Monday, June 25, 2012

Being the Answer to Someone's Prayer

How many of us shoot up little prayers to Jesus all during the day, especially when we're in crisis? "Oh, Jesus, fix the copy machine!!! Unjam it for me!!! I need that presentation!!!" "Oh, God, why do they have to make fruit displays at the grocery store so much like an open game of Jenga??!!"  "Oh, sweet Lord, why are the lines in the grocery store SOOOOO long? Puh-LEEEEAASE open another register?!?" Do we actually expect God to answer these seemingly selfish requests? Does the Lord God Omnipotent, All Knowing, All Powerful, Alpha and Omega, Lion of Judah really care if you pop gets stuck in the machine and you used up the last of your change and you've been having a cruddy day and all you want is a pick-me-up?

Celena in Mercede's House
The other day Rodney and I decided to go visit Mercedes up in the Mangos. She has been coming to our church for the past few months and we wanted to go up and share a bit with her. She lives in a group of houses that are all tacked on to each other just off the main road in the Mangos that leads to where the landslide happened (that's how we give directions here). To get to her house you have to walk up these narrow, uneven steps that are slippery when wet. Of course it was raining. When we walked into her house, her youngest daughter, Paola, (who is 18) was sitting on a stool next to the TV holding a still-plugged-in-DVD player in her lap, frantically shaking it as if it were a morocco. Her face was one of mild panic. As Mercedes invited us to sit, I asked Paola what she was doing. Her DVD had been sucked into the mysterious unknown in the DVD player, had become wedged in, and she was desperately trying to get it out. I nonchalantly asked for a screwdriver. While Paola's younger niece, Celena, went to go find one, I calmly unplugged the unit and sat down on the couch. Unscrewing the five screws, I took off the top piece and presto, pulled out the offending disc, handing it back to her. Rodney suggested I show her where and how to put the screws back in in case it ever happened again. So I helped her put it back together. All her stress melted away and she completely relaxed. We continued our conversation with Mercedes and the rest of the girls in her house.

Rodney asked Mercedes why she thought we were here, and why she liked coming to our church. "For this," she said, "to do God's work and answer prayers. When you walked in just at that moment, that was God. You answered Paola's prayer. She was just saying "Oh, God, help me get my DVD out!!!" And in you walked.

What a humbling moment. How many times in life do we notice someone in need, but walk by? How often do we see someone with frustration, panic, or distress on their face and just let them figure it out so as not to get involved? Some times when we notice what's going on, in reality it is the Holy Spirit causing us to notice so God can use US to be the answer to their cry for help. He uses US to show HIS love to a frustrated, distressed, upset world. He uses US to tell the world that YES, the Lord God Omnipotent, All Knowing, All Powerful, Alpha and Omega, Lion of Judah really cares about each and every moment of our lives.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Got sugar?

For all my sugar conscious friends out there...
a helpful guide to sugar consumption.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Unexpected blessings

God moves in mysterious ways. But sometimes they seem exceptionally ordinary when we stop to pay attention. Our two new interns are here and I have been introducing them to the community. Yesterday we went out to go visiting, my usual peeps: Seidy, Don Luis, Verania, maybe Carmen, go up to the high place where you can see the whole community. As we were walking down the street Don Juan snagged my attention...yes, I caught the irony, and yes, he is called Don Juan. That's actually quite common here. He is an elderly man with diabetes that has taken part of his foot so he can't walk well. He sits in front of his house all day, every day, and in the afternoons he switches to the other side of the street to catch the best sunlight. He lives around the big bend on the main road past the third pulperia in front of the blue gate (yes, that's how we give directions here). We always wave at each other when I pass and he always calls me "little one". Today as we passed he waved me over frantically: the reading glasses I had given him a few months ago were no longer working well, did I have time to trade them for a stronger pair? In a split second conversation I asked the Lord whether I should turn around and walk all the way back to the house to drag the glasses kit down now or tell him I would come back after lunch...Census (AKA Holy Spirit) says: go back to the house now and get the glasses. It also just so happened that the egg man, also selling fruits and veggies from his truck, had stopped to sell Don Juan his daily eggs and overheard our conversation. He wanted to know if he could get a pair of reading glasses....Holy Spirit?? SURE!!!!


