Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing But Jesus' Love Can Make A Way

"To believe in a child is to believe in the future. Through their
aspirations they will save the world. With their combined knowledge the
turbulent seas of hate & injustice will be changed. They will
supply humanity with music & beauty it has never known. They will
endure. To these ends I pledge my life's work."
-Henry James

I have sat here for the last few minutes watching the cursor flash in and out waiting for me to type something profound to articulate the events of the weekend. I was stalling, racking my brain for that perfect adjective to describe my thoughts and feelings. 
Friday, was the fiesta for children inside a community of Nicaragua. We were told there were around 70 children anxiously awaiting our arrival. I was so excited, I love children! I love spending time with them, singing with them and learning from them. We could not get across the border fast enough to get to these children for my satisfaction. When we arrived we discovered there was well over 70 children and the final count came to 200 children. While my Dad and Pastor Rudy filled the pinata, Catherine, Susannah and Matt helped entertain the children with games while I set up music for worship.
Worship turned out to be a hit with all of the kids. They learned the motions quickly and joined in whole heatedly. We were having a blast. It was hot and I was dripping with sweat from all the jumping and singing. However, the look of excitement on the faces of those kids kept me going and I soon forgot the heat, dirt and the malnutrition surrounding me. After worship it was pinata time! However, this was the hardest part of the day with so many children and one pinata. I will leave you to your imagination as to what that particular event was like! 
We wrapped up the fiesta with a lesson on how Jesus is our friend and then we passed out cookies and Koolaid. It was not until I was in my hotel room that I allowed what I saw to settle into my heart and think of all the hunger I saw. Hunger for love, attention and food. Have you ever seen a malnourished child? I am not talking about the advertisements you see on TV. I am talking about real life, in person? If you have then you know the absolute heart break I felt that night as I tried to sleep. Some of my little friends in that community, their hair is falling out, they have worms, distended bellies, dirty feet, deformities and do not go to school. For two hours they laughed, played, sang and hugged my neck as if there was not a problem in the world. When they say my name, my heart melts. They are not statistics, a project or a cause they are people with hopes and dreams and feelings. They are becoming part of my life and the reason I stay and fight.
Saturday, one of final fiestas inside the border went better than I could have ever asked! LightForce partnered with World Vision to host a talk on HIV awareness and to answer question the women may have on medical problems. Due to time restraints, we were unable to have the doctors there for the exams but next time we plan to host a medical event with doctors. World Vision has agreed to do this for me and I am so grateful as I do not have those resources yet. Between thirty and thirty-five women showed up for the event and it amazed the people from World Vision. The head representative told us that it was incredible the women come to us and have a re pore with Susannah and I. He told us that we must be doing something right to have a turnout such as that and if we ever needed anything not to hesitate in asking him! Many of the women are learning our names and slowly we are beginning to earn their trust, slowly. Many of them I had not seen since the last fiesta and it was fun to catch up. I sat with one who is considered the ring leader and the biggest trouble maker. The "big trouble maker" calls me friend and sat there teaching me Spanish words I had not learned. I love how God is not bound by language.
When it all ended, they asked us when they could see us again and made sure we knew how to get in touch with them. My heart was overflowing. True contact and connection, finally.
Susannah, Catherine and I ended the night in our hotel laughing and sharing Root Beer Floats. A long, successful and fun weekend was coming to a close.
The next morning we went to Pastor Alberto's Church where Dad preached. It was an awesome sermon about Jesus and our place in history. To say I was proud, would be an understatement. 
Dad and Matt left this morning and as always, I fought tears when I hugged my Dad's neck goodbye. Sometimes, the little girl in me doesn't want to stay. Instead she wants to climb in his suitcase, or beg him to take me with him. I don't though, instead I smile and we say see you soon and I watch him walk away. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I have been extremely blessed to have Catherine here with me in Costa Rica. She has braved the ups and downs of life here without so much as a flinch. Catherine has taken everything in stride with me as we laugh at changes in schedules, bad bus drivers, weird foods, bugs, heat, dangerous places, long services, language barriers and being far from home. She has had a first hand look at my life here on a daily basis and God has used that through her encouragement when things go wrong. No amount of words can truly describe the depth of gratitude I have felt for not being alone for a change. So, in honor of her perseverance, we played tourists over the weekend instead of missionaries!

