Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas

We celebrated Christmas yesterday...first by opening presents in the morning. The girls really enjoyed their new Polly Pockets dolls and we all got a kick out of the new socks that Santa brought for us to wear in our boots (I'll include a photo of that soon). We are sort of at the end of our rope waiting for the house to be done. It isn't easy living in such a tiny house with no storage space, sporadic running water and rain often blowing in. We are also all sick at the moment so rather than trying to throw together a Christmas dinner, we went out for a treat to Chili Rojo and had a great Turkey dinner courtesy of Andrew (the owner) and his wife Ikuko. We took a family photo before we headed out. Here we are in our Puerto finest...ready to paint the town red...and green.

We celebrated Christmas at house church this past Sunday evening. It was almost a wash. Our plans were to have a Christmas dinner around 5:30 or so, read some of the Christmas story from the bible and then watch the movie "The Nativity Story". Well, our friend that was cooking the pork roast (smoked turkeys were the only traditional option and they were $100 each) got started cooking several hours late as he had trouble finding some of the things he needed. We ended up just waiting around, talking and hoping until almost 8:00pm when the roast was finally (mostly) done. Then, someone showed up with fireworks and created quite a side show. It was rather chaotic and hardly anyone made it through the movie, but we were able to celebrate in the end. That is sort of the way things seem to go down here. Flexibility is one of the necessary spiritual gifts...or you just break. Here's a photo from our evening.


Finally, the house. Please pray that we get through this in one piece. It is definitely a different world down here when it comes to construction. Overall, things are going well but the words "stay within budget" don't mean anything to the contractor and the laborers. We are finding ourselves in the position of either paying more or having them all walk...and there isn't much more available to pay. It is very frustrating because I have tried to plan well and stay on top of things the whole way through the process. that only works when all parties are on the same page and unfortunately, that is next to impossible. It looks now like the house will go up to $10,000 over budget and we have no control over this. Even though we have a contract, there is no ability to enforce it and the contractor has no surplus even if we could. We either come up with the additional funds or they walk away when we can no longer pay. Very frustrating, especially since we are so close to finishing. I will be glad when this is over. Anyway, here is a photo of the house taken yesterday.


Very simple...open air construction; no air conditioning; lots of ventilation; rainwater catchment system with over 2300 gallons of water storage to get us through drought periods. Definitely a different way of living. Our living area is on the second floor to increase security by limiting access to one point. Below is a storage area, homeschool area and a guest room (if you feel like visiting).

We can't tell you all how much we miss seeing you at this time of year. We have not visited the States for over a year now and it is really starting to seem like a long time. We know this is where God has us and we are comforted by Him but from time to time, we do miss home. Take care and God Bless.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Craziness and Christmas

Wouldn't you know it...right as I'm getting ready to get online, pay some bills and take care of a few other important things, the motherboard on my laptop fried. I haven't been able to get online for almost a week, which is really bad when I don't get that many opportunities anyway. Thanks to Dell's warranty, the computer is running again and we're back in business.

We are in San Jose right now, getting ready to head back to Puerto. We brought the girls in for a couple of days to do a few fun things for Christmas (beats hanging out in our 250 square foot house). We also met up with the builder to buy a few items so that they can continue working. Please pray that the house gets finished on time and close to the budget we had originally worked out in the contract. I am discovering that contracts in Costa Rica are more of a guideline than an actual figure you can hold someone to. In the end, you pay the additional amount (whether you have it or not) or the builder walks away when there's no more money for him to spend. There are no reserves for him to pull from if he goes over budget. If he goes over, you go over.

We are also going to pick up a turkey today for our Christmas feast at house church. Everyone is looking forward to that. We're going to eat, read a little bit of the Christmas story from the bible and then watch the movie "The Nativity". I hope everyone reading this has a great Christmas. Enjoy being with your friends and families. Take time to thank God for all of his blessings and for sending Jesus to spend some time with us and for taking the heat so that we don't have to.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

it won't stop!!!

Weather... Actually, that's not totally true that the rain won't stop...it just won't stop for long. It did stop for about five days...enough to begin drying out. We had about five days of dry weather which ended with a bang earlier yesterday morning. The sky opened...again. It's been raining most of the day today and we're looking at another four days, unfortunately. Already, Limon is cut off from San Jose by flooding and I believe the road is closed between Puerto and Limon again. Right now, it's raining so hard on the zinc roof of the skatepark that I can barely think. The good side is this...for us it is an inconvenience but for many others it has been devastating. Many people have lost their homes and belongings in areas close to us. Thank God we are in good shape...we can deal with mold...but many others have not been as fortunate. We were able to help a little by taking clothing and food to our local grocery store which was collecting for the relief effort. Please pray that the rain will stop so that people get a chance to get their lives back together. This is the rainy season, but we have just experienced the most rain this part of the country has had since 1941.

The House... As for us, things are going alright. We had a great Thanksgiving with Amy cooking up a storm (with help from the girls) and Whit joining us for the meal.



On the housing front, we lost almost two weeks of work but were able to get a few things done last week. Unfortunately, two things happened that slowed us down considerably. The styrofoam roofing insulation that was supposed to have arrived almost two weeks ago never showed. In addition, three of the additional workers that had arrived to speed things up went home due to the bad weather...the day before the rain stopped for five days. That meant that we weren't able to get the roof on when it was dry and now everyone is back and it's raining. Pura Vida!

Church... Our house church went well on Sunday. We finished going through the second chapter of Romans. It was a real hoot discussing the finer spiritual details of circumcision...not your everyday bible study topic. My goal each week is to simply and clearly, without a lot of "christianese", explain the scripture in a way that is interesting and applicable. I think this happens most of the time. Anyway, it went well Sunday and everyone seemed to go away with a clear understanding that we're not saved by what's on the outside...and hopefully a deeper devotion to Jesus. It is really cool to see people beginning to see themselves as the church. We are talking about starting some type of mid-week meeting that would be different from Sundays and we're talking about how we as a church might be able to begin reaching out to others. Please pray for us in this...although we've been at this for a couple of years now, we're still starting from scratch.

We would also appreciate your prayers for our safety and the safety of people in town. For a variety of reasons, crime has increased dramatically here lately with armed holdups, car-jackings, etc... This is the type of thing that won't really affect the safety of a visiting mission team but is a concern for those of us living here on a more permanent basis. I won't go into details but we would definitely appreciate your prayers.

End of the year giving:
As you consider your end of the year giving please consider the following...

Support for us as a family...your support of our family as missionaries enables us to do what we do. Prayerfully consider joining the Cruce Family Support team. We continue to need people to join our support team on a monthly basis. For options, click on this link to Shepherd's Staff or to donate electronically, click here.

Support for the ministry...your support of our ministry enable us to maintain the skatepark, purchase new skateboards and sponsor local youth as they compete on the national surf circuit. You can donate to our ministry through Alternative Missions by clicking here. Then, click on "Other Designation" and fill out the information making sure to indicate that your donation is for Puerto Viejo.

Sometimes it can get pretty lonely down here as the holidays approach and we want to be with friends and family. Thankfully, we have a very large extended family in all of you. We want you all to know how much we appreciate your continued interest and prayers as we do our best to be faithful to God's calling.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weather article

In case the link doesn't come through, here is the article on our current weather situation.


