Monday, November 14, 2005

The Original Posted by Picasa

Road Trip!!!

"Yeah, you better give me the insurance, because I'm gonna beat the hell out of this car." -Jerry Seinfeld

Tuesday morning, Carlos, a tico missionary with CFCI, Joe Yoder, a former Amish boy and missionary with CFCI, and myself started our trip to the border of CR and Panama to visit some pastors to be able to possibly take teams to their churches in the future. We had planned to visit a guy on the way down, a bunch of churches on Wednesday and head back on Thursday.

We arrived at Economy Rent A Car at 7 in the morning to pick up our Toyota Yaris. It's a small car and we had hoped for a 4x4, but they didn't have any available. After a quick stop at Burger King for breakfast we headed out of town.

Let me take this opportunity to explain something about the roads in Costa Rica. There not the greatest. This conclusion does not come because of their curviness nor because of the fact that they're two lanes. This can be stated because they have large holes in the middle of the road. So one is driving along and all the sudden one must slam on their brakes, pass over into the other lane of oncoming traffic to avoid what would rival the Grand Canyon. It's destiny to hit a hole every 5 minutes. And so unlike the States where you can set your cruise control and practically fall asleep at the wheel, here in Costa Rica driving is a very active activity. I drove the entire week and as if I needed to say it, I hit some holes.

Most of the pastors that we visited were off the beaten path. The first being a good 20 km, or about 13 miles on a dirt and rock "road". I felt a bit like a Rally Car driver avoiding the big holes. And my mountain biking skills came into play as I had to pick the correct line to avoid the big rock that would most certainly break something on the car. The visit with the pastor went well and for the size of church that he has, God is doing great things. A wonderful place to send a team.

On our way out, it was raining, but the road I knew and the water helped to slid the car over most of the treacherous spots. But then with no warning, the front passenger shock went out. After figuring there was nothing we could do about it right there, we decided to continue on. Most of the ride was fine except when we hit the unavoidable canyons. We called the Economy when we had the chance, but there was little they could do at that moment. After 15 minutes went by we decided we had to continue. Still about an hour out, the brakes and power steering went out. Luckily it was a standard, so I could slow by down shifting and plus there was the hand brake. Not knowing the road there we hit more bumps and flew over some invisible speed bumps, but eventually we were able to make it to Paso Canoas, our destination, safely enough.

We called Economy once again and they said they would send a new car early the next morning so they would get there by 10 am. We passed the night by and slept in a little in the morning. However come 10, they were not there. Double checking we decided to call again. "No we don't have any record of you needing a new car." AHG!!! Finally, at 11 they left San Jose. Our whole day would be shot. For the next few hours we sat around the hotel, sleeping, reading and watching TV. Around 2 we left for lunch, during which we decided that we should visit with the pastor there in Paso Canoas. We were able to check out his church and then he took us to see another pastor well off the beaten path. This pastor is in his last years. He's been planting churches for the Four Square denomination for his entire pastorship. And he admitted that while he's willing to do whatever San Jose tells him he's to do, he feels that this will be his last church. It was very encouraging to hear this pastor speak of his life dedicated to the Lord's work.

After a dinner of ice cream, I was sent back to the hotel to wait for the car, while Carlos and Joe went to a church for a service. Finally at 8 the car showed up. I headed to the church and was able to hear of Carlos' testimony of how God took him from teaching English and in a matter of weeks took him into leading short-term teams with Christ for the City. Later that night we grabbed a real dinner.

Thursday was not a total loss. After taking a short trip to Golfito to check out the Tax-Free Zone, we headed back and were able to find some pastors available for us to visit. We drove out around the country-side and flirted with the Costa Rican-Panamanian border, eventually getting to visit a total of three pastors.

Friday, we had another adventure. Even though we had passed through the police checkpoints several times in the last few days, today was a little more difficult-- they asked for my passport, which I had left in San Jose. I had to go back to immigration in Paso Canoas. The issue arose that I have been here for 4 months, which means my visa had expired a month ago.

"Estás ilegal." You're illegal.

"Sí." Yeah.

