Friday, August 31, 2012

The Chicken Group

By the title, you may assume this blog is about the frequent visitation of chicken that manage to fly the next door neighbor's coop and situate themselves in the oven in the back yard. You have assumed wrong. I am talking about my chicken group, or as it in reality is, my weekly women's group.

You see, I started this group over a year ago after the Lord prompted me to reach out to the women that would ALWAYS (I reiterate, ALWAYS) gather in the store to hang out. They were always in a group and they were always chattering. Of course that's how it got the name. Since it was not a structured Bible study, with no organized agenda, Rodney named it the chicken group because all we do is cluck, cluck, cluck. I specifically heard the Lord tell me to start the group but not to make it a structured Bible study. I was only supposed to facilitate the group and live life alongside these women, as each week they shared their struggles, hardships, joys, and sorrows, and listen carefully to what was and was not being said in order to strategically teach them about how God meets them in the every day. 

I bought each of the women a little chicken figurine on our last day

Over the past year, I have gained their trust (maybe a little too much...the questions they ask could make even a trucker blush, but they know I will always answer them from a Biblical perspective or find the answer. That I will never condemn or judge them for their curiosity or lack of knowledge. That God really does have the best answers to ALL of our questions, regardless of how odd, weird, or inappropriate they are!!!). (As a side note,only one of the 8 women actually attends church, while the others have history in the Catholic and Pentecostal church but have not been attending for years). We have celebrated birthdays and Christmas, saw marriages fail, marriages renewed, hospitalizations, family members die, and new babies born. I have learned what it means to live in an impoverished community through their eyes and conversation. We have laughed, cried, and prayed together. The Lord has opened doors into their lives, too, to speak truth and life into their hearts. I feel like I have learned so much from them and hope I have done well to plant seeds into their lives, too.

What I have taken away from hosting the chicken group is this: Some times we don't need to have an agenda with people. We don't need to force feed them "spirituality" or "religion". Or march in trying to change people. We can NEVER change people. It is only the Holy Spirit who can bring change. Investing in their lives by just being a presence in their lives was so much more valuable and meaningful, both to them and to me. The language of love and friendship speaks in words that are so much bolder and powerful. And when the Holy Spirit is invited each week, even when to the outside it looks like "nothing was accomplished", He is at work, moving and speaking into their lives, sowing seeds that will grow at the right time.

My encouragement to you is this: Find the broken, the lost, those rejected by the church, whatever group of people God places next to you in your own neighborhood, and get to know them. Start a friendship. Start a chicken group: a place where people can be themselves without fear of judgment or condemnation by the body of Christ. Live alongside them through birthdays, Christmases, births, deaths, marriages, loss, gain, joys and sorrows. Speak the language of love and friendship. Be the Jesus this word needs. Invite the Holy Spirit to go with you and ask Him to do the talking. It will change you (and maybe them, too ;) 

(As a side note, just over a month ago two of the women started to come to church out of curiosity...and have been encouraged in their faith in the Lord.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Life, Ohio...A Team of Refreshment!!

I have so much I want to record from my last team!! I will write a much longer blog soon, but for those of you who are not from the New Life church, here is a link to their blog. Their pastor wrote a blog every day chronicling their trip here. It´s a great recap of their trip!! Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guest Blogger #2: Ema!!!!

If you didn't read the blog right before this one, make sure to read them both!! I asked two teens from the Manchester, New Hampshire team to write as guest bloggers for me. Here are Ema's thoughts on missions, life, and stuff ;)
Hey everyone!! I am not much of a blogger but I suppose I should introduce myself. smileMy name is Ema, I am from New Boston New Hampshire, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, I LOVE cats, and I am one week into my first semester in college at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I am studying Urban Ministries and I am loving it so far!

I met Julie on my mission trip to Costa Rica a little over a month ago and I love her dearly. Two of the team members and I got the opportunity to stay a couple extra days after the rest of our team left and Miss Julie asked me if I would write a little something for her blog, so here we go!

