John the Baptist said, “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.”
This statement is very simple. I read it and think I am doing it all the time in His mission. However, when I see the needs around me, I think twice.
Francisco and Pilar have 6 kids. If you are following our mission, you will remember them. They are Nicaraguan immigrants who fled from their country to find a better life in Costa Rica. They are living in what us Americans would call a shack, that has one room and an outhouse. For 8 people. No electricity. No washer. No fridge. Certainly not a dryer.
Francisco works very hard as a field worker for a farm owner. He makes a little over $2.00 an hour and his hours are determined by the amount of rain fall. I will do the math for you, $2.00 an hour x 30 hours a week x 4 weeks = $240.00 a month.
As you can imagine, it is very difficult to make ends meet with that amount of income. So they do without almost every “basic” necessity. However, EVERY time we go to visit and pray with them, they hand us platanos, camote, or bananas. I watched helplessly as Pilar handed 5,000 colones (equivalent of appx $8, 4 hours of HARD work) to her daughter to buy us a couple bottles of juice. They are so generous with the little they have.
We have walked with this family for over 3 years and have been constantly amazed at their abundant level of generosity. They do not have 2 cloaks. They do not have an overabundance of food. Yet they give unceasingly. So, I ask myself, am I giving my second cloak? Am I giving enough? Nope.
Francisco recently came to our house and explained the “house” they are living in is being torn down by the owner to build cabinas for rent. They do not have any options to move to. He can afford rent, but further away from the children’s school and his work, and with not much improvement on their living conditions. Transportation costs will certainly be higher.
In desperation he asked me if we would be willing to buy them a house and his family could rent it. I thought and prayed on this for a while. We have no interest in becoming landlords here in Costa Rica. However, can we GIVE from our abundance with no strings attached? Yes, we certainly can. We can help make their life more manageable, not perfect. A concrete floor, a functional bathroom, maybe even electricity.
I have heard the question posed, “is this a true necessity?” or “aren’t they used to living like this?” Because of our American abundance we want to choose where we donate is the best way to spend our money. But can we ask ourselves, If we have two rooms in our house, shouldn’t we share a room with someone who only has one?
So, we humbly are asking you for donations to make this happen. I have scouted the area of Ulima, (where they live) and have found a couple humble options for sale.
We have already raised approximately $3,000. Our goal is to raise an additional $7,000. If you feel called to help, please send donations to the following link:
Happy Easter and God bless you all! It’s been a while since we’ve written, and our family has many updates to share, but we first wanted to tell you about a special project we are working on.
Through a friend of ours, we were very blessed to meet a beautiful single smiling mother of six named Sarai, who, by all appearances, you’d never guess in a million years what she’s been through. A few years ago Sarai was covertly transferred hours away from a coastal city in Costa Rica to a small city near our mission post to protect her from her violent husband. Her husband was then sentenced to fifty years in prison on accounts of domestic violence. They had been married for 15 years and had six kids together. Sarai lost everything and had to start over. Luckily, her life was re-located near an uncle of hers who happened to live by the popular tourist town of La Fortuna, and she was able to find a job.
Sadly, even though Sarai found what many would consider a prestigious job as a high-end chef at a FIVE-star hotel, she is only making 1200 colones per hour, which is equivalent to about $2.00 an hour. With the cost of living in said tourist town, being paid this much is barely enough for her to live on if she lived alone. As it stands, she needs to pay bills and feed her family of eight, who all live in a small one-bedroom apartment, with a total of three beds for all of them to share, and no outside space for them to play save a skinny sidewalk leading to the street. Can you imagine? Eight people, including your mother, sharing three beds?
Sara has a dream. She’s dreamed it enough to have found and priced all the bare minimum materials needed to start her own business: baking cakes and other decorated sweets to sell. Sara proudly showed us pictures of her creations on her phone that showcased exquisitely prepared cakes and other baked goods she’s made for the luxury hotel she works at. She would already start selling her baked goods on the side – in addition to working sometimes 14 hours a day – to make ends meet, but her landlord wouldn’t let her connect an oven due to the electricity bill it would incur.
Now we have the same dream as Sara; not only to eventually help her start her own business, but to first get her family in a house that fits them, and to get her out of survival mode so she can sustain feeding her family on her own.
