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.
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.
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