Romans 11:36

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

Mar 25, 2009

P.T.P.ers - Prime Time Puppeteers

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting the Christ In Action puppet and black theater team from Madison, Alabama. The team consisted of 13 high school and middle school youth and 5 adults, and they had a wonderful ministry to share with the people of Costa Rica.

They performed 19 shows in 3 different provinces of Costa Rica, for a total of close to 3,000 people. It was a sight to be seen (just check out these videos). This team’s ministry even affected a young boy to start crying at one of the churches, because the Spirit was moving through the performance of the team.

Unity was the name of the game amongst the youth from Madison, and it was a joy to watch them grow and stay close together throughout the week. Praise the Lord for that.

I even got to help puppet for one of the songs they performed . . . I would have never guessed that puppeteering for Jesus could be so fun.

*P.T.P.ers (Prime Time Players) is a copyrighted trademark of Dick Vitale during March Madness . . . since this team showed up during the first week of Madness, I found it appropriate to modify Dicky V’s slang when describing this great team.

Mar 24, 2009

Flor, Sergio, and whitewater

As I mentioned in my last blog, life-long, Christ-bonded, friendships can be created in two primary locales: (1) small groups and (2) mission trips.

Well, Mike Roseberry and I have one of those Christ-bonded friendships that was birthed in our first-year small group at UVa. And the week after I had that amazing team from UVa come to work with me down here, Mike came to Costa Rica to hang out.

The two of us got to work construction for 3 days (1 at the Children’s Home in Coronado and 2 at the Children’s Community Center in Puerto Viejo), as well as hit the road to see the sights. And boy did we see. We were blessed with the chance to take an overnight rafting trip on the Pacuare River, full of 30 km of rafting and one afternoon of zip-lining. It was sweet. And the lodging we had, on an old coffee/chocolate farm over looking the rapids, was on priceless property.

But here’s the funniest part from Mike’s visit: from Puerto Viejo we took a bus to Guapiles, and then Siquirres, and then Turrialba (the base camp for our rafting trip). While at the bus station in Siquirres, we met an elderly couple from Turrialba. I started chatting it up with the lady, and Mike just sat there as we talked for a good 20 minutes or so. Then, at the end of the conversation, Mike saw me pull out my cell phone, and the lady, Flor, also pulled hers out.

“What are you doing?” asked Mike, with that half-curious half-scared tone of voice.
“We’re going to their house today, maybe for dinner, maybe just to hang out. We’ll see . . .” I answered. Mike thought I was nuts.

However, our trip to Flor and Sergio’s house in El Mora, just 3 km outside of Turrialba, was one of the highlights of our trip. We spent 3 hours at their house talking with them, their daughters and their grandkids, just chatting it up about life in Turrialba, Costa Rica, and the States.

They offered us coffee and arepas (my favorite Costa Rican food) and we sat there just talking away. One of the coolest parts of the evening: the Bible was probably quoted at least 15 times during our 3 hour stay at their house. They were a beautiful family, and they stayed strong in their belief in Jesus, even with all the unfortunate things they had seen in different churches over the years.

One of their daughters, Cynthia, who had two adorable little kids, Josua and Maria Celeste, would just not stop talking. It was hilarious. She just kept going. I’m still surprised Mike stayed awake (he has sleeping problems) for the Spanish conversation. But a funny side note about Cynthia’s husband: he works at a Rawlings baseball manufacturing plant/sweatshop in Turrialba and sews together 200 baseballs a week in only 3 days (he’s won numerous prizes as the best worker in the factory, too). So think about that next time you pick up a Rawlings baseball . . .

Mike and I probably could have stayed at their house for another 3 hours, but we had to take a bus back to Turrialba. So out the door we went, exchanging warm goodbyes that ended with Mike giving his UVa hat to Josua, the little grandkid of Flor and Sergio (so if you see a UVa hat wandering around Turrialba, you know where it came from).

We then stood on a dark street by an unlit bus stop for a good 25 minutes, being approached only once by a rather drunk man asking for money. When we got back to our hotel and mentioned to Oscar, our hotel employee and Christian buddy, where we had been, he said: “El Mora? You’re lucky. That’s an incredibly dangerous area!”

Mike and I just laughed. It’s not like we randomly met some couple at a bus stop and then went to their house for 3 hours without knowing anything about them. Or did we?

And it was awesome.

Life-long bonds

So there’s something I’ve learned from short-term mission trips: they’re great at creating life-long bonds of friendship amongst the team members.

And friendship is incredibly Biblical. There’s truth in the Ecclesiastes passage that says:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
In my experience, there are two places that three-strand cords are most easily created/observable: (1) small groups and (2) mission trips. And these cords are held together through Christ-centered bonds.