God has brought our two families together. I know we are meant to ask for help on behalf of this family. We sometimes struggle greatly with the inequality of the circumstances of life. But instead of dwelling on this, I’m remembering that God loves to use us all when we agree to be used by him, which is, in fact why we are here, Praise God! The Lord hears the cries of the poor.
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
If you would like to contribute to helping Sarai and her family, please donate on the link below and type in “Sarai’s Family” in the notes. Thank you for partnering with us on mission! Have a very blessed Easter Season.
We got to partake in a beautiful small ministry this Christmas. Our friends, Francisco and Pilar were having a baby and she was due very close to Christmas. As Pilar’s pregnancy progressed, these friends of ours, who live about a 40-minute drive away from us, began to visit us more, as the nearest hospital is very close to us. They are very poor, and they do not own a car, but they would take the bus to Ciudad Quesada for their appointments, and often times Brad would be their taxi. Many times they would kill time at our house while they waited for appointments, to go to work, or in between school times. Usually when they stop by, we make coffee or breakfast for them, give a drink of water, and try our best to understand their Nicaraguan accent as we continue to make friends with the whole family.
One evening we had invited their whole family over for dinner and I made tacos. I had asked them what their favorite food to eat was and they stared at me like I was an alien. They answered rice and beans and shrugged. I then realized what a crazy question that must have been for them. It’s not like they get to choose what they want for dinner every night like we do. They don’t have electricity in their one room house, so they go to bed close to sunset and wake up with the sun. The sun sets here around 5:00 pm. They must’ve been very tired when it was after supper, and I was trying to help their teenagers with their English homework. We were trying to rush, using our internet, because they don’t have it. They need to use a neighbor’s house to charge their phones, and if the kids need to study, they need to do it at school.
One day they had been visiting with us at our house in regard to their Costa Rican visa situation. They both never learned to read or write, and there was a mistake on their residency card that was going to cost a lot of time and money to fix. People have two last names here, and she had gotten hers reversed on her card, so it didn’t match the two last names of her husband. This hurdle led to a bunch of late fees they needed to pay in order to update it, but didn’t have the money to, and we had agreed to pay those fees for them. We’d also been trying to help them get their childrens’ birth certificates from Nicaragua so the family could officially convert to Catholicism, but it’s so complicated we haven’t yet been able to fully help with that.
We have been discipling alongside this family, and I can echo (from what so many other missionaries have said) that we have learned far more from their pure faith and simple joy than they from us. On that day they were visiting us, Pilar was very pregnant and I took note that she had walked from the school, about a half mile away. Francisco had gone to play soccer with Brad and the boys. Do you want to rest in my bed? I asked her. She gratefully took me up on it and I brought her back to my room, put the fan on and closed the door behind me. I can’t describe the way I felt… like I had just heard the verse “whatever you do to the least of these you do for me.” Not that I think she’s the least, but that I think she’s the most. That I think she is Jesus. I was just thinking about how I was complaining that we had outgrown our house and were tripping over each other. I imagined what it was like for her to go from her small, dark hut where she shares a room with the whole family, to taking a nap in a window-fresh, fan-sounded cozy-bedded room with the door shut for privacy. And a completely finished (although not pretty by American standards) bathroom. A second one at that! Our house must’ve felt luxurious to her. I felt so silly for complaining. Foolish and silly.
Pilar didn’t have any baby things and I knew she didn’t have enough money to buy anything for her baby, so we wanted to bless her. When I reached out to family and friends, I was amazed at the generosity of all who donated! We were able to buy her all the things on the baby list and more! She was very gracious and humble to receive the items. But I was very struck by how simple her life seemed. I know we think we need all of these baby things in the US, but she is proof that in reality, all we need is warmth, shelter, food and love.
When we went to drop off the items, she was sitting there, holding adoringly her precious new baby in her arms, in her simple house with zero clutter, and I thought how similar it must have been like for the Holy Family, and it was such a joy to witness this blessed family in this way, so close to when baby Jesus was born.
Every now and then, God spontaneously works something out better than you could plan it. In this case, we were planning a Christmas party for eleven poor children and their single mothers who’d heard very little about Jesus, never had visited a church, and never had celebrated a Christmas before. We were throwing this party with some local friends and their family, however we ran out of time to work out the details of who would do what. God ended up orchestrating a party I will never forget.
We’d loosly planned to sing songs, read the Christmas story from the bible, give gifts and have a pizza and ice-cream party (pizza is expensive here, and these families had never had it before, so this was a special treat). Thanks to the donations of many of our family and friends from far away (thank you so much!), we were able to throw a party for these kids that I’m pretty sure blessed us more than them.
