Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
This had to have been the most uneventful trip to the States that we've taken yet. Everything went smoothly from beginning to end. I'm now finished with the Alternative Missions leadership conference in Flagstaff, Arizona and we (Amy, the girls and I) have returned to Tucson from the Grand Canyon. We travelled up through Sedona (red rock country) and then stayed for three nights in a little town called Williams. What a cool place. The town was founded at the turn of the century and is right on the historic Route 66, which used to be the country's main east-west travel route. We had two full days in town. On the first one, we checked out the mountains surrounding the town (with a little lake high up above).
Later that day, we traveled to a wonderful little tourist trap where Maili was mauled by ravenous, angry deer.
The next day was the most fun... We rode the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Finally, we got to see the Grand Canyon (Makena remains unimpressed). It is definitely one of God's most incredible creations. I can never get over how deep and wide it is (I'll skip the cheesy, spiritual analogy at this time). Truly breath-taking.
Last but not least, we were robbed by armed bandits on the train ride back to Williams. They galloped up on horseback, boarded the train and took us for all we were worth. Fun stuff!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
If you read this in the next few days, please be praying for our safety (and sanity) as we travel. We also ask you to please pray for our house church. For the next five weeks, several of the older guys will be leading the study as they work their way through the book of James. Please pray that God will guide and lead them and that they will continue to look to him for that leading. This is a huge step and I would love nothing more than to come back, find out that they have done an excellent job and then move into a role of teaching and oversight. This is the end goal anyway. I have no idea what will happen. We have been teaching them and modeling church for them for over a year and now it is in God's hands. Please pray for them (Sebas, Peace, Dexter, Jose, Mike, Johanna, Jetsi, Jordan, Anastassia, Pablo, Downer, Kenneth, Kenneth, Dorothy, Eric, and a few others that show up irregularly) daily. This is huge!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
This short video is from an outreach we did with our youth group this past summer in a part of San Jose called "Little Hell". If there's one lesson we can all learn from this, it is to make sure the song you are singing is within the range of your voice... and if you're watching something like this happen, sit in the back.
My mom would have been pinching the daylights out of me if she had been with us at this outreach.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Just wanted to leave you all with a couple of photos of the deck as it stands right now. The Lifechurch team was awesome. They worked hard all week, had great attitudes and were also a lot of fun. We got quite a bit of work accomplished and by the end of the week, we had all of the main portion of the deck in place. It really came in handy last night at the youth event as we finally had a place for people to sit, stand and hang out.
Last night was the final night of the Lifechurch outreach. We hosted a special youth night with some crazy games, hotdogs and hamburgers and a really great time teaching. We had between 30 and 40 youth show up and let me tell you, it was total chaos...and a lot of fun. After the food and fun, everyone gathered in the skate park to hear Peace's story. Peace (below right) shared about his life growing up in one of Limon's toughest neighborhoods and how he almost died several years ago from an overdose of crack. He explained how caught up he had been in himself and how it had almost cost him his life. He then told about his journey in coming to know Christ. Peace had an interest in spiritual things for many years but it was a mix of rastafarianism, Christianity and new age beliefs...along with a lot of confusion.
Five months ago, Peace accepted Christ as we prayed together one night on the steps of the cafe after a night of skating. Since that night I can honestly say that I have never witnessed the renewal that God can bring to someone's life and mind as clearly as I have seen it take place with Peace. Last night was the culmination of that journey as Peace, a new Christian, stepped in front of 40 of his friends and neighbors and shared about the impact Jesus had made on his life. he didn't hold back as he challenged everyone within listening distance to open their hearts and make the same decision to follow Jesus that he had made. He was clear that there are still struggles and anyone that knows him would understand that following Christ doesn't automatically bring health and wealth. Peace was clear that following Jesus brings forgiveness for sin and a sense of purpose that he had looked for all of his life.
This was Peace's first time speaking in front of a crowd and he was incredible. God spoke through him. While he spoke, there was no joking or talking. Everyone gave him their attention and when he finished, there was an immediate eruption of applause. Peace isn't a bible scholar but he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is real and that He changes lives. He shares his new faith with everyone he meets and has a new story for us each week at house church. I would not be surprised (especially after last night) to see Peace leading a house church in the near future. Such is the grace and power of God. Funny thing...we came looking for "the man of peace" and God blessed us with a man called Peace.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Here you can see the progress that we made by mid-day. Later this afternoon we will begin laying the decking over the beams. No job is without it's trouble and we've run into a few problems but things are coming along. I'm hopeful we'll be finished by the end of the week.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
What that means is that our water is regularly getting cut off every afternoon at 5:00pm (just when you get home from work and want a shower) and isn't turned on again until around 6:00am the next morning. That means every afternoon we have to fill up buckets and pots so that we have enough water to flush toilets, bath and cook.
