Branching out

“And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

Since being back in the states, we have been reveling in the beautiful family we have around us and appreciating what a gift it is. What a joy it is to be among so many family and friends that believe in Christ and try to love and pray for their neighbors. What a joy it is to see people fighting against hate with love every day.

As I read yesterday’s daily readings, on St. Matthew’s feast day, my heart was moved yet again when Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” and he simply “got up and followed him.” He was considered by his people to be a grave sinner, and yet he got up and followed him, no questions asked and no hesitation, simply because he was invited. 

Something my mom always said to me growing up has remained in my mind: To those who have been given much, much is expected. We’ve been stateside near family and friends for almost five months now, and I’ve realized that it has been a time of gathering more love and faith and getting filled up for when we go out again, to spread all that love with whichever ‘Matthew’ we can find. To seek out those who might get up and follow him, if only they were invited, no matter how sick or how lost they are.

“It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.”

Matthew 9:12

Once again we are feeling called to reach out to the lost, marginalized and sick in person. Our roots run deep, and we believe we are called to branch out, to give much and to spread that love again. We have decided to serve this upcoming year in Puerto Rico, and will return to the mission field at the end of October, if God allows.

Although our hearts want to be back at our mission in Costa Rica right now, their border is not open for us currently, and for personal reasons we need to be able to have access to certain things that Puerto Rico can provide. Meanwhile we will be able to continue practicing our Spanish and serve in missions near another missionary family.

One of our last family pictures in Costa Rica

Leaving and having to say goodbye again is such a big sacrifice, but we keep our gaze on Jesus. He being our ultimate example, left his family when he came to walk the earth to seek out the lost and draw them into his love. There was so much hate and divisiveness in his day, much like today, and he had to counter it with love. We seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, allowing God to invite others to follow him through us.

We invite you as well to join us in the great commission. If you’d like to join us on our mission, please follow our blog, add us to your daily prayers, give us your prayer intentions and/or consider contributing monthly to our mission. Let’s be inspired together by the Gospel and let our branches extend to the ends of the earth in whatever way we can! Let’s conquer hate and indifference by spreading love wherever we are.

A few family pictures of us enjoying beautiful Minnesota. God is so good!

Early summertime

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Suddenly we are stateside in the midst of this pandemic and these sad and uncertain times, in what seems like a long and early summertime vacation. It was a very difficult, yet necessary decision we made to catch a repatriation flight back to the states so we could work on some physical problems that began to prevent us from doing some of our ministry work. We left so quickly and with such uncertainty of how long we would be gone due to closed borders and so many unknowns, that our hearts were broken as we said goodbye to our Costa Rica friends and family. But God is so good, and through our (hopefully temporary) goodbyes to our Costa Rican friends and family, he allowed us to see some spiritual fruits of our labor there.

I’ll never forget one moment I had in our church in Florencia one Sunday night as I was feeling particularly lonely. I was attending by myself, and when it came time for peace there was no one around me to shake my hand. Sometimes a little thing like this can be the straw that breaks the camels back, and I was fighting back tears. I prayed for hope and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of blond coming toward me.  As I glanced up I saw the only blond girl I ever met in Costa Rica, who was part of our ‘Clase de Ingles’ (English classes) on Fridays, run to me from across the church and not just shake my hand, but gave me a big bear hug. I had never seen her or any of those girls at church before and I was filled with so much hope and love! It felt like Jesus hugged me himself.

About a month before we left another little 12 year old girl in our class told my daughter that she wanted to be a foreign missionary when she grows up. She even went to church with us a few times. Dear family friends of ours told us since we arrived, they’ve had a deeper interest in proclaiming the gospel and serving the poor, and that they realized that the family vocation is indeed a holy calling, and also that another family member of theirs felt called to serve alongside us as missionaries to the poor.

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Our kids with our beautiful neighbors

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My kid birthday party with my ‘Clase de Ingles’ students. I am so blessed!

