Our Journey Home

Friday, August 30, 2013

one thousand gifts

I am currently reading one of my all time favorite books. I'm not quite done with it yet, but it's one of those books that I know I'll read over and over because it is so rich with truth and wisdom that I'm certain I'm missing it. wink. It is called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I have been encouraged and challenged. I have laughed and cried and been convicted, and I love it.

This book is all about giving thanks to the Lord, continually. It is about being aware of His goodness and having sincere gratitude. I cannot recommend this book enough. (Weezie, I cannot thank you enough for encouraging me to read this book, and Jamie, thank you with all my heart for giving me my own special copy!)

The author of this book was dared by a friend to make a list of 1,000 blessings. A few chapters into this book, I gave myself the same challenge. I have notebook, sitting on our kitchen counter. And, several times each day, I jot down a blessing, or two, or more. It has been amazing how the Lord has allowed me to see more of Him each day when I am looking, with thanksgiving, for His blessings.  I still have a long way to go on my list, but I don't know that I'll stop once I reach one thousand. It's way too fun!
"Mama, we playin' cars! vroooooom!"

Blessing #155. three precious children, enjoying one another's company

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."- Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Photojournal: Back to school!

The school year has begun at the Academy of Grace! wink. Emma Grace is in third grade, and Bella is in kindergarten. I can't even believe it, our little girls are getting so big!
 I am excited to see what the Lord is going to allow us to learn and experience this year! It is a joy to teach our children and I am so very thankful.

JJ has been keeping occupied during our morning homeschool time by playing in the kitchen with something special. On Tuesday, I gave him this entire sheet of star stickers to use. He had so much fun!
JJ has had such a happy heart, playing alongside of his sisters while they work!
I don't know if you can see it, but JJ has a little tow truck and he was towing
 Lightening McQueen across our kitchen table. Little boys are so adorable!

This picture makes me smile! We are studying the skeletal system in our Apologia science and we learned about the important role of calcium for our bones. Suddenly, Bella had a strong craving for some milk! She is just adorable and I am so excited to have TWO students in Academy of Grace this year!

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."- Romans 12:9

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Preschool graduation at church

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."- 1 Corinthians 4:2

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Close your eyes really tight!

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."- Psalm 90:14

Monday, August 19, 2013

Answered prayer in Costa Rica

When we were in San Jose, we visited several different neighborhoods that were specifically chosen for our mission trip. These neighborhoods all had bus routes that drove past Vida Nueva church, the church we were helping. One of our goals for the week was to invite all the people we met to the church. Some of the neighborhoods we visited were not as safe as others. There were times that our leaders gave us specific instructions to take off all jewelry and put away any cell phones or cameras.
One night, while we were in one of those 'not as safe' neighborhoods, we came to a dead end street. At the far end, where the pavement ended, stood nine young guys. They were talking and laughing, while a few of the guys were working on a car. David, me, and our translator merged with another team because there was safety in numbers. Our new team for this particular night consisted of David, our male translator, little ol' me, and two teenage girls. wink. We had to make a choice- do we walk down to the end of the road and approach these young men (appearing to range in age from late teens to mid-twenties) and try to share the gospel, or just keep walking? We decided to go for it.
 We walked to the end of the road and our translator asked if we could talk with them. They agreed, but most of them kept working on the car without even looking up at us. David started to share the gospel, and slowly, he gained everyone's attention. The young men started putting down their tools, leaning up against the car and listening to David and our translator as they shared the Good News. Six of them accepted Christ that night! And, the really neat part of this story... an older gentleman approached us just before we left and he quietly spoke with our translator. Our translator told us that the older gentleman was a Christian and he had spent years watching these neighborhood boys grow up, and sharing the Truth with them. He had been praying for their salvation as long as he could remember and he was rejoicing because tonight, their eyes had been opened and their ears had heard! We praised God for answering this prayer!
This picture was taken as we were out walking one night. Aren't the mountains so

Downtown, San Jose.

David and me with our friend and translator for the schools, Ricardo.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."- Galatians 6:2

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"No, I've never heard..."

There were several rainy afternoons and evenings while we were in San Jose. We forgot to pack an umbrella, so there were a few nights that we returned to our hotel with wet clothes. And wow! It was SO worth it! wink! One rainy evening in particular...