I still remember my very first short-term mission trip to Carlsbad, New Mexico when I was 12 years old. The two leaders on our trip were named Natalie and Mark, but their nicknames for the week were Xena (Princess Warrior) and Wally. The majority of us young junior high kids then proceeded to take on our own new identities (mine was Big Willy) and we created the Xwenas (pronounced as if it were a “z” in front).

The vast majority of the Xwenas stayed in touch until high school graduation, and there were many many more mission trips and youth retreats that included at least 5 members of the Xwenas. It was a group that grew very close together, and I’m certain that it was mostly because of our bond in the Lord.

Over the course of the next 11 years of my life, I had numerous more experiences with life-long bonds that were created on mission trips in the States, to Mexico, and to Bolivia.

Now I see trips come to Costa Rica and I see the same thing happening all over again. And it’s beautiful. I can get into a whole discussion on the benefit of short-term mission trips, but one that is undeniably true, time and time again, is the love that is shared amongst mission trip team members.

From adults to youth to college kids, I’ve witnessed bonds grow that would have never been possible otherwise. People from completely different walks of life, different backgrounds, different lifestyles, different faith histories, and different personalities . . . bonded together forever because of their experiences in missions. That’s the beauty of Christ.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

. . . God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
As it says in 1 Corinthians, we’re all one body, made of many different parts. I love watching the body come together on mission trips, especially here in Costa Rica.

Mar 17, 2009

Speaking of Tico work habits . . .

If you happened to catch my blog in February about Tico work habits, you’ll laugh at how perfectly timed that blog entry was.

Just two weeks later, when the UVa team was here, my Tico work habits blog entry was put into action. Last year in Puerto Viejo, at the Children’s Community Center project, we spent months building walls for a bathroom addition.

Within two hours of the UVa team’s first appearance on the jobsite this March, they were asked to wield a sledgehammer and a handpick, in order to knock 5 holes in the cinder block walls . . . for the placement of new tubes. I couldn’t help but laugh at the humor of it all.

A big thanks to Josh Moran, the lone ranger who had actually read my blog entry, and was therefore able to appreciate the irony of the situation along with me. In honor of Josh and his hole-making manliness, his picture resides above.

UVa in Costa Rica

17 sweet UVa students, 1 God-fearing NYC financier, and 3 daring Chi Alpha leaders brought joy and excitement to Costa Rica in a way that I had never quite experienced. If you don’t believe me, check out the videos I’ve been tagged in on Facebook, and witness what happened on our daily bus rides. Completely nuts.

This team was an incredible blessing to my ministry down here, as they left my cup flowing over with encouragement and renewed enthusiasm for serving the Costa Ricans.

They worked 4 days of construction at the Children’s Community Center in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, hosted 3 Vacation Bible School lessons in and around P.V., attended 2 church services in P.V., and worked 1 day of construction at the Children’s Home in Coronado. In the midst of that exhausting schedule, they spent every night reflecting on God's presence that day and praying for one another. Real prayers. For real needs.

I won’t even try to describe how amazing it was to have such young, vibrant, Christ-centered friends down here with me. The fact that they rocked my world, and the world of all the Costa Ricans who I’ve talked to since, will have to suffice. And that they did it all while fixing their minds on God's work in their lives, will have to be the cherry on top.

Thank you Chi Alpha, you are awesome.

Mar 16, 2009

Children's Home Blueprint

The Methodist Children's Home

5 houses for children (8-15 in each, along with house parents)
1 multi-purpose facility (with gym and classrooms)
1 playground
1 soccer field
1 basketball court
1 tiered garden
1 Texas-sized bbq pit
1 river in the backyard
1 open-air chapel
1 sweet place for the Lord

Ground broken

Construction on the first house at the Methodist Children’s Home in Coronado, Costa Rica has finally begun!

On February 23, 2009, Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, Americans, and definitely some others, joined forces to celebrate the Children’s Home groundbreaking. Praise the Lord.

It was a momentous occasion for many involved, including Ray and Lidia Zirkel (the missionaries I work with), Will and Ella Faircloth (fellow missionaries here in CR) and the bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica, Bishop Luis Fernando Palomo.

The first team with the pleasure of working in the Children’s Home dirt was Highland Park UMC, from my lovely birthplace, Dallas, Texas.

In recent weeks, heavy machinery has been the name of the game at the Children’s Home, and the ground is now cleared for all 5 houses, our large multi-purpose facility, and the soccer field. Things are finally taking shape. The only negative side effect to all the dirt moving: ridiculous amounts of dust in the air. But I guess it’s all worth it . . .

I’m incredibly excited about the progress the Children’s Home, and I can’t wait until teams start showing up like baby rabbits.