Caribbean endures another pounding by Mother Nature

By Elyssa Pachico and the A.M. Costa Rica staffThe Caribbean coast is taking it on the chin again with rains and flooding spawned by a cold front. Some 32 communities have been affected, and up to 2,100 persons are in shelters, according to the Cruz Roja,The national emergency commission said that rain had not let up Sunday in the coastal mountains, and rivers in Limón province continued to swell. The agency cited problems with the Barbilla and Chirripó rivers in Matina, the Pacuare and Reventazón in Siquirres, the Parismina in Guacimo, the Sarapiquí and the Sixaola.Isolated communities in the Talamanca are likely to be hard hit, but so far they are cut off from communications. On the coast, the community of Sixaola was awash from the river of the same name.Puerto Viejo de Talamanca suffered damage to a bridge leading to town, and pedestrians were forced to cross part of the way on two wood planks.The problems were not just confined to the Provincia de Limón. Five homes were damaged heavily in San Jerónimo de Moravia in the metropolitan area by a slide. There were slides around Parque Nacional Brauilo Carrillo on route 32, in the Cordillera central, the central mountains. However, passage remained open with some restrictions.Near Guápiles an ambulance with five persons aboard overturned due to the weather and three persons including a child were injured seriously.Driving all over the Caribbean coast and the northern zone was challenging because in addition to the rain and flooded highways, thick fog developed in places.The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias estimated that 1,244 persons were victims of the storm in Talamanca alone. The highway to the border with Panamá was cut in several places, officials reported. In Panamá itself, heavy damage was reported in Bocas de Toro.In Matina, the commission said that at least 400 homes were flooded out.The Cruz Roja had three boats circulating in flooded areas picking stranded individuals form the roofs of homes.Along the coast the sea was raging with waves as much as two meters (more than six feet) above normal. In the Central Valley high winds knocked down trees and power lines.
The emergency commission continued high alerts for the Caribbean and the northern zone.Limón experienced 125 mm (about 5 inches) of rain Saturday with 85 mm (3.3 inches) more Sunday, according to the automatic weather station at the Limón airport maintained by the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. Reports from Puerto Viejo say that four straight days of rain have overwhelmed the road to Cahuita with landslides, fallen power lines and trees. Additionally, the concrete bridge at the main entrance to Puerto Viejo was jerked askew by flooding. That is where people have been forced to walk over a makeshift bridge consisting of two planks.The emergency commission has been monitoring several at-risk areas in Limón, re-evaluating possible risk of floods every three hours, it said. Two temporary refuges haves been created in Matina for people forced to evacuate their homes, one for 42 people in Hone Creek and another for 96 people from 4 Millas. Another temporary refuge was created in the Escuela Caterina in Sixaola to prepare locals for the possibility of rising waters. Officials hoped that by relocating the population early on, residents will avoid worst case scenarios, such as seeking shelter from rising floodwaters on rooftops, or being forced to call for emergency rescue at night. Some 230 people sought refuge in Hone Creek, with two families consisting of 12 people seeking refuge at the local school, Escuela de Catalina.The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has said that the rains are likely to continue the rest of this week, even though the cold front that has ravaged eastern Costa Rica is slowly dissipating. Most of the rainy weather has been caused by a low-pressure front stretching from Panama to the Caribbean coast.This weekend alone, winds in San José became as strong as 90 kph (56 mph). Today, winds in San José, the Caribbean region and Guanacaste are expected to be as strong as 30 to 70 kph (18-44 mph).In the Caribbean, winds will continue to be as strong as 30 to 35 kph (18 to 22 mph) with waves as high as two to three meters (from 6.5 to 10 feet). The Pacific will see winds between 50 and 55 kph (31 to 34 mph), with waves as high as 2.3 meters (7.5 feet). Neither ocean is suitable for sailing this week, said the Comisión de Emergencias.The real extent of the damage will not be known for several weeks. In addition to flooded homes, damaged roads and bridges and washouts, agriculture and tourism have taken big hits.

Disaster?

Well, we're the closest we've been to being in the middle of a third world disaster since we moved down here. The weather is totally crazy and everything we own is wet and moldy. It started raining last Tuesday and hasn't stopped yet (http://www.amcostarica.com/morenews2.htm). Today was day number seven and we are supposed to be getting hit by another system starting tomorrow. Normally, this is fairly normal for this time of year but the duration and the extent of the rainfal are not normal. One of the bridges leading out of Puerto Viejo washed out and we are now effectively cut off from the rest of the country unless walking is an option. The roads are also out between Puerto and Limon and again between Limon and San Jose and we almost lost the bridge that links our neighborhood to the rest of the area. We don't have any idea how long it may take to get everything reconnected and reconstructed but it won't be tomorrow. We need to make sure we have cash on hand and we need to stock up on groceries as well. It could be a while before we get anything more than staples. We'll see (not to set off the alarm too early).

As for our house, we have lost over a week of construction and the house we are renting is soaked. Rain has been blowing in from every direction for a week now. We have put up a couple of tarps to keep it out and it is helping a bit but it isn't a perfect system. Maili is sleeping on the futon on our deck as it is slightly more dry than her room. Makena's room is the driest in the house so she is fine. Many people have been flooded out of their homes and are in worse situations than we are. A little mold and mildew aren't too bad when you consider what some families are putting up with. Please pray for everyone down here. We are not in any danger, but we could sure use a few dry days. We could also run into some food and fuel shortages very soon. This is definitely the worst weather we have experienced in our time here and we are ready for it to end. Also, please forgive us if it takes some extra time to return emails. We have also been without internet access for the past week. We'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Firsts...

We've had an interesting couple of days here... Last night, there was a 6.2 earthquake across the border in Panama. We were woken up just after midnight last night with the entire house rolling and shaking. As groggy as I was, it was a surreal experience. Maili (if she had been awake) would have felt like she was in the crow's nest of a sailing ship. Her bedroom is in the very top of the house, about 20 feet off the ground, level with the canopies of the surrounding trees. This was the first real earthquake we have experienced here and it was something else. Back in 1992, a huge quake hit the area cutting Puerto Viejo off from the nearest city (Limon) for around two months. Food, etc... had to be brought in by boat. When I think about these kinds of things, I realize that we're only a step away from being in the middle of a third world disaster. That's when I have to remember that we are in God's hands. Definitely exciting.

It rained hard all night and has been raining non-stop today. The rivers and creeks are full and we have a small river running across the yard of our house. Now that we are living back in the hills, transportation is an issue and we have been without our quad for three weeks now which has made life a little more challenging. Getting Makena to school, taking care of other errands and simply getting back and forth from the skatepark come with a whole new level of difficulty. I can't wait to get the quad back because biking to work several miles in heavy rain on a single speed bicycle, up and down hills, is not the easiest thing in the world. It's not the worst either, but I'll be glad to have my transport back. Life here in the jungle comes with a whole new set of challenges and some days simply consist of taking care of things just so that we can continue to be here.

Later this afternoon I'll be opening the skate park if the rain lets up a little. The entire park is covered but when a big storm like this blows in, the rain gets on everything and skating can get a little dangerous. We'll see how it goes but I'm not holding out too much hope since squalls keep blowing through. The rain is also putting a damper on the house construction. They are a little behind on getting the roof finished and can't really work up that high when things are so wet. Hopefully, they will get it done during the next dry spell and then can work every day un-impeded by the wetness. They're supposed to be done by the middle of next month and we're wondering how they'll make it. Another day in our lives... At least I didn't get peed on by the bat again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happenings

Ever been woken up in the middle of the night because a bat peed on you? If not, well I've got one up on you. A few weeks back, we heard our nightly visitor fly into our bedroom. All of a sudden, I felt a spray of liquid on my legs. I told Amy, "I think that bat just peed on me." She wasn't impressed and immediately went back to sleep. I thought about it for a few minutes and decided there was no alternative but to roll over and go back to sleep as well. What are you going to do at 2:00 in the morning? Just another one of the unique experiences we've had here in the jungle.