The bus pulled up to the park and we all peered out the windows. The sky was dark and the clouds were heavy. The leaders began discussing whether or not we should set up the equipment to show the movie, since the storms were looming. It was decided that we would all divide up into our usual teams, walk the surrounding neighborhood as long as we could before the storm to share the gospel. We were supposed to continue to invite families to come enjoy the inflatable, games, and drama presentation, and we all prayed the rain would hold off for a few hours.  

David, me, and Jonah began our walk down the neighborhood streets. The sprinkles began to fall and most people were keeping dry inside their homes. (We couldn't walk up to a house and ring the doorbell, because it's not like the houses in the United States. The homes are side by side, with no space in between and each house has a rod iron gate to guard their entrance. Most houses have razor wire above the gates, too, or at minimum, there is a piece of metal from the gate to the house to close the space securely.) We stood outside a few homes and called out, "Hola!" but we weren't very successful. And then, we came to a house where a man was just getting out of his car. He hadn't gone inside yet, he was at his gate. God gave us an amazing opportunity that I will never forget. His timing was perfect. We got the opportunity to tell this 65 year old man, about Jesus. It was the-very-first-time he had ever heard this message.

David began to introduce himself and explain our visit, while Jonah translated. The man's eyes were gentle and he returned my smile when David introduced his 'esposa'. wink. The man listened intently and agreed to talk with us. David asked the man a few questions to begin our conversation and Jonah translated, "He just said no, he's never heard about Jesus." I began praying for David as he shared the good news with this man, praying for Jonah as he translated, and praying for this man's salvation. David talked to him for about ten minutes when a beautiful, beautiful thing happened. God did it! He didn't have to, but God allowed us to join Him, in his perfect plan to reach this man with the gospel. We had a new brother in Christ! I stood there, watching as this man went from never even hearing about Jesus, to believing that Jesus was God's only Son and He died on the cross for his sins! It was amazing. He opened his gate and allowed us to come inside. I cried tears of pure joy as we all circled together and held hands and prayed with this man.  We are so excited about what God is doing in Costa Rica! Please join us in praying for the team at Vida Nueva church, who are meeting with all the people who accepted Christ last week. Please pray for all the new believers, approximately 550 in all, who all need to get plugged into a church and begin to grow in their relationship with the Lord. We praise God for His plans!
I took this picture while we were walking in one of the neighborhoods
of San Jose.

The view from my seat on the bus. Isn't it beautiful?

I took these pictures in the plaza square. The pigeons gather here, to be fed
by all the people passing through and this little boy decided to scare them!
He was hilarious, running, giggling, and shouting at the birds!

He made me laugh!
This tree was just outside our hotel, it was so neat!

Chuck took this picture of me on the day I got to share the gospel in the classroom
We all took turns, and it was such a privilege!

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."- Romans 8:16

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: the gringo market

The man in this photograph handmade all the hammocks in his booth at the market.
He was really nice, and he insisted that David try out one of his special  hammock chairs.
 David thought they were very comfy! wink.

The "gringo market" is the nickname for market.
Most tourists stop here to buy gifts and souvenirs.

I had to include this picture! As we were walking through the park,
after our trip to the gringo market, we watched a team of gymnasts doing
aerial stunts. It was amazing!
"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others."- 1 Corinthians 10:24

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

More San Jose!

 I'm going to be totally honest. I have never shared the gospel with someone I've never met before, until our trip to Costa Rica. Our trip stretched me and challenged me, while blessing me and allowing me to experience joy like never, ever before. I was nervous! However, David has shared the gospel many times, gone on mission trips, and has such an evangelistic heart, so I knew I could stick close to him and watch his example. What a joy to serve and share the gospel, side by side with my husband! David and I were on a team with our amazing translator, Jonah. But for this story, I wanted to tell you about what God did using two little glow sticks and... me.

