Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Back in town

We made it!  After two months of traveling, visiting and speaking we are finally back in Puerto Viejo.  While we were in the states, we traveled to South Florida to visit friends and supporters in our home church, Calvary Jupiter.  We then headed up to Tallahassee to visit my family and speak at Thomasville Road Baptist Church.  The next stop was Tucson, Arizona where we spent time with Amy’s family and spoke to a group from Calvary Chapel Tucson.  During the first part of October, we drove up to Ridgway, Colorado to spend some time with our director and meet the new board of directors for Alternative Missions Costa Rica.  After a brief return to Tucson, we took off for San Diego where I spoke to over 100 students and faculty at the Horizon School of Evangelism.  Our final stop was back in Tucson where we spent the last few days with family, packing and one final speaking engagement at Calvary Chapel Sahuarita, just south of Tucson. 

Fortunately, even with all of the travel and speaking, we were able to get in a few days of fun together.  We visited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and spent a couple of days in Durango, Colorado.  We also had the opportunity to let the girls play in the snow as we passed through the mountains.

Overall, it was a great trip.  We have found that it is so important for us to get away from time to time so that we can spend time with friends and family and get recharged.  It also helps to bring a fresh perspective to our work here in Puerto.  It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks, especially being so short-handed, that you lose sight of the big picture.  Life becomes one fire to put out after another which begins to take a toll physically, emotionally and spiritually.  We need these times to get away so that we can recharge and come back in with fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.

I’m looking forward to changing a few things up with church in an effort to reach out to more people.  I am also planning to go deeper with several of the guys that have become the core by spending more targeted personal time with them... working with them to help them realize God’s plan for their lives.  I want to help them see beyond tomorrow and get a vision of what is possible when they truly surrender their lives to God.  Please be praying for us in this and also for new staff.

Our greatest need right now, and one of my highest priorities for the coming year is getting additional staff.  The foundation is in place and there are incredible opportunities but without the right people, we can’t really take advantage of those opportunities.  I’ve been familiar with the verse that describes the fields as being white for the harvest but the workers being few, for a long time.  It is incredibly true.  That means that we, and hopefully you, will be praying to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.  Please pray.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Closing In

Well, it's almost time for us to head in to San Jose to begin our trip home. We will be leaving Puerto on Wednesday to take care of a few last items before flying out to Florida on Saturday. We had a great visit last week with Jeremy and Kerbi from texas. Only God knows the outcome but they are a great couple and we really enjoyed spending time with them. We are also excited about the ways that they could get involved here with the youth house church and even various community initiatives. We'll keep praying and hoping and ask you to as well.

Last night was a great night at church. We've been praying for a friend for a long time and last night he decided he really wanted to let Jesus take control of his life. Erik runs the restaurant at the youth hostel, Rocking J's, next door to the skatepark. We have gotten to know him over the last couple of years and have gradually become closer friends. Erik first started coming to church earlier this year and has been coming regularly for about eight or nine months. After a lot of time thinking things through, we had a chance to sit down on the stairs and talk last night before church. It was awesome to hear Erik tell God in his own words that he was done trying to do it on his own. He asked Jesus to be a part of his life... to forgive his past and give him a hope and a future. We had the privilege of baptizing him right out front just after dark. Erik is a great guy and truly wants to walk
with Jesus... not an easy thing in this life. Please be praying for him. Thank God for his decision and pray that he'll grow in his relationship with his saviour. This is an awesome thing!


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Incoming

I don't know if this is more of an update or a prayer request, but here it is.  As we move through August, we are getting prepared for a couple of things.  We are heading back to the States at the end of the month.  We will be away from Puerto for almost two months, spending time with family and friends, getting recharged and doing a little speaking at our supporting churches. There is quite a bit of work to do in preparing to leave the country for any length of time.  Due to the unexpected departure of a team member, we are going to be closing the skatepark for the time we are gone.  Hopefully, the house church will continue meeting and I am working with one of the guys to make it happen.  There are legal issues to address along with a host of preparations both at our house and at the park.  We could use prayer in this as we work to make sure everything is taken care of before our departure.

