Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Running the Race

     Time flies when you're having fun. And though this time in Costa Rica has definitely come with its challenges, I have loved every moment of it! It doesn't seem real that I'm leaving this beautiful place in 3 days. I'm coming home a different person than when I arrived here 5 months ago. God has done so many incredible works in my faith and character. Here are some of the ways I have grown:   
  • Learning how to share my faith with others in daily life
  • Developing a passion for the Bible
  • Recognizing God's voice and his plan for me
  • Growing in patience with the Lord and other people
  • Becoming more confident in my ability to contribute to team ministries
  • Always encouraging and supporting others
  • Praying without ceasing
  • Serving with a willing heart and a good attitude
Some other things I loved about my experience in Costa Rica:
  • Speaking Spanish every day, improving in the language and learning to translate
  • Seeing God's beautiful creation - mountains, rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, and waterfalls
  • Making friends from cultures all around the world
  • Eating tico food - gallo pinto, platanos, coffee, Chikys
  • Relaxed and fun culture - dancing, drinking coffee, joking with Latinos
     I am now in Bocas del Toro, an island on the Caribbean coast of Panama, staying at a hostel with my friend Elle. We are here for a couple days to relax and process all we learned in the DTS. I am trying to figure out what is my next step - whether it's to stay in the states for a while, come back to Costa Rica, or go somewhere new. God has definitely called me to do ministry in Latin America, so I know I'll be back sometime. But I don't know the details yet. Until then I'm going to continue seeking the Lord's guidance and serving those around me, like my family and church back home.
     It's been an amazing adventure following Christ here. Thank you for all your support and remember to keep running the race! :)

    **Philippians 3:13-14
    **Hebrews 12:1

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guerreras / Warriors


      I have officially survived OUTREACH! We arrived back at the base Sunday night, a van full of worn out, dirty missionaries screaming for joy to be home! It really is wonderful to be back here. We have all needed this time of refreshing and processing what just happened. This week we had de-brief and “re-entry” training for when we go home. It still seems so unreal that my team will be separating in a matter of days – these friends have been my family for almost 5 months. We’ve been through good and bad, difficult and fun times together. This journey has definitely been a life-changing one. God has shown me so many things about my character and who he created me to be. Last night was our graduation from the DTS program, a bittersweet time of sharing stories and pictures and celebrating our time together. 
      The past few weeks have flown by, but our group was so blessed by the people we served and the places we stayed. After Monteverde, we stayed in Los Chiles for a week. Our project there was to help with construction on an orphanage. We stayed in a small house right at the construction site – it was quite an interesting living situation. This week was probably the dirtiest for us. During the day we worked on building the foundation of what would be the kitchen. I learned how to place cement blocks and fill them in to make a wall. This week was physically exhausting, especially because we started every morning at 6:00am and worked until 5:00pm (with a break for lunch). I was on a team with all the Latinos of our team, which was good practicing Spanish. God really challenged me this week with humility and serving with a willing heart. At times I wanted to stop or got frustrated at not understanding directions, but I had to continue on. In the end it was great seeing what we accomplished as a team.
      The following week in Ciudad Quesada, we worked with the youth from a church doing prayer ministry, creative evangelism, and leading a service there. I loved getting to know some of the youth and hearing their dreams. A lot of our ministries on this outreach have been very short-term, because we only talk to each person for a day or even just a few minutes. But it’s incredible the impact you can have on a person just by listening and encouraging them with your words. One day we were in the park asking people to identify one picture that represented their relationship with Christ, and Melissa and I had an awesome conversation with a young woman there. Even though we’ll never see her again, we gave her a message of love and hope in Christ that hopefully will stick with her forever.
      The hospitality we have received as a team in Costa Rica has truly blown my mind. In Ciudad Quesada we stayed at a Methodist retreat center with super nice facilities, clean showers, and acres of woods to walk in. I really appreciated the peaceful environment, and the opportunity we had to spend time with God in the mornings (surrounded by his beautiful creation). Sarchí was a totally different experience but so good: we stayed with different host families from the church for three nights. I was with a family with two teenage girls and their mom. I really connected with the girls, Melany and Stephany. As we chatted one night over pizza, I though of how lucky I am to be getting to know these girls who are so different than me, but so alike at the same time. We share our faith in Christ, the most important thing, and through this we were able to become friends.
      As my time in Costa Rica is coming to a close, I am in awe of what God has done in my life. By experiencing the different cultures and people of this country, I have realized that there is not a “right” way to worship, be a witness to others, or seek God. We visited many churches with such passionate worship. Some places I really connected with God through salsa dancing during church, and in others I didn’t really appreciate all the screaming. It all has to do with the heart of each individual. If you go to church just because you are expected to, you won’t get much out of it. But if you go to seek God and really praise him for what he’s done in your life, you open the door to allow Him to work in your heart and change you. It’s all about the relationship and motivation behind what you do. My motivation is going to be to serve God in all I do and love the people in this world. What’s yours?