"Ilegal." Illegal.

"Oh." They wanted to deport me-- right then and there.

Um, there's no fine or anything I can pay?

Nope, the law changed. You have to stay here until your passport arrives tomorrow morning.

How 'bout this: Can I return to San José, get my passport and some things, before I leave?

Well, yeah, I guess you could do that.

(Deep sigh of relief.) About 5 more minutes and I was a free man again. They gave me a note that would allow me to get through the checkpoints, but said I had to report back to the border on Monday. In reality, all I have to do is leave the country-- I can go to Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, or the States. However I'm headed out to Panama City to spend some time with the CFCI base there.

Back on the road we were able to interview another 11 pastors before heading the rest of the way to San José. Once there we still had to fight it out with Economy about the first car they rented us. They're claiming that the damage was some how our fault and so far they have not released the vouchers that have my card on them. Hopefully this will be resolved shortly, without too many problems.

We were able to interview a total of 17 pastors and easily we will be able to send teams to at least 14 of them. Overall we had a very successful, adventurous trip.

Poster Child

Robby, with whom I live, got baptized about a month ago and I was in charge of documenting the whole thing. Robby was the last one to be baptized that day and as the pastor was praying I continued to snap away. Robby's dad, Ramesh, is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and does a lot of preaching around the world. These are the posters that are going up all around the world, and the picture of the young man in the corner is Robby, and it's a picture that I took-- one of my personal favorites too. I'm hoping to get the raw image to post too. I'm kinda excited about the whole thing. Posted by Picasa

And again in black and white. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 4, 2005

Jeremiah 17:14

"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise."

About Friday night as I was going to bed I was feeling a little hot, so I checked my temperature and it was like 100.5 or something just to make me a little miserable. So I took some stuff on Saturday morn when I got, cause it was still there, and it wore off by noon. Well we had a bunch of people over that night and I started feeling sick again. Well I ended going up to bed about 10. Well I kept hearing the people running around and somebody ran into my door, I was thinking it was like 3, 4 in the morning, but when I checked the clock it was only 12:30. I started to take my temperature about every two hours and it went up a degree at each check. At one point through out the night I began to pray and spent about an hour solid in prayer. I called my dad over Gtalk at about 5 and he actually answered. We looked at a bunch of stuff and thought it was possibly dengue, but who knew. I took a cold shower and went back to bed. Woke up for breakfast but went back to bed afterwards.

I began to take Excedrin every 4-6 hours. I spent most of the day in my room and my fever rose and broke all day. My body ached, my head hurt, not too bad, but I when my fever would rise again, I would get really violent chills. Finally I went to the doctor after my fever broke on Monday morning. Sunday night had been pretty bad, rising and falling. The doctor worked me in and had me take some tests. But by the time I was leaving I was having the chills again. I had them really bad when I got back, so I took a 750mg tylex (Tylenol) and slept for a couple of hours, no break. When the four hours had gone by I took another one. An hour later, still no break. So I went ahead and took some more Excedrin.

Shortly my fever broke, but I was still a bit miserable. I had about half a bowl of soup for dinner, really the first thing since breakfast on Sunday, besides an apple or a banana here and there. I was feeling good, and since I had slept most of the day, I stayed up and watched the football game. But as I went back upstairs and was getting ready for bed, aside from the a little too many drugs in your system uneasiness, I began to get the chills again. I shook, rather violently at times and constantly for over an hour and a half. My teeth hurts, my body was sore from shaking. By then it was time for more medicine so I popped two more Excedrin and eventually fell asleep... for an hour. Throughout the night I laid in bed, listened to a John Piper talk and prayed and eventually got to sleep.

I was up at about 4 or 5 though, had a cold shower and some more meds. Most of the morning I was just watching TV, fever up and down. It started to go back up around 11, I took my last Excedrin and slept for an hour. I started calling the doctor at 12 for my test results, as he told me, but didn't hear anything until about 3:30, when I woke up with a 105.4 fever and, literally, a blinding headache. I had gotten a call earlier to tell me that I had an appointment with another Dr at 5:30. But I took an ice cold shower, got dressed and told Orlando that I needed to go to the hospital now! He dropped me off and I waited another hour and 15 minutes before the doctor was able to see me, about 5:50 or so.

