Romans 11:36

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

Nov 26, 2008

Back for the Holidays

So I'm back in the States until January, but then I hit the ground running in Costa Rica, and I'll be there for all of 2009.

Blog entries will still be made, but randomly and without cause. Hope you're okay with that.

Much love,

Friends to the End

God moment, back in the States

I came back to the States on a Wednesday night (after my first five months in CR), and my delayed plane got in at 9:00pm. There, waiting for me at the airport, was my wonderful girlfriend Amanda. We then hop in the car and start driving to my friend Kai’s apartment, where I expect him and two of my other friends to be, waiting to say hi to me before they go to bed for the evening (working folk have to actually wake up early on the weekdays).

So Amanda and I pull up to the apartment around 10:00pm, get out of the car, and head to Kai’s door. I knock quickly, open the door, and there’s Kai . . . looking sheepish as if I just caught him in the act of doing something, but also looking incredibly happy to see me. I give him and a huge hug and look behind him.

And there, standing in Kai’s apartment, are 14 of my best friends from U.Va. They had all come to Kai’s apartment on a Wednesday night and waited around for my delayed plane, losing sleep on a weekday for the sole purpose of greeting me on my return to the States. They even stayed around and chatted it up with me, eating the pizza that they had ordered so I could eat dinner, until 11:00pm. On a work night.

Those friends, thanks to Kai and Amanda, were there to love me and support me in a way that was so meaningful I could never be thankful enough. The Lord truly did bless my time at U.Va., and my friends are the proof. It’s such a joy and a blessing to back.

Nov 8, 2008

Sweet smelling football

Funny moments, Weeks 12-18

(1) Los Ticos Deportistas
-I recently had the chance to play both soccer and basketball with the local Costa Ricans, or Ticos. For those of you who know me well, you know that my level of proficiency at these two sports varies greatly. It was quite a blessing to be invited to play both, though.

For my soccer match, we played at a small field encapsulated by netting. It had just rained quite heavily (and it was still drizzling while we were playing), so the field was a sloppy mess . . . all the more fun. The guys I was playing with were mostly in their upper 20s or older, although I think one guy was a few years younger than me.

Basically, to put it nicely, I’m terrible at soccer. My only chance to succeed on a soccer pitch would be if I got to run with everyone. However, on a miniature field, that’s not going to happen. Instead, it’s all about ball control and ball movement, quick passes and skilled shots—four things that have never been a part of my athletic repertoire.

My stats for the 20 to 12 whooping that my team put on the other (we just kept playing and playing): 4 assists and 1 goal. You may think, “That’s great, Will!” Well, if you look at my assist to turnover ratio, it was probably 1:4. And, if you consider that I took about 13 shots on goal, my one goal doesn’t sound so impressive. Regardless, it was an awesome time.

I also got to play basketball with the locals. That was much more up my alley, and I had a wonderful time playing with them. I even got invited to go play with some guys at the pickup courts in San Jose, where all the apparent “ballers” in Costa Rica get their game on. However, my team lost 2 games to 1, and I was obliged to buy a Coke for the guy I was guarding. Shucks.

(2) Zoo Ave, o Zoo Araña (Bird Zoo, or Spider Zoo?)
-So my mom and I decided to go to the Zoo Ave, or Bird Zoo, just outside of San José. I was told that we would be able see some interesting birds and some wonderful Costa Rican wildlife. Well, both of those things are true. However, I never thought the whole “wildlife” bit would also include one of my least favorite animals in all of God’s marvelous creation: spiders.

But it wasn’t just innocuous spiders behind glass cages, no sir. These bad boys were strung all over the birdcages, in every part of the zoo. And they were big honkers. I need to find a picture of them online. They even had really long legs (which is extra creepy in my book) and would just sit in the middle of their webs, waiting for a chance to strike. Well, I guess there was one that wasn’t really waiting, he was actively munching down on a freshly trapped butterfly. Two other spider “friends” were trying to get in on the butterfly action, and it was as if the three of them were wrestling each other. Why were there 3 spiders fighting each other for a butterfly? Because all their webs (and the other 25 webs in that area) were so closely strung together that I’m sure they get confused as to whose web has caught which insect. Ugh.

Anyways, I write not to tell of my fear, but of my realization that the spider problem at Zoo Ave was a rather large one. You see, I was taking a picture of something (I don’t really remember what), and my mom had chosen to walk ahead of me to get a glimpse of a tapir, a really goofy lookin’ animal. And all of a sudden I hear my mom let out a blood-curdling scream.

I look to my left, and there she is, stumbling backwards over herself after having looked over the wooden fence of the tapir “zone.” I come a runnin’ to see what the problem is, and she’s lost all semblance of composure. For all of you who know my momma, please picture her with her hand over her chest, deep sighs coming from her mouth and an occasional, “Oh, William, oh my goodness!”

“What, momma, what?!?!?”

“Well, I was looking over that fence to see if there were any tapirs around, and, well, there was a spider instead!”

And there it was, in all of its glory, two inches from where my mom’s face had been nosily peering over the wooden fence: a huge honkin’ spider, long gangly legs and all, just chillin’ on his web, waiting for his next victim to come along. I bet he never thought that victim would be a 40+ (being nice here) year-old woman with a fanny pack and an ear-riveting scream . . .

Later on in our Bird Zoo tour, which full realization of the spider issue at hand, my mom and I were walking along in the pure center of the walking path (not wanting to get too close to a spider-webbed birdcage), when we came upon some rather funny looking monkeys. They were small little guys, I wish I could remember their name, and they were dancing around and having a heck of a time in their cage. They were hopping from tree to tree, climbing up and down the cage, making noises, chasing after some of their babies . . . it was hilarious.

The only problem was, my mom and I couldn’t see them from up close. Not because their cage was set back from the walking path, but because my mom and I refused to walk on the path next to their cage . . . there were too many spiders. Floating across the walking path—from one tree to another—was a plethora of spider webs, fully equipped, with their long-legged friends dangling from the center of each. My mom and I weren’t going anywhere near those things.

So there we sat, a good 20 feet away from the funny monkeys and their cage, because we didn’t dare get any closer. There we were, laughing our heads off at these monkeys, feeling sorry that we couldn’t get closer to see what kind of monkey they were, and yet, we wouldn’t budge. Couldn’t have paid us a million dollars. I’m sure the monkeys didn’t mind.

(3) Glade, anyone?
Amanda and I needed transportation from the northwest coast of Costa Rica back into the central valley and San José. It’s about a six-hour car ride, so we found a private bus company that does direct transport—we figured it’d be better than 8 hours in a public bus.

So we hop into our “private” mini-bus that holds 7 passengers and the driver. When we leave the beach, there are only 5 of us, so Amanda and I have the spacious back row to ourselves, and it’s lookin’ like it’s going to be a comfortable ride home. Within 10 minutes, we’ve picked up another passenger who joins Amanda and me in the back row—an older Costa Rican gentleman who refuses to greet me in Spanish when I do likewise. Apparently, I don’t look like I’m Costa Rican, so anyone who sees me and knows English automatically thinks that they should talk like so. Anyways, I find out later his name is Alfredo, and he’s a lawyer. He now becomes an integral part of this humorous story.

About 20 minutes after we pick up Alfredo, we pick up another passenger, completely filling our private bus with the driver and co-pilot in the front seats, 3 passengers in the middle row and another 3 in the back row. This final man who entered our bus was an interesting character.

We roll up to our stop and there he is, an imposing figure, tall and lanky but with a huge gut. His hair is graying, his skin looks tough as leather, and his small beige vest-shirt is unbuttoned all the way down the middle. So, BAM, there’s his gut. He’s got some free-flowing black pants on and, we find out later, nothing underneath.