I remember praying one time and feeling like God was pointing out to me that my ‘Clase de Ingles’ was more important than we thought it was. God was showing us that if these neighborhood kids were the only reason why we were sent to the little town of Florencia, Costa Rica, that was enough. I feel so blessed by the friendship of these neighbors of ours. We held a back-to-school party with sandwiches and ice cream and praise songs and I even had a “kid” birthday party in March before everything was shut down due to Covid-19, with prayer, songs, cake and a dance party and the whole time I’m thinking this has got to be the silliest ministry there is. But I could feel the Holy Spirit alive and filling in all the gaps of our so-called silly ministries. I realized that we were there with our ‘yes’  and we were living our lives full of as much love as we could possibly muster up, but that the only reason that any of it mattered is because the Holy Spirit was allowed to enter and flow through us.

When we went to language school last year we had only been here for about a month or so, and while we were here we prayed outside and I played guitar and we sang out praise every day. One thing I wasn’t aware of was how noise bounces off the sides of the mountain and spreads. Our friends told us that when we left for school, some neighbors were asking where the missionaries went because they didn’t hear us singing each day. We had no idea that just sitting in our yard and being faithful to our family prayer time, that was all the Holy Spirit would need to spread the love of God.

We have been struggling with not being there right now, continuing our mission in person. Thanks to financial contributions by so many of you, we were about to get to work on building a house for a single mother of six kids in need, and for trying to help another family have electricity. Everything was put on hold there until the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Although things may be put on hold for us physically right now, we know God can still work through us and our prayers despite our weaknesses and wherever we may find ourselves to be.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” (2 Corinth. 12:9) is a verse that has shouted very loudly in my heart throughout this calling, for we are very weak human beings, in body and spirit, and we mess up a lot, and yet our little mustard-seed-size faith was multiplied through our efforts in order to glorify a great and mighty God.

We very much desire to always be in the center of God’s will, so we will enter into a time of discernment while we are back to determine whether we will go back to Costa Rica to continue our service, or if God is calling us to serve elsewhere. Please pray for us as we discern. We are constantly praying for the health and peace of all of our family and friends wherever you are in the world. May God bless you all abundantly.

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Gathering delicious guanabanas (sour sop fruit) from a tree in our yard

What we do now

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Palms from our very own coconut tree.  Zach made the cross and attached it to two of our doors.

With the pandemic, our family has been working at making our home a more apparent domestic church. We’ve set up an altar in our house dedicated to celebrating mass via the internet and still get dressed up for church on Sundays (although now we don’t have to wear shoes). Our family is still doing praise and worship every day, and it really helps remind us to focus on rejoicing in both the good and hard times. It is very sad and difficult to not have Jesus in the Eucharist each week, but we are saying a Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet every day for our world, which helps. It also helps that we are noticing God more in the beauty of nature around us. The birds, iguanas, lizards, cicadas and crickets seem louder without any outings and outside ministry to do. For me, being stuck at home has been a beautiful reminder of how important the vocation and #1 ministry that serving our family is.

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Benny, Aaron and Kateri in front of our home altar, where we watch mass.

As for ministries during this time, apart from a deeper focus on praying for those we serve, we have dropped off bags of food for friends, are both giving food to and buying food from those who stop by, and are sharing our fruit in our yard. We are working on creating more ministries soon, such as making homemade rosaries for our neighbors and having a FaceTime prayer group with our Clase de Ingles (English Class) kids. Sometimes, though, I think God would have us know that prayer is the most powerful ministry of all.

A friend of mine shared a vision she had of a missionary family inside a house praying, and light shining out of the doors and windows through the darkness. I take comfort in this image, as it exemplifies how by prayer we can still be a light shining on a lamp stand as we shelter-in-place, and Christ can use us even when it seems like we are hiding under a bushel.

We take great comfort in knowing that the apostles spent the first Easter hiding in a room, fearful and waiting to see if what Jesus said was true; that he was going to rise from the dead. We are drawing closer to God as we focus on the true meaning of the resurrection without the distractions (albeit blessings) of material comforts and traditions.

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Watching the Jesus of Nazareth movie, a tradition we do during Holy Week each year.