It was Wednesday night, and we had just finished up the festival at a local park. The inflatable was coming down, chairs were being stacked, candy wrappers were gathered to put into the garbage, and people were beginning to scatter and walk back to their homes. I had been passing out stickers and glow stick bracelets, and I realized I had two bracelets left. I quickly scanned the groups of people, looking for two children to give my small gifts. But, I could only see clumps of children, and I knew I couldn't walk up to a group of five (or more) children and offer only two glowing bracelets. Then, I saw two girls. They looked to be in high school or college. I wanted to hesitate- would two girls that age really want my little bracelets?- but the Holy Spirit nudged me to go to them. David was helping clean up and I couldn't even see Jonah. But still, I walked toward the girls.
I smiled and held out the bracelets, glowing brightly. "Hola! Quiere esto?" (My Spanish is very limited, but I was trying! wink.)
The girls accepted with warm smiles.
My heart raced and I blurted out, "Hablas Ingles?"
One girl said, "Yes, I lived in Miami for four years."
I couldn't believe it! I introduced myself and I asked her if she liked the movie and drama from the festival. She said she did like it, but she didn't really understand all of it.
"Can I explain it to you? Can you stay for a few more minutes?" I asked. She seemed eager to talk with me and I was so excited! ( The second girl walked away, to go speak to friends.)

And then, God did it! He had used those two little bracelets to get me to approach those girls. And He filled my mouth with the words I needed to discuss the Good News to this young girl. I shared the gospel with her and her eyes filled with tears. She said, "I want that. I want Jesus." We prayed together, and she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior! We hugged and I gave her information about Vida Nueva, the church we were helping. She said she was going to attend church this weekend! Even just typing this story, my heart is filled with praise! There are so many more God stories to share!
Our wonderful translator, Jonah. We loved serving and sharing the good news with
such a Godly young man. We are praying for Jonah and his future ministry opportunities; we know
God will continue to use Jonah for His glory!

The gospel presentation had just finished and several of the neighborhood residents picture
above were praying to receive Christ.

One of my new sisters in Christ!

Our team, sharing a meal at one of our favorite restaurants Rosti Pollo. We had
a lot of good laughs on this trip! God gave our team such a special bond,
a sweet unity in Christ, and we enjoyed spending our 'free time' together!
"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one."- 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Quick update!

We have so so many stories to share! David and I hope to take turns blogging about all these amazing stories, but we have been very busy on this trip! wink! I did want to take a minute to give a praise report... almost 400 people have made a profession of faith! Praise God!
Thank you so much for praying!

This is a picture of approximately half of the translators for this trip. I think there are
close to 40 translators in all.

Our translators... what a blessing! They love the Lord, and they are eager to share the gospel. We are so thankful for their ability to speak both Spanish and English. (Actually, most of the translators speak more than 2 languages! Wow!) The translators range in age from 14 years old to late 20's.  They have been such an incredible encouragement. We cannot thank them enough for all their hard work and sacrifice for this trip!

Waiting to go inside our classroom.

Several of the older students were working on this mural, out in the courtyard.

Just like the other school, there is not just one building, but instead there are multiple
small buildings for the classrooms.

This is a picture just outside the school; notice the razor wire above the fence. Razor wire is
everywhere here.

I had to take this picture to show our little boy, JJ! He loves motorcycles (aka 'bo-bikes') and
these pizza delivery bikes are always zooming by us!
This last picture is of Aaron and me. Aaron is five years old, we had the opportunity to pray
for Aaron. He is sick and he is currently having testing done by doctors to
help find out what is wrong. Aaron's father was murdered 2 years ago. He is a precious
little boy.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"-Romans 10:15b

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Love of God

We have seen many incredible stories thus far that can only be explained through the power and work of God.  Sometimes in the States, I am slow and reluctant to share my faith in Christ Jesus.  There are no excuses for this, but when we come on a mission trip for the very purpose of sharing about the love of God, we must be prayerful and diligent in this discipline of sharing.  I am trying to do some reading on the trip, and this reading has caused some serious conviction and excitement in my heart.  The book is by Tim Keller called The Reason for God.  As I read through this book and read God's word, I begin to wonder and ask why there are so many that either reject or do not even consider God's love.  Is it because we are too busy with other things, is it because we have rationalized that we just do not have time for the things that we cannot touch, taste, see, smell, or feel?  A guy named Bart Ehrman, a professor at University of North Carolina, has written several books arguing that the Bible cannot be trusted and it is fallible.  I have listened to some of his lectures, and he begins by asking the question, "How many of you have read the Bible?"  The response is usually very few, and then he ask this question, "If God wrote a book, don't you think that we would want to read it and want to know what he had to say?" 