In one hand is a clear 20 oz. plastic bottle, lacking its original labeling and its original contents—I just haven’t seen too many plastic-bottled drinks come in that amber color. In his other hand is a cigarette that comes into the bus with him, until the driver yells at him to throw it out. All of us in the bus knew it was going to be an interesting ride.

Within minutes of this man’s entry into our bus, we realize that he’s French (he’s been yelling on his cell phone since he got in the bus) and that he is indeed a little intoxicated. However, he’s also probably lived in Costa Rica for years, per the condition of his Spanish speaking and his mannerisms.

Alfredo, my lawyer friend, is having a fit. He can’t believe that the driver let this man in the car, and he’s about to lose all composure. To the Frenchman’s credit, he’s not in that bad of shape, but he was definitely making the Swiss couple uncomfortable in the bus’s middle row. Then, the Frenchman (as we’ll refer to him now) raises his arm to scratch his armpit and . . . WOW. The smell that emanated from his pits was unbearable. While I was fine with this man’s presence in the car, I was not fine with the state of his armpits. Those bad boys needed to be cleaned, and fast!

At this point, Alfredo loses it. He’s been clenching his hands for nearly half an hour now, and finally he’s reached his breaking point. The smell is just too unbearable.

“That’s it!” he says, “This is why I always come prepared . . .”

Now, at this point, I believe that Alfredo is capable of anything. He’s an older man, definitely doesn’t have the brute strength to reach in front of him and put the tall Frenchman into a chokehold or anything, but I’m still uncertain as to what drastic measure he’s about to take in order to control the nastiness that is/are the Frenchman’s armpits.

So Alfredo reaches down into his bag and starts rummaging around. My curiosity is sparked, but so is my fear. Then this gleam comes into his eye, and his hand comes forth from the bag with . . . a miniature-sized Glade air freshener spray-bottle.

Alfredo literally pointed his portable Glade spray-bottle (a necessary travel component for all lawyers, I presume) at the Frenchman, and doused him with Glade. No shame, no apologies. Not to the Frenchman, nor to the other passengers in the bus who were now choking on the high concentration of Glade in such a small space. But he sprayed. And sprayed.

Because, sometimes, the smell is just too much to handle.

Now, I want to see all of you try to keep a straight face when the man you’re sitting next to in the bus pulls out a portable Glade bottle to spray down the smelly culprit. It was tough. For both Amanda and me.

(4) Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.
-Enough said.

Holy Ghost Party

God moments, Weeks 12-18:

(1) The New Season
-As I said goodbye to the last mission team that I was to host this year, it was a time of joy and of reflection. It was joy, knowing that the Lord had brought me through my first season of serving him here in Costa Rica, and it was also reflection, on all that God was trying to teach me through my experience. I was so thankful that the Lord had given me the opportunity to come to Costa Rica, and it was encouraging to know that it had only just begun.

I then got to change my focus to my new season of service here, notably in the Methodist School, the Methodist Seminary, and with Ray’s finances. It was a lot of unknown, but I was ready, because I knew that God had my back.

There were ups, there were downs, but, as it turns out, looking back on the past month, it’s been an incredible ride. The following gives a very brief summary of how that month went.

(2) The Young Gringo Speaks to the Younger Ticos
-With more time on my hands, I was able to start a ministry at the Methodist School here in San Jose. I was quickly thrown into the role of part-time chapel speaker, getting the chance to share my testimony with 7th-10th graders, one chapel “service” at a time. Over the past month I’ve shared at seven different chapel services, and attended many more.

One of my favorite ways to spread the Word is through talking to high school students. They are so responsive, and so willing to hear about someone who has, somewhat recently, walked in their shoes.

And their responsiveness to my talks was a huge blessing. Numerous students came up to me after the services and wanted to talk with me or share their heart with me. They opened up about the needs in their lives—spiritual, emotional, etc.—and, in doing so, I’ve taken on a very small counselor role at the school. I’m hoping to spend more time at the Methodist School next school year (2009), and hopefully I’ll be able to expand on my ministry there.

I’m praying that, one day, I could start an after school youth group, because 85% of the kids at that school don’t attend church regularly. What a blessing it would be to share with them weekly, and to open them up to the reality of Jesus in their lives. We’ll leave that one up to God . . .

(3) Since I’m American, I Might As Well Teach English
-Ray has asked me to help two of the Methodist Seminary students learn English, so that they might take their intelligence and theological studies to the States. I’ve since had two other students and an entire family jump on board to my English classes, and it’s been quite an adventure.

I love teaching people who are so willing to learn (I’ve never taught before, and I now have an even greater respect for all you teachers out there), and they’re all so intrigued by the prospect of learning English. We’ve been walking through a pretty basic Intro to English book, and I’m actually learning things about the language myself. My students are also very willing to teach me Spanish as I mess up along the way.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the reactions and the excitement of the students as they grasp more and more of the language. It’s truly a special thing to be able to help them achieve their goal of learning English. I’ll still need to spend quite a bit more time with them when I come back next year, but we’ll trust that God will continue to get the glory in all the time we spend together.

(4) The Ladies Come to Visit
-Both my momma and Amanda came to visit me at different times in October. It was so nice to spend time with the two of them, and to show them my world here in Costa Rica. I’m sure I puffed out my chest a few times as I walked around my stomping grounds with them . . .

Their visits were very blessed, and we shared many real conversations and touristy activities together. To be able to relax in the presence of such meaningful people in my life was quite a gift from God.

Both my momma and Amanda were able to attend Sunday church services with me--both of them in Llano Grande, and Amanda in Puerto Viejo as well. I enjoyed watching them experience the joy and love that spring forth from these churches here. And everyone in the congregations was so excited to meet them; it was as if they were royalty. But, in reality, those congregations were just showing the true love of God that emanates from these churches.

The icing on the cake from the time with the two marvelous ladies: I got to spend my birthday with Amanda, which was sweet!

*My momma with Abraham (the work foreman for all of our construction projects here), his wife Lilliam, and their grandson Dylan.

(5) One More Step Towards My Lifelong Goal
-On October 19, I gave my first ever sermon in Spanish, and my first sermon in front of a real Sunday morning congregation (not that I’ve given sermons to fake Sunday morning congregations . . . but you know what I mean :-).

I shared at the big church we’re building in Puerto Viejo and, since the majority of the congregation still doesn’t know who I am (even though they’ve seen me and heard me translate for mission teams on numerous occasions), I decided to share a little of my testimony and why I’m in Costa Rica. I did it using three passages that guided me or led me through the tough times during my discernment of my call to mission work—one each from Joshua, Matthew, and Job.

I can’t say that I knocked this sermon out of the park, but God provided me with my basic Spanish vocabulary and I heard “amen” at all the right parts in the sermon. Where I do know that God blessed the sermon, though, is that one of the church members came up to me after my sermon and told me that my words were sent to him from God. How awesome.

Each time I speak I ask God to impact just one person, since I am just one person that’s been impacted by different sermons, and God happened to let me know that my particular prayer had been answered that day. Thank you, Lord.

(6) An American Watching Londoners Sing to Jesus in a Costa Rican Megachurch (also known as a Hillsong concert)
-A little more than a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Hillsong concert with the family of a local pastor here in Costa Rica. Thanks to one of the churches that had come down on a mission trip, I was able to take 4 of the pastor’s kids (and one of their girlfriends) to Hillsong’s first ever concert in the country of Costa Rica.

We went to a church of about 14,000 members, so we were in a huge auditorium. Hillsong sang some great songs, had some great times of prayer and reflection, and just did a great job overall. But that wasn’t the best part.

No, no, the best part was Marco. Marco is the pastor’s 15-year-old son, and he has muscular dystrophy. At the age of 11 the MD started, and he’s now confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Thank the Lord, though, that he still has enough strength to hold his head up while he’s in his wheelchair, and to be the most joyful and loving kid I’ve ever met.