We hiked around the base of the Arenal Volcano and went swimming at the bottom of a huge, beautiful waterfall in La Fortuna. However, we had not worn swimsuits or brought towels but that still did not stop us from jumping in clothes and all! Abdi was our amazing tour guide who wanted to practice his English. One of the questions he asked us was this: "Why in English do I say 'get off the bus' 'get on the bus' but when I am talking about a car I have to say, 'get out of the car', 'get in the car'? This does not makes sense to me, can you explain please?"
Oh man all I could do was laugh because he was right no one would ever say get off the car in that context! The more Catherine and I thought about how to answer, the harder we laughed. We had no clue what to say but, "well, umm, hmmm, you just don't say that Abdi." I am sure those of you reading might have a much better answer, I am curious to know it myself!

In the past few days, Catherine and I have been planning for the arrival of my Dad and Matt C and the trip to the border once again. This particular weekend is a big one for us and already obstacles have begun to swing in from all sides but that just makes it all the more exciting. I refuse to cave or give up just because something does not go according to plan. For every door that shuts, there are always three that remain open. God has a path carved out and daily I am seeking to stay on His path and not mine. 

To spend a few days being lighthearted has been a great anecdote for me heart. The last week has been tough not being home with my family. My grandmother has been sick with Pancreatic Cancer for the last 9 months and she is now coming to the end of this battle with Cancer. Hospice has been called in and my Mom tells me my grandmother is peaceful and not in pain. The majority of my family and her grandchildren live in Kentucky. There have been many family gatherings, story telling and laughter that I have missed out on. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am close to my family and to miss all of this is absolutely breaking my heart. The Bible says that God is near to the broken hearted and I have had such a great amount of peace and trust in my heart with everything. There is a small possibility I may get to go home to say goodbye to my grandmother but whether it works out or not, I am okay.

My Dad arrives tomorrow and I am thrilled to have that piece of home here with me. Please keep us in prayer this weekend as we journey again into a tough, dark area.

 "To choose 
what is difficult 
all one's days
as if it were easy
that is faith."

W.H. Auden

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When love comes to town......