We had everything packed for the party and were ready to head off, when Brad ran into our friend Gerardo. Gerardo is alone a lot of the time and always asking us for things, and although I know he is in need, I believe this is his way of asking for love. Brad invited him to come along, and even though it is a 40-minute drive away, he came!
Miraculously, without talking, here is how the party worked out: Zach and I led the group singing Away in a Manger in English and Silent Night in Spanish. Gerardo’s voice is something else, and he took over as the lead singer. We then handed him our guitar and he played more Christmas songs. After this, Brad led us in prayer and he and a few others read the Christmas story out of the children’s bible in Spanish. All of this took place at our friend Anna’s house, who decorated and arranged the gifts ahead of time.
Then our friend Eliomar had prepared a reflection that included two gifts, one wrapped like garbage and scribbled on, and the other wrapped beautifully with glittery ribbon. He asked two kid volunteers which one they wanted, and they both chose the beautiful one. He gave them the gifts and asked them to open them. Inside the beautiful one was nasty old fruit peels and garbage. Inside the scribbled package was chocolate and candy. He asked again which present they wanted. Everyone laughed, and Eliomar explained that the son of God came as an insignificant looking baby, born in a poor stable, and laid in a manger and didn’t look like much, but that the best and most beautiful things come from the inside, and often come in humble packages. In contrast, the beautiful present looks so admirable on the outside, like so many material wonders in our world; so many that we get attached to, such as comfort, beauty, expensive tastes, etc., but on the inside, these things are shallow and ugly, and you can’t take them with you when you die.
This reflection was so beautiful, some of us were teary-eyed. The kids were loving it! After the pizza party, Elizabeth and her friend, Mary Paz handed out the gifts as they called each name. Each kid had three gifts and a little party favor bag of candy. The excitement was palpable. Then they all had ice cream and ran around outside playing soccer, tried on their new dresses and shoes, and played with their toy cars. It was the best Christmas party I’d ever been to. Praise God!
Our dear friends Pilar and Francisco are having a baby any day now, and like Mary and Joseph, they have nowhere to lay their baby’s head. This family does not have any baby items, nor do they have electricity or running water in their one room house. They could greatly use our help!
Please donate to provide items such as:
A crib, a crib mattress, crib sheets, crib mosquito netting, a rocking chair, alcohol, gauze and chamomile tea for healing the baby’s navel, diapers, wipes, baby girl clothes, battery operated flashlight and solar charger. Our goal is to raise about $500 for these items, and we will try to find them from outlets and used stores here in the nearest city, Ciudad Quesada.
Thank you and God bless your Advent season as we anticipate the arrival of the Christ child!
Where we live, the majority of those who need the most material help are Nicaraguan immigrants. Many of these people cross the Costa Rican border in order to seek a better life, however they are held back in many ways. What holds them back is their inability to obtain work, their papers and ultimately residency, thus leading to further obstacles, such as graduating from high school, getting religious sacraments or the most urgent medical needs. Combine these issues with the culturally accepted reality of the broken family, and you have a lot of single mothers raising kids alone, working full time jobs and yet unable to do much else.
Some dear Costa Rican friends of ours brought us to meet three families who live in such a way. Three mothers live close to each other as they lean on one another’s support in raising a collective 11 kids. They are working full-time to support their children. We were told that these children have never been to church, and don’t know anything about Jesus. We were also informed that they have never had a Christmas gift.
Coincidently (as we like to say when God arranges something good!), a fellow missionary from FMC who was visiting us, happened to bring along a stack of children’s bibles in Spanish that a former missionary had left behind. Quite obviously these books were meant for beginning the beautiful task of catechizing eleven little souls as we anticipate the coming of baby Jesus at Christmas!
In the past few weeks, Romans 10:14 was one of the daily readings. “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” It seems this reading was just in time to affirm this task. And in verse 15: “And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”’
Help us bring the good news with your beautiful feet this Christmas! We want to bring the joy and love of Jesus to these families with gifts and a feast. A feast that is very often a daily meal for us, but unheard of for these families. Please help us purchase food and a Christmas gift for each of these children and their mothers. We are trying to give 14 people a gift valued at $20, and have a Christmas dinner for an estimated total of $400.
and write “Christmas gifts” in the comments. God bless you all and may your Advent season be full of the peace, love and joy of Christ!
