Thursday, July 3, 2014

Costa Rica Missions Update #7


The Vortex: I know that many of you have been greatly anticipating the results of last night’s towel experiment. What I’ve discovered is that the force that I’m dealing with is much more crafty that I first believed. In a sense, when I laid out the trap with the cheese sitting on the trigger, the Vortex ate the cheese, removed the spring and the bar from the trap, and built a perpetual motion engine.

The offending sheet, folded as I found it
We started with three towels. They were still there this morning (along with another three, but that was my own doing – I had gotten extra towels because Nancy’s leg had temporarily swollen up to the size of Luxembourg and we had to keep it elevated [it’s looking much better today]). However, if you remember, I told you yesterday that after tearing apart my bed looking for the sheet, I concluded that the cleaning lady had been taken before she could leave it. Around midnight last night, I decided I had done enough work and it was time to get under the covers. As I shifted my pillow, there was my sheet – sitting on the bed, staring at me with fear in its low thread count eyes. I could only imagine what it had been through the past nine hours.

One more incident that has me especially worried. Madeline woke up this morning very tired. She said she had experienced a very vivid dream. It involved spinning for a time, and then waking up in a small town she had never seen before. After briefly exploring, she was met by a one-legged Admiral of the Spanish Armada named Captain Marco, who immediately introduced her to his pet circus monkey, Pedro. Captain Marco and Pedro then took Madeline on a tour of the town. She doesn’t remember much beyond that except that the hair of everyone she saw was slightly damp and that the place was immaculate. Very curious…

Smush Frog: Still there, although the rain yesterday has given him a much healthier sheen.

Tico Time: I’ll probably get back to you later on that…pura vida.

Madeline telling us about Paul and Silas in jail
We started off the day today with Madeline leading our team devotional. She was a little nervous at first, especially when all the kitchen ladies crowded around, too. But she did a fantastic job. She taught from Acts 16:31, and talked about how simple the Gospel is. It’s not about how good you are or what you do. The verse simply says, “Believe in the name of Jesus and you will be saved.” She talked about how we need to make sure we don’t complicate the truth about salvation by putting in a bunch of rules. She was awesome (and I was misty).

            Joyce had a wonderful time with the ladies yesterday. She was able to share God’s truth with 35 women – encouraging them and loving on them. They loved it so much that when it came time to take a break, they begged her not to stop. So, they quickly grabbed a coffee and a snack, then went right back into the room and started up again. It was so great hearing Joyce talk about it. She said she was over the top with the women. I know how enthusiastic she can be – I’ve seen her near the top. But over? Must have been an amazing time. Sorry, I don't have any pics of that time - maybe later.

            Zac is continuing to build into the youth. Last night when we were coming back from Ortega, Zac was heading out with the INCRESE guys to play pick-up soccer. He looks for every opportunity to get with these kiddos.

The Ortega Evangelical Free Church
            Yesterday in Ortega was a truly special time. Ortega is not too far away, but it took us about 45 minutes to get there because of the rough road. When we finally arrived and stepped out of the van, it was a bit of a shock to find that any place could be hotter and more humid than Santa Cruz (add to that heat and humidity, a complete lack of air movement – gasp!).

            Ortega is a poverty-stricken area. The economy is based on melon and sugar-cane farming. As a result of this seasonal agriculture, many of the people only work four months out of the year. It is also very isolated. Every few years, the rains get so bad that the entire area is isolated by flooding for a month or two at a time. There is also a lot of infighting amongst the churches in the area. Many are very territorial, and truly don’t play well with others.

Enjoying getting to know Pastor Jose Viegas and his wife
            The uncomfortable environment was quickly forgotten though when we met Pastor Jose Viegas and his wife. We sat around his table and talked about his church (the Ortega Evangelical Free Church), his testimony, and his relationship with INCRESE. Those are the times for me that make all the work and sweat of missions worthwhile – to hear a man of God talk with love about his people and his church; to see the fruits of his sacrifice and service; to pray with him and encourage him to keep fighting the good fight. What a blessing! What an honor! (The fact that he served us coffee and the most amazing sweet bread we ever tasted didn’t hurt the experience either!)

Teaching some Ortega pastors and church leaders
            When the time for the training came, my part focused on the heart of the shepherd. My first session was the True Shepherd. The receptiveness of the 15 pastors and church leaders that were there was overwhelming. They seemed hungry for the teaching, and very open, even when I had some harsher words for them (exhorting, not finger-pointing).

            Then, Mike tag-teamed in. I thought his opening was perfect. He compared our training time to a double-feature movie. My two sessions were the movies, while he was the cartoon sandwiched in the middle – hilarious and totally inaccurate. But it won the people over immediately, and they tracked with him through some very difficult material as he explained why we can trust that our Bibles are the true Word of God.

            I mentioned Nancy’s swelling leg earlier. The limb expansion project began during my
Mike talking about why we can trust
our Bibles
first talk, and by the time Mike started it looked like she was walking on a mini-Zeppelin. Since this had never happened to her before, we were naturally concerned. So, while Mike was teaching, Nancy walked around a bit to try to get the circulation going, and drank a very large bottle of water. When the time came for my final session, Jose asked me if we should just skip the last session so that we could get Nancy to a farmacia so someone could look at her.

            Suddenly, I was transported back to the first time I brought a team to Costa Rica. Madeline had just been admitted to the hospital, and it was time for me to get to the airport for a midnight flight. After praying through that situation, I left Madeline in the Lord’s hands and went to where God was calling me. I knew then, as I knew last night, that there is no better place to trust my family than in the hands of God. So, after praying it through I said, “God’s called us here. Let’s finish this last session. God’s got Nancy taken care of.” (BTW, Nancy was in full agreement.) Once I said that, I felt such a peace about the situation, as well as that little rush of having just passed another test.

A few of the children of Ortega
            By the time we left, Nancy’s swelling had started to go down a bit. We debated whether we could get to town faster on the pot-holed roads or if we borrowed a canoe and followed the new river that been carved into the countryside by the sweat that had poured off of Mike, Tim, and me. We opted for the roads. When we finally got back to town, we came across Zac (ex-Air Force medic and occasional superhero) who recommended a little military magic, and, as I mentioned before, she’s doing much better today.

            I’ll fill you in tomorrow on the final VBS and soccer camp day. By the way, I was incorrect with the numbers before (it’s hard to get an accurate count, because the kids keep coming throughout the day). The attendance has steadily increased, and we’re well past 100 now. I’ll give you a final day count when I get it. Also, I’ll give you the low-down on our visit with Pastor Elias.

Things to pray for:
·      Pray that God continues the great work He has begun in the lives of these children and youth. Pray that this was more than just a fun week, but a life-changing week as well.

·      Pray that exact same prayer for each of the team members. God’s doing some interesting things.

·      Tomorrow, we’re going on a river cruise (by “cruise”, I mean small boat that we hope doesn’t tip over into the crocodile-infested waters). Pray for safety.

·      Tomorrow night will be our final church service at Fuente de Vida. I think we all will have a hard time leaving our new family here. Pray that it is a special time of growing closer to God and to each other.

As always, thank you so much for your sacrifice in sending us here, and for your continued prayers.

By the way, I was just going over this blog prior to posting. I'm finding it a little Yohn-centric. My apologies - that was not intended. I'll make up for it tomorrow with all the final day pics.
Madeline enjoying sweet bread in Ortega

Mike preparing to attack a well-deserved
post-teaching banana split

Madeline and Pastor Jose

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