Marco told me after I first met him that Hillsong is his favorite band, and that he loves to listen to their music. He also happened to mention that Hillsong would be playing a concert in San Jose. As soon as I heard that, I looked up the concert online and made it my goal to get him there.

However, I probably would have never been able to do it had it not been for the support of one of our loving churches that assists us down here. One of their staff members, Krista, took it upon herself to make sure that Marco got to this concert, and what a beautiful thing it was.

Marco sat there the whole time with this gigantic grin on his face, singing along to all the songs, nodding his head to the beat of the music, and just being an incredibly joyful spirit. He sang, he prayed, he laughed, he loved. It was awesome.

Even though Hillsong may not be my favorite band, they now have an incredibly special place in my heart. Because Hillsong brought joy to Marco, a joy and an expression that I will never forget.

(7) Even My Pops Came
-I also had the joy of hosting my dad here in Costa Rica. He came, along with two other ladies, representing his church and my home church, St. Andrew UMC in Plano, Texas.

The three of them came with the intention of creating a business plan for the Methodist University here in San Jose/San Pedro, to get it out of the red and into the mainstream of higher education here in Costa Rica.

The sad part was that the trip lasted only a day and a half. The good part: I got to show my dad around San Jose, so that he could get a better feel for our ministries here. There’s still a lot to show him, though, so he’ll have to come back soon.

It’s great to know that so many people I care for have seen our ministry here, and I thank the Lord for that.

Oct 30, 2008

What a month!

Hola a todos,

October has been a fantastic month. I got to spend a week working with middle/high school kids at the Methodist School, a week with my momma, a half week at the Methodist School, a week and a half with Amanda, and a week at the Methodist Seminary, Methodist School and Ray's house.

It was a whirlwind, but it was a blast.

Over the next week I'll be updating the last month's God moments and funny moments, so stay tuned (I'll also be answering a month's worth of emails). And a big Happy Halloween to everyone!

Love that breaks international boundaries,

Sep 26, 2008

El niñero

God moment, Week 11

For those of you who don’t habla español, “el niñero” stands for “the niñero”

Okay, that was just for all of you Chris Farley fans out there.

But seriously, I had one of the most amazing experiences ever last week. I was working construction at the orphanage, and the caretaker of the property, Jose, needed some help.

Jose typically walks his youngest daughter, Hillary (8), to school around noon and then picks up his two older daughters, Sylvia (12) and Lady (10) at the same time (school here is split into two different school days, since they don’t have enough teachers or resources to host everyone at once). However, this particular day, he had to enlist my nanny (niñero) services.

So there I was, filthy and dirty in my construction clothes, walking down the street to school with the most gorgeous and beautiful little Costa Rican girl I’ve ever seen. Her hair was tied into pigtails that stretched below her shoulders, her neatly pressed white shirt and navy skirt were blowing in the wind, her tiny pink backpack was bouncing up and down with every step . . . and her little hand was grasping mine with every ounce of strength that it had.

I wish I could tell you about the conversation that we had (I’ve forgotten most of it by now), or that I could describe in words how sweet her little Spanish voice is, but I just can’t do it justice. Just imagine the sweetest girl ever and you’ll get close to picturing her. Then, after dropping Hillary off, I got to pick up two more marvelous girls—Sylvia and Lady—and walk home with my arms around them.

All I know is that I was the luckiest gringo in the world for those twenty minutes that I was basking in the joy of walking Hillary, Sylvia and Lady to and from school. And what a blessing from God that I was able to do so.

The three girls last week after they lost in a water balloon / mud fight with the mission team's bus driver, Javier.

Sep 24, 2008

What's in a name?

Funny moment, Week 10


So that’s my new name at the worksite. What a pain. It’s cute when an 8-year-old girl calls you that to say hello, as was the case the other day. But then when one of the construction workers decides to make fun of you for it, and get all the American missionaries to join in on the fun . . . straight torture. Then when they tell Ray’s 7- and 9-year-old daughters . . . crooked torture. And then when the weekly mission team bus driver shows up after the weekend off to yell “Weeeeeeell!!!!!” out the window of his bus . . . arrrggghhh.

Then when everyone on the mission team poses for pictures at the end of the day and replaces “Cheeeeeese!” with “Weeeeeeell!” . . . well, shucks.

So I don’t know how funny this moment actually was, you’d have to ask everyone else who loved every minute of it (and all those who continue to join in on the fun :-)

School's in session

God moment, Week 9

When I led small group Bible studies at UVa, I always encouraged the fellas to pray before they signed up for classes. I encouraged them to pray that God would open up their schedule just as He desired, and that He would guide their decision making as they chose their different classes.

I felt that God often answered those prayers of mine, but I learned of God’s provision in a whole new way during Week 9 of my stay here. Because three classes that I took during my fourth year at UVa—before I ever even thought of coming to Costa Rica—were clearly ordained by the Lord to aide my ministry down here. Which classes?

(1 and 2) Catholicism and Pentecostalism
(3) Accounting Information Systems

Catholicism and Pentecostalism

In the first week I’d been without a team since Week 1 in Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of attending classes at the Methodist Seminary where Ray (the missionary I’m interning for) is a professor. I was able to sit in on classes where Costa Rican pastors are trained to become scripturally based pastors who know the truth about both the Bible and Wesleyan/Methodist doctrine.

Some of you may already know this, but Costa Rica is a Catholic country on paper. The official state religion is still Catholicism, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has zero ties to the Catholic church here. And, outside of Catholicism, the Pentecostal church has had quite the influence on the spiritual situation here. Ever since the Azusa Street Mission in 1906 and the leaders’ desire to spread the Gospel to the whole earth, the Pentecostal church has made its presence known in many countries, including Costa Rica. So you’ll also be hard-pressed to find a Protestant Costa Rican who has zero ties to the Pentecostal church.

Therefore, because of the dominance of Catholicism and Pentecostalism here in Costa Rica, the pastors in the Evangelical Methodist Church take many of their thoughts and practices from these two churches. Many of the questions the students/pastors asked in the seminary focused on either Catholic or Pentecostal practices. And, rather than being totally out of the loop when those questions surfaced—and having to ask Ray thousands and thousands of questions in order to slowly piece together the story of these two churches—I’ve already been introduced to all the topics the students struggle with. My classes on Catholicism and Pentecostalism provided me with a basis to be a knowledgeable student and member of the Methodist church here in Costa Rica.

What a blessing. I literally knew nothing about these churches before January of this year. And now, thanks to two classes that I signed up for before I knew I’d be in Costa Rica, my ability to minister here has been completely changed. I can listen to pastors, I can understand their struggles, and I can help them find direction in their pursuit of God’s will. Thanks God.

Accounting Information Systems

The other class, AIS, caught me completely off guard. In this class, we learned how to work Great Plains, an accounting software for small businesses. My professor even questioned me in class one day about the usefulness that this software would have for a future pastor. I told him he might be surprised.

Anyways, in that same week that I was attending seminary classes, Ray decided that he wanted me to finally put my accounting and finance “skills” to use, by helping him organize his finances for his ministry down here. So, at the advice of one of the American mission team members who came down here, we bought QuickBooks, an accounting software. Ray told me that I should learn it and then teach it to him when I had figured it out. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard (I was quite mistaken).

So we ordered this program and I opened it up to start playing with it. And, what do you know? It’s about 75% the same program that I learned in Accounting Information Systems. The same class where the professor publicly questioned its usefulness in my life, taught me how to organize Ray’s finances down here in a way that will completely revolutionize his money management for his ministry. However, if any of you are QuickBooks professionals, I could still use your help . . .

Regardless, thank you, Lord. Thank you for answering my prayers, months and months after I prayed them.