(In the pictures shown, we are hanging out with our new friends near a kind neighbor’s unrented home and yard. They live in poor housing with muddy floors directly behind the property. There is a rich neighbor on one side who gets upset when they see these kids passing by, as they do not want them anywhere near them. I was once told by a director of FMC that often it’s hardest to be poor when you’re living in nearby pockets by the more well-off, because you are even more isolated, and with less support. Please pray for these families, and us as we attempt to form a relationship built around God.)
I almost never have to go to the grocery store any more. Either Zach or Elizabeth is usually more than willing to walk to the store a few blocks away to get us odds and ends for dinner, and one particular day I was imploring one of them to do just that so I could get supper ready. They both adamantly did not want to go, and rather than fight it, I procrastinated an hour and asked them again before finally going myself. As I was checking out at the store, I noticed two girls that did not look Costa Rican and heard them speaking in English, which can be a little shocking when you’re not used to hearing it spoken regularly, so I was going to ask them what they were doing in my small town, as tourists never make it this far over from the popular La Fortuna area 45 minutes away. They left the store while I was still in line, and I felt a little bummed to have missed the chance to speak to someone in English.
I left the store and turned the corner to walk home and there they were standing and talking to a Costa Rican man sitting on a ledge. I stopped and stared at them, “what are you guys doing here?” I asked. The girls whipped around, also not expecting to hear English, and told me they were visiting for a month as missionaries at a farm about an hour away, and were here to pick up items needed for a retreat they were putting on for local moms. Then five more people joined them from across the street and I met the family that started an organization to help at risk youth in their town and surrounding areas. They promptly invited me to join the mom’s retreat they were putting on that Sunday and gave me their business card.
I felt like I was in a dream. I had to go to the store at that exact time to run into this group of people at that exact moment, and what are the odds that they were throwing a mom’s retreat, and that both my two kids adamantly did not want to go to the store that day? To which my oldest joked that his laziness was obviously God’s will that day… ha! I knew I had to go.
The day before the retreat, the lady of the farm asked me if I wouldn’t mind picking up some moms in a town on my way there, so I agreed. I was a little nervous. I’m not the best driver of our little missionary white buseta that seats 12, but also I had never been there, and also three ladies about my age speaking Spanish for an hour while I drove made me feel very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate to be able to understand them. So, I prayed extra hard that morning and told myself like I’ve done before all the hard things in missions, that all I had to do was pray, show up and smile, and that God would do the rest. I especially prayed for extra understanding of Spanish, and my ability to speak it better.
It was delightful at first to pick up the girls, who smiled so readily and were easy-going. I was able to hold most of the conversation, praise God, but about a mile out from the farm it was raining, and we were on back winding roads with deep puddles. Suddenly everyone yelled stop at the same time (including me in my head), as we all knew we were about to get stuck. We waited until finally the man of the farm came to get us about 30 minutes later, and hooked a chain to my car and pulled us the rest of the way. The ladies could tell I was stressed and were talking me through it, but I could tell they were stressed as well until we finally pulled in to start the retreat an hour late. I was thinking that I was already exhausted and the day had barely begun. However, concentrating on both understanding fast Spanish and driving those back roads made breakfast and coffee all the more enjoyable. Plus, there were six missionary girls to talk to in English and share testimonies with!
The retreat included praying for healing, and while I was willing to join in the exercises and sharing, I gently felt the Holy Spirit telling me I should just sit back and take it all in. They created a washing feet station and spa station for the moms. When it was time for pedicures, one of the missionaries was worried to cut a lady’s toenails because we were warned that she had diabetes so she couldn’t cut the corners. She looked at me and said, do you want to do it? Sure, I said. I do not like touching feet. I never have, and you might say it’s a family thing that we just don’t like feet touching us. But as I sat down on the floor I thought to myself, these are the feet of Jesus, and I was suddenly incredibly honored to be caring for them. I sat on the floor and lovingly placed her feet on my lap and filed each of her toes into symmetry. I massaged her foot and prayed that God would heal her. Suddenly she looked down at me and declared that I was a “princessa de Dios.” I smiled and told her she is actually a princessa de Dios, but she said it again and then poked her neighbor and told her the same thing. She could sense the love of the Holy Spirit, and it was beautiful. This was my favorite part of the whole day… here I was supposed to be being served as a mother on a retreat, and God allowed me to serve in a way that I could unite with Jesus when he said, I did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). What a gift.
