Sunday, June 29, 2014

Costa Rica Missions Update #4

             There are certain events in your life that you know you will never forget. We experienced one of those today. But before we get to that, let me give you a ministry catch-up.
Joyce teaching with Nanda translating

            I promised you updates on Joyce’s and Zac’s meetings last night. Joyce had a great time with the ladies. There were over twenty, and she really connected with them. The message that she gave was both personal and powerful. They’ll be getting together again through this next week.

Zac teaching the youth with Dennis translating
            Quick aside – yes, I know that this is not my most flashy update. Truth is that I’m ridiculously tired. The all-day training of yesterday combined with preaching today combined with being in a constant state of extreme diaphoresis has caught up with me. So, my apologies – my hope is a good night’s sleep and some Gatorade will perk me back up.

Madeline letting her feet get in on the worship action
            Zac also had a great time with the youth. He spoke on “pura vida” or “pure life”, which is pretty much the nation’s slogan. It means that everything is great – no worries – life is good (it’s sort of like the hakuna matata of Costa Rica). Zac took this phrase and showed how pura vida can only truly be found in Jesus. He got a great response with a number of the youth afterward telling him that they’d never looked at phrase that way before.

            This morning, we had another wonderful time of worship. The band was amazing, as always. Madeline even joined in the dancing in the front of the church. Powerful time of praising God.

With a history of pranking my translators, I surprise my buddy
Tim Stairs with Madeline's sunglasses for an illustration
(personally, I think he looks quite fashion-forward)
            The message I brought was on having an eternal perspective – seeing our lives through God’s eyes. I talked about there being no such thing as “fair” and “unfair” in the Kingdom of God, because “It’s not fair” is a totally me-first statement. So, when we get angry or envious of others, we’re totally missing the other-firstedness that we’re called to.

Pastor Jose's daughter, Sharon, celebrates Navas's blocked shot
            After church, we relaxed for a time. Then we headed back to the church, where a projector was set up so we could watch the Costa Rica vs. Greece World Cup match. Talk about an unforgettable experience! When that fourth penalty shot was blocked by Keylor Navas, the goalkeeper for the Ticos, I thought the roof was going to blow off the place. And then when the final shot for Costa Rica went in, it was complete pandemonium. The whole town erupted. People took to the streets singing and dancing and waving their flags. A spontaneous parade of cars with celebrators filling their insides as well as their outsides cruised the streets with horns honking. It was amazing to witness.

            When the next game is played, we’ll be down at Pastor Jose’s house in Cartago, south of San Jose. It is a much bigger city and I look forward to seeing the much bigger celebration when the Ticos teach the Dutch a thing or two about futbol.

            Tomorrow the VBS and the soccer camp begin. A lot of preparation has gone into these events the last few days. Please pray that God uses these times to touch the lives of many kids and youth, but also that the impact would reach to the parents.

            Again, so sorry for the reporter-like recitation of events tonight. I promise to be much perkier mañana. And, as always, thank you so much for your prayers.
The church surprises Nancy with a birthday song
A very odd and creepy pre-game ritual
Everyone "redded" up for the game
Better than stadium seating
Who needs a big screen TV when you've got a white wall?
Dancing in the streets

I'm thinking more than one traffic safety law
was broken in this parade

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Costa Rica Missions Update #3

One of the wonderful ladies who
prepares our meal
            Okay, the current standings in the Costa Rica Juice Off: 5) Papaya (a distant last because of its funky mauve-ish color, nasty porridgey consistency, and aftertaste of sour death – not a fan), 4) Mango, 3) Piña (pineapple), 2) Tamarind, and 1) Starfruit (it was close, but the starfruit edged the tamarind in a five goal shootout).

            A wonderfully long, sweaty, and exhausting day. We started out with a strong devotional led by Zac, then some testimonies. Our devotional time was made extra special by the fact that the ladies who have been cooking all our meals agreed to join us. Such servant hearts – amazing women.