As I look back on the trip I start to notice what God did more and more. The memories start to change from, 'oh look what we did!' to 'oh look what God did!' It's so easy to overlook what God did, and give yourself all the credit. In the extra days I got to spend in Costa Rica I was able to look back and see where God was even in the tiniest of scenarios. I look back and see that God was there molding me and shaping who I am right now when I was playing cards with the Ticos, finding the perfect pair of glasses for people during the eye clinic, and even when I was washing dishes. I have started to look at serving others a little different now. When I serve those around me, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or even a total stranger, I am serving Christ. Though I have known this fact since my Sunday school years,God has made my heart heavier and more ready to serve than ever. since coming home from this trip.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

I personally tend to really harp on the fact that if you serve people but don’t share the Gospel with them then it’s ‘ a waste of time’ because food will run out, houses will fall, and people will get sick again. So, I have sometimes found myself Bible-thumping’ more than actually genuinely caring for the souls of those around me. Though I still believe that everyone needs the truth of the Gospel in order to be saved, I hold serving others and spending time with them at a higher level. I believe that God has called me to a long life of community with the lost and unwanted people. One of my deepest desires is to be able to ‘be Jesus’ to as many people as I can. I long to be used, filled up, poured out, and shared with those around me. I hope to love in the same way Paul and not only share Gospel but share my life also.

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:8

Staying the few extra days was much needed. I was not mentally or spiritually ready to leave Costa Rica. I love looking back on the memories and thinking about the people I got to meet, and I hope i will be able to go back soon!!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)¸.•´ ¸.•´.-✿¸.•´ ¸.•´.-✿
(¸.•´ (¸.•`¸.•´ ¸.•´.-✿¸.•´ ¸.•´.-✿¸.•´ ¸.•´.-✿

Guest Blogger: Emily!!!!

I LOVE seeing teenagers impacted by God in such a powerful way that they dedicate their lives to His work from such an early age. I love seeing God at work in raising up the generation that is following on my generation's heels with a heart for the things of the Kingdom!!I also LOVE seeing teens come down on missions trips with full authority and power in Christ Jesus, recognizing that they have been sent by God to use their gifts and talents to bring Christ to the nations. With that said, I had the pleasure of hosting the youth group team from New Hampshire at the end of July. That team was chuck full of gifted teens with bold hearts for Christ. I asked two of them, who are also talented writers, to be guest writers for my blog. Here is a blog written by Emily!!!

Hello Julie’s blog! My name is Emily. I am 18 years old, I live in Chicago, IL for college, but my hometown is in New Hampshire. I also have a blog, which I will link at the end. I like chocolate and Pinterest and sunflowers. Back at the end of July and beginning of August, I was part of a team working with Harvest Hands. It was my second trip to Los Anonos, and I had the most amazing two weeks. Julie asked me to write a blog post about my experience in Costa Rica, and I hope you enjoy it.

During my two weeks in Costa Rica, I learned so much about God’s perfect plan and timing. It’s almost ironic, because on the first night we got there, there was youth group. Each member of our team had prepared a testimony to give at some point during the trip. I was picked to share mine that first night. It was about exactly what this post was about- God’s perfect plan and timing. Little did I know how much God had to teach me in this area. I am sure, also, that He has much much more to teach me on this subject in the future!

The testimony I shared was about waiting on the Lord during my first few years of high school regarding what I wanted to do with my life job wise. Long story short, I made up my own plans, none were right, I gave up the decision to God, and a few months later he answered me clearly and in a single moment during a worship service. {As a side note, in case you were wondering, he told me to go to a Christian school and study Counseling. Spoiler Alert: I am currently in my dorm room at Moody Bible Institute, as a Pre-Counseling major. Yeah God!} Anyways, the point of the testimony I shared with the teens at youth group was this: his timing is perfect, and we need to wait on him for answers, truly trusting that he has our best in mind, and that he will take care of us during the waiting seasons and when we do what looks like “the fun stuff”.

The reason I told you that whole thing is because this was my basic understanding of God’s timing and plan. What God taught me on this trip is another aspect of this, an attribute of the Lord, and how it is working in my life right now. First, a teeny bit of back story. I was in Costa Rica for two weeks, flew straight to Pennsylvania for a leadership conference for a week, was home for 6 days, then left for college, a 16 hour drive from my house. I had to really trust in God during this crazy month and a half.