 Some pictures from outreach:





Friday, October 28, 2011

The Journey Continues...

     After over a month of outreach, I have been stretched in so many ways. Just to give you an idea of some of our experiences, over the past 2 weeks I have lived in the jungle, hearing monkeys screech at night; been chased by a herd of cows on the road; crossed the channel in a ferry; got thorns in my hands; and washed dishes with rainwater as it fell from the sky. Such a variety of people, places, and opportunities. Since my last update we have been to 3 different places - Cobano, Nicoya, and Monteverde. After doing night ministry in Jaco for three nights we traveled to Cobano, which is on the southern coast of the Nicoyan penninsula (on the western side of Costa Rica). We took an hour ferry ride across the channel to reach the penninsula. 
     Cobano is a small beach town, but we stayed outside the town at a really cool Christian retreat center in the jungle. The 3 days we spent there were to refresh before going into a week of intense ministry. The time we spent in Cobano was so good - we had time to relax, as well as prayer time on the beach in Montezuma, a nearby town. We had the chance to help out with a church service that takes place at the retreat center. One of my favorite parts of the night was washing the feet of the congregation - it was the first time I had served someone in this way, and it was very humbling and special. More than anything, this week helped refresh my spirit by spending time with the Lord. Sometimes I get so caught up in doing ministry or hanging out with my teammates that I don't spend much time with God. This is always when I start to feel lonely or empty - I need to be filled up again.
     After Cobano we traveled to Nicoya, where there is a YWAM base. It's much smaller and in a more rural area than our base in San Jose. It's a much newer base, so there aren't as many schools or ministries going on, but it was great to be there and get to help out. For four days we helped out with their Bible distribution ministry in a nearby community. Basically we split into teams of people from our team and some locals from a church that was helping us. The locals showed up where to go in their town and we passed out Bibles to every house in that community. It was so much more than just giving out Bibles though - we talked with people at each house, encouraging them in faith, and praying for them. One of the most important things I learned throughout this ministry is just to be honest with people. If they're having problems or feel broken, it's good to let them know that we are struggling too. No one is perfect. Sharing our weaknesses can sometimes allow people to open up and be more ready to receive Christ's love. 
     The week in Nicoya was challenging for me because I didn't feel like I was making a huge impact every day. But then I realized that even just encouraging someone in their walk with the Lord is so critical. And often we don't know the impact we have on someone until after we leave their house. I also got to share a message one night at the base - it was about discipline in our Christian walk and being obedient to God's call for us. Most of you know that I hate public speaking. I overcame some of my fear this week! Already on outreach I have shared short messages a couple times now and tonight I'm going to talk about YWAM at a youth event. God is definitely giving me more confidence. 
     We just arrived in Monteverde yesterday. It's cold here because we're in a more mountainous region and it's further north. Today we did a short presentation in a high school and helped out with some projects there. Tomorrow is the youth event. One exciting thing happened yesterday. Our group went to eat dinner at this restaurant because we got in late, and a few of us walked over to the souvenir shop next door while we were waiting. We started talking to the store owner, and he was really interested in what we are doing here. So we shared about missions and prayed for him. I think God really used us to bless this man! 
      Every day here I am in awe of what God is doing in my life and how he's using our team. I am so grateful to have this experience, and even as I think about coming home, I'm thinking about what the next season of my life will hold. I don't know yet, but I know God has a plan. I just have to trust him. I miss you all back in the states and I'm thinking about you!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sweat, Ice Cream, and Jesus