Fortunately, it's not as bad as it was a few months ago. Back in May the water was cut off by 1:00pm every day and wasn't turned on again until 5:00am. To top it off, we went through about a month of electricity rationing with rolling, unannounced blackouts. Talk about frustrating...try having no water and no electricity at the same time. Oh well, we're not in Kansas anymore (Florida either for that matter). It's just a part of life here on the edge of civilization.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
our residency application along with all the paperwork, have been "lost" by the immigration office for the second time. We can't even find out the status of our application at the moment.
Anyway, until we have residency status, we are living and working here under a tourist visa which must be renewed every three months.
The closest place for us to stay are the islands of Bocas del Toro in Panama. This time we stayed on the island of Basitmentos which at the moment, has no roads and only one small town of rickety houses built on the water and up the side of a hill. The place we stayed was owned by a self-described former East-German anarchist. Breakfast and dinner are cooked and eaten family style with the owners, their helpers and anyone else that may be staying at the "hotel" which is really a small house with four rooms and one private bath. The owner was quite a character and refers to himself as Tio Tom (Uncle Tom). We had an interesting discussion about our choice of careers (read "calling") and he was quite proud to tell us that he beat up the last missionary he ran in to. I guess the guy got really pushy and was also extremely defensive about his way of thinking to the point of being insulting. Rather than walking away and difusing the situation, this missionary escalated it to the point of a fist-fight on a bridge linking Costa Rica and Panama, all in front of the border guards and a crowd of spectators. Anyway, we had an good conversation and he was interested in what we do. He especially liked our work with the youth.
My point is this...you never know who you will meet and what their experiences with Christians have been. One thing I know... in every conversation and every "chance" meeting, we're either building bridges or building walls. This is true even during a required visit to Panama to renew visas. Let's make sure we're sharing Christ, not defending ourselves. Let's build bridges instead of fighting on them.
Here's a picture of Maili getting a little R&R on the dock in front of Tio Tom's.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Recently, I was running some errands and had invited my friend D. along. As we were talking, D. mentioned something that made me realize just how much takes place without words ever being spoken. D. told me that he had never really wanted to get married. He never saw the need for it and truthfully, had never even considered having a family and committing to one person for the rest of his life. That is until he began spending time with Amy and me and one of the other couples on our team. Here in this culture, men are trained to have as many women as possible, almost from the day they are born, and the results are heartbreaking. D. hadn’t been exposed to anything outside of this way of life. As have gotten to know him and spend time with him, he has seen that there is a different way to live. As he has grown in his walk with God, the things he wants out of life have begun to change and one of the key elements in this is that he finally has someone to walk this road with him…to model the Christian life for him. It’s having an impact.
This past Monday morning S. dropped by the house as we were eating breakfast. We invited him in to join us and the first thing he said with a huge smile on his face was how much he had enjoyed house church the night before. He said that it was awesome and that he had such a good time (this was after a hardcore message about the final judgment and heaven and hell – see Matt. 25). His face just lit up as he talked about the evening and the impact it had on him. Shortly after that, as we were talking, he paused for a moment and then told me, “Barrett, you’re like my dad. You feed me, you surf with me and you spend time with me.” He wasn’t telling me that I was similar to his dad. He was telling me that I take the place of his dad who left him and his mother several years ago and now lives on the Pacific. Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time with Sebas and he has grown immensely as a Christian. He is one of the older youth that is the most excited about sharing his faith with others. He sees it as a privilege. But this wasn’t true before he had someone to walk alongside him and encourage him.
If God blesses me enough here in Puerto Viejo to have a significant impact on a few then that’s what I want to do. In the end, they are the ones that will eventually reach their community and their culture with much more of an impact than we ever could. God is using us to get something started. To come alongside people and show them that there is a different way to live. A way created by a God that loves them and wants to change them in more ways than they could ever imagine.