I'm in San Jose right now. I met with the builder this morning to purchase such necessary items as toilets, sinks, door knobs, etc... for the house. We are getting closer and should have the roof in place by the end of next week. He tells me that we're only a month away from being done and although they are working fast, I have a hard time believing it. We'll see. We're hoping to be in by Christmas. Also, our water problems may be solved soon. Rather than trying to come up with another $10,000 dollars to drill a deep well to the aquifer, we are going green. We have decided to begin harvesting our rain-water by installing a system of large storage tanks and a filtration system. With Whit's help, I calculated that we can capture enough water from our roof alone to satisfy the majority of our needs for the year. We'll still have to watch it during the dry periods but with our surface well for back-up, we should be in pretty good shape. Just don't plan to visit us in September or October or you may find out what it means to "fetch the water".


Here's a recent picture of the house.

It is amazing to me sometimes how much time and energy you can expend here just trying to live. Some times we spend a good part of our week just taking care of things that enable us to continue with life. Add to that the homeschooling, ministry and construction and life is full.

Speaking of "ministry"... everyone seems to be enjoying Romans. What a great letter. We are well into chapter 2 right now and will continue on next week. Since I am stuck in San Jose right now, Amy, a very brave, talented and flexible woman, is leading house church. She is leading a discussion and prayer evening which should be a great time for everyone. We lost a few people earlier in the year as they made decisions which took them out of fellowship. It was pretty discouraging but as we've been faithful to keep meeting, teaching and caring for each other, the group that remained has gone deeper. Several that were coming previously have even returned. That has been encouraging. A typical "service" looks like this. Most everyone begins showing up between 5 and 6pm. We share a meal each week and many times the guys bring lobster and fish that they have caught right offshore on the local reefs. We start cleaning and cooking and end up eating between 6:30 and 7:00. Then, we fill up our coffee mugs and open the study in prayer and worship. After 5-6 songs, we begin the bible study and end with discussion and prayer. Afterwards, everyone pitches in to clean up and hang out a little more. What I love about this is that it is so all-encompassing. It isn't just showing up for an hour and then rushing off to the next thing...our service lasts for 3-4 hours. People are really connecting and are enjoying spending time together. It makes me think that this must be similar to what it was like in the early church. A cool thing to think about as we work our way through Romans.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What up...

Well, it's been a long time since I last posted. Living out in the jungle is great but it makes it more difficult to do things like get online and blog. Things are going well overall. The house is moving along and is pretty much on schedule. The workers are finishing the first layer of stucco on the walls this week and supposedly, will be starting the roof next Monday. This is great since we are just starting to enter rainy season (it has been raining all day).


We are really excited to get into the new house but there's still a way to go yet. We are still in need of a permanent solution to our water problem. Right now, the only real option is to have a drilling truck come out and drill a deep, perforated well. That is a tall order out here. We'll see what happens.

House church this past Sunday was great. We had some visitors... Pablo was back from Spain and brought his parents with him. They had never experienced anything like this before and seemed to really enjoy it. I saw him the next day and he said that they hadn't stopped talking about it. Please pray for Pablo. He came here last year to buy land and fulfill a dream of starting a surf camp. As things go here...it took more money and time than he had planned and after 9 months of trying, he gave up and went home. He had been coming to our house church for several months before he returned and really experienced a change in is perception of God and his knowledge of the bible. It is awesome to hear him say (after experiencing so much difficulty and frustration) that he believes that God had him here for a reason and now when he returns to Spain, he wants to build into people rather than a project. A real life changing experience for him.

Anyway, Sunday evening we started Romans. We watched the movie "Gladiator" the week before to really get a feel for Rome and the time period before getting into the scripture. The movie really provides a great backdrop to discuss the spread of 1st century Christianity. Everyone seemed to enjoy the message and we had some good discussion afterward. Studying Romans for the first time over 12 years ago at Calvary Chapel Tucson really changed my life and I am so looking forward to sharing that with everyone in our house church. Please pray that lives will be changed and that everyone will be so excited about their faith that they will share it with their friends and families. What a privilege to be here doing this.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Amy's first Blog ever!

Hey Everyone. Thanks for all your prayers about water. We are getting by. I am actually posting this while a nice steady rain is falling. Our current Staff Intern, Whit, said he heard the rain may continue into tomorrow as well. This would be great and about all the water we need to complete the construction that requires water (Concrete etc.) Then, we need the rain to stop for about 2 weeks so the workers can put on the roof. Thankfully, not too tall an order for God.

Well, aside from gratitude to you all, and for rain....I wanted to make an announcement of astronomical proportion...I created a Facebook page. I figured those of you who are already technologically savvy are probably already on it...and if not....you could get on easily if you would like to follow the female perspective of Puerto Viejo life.

Thanks a lot again...and maybe I'll try to pop on here now and then too.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dry!!!

Well, our daily life has been much more at a subsistence level lately than at any time since we arrived. We are still basically out of water and have a month and a half to go of dry season. Fortunately, it rained last night and we were able to capture some water in barrels. Amy and I were running around in the dark putting jugs and a barrel under a tarp so that we could collect rainwater. Several episodes of "Survivor" went through my mind. At least we could laugh about it. The worst thing is not having enough water to flush. That gets old very quickly. Between this situation and the need to be present at our construction site, we have very little time for anything else. For those of you that prefer to receive newsletters... I am far behind on sending out a new one but we have been so busy trying to get by that it has been all but impossible. Please bear with us and we'll be back on track eventually.

Latest view of the house as the walls begin to go up. We are using steel construction with walls made of styrofoam and concrete. Hopefully, this will help us avoid the termite problems that are so prevalent here.

This past Saturday night, we had a guest speaker join us to give a presentation at the end of the skate session. His name is Jacob and he is a professional yo-yo'er. He put on a great show and used the yo yo to present the gospel. Many of the smaller kids stayed to see the show and really enjoyed themselves.

I also just returned from San Jose a couple of days ago from picking up Whit Hazleton. Whit is joining our team for the long haul and will be working with me in the youth program and I am sure, with our house church. We are happy to have him with us and are looking forward to working and serving with him. Please continue to pray for our team as we look to add three more members over the next few months.

One last note... Costa Rica celebrated it's independence from Spain on the 15th. Because she attends the public school, Makena participated (partially) in the celebration. Both she and Maili made torches to carry in the night-time parade that takes place on the evening before Independence day and they both marched through town with all of the other children and families. The next day, there were traditional dances, food and hang out time at the school and Makena was on hand in the traditional dress. Here's a couple of photos from Independence Day. It was a fun time and something we look forward to each year.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Going Up

We started going vertical on the house this week. It is definitely exciting but it sure takes a lot of time to oversee things. Right now, we are trying to get water to mix into the concrete and we're dealing with three dry wells. Our well is dry, the well for the house we're renting is dry and the well of our neighbor is dry. I am having to go to the house we used to rent to pick up water in barrels and bring it back so that the guys can keep working. I never thought we'd have such water problems in the rainforest. Crazy and challenging. Here are a couple of photos of the house as it goes up.