They're still unsure with what I have, the blood tests came back negative on Mono, Dengue, and a couple other things. Dengue can be elusive though, so I'm back in for tests on Monday, but he couldn't rule out just a bacterial infection, plus I don't have all the classic signs of dengue, so he sent me home with an antibiotic. My head was still pounding and the taxi--yeah, I had to take a taxi home. I got home and told Kellie the results and climbed into bed. They were leaving, so when I woke up in an hour my head was pounding, fever seeming to still rise, chills, and my stomach was upset. I called and talked to my dad several times, ate a banana, laid around all over the house, took a cold shower, couldn't find anything that would take an edge off. It was getting beyond what I could handle. I cried out for God to heal me. I begged for mercy and grace. How was I supposed to be hydrated if I couldn't even keep water down? I called Carlos, another missionary here on the STM team, and asked him to bring me some Dramamine and Gatorade. My family got back shortly checked on me and went back to other things. I was really just laying in bed wasting away, hoping that relief would come. Carlos showed up about 40 minutes after I called him and delivered. Plus he prayed for me, which was actually the first person to do that for me in my presence. I believe I rolled back over after he left and wasted away for a little bit longer before I drank the Gatorade. I was able to hold that down. I can't even remember though if I slept at all that night. It seems I was awake, or between awake and asleep most of the night.

About 3:30 in the morning I took the the hypothesis that clung to the third ingredient in Excedrin, which I had stopped taking over 16 hours earlier. Excedrin is: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, and caffeine. Well after being regimented every four hours for 48 hours, I reasoned I was coming off a serious caffeine high. So at 3:45 in the morning I went downstairs refilled my water, loaded a cup of ice, and grabbed a can of DP. I actually was able to hold that down. Several times through the night I had tried to take some more medicine, or drink some water and it just came back up. Just before 5 I went back downstairs to try to get something in my stomach so I could get some medicine in there. I had worked my way around an apple, before it was back in the sink, along with the water. Frustrated I went back to bed, took the Dramamine and actually, finally slept for about 2 hours.

When I woke up I still had the headache, but it was subsiding. I called my dad again, tried to take some more medicine, but it came right back up. That continued a few times though out the day. Anytime I tried to put medicine into me, I threw up. Around 10 I went downstairs to try to eat. Not too successful. I laid on the couch, watched a little TV and tried not to die. That was my goal through out most of the week-- Don't Die. One of the issues with dengue is that there is the possible risk of hemorrhaging, so taking ibuprofen, which impedes blood clotting, is kinda dangerous, but around noon my headache was still so strong, I decided to take the risk. I slept through lunch and when I woke up my headache had subsided to a reasonable degree, plus my fever had come down to a bearable 102.

It was mid afternoon when I got up to use the bathroom and Robby was on the phone with someone who had called for me. This lady wanted me to come to some clinic to take some dengue tests. I was still in pain, and had no desire to go anywhere, but the "john" and back to bed. My brain wasn't even clicking fully to know half of what she said. She kept talking and talking, and finally, after thinking about just hanging up on her, I told her I wasn't going anywhere, thank you and good day. I used the restroom and returned to bed. I woke back up around 7 when Kellie got home and checked on me. As I laid there talking to her, I realized my headache had continued to recede and that I was soaking wet, a very good sign. I took my temperature. It was normal. I showered, went downstairs and talked to Kellie for a little while and had a small dinner. The first substantial food in my belly since Monday night. I drank some waters and watched some TV. When I tried to go to bed, around 11 I still wasn't near tired, so after laying there for a sufficient amount of time, I went back downstairs grabbed refilled my water and watched a good couple of hours of television. About 3:30 I went back up to bed, fell asleep and didn't wake up till after 9--the longest continual sleep I had since Friday night.