Another challenge, and blessing, was that three of us stayed an extra five days after the rest of our team left. Ema (who is also writing a guest post), Joseph, and I stayed with Les and Diana for those 5 days, painting and doing some other little projects in their new house. However, we all quickly realized that that was not the only reason the Lord has us there for the extra days. We were all going through different things spiritually, things were going on at home, and basically: God is good, because going home would have been very stressful. Especially given that we would have only had a few days before going to PA, it would not have been the best situation for any of us. I was so blessed by this time, and God helped me process the things I had learned that I am about to share with you. 

What I began to see happening was amazing. I didn’t feel freaked out by any of these plans. The challenging parts of the trip, moving so far away from home for the first time, moving into a new season of life. Sure, there were unknowns, and moments of weakness, but overall, I had no worrying thoughts or anxiety about the whole process. I felt God’s hand guiding me through each country, airplane, church, prayer, day, conversation, and moment of the whole journey. 

 Now that I’m writing this out, I’m thinking maybe some of you reading will say, “um, duh Emily, of course God is with you and has a plan, yada yada, we know.” However, what I learned this summer went so much deeper than that. It’s not just about putting your joy face on and dragging your feet through the things that God calls you to. It’s asking to be filled with obedience, peace, and joy, and jumping with both feet into the adventure you are going on with him. It’s being in tune with him about the big things and little things, letting him guide each conversation, prayer, and step you take, and seeing where it leads you.

If you have walked in this kind of faith before, you know. God exceeds expectations. It’s not conditional, either. He exceeds expectations when things look rough, of course! Can you believe he also exceeds expectations when you have really really high ones?! He knows, he plans, he speaks, he guides, and he gives life.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Passing the mantle


I love walking around Los Anonos. These days there are always men hauling rocks to the river, women hanging laundry in the morning sun, and dog poop all over the alleys to avoid. Of course my favorite part of walking around Los Anonos are the children. I have become a bit like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. All I have to do is head down any one of the paths to toward the river and a multitude of children come flocking me, yelling my name. And asking what I have in my bag. See, I almost always have my bag with me. Teams call it my Mary Poppins bag. It's one of those bottomless pit type bags where things go in and suddenly disappear. Inside are all the essentials a girl could need: hand sanitizer, band aids, keys, umbrella, chap stick, sharpies, pens, toilet paper, toilet seat covers, sunscreen, camera with fully charged batteries, etc., etc. Evey item has come in handy over the past two years for episodes of team member work accidents, unexpected rain storms, and sketchy city bathrooms. 

The best essentials, though, are the tricket things I carry: silly band bracelets, rings, dinosaur figurines, marbles, stickers, glow sticks, bubbles, etc., etc. The kids always ask if I have something for them. And I almost always do. They get so much joy out of such little things. (Note the bag in each of these pictures. In fact, when I look back at most of my pictures, any time you see that characteristic yellow strap, that's the bag!!)

  ✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼

And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “ Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “ As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel... Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “ As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho...Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on...

Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “ My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. 
(portions of 2 Kings 2)

 ✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼

This is a famous Biblical account of a teacher leaving his protégé not only with the knowledge and information learned over one lifetime, but with an increased measure of blessing, power, and authority. A double portion of it, to be exact. Elijah left Elisha what I talked about in a previous post: an inheritance that furthered the kingdom instead of ending in selfish retirement. 

Elijah left a mantle. In and of itself, it was just a cloak, but it essentially was the trademark of his ministry. In I Kings 19:13 Elijah is in a cave running scared from Jezebel, but he still had his mantle and wrapped his face in it as he went out to see if God was in the wind, the earthquake, the fire, or the still small voice. In I Kings 19:19, he cast his mantle on Elisha symbolizing God’s call on Elisha’s life to begin a spirit-filled ministry. Later on he used his mantle to part the waters to walk on dry ground. Ultimately it was the "inheritance" that was left to Elisha. The mantle, in effect, was a symbol of the anointing Spirit of God on Elijah's life which was passed on to Elisha to continue working for the Lord.
 ✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼⋰⋰✼ ⋰⋰✼ 

I am also preparing to leave. There are two new missionary girls here to walk in ministry here in the community. 
The other day I was walking with Jessie in the community, passing out trinkets to the kids as Pied Piperish as usual 
when she turned to me and very seriously said, 
"I want your bag. When you go, I want your bag." 
"Fully loaded, I assume," I asked  her just as serious.
 "If you are up at 4:30am to see me leave for the airport, you may have my bag. Fully loaded."