We can never know when He’ll answer . . .

Sep 13, 2008

There is no I in Team

God moment, Week 8

Continuing my stories from Team Huntsville:

Every team that comes here touches me in one way or another. And they all grow close together and witness God’s love in new, unimaginable ways.

However, this group of 22 adults from Huntsville Alabama grew together in a way that I never thought possible. Only a handful of them knew more than four other people on the trip, and many knew only one or two. Yet, by the end of the week, they were one. They became a family over the course of six days, bonded together by their love of Christ and their trust in one another as fellow believers.

Each night this team would meet in the common room of the Methodist Seminary dorm house, and they would day debrief. They would ask each other questions about what they saw that day, about what they felt that day, and about what they learned that day. They would analyze the church services we attended, they would analyze the type of people they saw, they would analyze the type of work we were doing, and they would analyze the love of God they felt from all the Costa Ricans with whom they interacted.

And, in the midst of 20+ other successful adults from their community and their church, the team members would open up and be real. They would share what was on their hearts, they would shed tears, and they would pray together. By the end of the trip, we were circling up around those in need and praying for them on the spot, dropping behind all of our insecurities and being real in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. It was amazing.

I used to spend months trying to get groups of 15-20 college age guys—guys who could relate to each other much more easily—to open up to one another, and it was often a daunting task. Yet this team, in a matter of days, became one. They opened up their lives to one another, and they trusted in the bond of Christ, the bond that brings us together under one God, under one Holy Spirit.

Now I’ve seen, firsthand, how God can move through anyone and in any situation, as quickly and as powerfully as he desires. And my life was changed forever because of it.

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Matt 18:20

Sep 12, 2008

Spoon Warfare

Funny moment, Week 8

Rambo 5: Spoon Blood

Night one with the team from Huntsville, Alabama. I always like to get to know the teams when they show up, so I usually accept the offer to spend time with them, whatever it may be. That night, it was Spoons.

Now Spoons is one of those games that I was introduced to in college, and I think I may have played it once, during my last two weeks in Charlottesville ever. It took over 150 weeks in Charlottesville for me to even consider playing the game. That’s how fond I was of Spoons.

However, on that night, my whole view changed. Now I love Spoons. If not solely for the memory of Team Huntsville (Cove Church edition).

This was a team of 22 adults from Alabama, and they were a boisterous bunch. I wasn’t aware of it until 7 of us sat around a blue, plastic picnic table in the common area of our Methodist Seminary dorm house on that first night. There we were, circled around the blue, plastic picnic table in our blue, plastic picnic chairs, with huge, hunking metal spoons the size of serving spoons at your grandmother’s Thanksgiving Day feast (note to all you sneaky Spoon grabbers out there: you’d have met in your match in this game . . . this was no time for a sneakfest).

The leader of the Spoon bunch was a journalist, a former sportswriter with a penchant for the exhilarating (we’ll call him Rambo for the remainder of this blog, just to somewhat protect the identity of the innocent). He had picked up the Turkey-Day-sized clunkers at the dollar store before he came to Costa Rica—I was surprised they let him through security with such weapons at his disposal.

With every overly-intense passing of the cards (per Spoon etiquette), the seismic rating on the wobbly picnic table registered in the high 5’s, and everyone in the common room could hear the incessant rattling of the metal mini-ladles. That would usually persist for anywhere from 30-120 seconds. Then came time for The Grab.

Everyone who’s ever played Spoons knows all about The Grab. As I already mentioned, all you sneaky grabbers out there would have met your match in this game. So forget about all those silly shenanigans, The Grab on night one of Team Huntsville was more like bloodsport. Adults, anywhere from 35-60, were reaching across the table like ravenous pitbulls fighting for the last piece of my momma’s chicken and dumplings (the most scrumptious meal on this side of the ozone layer). Spoons went flying, fingernails drew blood, and maddening laughter ensued. It was quite the sight.

But none of that is what made this memory make it to the Funny Moments page. No, no, those details are just accomplices to the big daddy of them all: The Fall of Rambo.

As I already mentioned, Rambo was the leader of the Spoon bunch. He brought the spoons, he explained the rules, and he encouraged the madness that was Team Huntsville’s first night in Costa Rica. He was excitedly recruiting people left and right to join our Spoons game, even though the vast majority of them had never heard of such a pastime. And then, right around game 3 or 4, his excitement was brought to an abrupt halt. In game 3 or 4, The Grab became more than just a metaphor of ravenous pitbulls fighting over their last meal, it became a real-life WWE battlefield, hardcore edition [editor’s note: while some may not consider WWE professional wrestling to fall into the “real-life” category, Jesus said we were all to have the faith of children . . . just work with me on this one].

Everything was going along just dandily in that game: people passing their cards, everyone waiting with anticipation to elbow their neighbors out of Spoon contention—you know, the usual. Then someone got four of a kind, and The Grab was initiated. My memory of the ensuing play-by-play goes something like this: BOOM, BAM, CRACK, SPLAT . . . OW! Followed by momentary worry, and then inexhaustible laughter.

On this particular grab, Rambo’s neighbor got a little too vicious with his forearm, and Rambo may have been a little too audacious with his body lunge. The neighbor sent Rambo a back-armed forearm shiver that would have sent Hulk Hogan out of the soft landing-zone within the ropes and onto the cold, hard pavement surrounding the ring. Because that’s exactly what happened to Rambo.

The floor of the seminary is unforgiving black tile, complete with an easy-to-clean glossy surface. And after the BOOM of the neighbor’s forearm shiver, and the BAM of Rambo falling back into his seat, came the CRACK of the blue, plastic picnic chair, the SPLAT of Rambo’s body nailing the unkind tile, and the OW! of Rambo’s inherent reaction to the agonizing fall. So there laid the great Rambo, clutching his arm, wallowing in pain, and rolling through the remains of the broken plastic chair that lay in his midst.

Now that’s some real-life WWE action if I’ve ever heard of it.

Thank you Spoons, and thank you Team Huntsville, for laughing uncontrollably and never letting our brave Spoon leader forget the fall of pride and body that happened in night one—The Fall of Rambo.

Aug 25, 2008

Are you scared?

God moments, Weeks 6/7/8

So it’s been a while since I’ve written. My bad. Things just get busy, ya know?

Anyways, the God moments from Weeks 6/7/8 all center on the same phenomenon (because there’s no better way to describe it here in Costa Rica): church.

And when I say “church,” I mean what we mean in the States when we say it: church services. Specifically, the church services of two Evangelical Methodist Churches here in Costa Rica. One is in La Guaria and the other is in Llano Grande, but they’re both Christ-centered phenomena.

These two churches have been two of the main highlights of my time here in Costa Rica. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruits that are borne from the Costa Rica church, and they’re amplified tenfold every Sunday/Thursday/___day that there’s a church service in La Guaria and/or Llano Grande (don’t get me wrong, this distinction could probably be placed on many of the E.M. Churches here in C.R., but these are the two that have had the greatest impact on me).

Why have these churches been influential in my life? Well, there are many reasons, but, most importantly, the church is the gathering point for the community’s life in Christ.

To get to these churches can often be a long, hard, walking trek for the congregation. But it doesn’t deter them. As they come near the churches, they may get their shoes soaking wet or doused in mud, because the roads aren’t in the greatest of conditions. But they don’t seem to mind. And, once the congregations arrive at the churches, the buildings themselves are certainly nothing to gawk at. The choices are a flat slab of concrete with metal posts and a tin roof (no walls included), or a long, narrow, metal garage (literally). The members of the church can sit on peeling wooden pews with metal legs that may not be balanced—thereby causing some rocking to occur during the low points of the pastor’s sermon—or they can sit in plastic picnic chairs (two stacked on top of each other if there’s a potential for breakage). The number of members that arrive to enjoy the spectacle of church varies, but the size of the congregations usually range anywhere from 50-150.