Fever subsided, and head just sore, I went downstairs, poured another glass of water and grabbed a banana. Just as I go to sit down on the couch, the phone rings. The man on the other end knows who I am, but I'm not sure of who he is-- most of the people that know me here are in a meeting. He's explaining somethings and I'm picking up most, but misunderstanding that some one wants me to go some where and I don't know what, but in reality the people that called me yesterday came by to conduct an interview with me. How long's this going to take? Five minutes. Okay. It turns out that they're like the national health peoples here and they're trying to keep a close watch on all dengue cases. But it was still puzzling because I have only about half of the classic symptoms, and as of yet no body knows what I have. She left a number where I could call later and left.

Most of today has been watching movies on TV and eating something. I ate lunch with everybody and didn't sleep at all today. Had dinner too. I'm still fatigued; it is kinda like my body went through a 5 day Point-of-Death Challenge.

I'll take it easy through the weekend and hopefully Monday I'll be ready to leave the house. Thanks for your prayers, even though you fully didn't know what was going on, very few people really did.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Few Exciting Weeks

The last few weeks have been jam packed with fun, rest and new opportunities.

Fun. Robby, Emily, Darwin and I were able to get away for the weekend to Manzanillo. Manzanillo is located on the Caribbean Side, Limon, and the farthest south you can get before Panama. It's a tiny little town with sand streets. The culture is almost completely different from San Jose. Think Jamaica. The majority of the population is black and they speak about three languages: English, Spanish and Patua, a mixture of the two. It was a beautiful setting and just a good time to hang out with friends and explore God's Creation.

That following Monday I was able to go kayaking. We started out with a lesson and then hit the river for about 30 minutes. We learned basic tecniques and tried to get the "roll" down. This is useful for when you get dumped upside down and you can just flip yourself back over. No one got it down pat, but I had plenty of practice after the lesson. To start we practiced entering the rapids and then turning back round into the pool where we had our lesson. Every other time I went, I had the chance to practice my rolling skills, but never did I succeed. We were able to go through some real rapids and I was doing great up until the end when I watched the girl in front of me flip, and then I did the exact same thing. The day was pretty exciting and I was sore for about the next week.

Rest. The next weekend we, the STM team, headed south again to a camp called La Cumbre, in the mountains of southern Costa Rica. It was a wonderful time to relax and grow together as a team. Julie, a past CFCI missionary, lead us in some spiritual excercises over the weekend. We played games and read and got to enjoy God's beautiful creation. I was able to go out and run around on Saturday morning and take over 100 picutres. I found a great spot to take some time and read and just enjoy the stream running through the camp. I ran back up to the Chalet and grabbed my books. I walked back across the log bridge and slid down the hill to the river's edge. There was a big rock just down stream from where two streams met with georgous waterfalls. I had my backpack on my back and my camera in my right hand. As I began to climb up the slippery rock, I my footing slipped and I slid all the way down into the freezing water. First being concerned about my camera, I kept it above the water level, that went half-way up my chest, before, however, I banged it on another rock. Fortunately there was only cosmetic damage to the case. Then I realized my books. I had my Bible, journal and the book I was reading on my back and the pack was plunged under the water when I fell in. Placing my camera aside, I flung my pack around to frantically remove the books from further damage. I unzipped the pack to find that all of my books were completely dry. Relieved I placed everything aside, picked up my camera and decided, I'm already wet, might as well wade out and get some good pics! I stood in the middle of the stream on another rock and got some great pics. The weekend was great to be able to spend with good friends and grow in the Lord.

New. This week I started teaching English in Guarari. It's been slow getting started. There had been another person that was going to do it, but he just decided not to show up, and they turned to me to pick up his slack. Definately pray for me in this area, I'm not sure how strong I am in teaching English and the books I'm using are rather old and lacking.