An Exchange of Love

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walking to pick beans with Pilar’s family

Our family is starting to make friends with a Nicaraguan family in a nearby small town called Ulima. They are a kind couple with five beautiful kids. The three oldest girls are all in the 8th grade at their high school in our town of Florencia, because when they first came here from Nicaragua, they had been unable to attend school, and therefore didn’t know how to read and write. The two youngest are at the local grade school in their town. Their house is mostly a dirt floor outside. They all sleep in a tiny one-room house that is stuffed with two sets of bunkbeds, a matrimonial size bed and a sink with a short counter. Their mother wanted to offer me some food or coffee, but she had none to offer, and this was a source of stress for her. The other times we’d gone to visit them they were able to give us some vegetables from their garden, sugar cane to chew on, a coffee cup, a pitcher and any other kind of gift she could find in her house. Her generosity, which is such a part of her culture, is incredible to me. We are always unexpected when we show up, which makes her hospitality and generosity shine through all the more. She immediately gets up and offers me the best (and only real) chair there, which is a simple typical Costa Rican rebar style rocking chair with a blanketed pad. Her and her daughters love to visit with little Kateri and laugh at my bad Spanish. While we were there, the first thing we noticed, because it was dark out, was that they had no electricity. No lights to sit outside by (the only place to hang out) except the lights of their phone. When we drove up they were sitting outside in the dark. We hadn’t realized in our daytime visits before that this meant there was no light, no fridge and no stove. The men talked about if it were possible to get the electrical company to provide their house with electricity, while I chased the kids around as I tried to talk with my new friend. We ended the visit in beautiful prayer and song.

The next day I was taking my prayer time in the back of our house when Elizabeth came running to me saying there were a bunch of high school girls here to see me. I was confused, as most of the kids that we know in our neighborhood are grade-school aged, but I assumed maybe they were trying to sell something for their school. I was also feeling drained of energy and compassion that day, so I prayed for Jesus to sustain me, and to do the serving for me. Sometimes you just don’t know what to expect when people come calling. When I came up front, I realized they were the daughters of my friend whom we visited the night before. Their school had unexpectedly ended early that day and they didn’t have a ride back to their house in Ulima (about a half-hour drive) until 4:15. It was only around 1:00 and I had just put Kateri to bed for a nap, so I offered them a ride. On the way back I was talking with their 18-year-old daughter about school and she mentioned that if they didn’t have certain school supplies by Monday, they would be docked points off their grade. In addition, without the appropriate supplies, their only chance to study is while they are at school (as they can’t take, for example, the school’s scientific calculators home with them). What’s worse is that even if they had the appropriate school supplies, how could they study once it gets dark out? So not only do they get docked points for not having things like the proper shoes or calculators or colored pencils, in addition they can’t possibly study the amount they need to properly learn the material and get good grades. How this highlighted for me the flawless opportunity I had growing up where I grew up, and the ease of life that I take for granted because I never knew any different.

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Shelling beans with Pilar’s family, which was a gift for us during a visit

When we got to her house, I asked her to make a list of the supplies they needed. Her mother graciously placed an entire bag of vegetables from her yard in my car while I was watching her daughter write down the measly list that would cost them greatly. Colored pencils, 2 scientific calculators, 2 pairs of black school shoes and three recorders.

I felt unbelievably honored and humbled to be able to be used by God to purchase these supplies for this family. I took Elizabeth and walked to the stores in our small town, gathering the items. When we got home it was such a joy to carefully place the gifts in a bag with some pretty little holy necklaces and rosaries. I didn’t get to give them the bag directly because some friends of ours were driving out that way to visit their parents with our van, so I had them deliver the bag of supplies, but this was such a great reminder that the gifts were actually from God, and I was just the medium. I heard they were so joyful and excited to receive them.

If school hadn’t unexpectedly ended early that day, with nowhere else for these girls to go, I never would’ve known what they needed, and wouldn’t have been able to provide the supplies for them. And God’s timing is so perfect in his care for them, as they needed the supplies by that very next Monday.

These two days, and this family, was such a gift of joy for me. The witness of their generosity, love and hospitality did so much more in my life than anything I could have ever given to them, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. What a beautiful exchange of love. Praise God.

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Kateri, Benny and their pet piglet

 

A Year in Review

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Our kids on an evening walk with some neighbor friends

It has been a year since we first packed up our van with most of our remaining belongings and made the trek to Louisiana to embark on this missionary journey. It has been a beautiful year filled with many blessings and challenges, and despite not yet being fluent in Spanish (although our children have already surpassed us), we have been able to make true friends with the poor.