Yet, in the midst of all these differences, one constant remains: the reason that everyone gathers in those churches is because they need to hear about Jesus. And, at certain times during the week, people from the neighborhood gather in these places to talk about Jesus. And it just so happens that these places are called churches, but that’s of minimal significance. What matters is Jesus. Shoot, he’s the whole reason we’re alive. The Costa Ricans seem to understand that very well.

So how do they thank Jesus for that life? Well, they dance, they sing, they clap, they shout for joy, they play instruments and they pray. No, no, I’m not talking about wild craziness during church services. I’m talking about the same reactions that people have when their favorite NFL team scores a touchdown. You know, hugging people you wouldn’t normally hug, high-fiving people you’ve never seen in your life, and talking to people who just don’t really look like you, but happen to be cheering for the same team as you. Yet at these churches, they’re celebrating life. They’re celebrating Jesus. They’re celebrating something far greater than any of them can even imagine.

For those of you who aren’t big on sensationalism in faith, well, these churches have seminary-trained pastors giving the sermons. Two weeks ago, the pastor walked through a passage in Hebrews 6, separating it into three parts and giving a three-part sermon full of the Bible and life applications. This week, the pastor started with a passage from 1 Corinthians about not forgetting the power of Jesus crucified on the cross, and he then went on to redefine how everyone views crosses that are plastered on churches, buildings, monuments, paintings, jewelry, clothing, etc., throughout the world. He probably quoted John Wesley about 10 times. These are well-written messages given by faithfully trained pastors. Great messages. Great people.

Anyways, the point I want to get to is that these services have served as springboards for my work and my spiritual life here. I’m not talking about getting all psyched up by a service and then riding that excitement downhill all week while I wait for it to come again. It’s simply that every time I attend church, even when I take absolutely no expectations into the service, I am touched. I am touched by the passion. I am touched by the message. I am touched by the worship. I am touched by the people who lay their hands on me and pray for me. Because they do that here. They know that the church is a place to heal people—spiritually, emotionally, and physically—and they’re willing to do everything they can to help their congregation be healed at each and every church service. That’s why they have so many services. Because just one day per week won’t suffice for the amount of problems that the congregation faces. This, to me, is the definition of a beautiful church. They’re real with each other, they support each other, they love each other. All because of one man.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. The reason why churches exist here. Jesus.

And they’ll tell you that. With absolutely no hesitation.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the Word of Truth, the Gospel that has come to you. All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing.” -Colossians 1:3-6

Aug 18, 2008

Irish Hiatus

Again, my apologies for such an absence from my blog (because I’m sure so many of you missed me).

Took a two-week family trip to Ireland that the Pops had planned forever and a day ago. ‘Twas grand.

I’ll return to action by the end of the week.

Much love,

Aug 1, 2008

Sometimes the fence is hard to see

Funny moments, Week 5:

(1) Running for your life: good times with Costa Rican sayings

In Costa Rica, rather than say “robbing the cradle” when an older man dates a younger woman, they say “jumping the fence” (in Spanish, “brincando la cerca”). Why?

Because the young woman’s father will not be happy with said older man and will probably chase the man off his property. But, as the Costa Ricans tell it, the father is charging at the older man with a machete in his hand. So, in order to save his life from the crazed father, the man must run for his life and get off the property as quickly as possible. How will he do that?

By jumping the fence.

(2) Susan the Sweet

I had the pleasure of spending the night at the house of one of my construction co-workers, Roberto (he also happens to be the one who told me about brincando la cerca). I rode to his house on a bike, while it was raining, and I was wearing my glasses. So when I showed up to the house, it was impossible to see out of my extremely watery, foggy glasses.

Many of you know that my vision is less than stellar without my glasses/contacts (or absolutely horrendous, however you feel like describing my -8.50 prescription), and so as I was walking through the doors of his house and cleaning my glasses on my t-shirt, I couldn’t see a thing.

Yet that didn’t stop Roberto’s two young children, Kendal (6) and Susan (2), from greeting me warmly with a plethora of hellos, how are yous, and gigantic hugs. Then they started yelling at me to look at the butterfly on the wall. Trying to be polite to the kids, while still cleaning my glasses, I start scouring the wall for the butterfly, telling them that I can’t see very well. The butterfly turned out to be a piece of artwork that Roberto’s wife had done, and I started staring at it from 2 inches away.

Then I feel a tap on my leg. It was Susan, having just returned from her bedroom in order to give me a gift.

And, with outstretched arms, she was proudly displaying her toy binoculars, and encouraging me to take them. “So you can see the butterfly!” she excitedly proclaims.

So there I was, looking through an old pair of toy binoculars, still unable to see anything and still inches from the wall. The adults in the room (there were four of us) were laughing hysterically.

What a sweet little girl. As you can see . . .

God speaks

God moment, Week 5

This past week a team from Lake Placid, Florida joined me in Puerto Viejo. They had some incredible spiritual leaders with them.

On Monday night, three members of the Lake Placid team prayed for one of the Puerto Viejo hotel employees. The employee’s name is Saidy, and she has a young two-year-old daughter who has a health problem with a valve in her esophagus—the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, I do believe. After the prayer was over, Saidy was sweating profusely and said that she felt a fire come down upon her while the three team members were praying for her. So what did she say right after that?

“I’m bringing my daughter here tomorrow night so you can pray for her, too.”

The three Lake Placid team members were Roberto, Maria, and Bobby D. Roberto and Maria are married and pastor a church in Sebring, Florida; Bobby D is highly involved in a youth outreach ministry, Youth for Christ. The three of them are very in tune with the Spirit and love to be prayer warriors for whoever needs prayer. So, of course, they were thrilled to have Saidy bring her daughter in for prayer.

The next night, Saidy brought her daughter, Carla, and her husband, Carlos (Carla was born on Carlos’s birthday, hence the name similarity), to our hotel. It was a blessing from God to see Carlos there with Saidy and Carla, as many men in this country are notorious for leaving their wife/girlfriend after they have a baby.

Roberto and Maria took the lead of our prayer time (since they both speak Spanish fluently), and started to explain to the team from Lake Placid how critical it was for all of us to have faith that Carla could be healed by our prayer. Because look at what Jesus said to the woman in the crowd who grabbed his cloak, “Your faith has healed you” (;&version=31;). Then they asked Saidy and Carlos if they had faith that Carla can be healed by God. They answered with a resounding yes.

Then the prayers began. While I have no great healing story to share (not saying that she hasn’t been healed, she just hasn’t been back to a doctor yet ;-), Maria looked at Carlos and asked him if he had been walking faithfully with the Lord, and she wanted to know if he needed to be reconciled to God. Carlos said that he had been straying from the path and that he needed to get closer to God. But, he wasn’t too thrilled about the whole reconciliation with God part.

This is where my learning moment came: rather than just give up and assume that it wasn’t time for Carlos, Maria and Roberto kept pressing him. They weren’t manipulative or rude or overbearing or over-Christian or anything, they simply kept reiterating the importance of Christ in our lives, and the help that God would give to Carlos as he raised his little girl, Carla. And they kept talking to him.

At one point Roberto said that Carla is in need of a strong Christian man to raise her (speaking all in Spanish, of course). As soon as he was done saying that, Bobby D (who has no knowledge of Spanish) said in English that Carla is in need of a strong Christian man to raise her. Roberto and Maria freaked out, and told Carlos what Bobby D just said.

“He seriously doesn’t understand Spanish?” Carlos asked in disbelief.

“Nope, he has no idea what we’ve been talking about,” they answered.

That was enough convincing for Carlos, and he asked to receive our prayers so that he may be reconciled in his relationship with the Lord.

