. Please be praying for us in this and also for new staff.
Our greatest need right now, and one of my highest priorities for the coming year is getting additional staff. The foundation is in place and there are incredible opportunities but without the right people, we can’t really take advantage of those opportunities. I’ve been familiar with the verse that describes the fields as being white for the harvest but the workers being few, for a long time. It is incredibly true. That means that we, and hopefully you, will be praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. Please pray.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Well, it's almost time for us to head in to San Jose to begin our trip home. We will be leaving Puerto on Wednesday to take care of a few last items before flying out to Florida on Saturday. We had a great visit last week with Jeremy and Kerbi from texas. Only God knows the outcome but they are a great couple and we really enjoyed spending time with them. We are also excited about the ways that they could get involved here with the youth house church and even various community initiatives. We'll keep praying and hoping and ask you to as well.
Last night was a great night at church. We've been praying for a friend for a long time and last night he decided he really wanted to let Jesus take control of his life. Erik runs the restaurant at the youth hostel, Rocking J's, next door to the skatepark. We have gotten to know him over the last couple of years and have gradually become closer friends. Erik first started coming to church earlier this year and has been coming regularly for about eight or nine months. After a lot of time thinking things through, we had a chance to sit down on the stairs and talk last night before church. It was awesome to hear Erik tell God in his own words that he was done trying to do it on his own. He asked Jesus to be a part of his life... to forgive his past and give him a hope and a future. We had the privilege of baptizing him right out front just after dark. Erik is a great guy and truly wants to walk
with Jesus... not an easy thing in this life. Please be praying for him. Thank God for his decision and pray that he'll grow in his relationship with his saviour. This is an awesome thing!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I don't know if this is more of an update or a prayer request, but here it is. As we move through August, we are getting prepared for a couple of things. We are heading back to the States at the end of the month. We will be away from Puerto for almost two months, spending time with family and friends, getting recharged and doing a little speaking at our supporting churches. There is quite a bit of work to do in preparing to leave the country for any length of time. Due to the unexpected departure of a team member, we are going to be closing the skatepark for the time we are gone. Hopefully, the house church will continue meeting and I am working with one of the guys to make it happen. There are legal issues to address along with a host of preparations both at our house and at the park. We could use prayer in this as we work to make sure everything is taken care of before our departure.
As many of you may know, we have been short-handed down here for quite a while. With the skatepark, youth program, church and all the associated administration, we are constantly bordering on being overwhelmed. We have been praying about new staff and have had some promising leads but nothing has worked out yet. This weekend, we will be hosting a couple from Texas that is considering joining us here in Puerto. This is a very important time for us as well as them, as they are looking to God for direction as well. I have to admit that I am pretty nervous about it all, in part because our need for help is so great and in part because I really hope they are able to see the vision and get an idea of the potential here. It seems like every time we have visitors, nothing goes normally. The weather doesn't cooperate, none of the regulars show up for skate times/church/etc... It is easy for me to focus on these externals, especially when our need for co-laborers is so great. It is easy for me to forget that God is ultimately in control and it is His calling that we need to be looking for... not the externals that we can't control. Please pray for us and for this upcoming week. This is an important time for us but no less important for the couple that is coming to visit. It is a huge decision for them and I remember being at the same point in our lives less than five years ago. I don't want to try and talk them into anything but at the same time I want to share my excitement about the potential that exists. As much as we want this to work out, we want God's will to be done even more. Please pray that God will provide direction and peace and also that he will provide the team members that we need. Thanks for the prayers.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Here it is... the first week of August. Time is flying and it doesn't seem to slow down at all. Last week, we returned from our staff retreat which was a great opportunity to reflect and have some time away. This past Monday, I gave AJ Rhodes a ride to the airport in San Jose as he was finally heading back to Tallahassee. AJ attends Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahasse, Florida which is one of our supporting churches. We were fortunate enough to have him here in Puerto for about a month to help us with our last mission team of the summer as well as our regular skate sessions among other things. It has been a busy year without the long-term help we are praying for but thankfully, we have had some short term help during some of the busiest times.
We are looking forward to the visit of a couple from Lubbock, Texas on the 13th of this month. We have been talking for the past few months about the possibility of them joining us long-term down here and now we are finally going to get the opportunity to meet them and show them around. We'd definitely appreciate prayer for this as it is so important for us to get some help and it is a big decision for them as well. We ask God to be in the middle of it all.
It as been good to have Erik, owner of "@ E's Restaurant", back in town. He was traveling to Cuba, Mexico and then the States for the past few months and we really missed him at church. It seems that good friends are sometimes hard to make down here so you really miss them once when they're not around.
We will be returning to the States later this month. We'll arrive in Florida on the 29th of August. We'll head to Jupiter first and will be there until the 5th of September. Then, we'll be taking a break in Orlando with family before heading up to Tallahassee on the 10th. We'll be there until the 22nd. Next, we'll head to Arizona to spend time with Amy's family, take a short trip to Colorado to meet with the director of Alternative Missions, San Diego to meet with leaders from the Horizon School of Ministry and then back to Tucson for a few days before heading home to Puerto Viejo on the 19th of October. Hopefully, along the way we will get to see many of our friends. It's been a long time and we look forward to re-connecting.
Please be praying for the church while we are gone. Unfortunately, no one has stepped forward to lead in my absence. We are still hoping and praying that one of the local guys will step up and take on the responsibility...that's what we're here for, but it's not a simple thing. We are, however, happy to see people continuing to grow in their relationship with God.
We would appreciate your continued prayers. It is incredible to be living in our home and that has taken much of the negative stress out of our lives. For the first time since we've been here, we are able to devote less time to getting by and more time to our work... simply because life is a little easier and more convenient (not to mention safe and dry). A huge weight has been lifted off of us and we are so appreciative to all who made it possible through prayers and help.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
It seems as though I have made it to the surface once again. When things get too hectic, the only option is to drop the options and unfortunately, due to our difficulties with internet access, that means bogging and updating. We said goodbye to the team from Calvary Jupiter. They were here for just about a week, working with us at the house and in the local high school. We had a great time with them and really enjoyed both seeing some old friends and making some new ones. It was also great to see what an impact they had at the school...evidenced by the fact that between 60 and 80 people showed up for our youth/skate night...many of them students that don't normally come. We (Amy, the girls and I) feel refreshed and thankful to have a church that gets behind us in such a major way. It means a lot to see their care in action.
We have another team coming in a few days, so I am busy preparing for their arrival. That means going through budgets, setting up transportation, meals, etc... which can be quite a bit of work. We are looking forward to AJ Rhodes's arrival this weekend as he is going to help us with the team. Dexter, one of our local friends, is also going to be a huge help in getting everyone around from place to place. we'll be working with Ronnie and Tammy, who used to be on our team but are now pastoring the Baptist church. They ran into a similar problem with their house and we are going to be helping them get ahead in some areas that were stalled. More to come. Thanks for following.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
We are getting prepared for yet another trip to San Jose. None of us are excited about it but it has to be done. Last year, about this same time, Amy had a small, benign tumor removed from her back near her spine. The doctor told here that it was a type that could recur and if left untreated, could eventually become malignant. He made sure to tell her to keep an eye out and if she found more, to call. Well, about two months ago she found another suspicious place on her hip. She has an appointment tomorrow afternoon, so we are heading in early. If she has to have surgery, we will wait a couple of days before we travel back. We'd appreciate your prayers and I will make sure to post again once we know what's going on. It has been a hectic year but we know that God is in control.