Saturday, April 24, 2010

¡Somos Graduados!

We are graduates! Friday April 23, 2010 was our graduation ceremony at the Instituto de Lengua Española (ILE) just outside San José, Costa Rica. We arrived here in late August 2009 hoping to learn Spanish and we are leaving with much more!

One of the most visually impressive things we can show you is this list of our friends who will be serving with us in the kingdom throughout Central and South America. Look at this list of graduates, arranged by country. Missionaries are leaving here to work in 14 countries! We saw a similar group of people leave for 13 countries in December!

We had an amazing opportunity to fellowship with these men and women of God. We heard their testimonies in chapel twice a week, we heard how they were called into the mission field, and we heard how God will be using them in so many ways throughout Latin America. That kind of education cannot come from any textbook – you have to live it and God led us to it!

Due to the economic downturn, and the feeling of some mission boards that Latin America is becoming saturated, enrollment at this institution is falling and they were forced to let 3 of the instructors go after graduation. Please pray that God would continue to encourage the people that are working here and give them clear guidance how they are to proceed… they are facing difficult choices right now.

Click here to see some other graduation pictures we posted on Facebook.

¡Dios les bendiga!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another Amazing Gift

I just want to share another amazing gift God has given me. 32 weeks into the treatment and I’m tired. It is getting much harder to motivate myself to get up and go to school. We went to Nicaragua to renew our visa again. I got there and was so tired from the trip that I slept all day Sunday and was not able to go to the small church that our friends worked with. This church had planned a service for us to attend followed by a dinner and cultural dancing by the children. I was really looking forward to it but didn’t feel I was up to the long bus ride and the heat so I stayed in our house and rested. By Tuesday I had an upset stomach so I didn’t go on the beach trip or the cathedral tour or the boat ride around the lake where monkeys actually came onto the boat and sat in people’s laps. By the time we got back home I was really sick. For the whole next week I couldn’t go to school, could hardly walk ten feet. Everything I ate went though me in a matter of minutes/hours so I was getting no nutrition and adding to the weakness and headaches. I was getting very depressed. I was ready to quit, there were only two more weeks of school. What could I learn in only two more weeks? I just wanted to stay home and be sick.

Then my sister came to town. She is ten years older than me so when we were kids we didn’t get to really know each other. She was moved out by the time I was eight. It has only been in the last several years that we have actually gotten to talk and get to know each other. She came to Costa Rica from Canada (where she lives) to have some dental work done. She had no idea where in Costa Rica I was in relation to where she would be (someone recommended a dentist for her) and she had made her reservations last year. Turns out she was a 15 minute taxi ride from us. She had three days off while they were making her crowns so she came to visit.

I had gotten some antibiotics from the doctor and was finally felling a little better when she arrived. We had a great time chatting away “like cackling hen” as a dear friend of mine would say. As I went to bed after the first evening with her some puzzle pieces fell into place. (That’s how I describe what happens when God shows me how He has orchestrated events in my life.)

That very morning my husband had shared with me that two days ago in a bible study he went to he had an epiphany. The study was on Satan and discussed the mistaken impression people have of his powers. The story of Job is a very profound story with layers of meaning and revelation. Like all of God’s Word reviewing it only reveals a new angle and insight previously overlooked. He shared the fact that Satan had to ask permission from God to test Job, showing that God is more powerful than Satan is or ever will be, and that God had a special interest in Job that Job was unaware of.

If you don’t know the story here is a brief re-cap. Job was a devout man of God. He had a personal relationship with God and God had blessed him with a wonderful family, prosperous fields, wealth, and great stature in the community. Satan was allowed to take away each of those blessings one by one in hopes that Job would give up on God if he didn’t have all the “stuff”. But Job did not falter although he lost his family, his lost money, his crops failed, and he became sick. His best friends told him that it was because of sin in his life but Job knew that he was right with God and held fast to that belief.

What my husband shared with me is how it related to our situation. Job did not know that God was aware of this process; he did not know that Satan had asked permission and that God had granted permission. Job only knew that his life was falling apart around him. But what he did know was his God. He knew that God was faithful and that whatever he had or didn’t have was more than he deserved. My husband shared that he saw the parallel in what was happening to me; that God is in control and is aware of everything I feel and go through, and must have taken a special interest in me at this time in my life. I am not saying that this illness was brought on by Satan – it could have been, or it could be circumstances of life – that is not the point. The point is that God is in control of EVERYTHING!

So when my depression was getting the best of me, just when I couldn’t take any more, God sent me my sister to lift my spirits and cheer me up! How great is our God? It’s hard to understand that he would care so much for me, even in the details of sending my sister to cheer me up; for who am I that He would bother to arrange such an encounter? And not a last minute solution but one planned almost a year in advance. God knew a year ago that this week I would need encouragement. If she had come one week earlier we were in Nicaragua and I would have missed her. Two weeks later and we would have already been headed back to the states. She had no idea where in Costa Rica we were when she made her plans. Yet God’s timing is perfect, as always.

I feel so rejuvenated and ready to go to my classes and finish my task. And so humbled that the God of the universe cares so much for me that He would make the effort to arrange so many details just to lift my spirits and give me the encouragement to finish the task that He has placed before me.

I bow before Him once again in awe that a sinner such as me should have such a privilege.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Santa Semana in Nicaragua (Visa Renewal)

We arrived last night (Thursday, April 1) at our “home” in Costa Rica… “home” is where you can put things in drawers, know the neighborhood, and yes, walk around in your underwear (not that we do, but we could!).

We knew the border crossing going into Nicaragua would be bad… the Saturday before Santa Semana (Holy Week) is a big travel day. Santa Semana is like Memorial Day and Labor Day in the US, but bigger because it lasts a week. Every one goes on vacation, and since Nicaragua and Costa Rica are both officially Catholic, holy events like Easter are a big deal.

We had a 5 hour bus ride from San José to the border, 5 hours at the border – 2 ½ hours waiting to “leave” Costa Rica and 2 ½ hours waiting to “enter” Nicaragua… officially we didn’t exist in ANY country for the 2 ½ hours waiting to get into Nicaragua!

We certainly saw a difference in the two countries: Nicaragua has a lot more trash along the roadways, the highway system is not as developed, and things are generally cheaper. We had seen street vendors and beggars many times, but never saw people that came to your table while eating, stare at our food, and ask for some. One guy even had a make-shift chair he carried around and sat down to eat at the corner of our table. He finished one of our hamburgers, the French fries, and asked the waiter for a bag for the other hamburger!

The weather was hot but the evenings were cool when the breeze was blowing. Jeff, a pastor from Michigan who has visited Masaya, Nicaragua many times previously, had arranged a few tours for us, including a church service, cultural entertainment, and dinner. We got to visit several cathedrals, go shopping, tour an active volcano, and simply relax.

What a way to stay “legal” while renewing our visas!

Encouraging the people not to litter - "Granada is not a Trashcan"

Everyone joined in the "procession" - one of many, 2-3 every day of Santa Semana

Statue on left is Jesus, on the right is Mary - compare the sizes

A little cultural entertainment at the church

From the edge of the volcano

Ready, aim, FIRE! First the flag, then the church!

Jesus and Mary "floats" during the "procession" - carried by purple-robed and hooded volunteers

Passing by the church, with local Hot Dog vendors ready!