At the end of the retreat, we all were sitting for testimonies and final prayer. One of the women I had picked up that morning, (who had just lost her grandmother who had raised her as an orphaned child just four months ago) stood up and said she had been wrestling with herself about coming today and had decided not to go. She had made up her mind when she then saw me pull up in the car and she knew it was a sign from the Holy Spirit that she should get in the car. She said how much she had needed this day to heal her heart.
That day I witnessed so many women coming together, sharing in suffering and pain you cannot even imagine. My mission that day was bringing some of these beautiful women together for healing from Jesus. In my mind, I did nothing that day but show up. Nothing that day but pray, nothing that day but smile. And God blessed me by allowing me to share in his love in this way. The owner of the farm asked me to drop off even more women on the way back, and I glanced back and every single seat in my little bus was filled, but I knew I wouldn’t get stuck. When I started dropping off the women, many of them asked to see me again and gave me their numbers. The reason this blew my mind is because I hardly shared anything or said anything all day to these women, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t believe how much God was glorified in my nothingness. It didn’t matter that I probably sounded like an idiot or was difficult to understand. All that mattered was that I went and allowed myself to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit. Praise God.
Hello everyone, my name is Zachary Schmitz, and I am a teenager in missions. If you are in missions, you know it’s difficult, and trust me it’s not easy. There are awkward moments that you don’t want to be in, things your parents want you to do but you don’t want to do it, and so on. But just so you know, you’re not alone in this. God is with you always and he helps you with those awkward moments. And once you really get into it you start to love doing it, and you just feel on fire. But you can also get pulled away from it if you stop to pray and don’t practice loving. And if you’re in that spot (and trust me I’ve been there), don’t forget to stop and ask God for help. And for an example, me not liking to write blogs about missions because I think it will make me “not cool” but really, it’s the coolest thing ever and if they think it’s boring, they’re the ones missing out.
Now I am going to tell you a little about my experience during my time in Costa Rica.
So, me and my family (8) have been in Costa Rica for a year and a half and we kind of felt like we weren’t doing much, but we were actually doing quite a lot. We probably changed our neighbors’ lives, by our prayers and praises.
So, one time I was walking to the store and when I got there, there was this poor man and he seemed sad and lonely. He saw me and lit up, and he started asking me questions, and then he asked me if I would buy a treat for him and (awkward situation right here) I was about to say no when all of the sudden the Holy Spirit moved me to buy him a treat, so I bought him one and he was so thankful he came right up to me and hugged me with tears in his eyes. And so, when you feel the holy spirit moving you don’t ignore it, listen to it for it will make you very happy.
So, I live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids and at first, I really didn’t like them. I thought they were annoying people who just got in my way. But then after 3 months, something changed, I started to hang out with them and so on, so on. They sometimes come and pray the rosary with us. I think it changed their lives by us just being here and now they are my best friends, and we have fun every day.
So, I’m guessing that you’ve all heard of covid-19 the stupid “virus” that kinda ruined missions.
We’ve been in virtual school for a couple of weeks, and I’ve been really struggling with it. And its double hard because it’s in Spanish. And you know everyone’s like “don’t get close to me you might have covid” and it has really delayed missions throughout the year. But we can always pray for the people we serve in any situation. And in Puerto Rico when we helped clean up a disabled man’s house even though we had to wear masks, at least we made him happy.
This is just a quick blog to share the progress of a couple bigger projects we were helping with while we were stateside.
One of the projects was brought to our attention through another missionary family we served close to in Costa Rica. They attended language school in Guatemala, and became good friends with their language teacher. It turns out she was actively doing ministries herself, although short on funds to adequately serve the most needy around her.
She was raising money for a widowed woman of 10 kids who was in need of a kitchen. This is the kitchen she was cooking in for her large family:
Praise God, through our generous benefactors, we were able to provide the funds to build her a new kitchen. She is so grateful! Here are some pictures to share the progress:
The other project we have posted about before, but was put on hold due to Covid-19, however we partnered with our local church in Florencia and were able to start building a new house for a single woman, Maria, and her seven children. You may remember her current house was in disrepair and dangerous for them to live in. The house is now complete! Here is a picture of her bright and beautiful new home, praise God!
“And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
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.”
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.
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!