I don’t say any of this to blow my own horn. I say it to encourage you. It’s hard to imagine the impact you can have on someone’s life just by living your life for Christ alongside them. Years ago it happened to me through a friend in Arizona named Paul Almquist. I had gotten away from the church and had a distant relationship with God. Amy and I had just started attending Calvary Chapel in Tucson. We met Paul and his wife through some friends. Paul was the guitarist for the worship team but he never acted like this made him special or put him on a higher spiritual plane. One day he invited me to go mountain-biking with him and it soon became a regular weekend event. Paul never preached at me, he did life with me. One of the only things he would do is ask if he could pray before we went riding each week. I hadn’t prayed regularly in years, so this . Spending time with Paul made being a Christian real for me. He showed me what it was like to live in the world but not be of the world...life as a Christian outside of the Christian bubble. That made an impact on me. Paul, you are one of the main reasons that we are doing what we’re doing. God used you in my life and in many ways He is continuing to use you to reach this community here in Puerto Viejo. There have been other Paul’s in my life… my dad, my friends Norm Jaeger and Todd Harper. It’s because of friends like these that D. and S. are following Jesus.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
As I learn more and more about this place and the struggles people face, I am amazed. I guess it backs up what Paul wrote when he said that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. We've had youth in our home that have robbed tourists and locals alike at gunpoint, but when they are with us they are polite and genuinely thankful that someone cares about them enough to spend time with them. To see them really interested in the things of God shows me that hope never dies.
Please pray for our team as we work and live here. We are going through some major changes as some long-term team members are returning to the States to continue their educations. This leaves us very dependent on God as we pray for Him to raise up locals and send down more likeminded people to join us in serving Puerto Viejo. Specifically, we need a person to take over all of the duties associated with bringing in Short Term Mission teams and our location administration. We are also looking for someone to take on the youth and skate ministries on a full time basis and finally, we are praying for a couple to come down and open the music cafe/coffee shop. Never in my life has it been more evident that the fields are white for the harvest but th workers are few. Please pray for the community and our team.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
In all, things are going well. Maili had her first ballet recital last week at one of the local elementary schools. She has been taking ballet (in the jungle of all places) for about 4 months now and is doing really well. It is a great way for her to get out of the house and make some new friends as well. Homeschooling down here can be very isolating as there are no homeschool groups or co-ops. We have to be very intentional about getting her involved with others. In this picture she is getting ready for the recital with her friends Paulina and Camila.
I am also including a really cool photo from a recent thunderstorm. I took this photo late at night from our porch. It was amazing to sit there and watch the lightning shoot through the air out over the water. This particular night was very dark and the sky just lit up ever time a bolt of lightning was released. It can be hot, sticky, buggy and sometimes downright frustrating living here but God seems to send these types of things along often enough to make us appreciate the opportunity we have been given.
Monday, September 03, 2007
This past Saturday, we celebrated Maili's eighth birthday. We had her party out on the beach, underneath the coconut palms in front of our house. Lots of friends were there and we had a great time together. It's hard to believe she was only five when we first moved here. Man, how time flies. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAILI!!!!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
In other news, we (me and the family) are in San Jose again. We came in on Monday so that I could go to my last dentist appointment and then we were planning to pick up a new intern this morning and bring her back to Puerto with us. Unfortunately, she missed her plane and was delayed until this evening. I'm actually waiting at the hotel right now and will be leaving for the airport in about a half hour.
San Jose by nature is not a fun, family friendly city. We usually visit the mall when we're here but there aren't too many safe, fun places to hang out while we're waiting for appointments, etc... This time was the same as usual until mid-morning when our new helper called to let us know she was delayed. Once we found out, we had some time to kill so we decided to go and see one of the nearby volcanoes. It turned out to be a great afternoon filled with cool mountain air (including a slight smell of sulfur) and incredible views. We actually got to walk around in the upper portion of the volcano's crater and looked down into a large lake that fills the lower, main crater. The views on the drive up reminded me of scenes from The Lord of the Rings. We were actually up above several large thunderstorms that were soaking the valley below. We ended up having a great time together and got to see some things that we haven't been able to see since we've been here. Unfortunately, we didn't bring our camera on this trip because we had no idea we'd have any free time. I guess this goes to show me two things: first, you never know what to expect when you come to San Jose and second, always bring the camera.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Earlier this week we said goodbye to the last team of our summer season. It was a whopper of a team...37 people, and most of them were teenagers. We had a great time with them and got quite a bit of work done as well. Since the group was so large, we divided them up into three smaller groups of 12-13 people each. One group went into town each day and worked at the local high school...painting and maintenance. The other two groups worked at the property each day, sanding, varnishing and cleaning the grounds. They also spent quite a bit of time each day with several of the local youth who really enjoyed the interaction.
