Romans 11:36

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