Here is an update on our missionary journey so far in the little city that God has called us to serve here in Florencia, San Carlos, Costa Rica.

Many people come to our house to sell hand-picked fruit, sweet bread or cheese, and we try to support them, as we know jobs are hard to come by here. We hired a friend of ours to help us in our house a few days a week while her husband was out of work. It has been a big blessing to us, as it takes a lot more effort to manage a home here, and she also has been teaching us Spanish as we work side-by-side throughout the day.

We always try to help people in the moment who need food, money, diapers, etc. We have also been doing one-on-one bible studies with some friends and neighbors who stop over. All of these encounters are building true friendships and are so edifying in the faith as we pray with those in need.

Once a month we have been visiting the orphanage in La Fortuna, making friends and playing with the kids, where, sadly most come from abusive situations. Where the orphanage is set is like so many tourist areas, where what we see in the charming downtown is a stark contrast to the poor living in shacks not even a block away. It has been a gift to spend time with the children there.

Brad and the boys will play catch or soccer while the littlest kids yell out “muchacha” and “muchacho” at us to try to get our attention. Some of the older girls love to show off their taekwondo moves and to color with Elizabeth. Rachael brings her guitar to play songs for the kids to sing with, and they have a lot of fun strumming on it.

Our family was assigned a holy hour with adoration and a communion service in the little town of San Rafael, about a half hour away from here. We will soon be training to be eucharistic ministers and will eventually be leading it. Our priest here is in charge of about 15 pueblos where a lot of people can’t get to mass very easily. We will be inviting people to come to this service, and we pray that God will move the hearts of the people of San Rafael!

There is a lot of interest in learning English here as it provides more job opportunities in nearby bigger cities. We host a class once a week where we talk in English and pray together. I really think the kids are drawn to the solidarity of friendship and faith that these evenings provide. A common problem here is that so many families are broken and left without a father. Our hope is that these meetings will draw them closer to their real father; one that will never leave them.

We are working on adding a room to a house for a poor single woman named Anya, and her two children, who currently picks and sells limes for a living (they are extremely cheap here, around 5-10 cents a lime). The three of them are living in a tiny, neat little 2-room house, and all of them sleep in the same room. We are trying to raise money to provide them with an additional bedroom. The construction is estimated to be around $1500. If you would like to help financially with this project, please let us know!

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Anya and her kids

There is another single woman who has three children and lives in a tiny wooden “hut” tucked into a side of the mountain in a nearby pueblo. Her floor boards dangerously don’t meet evenly, she does not have any light, and when it rains it leaks all over the house because of the condition of her sheet metal roof. We are looking into helping her repair her floor and roof, however it is a tricky situation because she may be taking her house structure and selling it for food and other things. Please pray for this woman to overcome whatever is at the root of her troubles.

Please pray for our neighbors, the kids at the orphanage, for the girls at the end of our road that sometimes don’t get to eat dinner, for the men who want to provide for their families, but can’t find work, for an increase in morality, purity and modesty and for the reparation of the family here in Costa Rica. Please pray for the poor that live in steel metal shacks so close to us with rain dripping in their roofs, for the children who don’t have shoes to wear, and for those whose budget is so tight that they can’t afford real butter. But mostly, please pray for those here who don’t know Jesus and his infallible love for them.

Mother Teresa was quoted saying “A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His LOVE than in your weakness.”

Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” -2 Corinth. 12:9

The sacrifice that it is being here, away from family and friends and land and language can feel overwhelming at times. We are constantly challenged to give even more for God while continuously being faced with so many needs around us. That is why every time I think of this verse, that His power is made perfect in weakness, I can rest easy. We may be one tiny ripple in this ocean of need, but if that’s all God needs to move mountains, then we can do that. And then, like St. Paul, we can boast gladly of our weaknesses so that the power of God can rest in us.

Please pray that we never lose sight of  His LOVE, and his work here in Costa Rica.

