Romans 11:36

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen."

May 28, 2010

Thank You and God Bless You!

To all of you who have stood beside me over the years and helped me to love God more:

Thank You and God Bless You!

“Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Ephesians 1:15-23

I am now done with my blog. It was fun for me, so I hope it was fun for you. Please continue to stay in touch with me through e-mail and phone calls, and let me know if you ever want to do some mission work in Costa Rica.

Much love,

May 27, 2010

Goodbye Costa Rica

On May 4th, I left Costa Rica. Sure, I'll be back many times in the years to come, but my full-time ministry there is now over.
Over the past two years, I worked on constructing the Children's Worship Center and Methodist Medical Clinic in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Sunday School classrooms in Monteverde and Finca 11 de Rio Frio, and the Methodist Children's Home in Coronado.

At the Colegio Metodista, I gave numerous messages to the high school and elementary school students during chapel, taught a couple of Christian Education classes and participated in over-night retreats for the high school, choreographed some line dances (hah!) and coached basketball for the elementary school, and spent countless hours hanging out with the faculty and administration of the school.

I hosted 33 mission teams from the States, helping them in their week-long transition to Costa Rican culture, working alongside them in the hot/cold/dry/wet construction ditches, and singing, dancing and playing throughout their Vacation Bible School lessons for the kiddos.

And it was wonderful.

Yet the most important piece of it all, and the piece that I have tried to stress in my most recent posts, was the quality of the relationships that I built with both the Costa Ricans and the Americans. The hospitality, selflessness, generosity and undying love that was poured out upon me has profoundly impacted my life, and I hope to hold those experiences--and more importantly, those friends who blessed me--in my heart for the rest of my days.

Through both the work and the friendships, God revealed Himself to me in new, unimaginable ways. I learned some of the tough sides of faith, yet I learned of the overabundance of the beautiful sides of faith as well. It will take many months, and probably many years, of reflection in order to fully comprehend all the lessons that God has taught me over the past two years.

And I couldn't be more thankful.

Goodbye Costa Rica . . . until we meet again.

May 24, 2010

Goodbye Seminary

On my last day in Costa Rica, I attended my final classes at the Methodist Seminary. It was a fitting place to say goodbye, as many of our pastors, as well as the Bishop of the Methodist Church of Costa Rica, were in attendance.

The Bishop offered some rather kind words about my ministry in Costa Rica, and he even presented me with some meaningful gifts commemorating my time spent with the Methodist Church. The pastors then followed that up by praying for me, and all of them were incredibly sincere and loving in their final words to me. It was a blessing.

But the real reason that the Seminary was the right place to say goodbye was because of the two professors who became my great friends over the course of the last two years: Ray Zirkel (center) and Will Faircloth (left).

Ray and Will opened up their lives and their homes to me, and helped me to learn invaluable lessons about living a life of ministry. I truly cannot say enough about the meaning of their friendship in my life, but that didn't stop me from trying when I said goodbye. They both know that I love them, and all of you can know that they are two wonderful men of God.

May 6, 2010

Goodbye Coronado

Another incredibly difficult goodbye: the one to Carmen's family in Coronado.
I've written about Carmen many times in my blog because she's so special to me. Every day that I went to Coronado to work on the Children's Home with mission teams, Carmen would start my day with a big hug and some funny story about her family from the night before, then she would spoil me throughout the day with snacks, extra food at lunch, and often times laundry service :-)
She also has the most loving daughters in the world, and they would always find me on the worksite, yell "Wiiiiiil!" and then come and give me big hugs, regardless of how dirty I may have been. They also called me their big brother and were always asking me to come over in the evening and play dominoes with them.
So, on my final visit to Coronado, I took the family a photo album and a sweet note, hoping that I could do something to help repay their unmatchable kindness to me. I also arrived with a birthday cake, telling them that we were going to celebrate all of their birthdays for the year, since I wouldn't be there to do it with them :-(
Shortly after I snapped the photo above, Carmen and the girls proceeded to sing the most lively (two) renditions of the Happy Birthday Song that I have ever heard. And as they were singing the final verse on the second rendition, Carmen stuck her finger in the cake and attacked the noses of all her daughters. The girls then stuck their respective fingers in the cake and attacked each other . . . and me. It was mayhem. But I got it all on video, and it was marvelous.
After spending the afternoon cooking and eating lunch and drinking coffee and eating cake and playing dominoes, the girls and I wrote on the sidewalk outside with some colorful sidewalk chalk, writing all sorts of sappy goodbye messages to one another. I even drew a nearly perfect portrait of their dog, Fofi. Hah.
Before I left, Carmen and the girls circled around me to pray for me, and I nearly cried when Lady, the middle daughter, prayed to God that she wished I wouldn't leave, but that she knew that He had greater things in store for me. And she's only 11 years old.
I'm jealous of all the mission teams that will be spoiled by Carmen's love and cooking over the next only-God-knows-how-many years, and I can't wait to be back with that family.