So the girls and I trudged all the way back up to the house, filled a bag with an assortment of prescriptions of reading glasses, and headed back out. Meanwhile Seidy is frantically texting me, wondering where we were since I told her we would be up to visit a half hour ago. I gave Don Juan his glasses and then fit the egg man for some, too. Yes, this is the same egg man we hear in our house every morning. He was really thankful and asked how much they were. I said that since they were a gift to me, they were a gift to him, which in effect is a practical way of showing the love of Jesus. He was a bit stunned. He asked if I was sure?? There was nothing I wanted in return?? Well, I paused, I told him we were headed out to visit people in the community, some of which had very little food, and if he wanted to donate some fresh produce, I would in turn gift it to some one in need. Again, he seemed a bit stunned by that. He was on the beginning of his morning run. He asked where we were going and if he could give us some later...obviously he wanted to try and sell the best that he had first. I told him where we were going but not to worry about it. If we saw him again he could donate with no obligation. I could see he was torn. He wanted to donate something, but I could tell he also wanted to make a profit.


Up to Seidy's we went, girls in tow. We spent the majority of the morning there, laughing and talking about whatevers. A good while into our conversation Jason came to the door. Jason is one of my favorite people in the community. Most people who come to work here know Jason. He is exactly my age, but looks much older from the life he's had. He also struggles with an addiction to drugs. You can tell how he's doing by how skinny he is...the skinnier the more he is depending on drugs because he uses his money to buy that instead of food. Today he looked pretty good, but hungry. I think Jason is one of Seidy's favorites, too, because she invited him right in for coffee and breakfast. Not even 5 minutes later another guy named Chino came to the door, also a struggling addict (not the Chino that normally comes to our church, another one). Seidy called him in for coffee and breakfast, too. Jason used Seidy's shower and she gave Chino a clean shirt. I turned to the girls. THIS is what the Kingdom of God looks like. It's what the church used to look like before it fell asleep. It looks like being known as the house to go to when you're hungry. That you will be welcomed in and not shunned. That you will be offered a place at the table and clean clothes to wear. That you will be give a warm embrace and called "son", which Seidy literally called both of these boys before they left to go about their day. It looks like a woman giving generously out of her poverty. It looks like a woman giving food to the hungry because there was a need, even though she and her family occasionally go hungry as well. It looks like giving freely knowing that the recipient at this point in time has no hope of being able to return the favor. Goosebumps.


View from the high place
After the guys left, I invited Seidy to walk up with us to the high place. I wanted to show the girls the community from a totally different angle, and most teams never make it up there. The four of us walked deep into the area of the community known as the Mangoes. It's a series of alleyways off the main road in the Mangoes, and there are many people from both sides of the community who have never been up there. When we arrived, who was there but the egg man, selling his wears up there. I quietly heard the Holy Spirit whisper, "Don't ask about the produce. Just say hi." Ok. As we walked by, I said "HEY!!" and kept walking. I could see on his face he didn't know what to do...I could see he was still torn about giving away produce that could earn him money...But I walked no more than 5 steps when he called out to me. I turned around to see him filling a bag with papayas and mangoes. Full. Catching up with the ladies, I handed the bag to Seidy. She was surprised, yet I could see gratitude in her eyes. I explained that I KNEW the Lord was pleased with her for showing His Kingdom to Jason and Chino. This act of generosity had not gone unnoticed by the Father. She was a faithful steward of what He had given her. He wanted to return the favor in a way the guys couldn't. A blessing for a blessing. Goosebumps.