This was my Elijah moment.

This is the next season of missions in Anonos.
Expect a double portion.
Join with me in prayer for the harvest.
Jessie and me visiting the volcano, Irazú

Friday, August 24, 2012

Prayer Cover Needed!!!

This post is a copy from the New Life blog (the team that is currently here) because 26 men -- Ticos and Gringos -- will be heading out for a weekend Men's Encounter (Friday at 6pm - Sunday at 10am). The Encounter program is one that is offered regularly at the New Life church. It is a weekend to let God speak to you, identify strongholds that the enemy may have taken in your life and then inviting the Holy Spirit do a healing, delivering and freeing ministry in your life.

In addition to our team and men from the Vina Anonos, we know that we have at least 3 men who have not yet know Jesus! We are excited and expectant for God's work!

1 John 4:4 tells us, "the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world."

Please pray...
* against opposition in getting to the Encounter Weekend (sickness, work, traffic...).
* against opposition during the weekend.
* for the Holy Spirit to work in lives.
* that the Holy Spirit will expose lies that Satan has convinced us to believe.
* for each person to see the truth.
* for vulnerability and sensitivity.
* for healing.
* for each person to claim the freedom that Jesus' shed blood provides.
* for those that need to forgive.
* for the small group leaders - Josh, Steve, Paul and Mike
* for the teaching sessions led by Pastor Brian

While we are away, the ladies (including the one woman from the New Life team) will be ministering in the community and lifting this entire Encounter in prayer. Please join us! Prayer is a vital factor in what God will do this weekend. You can touch Costa Rica from your living room!!!!

Needless to say, there is intense ministry going on here and we are desparate for prayer cover!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Missions within a mission

One of my favorite parts of my work here is mobilizing people to do missions work. I love seeing them activate their own gifts and talents and fulfill the great commission. Missionaries from the United States are not the only type that I'm talking about, either. We also also training and equipping Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans in becoming missionaries as well. Every year we go to Tipitapa, Nicaragua to work in an impoverished community. We take several gringos from the states and several Ticos from here. This has been the school of missions training. Teams also come from the states and work here in the community. They construct things, teach skills, play with children, and share their gifts and talents with a poor community. They teach how to do missions by working alongside the natives here. You have no idea the impact that has made over the years. The Ticos here are starting to mobilize themselves, now. They have seen missions modeled for 6 years. And now it's their turn.

Elidey (Eli), a local woman who works for us here at the house and is a part of our worship team at the Vineyard, came to us a few weeks ago with a mission in mind. She and several of her friends from a women's Bible study had gone out to the coastal province of Limon to do some visiting. She and her friends saw a hunger and need for a touch from the Lord. The virtually unreached village of Baltimore, Limon, Costa Rica had never had missionaries minister in the community. Eli come home and proposed a mini missions trip. So we got a group of 9 Ticos, 2 Gringas, and a Nica, packed a 15 passenger van with food, a guitar, games, and faith, and hit the road.

It was a very quick trip. We left Friday night and drove 2 and a half hours into the mountains, ministered all day Saturday, and drove back Sunday in time for the 10 o'clock church service. Here's the summary:

Limon is a province that butts up against the Caribbean. Where we were was at the edge of the province inland, about and hour from the beach. It is very desolate and we had to drive about 3 miles down a dirt road to get into the community. It is surrounded by banana plantations and avocados literally the size of small pumpkins.

 There were not enough beds in the house, so the youth nominated to sleep in the van. At least there weren't as many mosquitoes in the van as in the house!!!!

 Eli models a "small" avocado...imagine!!!

 Our first order of business was going out and inviting the kids out for an activity in the plaza. The activity included face painting, a piñata, water balloons, and making bracelets. We also invited the women out for a Bible study in the afternoon and any one who wanted prayer could come to the house after lunch.

There was some interesting fruit along the was!! These long bean-shaped pods were hanging from the trees. Kevin climbed the tree to pick some for us. Inside were these fuzzy pods that covered a huge, jelly-bean sized seed. They were sweet and a texture that has no description.

