Romans 11:36

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

May 28, 2010

Thank You and God Bless You!

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

Thank You and God Bless You!

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

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

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

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

Much love,

May 27, 2010

Goodbye Costa Rica

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

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

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

And it was wonderful.

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

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

And I couldn't be more thankful.

Goodbye Costa Rica . . . until we meet again.

May 24, 2010

Goodbye Seminary

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

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

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

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

May 6, 2010

Goodbye Coronado

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

Apr 30, 2010

Goodbye Meto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Llano Grande

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

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

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

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

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

Up, up, up

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

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

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

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

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

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


Over the course of my nearly two years in Costa Rica, I have become good friends with another pastor's kid, Marco (pictured above). Marco is 17 years old and has muscular dystrophy, but he has a spirit that cannot be quenched. His passion and fire for the Lord are simply unmatched, and it's an incredible joy to see him sing praise and worship music at the church.

I would often visit Marco's house to hang out with him and his family, and we'd always talk trash about Costa Rican and American soccer. Finally, I decided we needed to talk trash about something different, so I challenged him to a game of chess.

Now let me say that I learned to play the game of chess when I was a child. However, my dad only taught me how to move the pieces, not how to win. So, needless to say, I've never been very good.

Marco, on the other hand, had never played chess in his life, and I had to teach him how to play. The kid is an absolute genius, so it didn't take him long to get a hang of the game--and to become a better player than I am. Once we started playing for real, I had to do everything I could to not lose. He's just good. After 5 games, he beat me twice . . . and you should have seen how quickly he beat me in game 3.

Playing chess with Marco will always be one of my favorite memories from Costa Rica.

Mar 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Meto!

On Friday, the Colegio Metodista celebrated its 89th Anniversary. Since 1921, the Colegio has offered education to thousands of Costa Rican children, and it currently serves over 1,100 pre-school, elementary school, and high school students.

An answer to prayer was the student band that played two worship songs at the end of the celebration. The entire school witnessed ten of its own high school students singing and playing instruments in service to God, a living testimony to the spiritual awakening that is happening within the student body. The band truly brought the house down, and I even puffed out my chest a little bit on the band's behalf.

So thank you, to all of you, for your continued prayers for the Colegio Metodista and its students.

My Momma in CR

My Momma, Carolyn, came to Costa Rica on a mission trip with her church last week. She and 23 other adults from First United Methodist Church in Dallas worked with us in Coronado, helping to build the Methodist Children's Home--and it was a wonderful time.

One of the best parts of my Momma's visit was her ability to hang out with my Costa Rican mama, Carmen. Carmen spoils me to no end when the teams are in town, always asking me what type of food I want her to cook, allowing me to sneak food from the kitchen once she's made it, and even washing my work clothes for me throughout the week. She's the best. So getting to watch my two moms work in the kitchen together, laughing and hugging and having an all-around great time, was truly a joy for me.

My real Momma even got dirty in the ditches, helping to dig the trench that will support the wrap-around patio at the first house (a spot that will eventually be my Momma's favorite spot on that property, thanks to the great view and a poignant prayer that resides under the concrete).

I'm a blessed son.

Mar 25, 2010

Goodbye Sarapiqui

One of the toughest parts of my time here in Costa Rica: saying goodbye to Sarapiqui. Sure, it's a relief to know that all the time and energy I've devoted to the Children's Worship Center in Sarapiqui is finally coming to an end. But it's tough, too, because I have an undeniable love for the church and the people there.

Sarapiqui is where I found myself in Costa Rica. Sarapiqui is where I realized that I was living somewhere different, somewhere that wasn't spoiled by the Western style of life. It was a place that breathed, a place that had a heart. Sunday afternoons in that town were one of the most peaceful things I got to know in Costa Rica. The shops would close down, the taxis would stay home, and the streets would be empty. All that was left was the beauty and the stillness. A calm. And I will miss that, forever.

The drive to Sarapiqui always brought a sense of joy and wonder to my heart. I'd get so excited about being back at "home," yet I'd also wonder what was behind the scenery. I'd look at the trees and I'd see the houses hidden in the brush or the seemingly endless plantations of pineapples and bananas, and I'd wonder about the people. I'd picture them in their homes, with their families, with their children, sometimes living on no more than $10 a day. It was tough. Yet it was true.

God has been moving powerfully in that area, and the Methodist Church is growing like you couldn't believe. In Puerto Viejo alone the church is growing its membership while simultaneously providing education opportunities for adults and ministry opportunities for women. Soon it will be providing a Medical Clinic for the undocumented and jobless. Before long the church of Puerto Viejo will be synonymous with rejuvenation. Rejuvenation of life. Rejuvenation of the spirit. Rejuvenation of a community.