Photo of Don Guillermo, our builder, as he puzzles over the water problem with me.

layout of the foundation and holes for the posts that will support the house.

The steel begins to go vertical. Exciting times...if only we had water (stinky times too).

During the past week, we also had a tragedy take place in town. A local builder named Bobby, died in a motorcycle accident on his way home from Limon, the larger town one hour north of Puerto Viejo. It was a pretty bad accident and he apparently died instantly. Bobby was a really friendly guy and even though we didn't know him well, we know many of the members of his family. Two of his younger kids were in the OANSA program on Sundays for several years and his older daughter was a helper there for a while. He is survived by his wife and six children in addition to three grand children. We went to the funeral on Tuesday and it seemed like half the town turned out. It's hard to see a family go through the pain of losing a loved one but many of them are Christians and at the very least, they have God to turn to. Please pray for his family...that God will bring them peace and comfort.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Maili's 9th birthday at the skatepark. It is hard to believe that she will be 9. Time passes so quickly. She was only 51/2 when we moved here and now she's 9 and Costa Rica is home.

We are also going to be joined soon by Whit Hazleton. He's coming into town on the 16th of this month and will begin serving with us here in Puerto. I'm personally looking forward to working with him and I believe he will be a great addition to our team. Please pray for him as he makes this transition and please pray that as we begin to rebuild our team that God will guide our steps and that we'll soon be able to move out of maintenance mode into a season of growth and greater effectiveness. Thanks for making the journey with us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well now...

Moving right along...we've been out of internet service for almost three weeks. Right now, we borrow a signal from our neighbors by helping them out with their monthly bill. Unfortunately, the signal went out almost three weeks ago and the owners couldn't get it repaired. There is a shortage of computer technicians in the jungle. Anyway, we are back online and back in the game. It's amazing how much we come to depend on the internet and we don't really realize it until we don't have it.

The dry season is upon us (at least we hope) and the ground is finally not completely saturated. We are hoping to start on our house later this week if we can get the backhoe lined up. We will be starting with the installation of a septic tank (essential) and a french drain in a low spot. Then comes the pilings and the steel frame. I'll post a few photos as things begin to move along.

As for church and the youth program, things are moving along. We have been studying the meaning and application of several words at church on Sunday night. Words like, "Christian", "Redemption", "Regeneration", "Justification", and finally, "Sanctification". Big words that sometimes get thrown around without ever being defined. So, we've been going through a process of studying these words in more or less the order that each takes place in our lives when we become followers of Jesus. It has been enlightening to me and hopefully to others as well.

We are getting ready for the addition of Whit Hazleton to our team. We first met him last January when he was visiting with his family. It's pretty cool to watch God work and bring the right people on at the right time. I'm really looking forward to working with him and there is a good possibility that a friend of his may join us mid-year 2009. We are really hoping to rebuild our team so that we can share in the work together and be more effective for the long haul.

Finally, Maili had her first public ballet performance last Friday night. She did a great job and it was a lot of fun to see her perform. Here are a couple of photos from that night. She has really enjoyed her ballet class and it has given us great opportunities to get to know other families in the area.

Maili is on the far right.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Follow the link...

There is more going on down here than what I am able to convey. Here is a link that I recommend you check out. Whit, Mike and Melissa were down serving with us slightly more than a month ago. They recorded their experience on a blog and had some great stories and photos. They were also an incredible blessing to us. Take a look at Team Costa Rica and gain a different perspective. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

words you don't want to hear...

Few words strike fear into the heart of modern man than, "Hey dude, I think a tree just fell on your truck." Those were the words I heard yesterday afternoon while we were working with a visiting mission team clearing land and burning wood on our property.

We had been working with the team to clear and burn the trees that we had cut down where we're going to build the house. After several hours of smoke and heat, everyone took a break for water and food. The team had just finished lunch, which ironically, they had eaten in the back of our pick-up and we had all gone back down the hill to resume work when a storm blew in. Suddenly, we heard a loud cracking sound up by the house. We looked up to see the top of a tree come crashing down. A few minutes later, one kind soul wandered down to the fire to inform me that, "Dude, I think a tree just fell on your truck." It has not been an easy two weeks with all of the moving (we're not in the land of U-Haul), running out of water and general bad news concerning our hopes of obtaining a back-hoe to finish our driveway and grade the lot. I was dead tired and frustrated and then I get the news that the tree we watched fall, actually fell on our truck. This could be extremely bad... vehicles are very expensive here as is auto insurance. A million thoughts went through my mind and I really started to wonder how much more I could take. I walked up the hill and saw...



After almost breaking down in front of 20 teenagers, someone said that they didn't really think it was as bad as it looked. Turns out, the tree had missed the cab by about two inches and fell directly on the bed. I figured that at the very least, the bed might be crushed and there might be some problems with the suspension. Thank God...as we looked things over, we realized that nothing at all had happened to the truck. We were able to cut the tree off with a chainsaw and after about 20 minutes, the whole thing was over... or so we thought. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes after our landlord left, we realized that the tree had broken one of the power lines inside the insulation where it wasn't visible. We were without power for the rest of the afternoon, but by 9:00pm Delroy had the problem fixed and we were back in business. It made for a very stressful day but thankfully, it ended with pretty much everything in working order.

One of the things I have realized in our time down here is that the Devil truly is in the details. We don't face persecution. We haven't been run out of town. We don't have to smuggle bibles into the country or any of these things that people face for their faith in other places. What we do face is spiritual opposition in the form of frustration, depression and apathy. Satan has become much more real to me here than ever before and he uses a constant barrage of small things to wear us down. Sometimes it works. I have learned to never underestimate the power of the enemy. He seems to use the small things... things that might go by unnoticed, were they not so constant, to really get us down. We could use your prayers. Satan does not want us to succeed. Satan does not want this place to experience the grace of God and he certainly does not want us to make it as a family. Please pray for us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What to do when the well runs dry...

We have spent most of the past week moving in to the house we will be renting until we can complete construction on our new house. We have really enjoyed living in the jungle so far...it is extremely peaceful in the evenings and the mornings. However, the move hasn't been without it's challenges. Our well went dry today (that means no dishwashing, no laundry, no hand-washing, showering and most importantly, no flushing)... and, Makena has diarheah. We also found out that the surveyor made some mistakes on the survey for our future property, delaying ownership (and possibly construction) for up to a month or more. We are feeling rather spent right now and could use some prayer. There is almost too much going on right now to even write about. I'll definitely get back online with some more updates as soon as things settle down.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Temporary Housing

I've got a few photos to post of the house we'll be living in temporarily while we are building. We plan on moving in this coming weekend and we're hoping everything works out. We need to get the owner to trim down the grass and some of the landscaping so that we're not attracting too many pit vipers into our new abode. Walking up through the jungle, this is what you would see...















Walking a little closer, you begin to get a feel for the three stories of tree-top living we're about to experience...


To truly get a feel for what it's like to live in a tree house, you have to imagine cooking on an easybake oven underneath a beautiful monkey mural. This is a shot of the kitchen...
















Finally, a shot of the upper level deck and bedrooms. Home sweet home! It will literally be like camping under a roof. Fortunately for us, it is only about 100 yards away from our property so we can really keep track of construction, etc... It's going to be a change but it will also be an adventure.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A couple of weeks on...

