Friday, February 26, 2010

All In A Week's Time

Grocery Shopping
Arroz con Pollo, the food we served at the workshop 
Making Jewelry!

Organized Chaos ;)

A child's heart but a grown-up's head
(me taking a break from being la directora!) 

Every now and then you just gotta stop for some fresh coconut milk

My favorite coffee shop 

Embarking on adventures in downtown San Jose 

I have traveled so much in the last three months and my body was beginning to rebel! So after having come back from the border this last time, Catherine and I took it easy. I have not set my alarm once this whole week. Resting, reading, running, shopping, cooking Latin Cuisine, baking cookies and seeing movies! Ha ha, right doesn't sound like we have rested?? Surprisingly these sorts of things are relaxing and lighthearted for me. I often need that living here and working in the areas that I do. I learned how to Zumba this week! I have had so much fun. 
Proverbs 31 describes a godly woman is one who can "laugh at the days to come"  and that is what I do when obstacles and trials come. We have a choice in the attitudes we take on when hard or difficult situations arise. I choose joy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Weight of the World is Not Mine to Carry

"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance....will arise from another....And who knows but that you have come for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

This passage came across my path yesterday during a time where I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. "FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!" echoed over and over in my head. I began to think on the story of Esther, a story I have memorized all too well. I cannot begin to imagine the weight Esther must have felt on her shoulders and in her heart. An entire nation in some ways depended on her speaking up and facing down the enemy. I wondered in that moment what was going through Esther's mind. Did she have supernatural peace, was she worrying and laying awake at night tossing and turning, or did she spend hours and hours upon her knees crying out? Perhaps to paint a clearer picture of my current frame of mind; I will go back to the beginning of my adventure to the border last week.

Catherine, Susannah, Josue and myself loaded up in the car and headed off to the border for the very first workshop. This workshop, as I have mentioned before, consisted of jewelry making. So many wonderful people contributed to buying beads and helping me prepare for this event while I was in the States last month. Our trip was a breeze up to the border and oh how I wish that would have set the tone for the rest of the day, however that was not to be the case! We arrived earlier than planned, so we checked into our hotel, freshened up and grabbed some breakfast. Within the first hour of arriving, things quickly began to spiral down hill. Soon after breakfast Susannah and Josue were not feeling well, then we discovered the car had a flat tire and then right after that I sprained my ankle. All of this transpiring within a forty minute time span and down to the wire of the workshop beginning! I limped back into my hotel room and called my parents to pray. I do not believe in coincidences and I knew we were under attack. Despite all that was going on around me, my heart was still at so much peace. God is good. After meeting all the wonderful friends and partners in this mission at the church we headed off to the border. Food=check! Water=check! Jewelry=check! Paperwork=check! All was in order and we were ahead of schedule. I was feeling relief by our organization in spite of my throbbing and now swelling ankle.

Upon arriving with everything in tote at the border checkpoint. We were denied access. This was unusual and frustrating. Finally they only allowed Susannah and I through so we could go to immigration and solve the confusion and restricted access. Susannah and I quickly discover the man we need to speak with is off that day but the head guy in charge was in the office! This was an instant answer to prayer as he is a wonderful, helpful man that we have quickly grown to love. He is a christian and our biggest supporter. It is unusual to find him at this office but thankfully that day he was in and just who we needed to see!

He greeted us warmly, fixed the issue of denied access and then sadly informed us we could no longer work inside the border or hold events there anymore. I was caught off guard and at this point discouraged. Everything felt as if it was unraveling and crashing down around my feet. He said we would have to go into Nicaragua and hold events and workshops inside the country. Security was tightening and if they allowed any girls into the border for our events it would open a crack in the sealing of security. I understood and wanted what was best for our safety and the safety of children as there had been issues in regards to kidnappings and so on. I could tell he was discouraged to give us the news but as I looked back up, he smiled. He encouraged us that God was bigger and he would make a way. I knew in my heart he was right but at that moment I could help but feel defeated. As we left his office to head back to the workshop, a girl flagged Susannah and I down. She recognized us and told us she was counting down the time until the workshop started! What a comfort after everything else! All the set back and obstacles were worth even just that one girl being saved. I love how God will smile on us with situations such as that.

The workshop started and seemed to be a huge success to all who attended. Catherine told me later that while I was teaching them how to make the loops, there seemed to be hope in one woman's eyes. Another woman looked like a child in her face as she marveled at the pair of earrings she had just made. Once again worth it all! We passed out food and cookies to all who came. We cleaned up, packed up, and headed back to the cars.

I was tired, dirty, sweaty, limping and yet full of hope. Paul says, hope that is seen is not hope at all. I have no idea how the workshop will come together that we had already planned for March 6th but isn't that what faith is for? So now we pray and plan for our next event inside Nicaragua at Pastor Rudy's church.

Later that night, the World Vision representative told me she was surprised the women and young girls come to our events because they know we are Christians and usually they do not respond well to those types of ministries. She said, "You have an 'in' with these girls" and that it was amazing.

I find myself flipping between the stories of Esther and Nehemiah in my bible. Both sought the Lord and kept in mind only He can save. Jesus carried the weight of the world on His shoulders to the cross. For this reason, I have every answer in Him. The weight is not mine to carry and never was. If my eyes are fixed on Him, God will see all endeavors through to completion.