As many of you may know, we have been short-handed down here for quite a while. With the skatepark, youth program, church and all the associated administration, we are constantly bordering on being overwhelmed.  We have been praying about new staff and have had some promising leads but nothing has worked out yet.  This weekend, we will be hosting a couple from Texas that is considering joining us here in Puerto.  This is a very important time for us as well as them, as they are looking to God for direction as well.  I have to admit that I am pretty nervous about it all, in part because our need for help is so great and in part because I really hope they are able to see the vision and get an idea of the potential here.  It seems like every time we have visitors, nothing goes normally.  The weather doesn't cooperate, none of the regulars show up for skate times/church/etc...   It is easy for me to focus on these externals, especially when our need for co-laborers is so great.  It is easy for me to forget that God is ultimately in control and it is His calling that we need to be looking for... not the externals that we can't control.  Please pray for us and for this upcoming week.  This is an important time for us but no less important for the couple that is coming to visit.  It is a huge decision for them and I remember being at the same point in our lives less than five years ago.  I don't want to try and talk them into anything but at the same time I want to share my excitement about the potential that exists.  As much as we want this to work out, we want God's will to be done even more.  Please pray that God will provide direction and peace and also that he will provide the team members that we need.  Thanks for the prayers.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Updates...

Here it is... the first week of August.  Time is flying and it doesn't seem to slow down at all.  Last week, we returned from our staff retreat which was a great opportunity to reflect and have some time away.  This past Monday, I gave AJ Rhodes a ride to the airport in San Jose as he was finally heading back to Tallahassee.  AJ attends Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahasse, Florida which is one of our supporting churches.  We were fortunate enough to have him here in Puerto for about a month to help us with our last mission team of the summer as well as our regular skate sessions among other things.  It has been a busy year without the long-term help we are praying for but thankfully, we have had some short term help during some of the busiest times.  

We are looking forward to the visit of a couple from Lubbock, Texas on the 13th of this month. We have been talking for the past few months about the possibility of them joining us long-term down here and now we are finally going to get the opportunity to meet them and show them around.  We'd definitely appreciate prayer for this as it is so important for us to get some help and it is a big decision for them as well.  We ask God to be in the middle of it all.

It as been good to have Erik, owner of "@ E's Restaurant", back in town.  He was traveling to Cuba, Mexico and then the States for the past few months and we really missed him at church.   It seems that good friends are sometimes hard to make down here so you really miss them once when they're not around. 

We will be returning to the States later this month.  We'll arrive in Florida on the 29th of August.  We'll head to Jupiter first and will be there until the 5th of September.  Then, we'll be taking a break in Orlando with family before heading up to Tallahassee on the 10th.  We'll be there until the 22nd.  Next, we'll head to Arizona to spend time with Amy's family, take a short trip to Colorado to meet with the director of Alternative Missions, San Diego to meet with leaders from the Horizon School of Ministry and then back to Tucson for a few days before heading home to Puerto Viejo on the 19th of October.  Hopefully, along the way we will get to see many of our friends. It's been a long time and we look forward to re-connecting.

Please be praying for the church while we are gone.  Unfortunately, no one has stepped forward to lead in my absence.  We are still hoping and praying that one of the local guys will step up and take on the responsibility...that's what we're here for, but it's not a simple thing.  We are, however, happy to see people continuing to grow in their relationship with God.

We would appreciate your continued prayers.  It is incredible to be living in our home and that has taken much of the negative stress out of our lives.  For the first time since we've been here, we are able to devote less time to getting by and more time to our work... simply because life is a little easier and more convenient (not to mention safe and dry).  A huge weight has been lifted off of us and we are so appreciative to all who made it possible through prayers and help.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

air

It seems as though I have made it to the surface once again.  When things get too hectic, the only option is to drop the options and unfortunately, due to our difficulties with internet access, that means bogging and updating.  We said goodbye to the team from Calvary Jupiter.  They were here for just about a week, working with us at the house and in the local high school.  We had a great time with them and really enjoyed both seeing some old friends and making some new ones.  It was also great to see what an impact they had at the school...evidenced by the fact that between 60 and 80 people showed up for our youth/skate night...many of them students that don't normally come.  We (Amy, the girls and I) feel refreshed and thankful to have a church that gets behind us in such a major way.  It means a lot to see their care in action.  

We have another team coming in a few days, so I am busy preparing for their arrival.  That means going through budgets, setting up transportation, meals, etc... which can be quite a bit of work.  We are looking forward to AJ Rhodes's arrival this weekend as he is going to help us with the team.  Dexter, one of our local friends, is also going to be a huge help in getting everyone around from place to place.  we'll be working with Ronnie and Tammy, who used to be on our team but are now pastoring the Baptist church.  They ran into a similar problem with their house and we are going to be helping them get ahead in some areas that were stalled.  More to come.  Thanks for following.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

San Jose? Again?