Last Friday night we started a new curriculum (at least temporarily) with the youth. We're going to be working through a bible study guide called "What Does the Bible Say About Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll?" The first night went well enough and I think it will be interesting enough to hold their attention...at least considering the subject matter. We started off with a case study of five people stranded on two deserted islands. The people in the story were put in a variety of situations where they had to make moral judgements and choices...some of which were bad and some were good. It gave us a good springboard to begin talking about our basis for making decisions which led us into several scriptures that gave us a chance to talk about God's plans and his basis for making decisions. It will be interesting to see how things go over the next couple of months.

Plans have changed a bit for the house. The last time I met with the builder we were planning to use, the "price" of the house went up $30,000. We started to smell something so we decided to do a little asking around. Fortunately, our next door neighbor is getting ready to build a house as well and since he has lived here for close to 18 years, he has a few contacts. He put me in touch with the builder he has worked with in the past and I was able to set up a meeting last week. The meeting went really well and we were able to get an estimate that was much closer to our original design. His architect is working on a set of construction plans for us and we are eagerly waiting for those. We are much more hopeful that things will work out favorably and that we'll be able to build a house that meets our basic needs for a price that we can afford. No more 50% price hikes in three weeks. I'll try to put up some photos in the next few days of the lot as it currently stands and the house that we will be living in while we build. This will be quite a process. We could use some prayer. Thanks, Barrett

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

happenings

Time is just flying. Again, hard to believe that it's been almost a month since I last checked in to the old blog. We have been so busy this summer but at the same time, things have been good. The team from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tucson were hard working and got a lot accomplished at the Rio Negro School (the same school that Makena attends).

About a week before the team arrived, Whit, Mike and Melissa (recent graduates of the Horizon School of Ministry in San Diego) arrived to serve with us for three weeks. Sometimes having people show up to "help" can be very draining and can actually result in more work. This was not the case with these guys. It was awesome having them around. By the time they left, we actually felt refreshed and re-energized which is a really cool thing. I can't say enough good things about them. Their goal was to serve and to help us in any way that they could and they really accomplished both. They helped us host the team from St. Andrews, they worked with the team at the school on a variety of projects, they assisted us with the skatepark, they helped me get some work accomplished out at our property and they (along with some friends from Calvary Chapel Vero Beach) helped Ronnie and Tammy get a few things accomplished out at the house they are building. The good news is that Whit is planning to come back and join us here in Puerto to work specifically with me at the skatepark and with the youth group. I am not sure what is in store yet for Mike and Melissa but if they continue to display the heart and attitudes that they had during their time here I know that God will bless them wherever they go and will bless the people that they work with as well. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to working with Whit in the near future.

Beyond that... we have made a little bit of forward progress on our house. The access road is about 2/3 complete and the backhoe was able to clear most of the downed wood off of our lot. We've been out doing a little bit of land clearing the old-fashioned way... with fire. It has been a slow process up to this point but I have hope that things will really pick up once the title has been transferred into our name and we are able to get the builder involved. Here are a couple of photos of our lot in the clearing stages.


We have also had to make changes to our plans to live in Pablo's house several miles down the road. About a week prior to moving, he told us that it wouldn't work out because of significant problems he was having with his water supply. He didn't want us to move in and then begin having problems after he left for Spain. I am very appreciative that he was looking out for us but it left us in a tight spot. Fortunately (we'll see...) we were able to set up a deal with Delroy (whom we're buying the lot from) to rent his small farm house for the next 6-8 months while we build. The upside is that we'll only be about 50 yards from our house as it's being built. The downside is that the house is basically like a kid's tree fort, except bigger. It is really basic but it will provide shelter and will be an adventure for the girls. It is about 300 square feet, two story with two bedrooms that are just big enough for mattresses. It's out in the jungle so I am sure that we'll have more strange insect encounters but hopefully between our two dogs and two cats, the snake encounters will be kept to a minimum. I'll post a couple of photos of the house soon.

Lastly, we have been enjoying a visit from Calvary Chapel Jupiter this past week. It is always great to see familiar faces and they have been a real encouragement to us. It was also a great thing to have our pastor, Dan Plourde, take time out of his schedule to come down and be with us for the second year in a row. He is an incredible guy, a great friend and I really admire him. We had plenty of time to talk, reconnect and share war stories. Good stuff. The visiting team is working in the local high school, doing English classes in the afternoons. We have tried something different with this team that really seems to be paying off. Rather than scheduling every second of the day, we purposely schedule quite a bit of "free" time for this team with the hope that they would make some great connections during class time that they could follow up on after school. So far, it really seems to be working. Many of the students have invited members of the team to their homes, out for ice-cream and other activities. The team has really enjoyed their connection time and without formally scheduled events, they have been free to enter into other peoples' lives. This was our hope and it's happening. Please pray that we will find ways to continue the relationships that are made with this team. That's all for now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More

Just a quick update on what's going on in Puerto this week. My truck is back and in good working order (for at least a few months until the roads take their toll again). We also have 5 helpers in to assist with the visiting mission team that arrived yesterday evening. One of our interns is a girl that worked with us last summer hosting teams. Her name is April Woods and she is from the Santa Barbara, CA area. She will be with us for the next 10 days coordinating the mission team's outreach. AJ Rhodes will be with us for the remainder of the summer...until mid-August. He is from Tallahassee, FL and will be assisting us with our summer mission teams and a variety of other responsibilities. We are also fortunate to have the help of Whit, Mike and Melissa, from the Horizon School of Evangelism, for the next few weeks. They are completing a 3 week internship as part of their schooling and we are happy to have them serving with us during that time.

The visiting mission team, from St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ, will be working at the local public school this week doing a variety of things. They will be assisting a local contractor in the re-construction of a classroom at the school. They will also be improving the living conditions for the kindergarten teacher who lives on the school grounds during the week. Finally, half of the team will host a Vacation Bible School for the children next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It is exciting work and we are really looking forward to the opportunity to show people in a very real way that God loves them and is concerned about their well-being...physically as well as spiritually. Please pray for this team and their outreach.

Finally, after 4 years of waiting, 2 lost applications and one denial...we were notified late last week that we had been granted residency. Our lawyer told us that we are the first people in the history of Costa Rica to be granted residency on the basis of our missions work. We originally applied as "rentistas" which meant that we needed to prove we had an income from outside of the country so that we wouldn't be taking jobs from locals. This was denied almost two years ago which meant that we had to try another route. Many missionaries have applied for residency over the years and have been denied but for whatever reason, we were granted residency. It is exciting and means that we will not be required to leave the country for three days every three months. That means a savings of money and of time. Thank God!

More to come...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two weeks later

Well, it's been about two weeks since my last post. I picked up my parents in San Jose a little over a week ago and we have been spending quite a bit of time with them. This has been their first visit in over two years and it has been really nice to see them. The girls have been having a great time with them too. Unfortunately, Makena seems to be developing asthma. Ever since she was a baby, whenever she has gotten a cold it seems to have settled in her lungs. She always develops a really dry, hacking cough that just hangs around. She had a cold a couple of months ago and the cough came and stayed for at least a month afterward. Now, the cough has come back and she is having trouble breathing at times. We have used an inhaler a few times with limited success and are going to try a new medicine that her doctor prescribed so we'll see how it goes. We just hate seeing her trying to sleep, coughing so hard that she starts gagging. Please pray for her if you get a chance.