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Zach, Elizabeth and Aaron praying at our chapel in San Rafael

 

 

Making Friends

Making Friends

I listened to a FMC podcast the other day about how so much of being a missionary is just making friends with people one at a time. One cup of coffee at a time. One smile at a time. This is actually one of the things they said would be hard for Americans; to slow down the pace of life and just be with people. So much of this requires us to just be present in the moment and present to the Holy Spirit. If you have resources, you can help anybody. If you go into missions with money to give away for food, shelter, medicine, etc., it is obviously a noble thing. But what happens if you were to suddenly be gone? If one day the same person you’d been helping showed up at your door for some medicine or food they needed, and you weren’t there, or were unable to give it to them?

But if you bring them Jesus, it is the gift that keeps on giving. God will hear you when you call upon him and he will help you. I know this to be true in the sense of my own suffering and loneliness, because at times when I’ve felt it, when I call upon God, I can immediately feel his presence fill up the void. This is my favorite part of my job: bringing prayer into everything we do. This is the part of missions that is lasting, and will never be lacking, even if/after we’re gone.

We have visited the orphanage a few times since being back from Mexico, and have been trying to make friends with the kids there. It’s a difficult thing to do because of their unknown situation. Here are these precious little children of God, that, for whatever reason are left without their parents and being raised without a mother or father. It is heartbreaking. I worry about what they’ll think of our complete and happy family coming to visit them and leaving all together. I worry that our presence will make them sadder. I worry that they’ll be always wondering if one day we are going to adopt one of them, and so they need to be on their best behavior.

“The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” -Psalm 34

All of these things made me try to talk myself out of us visiting. Especially when the last time we were there, a sweet little girl I’d been playing with asked if she could come with us. When I left that day I was daydreaming about buying a huge house and adopting all the kids in the orphanage and recruiting volunteers to help me love and care for them all.

Since that is not very realistic at the moment, I asked God, “what could we possibly do by visiting these kids?” And then I thought, every family should have other family and friends to visit with and to love even though they do not live with them. My family could become friends with these kids that make up such a beautiful family on their own, and we could bring them Jesus, who will never ever leave them. If they know this, and have witness of how to call upon his name, they will never feel alone.

“But Jesus said, “let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 19:14

We have also tried out a few English/prayer classes with the local kids in the neighborhood. They are interested in learning English because it gives them a step up on getting a good job when they grow up. They also need purpose, as there no real place for them to hang out. Our house has been a hang out place with our tree house and tire swing, and, of course the numerous kids that happen to be in our family.

This helped our kids make friends prior to entering the public school, which is about 3 blocks away from our house. They are loving school and picking up Spanish (and friends) quickly.

Another ministry we have begun doing is a Thursday night Holy Hour in a nearby pueblo called San Rafael, as one of our first priest-assigned ministries. We are excited to grow relationships with the people in this town.

I do not know what God has planned for the future for these kids, for our family, for our ministries. We plug away each day working on our Spanish and making friends, and being “Spirit-led missionaries,” which basically means praying with those who God sends, and trying to help in whatever way we can.

It can be overwhelming at times to think about how many souls in the world need not only to be taken care of spiritually, but physically. As Jesus said, the poor will always be us. But just like that story about throwing one starfish back into the ocean at a time, one by one, it makes a difference for that one. And by making friends, one by one, it makes a difference for that person.

We wanted to share some pictures of our family life as well. May God bless you and light the way ahead. Thank you to each of you for all your prayers and support! We could not be here without you.

Missions from Zach’s Eyes

Missions from Zach’s Eyes

Spanish School in Guadalajara

Hey guys! Mexico is not what I expected. Every Sunday there are poor people begging outside the church that we go to. Then we decided to offer to buy lunch for them. There is one lady that likes to eat hotdogs with us. It was great. We also give them money. We also prayed with two ladies.

Every day we walk to school. When we get there we walk down a block to get fresh squeezed orange juice. Then we head up to class and learn. Learning Spanish is very tiring, but it is worth it because we are serving God’s people.

Costa Rica

We have a pretty small house in Costa Rica. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms and a kitchen/living room, and an average sized backyard and front yard. We also have good friends. Sometimes we go over to Pablo and Yalile’s house and eat. They have three dogs, one he dog sits.

Then our other friends the Rojas, they have two kids and two dogs. They are very willing to help us out. Like one time they brought us to the hots springs and another time they brought us swimming.