We are getting prepared for yet another trip to San Jose. None of us are excited about it but it has to be done. Last year, about this same time, Amy had a small, benign tumor removed from her back near her spine. The doctor told here that it was a type that could recur and if left untreated, could eventually become malignant. He made sure to tell her to keep an eye out and if she found more, to call. Well, about two months ago she found another suspicious place on her hip. She has an appointment tomorrow afternoon, so we are heading in early. If she has to have surgery, we will wait a couple of days before we travel back. We'd appreciate your prayers and I will make sure to post again once we know what's going on. It has been a hectic year but we know that God is in control.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Makena! Makena! Makena!


That was the chant yesterday as Makena was carried off of the soccer field at the end of a brutal match-up between the Rio Negro kindergarten (Makena's school) and the Manzanillo kindergarten. Two weeks ago, Makena's class was slaughtered by a combination of 4 and 5 year olds that had been practicing and a few parents that blurred the line between "helping" and cheating. Yesterday, after two weeks of practice in the blistering heat, Makena's class stood tall and took the battle to their tiny opponents.

When Makena first started practicing, she was easily distracted and had a hard time following the game. Then, her coach tried her out as the goalie. She found her calling in life and immediately began an ascent that ended with her being carried off the field on the shoulders of her teacher and several other parents, all to chants of, "Makena! Makena! Makena!." It was one of the funniest things I have seen since we have been down here and we laughed hysterically. She is now a local celebrity of sorts (having helped her team to win by blocking multiple goal attempts by the other team). Makena simply said, "I was embarassed." We were very proud of her and also very much enjoyed the opportunity it gave us to interact with other parents and students. Here's to hoping that God uses all of this for His purposes. What a day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One of the things I don't like

I don't like snakes. The other day, I heard a first person snake story that made my skin crawl. Andres, one of the first kids that became a Christian several years ago, told me what happened to him a few days before. He and his mom watch houses for people that are on vacation or are absentee landowners. Right now, they are watching a farm up in the mountains. Andres was out working the other day, gathering bamboo with a couple of other people that live at the farm. He was walking through grass that was about shin height. All of a sudden, he felt something hit his heel from behind...hard. He turned around and saw a terciopelo (fer-de-lance) thrashing around with it's teeth stuck in the heel of his rubber boot. Reflexively, he swung his machete and cut the head off about the same time he saw it. The body was flopping around behind him. He started freaking out at this point and tried to pull off his boot. One of the people that had been working with him yelled at him to stop. When he stopped and looked, he realized that the fangs had gone all the way through the boot and there was venom dripping off of them. If he had pulled his boot off, he would have been "bitten" by a dead snake and would have suffered the same reaction. They ended up having to cut the boot off around the head of the snake to get it off cleanly.


One thing you should know... The fer-de-lance has been called "the most feared snake in the western hemishere" both due to it's aggressive nature and the potency of it's venom. I would have passed out. Anyway, it gave us a good opportunity to talk about God's plans for our lives. I told Andres a long time ago that God had a plan for him. This reinforced it for me. Hopefully, it reinforces it for him.

In other news, it has been pretty crazy with just Amy and I trying to keep up. We are talking with a soon to be couple from Texas that are very interested in moving down to partner with us. We are excited about that. There are some other opportunities as well and we are praying (and ask you to pray as well) that God will provide.

I also just finished several days of meetings with our director from the States. Those meetings went well and I am excited about future possibilities within Alternative Missions. We have a long road ahead as we gear back up after the loss of Whit. There is no way we can do it all...especially in our own strength. Please pray that we'll get the temporary help we need while others are preparing for the long haul, through language school, etc... We will continue to look for God to provide opportunities to share Him with those around us.

I'll write about Makena's soccer game later. It was one of the funniest things I have witnessed since we moved here. Cool and funny.

"The crazy one" has us all laughing most of the time.