A friend recently asked me to give a description of a typical, normal day or week in my life here. Upon reading that, I laughed softly to myself because there was no such a thing as a "typical" or "normal" day or week for me here in Central America.
Living in Costa Rica, working in Nicaragua, friendships with high ranking officials, Spanish tutor that does not speak English, helping fellow missionary friends open a coffee shop, earthquakes, coconuts straight off the tree, mango off the tree, and 90 degree weather in February. Surprisingly these things are all ironically now very normal and typical for me. Each day here is truly adventurous and each trip to the border or Nicaragua is always full of surprises and obstacles. Sometimes I feel like life for me is fascinatingly chaotic.
 This past weekend the trip to Nicaragua was above all I could have expected! Often I have no clue what will transpire or how successful a workshop will go but I always put my hope in God. Always, always, always, God comes through in powerful and unexpected ways for me.
 Last Friday we all went to bed as early as possible because we would be catching a 4am bus to Nicaragua. However, our sleep was interrupted by a 4.4 earthquake here in Costa Rica. Although it was certainly not quite on the level of Haiti or Chile it was still a hard one. During the shaking, I felt so helpless and my mind was racing as to what to do in that moment. However, I couldn't move from the shaking and that was the most helpless feeling. Needless to say, I never really fell back to sleep! Catherine, myself and Valeria loaded up on the bus and it turned out to be literally the worst bus ride I have ever encountered. It was the worst Valeria had ever experienced and she is Costa Rican! Our bus driver almost wrecked twice and in one of those moments we almost toppled off the side of a mountain.
I was never so glad to finally get off that bus and head for the immigration lines! We entered into Nicaragua and Pastor Rudy was there to greet us at the border. We headed to the Church to rest and catch up with Pastor Rudy. We sat in the shade and he shared his powerful testimony. He also shared with us that there is much persecution for him and his family in this small town from several practicing witches there. He said it was a stronghold in the community and many try to cast spells on his house. Rudy smiled and said he knew God was stronger and he had no fear or worry. Then he looked at me and reminded me how important it was for me to stay prayed up. However, there was such a sense of peace that settled on me as I listened to this man share his heart. I have a deep trust in God since living here and also an understanding that depending on God is not optional.
  Little by little, women and children began to trickle into the Church with looks of excitement and hope in their eyes. My heart melted and I thought to myself, "man I love my life!!!" I divided my time between the jewelry making with the women and worship with the children. Despite no sleep and extreme heat in Nicaragua, I was having an absolute blast! At the end I shared a portion of my testimony with the women and told them I was proof God can change anyone's life if they are willing. The vulnerable expressions that met my eyes were so heart wrenching that I was filled with even more compassion and determination to help them. It was the first time in months of going there that I felt a bond beginning to form. God is so amazing.
We wrapped up the long day at a special Church service on the beach. We stayed at a house in the campo which is the country. No running water, outhouses and bugs of ridiculous size! Every single minute was full of adventure and not to mention the fact that we all three had to share a bed, thank goodness it was a queen size ;)
The next day we had breakfast with Rudy and his family. We also had, my personal favorite, coconut milk!!!
He and I discussed the plans for the next event on March 19th at the church for all the children in the community which will be about 75-80 and I am so pumped. I also have a meeting with a lady who heard about the ministry and  is a director of an orphanage there in Nicaragua. For those that know me, this is my heart and to say I was excited to hear this news would be an understatement.
I love Nicaragua and it has begun to occupy a special place in my heart. I simply never tire of going there and seeing the people I have come to love.

Thank you so much to all of you that donated and helped to make this past weekend possible. When I logged on to see my account, I cried at the amount of donations. 
Isaiah 58:10 says, "and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." 

Thank you for being a light with me in such a dark place.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sponsor A Smile This Weekend!!!

" And this is where love comes in - when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy."
-Mother Teresa 

This weekend Catherine, myself and Valeria will head to Nicaragua to hold another jewelry workshop. We plan to love, feed, and hug all who attend as well as teach the jewelry technique. I am excited and prayerful of this weekend. I have no idea what to expect since this will be the first time I will have taught or really worked in this community inside Nicaragua. This event is bigger than the events in the past and therefore will quite possibly double if not triple the amount of women and children to feed and help. I was telling my sister, Rachel, that I was concerned about being able to afford to feed all the people who come this weekend. Her reply was not what I expected and yet much needed! Rachel replied, "Well good thing you are not the one responsible to feed them!" At first I was confused and then realized what she meant. My sister was refering to the fact that Jesus is the one who will feed them and not me. Of course me and the girls with me will be the vessels but ultimately the responsibility is on Him. All we must do is go, serve and obey. 
I am curious to see all God has up His sleeve because this coming event has had the most obstacles, set backs and I have had to fight worrying more this time around!! We also lost most of our help in running and setting up the event. However, Pastor Rudy, (who is the Nicaraguan pastor I work with) came to my rescue! How I could have jumped through the phone to hug him!! He opened the church and so we will outreach to the community. The church there is helping me with food, a place to stay and etc..!! Man, God is so good that many times I could cry. I have so much love for these people, they have become family to me and they take such good care of me. This helps greatly when I feel so far from family and church family.

I am blessed that so many have written me they are praying and many have asked how they can help! Wow, how amazing the body of Christ can be. There are two ways people can help with the event this coming weekend:
1.) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! We need safety and protection as we head into new and unknown territory. Divine provision and in general the message of love to be conveyed to all who come through the door.
2.) You can purchase a jewelry starter kit for just $5.00 and sponsor a smile! This kit contains enough for a woman to make herself a pair of earrings and allow her to learn the "how to" in the workshop.