Prayer Time Reflection

“Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” -Matthew 20: 14-16

My brother Aaron… sometimes I just don’t like him very much because he’s always copying me with everything. But today, God spoke to me through this verse:

“They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.” -Matthew 21:7-9

I realized that he was copying me because he likes me. Whenever Aaron said something that other people liked, I looked at him meanly because I didn’t like when Aaron stole my attention. But I didn’t realize that every time I looked at him mean like that, it was like a dagger in his heart.

These bible verses teach me that I should be nicer to my brother and lay down palm branches for him by being nicer to him. Praise God.

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I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of Guadalajara because our phone got stolen and our pictures where on it. But that’s a whole different story.

Poco a Poco

Poco a Poco

We haven’t blogged in a while mostly because we’re not quite sure how to put what we’re going through into words. Most of what’s been happening in missions for us so far has been happening interiorly and has been challenging, as it’s been a consistent journey of detaching. We’ve tried to do a few ministries to get our feet wet, but we don’t really have a template to go off in Florencia. There is a local missionary family, but there’s never been foreign missionaries living there, so we traveled to Coopevega (which is about a two hour bus ride away) to spend some time with our team leaders, see how they lived, and join them in one of their ministries.

Speaking of detachment, many times we have tried to venture into ministry, and all of those plans have been diverted. It is as if God is saying, “not yet.” It’s been a huge temptation to try to rush things and jump into ministries right away to feel like you’re doing what you were sent to do. Especially being of an American mindset where your worth is so deeply tied to what you accomplish. It feels so backwards to change your mindset to God being the one that accomplishes it, in his own time.

The first time we tried to make the trip to Coopevega was a bust. Although we asked three different people if it was the Coopevega bus, our pronunciation is not quite there, and the bus driver thought we said “La Vega.” Thus, we ended up on a bus the complete opposite way. Although I was heartbroken that a trip we very much needed was halted, and we were very upset at first, we decided to put the missionary thing into practice and praise God for the mistake, asking him for spirit-led activities as we walked through the rest of the day.

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We were headed in the direction of touristy La Fortuna, and we decided to have a community-building mini-vacation in order to turn lemons into lemonade. Despite this, it looked pretty bleak. Are we supposed to take our six kids plus infant, like zip-lining and hiking or something? Plus, isn’t it crazy expensive? We decided to go anyways and an hour later got on the bus. Once we got to La Fortuna we walked to the central plaza and sat in the shade trying to figure out what to do. I ended up talking to a tourist guide on the sidewalk and he not only found us a super cheap room to rent off the beaten path, but also gave us a great deal on a three-hour hike around Mount Arenal that ended in some natural hot-springs. God took care of us, because when Brad started calling around, the hotel rooms were somewhere around $300 a night. The kids did great on the hike and we had a blast – something our family hasn’t done in a while – just to play and be together for the simple joy of being. I hadn’t even realized how much our family needed that, but God knew.

The other thing we tried to do was visit the nearby orphanage. We had made the appointment and were excited to meet some new friends when the day came. We got all the way to Ciudad Quesada and showed up at the door and realized that the map had pointed us to wrong orphanage. The one we were supposed to go to was in La Fortuna. Fail again. I supposed all this messing up is part of the deal when you begin living in a foreign country.

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Lord’s Day Supper

But God is good, of course. The one ministry I know we’re accidentally good at is being a witness to life. We’ve had so many people come up to us and congratulate us on our big family, or talk fondly about the big family they came from and a lot of people count our kids in amazement. It makes me think of the verse that tells us to be lamps on a lampstand and not to hide under a bushel. Like a bright conduit of light – allowing Christ’s light to shine through us – we travel through the cities and on buses with an almost accidental parrhesia of just being alive and about. And it’s so awesome to see the beautiful reactions. Because life is good.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

We are currently doing that same ministry, as we are in Guadalajara, MX, in a huge busy city called Tlaquepaque, renting a house for the past month and taking Spanish classes. The three oldest kids have their own class at our same school and the two little boys are in a nearby Montessori school. The kids are doing great! My favorite is when Benny or Luke spit out random Spanish words in their English sentences. “But I’m hungry, por favor!” or “Gracias, dude!”