One last photo...we added palm leaves to the front of the house for about $100. It came out looking pretty cool and provides the protection we needed from the rain for our stairway.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

At last

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted. There are some good reasons for that but even so, I can hardly believe how long it has been. We are finally out of survival mode and are living in our new house. It is not finished...still quite a bit of work to do...but it is liveable and that is huge. We had no running water in our rental house for the last four weeks we were there. That meant bringing water in jugs to flush and do dishes and going elsewhere to shower. Just taking care of simple tasks like that took up so much time on a daily basis. Now that we are in the new house, things are starting to settle down. For the first time in nine months we have hot water and don't have to go to that bathroom in a bucket if we wake up at night. The bathroom in the previous house was only accessible from the outside and you definitely don't want to walk around outside at night in the jungle.

We also have ceiling fans and are dry...two incredible things that we still can't get over. Right now, we are reveling in the small things. Credit to our move goes out to the team from Calvary Chapel Jupiter who helped push us over the hump. They spent five days sanding, varnishing, painting and building in order to take the house to the point where we could move in. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for us as well. Life has taken a sudden turn for the better.


After two months, there is quite a bit of other news to tell as well. First, a few weeks back we had the privilege of baptizing Pablo. We got to know Pablo almost two years ago when he first visited from Spain looking for land to build a surf camp. Pablo ran into a lot of problems during the construction of his first cabin (imagine that). He also experienced quite a bit of loneliness being apart from his family. It was during this time that we became friends (through a shared love of the surf). Pablo spent quite a bit of time in our home eating and hanging out. As God began working in his life, he began coming to our house church...something he had never experienced before. Little by little, he was drawn to God. One night about a month ago, I had an opportunity to sit and talk with Pablo before church started. The conversation came to the point where I asked him if we wanted to give control of his life to Jesus. Without hesitating, he said "Yes. I need to do that". He explained that when he was younger, growing up in the Catholic church in Spain, he had felt God calling him into a relationship. At the time, he said no...he had other things on his mind. After years of running into dead ends and coming to the end of himself...God was still knocking. That night just over a month ago, Pablo prayed and told Jesus that he wanted to follow Him. We baptized Pablo two weeks ago...eight people on a beach in Puerto Viejo...but a whole lot of happy witnesses in Heaven.


I also had the privilege of speaking at some friends' wedding a couple of weeks ago. I'll post a couple of photos now but will save the story for a soon to be written update. The wedding was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and God provided a way for us to make him known publicly.


Finally, we are sad to be losing Whit Hazelton who has been working with us for the past eight months. Whit came down last September to serve with us long term, but as things go, he is now returning to the States this coming week to get married and live with his future wife and son. It has been an incredible experience to work and serve with him and we are sad to see him go but wish and pray the best for him, his future wife Kristin and her son. We need your prayers as Amy and I are now solely responsible for everything, including weekly skate sessions, house church, youth nights and administrative duties. We believe that God has placed us here for a reason and are trusting that He will send the right people and give us the right ideas at the right time. Please pray for us as we need a minimum of one to two people, preferably a couple or a family, to join us in the near future as even our legal status as a mission is in jeopardy. I will focus much of my efforts over the next two months on recruiting new staff members, both from the states or locally, to join with us. Thanks for your prayers and your interest.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Water and other events

Well, we've had quite a bit going on lately. Just for kicks, I took the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale test (which rates a variety of life events such as job change, death of a family member, illness, etc...on a point scale) the other night just to see where I rated and found I was well over 300 points. Actually, I came in at 321, which places me in the "severe life crisis" area with a 79% chance of a major health change. Interesting.

Anyway, we've been working hard to get into the house. We've given up on finishing and are hoping at this point to make it livable. One of the last big items we've been struggling to complete is our septic system. Last Tuesday we finally found a backhoe to come out and dig the pit. The next day I drove to all three hardware stores trying to find the right type of rock to put in the drainfield. Non of the stores had anything. I finally tracked down a trucking company and was able to have a load delivered. Now, our house is on the other side of a very steep hill that basically requires a four wheel drive just to climb. Because of this, the truck had to drop the rocks at the bottom of the hill which meant that we had to haul around 12 cubic meters of boulders over the hill, one truck-load at a time in our pick-up. We spent three days working on this and still aren't done. The day after the back-hoe dug the hole, the sides caved in. We worked on that all day the following day and got it opened back up again only to have another day and a half of torrential downpours fill the hole with water and mud. Yesterday, we started over again. It is incredibly difficult to get anything completed here.