The STM team: Me, Wesley, Joe, Kellie, and Carlos. Posted by Picasa

That big rock on the right side is what I fell off of! Posted by Picasa

Waterfall. Posted by Picasa

Flower with bee. Posted by Picasa

Some great flowers Posted by Picasa

The Chalet. Posted by Picasa

Cross in the steps to the Chalet. Posted by Picasa

Part of the scenery at La Cumbre. Posted by Picasa

Cows at La Cumbre over the STM Retreat. Posted by Picasa

One of those cool outcroppings that you always see pictures of, but never in person. Manzanillo. Posted by Picasa

Myself, Emily and Robby at Manzanillo Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 26, 2005

Atypical Week

Ok, so first I must apologize. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. It has been too long since I've posted anything, but I do have reasons. My computer is in the shop. It died after much problems and it is on it's way to the OR at Dell Medical Center. Please pray for it's complete recovery.

I am now on a somewhat regular schedule, as some of you have already heard. It is as follows, sometimes:

Mondays: are perhaps my favorite day of the week. I get to wake up early (I'm getting to the good stuff), try to catch a bus, and go up to Renacer for the day. Once up there I grab the much needed cup, sometimes two, of coffee and eat breakfast. Sometimes some of the girls haven't eaten either so I eat with them. After which they have their morning encuentro, meaning Discovery, a time of various activities from presentation of homework to confession. To start everyone introduces themselves and says how they're feeling today and what they promise to do throughout the day. Sometime throughout the day I get to have the girls for an hour to "teach" them English. So far, we've gone over basic numbers, birthdays, months, etc. plus last week we learned about the family. I had the girls draw out their family tree and label them in English. It is interesting what the girls put and don't put on their trees. Veronica, when I asked where her father's side was, made a face and said something about her and her dad not having the best relationship. The rest of the day, I spend relaxing with the girls doing whatever they do. If they go on a walk in the woods, so do I. If they have a time of terapia therapy, then so do I. If they sit around and swing on the rope swing, then so do I, just trying to be that older brother that they never had, loving on them just as I would my own sister, even when they/she gets annoyed with me.

Tuesdays: I get to go to Guararí for the kid's club. There's a morning session and an afternoon one. Both include a game, a Bible lesson and a craft. Typically I participate as I would be one of the kids. And I give a little crowd control too. Most of these children are in the same situations that the girls at Renacer have come from and the hope is that we catch them early enough that Christ can grab a hold of their lives and move them in a new direction outside of the cycle of abuse that now exists. It's interesting to watch the boys, especially, who don't want to sit still and pay attention. The one's that are the most roudy I sit with. It's amazing to see their whole demeanor change. All they want is a little healthy attention.

Wednesdays: is another one of my favorite days and one of the hardest. Two women begin their day at about 5 in the morning making food. Each week is different. There's always rice and a salad of a coleslaw style, but a different typical meat is made. Sometimes it's black beans, sometimes it's a picadillo. I arrive at the CFCI building in Pavas between 9:30 and 10, long after the food is made. We load up a bus with the food and after praying, we head out to some of the most dangerous places in San José. Most are controlled by drug dealers and I've seen quite a few drug deals. We pull up, unload the food, serve everyone that comes, a few that don't or can't, load back up and go to another place. The names are a sharp contrast from the life that is lived there. Cristo Rey Christ the King, there are others, I just can't remember them right now. But places where it doesn't look like Christ is reigning. I am assured though that He is. We've always been protected and I know that He will do great things out of these areas. In total we feed close to 500 people every week, at about $500 a month. God is doing great things with this money. Read back a few posts about the little black girl that Ronald sought out under the bridge. She had been to Renacer before, but she was pregnate and just after two days, she decided to leave. Well she had her baby and the father's mother is taking care of it. This Thursday she decided she wanted to go back to Renacer. Her name is Kimberly, please pray that she would stay there and make it through the program, Christ reigning in her. She has her whole life still in front of her.

Thursdays: typically are an office day. There's a devotion in the morning, where good fellowship takes place among all the missionaries from CFCI. I have the afternoon available to do office things and prepare for the next week. Typically it's a pretty relaxing day.

Fridays: are generally free also. But it allows me to do a awesome things like go to the amusement park with the Renacer girls, which I did two weeks ago. After waiting in the park near my house for an hour to be picked up, we got to the park about 10. Let me explain the Costa Rican Parque de Diversiónes Park of Diversion, literally speaking. Now most of us have been to Frontier City or Six Flags.