We were supposed to get some work done on our lot today, but wouldn't you know it...the rain kicked in again last night. We need about two dry weeks to get everything done so that the builder can begin. The first thing is clearing out the lot and getting the house-pad ready. even in the absence of OSHA, the tree removal guy isn't too keen on getting up in a 100' tree with a chainsaw if the thing is totally wet and slippery. Can't say that I blame him. We also need to get the road material laid down and we need good, dry conditions for that as well.

In the meantime, we will be moving out of the house we have been renting for the past three years by the middle of June. The landlords want to raise the rent to a place that we can no longer afford to pay. At the same time, our friend from Spain, Pablo, offered to let us stay in the house he is building for free until ours is built. He is going to be leaving for Spain and needs someone to watch his place while he is gone. This is a great blessing for us as we were trying to figure out how we could afford to pay on the loan we need to build our house, while paying rent on our current house at the same time. Now we don't have to worry about it. The catch is that we will be moving our entire family plus two dogs and two cats into a two room (not two bedroom) house that really is in the jungle. It is also quite a bit further from town. Maybe not ideal, but definitely a blessing considering the fix we were about to find ourselves in. Yesterday we drove down to visit and had the priviledge of seeing monkeys in almost every tree on his property. It will definitely be a different way of life for a few months. Please pray for us... It will be a little like "Little House On The Prairie" with a couple of twists. Maybe I'll ask the girls to start calling me "Pa".

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Amy's visit to Clinica Biblica

Well, we're back in Puerto once again. Amy survived her surgery and everything looks good. The doctors wanted to biopsy the tumor just to make sure, but it didn't look like anything to worry about. Thank God for that. Now we are just getting back into the swing of things here with the weekend skate sessions and House Church tomorrow evening.

Last night at Youth Night we watched an incredible film about the horrible things that happened over a decade ago in Rawanda. Everyone has heard of Hotel Rawanda, which was a good movie about a difficult subject, but I almost felt like Beyond the Gates told a better story. It certainly answered the question, "Where was God in all of this?" The movie was difficult to watch but is something that I believe needs to be seen and I also believe that it really shows that people are not naturally good. We are all sinners that fall short of God's glory and without Him, we are all capable of the most horrible things. In the movie, people that had known each other for years became bitter enemies. Neighbor turned on neighbor and an entire society broke down in just a few short days.

Afterwards we had a short time of discussion and talked about the horrible things that humans are capable of and about God's love for us in spite of what we do to each other and ultimately to Him. We also got an opportunity to talk about God's version of love..."no greater love is there than this, that a man would lay down his life for his brother." It was a powerful film that spoke about sin, sacrafice, hope and peace in the middle of horror. It really hit us all hard.

Things are moving along with the house. We are quickly finding out that things are not so "inexpensive" in Costa Rica as they might first appear. We should be finalizing the purchase of the land within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we are getting ready to install the electric cable, build a road, dig a well, put up a fence and take down a couple of dangerous trees...all just so that we can begin laying the foundation for a house that we don't even have plans for yet. Please pray for us in this...it is going to be a challenge to keep up on the construction while maintaining focus in ministry. I'm about to find out what my parents went through almost 40 years ago when they moved to Uganda as missionaries and had to start by building their own house. God help us! We are still somewhat short on the funding. If you are interested and would like to help us with this, please contact me at "barrett.alternativemissions@yahoo.com" and I can give you details on how to make a tax deductible contribution through Shepherd's Staff Missions Facilitators.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Happenings

Well, here we are in San Jose again. Alternative Missions is now officially recognized as a Religious Organization (is that a good thing or a bad thing?) in Costa Rica. One good thing that comes from that is that we get to pay lower electricity bills at the skatepark. Another huge benefit is that it should now be much easier for all of our long term staff to get residency. We are hoping to actually have residency within a few more months (although we are not holding our breath). We have been in process now for almost 4 years and the end may now be in sight although I will probably have to actually get a Costa Rican motorcycle license which is no easy feat in itself.

In other news, Amy gets to have outpatient surgery tomorrow afternoon. We would appreciate prayer for that as she will be having a small lump removed from her back. Hopefully it is nothing.

We also just returned from another surf contest on the Pacific. Maili competed in the little girls’ division and surfed great (although she didn’t advance). We were able to spend some good time with a few of the teenagers from the skatepark as well. I really enjoy getting to spend time with them outside of the normal day to day in Puerto. I have found that these trips are the times where we really connect and build deeper friendships and relationships. Too much of the time in Puerto is spent on email or other administrative things which makes it hard to connect with people where they are. It just doesn’t work to demand that people meet me where I am. I have to be where they are…doing what they’re doing…when they’re doing it. More than anything else, purposeful time doing “nothing” is where most of the ministry and discipleship happen…especially with the youth.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Time Flies

It's hard to believe that two weeks have passed since we returned from Panama. What that means is that we've hosted 8 skate sessions, 2 youth nights and 2 house church services along with everything else that goes on in between. Living and working here is interesting to say the least. It can be exhilarating, frustrating, maddening and peaceful...all at the same time. The biggest source of discouragement is watching people begin to grow and change and then fall back into the same old thing again or worse. Exhilarating is seeing the few that are really getting it. God is visibly working in their lives and you can see changes taking place day by day. Of course we will always work for more and of course we will always hope for many but even if three lives are really changed and they are the ones that go on to reach the surrounding community, if that is why God called us here...I'm good.

That being said, we had a good crowd for youth night on Friday. I shared about sharing your faith with others and we watched a surf movie that included several interviews with Christian surfers sharing their faith. I am really hoping that we can reach some of these younger kids before they fall into the traps that seem to bring down just about every other male in town with a few exceptions. Most notable in their growth are Sebas (who I can really see becoming a leader) along with Peace and Jordan who have really developed a love for Jesus. With so many other things pulling at them, they are maintaining their focus on God and on serving him. Please pray that this continues and that God lights a fire under others as well.

In other news, we are getting ready to buy a small plot of jungle so that we can build a house. A friend gave us a generous gift that will enable us to get out of a rental situation that is about to end and have a more stable future here. There isn't much of a decent rental market here in Puerto and the sooner we have something of our own the better. We are very excited about this opportunity and can't wait to get started. Here are a couple of "before" photos of our little plot of jungle.



Can you say "SNAKE!"?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happenings

Well, we're back from another short trip to Panama to renew our visas. We left on Monday and returned yesterday late in the afternoon. Since we have to leave Costa Rica for a full three days every three months, we decided we might as well use the time to explore another country. This time, we went to a small town up in the mountains that has become quite the retirement spot for norte americanos (that's most of you if you're not up on your Spanish). I couldn't believe we were still in Central America. The place was beautiful. It took us about five hours of driving to reach Boquete, which is a small mountain town on the Pacific side of the country. It located up in a small valley at the foot of a dormant volcano. The climate is similar to that of San Diego...nice a cool with a constant breeze. What a beautiful place. Here are a few photos from the trip:



This is the view from our truck as we cross the border from Costa Rica into Panama. The bridge is a piece of work...nothing like being able to watch the water flow under your vehicle as you look through the bridge.


Maili and Makena hiking up the trail to Volcan Baru. It wasn't too long after this photo that we started hearing the cries of "Carry me...I can't walk anymore!"


This was definitely one of the more interesting road signs I have ever seen. You know the roads are steep when you see a sign for "Falling Cars".