Speaking of local youth, I have heard a couple of comments recently that really made an impact on me. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine that is the missions pastor of a large church in Florida said that on his last visit, he really saw a huge difference in the spiritual maturity of the youth we have been working with... that he can really tell that they are growing in their faith This means a lot because this was his third visit. He has come to see us each year that we have been here and has witnessed our work grow from nothing to what is happening now with the house churches, skate-park and AWANA's program.
I also had a friend tell me some amazing things. He has lived in Costa Rica since he was 18 and has been visiting Puerto Viejo for over 15 years. He said that he can't remembers a time when he saw so many teenagers' lives being changed and so many of them hungry to learn about God. He went on and on about the changes he is seeing in specific individuals' lives and directly attributed it to the work we are doing. I don't share this to toot my own horn but to let anyone reading this know that God is doing amazing things through your prayers and support. Lives are being changed and God is working in incredible ways and it is happening one life at a time as we live life together with our brothers and sisters here in Puerto. Sometimes all it takes is someone that is willing to say yes to God, to come alongside others...giving them to strength and encouragement to live for Him.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Every now and then we get some time to ourselves. This past Saturday was a lot of fun as we took a trip to a waterfall about a half hour drive away. We brought Sebastian, one of the older youth, with us along with a family that lives in the next town. It was beautiful. The waterfall is about 70 feet tall and you have to hike through the jungle to reach it. Here are a few photos from the trip.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Lots of things are happening...too much to keep up with. I wanted to post this note I recently received from our stateside director regarding several people that visited us last month with the mission team from SkateChurch in Steamboat Springs, CO. Good stuff and it goes to show that God is using this location to work in the lives of more than just the people here in Puerto. Vince was one of the oldest members of the team and a really cool guy. It's awesome to see how God used his time here in Puerto to draw him into relationship with Him.
Ok, so here’s the deal….sitting here in the office all the time, I’m rarely able to be witness to the awesome things that are happening in the lives of those you guys are ministering to on a day to day basis. However, being here in the states, I am able to follow up on the lives of those who have participated in a short term outreach and what God is doing in and through them. Well, this last weekend I drove 15 hours north to the BEAUTIFUL town of Steamboat Springs, CO and spent the weekend with Buck and Tara. While I was there I went and shared at Uzoa Church, (Buck and Tara’s church) and also heard the team share about their experiences. After service there was a baptism service and some of the team was getting baptized. Jessie and Ryan got baptized as did Bucks 10 year old son, Hunter, (he was the one who couldn’t make it down this summer because of his mom). It was a great service.
The awesome news was that Vince got baptized too. Vince was the big tall guy who cooked us all lunch that one day. It seems that since the trip, Vince’s life has been radically changed. His girlfriend Gretchen came and thanked me and you guys for the work that is happening in PV and how it has changed Vince’s life. Vince is a HARD CORE believer in prayer. You should hear the guy pray…it’s awesome! He’s charging for Jesus and he attributed his faith to the time he spent in PV. When he spoke at church, he spoke of each of you and the work you guys are doing. He was really blessed by everyone and God really got a hold of him in a major way!
You see, house churches, children’s church, skate ministry, café’s and more are all incredible parts of what we do, but short term missions is another AMAZING way that we partner together in ministry. Yes, these teams are coming down and doing some amazing work, but God is also bringing them down and doing amazing work in them. You guys are doing a great job. Your lives and work are not only affecting change in Puerto Viejo, but lives are being transformed all across the US. Keep charging team…I’m proud of you guys!
Monday, July 30, 2007
Last week I had the privilege of baptizing two of my friends from house church. Peace, who became a Christian about three months ago, and Dexter, who chose to follow Christ about a year ago, were baptized in the Caribbean Sea that they love so much. It was a really cool evening. After the baptism, we celebrated with a big dinner and then built a huge bonfire on the beach in front of our house and worshipped God together. I love seeing the changes that are taking place in their lives as they follow Jesus, step by step.