Thankfully, things are going well with the skatepark and with our church. We had our monthly cookout on Friday night and there were quite a few youth that showed up in spite of the rain. At one point, the winds and rain were so hard that the movie screen blew down and we were all huddled against the office door trying to keep dry. At least the food was good. Church continues to go well as we work our way through Romans. Tonight we'll be watching a movie about the events that took place in Rwanda several years back called "Beyond the Gates" Two weeks ago we studied in Romans Chapter 5 and took some time to specifically talk about Paul's words regarding sin and grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Tonight, we'll talk some about the existence of true evil while we watch the evidence of God's grace in the midst of horrific events. It is a great movie and truly illustrates this point.

Next week, more work trying to get moved in. We could really use some prayer in this as our next door neighbor continues to make threats towards me (which is another stressor that I don't need at the moment). Thanks for following along with us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Sometimes

I don't get homesick too often. I moved out of our family's house at the age of 17 when I went away to college and within six years I had lived in Tennessee, California, Hawaii and Arizona. I'm used to being away from friends and family (although that doesn't mean I don't miss them). However, every now and then a wave of nostalgia hits and I find myself wishing I was somewhere else. It happened around Christmas time when we got hit with the terrible rain and flooding...we wished we could be with family for Christmas. Today of all days it hit while I was driving in to prepare for church.

Today is Superbowl Sunday. I am not a big football fan and haven't really followed it much at all since I started surfing about 25 years ago. Yet, here I was, driving by the beach, wishing we were heading over to some friends' house to hang out, eat some junk food and watch the Superbowl. Obviously, it's not about the game...it's about the people. People that were a big part of our lives that we don't get to see any more. Every now and then we are reminded that there are sacrifices to doing what we do...big ones (like being away from friends and family or not having reliable running water for over six months...) and small ones (like laughing at the half-time commercials with people with whom you share a sense of humor). It has been over a year since our last visit to the States and we don't anticipate being able to come home until late July. It isn't as long as my parents spent in East Africa without a trip home, but it is a long time.

Tonight, we start the second half of Romans Chapter 5. Important stuff. Important concepts for us all to understand. We're born into a world filled with and infected by the disease we call sin. Just like smallpox was introduced to the Americas by one infected sailor (with terrible repercussions for everyone else in the "new world"), sin was introduced into the world by one man...Adam. Thank God that there's a cure for sin (unlike smallpox at the time). Thank God that life and reconciliation came through the one man Jesus Christ. Yeah, I'd love to be kicking back watching the Superbowl (for real) but this is a good thing too. Pray that this reality is grasped by those in attendance tonight... because understanding this; really, truly understanding it makes all the difference in the world not only in the long term but in how we live our lives on a day to day basis. The reality of God's grace and forgiveness is just a little bit more important than my desire to sit on a real couch and eat chips and drink a Coke.

I received this quote a couple of days ago. It really made my day. I hope you enjoy it too because it applies to everyone that is serving God anywhere at any time and in any way.

John 6:53-71
Just the other day someone said of a friend, "This man is destined for a great ministry," by which he meant he was headed for the big time - a high profile church with a big budget.
It made me wonder: Why do we think that God's call is necessarily upwardly mobile? Why wouldn't He send His best workers to labor for a lifetime in some small place? Aren't there people in obscure places who need to be evangelized and taught? God is not willing that any perish.
Jesus cared about the individual as well as the masses. He taught large crowds if they appeared, but it never bothered Him that His audience grew smaller every day. Many left Him. In John 6:66 it is written that, "at this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him", a fickle attrition that would have thrown most of us into high panic. Yet Jesus pressed on with those the Father gave Him.
We live in a culture where bigger is better, where size is the measure of success. It takes a strong person to resist that trend, especially if he or she is laboring in a small place.
But size is nothing: substance is everything. Whether you're pastoring a small church or leading a small Bible study or Sunday school class, serve them with all your heart. Pray, love, teach by word and example. Your little place is not a steppingstone to greatness. It IS greatness." David Roper

Making disciples in a small, obscure place. Sebas baptizing Anastasia two Sundays ago.







Thursday, January 22, 2009

In Her Own Words, Part 2

Anastasia this past Sunday night after her baptism. This is really cool.

video

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Her Own Words, Part 1

Anastasia in her own words one year ago, just after she decided to follow Jesus. January 2008


video

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The opposite of discouragement

I've never experienced highs and lows in life like I have here in the field. Life is anything but even-keeled. I never know quite how we're doing...are we being effective? Is there more we can do? Does anyone even care? How much harder can daily life get? Where are the thank-you's? Some days it is enough to make me wonder what the heck I was thinking when we picked up and moved down here four years ago.