            Quick break – Current standings in the Costa Rica Food Sweepstakes: 2) Gallo Pinto (the beans and rice that’s served as part of every breakfast and many other meals – muy delicioso), and 1) Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice – so good it makes me want to kiss a rooster on the lips, despite the various gender complications and the fact that chickens don’t have lips). Those are the only two in the running, because if you have them then any other food is just there to fill the rest of the plate.
Typical Breakfast - Gallo Pinto, tortilla, avocado,
tamarind juice, and café (ummm...empty cup?
Mas café por favor!) 

            Mike and I spent the day training pastors and church leaders. My topic was the pastor’s heart, and in it I covered what it means to be a true shepherd, a sacrificial giver (i.e., giving all of yourself to your family first and your church second), then I wrapped it up with two sessions on the fruit of the Spirit. So many of the pastors are caught up in issues surrounding church governmental structures and what is the latest fad of leadership and church growth. My goal was to get them to see that it doesn’t matter how your church is structured or what your leadership style is – if you are not sacrificially loving your people, then your church is rushing toward mediocrity. You may have the largest church in the city, but if it is full of spiritually unhealthy people, then you've done a disservice to your congregation and failed your calling. A pastor is first and foremost called to set an example of godliness to their people – loving them with all they’ve got, serving them with all the gifts God has given them.
BAM! - The Bible Answer Man

            Sorry, enough sermonizing. Suffice it to say, it was an awesomely groovy time.

            But then, sandwiched in between my sessions stepped Mike Young (who has now earned the nickname BAM! for Bible-Answer Man). It took him a little bit at first to get into a rhythm with the translator – a difficult feat for anyone let alone someone teaching a seminar for the very first time. Then once he hit his stride, he was off! Great stuff. The people were soaking it in. They were asking questions. They were taking notes. His first session talked about why we can trust that the Bible we have today is the complete and accurate Word of God. His second session focused on why we can believe that Jesus is truly God and why He is the one true way to heaven – all backed with solid evidence, all very logically laid out. Most of the pastors had never heard anything like this before, and Mike seriously learned them a thing or two.

Andres (one of Pastor Jose's sons) reacts to some
World Cup action before the crowd arrives
            One of the best parts of the training came right toward the end of lunch. The rest of the team had come to the church to join us for the meal (this was a different church from Fuente de Vida, where we are based out of). After the plates were cleared, Jose brought up the Brazil vs. Chile World Cup game on his phone. Soon enough people were crowded around that it was switched to a tablet. The timing was perfect – just as the shoot-out was about to begin. We whooped and groaned; cheered and hollered. It’s a memory I won’t soon forget. It also helped to break down any barriers that might have still been lingering between our team and the attending pastors and church leaders. God’s timing is perfect!

Some of the VBS team hard at work
            While the pastor training was going on, the rest of the team was getting everything prepared for Monday’s launch of VBS and the Soccer Camp. They worked very hard for most of the day (and somehow a Zumba workout was included in the preparations – they said it was to teach the kids, but I’m still trying to figure that out).

            Tonight, while I’m typing this, the ladies are still at the church in their first women’s study. Joyce is leading this, and I’m so excited about what she has to say. I’ll write you more about it tomorrow after I can get the skinny from her as to what happened.

            Also, in the sanctuary at the church, Zac is speaking at the youth service. I’m looking forward to hearing how God is using him there. I’ll give you that run-down, too, tomorrow.

            Sunday will be a half-day for us. We’ll have church in the morning, then we’re back at the hotel for the afternoon. It works out perfectly, because we’re all going to crowd into the small restaurant so we can watch Costa Rica annihilate Greece in the World Cup. Then Monday is when VBS and Soccer Camp begin.

            As always, thanks so much for your prayers. You are such a blessing to us all!