Apr 30, 2010

Goodbye Meto

My last two days at the Colegio Metodista involved goodbyes to my high school Bible Study group and my primary school basketball team.

The Bible Study group had humble beginnings last year, with regular attendance of about 4-6 students, but now we're up to anywhere from 10-15 students per week. We've been studying the book of John all year, and it's been great.

For my last Bible Study I brought the kids some cake, and then they brought me cookies and balloons and confetti and a whole lot of noise. It was a super fun afternoon, and the kids were very loving. In the picture above, they were doing some crazy thing where they jump all over the person of honor, right after taking some normal pictures with said person. There were even five students who stuck around after all the others left in order to affirm me and pray for me before I left. It was very moving.

The following day I said goodbye to my basketball team, and it was rather sad. I've spent the past year and a half helping to coach both the primary school boys and girls, and I will definitely miss them. Unfortunately, most of the boys were at a tournament for my last practice, but I still had the joy of saying goodbye to the girls--mostly third and fourth graders.

The girls have had a year of learning, as the majority of them had never played basketball before February. Just last month they had their first 2 games ever, and they played 2 great halves (we won't talk about the second half of either game, though).

As I left practice that day, many of the girls started crying and hugging me and they wouldn't let me leave the court. One of them even wrote me a goodbye note. They're some great ladies.

Goodbye Llano Grande

I received a huge blessing when I attended my last youth group in Llano Grande. I showed up expecting to be a quiet member of the group that evening, because it had been quite some time since I had last showed my face in that youth group. I was, however, pleasantly surprised from the moment I arrived. It turned out that the entire night was devoted to me, celebrating my departure (probably because they couldn't wait to get rid of me) with a collection of random games, dancing and fun.

It all started with balloons that were used in an intense game of hot potato. As each person lost, they were forced to pop the balloon and read a small piece of paper that had been stuck inside the balloon. That piece of paper would either include a Bible verse for them to read to me, or a suggestion of how they could bless me, or a mischievous task for the person to do with me (such as dance with me).

The game of hot potato then turned into a game of musical chairs, with the loser being forced to pop the balloon (the only problem with that game was that I was often the loser . . . my ability to push people around was lost in the fact that I was trying to be a gracious guest).

After that they sat me down to watch a video that Marco (previously mentioned in my Checkmate blog post) had made for me--a montage of music and photos from my years in Costa Rica. It is an awesome video. Then they pulled me into a circle and had the pastor and his wife, Gerardo and Rosa, say some words of affirmation and pray for me. The youth followed the prayer by going in a circle and blessing me with their words, tears and hugs. I was crying by the end. And of course, as do all great Costa Rican celebrations, the night ended with a big meal.

I definitely didn't deserve such an amazing evening in my honor. More than speak to my impact on the Llano Grande church, that evening spoke to the love of the Llano Grande church. They truly are Christ's body in action, and they made me feel more loved than I could have ever imagined. I will really miss them. May God bless them all.

Up, up, up

When I first got to Costa Rica in June 2008, Ray promised me that he would take me to Honorio's village. I wrote about Honorio in one of my earlier posts because he's the only indigenous pastor who's ever graduated from the Methodist Seminary, and he had to walk 7 hours and bus for 2 every time that he came down to the Seminary.

So finally, in April 2010, Ray took me to Honorio's village. And it was awesome.

We drove the car about 4 hours east/southeast of San Jose and then we started hiking. The hike up took us 6 hours, and it truly was a hike UP. It just never seemed to stop going up. Especially for those first 3 hours, when I was dying . . .

But I tell you what, it was totally worth it. Once we arrived at Honorio's house, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery you can ask for in Costa Rica. We had literally traversed mountains through a valley, overlooking a rushing river (the Pacuare) down below. And when we finally arrived, we saw pigs, horses, chickens and roosters walking all around a gorgeously landscaped piece of property that was home to a small wooden church and an ever-expanding wooden house. Honorio's 5 children, his wife and his mother, and his nephews and nieces were bringing life to the land. It was brilliant.

That night we attended a church service led by Honorio, lit purely by the light of 8 burning candles placed along the walls of the church. They had 3 guitars, mostly out of tune, but they sang for more than an hour, playing music to God with nothing holding them back. Then one of the men from the community shared his testimony and Honorio gave a message. While the majority of the service was in Cabecar, the native language of the Cabecar tribe, Honorio would bless Ray and me every now and then with some Spanish translation, a language that Honorio practically taught himself.

There's so much to tell about that evening and the entire adventure, but I just can't put it all into words (nor do I have the stamina to write about all of it and do it justice). But I'll just say that the way down was another 6 hours of hiking--in the rain--and so we had walked for 12 hours in order to spend about 13 hours at Honorio's village. And it was, without a doubt, worth every minute.