On the third day, we took some time in the late afternoon to drive around the valley and check out the sights. This was a view of the valley from the mountains above.


We saw some incredible sights on the way back home as well. This is one of the many rivers that we crossed as we headed back to Costa Rica.

One of the funniest things that happened to us on the trip took place in a local ice cream shop. Ice cream cones were only 30 cents, so I decided that I wanted two scoops on my cone. The lady working the counter politely but firmly told me that I was not permitted to have two scoops ...one was enough. I didn't agree but kept my mouth shut. She sort of reminded me of the "Soup Nazi" from one of the old Seinfeld episodes years ago.

Finally, tonight is Youth Night at the skate park. We are going to be having a Bible study on the topic, "Why is it important for me to tell others about Jesus?" Sebas and I got together last week to study and mark down some important verses and yesterday he told me that he is ready to give the study tonight. It should be a good topic and if the past few weeks are any indication, we should have a pretty good crowd and hopefully we'll have some good discussion.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"I give" and other news...

Alright, after three days and around 9 hours of trying to upload the video interview with Anastasia, I give up. I'll try again but I just couldn't go on after two power cuts and slower than expected connection speeds. I'll just have to stick with photos for now and I'll see what I can do about the video.


We ended up baptizing Downer last Sunday evening and it was great (Anastasia is waiting a couple of weeks more). He was excited and afterwards was grinning from ear to ear. After the baptism, we had a big meal then went out on the beach and sat around a bonfire. We listened to music and spent quite a bit of time praying. It was really refreshing to hear some of the prayers...so genuine and right from the heart. Ryan, a young guy from Nantucket Island in the northeast US joined us for his first time. He has been down here for a couple of months and was recently invited by Jordan to join us at church. He was really excited to find some other believers and is looking forward to growing with us.

In other news, Makena (our baby) started school this week at the local public pre-school. She has been really excited about it and didn't even cry. She just walked right in and started playing with the other kids. It's really cool to have two pretty independent girls that aren't afraid of experiencing new situations. Here are a couple of photos of her first day.


The first picture is of Makena with her uniform, getting ready to leave the house. This photo is in front of her new school room (the same place we dropped Maili off almost three years ago). Hard to believe how quickly time goes by.

Lastly, I'm going to the Pacific with another father next weekend to take about 11 of the local teenagers to a surf contest in the town of Nosara. The Concrete Jungle (our skatepark) is going to sponsor a few of them by paying their entry fee, helping with a place to stay and maybe some food. This is one of the few opportunities that local kids have to do something positive in life. The current national champion is from Puerto Viejo and most of the local kids dream of accomplishing the same thing one day to have a better life. It is also a great opportunity to spend some focused time with the youth. It is amazing to me how many deep conversations and how much spiritual growth have come from the times that I am able to spend with them just "hanging out". We will be leaving Puerto Viejo on the 21st of this month and will return on the 25th. The contest is about $20.00 per person to enter and our hotel will cost about $40-$45 per night (with kids stacked on each other). Please pray for us as we travel and if you would like to sponsor one of the youth or assist us with expenses, email me at barrett.alternativemissions@yahoo.com and I'll let you know how to make sure the funds reach us. Thanks for the prayers.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Anastasia, in her own words

Anastasia shares a little bit about her experiences at housechurch and the skatepark and her recent decision to follow Christ.


(experiencing technical difficulties with the video. I'll have it fixed soon.)Posted by Picasa

Mas

Things are still going better than I expected down here in the Old Harbor (Puerto Viejo) considering what I thought it would be like without so many of our former team-mates. Tomorrow afternoon we are baptizing two of the youth and I’m really excited about that. Downer (who was going to get baptized last year but got talked out of it by others that misunderstand the purpose and meaning of it) is looking forward to it and is ready to make his commitment to Jesus public. His words to me the other day…”Barrett, I gonna get baptize and no one goin’ stop me this time.” Good to hear. Go Downer! The other person getting baptized is a girl we had been praying for for a long time. While we were in the States, Phil asked Sebas to share the gospel and give an invitation to pray. After a lot of exposure and time, Anastasia was finally ready and gave her heart to the Lord. Anyhow, she is excited about her decision and about getting baptized.

I have also been excited to see Jetsi and Sebas take the lead on Friday night youth nights. Last night, we had ten kids that stayed for the bible study which covered one of most asked questions on people’s minds…"If God is so good, how come there is pain and suffering in the world." They did a great job of preparing with me on Wednesday night and were awesome in leading the study and discussion. It is really cool to see them getting excited about serving God and reaching their peers with the truth. After the bible study, about 20 more kids showed up and we stayed open until 9:00pm with lots of fun and music. I continue to hope that more and more of these youth will come early and stay late...taking full advantage of everything the skatepark has to offer...especially spiritually.

Adding to our house church…Pablo, from Spain (who had never even had his own bible until a couple of months ago when we gave him one), Alisa (a 14 year old Italian girl that was invited by Anastasia a little over a month ago) and Ryan (a 17 year old guy from Nantucket who was invited by Jordan and will be staying here in Puerto for a couple more months). Ryan is a new Christian and was so excited to find a group of believers that he was just grinning from ear to ear when Jordan invited him. Way to go Jordan. It definitely isn’t easy and there are too many ups and downs to count but it is awesome to see our little group of Christians growing in size and depth one day at a time.

Act 2:46,47

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Roller Coaster

"Ministry", whatever that means, certainly has its ups and downs. One day everything seems to be going great and people seem to be catching fire and then the next day you discover something about someone that brings you back to reality...or no one shows up for one of the youth nights that normally draws the largest crowds. What a reminder of how dependent we are on God. While I always want to do my best, in the end it doesn't matter how hip the program is, how good the movies are, how well I speak, or anything else that I can do. The most important thing (which is driven home over and over again) is how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit and the moving of God in peoples' hearts. I have also come to realize (has it really taken this long?) that Satan will immediately follow "success" with "failure". Yet another reason why it is so important not to depend on feelings but on the promises and reality of God.

In other news, we had a miracle today... a real honest to goodness miracle. We were able to obtain both a land line and a cell line for the skate park. To put this in perspective, only residents, citizens or members of a legal association can obtain telephone lines. To top it off, there are usually only about 40,000 new lines available each year. We have tried for almost three years to get a line and today it happened in the space of about three hours. I have spent days trying to accomplish this in the past only to be turned away after spending money on powers of attorney, copies, etc... Today, God answered our prayers and did the equivalent of parting the Caribbean... He got ICE (the government monopoly telecommunications company) to actually accept our documents and to approve everything and give us both a land line and a cell line. We are ecstatic. One good thing happened today. Thank God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hermanos in Christo

Another weekend has passed with all that a weekend brings. Friday night was a lot of fun as we cooked some awesome hotdogs and hamburgers. Kenneth and Downer played the roles of both chef and bouncer as they flipped the meat and kept the vultures at bay. We had about 20 youth show up for the cookout along with a few more stragglers that came by to watch the skating and the videos we are showing on the screen as people skate. Speaking of videos, that was one of the great ideas that Sebas and Jetsi had when we talked a couple of weeks ago about how we could improve Fridays and reach more kids. It has really given those that don't skate more of a reason to stick around and have fun. We also bought some games (dominoes, badmiton and a few others) so that there are more activities each week that will hopefully draw others that aren't necessarily into skating.