No sooner does that thought enter my mind than God begins to provide encouragement...

We recently went to a New Year's Day pig roast, which is really a gathering of missionaries throughout Costa Rica at the house of our friend Bob Wilmarth, owner of the infamous Goat Farm (one smell and you know why it's "infamous"). We often feel somewhat isolated down here in Puerto because we don't have much contact with other missionaries and their families...people that understand what it's like. It was great to spend a day hanging out and talking with people that can identify with the different issues we face on a daily basis. To hear a seasoned missionary say..."Don't worry about things...it takes at least four years for most missionaries to even begin being effective where they are because there is so much to learn and so many hurdles to overcome" is so encouraging. To have someone else that has been working in country for many years tell us, "Wow, you guys picked the hardest place in the entire country to start a ministry" speaks volumes. To watch our kids play for hours with all of the other missionary kids was priceless. All in all, it was very encouraging.

Other encouragements...we were invited by a friend we met at the pig roast, to speak to a group of college students from Messiah College this past Tuesday. I hope they were blessed, but I know that we certainly were as we not only had an opportunity to meet some neat people and to share with them what God had done in our lives, we also had the opportunity to listen to a man that grew up in the jungle here in Costa Rica as the son of missionaries to the Cabecar Indians, an indigenous group that lives in the mountains behind Puerto. His story was very inspiring. He has gone through a lot in his life and has put up with things we can't even imagine in order to share the love of Christ with others. We felt priveledged to be a part of the evening.

Reality quickly destroys the romantic idea of "missions"...whatever that is. There is only one thing that matters in the end...the call of God. Were you called? You had better go. If you weren't called...if you're not sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has put a calling on your life you better stay home because without the surety of a calling, there are better, simpler and easier ways to pass time. Don't do it because it sounds cool...like a good thing to do. It will destroy you. Living here has helped me in some small way to identify with the subjects of Hebrews Chapter 11. I don't know if we will ever see the results we hope to see in our lifetime, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has placed us here. Case in point? Barring something unforseen, after having to wait a full year since she accepted Christ, we'll baptize Anastasia tomorrow night before house church. One small drop in a very deep bucket but another huge source of encouragement.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

life

Well, it seems to get harder and harder to put together an update. In trying to get the house finished, we're falling way behind on our communications. Please forgive us. We don't have a phone line out where we live and it can sometimes be pretty difficult to get online at all.

It is now Tuesday and I am trying to get caught up on administrative duties, communication with potential staff members, etc... We are also working like crazy to finish the house. Our goal at this point is to make it livable so that we can move in. Our contractor is doing good work but I have decided that he is terrible at math. We are now so over our contract amount that we are close to having to shut down. Third world calculating finally catches up with us. Anyway, I am spending as much time as possible working on-site myself both to make sure that workers continue going strong and so that I can get as much done myself as possible. The roof is 98% complete, the flooring is 80% complete and hopefully we'll have a functioning water system and bathroom in the next week or so. We could definitely use prayer in this. We want to finish and move so that our living situation is stable and we can put all of our energies into our work rather than being so distracted. I keep reminding myself that this is a short time which will increase our long-term effectiveness.

As for church, things really seemed to go well this past Sunday night. We had a pretty large crowd...the largest in quite some time, and everyone really seemed to connect and enjoy the night. I took a slight detour from our ongoing study through Romans to talk about faith. We have just finished Chapter 4 where Paul spoke about Abraham being made righteous because of his faith. There's a lot of talk in our culture about faith, but all too often, faith is an end unto itself. We spent a couple of hours Sunday night looking at faith from a biblical perspective before we head through the rest of the letter to the Romans. I really enjoyed teaching and everyone seemed to enjoy listening and discussing as we went through the study. My hope is that we will continue to grow closer as a body and that we will also begin to grow. Please pray for us and for our effectiveness. Please pray for the new Christians as God molds them into new creations.

Finally, we'll also be celebrating a baptism this next Sunday afternoon. If all goes according to plan, Sebas (who has been part of our church since the beginning) will baptize Anastasia whom he shared Christ with early last year. It will be an exciting time.