To anyone who is reading this today and feels as if they have the weight of the world upon them, remember that Jesus said to seek Him first and He will take care of the rest. He is always the answer. Search the Bible, for in it lies all the answers you are looking for. God doesn't hide things from us, He hides things for us.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
Mother Teresa

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Long Journey, Bad Sunburn and Joyfully I Type......

I arrived back to San Jose from the border this afternoon hot, tired, sun burnt and yet full of joy. Susannah and I passed out invitations, along with the help of our friends from Shekinah Church, to girls in prostitution at the border. Most of the reactions we were met with were smiles and acceptance to our invite. Several girls told us they were hoping we would come back. I fought tears when one girl recognized us and was full of excitement to see us yesterday.

While at the border word came to me that World Vision had heard of our project and wanted to help. To say I was overwhelmed and humbled is an understatement! I was able to meet the representative in the nearby area and she was wanting help out in any way she could. I found out she could help me with the medical attention these girls so desperately need. Once again another prayer answered beyond anything I imagined! God is so good. He never ceases to amaze me in the creativity of how He works.

God also continues to poor out His favor with us and the government officials. They always welcome us with open arms and do everything they can to help and support. The greatest part about it all is the sincerity they display in helping us. All of the government officials we come into contact with exert a genuine desire to be apart. Only God could affect this behavior! The bible says that He moves the hearts of kings.

The sweetest moment for me was when I saw the park they had built for the children we work with inside the border area. Oh you better believe, the big kid that I am, I hopped on the swing and began to glide back and forth. I don't have the right words to describe the feeling inside my heart at that time.

Although the trip back was rough and I was exhausted, my heart was still brimming with excitement and anticipation as I watch God weave and lay a path before me. Many times this path is full of unexpected turns and unfamiliar ground. As long as I keep my heart and eyes fixed, the path becomes a fun challenge and a place where I grow closer and closer with God.

I made it back to San Jose just in time to greet Catherine at the airport. God had layed it on her heart to come and help me here in Costa Rica. I am blessed by her courage to come and to serve. I know only too well how hard it is to leave behind your family and familiarity. Catherine will be my roommate for the next month! I look forward to the adventures God has in store for the two of us.

Thank you once again for all the prayers!! God is awesome! I cannot wait until this weekend as we return to love, feed and fellowship with the women and children.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Updates and prayer needs

I surprised myself in the fact I did not cry when leaving my hometown last week. My dad walked me to the airport security checkpoint and watched me get all the way through to the other side before leaving. I waited for that ever familiar lump to come as I turned to wave him one last goodbye and it did not come. Instead what came was an overwhelming amount of peace. I arrived later that day to the sweet, smiling face of Susannah as she was waiting for me just outside the airport! Not only was her greeting uplifting, so was the beautiful weather!

I spent the next few days unpacking and settling in, as well as trying to catch up on some much needed rest. It is summer here now in Costa Rica and what a drastic change for me from when I left the winter storm in Lexington!

This past Saturday night, I went with a wonderful group of people to feed the homeless in some of the worst sections in all of Costa Rica. So many thanked us over and over with such grateful, hungry expressions. However, I felt grateful to them for the opportunity to serve them. To me it was not a duty but a privilege to feed the homeless that night. I can't think of a more wonderful Valentine weekend then loving and serving the forgotten in the streets.

Tonight or early morning,(depending on how you look at it)Susannah and I will take the 3:30 a.m. bus to our usual north adventure spot. There we will meet with the government officials on both sides of the border and then later pass out invitations to our first outreach of the year! This outreach will be more of a workshop in which I will teach the jewelry making techniques I learned in the States. I am excited and nervous! I feel as if I barely know what I am doing, let alone teaching others how. Once again, it is a privilege that God allows me to go and to do.

Please pray for continued favor, protection and that God would move on the hearts of women and children as we pass out the invitations.

I am beyond thrilled as this will be my first return to all of them in months!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

I have only five days left in the US. Today, I counted; counted the days left here, counted the months until I return and above all counted the cost. I know that over these next months I will miss weddings, birthdays, funerals, celebrations and holidays. All of these events in the lives of people I love and know. My heart was filled with grief when I learned that a dear friend, who has been sick for quite some time, will pass away while I am gone. The hardest part, I won't get the chance to say goodbye or sing at her funeral like I had always promised I would. Tears filled my eyes and then a gentle whisper from the Holy Spirit reminded me of a passage in the bible I have known by heart since I was four years old:
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters,he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, [a] I will fear no evil,for you are with me;your rod and your staff,they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

Comfort flooded me instantly and I was reminded of the the story in Luke 9 where the man comes to Jesus and says, " I will follow you wherever you go." and Jesus replied by letting the man know He had no where to lay His head. Then Jesus looks at another man and says, "follow me" but the man's reply is to ask for permission to bury his father first. Jesus' responds to him by telling him to let the "dead bury their own dead and you go proclaim the kingdom!" Yet another man comes and says he wants to follow Jesus but first wants to bury his mother and father. The final reply of Jesus continues to echo in my mind today. He replies with, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God"
Maybe some who read this would find Jesus terribly insensitive, however I somehow find it beautiful. Jesus issued a call to my life then and now. When Jesus bids us come, He expects us to trust Him.
I realized today that the Lord knows and understands what hurts and He is always with me to comfort me. He knew the day He asked me to go to Costa Rica all that it would cost me personally. Now He lovingly challenges as I pack up what is left of my life here, "Do you trust me Anna?" The answer, "Yes Lord, I really do trust you."