After the cookout, we played some games...M&M races (which ended in a chocolate brawl...fortunately the chocolate melted in mouths and not on hands, true to the decades old marketing campaign that we all know and love) and a water balloon shooting contest which was a blast. We recently found two giant water balloon slingshots (which could be quite dangerous in the wrong hands) that we put to good use. Next time we need to put in some food dye so that we can more easily identify who gets hit by whom. Overall, it was a great night and hopefully served it's intended purpose of generating interest and getting more of the youth involved.

Sunday night at house church was different and good. We had about eight visitors from a surf camp in Nicaragua. JJ Yemma, owner of the Popoyo Surf Lodge in southwestern Nicaragua (and also a Christian), had come to town for a visit with several of the local surfers he works with and disciples there. JJ played some music for us (which we've missed since TJ, our former worship leader, left a few months back) and we started the next book of the bible, Ephesians. It was a great opportunity for the Puerto crew to meet and spend some time with their Christian brothers from north of the border. Everyone enjoyed themselves and we had some good discussion to top it off. God is blessing, people are growing and the Word is being spread. I love the fact that God uses a bunch of surfers to spread his truth throughout the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

That's what I get for thinkin'

Well, I thought I had posted a couple of photos of the finished deck and bleachers at the skatepark but apparently, I didn't. Here it is in all of it's glory. We finally got it finished (with the exception of adding much needed lighting):


In other news, we're getting ready for tomorrow night's cookout at the skatepark. Food always brings teenagers and we're hoping tomorrow night is no exception. Next week, we'll begin our series of bible studies answering last weeks questions from a biblical point of view. Please pray for us.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well Done

Last night went very well. Sebas and Jetsi took the lead at the youth night and did a great job. They stepped up to the plate, took aim at the ball and knocked it out of the park. I was really impressed with how they handled themselves and the material. Last night was "question night". They passed out index cards to everyone that was present and asked them to write down questions that they had about life, God, the bible, relationships, etc... We are going to use these questions to plan our bi-monthly bible studies, using scripture to provide quidance and direction. I am planning to meet with them at least once a week to plan each week's events. My hope is that each week this will be a time of deepening friendships and training and mentoring as they learn how to prepare bible studies and lead their peers into a deeper walk with Christ. Please pray that God will encourage and strengthen as they have really developed a desire to see their friends and families come to know God. This is a new thing for both of them. God has put this in them but as Jetsi told me the other day, "I want to but I just don't know how". I told her that we would figure it out together. Pray that God will strengthen them through the challenge and the frustration so that they can experience the incredible feeling of seeing others come to know Jesus.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Haps

First...
God never stops amazing me... I have been a little discouraged lately looking toward the future and knowing that we don't have anyone that is definitely planning to join us here in Puerto. I see so much potential, we have so many needs for staffing and although there are several people that have expressed an interest, nothing is certain at this point. This gets to me because I know what is possible and yet I know that I can't do it all on my own and do it well. The one thing that I have held on to is that God can provide whatever he wants, whenever he chooses. I have specifically reminded myself that at any moment, the right person with the right heart and the right qualifications could show up and be an immediate answer to prayer.

That being said, a couple of nights ago, we went to dinner at a local restaurant that I didn’t really want to go to but went because Amy and the girls wanted. Long story short, we ended up sitting next to a couple that was traveling with their son. They found out that we lived here and asked if we were home-schooling the girls. Turns out, during the course of conversation, we found out that they had lived in Kenya years ago as missionaries and their children had been home-schooled as well. They had lived in Nairobi, Limuru (where we had lived when I was young) and another town on the south coast. They were also good friends with several people that have been long-term friends of our family.

Anyway, they are now involved with Calvary Chapels and live part time in Vero Beach, FL. Their son Whit has been associate youth pastor at the Calvary there in Vero for several years and is now in a bible training school in San Diego run through Horizon Christian Fellowship (a Calvary affiliate). He has been praying for a long time about going into missions and told me that he really has a heart for youth ministry, specifically with skate and surf, and has been wanting to get involved somewhere in Central America. As part of his training, he is required to do a 4 week internship in the field. He is very interested in coming to work here with us to fulfill that internship and also told me that when his training is done in late May or early June, he will be probably be looking for somewhere to plug in permanently.
We surfed and talked together for two hours this morning and had some great conversation. He really seems like someone I could work well with and we share many of the same outlooks on ministry. It is really interesting to me that this happened right after I had a couple of conversations with people about my discouragement with
our staffing situation where I had specifically said that the only solution I could see right now is for God to just send someone to walk in off the street. I don’t know what will come of it but it definitely lifted my spirits. This was at the very least, a confirmation that God has things in control.

Second...
I am also in the process of planning a short surf trip with a purpose to a small island (Isla Uvita) off the coast of Limon.

I am planning it in conjunction with our neighbor who works with World Vision. We will also be working with a local Costa Rican group that will help us host the retreat by giving presentations and organizing activities. World Vision will most likely contribute half of the cost and we will pick up the remainder. We will be talking about relationships, dating, sex and other related topics from a Christian perspective which is something that is sorely needed.


Top that off with some great waves and a bunch of kids having the run of a "deserted" island and it should be a great and productive time. I am really looking forward to that.

Third...
Last but not least, a couple of the older youth have committed to helping out of Friday nights. Sebas and Jetsi will begin meeting with me each week to plan and prepare for each youth night. Sebas will hopefully being leading the bible studies and Jetsi will assist with games, activities and logistics. They are both good friends and really have a heart to see their town changed by the truth of Jesus. This is a huge thing and I am am looking forward to helping them serve God in their own community. Please pray for all of us.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Time Flies

Wow, a lot of time has passed since I last posted. It doesn't really seem like it to me because so much has been happening. We returned to Costa Rica on the 14th and got back in to Puerto Viejo on the 16th. It was a crazy transition because as we were returning, Phil and Shannon who had worked with us for almost a year and a half, were in the process of heading back to the States permanently. At the same time, Ronnie and Tammy who are still on our team, were heading back to Honduras for a visit with friends and family. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of information we needed to pass back and forth and it didn't even seem like there was time for proper "good-byes". We lost some good friends in Phil and Shannon and hated to see them go but are excited for their future as they head off to seminary in Dallas.

We also had some visitors right after we returned...friends from Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee, FL and a family from Jacksonville that have been instrumental in helping us to construct the skatepark and bleachers. We were busy but the visits were great.

For the past three weeks, it has pretty much been Amy and I holding down the fort. Kid's Church doesn't resume until school starts in early February so that's one program that we don't have to worry about right now. I am teaching and leading the youth program on Friday nights, house church on Sundays (which Amy puts a great deal of effort into hosting), 4 skate sessions a week and all the administrative tasks that go along with those things. In addition, I am trying hard to maintain all of the relationships we have worked so hard to build, which requires getting out of the office and spending time with real, live people. It ain't easy, but it's good.

Christmas and New Year's went off well and we celebrated both at house church. While we were gone, Phil gave Sebas (one of the older youth) an opportunity to share the gospel and give an invitation to accept Christ at one of the youth nights. From what I understand, five youth gave their lives to Christ that night...including one specific girl that we have been praying for. We are going to have a baptism in a couple of weeks, which will be exciting. Pray for these kids as they begin their journey with Jesus. They are excited about their decisions but there is a lot in this town working to derail them...

I'll get on this blogging thing again now that we've settled back into things and I'll make sure to get some photos posted as well. Thanks for your patience.