Monday, August 9, 2010
Below is my Sunday afternoon family. For the past two months this is the group of people I've driven around Los Guido to pick up for Sunday service.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Earlier in the week, I picked up a Pinata. The kids did really well destroying Elmo.
It was during his freshman year at Cal State San Bernardino that Conway started attending CBC. We were in the middle of launching our fall season of Community Groups and I asked Conway to join the one at my house. I can remember this kid knocking on my front door to attend group for the first time, but I would have never known that God had such great plans for his life.
If you would have asked me four years ago, I would have in no way thought that I’d be visiting Conway while he was serving as a missionary in a foreign country. Yet, here I am in Costa Rica witnessing first hand what God can do through someone who answers His call to GO. Just weeks before leaving for Costa Rica Conway shared his testimony with our church family and I was reminded of the beautiful and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Our God is greater than any circumstance, condition, or situation; and He is greater than any sin, struggle, or burden. He lifts up those who have been defeated. He protects those who are weak, weary, and frail. He gives refuge to the hurting and kindness to the broken. He makes all things new…perfect in His sight. He redeems our lost and dying souls; and he redeems them for a purpose… that what started in Christ would continue in us. Wow! That overwhelms me every single time. To think, that what started in Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God, continues in YOU and me…and Conway. Christ is now making His appeal to the world through US! (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
I flew into San Jose International Airport at 12 noon on Wednesday. By 2 P.M. we were in the car getting some shopping done for gift bags that Conway is putting together for the Student Leadership Team. This team is a group of young people that, in essence, are running (with the oversight of the Pastors and missionaries) the churches and discipleship groups in Los Guido, Tejarcillos, and La Carpio. I’ve been witnessing first hand the special place these kids have in Conway’s heart and this morning (Sunday) he is throwing them a party to thank them for their willingness to serve the Kingdom of Christ. So far, the party plans include a giant Elmo piñata, gift bags full of candy and toys, lunch, and some fun games. You’re gonna want to check out the blog on Sunday night…I am sure Conway will post some pictures.
Santiago, a pastor from an indigenous region of Nicaragua, has been staying here at the Mission House. Last night, Conway and I had the opportunity to speak with him about his community and church. God is moving in incredible ways in some of the most remote places in South America. Conway and I anticipate visiting Santiago later this year, with a hope that a partnership can be formed with his people. I am told that a plane, boat, horse, and kayak are needed to travel throughout the region. This will be an adventure!
Besides party planning and dreaming up places for CBC to GO next, we’ve been busy painting the Mission House and participating in the weekly ministries and programs. I’ll leave that stuff up to Conway, as I am sure he is going to tell you all about it in upcoming posts. I do however want to tell you this: these kids LOVE Conway! They literally run to him when we get out of the car…no seriously, he has a following of little girls; basically, a fan club. They call him Cone-way. Haha. It’s great! You know, you don’t have to speak Spanish to let someone know you care. You don’t have to be educated or skilled to be used by God. You just have to be willing; willing to answer His call to give yourself away…to GO.
Conway has truly become one of my closest friends. Really, he is more like a brother…part of the family. I would like to think that I’ve had some role in the Godly man that he’s become, but in all reality it is he who has helped shape me into a better friend and pastor. It’s been a serious blessing to see Conway respond to the call of Christ; allowing God to use him in so many incredible ways.
Well, this is already twice as long as I planned and I need to leave for La Finca…we have some piñata stuffing to do! Check back soon...
Friday, August 6, 2010
This week has been one of adventure, excitement, and opportunity. Although the trip is coming to an end; ministry activities, building relationships, and work projects have continued to create memories and experiences that will last much longer than the duration of this trip.
After a relaxing Monday and Tuesday, which consisted of putting in place the beginnings to painting three bedrooms in the mission house, Wednesday was a surprise. Every Wednesday we set out to La Carpio (the trash can of Costa Rica), for discipleship groups. Walking the streets with eyes and heart open, Mark and I visited a home were two kids (Michelle and Natalie) waited patiently. As the making of two young disciples was taking place, I continually thought about River Dos (the second river). Just recently Mark took the leadership team into this area which they call the second river. A week or so ago was only the second time. When Mark became interested and drawn to go to this place for the first time he was reminded by a local and member of the ministry of the saying that that has branded this area and its people. That is "Anyone who goes in there will come out with nothing!" Mark asked me if I wanted to visit this river and see the areas they had visited just a few days ago. With no hesitation I said, "Yes!" So we went. When Mark and the team visited this area for only a short period of time, roughly 50 heard and responded to the gospel showing interest in someone returning, both eager and willing to begin a discipleship group. It was yet another reminder of what mighty and great things can come of these areas.