God works in wonderful and powerful ways, and I was blessed to witness such an unfolding of events. I’ve always felt that God speaks to me most clearly when he lines up way too many coincidences in a row to simply call them coincidences. That night, when Roberto and Bobby D shared what was on their hearts, they were clearly sharing what was on God’s heart.

Thanks God, for teaching me about the power of prayer and the need to be bold in our faith. Amen.

Jul 23, 2008

Wholly holy nuns?

Funny moment, Week 4

On Wednesday morning at the seminary, our team ran out of creamer for its coffee. That’s a no-no for many American adults, especially for those who have to get up at 6:00 a.m. In order to remedy the situation, Veronica and I said we would buy more creamer that day.

So, during a pit stop at Más X Menos (a.k.a. Wal-Mart) outside of San Jose, Veronica and I ran in to buy some creamer. We hustled to the back of the store, grabbed the goods, and made our way to the checkout line. We then saw one of the adult leaders on the trip who, because of the importance of creamer and the need for a quick pit stop, had decided to save us a spot in line.

As the three of us were talking while standing in line—maybe one step from the convenient conveyor belt in the checkout line at Más X Menos—the woman in front of us finished unloading her groceries out of her cart. The three of us, in an honorable and considerate manner, continued talking for a few seconds before placing our creamer behind her groceries on the conveyor belt.

However, as we turned to place our creamer down, two nuns came darting out of the line behind us, swooped down on the conveyor belt like two ferocious, starving hawks and, as fast as worker bees collecting pollen in a fresh field of flowers, started throwing down their groceries onto the conveyor belt that was inches away from us.

Talk about a double take.

The three of us were dumbfounded. I wish someone was there to take a video of our faces after that happened. It looked as though part of us wanted to laugh, part of us wanted to be upset, and none of us had any idea of how to respond to the fact that we had just been cut in line at the Más X Menos by two habit-wearing nuns. And they never even looked at us! Never even acknowledged our presence! Simply ran in front of us and BAM!, it was their turn in line.

The next night, Veronica and I were telling that story to Javier, our bus driver for the week. We were all laughing pretty hard, but Javier didn’t seem too surprised. Apparently, nuns have given him grief before.

Anyways, as Veronica, Matt, and I were standing in line at dinner to receive our choice of delicious deserts, Javier zooms into the kitchen, cuts in front of the three of us with a rather graceful slide, then turns around and yells, “YO SOY MONJA!!!!!!”

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, Javier inconsiderately cut us off in line and then yelled, “I’M A NUN!!!!!”

Jul 22, 2008

Matt/Mateo/Mattio & Veronica/Victoria/Vanessa

God moment, Week 4

This past week, God blessed me with the presence of two great friends from U.Va., Matt Henry and Veronica Rivera.

Matt came to Costa Rica after a four-week vacation in Colombia, and Veronica came to Costa Rica after a four-week service trip in Nicaragua. I could write about the entire week as one, all-encompassing God moment with Matt and Veronica (because it was), but, instead, I’m going to point to one specific incident where God showed up big-time.

Matt, Veronica and I were able to spend all week working construction at the orphanage, helping the visiting mission team to run Vacation Bible Schools, and enjoying the jokes and fun that accompany three, traveling college friends who have been speaking another language for the past month.

On our last night together in Costa Rica, we decided to get together and pray for one another. As we were circling up our chairs, one of the high school girls from the mission team pulled up a chair right next to us and looked at us with those expectant eyes of someone who’s about to take part in an incredibly joyful, thrilling moment. Unfortunately for her (or so I thought), we were only circling up to pray. But as soon as we told her we were praying, she jumped right in, asking, “Can I pray with you guys?”

“Absolutely!” we responded.

After 10-15 minutes of prayer, we looked up to see tears in the eyes of the young girl who joined us. She’s about to enter her senior year of high school, and she’s been asking God for years to provide her with true Christian friendship. She said that even though she only got to know Matt, Veronica and me for one week, we were a beacon of hope for her, and a confident reassurance that God is going to answer her prayers.

And, rather than stop there, she continued to share with us that she’d like us to pray specific prayers for her and her family. She was comfortable opening up to us and being real with us, because our bond of friendship was based in Christ and nothing less. There was no need to hide behind a façade or put up a wall because, in true Christian community, the job of each believer is to love those around him/her. This young girl knew the power of that love, and she could see it within the friendship that Matt, Veronica and I are able to share together.

As Jesus said in the book of John, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

How amazing is it when God’s Word becomes real in our lives?

Thank you, Lord, for making yourself so apparent to the four of us this past week. I will not soon forget it.

Jul 20, 2008

Cricket kisses

Funny moments, Week 3

(1) Grillos and Gringos

Apparently, crickets eat a much healthier diet here than they do in the States. Example A, look up. That’s an average-sized woman’s hand, and a ginormously-sized cricket (or grillo, in Spanish terms).

One night after work, I walked into the restaurant area of the hotel we were staying at, and one of the waitresses asked me if I’d like to eat a grillo for dinner, because there was a tiny cricket on the dinner table. Excitedly, I described to her the ginormous cricket that I saw earlier that day at the worksite (look up, again).

More excitedly, a European couple and their two little kids start pointing to the table next to them, and the kids are practically jumping out of their seats as they’re pointing (I guessed they were European by their tremendously pale skin, blond hair, blue eyes, and great accent). Lo and behold, there’s a ginormous (yes, that’s the correct term for the size of these things) grillo sitting on the dinner table next to this family.

“GOO!” I jumped back a few inches as I yelled that rather odd Adam Sandler expression, and the little European kids were getting a kick out of it. I then start inching my way towards the grillo, definitely causing the Europeans to wonder if all Americans are this strange, and the grillo jumps as high as it can and flies off. “Shucks, I missed my opportunity,” I’m thinking . . . until the grillo flies straight into a fan light and lands with a loud PLOP! in between two dinner-eating restaurant patrons.


Boy, did those European kids love that exchange of events. . .

(2) A Purple Kiss

Wednesday night, Christ Church group devotional time. In a group of sixteen adults and two middle school kids, we decided to tell funny/embarrassing stories about ourselves. But, to make an interesting game out of it, three people would gather together away from the group, and then return to the group and tell similar funny/embarrassing stories. Then the rest of us had to guess which story was actually true, as all of the stories were based on the true story of one group member.

Now I get to tell you about Les, who is an incredible man to get to know. He’s also one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, and I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing this story.

When my name was drawn for the game, along with two other names, we were using the story that I blogged about for my week 2 funny moment, a Match Made in VBS Heaven. Les, who was once called Lester Purple by his not-so-nice friends in school (for no reason, mind you), looked at me and said he’d never been to Vacation Bible School in his life. This was funny because we had just spent the past three days doing VBS for the kids in Costa Rica, and Les had more church experience under his belt than any other member of the Christ Church team. So, I told him to simply make up a story about when he had been a matchmaker at VBS.

A woman from our group told her version of my story, saying that she tried to introduce two single adults during VBS registration, and was therefore a VBS matchmaker. I told my actual story, about how I tried to help a Costa Rican teenage boy win bonus points with an American teenage girl, and was therefore a VBS matchmaker. And then Les told his completely invented tale (as the game calls for), about how he was a VBS matchmaker.

Les said that in third grade his mother used to take him to VBS at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. She’d always drop him off in the morning and then pick him up in the afternoon. However, one day, he had to call his mom to have her to pick him up early. The reason she had to pick him up early: Lester Purple had tried to kiss a young girl his age and was kicked out of Vacation Bible School at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. That was his translation of a VBS matchmaker.

This story may not appear funny to you, but if you knew Les, as all of us on that trip did, you would have been crying too.