We initially didn’t want to leave Costa Rica to attend language school, but we had reached a point in our communication where we really needed the next level of studying in order to progress. Another huge reason we came here for school was because Brad’s brother Todd got married here a few weekends ago and we got to celebrate and see family again! What a blessing it was to see family after so many months.

I have to admit, being in this city has been difficult. There is no green space nearby for the kids to play, we live on a busy bus route street, and it’s quite overwhelming how many people live here. But God is still using us here, even though we are not settling here. There has been plenty of opportunities for alms-giving and praying with people near to where we are staying.

In the center of the city is a square surrounding a gazebo, tons of kiosks and street food and two large Catholic churches next to each other. (I’m not sure why yet, but I know there’s a story to that.) After church on Sundays we have gotten the chance to meet with a few people and share lunch with them. One lady, Teresa, reminds me so much of my own grandma in heaven, and I’ve relished the tiny amount of time I’ve gotten to spend with her. She drives her wheel-chair an hour into the square each Sunday to attend mass every week and then begs in the square the rest of the day. It’s actually amazing to me how I feel like I know her more than I do – especially with such limited Spanish! Please keep her and her health needs in your prayers, and all those who are forced to beg for their provisions.

We are looking forward to getting back to Florencia and settling back in. We plan on getting the kids enrolled in school, planning out some ministries, visiting some of the poor neighborhoods close by, meeting with the priest of our beautiful church to find out the local needs, and, of course, more attempts at visiting the orphanage.

There have been so many disrupted plans these first few months of missions that I feel like I’m constantly being asked to detach from my will more and more. The thing is, on the days that I kicked and screamed inside and fought the plan, I incurred unnecessary suffering upon myself. But the days I just said, “okay, God, what do you have for me instead,” have been so much more fruitful and peaceful, and have turned out far better than I had  planned. Praise God.

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” ~John 8:12

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

We live in Costa Rica. I never thought I would ever say that. Or even think that we could or would ever be missionaries.

Pablo arranged a ride for us from the airport to Florencia, which took about three hours. All of us stared in amazement at the luscious beauty of the landscape on the way, our hair blowing wildly in the wind, as we descended the mountain to a new home we’d never seen before.

Pablo and Yalile are local missionary associates with FMC, and just with their family and friends have a thriving community that we stepped into the night we arrived. After we saw the new home we are renting, we enjoyed a prayer meeting along with a wonderful supper of crepes and salad at the creperie their son owns. We then walked to our home to collapse on our mattresses after a long and exhausting travel day. The next day, first order of business was to find mosquito netting. Poor Kateri got hit the worst.

Today is day five! Mostly the kids are adjusting beautifully, but it has been difficult for us to adjust to the heat. All that we do feels heavy. We were told it takes a while to adapt, though, so we were expecting this. It’s so cool to me that when we got here it felt like home so quickly. Just like our first days in Haiti and Big Woods. I am so grateful to God for that grace during such a great transition.

The insects and birds have been so fun to discover. Today was our first Sunday mass here and we looked up only to see an owl sitting in the rafters staring down at us! It was beautiful, and every time the music began the owl looked as if it were dancing, it’s cute face in the shape of a heart. At the end of the mass, all of a sudden we heard the priest saying things like “no hable ingles” and “misiones” and “Estados Unidos” and we’re like, hey they’re talking about us. Finally, one of Pablo and Yalile’s daughters who was standing in a pew at the front motioned for us to stand up. Pablo had told us that he was a new priest and very much on board with lay missionaries. Still, we had no idea he was going to introduce us! We haven’t even met him yet. So, after mass parishioners were coming up to us to introduce themselves and it was fun to meet people despite the language barrier.

Later on, Brad suggested to the kids that they go on a bird-watching walk. After walking about a block, Zach said “Woah, I just saw a giant colorful bird fly up into the tree up there!” They went closer and saw two scarlet macaws hanging out, eating in a tree. Even the locals were stopping by to take pictures. We’ve also had the pleasure of seeing and hearing all sorts of little colored birds in our yard.

Speaking of our yard, we have a tree house! It’s little, but it even has a trap door. And our yard is gated completely all around, which is what I have been wanting for a long, long time. The house we are renting is quaint and charming, although we have two iguanas living in our rafters that our renter said he could bring to the forest if we don’t want them there, however they help with the cockroaches and mosquitos. We live with lots of bugs, so we figured they can stay for now. Our landlord and neighbors have been amazing and super helpful at helping us cook our first meals here, getting groceries in another language and other odds and ends.