THINK smaller.

Think Bell's, think glorified fair. They have the octopus, that spins you everyway from Saturday, the tower that lets you get a good view of the surrounding area before plumeting you about 200 feet, and then the old classics, bumper cars, go-carts, rickety rollercoasters, etc. I got to spend a lot of good time with the girls, riding rides and talking. One of the girls, Laura, hit her sixth month mark at Renacer. She is both the oldest in terms of age and she has the most time at Renacer. That weekend she was allowed to go home and spend the night, the first night she's spent outside of Renacer since she got up there. She was nervous. She would have to confront a lot of people and situations that would be difficult. The one that really made her nervous was her ex-boyfriend. She still loved him a lot, but she knew that ending it for good was the only way for her to really be able to progress. I admire the courage that she has to be able to make the necessary steps to progress in both her renacimiento her rebirth and her walk with Christ. She is a leader at the farm, as it is called, encouraging the girls to continue in their walks and to progress in their own renacimientos.

Please continue to pray for me. Pray for the finishing of my finances-- I still need about $4000 to be completely set for the year. Pray for the ministries I'm involved in-- see above. Pray for the teams that will begin coming in January. Pray for Costa Rica and those that don't know Christ-- that I would be Not Ashamed...

As great of an ending that would be I want to assure you that new pictures will be up shortly.

Grace and Peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Start it up...

The past few weeks have been a little too low-key for me. The feeding program on Wednesdays is on its 3rd week now not happening, maybe fourth. They found a new place to be able to make and prepare the food, but it's been difficult for them to get the bus in order. Plus with Ronald, now being under CFCI and not Renacer, there has been a lot of changes for him. What this equals for me is a lot of down time. Twice I missed the connection to Guarari for the Kid's Club on Tuesdays also. And I'm still working out the details to get up to Renacer to teach ESL.

This week, however, I was able to get to Guarari today. It was a little less organized than when the team was there. There are two groups. The first in the morning is the younger group, seven years and up. They still retain a little respect for those older than them, so they were great. In the afternoon though most are about middle school age-- a little more work. It came down to crowd control with some of the boys. Unfortunately these are the boys that need it the most. They're just at that age where they can begin to make choices that will effect the rest of their lives. It's scary to think about and certainly drives one to pray for them.

Wednesday I'm going to the Language Institute where a lot of missionaries study to talk, briefly, about living with Tico families. And hopefully in the afternoon, I'll be able to make it up to Renacer. That's difficult though because the bus only runs in the morning, so I'll have to find another way up. Once up there I'll need to figure out the best time that I can be up there on a regular basis. Please pray that schedules can be flexible and everyone would be understanding.

Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Email

I've decided to post my update here so that everyone can read it without having to send out more emails. Make sure you scroll down far enough to see all the pictures too.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Dear Everyone,

The past four weeks of my life have been some of the most exciting. On the 11th of July, I loaded myself and the bag-limit on a plane and eight hours later I was in Costa Rica. I've spent two weeks wetting my feet, and the two other weeks, leading two different teams in two different ministries.

The first couple of days were rather surreal. I was living on an air mattress in the middle of a living room with people that I had only known through email. And even though I have lived here before, I had to readjust and relearn the area. Wednesday I went out on the "Feeding Program." About 10 in the morning, a few "gringos" and a few native Spanish-speakers (mostly Costa Ricans, "ticos," and an Argentinean) gather in the front of the Christ for the City office to pray before heading out to some of the most dangerous places in San José. This program has a couple of purposes. Primarily, it is there to grant entrance into these areas to rescue "at risk" people (girls, boys, and adults), so that they can leave behind this "life" and come into the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But concealing this is the food. Most of the areas we go into are controlled by drug dealers. They will let anyone into their area, but won't necessarily let them out. The food allows us safe passage and gives reputation to Ronald (a tico with a heart bigger than any other I've ever known) to be able to come back throughout the week and find those that would like to leave this so-called life. We serve food in about 5 or 6 areas, serving close to 500 people. It is truly a powerful time, something that I've enjoyed every week I've been able to go out.