            Before I sign off – Current standings in the “Really? I mean, really?” Cup: 5) Roosters who wake up at 4:30am, when you have your alarm set for 5:00am, 4) Humidity – ‘nuff said, 3) Fathers who rub their incredibly nasty, sweaty forehead on their poor 13-year-old daughter’s bare arm and think it’s funny (I personally know nothing about this, but rumors abound), 2) Justin Bieber introducing new dance groups on So You Think You Can Dance? – I mean, what gives? Please, make him go away, and 1) Smush-Frog (seriously, it’s been there three days; all it takes is a shovel, a quick scoop, and a toss over the wall into the neighbor’s yard – easy as pie).
Prepping the VBS materials

Joyce honing her balloon animal skills

Arroz con Pollo - the perfect lunch

The VBS team getting their dance on! 
Joyce leading the women's Bible Study (more tomorrow)

Zac teaching at the youth service (again, more tomorrow)

Karen proudly sporting her Japanese tourist look

Friday, June 27, 2014

Costa Rica Update #2

          Today was a wonderful day of dreams fulfilled, hopes dashed, relationships deepened, and praises sung. Just an FYI before I launch too deeply into this tonight – Sorry, but I don’t plan on launching too deeply into this tonight. It’s past 10:00pm and the all-day pastor-training seminar begins at 8:00am. So, I’m going to do my best to keep this short and sweet (as all the members of my congregation snicker behind their hands at the thought of me keeping anything short and sweet).

Zac working the Ferrari
Dreams Fulfilled:
·      Today was Canopy Zip Line Day. Most of the team spent the morning harnessed to cables ripping at lightning speeds through the jungle treetops. Zac was given the one set of rigging they called the Ferrari (with a name like Diamanti – who else would they give it to?). It turned out to be a very apt name. Overall, it was the adventure that many had been waiting for, and it lived up to expectations.
·      Two words – Más Café (this is a personal dream that I seek to fulfill every time that I am down here, and one that I hope to repeat each morning, afternoon, and most evenings).

We were fine until we saw the coatimundis and kinkajous
going by two-by-two
Hope Dashed:
·      We all hoped that the torrential rains would wash away the pancaked, gut-purged bullfrog that we have to pass every time we walk through the parking lot. Alas…
·      Actually, that’s pretty much it for this category.

Relationships Deepened:
A little pre-breakfast family worship
·      Our team (and by this I mean Americanos y Ticos alike) has blended together like a delicioso plato of beans and rice (which just happens to be one part of what we are served at most every meal – and is so ridiculously good that we couldn’t be happier!). We have truly become family in every sense of the word (well, not in every sense – for instance, “The Family” can refer to the mafia and we’re not like that; “Family” can be used in a taxonomical hierarchy as that classification which lies between order and genus and we’re not like that; “Family” can also be used in an etymological sense to denote the wider relationships of like words and we’re not like that. Instead, I use “family” more in line with the Sister Sledge declaration of having “all my sisters with me” [a phrasing which opens a whole new can of worms that I’m really loathe to delve into at the present time]). That family-making, my friends, is a God-thing.
·      There are many other examples of relationships deepening, but it is now past 10:30pm. So…yeah.

The Youth Pastor/Worship Leader getting his dance on
(so much so, it was impossible to get a non-blurry pic of him)
Praises Sung:
·      We had our first church service tonight. One thing I’ve found as I’ve traveled many places is that you don’t have to understand the language in order to worship. Worship is so much less about the words that come out of our mouths than it is about the focus of our hearts. So, together we praised God as our hearts sang out the adoration that our minds couldn’t verbally comprehend.
·      By the way, the bassist for the worship band makes Geddy Lee look like an amateur.
·      Oh, and the lead guitarist ain’t no slouch either.

Here are a few things to be praying for:
·      Pray for the pastor training that Mike and I will be leading tomorrow 8am-4pm (by the way, we’re mountain time zone down here). Especially be praying for Mike – he’s never done anything like this before. I’ve got so much respect for him stepping up and going way out of his comfort zone in order to fulfill this call that God has given him.
·      Pray for the ladies as they spend most of the day planning and preparing for the VBS.
·      Pray for Zac as he speaks at a youth service tomorrow night. God’s given him such an amazing gift for connecting with kids and speaking on their level. Ask the Lord to use him to share His truth.

That’s it for me tonight. I’ll add some extra pics at the end to make up for my lack of flash and polish tonight. Thanks so much for your prayers!
Prepping and communicating back home
Geared up and ready to go

See Previous Caption
Madeline cruising the treetops

Playing in the Pacific
Alternative Beach Enjoyment