At the start of the kids activity there kids. Yup. None. So we painted each others faces in preparation of kids coming. The dudes had a blast. An hour af

 The kids kept coming, and coming, and coming, and coming 
until we had almost 50 kids filling the plaza!!!
 We started with a water balloon toss...which quickly became a "chase the adults around and get the soaking wet" festival...which felt AMAZING in the 100 degree heat!!!

David taught the kids the gospel story through colored beads. Each child made several bracelets or necklaces to keep and to give away. Each child knew the meaning of each colored bead. What a neat way to share truth!!!

Of course the highlight of the trip was the piñata. We were told later that the community is so poor no one had ever been able to afford one before. Each child was given a turn to whack the box of confectioners delight!!!

 This little kid couldn't wait to start grabbing candy :)

Of course the best way to make sure no one was injured (except the piñata) is to just have an adult start throwing the candy in all directions. Nanis volunteered :)
It was like a spring rain of sweets!!!

In the afternoon we split into two groups: the youth went with the youth of the community to swim in a nearby river and build friendships. The women stayed to pray for people in the community.
The last time Eli and her friends had been here, they prayed for an elderly woman who had leg problems, heart palpitations, and difficulty with balance and walking. She was bed ridden and the doctors told her there was nothing they could do. The women prayed for her. She actually WALKED to where we were staying and showed us how God had healed her!! She had gained weight and he normal coloring had returned. Praise the LORD!!!! WOO HOO!!! 

It was amazing to see the team rally bond and work well together. Even though it was a fast trip, everyone said they would love to do it again. We all agreed that we want to go back and continue working in this community. This is what it's all about. Mobilizing people into spreading the gospel, encouraging the body of Christ, and sharing with the poor.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Missions Through The Eyes of a Teen

I wanted to share this video with you all from one of our recent teams. One of the teens on the Manchester, New Hampshire team created a video from the experience that she had while she was here. It is a beautiful and well-done tribute to what we do here in Costa Rica!!!

Youth Camp

There are so many updates for the actual missions work that goes on here in Costa Rica!! I will give a brief summary!!
Manchester, New Hampshire: Les and Diana's home church came in July with a youth group team. We did another eye glass clinic...And had too much fun :)

We prayed for every person who came through the clinic. We saw many people touched by God and a several people healed of pain. 
  The teenage girls and their women leaders wanted to reach out to a highly unreached population here in Anonos: the teenage girls. So they hosted two Saturdays of Teenage Princess Club. The first weekend they had an ice breaker weekend with an ice cream social. The girls painted fingernails and braided hair. Friendships were formed. The second weekend, the girls and women gave talks about purity, Godly relationships, and life as God's princess.

 One of the teens, Joseph, is a gifted artist. He and I worked on a new mural down in front of the casita. It is the hands of the harvest.

We had lots of fun playing with the kids, both up in the Mangos and down in the Tajo. Lindsay, the new intern that will be joining our team in October, had no problems connecting with the kids!!!

My Thursday afternoon women's group turned into a surprise birthday party for Adriana. She was so surprised!! Adriana turned 27 :)
The teens from New Hampshire also hauled lots and lots of....ROCKS!!!!!

Shannon's home church, Summit, came from Virginia. Their first weekend was spent in the jungle of Talamanca, offering the people an eye clinic. Jessie and I did not join this part of the trip due to space and timing, but Shannon and David went :) Back in Anonos, we visited homes, played with kids, and...HAULED ROCKS!!!

 The second weekend was packed full of fun as the Summit team hosted a youth retreat at a camp in Heredia. With very little sleep but lots of memories, the team shared about being a disciple of Jesus with almost 30 youth from Anonos.
 We had a some fun and games mixed in with the teachings :)

AND we hauled rocks....the piles keep coming and coming and coming....
 Although I am sad to say that there was such a NASTY rain storm last Thursday that most of rocks we hauled with this team were wash away by the river. The river was raging. It came to within 2 meters of the pedestrian bridge and did damage to several homes. There was also a landslide in the Mangos in front of Milena's house (she lives directly in front of Rosa). It showed, actually, the importance of our project and these rocks are definitely saving homes.

The Ohio team is here and we're....hauling rocks :) More pictures and updates on their team to follow!!!