On Friday Lisa, another missionary who has now left, and I went to the airport to pick up nine people ranging in age from 18 to 76—my first team. Over the weekend we oriented ourselves and by Saturday night we had moved in with our families for the week. This team worked with a church in San Pedro, a suburb just outside of San José. Sunday morning I had my first real test—translation. Lisa had decided since I was a Spanish major, I would be better at translating than her, even though I had only been here for a week. It was rather rough and I got a lot of help, but God got me through it! Throughout the week, the mornings were filled with painting and work around the church, while the afternoons were a Bible study with the members or a prayer meeting. Wednesday night, the women had a meeting with the other women from the church, which I hear went wonderfully! Two of the nights that week I was able to spend with the pastor and his family. I'm always amazed at the generosity and desire the ticos have to share. Thursday we went to La Carpio, a squatter community, where CFCI has a lot of involvement. There are a lot of opportunities for me to serve there when I'm in between teams, especially this fall, with Children's programs and ESL classes. After the good-bye service Thursday night, we loaded ourselves for our debriefing time at a local beach. It was great to hear all that the team had learned about themselves, but more so about God and His hand all over the world. It was tough to see them leave Sunday morning, but at 5 in the morning you're too tired to cry!

The next week was one spent in recovery and continually finding out what ministries I would be able to get involved in this fall. I was planning on going everywhere the following week, but halfway through the week I was approached by Kellie, both my mom at home and my supervisor at work, to fill in for her this next week. The team would be going to Renacer. Renacer is the Spanish verb meaning "to be reborn" or "Rebirth." And Renacer the place is a center where girls who have had less than ideal lives go to be reborn. At this time their ages range from 12 to 17. Their backgrounds include abuse, living on the street, selling drugs, taking drugs, alcoholism and prostitution. The primary goal at Renacer is to bring them into a relationship with Jesus Christ, while providing them shelter, sobriety, therapy, education and lots of holy love—something they may not have experienced before.

The team arrived Friday night and I spent Saturday's orientation with them, before meeting up with them at Renacer on Monday morning. The girls have classes and therapy throughout the day, so we painted, cut grass, and tried to be as useful as we could be. In the evenings we did crafts and spent time loving on the girls. Tuesday we went to Guararí, where Renacer has a children's program. Many of these kids live amidst drugs, prostitution and alcoholism; either someone in their family participates in these activities or they themselves do. But once a week for 2 hours they can just be kids and learn about Jesus Christ. This time includes games, a Bible lesson and a craft. This Tuesday they heard the story of Mary and Martha and because they celebrate Mother's Day on August 15, they made Mother's Day cards. I'll admit, I made one too—you'll be getting it soon, Mom!

Over lunch on Tuesday, Ronald told us his testimony. When he was seven years old he began living on the streets, selling and using drugs. As he grew up he amassed a gang of about 120 people. One day he and a friend were walking by a church, when Ronald told his friend they should go in because there are always pretty girls at church. Once inside one of them caught his attention, but because he was filthy and had long hair, she didn't pay him any attention. The next time he went, he cleaned himself up and began dating her. She was the pastor's daughter. But Ronald was still using drugs. Eventually Ronald and Marielos became engaged and on their wedding day, Ronald prayed that he would never use drugs again; twenty-six years later, Ronald is still sober. After he was married he began to work for Latin American Mission. One day he was sitting in the office and read about a gang who had a face off with the police the day before. At that moment God told him to go to this building to talk to the gang members. He said okay, but let me finish my work. God, however, wasn't interested in waiting and told to go now. When he got to the abandoned building he couldn't find anyone, but he heard voices. As he walked back outside, several boys jumped down on him. They began to ask him what he was doing there and what he wanted. He told them about the story and he was there just to befriend them. A relationship developed and now many of those gang members are pastors and missionaries. Some, however, are still caught up in the gang life. This began Ronald's street ministry. One night he heard God telling him he needed to start a rehab for girls rescued from the street. God showed him the layout, where it would be, and how it would function. Ronald saw one entrance where the girls would come in dirty from the street, while on another side he saw the girls leaving clean and healthy. This vision became Renacer, eventually growing into the feeding program and the children's ministry in Guararí.