When we are diligent to pay attention, there is SO much the Holy Spirit wants to do and so many he wants to bless, often in simple, ordinary ways!! The egg man got a pair of glasses, Jason and Chino got breakfast, Seidy got fresh fruit, and I got to witness the Holy Spirit lavishing His love on His people.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Transition

Our lives are marked by moments of transition...graduating from high school, completing a university degree, starting a new job, getting married, having children, winning the lottery, leaving Egypt, entering the Promised Land. Today is one of those moments: our two new interns, Jessie Morgan and Shannon DeCourcey have packed their bags, said their goodbyes, and are moving to Costa Rica for the year. I can feel the weight of this transition. The girls have been anticipating this for months. I have seen their facebook posts counting the days, and then the hours, for their arrival. Answered countless e-mails about what to pack, how to prepare, and what to do in case of x, y o z. Talked to their parents about what it will be like. This morning there were pictures of Jessie at the airport. I remember that moment. My mom has a picture like that, too :) 


I am excited to see what this transition brings. Jessie and Shannon bring unique, God-tailored gifts to the community that could never be replicated by anyone else. I am expectantly curious to see how God will weave their individual chapters into the story that is already being written over this community of people. I am hopeful to see them grown, mature, learn, experience, and feel the heart beat of the Lord Almighty during their stay. 


They are not the only ones in transition. The church is also in a moment of transition, going from a teen centered mission to a family focused church. New English classes started last week to transition people into thinking and speaking in two languages. This hopes to move people from poorly paying jobs into better positions and more open doors. We are also transitioning our Bible studies to take people deeper into the Word. I am excited to see what this church transition brings. I am waiting in breathless anticipation for God to release His presence and power here in the church body.




Of course like with many transitions, as something transitions in, another must transition out. And that which is transitioning out is me. Today personally marks the moment of the beginning of my transitioning out and passing off the baton to the next runners here in Los Anonos. It is my time of transition to run alongside these girls for a while. To teach and mentor them in what I have learned from my time here. To prepare them for living and working in another culture and language. To hopefully model a laid-down life to the Lord. 


I am excited to see what my personal transition brings. I am fervently seeking Him in how my transition will unfold. And I am ardently waiting to see how God will write the next chapter of my story.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Princess Club: Fruit of the Spirit

Another round of Princess Club is beginning! After our royal outing to the Parque de Diversiones, what else is in store for the Princesses? This round I decided to teach the girls about growing royal fruit. Not pineapples, mangoes, and bananas, of course, but the fruit of the Spirit. Each week during the next 8 weeks we are going to be talking about the different fruits of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5. This week's fruit: L♥VE!!!!


The girls were a little late coming today...Nahomy was the only one to arrive on time, even a bit early. And I had three teenagers from the Naples team and another woman from another community helping. Blink, blink, blank stares at each other... Fortunately I always have princess coloring books with me while we wait for everyone to come. They're a great ice breaker and de-stressor. As the girls trickled in they each picked a coloring page with their favorite princess... Eric sweeping Ariel off her fins, the Beast swirling Belle around the dance floor, Charming and Cindy at their wedding, Prince smooching Sleeping Beauty awake...etc., etc., etc. Hearts and flowers and bunnies and birdies every where.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
 
When it came time for the lesson about love, their pictures caught my eye. What is love? What does it look like? Is it only this (Indicating the picture of the swirling and twirling Disney couples)? Is it this (indicating Ariel wrapped up in Eric's arms)? Or is it this (indicating the tea pots and cups and candles serving Belle at the table)? Or this (indicating Belle teaching the Beast how to read and drink from a cup)? Or this (indicating Snow White cleaning the dwarves house)?

What is love? Is it just the mushy, romantic stuff? That's a part of it. But it's so much more. It's serving each other, helping each other out, sharing, and caring for each other. Love is also a person. 1 John says that God is love. If we want to love God, we need to love each other, because God is love. That's how we know that we know God...if we love, too, just like He loved us. When we're in Love, or in God, there is no fear, because He gets rid of all fear. Fear and love cannot be in the same place at the same time.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

We can grow this fruit in our lives by loving each other. 
The Holy Spirit can show us how to love each other 
and love God better.

 
As a reminder for the week, we made Love trees.









♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

At this point I was really feeling like it was time to see if any of the girls were ready to ask Jesus to come live in their hearts. I explained that we have been talking a lot about being Princesses in God's Kingdom. That it is a free gift to become a princess, but we have to ask Jesus to come be our King and to come live in our hearts and teach and guide us. He Himself wanted to teach each girl how to be a princess. One brave girl raised her hand that she wanted to ask Jesus to be her King!!!!!!!!!!! We prayed together and we all CELEBRATED!!!! Later in the evening another girl from the club came to me and asked if she, too could ask Jesus to come into her heart. What an AMAZING day in the Kingdom of God! The angels were having a major party!!!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Friday, June 1, 2012

SK8 goes WILD

In honor of the skate team here, I decided to make a little video of how they get around the community. Please watch it to the very end...The last 15 seconds are the best. SO worth it!!! :) Enjoy!!

video

Sk8


Teenage boys. Skateboarding, teenage boys. These are words that for many drive images of stale pizza and skanky socks into their minds. And we had a whole team of them coming. I'll be honest, I was not really looking forward to this team. I'm into community activities like painting happy little murals on the sides of peoples houses, playing the pied piper and handing out trinkets to the myriad of sticky-fingered children roaming the streets, teaching step aerobics to Lycra-clad women, and visiting the locals in their homes over a cup of coffee and some warm, fresh tortillas. What on earth was I going to do with a bunch of sk8er dudes? 

They were coming to share the gospel of Jesus by reaching out to a lost, forgotten group: the skaters. The skate culture in Costa Rica is as thriving and active as it is in the states. And it is as rejected by the church here as it is at home. When is the last time you saw a hard-core skater (piercings, tattoos, and all) sitting next to a blue-hair in a church pew? They are considered punks, ruffians, hooligans, or whatever nomenclature you like to use. Typically into drugs, alcohol, and partying, most straight-laced Christians stay as far away as possible...and hide their children when they see them coming. 


In fact, this is the testimony of many of the guys on the team. Into skating, from broken families, heavy into drugs and alcohol, they had radical encounters with Jesus that totally rocked their worlds. Several of them grew up in Christian homes, but got into the skate culture in their late childhood years or early teens and rejected their first love. Their testimonies of how God completely changed their lives motivates them to share with people going through the same experiences. They have a heart to see others living in darkness experience the freedom, light and love of Jesus.


These guys are radical in their faith and bold as lions (Proverbs 28:1). And they have been more than willing to do anything we've thrown at them. The project for this team? Hauling rocks. As you know, we are in the rainy season here in Costa Rica. It rains just about every day. Some times it's a really driving, heavy rain, and other times it's just sprinkles (they call it "pelo de gato", or cat hair here for that kind of rain). Much of the community on the San Jose side is still build along the river bank, and homes are in constant threat of landslides and high waters entering the homes. The government has provided rocks to build retention walls. The only kicker is they have delivered the rocks at the street level, and the people have to hand carry them THROUGH their houses and out the back to build the walls. There is no way to get the rocks to the backs of the houses where the river is except through the houses.So these guys stepped up. 

Wheelbarrows in hand, they started hauling rocks. The little boys of the community had seen them skating in the Planche (the basketball-sized courtyard down by the river) earlier in the day. They started following the team around like excited little puppies. They also wanted to join in the work. Little boys alongside emerging men, alongside adults. It was so neat to see the guys on the team take the little guys under their wing and really mentor them. They were teaching them the value of work and helping others. What a blessing to the community!







This team hasn't been all work and no play. They work hard and play harder. Work days are ended with free skate time. Kicks, flips, and tricks are thrown down in the streets. Ramps and rails are part of the vocab.Everything is fair game to skate on or off of...But the cool part is the end. After the guys free skate, they do a demonstration of their best tricks and flips.  While they're skating they frequently stop to talk to any of the kids that are watching. They find out who they are, what their name is, and if they know Jesus. 

 









They are constantly presenting the good news of Jesus and showing an example of His power through their own lives. At the end of each demo they present their gospel, using their own testimonies as a platform to share the love of Jesus. They ask if anyone wants to receive Jesus in their hearts and they pray with anyone who is willing. What a cool way to share the gospel in a manner that these kids can relate to!!

My opinion is changed. 
I ♥ sk8!!!! 
These guys are AWESOME!! Bring it on! More, Lord, more!!!
 










Boy inspires Kids-Kids inspire us all

Wow. Rodney shared this video with me this morning and I'll admit, I cried through the end! Grab your kleenex for this one!! What a great  visual reminder about what the body of Christ should actually look like!!