My weapon of choice...the brush!!! This last week has been packed with great work projects and various opportunities to work. Primarily I have and will continue to focus on painting three bedrooms at the mission house for the duration of the trip. As I continue painting a few of the bedrooms at the mission house I also have the opportunity to work around La Finca in Los Guido tomorrow completing some miscellaneous work projects.
Fun With the Leadership Team!
Tomorrow evening we will continue with the Saturday Soap Show, the Show de Jabon. This time is full of fun, playing and laughing with the kids. Kids...mud...and candy...a dangerous combination for fun. Sunday, although it will be the last Sunday is a blessing and a great opportunity. Ending the trip with great food, prizes, a piñata, and presenting the leadership team with letters, gifts, and my favorite See's candy (Scotchmellow) will be an awesome way to express my love, friendship, and thankfulness for their willingness to serve.
For the visits to the second river of La Carpio. That these people would be vulnerable to and absorb God's word. That these people would find hope and comfort through a lifestyle only provided through Christ. That God would allow for an area to be built up as a "safe zone" to be used for outreach events through future visiting teams. That God would place a hedge of protection around those who have accepted Christ and shown an eagerness to love and learn God's word.
For the leadership team. That these young kids would continue to find encouragement and motivation in God's word to serve, love, and make disciples. That they would focus in school and pass their classes. That God would protect them as they return each night from these ministry activities to a home that is dark, missing parents, dangerous, and often unhealthy living conditions.
For duration of this trip. That God would continue using me as He desires. That God would be glorified in all work that is done and words that are spoken. That I would continue to pour my love into these kids and the ministry here in Costa Rica. That the relationships with these kids would be everything but temporary. That the kids I have remained pen pals with over the last 2+ years since my first visit would stay involved and continue running after Christ and away from the things and conditions of this world.
For the completion of the feeding center. That finances would continue to remain steady. That God would place a hedge of protection around La Finca and utilize this building to a maximum capacity. That the weather permits the construction process to remain consistant. That all glory be given to God throughout the duration of the building process. That God would continue to keep His faithful hand placed over this building. That God would begin preparing the hearts and lives of those who will some day visit this building.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
“At the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done”
~Thomas A Kempis~
“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did…You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone”
~James 2:22, 24~
The words of James have stuck with me from previous trips to Costa Rica and seem to always find their way into conversation on being doers of the word and not merely listeners. Working alongside the leadership team of the New Life Church of Los Guido, I have uniquely witnessed these kids as disciples, friends, and family live out the words of James. That is after reading what has been done through Christ’s sacrifice and reading of how a jealous creator longs to have a personal relationship with us…what is our reaction…what will we do with what we have read. Their abilities and deeds go far beyond just one opportunity, extending out to others and overflowing into a lifestyle of being a “Doer” and not merely a reader or listener. Working hard at everything I do, serving alongside these kids has not only been exciting and rewarding to both myself and others, but has also been a daily challenge.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday consisted of weekly ministry activities. Friday night was another full of laughter and hurting stomachs…from eating so much chocolate. At the older youth night we played two games. The first consisted of blowing through a straw, pushing a ping-pong ball to various positions of a table where cups were tapped to the side. Let me remind you…this is a Costa Rican table…they are somewhat different. The second game consisted of placing cleaning gloves on your hands, removing chocolate from a wrapper, eating the chocolate, and removing the gloves. Guys vs. Girls! With only three guys, there was a lot of chocolate to eat...a lot! We did win however! After singing multiple songs some individuals shared things that we could pray over. Every Friday has been a great way to fellowship with the youth.
During the "Show De Jabon" (Soap Show), which consists of a giant slippin’ slide and many excited kids, I hung out with the choir as they sold popcorn to raise money for future equipment.
Sunday was a special day as we celebrated Sugelley and her quincenera (15th Birthday) as this is an important day for a young lady in any Latin American culture. To testify to her obedience to making disciples and celebrating another year, was a great experience.
Only ten more days!!! Although ten days will shortly pass, the relationships built, disciples made, and witnessing of God working in tangible ways will surpass all…living forever. I can only conclude that He will remain faithful in all His promises and continue to make visible what was once unseen.
Working alongside the missionaries and leadership team has allowed me to perceive many things differently and realize many aspects and truths within God’s word. Veronica, a pen pal of mine who is 14 years old, shared a verse with me and it is one that will serve as guidance and reality in the future. That is “doers” of God’s word need not a degree or a certification of authenticity, but rather a working and able heart…ready to serve. Therefore, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12.