We have all been enjoying the fresh fruits and vegetables. Pablo and Yalile had us out to their house to celebrate Luke’s third birthday and he cut some coconuts out of his tree and we drank the coconut water from straws. We have a lot of fresh things growing in our small yard as well. A coconut tree, a coffee bean plant, a small tart fruit I can’t pronounce, a sour sap tree, a starfruit tree, a mandarin tree, red beans and ginger.

We are working at getting settled and getting what we need to function in a different country and learning the way they do things. Like putting your fruit in covered bags on the countertop to keep away the fruit flies and that here you can store your eggs on the counter and not the fridge (that one’s tough to wrap my mind around).

This week we will be joining in on a short-term mission trip of about 16 people. It will be kind of like an orientation of sorts where we’ll get to see some of the existing ministries they already have going on. We have been praying about where God would like to lead us here. We are excited to meet our team leaders (they live about two hours away in Coopevaga), and to speak English with them for a bit! We are working on our Spanish and I’m surprised at the vocab that’s coming back to me from my Spanish in high school. It’s super frustrating not to be able to speak it yet, but we’ve also had lots of humorous conversations with the neighbors. Luckily, I’m okay looking muy estupido until we figure it out. For now, anyway. Praise God!

Some more pictures of our house… we are working on making this a good home for our family before we dive into our work. FMC recommends we go slow so we can learn the culture and the language, and figure out how to buy food and cook in a new way, all the while making new friends as we go. Please keep praying for us! We are missing our family and friends, and familiar things. Love from Costa Rica!

Dios te bendiga!

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Lo siento, me hablo un poquito espanol

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Our room at Casa de Misiones

Truth be told, my relationship and understanding of the Holy Spirit has been fairly nonexistent. Since beginning our Intake, we have made the development of this relationship a central focus in our spiritual lives.

We have learned that the Spirit is the principal agent of missionary activity. What a relief…I honestly have no clue as to how to evangelize or what I am going to do when we get to the mission field. This whole missionary idea is a terrifying prospect for someone who has as little experience as I do.

In Mexico, I was fortunate enough that God made it perfectly clear how the Spirit could work through me if I had an open heart.

Antonio is a resident of Allende, Mexico. I met him on the first night of a prayer meeting we were conducting in the town of Allende. He was one of only two men that attended the meeting that night, and I noticed that he was very apprehensive at the meeting. He stayed towards the back and didn’t participate fully. I felt an urge to go and at least try and communicate with him, which I knew full well I wouldn’t be able to do. The Lord was clearly asking me to humble myself, which is not an easy task for me! My Spanish consists of about 7 words. I decided that I couldn’t ignore the urging, so I went over and tried to communicate on the rudimentary level that I could. I figured out that he lived a couple blocks away and that his name was Antonio. That was all I could muster, besides smiling like a total idiot. I (I think) asked him to come tomorrow night and of course I did not understand his response. We packed up and left, with a newfound humbleness. There were many things I wanted to say and ask Antonio, but was unable to do so! It was extremely frustrating.

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Brad giving his testimony at a rancho

The next night we showed up to conduct a prayer service for healing, combined with a potluck, Mexican style! I was pleased to see that Antonio had returned and this time he had brought his wife and three children! He asked to be prayed over for healing of his back and his wife and marriage. He was significantly more engaged and had a giant smile on his face that night.

Of course, it wasn’t me who did anything over the course of the two nights. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation! Did the interactions make a difference in Antonio’s life? Would he have come that next night with his family if I had ignored the Holy Spirit and not gone and tried to interact with him? All I can do is reflect on the times God has put people in my life, and look at how these seemingly insignificant interactions have definitely been part of God’s plan for me.

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Bible study at KM64

Maybe it made a difference for Antonio and his family, maybe not. God is in charge of that. The beauty lies in the fact that it doesn’t matter, for all God requires us to do is show up and be a witness, even if we don’t know the language! He does the rest, and praise God for that.

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Brad & Zach on bathroom duty at our house in General Cepeda

(By Brad)