Sitting at the feet

God moment (a.k.a. Mary moment), Week 3

Sitting. Listening. Talking. Not getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. That’s Mary in four sentences.

The story of Mary and Martha was discussed during my first night with a team in Costa Rica. For those of you who haven’t read the story about Mary and Martha, I suggest clicking on this link (it’s only five verses long):;&version=31;

My time with Christ Church from The Woodlands, Texas was full of Mary moments, and it put a whole new perspective on my time here in Costa Rica. I could spend an hour shoveling rocks, hauling concrete and dumping wheelbarrows, which is all very necessary, but I could also spend an hour learning about the individual members of the church who have come to Costa Rica in order to serve God. I can hear their life story, share my life story, discuss random topics of conversation and, more importantly, simply be. Like Mary.

To describe this God/Mary moment, I will point to the last day of construction work with Christ Church. I still struggle with the balance between working hard and “leading hard,” if you will, on the work site. Our collective goal is to build a church in Sarapiquí, Costa Rica, and my goal is to help the teams accomplish that task. However, this is also a mission trip designed to bring people closer to God. That means I must balance my time between working alongside the team, translating for the team, and simply being with the team, talking about life and sharing how God’s truth has impacted us individually.

So, back to the last day of construction, I had just put my mind to the job of ditch digging. We were trying to build the ditches for an extension to the church, and I wanted to be a part of it. I hopped right in to help working and, within 10 minutes, the tropical rains came a pourin’. Therefore, we were all forced to take shelter under the completed roof of the sanctuary that we’re building. Within 15 minutes, the rains had stopped (typical of the tropical rainstorms that frequent Costa Rica’s rainy season), and the ditch-digging team members headed back to work.

I, however, was caught up in a conversation with the work foreman on the site, Marvin, who also happens to be a pastor. He and I have had many wonderful conversations about being a pastor, and he’s begun to take me under his wing and teach me valuable lessons about church ministry. I could write an entire “God moments” section solely about him. Anyways, I was in a deep conversation with him and couldn’t go back to the worksite right away. Then, over the next hour, I talked with Marvin’s son, with one of the women from Christ Church, one of the men from Christ Church, the intern from Christ Church, the associate pastor from Christ Church, and one of the workers from Costa Rica. I had wanted to work, I had wanted to help dig the ditches, yet God kept providing me with conversation after conversation. And, even though he blessed me with those conversations, I still felt like I should dig.

Turning around to finally join the team in the ditches, I saw the diggers—covered in filth, tired as all get out, and rinsing off their wheelbarrows and shovels. They had already completed the ditch-digging job, without my help. I had spent almost an hour and a half inside the sanctuary, simply chatting it up. My first reaction to the situation was pure disappointment. There were the men who had worked hard through the mud and slop, and there was me, standing in the cool shade, no dirtier than I was an hour and a half before.

My second reaction, however, was understanding. I thought back to the lesson of Mary and Martha, and it all made sense. This is what Jesus meant. Stopping in the midst of the hustle to simply be. I still remember every one of those conversations I had that afternoon and, as I mentioned earlier, they all blessed me tremendously. I probably wouldn’t remember the ten minutes that the ditch-digging team saved because I was there helping.

God taught me an incredibly valuable lesson that afternoon. There will always be a need to work construction while I’m here (Martha), but there will only be one week at a time that I can enjoy the presence of each mission trip team (Mary). I grew very close to the team from Christ Church that week, thanks to God’s insistence that I learn to rest in Him and the situation he has provided me with. Slowing down the pace and listening. Talking. Discussing life. Discussing God. That’s a large part of my time in Costa Rica, and I needed to realize that. In my third week here, I finally did.

Apology for my blogging absence

I would like to apologize for my absence from the blogging world. There will be many times in Costa Rica where I don’t have regular access to the internet, and for those periods of time, I will be unable to blog. I’m sorry.

Thanks for sticking with me, however, and I hope you enjoy my posts for weeks 3 and 4.

Much love,

Jul 6, 2008

Match Made in VBS Heaven

Funny moment, Week 2

Again, I can’t guarantee the humor of these entries, but I loved this one:

After working construction on the church all day long, the team from Rock Springs UMC in Georgia would travel to small churches to have Vacation Bible School for the kiddos. In this particular instance, I made friends with another PK (preacher’s kid) named David. He’s 14.

David and I were talking for a little bit, and then he pointed to one of the girls from Georgia and asked me her name (in order to protect the identity of the innocent, I’ll use the name June throughout this blog). I told him her name was June, and he told me that she was pretty. I said, “The prettiest of all the girls here?” He responded with a quick, “Sí.”

“Why don’t you go talk to her?” I questioned.

“No, no, I can’t,” he answered with a sheepish grin.

“Yes you can, she’s only 15, you're 14.”


“Oh yeah, man, you can do it.”

“No, no, I can’t.”

David is an incredibly bashful kid, and it was fun to give him a hard time about talking to June. After talking to David some more, I found out that he can play the drums, the guitar, the keys, and he can sing; therefore, he loves leading praise services for his church. He’s just an overall great kid.

One of the members from the Georgia team (Brad) had a guitar, and David asked if he could play. Brad was happy to oblige, and David started strumming. This guitar was a 12-string, not like your typical 6-string guitar, but David mastered it quickly and started singing in Spanish. At that point, he had June right where he wanted her.

June came over to David with this big smile on her face and sat down right in front of him, bobbing her head to the music. Luckily for me, I knew she didn’t speak Spanish. So I started talking to David,

“Look, you’ve got her!”

David’s looking at me while he's playing and singing, but he's acting like he doesn’t hear me. “Seriously, you’ve got her in the palm of your hand!” I was really egging him on at this point, and his mother knew it (but she was in on the plan, so she was egging him on too). I was loving every second of it, watching June sway her body back and forth, listening to David sing, totally oblivious of her surroundings.

David finished his first song, and I said, “Now’s your chance, sing a song just for her!” He looks at his mom, she gives him a confirming smile, and he says to me, “Okay, this one is a romantic.” Sweet!

I look at June, “Hey June, you should listen closely to this one, it’s a good one.”

“Why? Do I know it?” With such innocence in her voice, I almost felt bad for egging David on.

“Just listen, it’s a good one.”

So June scoots a little closer, turns her ear toward David, and sits there listening intently as David starts to sing. I’m loving every minute of it, and so is David’s mom, judging by the huge smirk on her face.

However, David keeps looking at me while he’s singing. “David, don’t look at me, you have to look at her! Look into her eyes!” I don't want him to beat around the bush at this point.

So, David starts taking half-second glances in June’s direction, not quite getting the job done, but being brave and courageous for a 14-year-old who doesn’t speak his crush’s language. And still, June is completely oblivious.

After the song, June looks at him with a genuine, beaming smile, and starts to clap. “Will, tell him he’s amazing!”

I look at David, “Dude, she thinks you’re amazing, talk to her!” David bashfully laughs, shakes his head, and says, “No, I can’t do it.”

“What’d you say to him, Will?”

“Oh nothing, June.”

It was time for us to leave, and everyone started filing out of the church. But June stayed back. She looked at David, looked at me, and said, “Will, is he going to be at the VBS tomorrow?”

“David, she wants to know if you’re going to be at tomorrow’s VBS, you’ve got her, man!”

Again, David, in his ever-increasing bashfulness, says that he probably won’t, because tomorrow’s church was really far away. I was disappointed, but certain that David could have charmed June while blindfolded.

I can’t believe my grin didn’t give my intentions away, but June still had no idea what was going on between David and her (or, at least, what I was hoping would go on). But then, since I’m not one to keep funny moments to myself, I decided to tell Brad, the man with the guitar, about how his guitar had just been used to serenade young Ms. June.