I would ask myself and others, if we do not open the Bible and read it, how will we be able to discern for ourselves and make an informed decision on whether or not God wrote this book.  The historical evidence is overwhelming that Jesus was a real man who walked on this earth and claimed to be the Son of God.  He also said things like, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one gets to the Father but through me." He says things like, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send me into the world to condemn the world, but to save it."  We see Jesus teaching these things which were a treat to those religious people, those Pharisee and chief priest in the temple.  Their power and position was being threatened by this one who claimed to be God.  Even to the point where they devised a plan to kill him.  Jesus' followers did not give up the mission, they moved forward, because they saw that this was truly the Son of God.  Many of them were killed including John the Baptist and Peter.  One of the things Jesus also said was that he desired to gather people up like a hen gathers its chicks, but we are not willing. 
Bart Ehrman makes a claim that if God wrote a book, don't you think we would read it.  Maybe we would not read it.  Maybe we all are running away from the one true God, because he gets in the way of our passion, possession, position, and power.  Do Christians ever doubt God? Absolutely!  There is a never ending spiritual battle that is taking place until the return of Jesus Christ.  When I read the Bible and then when I obey what Jesus told me to do, it brings incredible blessing in my life and the lives of others.  We have seen many here that have stopped running away from God.  We hope to share those stories with you in some coming post.
I hope you will join me in considering what Christ has done.  The Bible says that "there is no greater love than this that a man would lay down his life for his friends."  There is such a divide in the States between those that believe and those that are skeptics.  God has given us free will to believe what we want to believe.  He uses his church to spread this Good News about his love for us, and we have a choice to receive it and to follow it.  God would not force his love on us no more than a man should force his love on a woman who does not love him back.  He desires that we follow him, but we must be willing.  I know one thing for sure, if all the Bible is true, then what Jesus said is true and he is the Son of God, then I want to know him and spend my life living for him.  The Bible says that one day Jesus will return to take his bride the Church, those that have heard this message and been willing to believe and follow.  There will be many who will be surprised by this, and there will be others with great joy who have been longing for this day, the day of the return of our Savior and Lord.
We landed on Saturday, and we have seen 223 people place their faith in this love that God has for them.  We will share some of these God sized stories in coming post.


David and I took a quick picture one night before the festival at the park began.

Look at the vegetation on the hillside! God's creation is so beautiful!

Our entire Faith Baptist Church team, all 15 of us, out for dinner one night.

I snapped this picture from a bus window. I was trying to get a picture of the
mountains on the horizon.

God is at work in the schools of San Jose!

On Monday and Tuesday, we have been visited the school you'll see in the pictures below. It is a school for both middle school and high school ages. There isn't just one school building; instead, there are multiple small buildings on the campus. There are dirt paths leading to the various buildings and our large group was split into teams and assigned classrooms. On Monday, 96 teachers and students accepted Christ as their Savior! On Tuesday, another 77 teachers and students made professions of faith! God is so evident in all the details and it is a joy to join Him where He is clearly at work. We are excited to watch God's plans unfold each day of this trip! Thank you for praying!

I took this picture from the parking area at the school we visited on both Monday and Tuesday

Here is a picture of the mountainside, just past the school.

As we were walking up a dirt path to the school building where our group was assigned, I tried to
take a picture of an example of one of the multiple smaller school buildings. There were 2 classes
meeting inside of the blue building.

This yellow school building is actually a large rectangular shape, but there is a courtyard
in the center. Below is a picture of what it looked like when we walked into this building:

This is our small team! We are assigned to be together every morning
this week while serving in the school classrooms.
(L to R- Chuck, David, Richardo, Kelli, me and sweet Eliana.)
This is our ice breaker game. The students have to try to pull a dollar bill from beneath
a full water bottle, without tipping the bottle. They can only touch the dollar bill. If they succeed,
they get to keep Chuck's dollar! wink.

Another group attempting the water bottle challenge.
After the ice breaker, our translator helped us share the gospel,
a personal testimony, and pray with the class.  In this
particular classroom, 2 students accepted Christ, as well as the
classroom teacher! Praise God!

Some of the precious youth girls on our Costa Rica trip! L to R- Abbie,
Eliana, Anna, Morgan, me (not a youth, wink) and Grace!
I love, love, love this picture of Eliana. Eliana was sharing the gospel with this 9th gradeclass.
 Eliana is also in the 9th grade, and you could have heard a pin
drop; the students were captivated by her message. She did such a great job!

David was leading a game with the class. The students loved participating
and receiving American candy for their efforts!

"Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk- not as unwise people but as wise- making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."- Ephesians 5:15-17