Above you can see a picture of me with Roberto, Abraham, Javier and Johan. Those are my brothers, my co-workers, and my friends. Roberto, Abraham and Johan are native to Sarapiqui and have had me over to their houses for countless hours of fellowship, food, laughter and soccer. They have opened their lives to me, and they have continued working jobs that don't bring them recognition. The mission teams get recognized by church after church after church, as they should, but the construction workers who toil away for years at a time don't get recognized in front of anyone. But I know that God is smiling upon them, and that's all that matters.

Below is a picture of the sun setting behind the pulpit at the church in Puerto Viejo. That's the pulpit where I heard life-changing sermons, the stage where I saw true worship enacted through music, and the place where I gave my only two sermons in Spanish. That church will forever be a place of refuge for me.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to have shared my life with such a wonderful place.

Mar 16, 2010


Team UVA / Chi Alpha came to Costa Rica for their spring break last week and it was awesome. 17 students and 2 alumni (former classmates of mine) came down to help us build our church in Puerto Viejo, and they rocked the Ticos' socks off.

They tiled two classroom floors, plastered countless numbers of walls, hung an office and a classroom ceiling, dug out a septic tank, zip-lined through a rainforest, and led Vacation Bible School lessons for local church kiddos in a six-day whirlwind of laughter and teamwork. The best part about it was that they never lost sight of the reason they came: to glorify and honor God.

Being young, being funny, and being good Spanish-speakers, the team quickly made friends with all of the Ticos--especially the construction workers. The friendships turned into about 2 hours of intense rivalry however, as the Tico men and U.S. women took on the U.S. men in 2 friendly soccer matches. The picture you see above is Day 2 of soccer mayhem, complete with a torrential downpour and filthy clothes.

I was especially blessed by the UVA team, thanks to the rekindling of past camaraderie and the formation of new friendships. It was like God brought a little piece of home down to Costa Rica, and I'm left with no option but to thank Him for his never-ending kindness.
Above: The hole dwellers, taking a bite out of the gigantic boulders they were forced to relocate.

Below: Some of the ladies take in the soccer match with mixed emotions--whether or not those emotions were geared towards the game is a different matter.

Feb 28, 2010

Hope for Revival

The Methodist School is back in session for the year, and I was privileged to speak at their chapel for the past week. As I spoke, I witnessed some students who were readily engaged in the message, and some who couldn't have cared less. This is to be expected from a bunch of 13-17 year-olds, but it's also something that the school administration wants to change. They want to see a spiritual revival.

Last year the 500+ high school students elected a new student president, and she won by only one vote. This new president desires to serve God and, like the administration, see a spiritual revival in the school. I've promised her that I'm going to do everything I can to help her see it through.

I've already spoken with many new (and old) members of the teaching faculty, and their desire to see the Holy Spirit move at the school is stronger than ever. There are numerous prayer warriors within the faculty, and they have made the president know that they are on her side.

This past week I started the weekly Bible Study again, and we had 10 students show up, with at least one from each grade (7th-11th). That was an incredible blessing from my perspective, and each of those students showed a true desire to get their friends and classmates involved in the spiritual life of the school.

Over the course of the year we're hoping to get the students more involved in service ministries throughout San Jose, and we have a plethora of churches at our fingertips who are in desperate need of young helpers. From Kids' Clubs to soup kitchens to construction projects, we're hoping to let the students at the Methodist School taste the joy that comes from serving others in their local communities. And who knows, maybe they'll even attribute that joy to Jesus.

So please be praying with me and the school's administration, because we are hoping for revival.

Feb 23, 2010

Comin' along

Welcome to the front porch of House #1 at the Children's Home!

We are currently in the midst of a 5-week stretch with non-stop teams at this worksite, so we're planning on making quite a bit of progress between now and the end of March.

Our new goal for the house is to have it completed by October, allowing us to finally open our doors to the first 8-10 children who will be a part of our new loving family. Please be in prayer for us and all of the workers involved in this process.

In Platanares

Over the past few weeks I've spent a good amount of time at one of our churches on the foothills of a mountain range, in Platanares de Moravia. It has a lively Kids' Club on Saturday mornings and great preaching on Sunday mornings, so it's really been a no-brainer to keep going back. And this past week one of our mission teams was able to host a Vacation Bible School lesson for the kids in that community.

Spending that much time in one place has allowed me to build a close relationship with the kiddos--a budding relationship that includes chasing, racing, piggy-back rides, helicopter rides, and punishment for calling me slow and/or lazy. So, above, you have Warren, a pastor's kid (aren't we all alike) who was convinced that I was slow and lazy and that I couldn't catch him (because that's what chasing kids is all about). Finally, my competitive nature won me over and Warren became a heap in my arms.