“Are you serious? Dude, that’s awesome!” Brad and I are now cracking up overtly, and Brad is overcome by the moment. “I had no idea you were playing matchmaker, that’s sweet!”

We got in the bus and June finally realized that I might have been talking about her, “Will, what did you say to David? Are y’all laughing about me?”

And then, due to my inability to lie, I had to tell June the whole story--but not before the entire Georgia team was able to enjoy a nice little chuckle about what had been going on right under her nose (well, in Brad’s case and my case, it was much more than a chuckle).

June’s mom was also on the trip, but she didn’t find out until the next day. Lovingly she asks, “Will, what’s this I hear about you using my daughter for your entertainment yesterday?” Yes! Total sweetness.

Our Father; Nuestro Padre

God moment, Week 2

Thursday night church service, July 3rd. The church we go to is an Evangelical Methodist Church, with a very charismatic worship style. That night, the Lord touched me and helped me come to grips with the fact that I now live in Costa Rica (more or less), and that this congregation is who I will worship with for the next year of my life. In that instance, I felt as though I was calling me to finally surrender all of my time in Costa Rica to Him, and I told Him that He can use me however He’d like.

Unfortunately for me, that meant that I was to interpret the pastor’s sermon that night. Something I had never done before.

It’s tougher than you’d think to interpret an actual sermon to an actual church congregation and, to make things a little tougher, I had to use a microphone and stand up front. I was in a lot of prayer prior to the sermon, and I was lacking confidence when the moment finally came.

Just seconds into the sermon, I realized how difficult it is to understand what the pastor’s saying, remember everything he said, and then spit it back out in comprehensible English. After the pastor’s third little paragraph (we were basically trading paragraphs), I totally blanked. I had nothing to say, and it was rather embarrassing. But that was okay, I played it off, got some help from a church member in the front row, and told the Spanish-speaking church that sometimes I forget everything the pastor has just said. They laughed, and I was in the clear.

However, a few minutes later, things got shaky again. I had been going strong since that first mistake, and I was starting to get more confident. I decided to thank God through prayer, and was talking to Him, “Thank you Lord, for helping me to understand the pastor, and to translate his words. Please continue to be with me.”

One thing I didn’t think about during that prayer: the pastor was still talking. He finished his paragraph, I looked at him, looked at the congregation, and just smiled like an idiot. I had no idea what he had just said. Prayer is the best thing we can offer God, but probably not the smarted thing in the world when you’re in the middle of translating. I was embarrassed, and mostly because I felt guilty for not listening to the pastor when that’s my job.

Anyways, I finished that sermon and was able to translate the majority of what the pastor said. It was my first experience at translating, and I was far from perfect.

The point of the story, however, is that, earlier in the service, God prepared me for my year of service here in Costa Rica. He let me come to grips with the fact that I now live in Costa Rica, and I was able to change my mentality as I entered into that translating experience. Rather than see it as a one-and-done, “I need to do this well” kind of translating experience, I knew it was just a stepping stone to a much greater platform that I’ll encounter one day. Because my hunch is that I will have many more experiences with translating over the next year, and one of my ultimate goals in life is to preach in Spanish. God used Thursday night’s service to start humbly preparing me for such a goal.

And, regardless of my inability to translate perfectly, my heart for the church in Costa Rica was revealed to me in a new way. Serving the church here will fill my heart and bring me an incredible amount of joy, and I got to see that first-hand on Thursday night. So thank you, Lord, for a great night of worship.

And thank you for reading about it.

Jun 29, 2008

Pink names and Jesus

Week 1 Funny moments

I’m declaring it right now: by no means do I guarantee that you will be amused by reading about my funny moments. They are and/or were humorous to me at one point in time, and I simply want to share them with you. I hope you enjoy.

(1) Dreaming in Pink

So the first 5 nights of my stay in Costa Rica were spent in Ray’s oldest daughter’s bedroom. She’s 8. “My” bedroom consisted of a white dresser that was home to 40 variations of princesses--ceramic, plastic, tile, you name it. “My” white nightstand was home to a Disney princess jewelry/music box. “My” bed was covered in an all-pink comforter with an all-pink decorative pillow and a Disney princess pillow case (Snow White on one side, Cinderella on the other). And, above “my” bed was “my” pink, flowing, princess curtain/drape/net thing embroidered with stars. It was under the protection of that pink, flowing thing that I often sat up in bed to read or send emails. I hope the visual imagery tickles your senses.

(2) Hey . . . you

In Costa Rica, I have a privilege that doesn’t accompany most royalty: I am known by 4 names. Whether it’s Will, Weel, Weely, or Weelian, I answer to all. The latter three are the Spanish variations of my name, spelled phonetically for all English speakers to enjoy reading the Spanish accent, without having actually heard it. The one they use most often: Weely. Just imagine three young girls (daughters of the orphanage’s host family) sneaking up behind me while I’m working, rapid-firing that name and then taunting me to chase them. And then their mother yelling at me by that name to see if I want coffee while I’m working. I’ve told them that some of my “friends” used to call me Casper. I think they understood right away.

(3) Night of the Living Dead, or Jesus

Driving through the mountains of Costa Rica, I saw a sign for a funeral home. The name of the funeral home: “El Retorno,” or, in English, “The Return.” That’s right, “The Return” Funeral Home. I figured it’s either a demented joke or a beautiful sign of faith. I’ll let y’all decide.

Americans can speak Spanish, sometimes

Week 1 God moment

It’s tough to describe a conversation and communicate the grandeur of God, but it's worth an effort:

Picture this: I’m whitewater rafting in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest. I’m with one high school graduate from Tennessee, three 20-something year-old women from Mexico, and one whitewater guide from Costa Rica.

The high school grad and I are not the centerpiece of any conversation, as the other four are certain that we don’t really speak Spanish, regardless of our countless attempts to show our proficiency in the language. However, 45 minutes into our trip, I ask the three women if they’re on vacation in Costa Rica. And, out of politeness, they’re forced to ask the question back.

I tried to answer with, “Well, we’re here doing mission work.” Instead, in my can’t-speak-it-too-quickly-or-else-I’ll-mess-up grasp of the Spanish language, I answered with, “We’re here doing missionary work.”

“Oh, are you a missionary?” One of them politely questioned.

“Well, actually, yes.” I stumbled upon that answer, kicking myself for not speaking correctly in the first place.

“How long have you been a missionary?”

I pause, think about how ridiculous I’m about to sound, and respond with, “About one week.”

Everyone in the boat got a good laugh about that one, but then I had them. For some reason, the Spanish-speaking American in the front of the raft became the most interesting aspect of the whitewater rafting tour through roaring rapids and lush rainforest. All four of the true Spanish-speaking boat riders were leaning in as I began to explain my story of why I am in Costa Rica and what kind of work I am doing. But it didn’t stop with me just talking. They started asking.

“What church are you with?”
“What have you been doing this past week?”
“Have you been a missionary anywhere else?”
“Why didn’t you stick with accounting?”

The questions just kept on coming, and we had a great conversation. In the end, I said that there was a lot of work to be done here in Costa Rica, and that it will be hard to accomplish. So one of them replied, “Yeah, but that’s why you have the power of the Spirit.”

I was blown away. After 45 minutes of near silence on our raft, God appeared in the conversation. And, the worst, or best, part about it was that I had to stumble into his presence, because I didn’t have the fortitude to directly tell the rafters that I am a missionary (partly because I’m still coming to grips with that fact myself).

I got off that raft with a smile as wide as the country of Costa Rica itself. I was beaming that I was able to share my story, and the story of the mission team I was with. And this is just week 1.

God provided me with the perfect opportunity to share his heart for the Costa Rican people, and to share his undeniable truth. I now wait in anticipation to see how many marvelous and spontaneous God moments await me in Costa Rica.