Wednesday the team was able to participate in the Feeding Program. Being that there were so many of us, we divided into two groups, alternating serving at each location, while the others interacted with the people. This was the first time I was able to sit back and watch. We served many people that were high on crack; some even held their pipe in their hand as they received food. Ronald pointed out a girl to me, who may be 14, who is pregnant. I saw many children growing up in the same area that has plagued those who have gone before them. What has stood out in my mind the most was Ronald. He would hold these "untouchables", love on them, and talk to them. At one location, I noticed that he had disappeared. Then I saw him walking up the hill clutching a poorly dressed black girl next to him. He sought out and brought her to the table, from the bridge that she lived under with her baby. This man's heart is bigger than all of Costa Rica.

Thursday was our last day with the girls, so for our craft we made a large scrapbook with them to keep pictures of the week. That night the girls put on two mimes for us; the first depicted the backgrounds from whence they have come and the other depicted the strength that they have together against temptation. Joselyn was one of the girls with whom I developed a relationship. She had been there three days when I got there on Monday. She was also the youngest—12. During the first mime, one of the girls, Jennifer, depicted prostitution. Joselyn leans over to me and tells me that she used to "play" Jennifer's part. She tells me that she ran away from home when she was 10. As she lived on the streets, she began to sell drugs to be able to eat. After a short while she began to work in a bar and then she danced in the bar. From here she decided she could make a lot of money if she stood on the street corner. So she did. But she felt ugly inside and decided she didn't want to live that way anymore and so three days before she came to Renacer and began a new life. Praise God!

Later that night Joselyn came up to me. She sat down and began to squirm in her chair on the verge of tears. What should have taken about 20 seconds to say took about 3 minutes. Throughout the week, there would be times when I couldn't understand her because she would talk so fast. She would get frustrated with me and would tell me that "me caes mal" (Literally, "You fall bad to me" or I don't like you). I always figured that she was joking around and never took her too seriously. And so as she sat there she told me that even though she had told me that throughout the week, it was a "mentira"—a lie. The truth was, she told me, was that she loved me a lot and would be very sad when we left tomorrow. I reminded her that I would not be leaving Costa Rica and hoped to return to Renacer on a regular basis and she better be there, because if she wasn't, to her I would have to say "me caes mal." She promised she would be.

Everything I've been able to be involved in has been very natural to me. It's been an easy transition—language has been challenging, but it's coming along. Thank you for all your continued prayer, here are some more specific ways you can pray:

Prayer Points:

· Pray for Renacer. That the girls would continue to stand strong together and progress through the program and come into a knowledge of Jesus Christ.

· Pray for the Feeding Program. That it would continue to be successful and God would continue to rescue His children from the street.

· Pray for my time. This week I'm trying to figure out what ministries I can be involved in this fall, pray that I might know where I can be most useful.

· Pray for my finances. Thank you so much for supporting me, but continue to pray that more support would come in; I only have about half my year raised.

· Pray for me. That I would continue to listen to what God is teaching me while I'm here in Costa Rica, for my time here and what He wants me to do with my life as a whole.

Again thank you for your support. I will be getting some pictures posted on the web and I'll update you as soon as that happens. If you have any specific questions for me, or would like to know how you can support any of the above ministries, drop me an email and I'll be glad to tell you how that can be done. If you wish to not receive these updates, just send me an email with REMOVE FROM LIST in the subject line..

Grace and Peace.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

On Tuesday, at the kids' club in Guarar�, the team put on a puppet show. Posted by Picasa

The pastor and his family. Posted by Picasa

The family that I stayed with during the first team. Posted by Picasa

Not Ashamed...

In Romans 1:16, 17, Paul writes that he is not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. It is my prayer that I can be like minded while I am here in Costa Rica for this year.

Throughout the year, I will use this site to post experiences, short stories and pics, in between my email and post updates. So come back often. I promise to post something at least once a week.

May God bless you and encourage you through the stories of His grace while I'm here in Costa Rica.