So the new game has become, "How can I get Will to pick me up and throw me around?" Below you'll see Emanuel, who was proud to be a winner of said game . . . until things started falling out of his pockets.

After VBS there was a sight over the church that I have never seen before: a double rainbow. One was bright as the sun itself, the other was much more subtle. It was incredible. A big thanks to Mark White who captured one of the rainbows brilliantly (and who's responsible for the other photos on this post as well).

Jan 31, 2010

A beautiful dream

So I'm back in Costa Rica for the final three months of my time here . . . and it's bittersweet.

But, one of the sweet parts was that Amanda came with me for my first week back, and she got to spend an evening with the family of Carmen and Jose, our Children's Home property caretakers. Their five children, from left to right, are Darwin, Hillary, Lady, Sylvia and Danny. They are one of the most precious families I know.

Carmen's story as to how she came to be working at the Children's Home is one for the ages. She had received a dream in which she was walking through a large piece of beautiful property in Costa Rica, and at the bottom of the property was a river. The next thing she knew she was at the river and was helping to bathe lots of little kids--with the aid of a large group of North Americans. She told her husband, Jose, about the dream, and they prayed about it.

Shortly thereafter, Ray and Lidia came to Carmen and Jose and asked them if they'd be willing to visit the site of the proposed Children's Home, in order to see if they'd like to be the caretakers of the property.

As they walked onto the 7-acre piece of gorgeous green property, and then started down the hill on the backside of the property, Carmen saw the river. She immediately turned to Jose and said, "Do you remember the dream?" Jose responded, "Yes, and this won't just be your ministry, this will be our ministry."

Carmen and Jose now work with North American mission teams, preparing the way for a Children's Home to be built on that property--with the purpose of serving, caring for, and loving young Costa Rican children. They may even bathe them in the river one day . . .

Yeah, God does that.

A purposeful snowstorm

After returning back to the States before Christmas, I was blessed with the opportunity to interview with the Duke Divinity School selection committee (more on that later). The interview ended around 2:00pm on a Friday. My goal was to then drive, with Amanda, to Charlottesville, Virginia in order to see some friends from my days at UVa. Only, things didn't work out quite as I had planned.

Leaving Durham, North Carolina at 2:30pm typically means that you'll arrive in Charlottesville sometime between 5:30 and 6:00pm. On Friday, December 18th, 2009, that was simply not true. For those of you who live on the east coast, you'll remember the massive snowstorm that hit the mid-Atlantic that day, but what you may not remember is that it originated in southwest Virginia . . . the exact part of the state that I'd be driving through to reach Charlottesville.

Around 6:30pm Amanda and I were 20 miles south of our destination, and only 25 miles south of Charlottesville. About that same time, the road we were on closed . . . in both directions. For the next 12 hours Amanda and I drove inch by inch in the snow, turned off the engine twice to take naps, helped push other cars out of snowdrifts, and even braved the blustery night winds to answer nature's call. It was an adventure, to say the least.

At 6:30am we parked our car in a snow drift and walked 200 yards, in snow up to our knees, to our friends' warm and cozy home, finally able to get our night's sleep.

The picture you see above is how we found our car at 3:00pm that day, less than 9 hours after we parked it there (and yes, our car is facing the right direction . . . it's the 18-wheeler that's on the wrong side of the road).

Oh yeah, and the reason it was a purposeful snowstorm: my interview at Duke paid off :-) So now I'll be enrolling at Duke Divinity School in August of this year, and I'll even be getting some scholarship help. Praise the Lord.


Christmas in Africa

Welcome to Child Haven in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Child Haven is home to 13 children who are growing up and receiving the love and care of a Christian mother and numerous Christian "aunties"--and one of those aunties happens to be my girlfriend, Amanda Brill.

I went to South Africa to visit Amanda in December, and some of my most treasured moments in that country were spent at Child Haven, playing with the kids and watching them try to discern what their mama and aunties meant when they said that I was Auntie Amanda's boyfriend and she was my girlfriend. They're adorable.

Before Amanda and I left the country for Christmas, I was able to dish out a collection of candy canes (fresh from the USA) as my parting gift. Here you can see the kids displaying their gifts with pride and admiration (or a complete lack of understanding that they were posing for a picture).

The Child Haven ministry and the other ministry that Amanda is a part of, an HIV/AIDS Community/Children's Home, are incredible blessings to the Kingdom of God. You can learn more about Amanda's ministry on her blog,

I'll just say that I'm a blessed boy . . .