     We are now on our third week of outreach traveling around Costa Rica. The first week we went to Cartago, San Jose, and Heredia doing various ministries like serving meals to the homeless, talking to a men's group in drug rehabilitation, and praying at the top of a volcano (one of my personal favorites). Throughout this week I learned how to listen. Many times I am so anxious to talk to people and tell them all about myself, but this week I was really humbled in learning how to just be a good listener. I met so many different people on the streets and in different ministries we did, and most of them just needed someone to hear their story. For example, a man I met at the homeless shelter just opened up completely to me and told me all about his life when I approached him. It was as if he hadn't had anyone to talk to in months. Even though I wanted to share with him as well, letting him release all his emotions was a way of showing love to him. In the end I had the opportunity to pray with him, which was such a blessing (and hopefully an encouragement to him). Although approaching strangers on the street can sometimes be scary, valuing them as children of God and just spending time with them is such a powerful witness.
     Last week our group traveled to Puerto Viejo, a tiny beach town on the Caribbean coast. There is a lot of Jaimacan influence there - rastas, reggae music, and surfers. The weather was super muggy and hot - within half an hour of arriving all of us were sweating. This week was more challenging for me because our schedule was so vague and flexible. Each day we worked with a different ministry, but most days we had lots of free time as well. Sometimes I felt like we weren't doing much, but I realized that even when we weren't doing a group ministry, prayer is always needed. So I spent a lot of time just praying on the beach for this community. Though it's a small town, there are lots of drug and alcohol problems here...many people have lived here their whole lives and just feel empty - without a purpose. A couple of our days here we did service projects - painting a church and helping out at a local coffee shop. This was a great way to get to know people in the town and simply share our faith through our actions.
     This week we are in Jaco, a beach town on the Pacific side. The atmosphere here is completely different than in Puerto Viejo. It's a bigger town and it has more of an urban feel. Also, the past few days here it has been really rainy and because of this the ocean is super muddy and choppy. YWAM has a skatepark ministry here as well as a program reaching out to prostitutes. Prostitution and drugs has become a huge problem here, especially at night, mainly due to it being a popular tourist location. Our ministries here have been much more laid-back but really good. One day we picked up trash around town and prayed for the people who live here. Another day we had to each make a new friend in the community - I met a tica girl about my age and a man from Canada who work in a bookstore. It was cool to just spend time with them and hang out in the bookstore. Later this week we'll being doing ministry at night - probably prayer and working with the homeless and prostitutes.
     Outreach has been awesome so far - God has taught me so much through various conversations and just living in community. It can be frustrating living with the same people day after day - but patience comes with time. I'm loving this country more every day - the people are so friendly and open. The rainforest and beaches are BEAUTIFUL. I even saw a monkey last week! And my Spanish is improving - I've had several good conversations with people in Spanish, and Ticos are always willing to help you learn. :) One of the most important things that has been getting me through outreach is to always depend on God to provide. James 4:13-15 says:
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.' "

   ***Thank you for your continued prayers. It's been a great adventure!

Monday, September 26, 2011

NIKO: We will Overcome

       “I survived!” As our team returned from the mountainous jungle of Cartago this weekend, we felt victorious. This past week we had our final week of lecture phase there – NIKO survival camp! It was the practical application of everything we had learned so far in the form of hiking, camping, discipline and respect, and working as a team. It was quite an intensive experience because we were forced to work together to accomplish certain tasks in a limited amount of time. Of course there was frustration and impatience at first, but very quickly we learned that it is to our advantage to listen to everyone’s opinion and examine what would be the best strategy. Throughout the four days I did some self-examination and realized that I am very stubborn, proud, and impatient. And consequently, these were the three things that tested me most during NIKO.
      Leading my team on an uphill hike one day, I felt that my patience was shattered. But somehow instead of snapping I just waited, and listened. And pressed on. Then I began to see that it was my attitude, not that of my teammates, that needed changing. And if I was to help my team have a positive outlook on our situation, it had to start with me. This week was such a challenge to me mentally and spiritually, learning to depend on God for strength. I had to relinquish my pride for the good of the team, something I should have done more of before this experience. Now being back I need to continue working on my character, allowing the Lord to guide me in love and humility.
      This weekend returning to base was a joyous moment of appreciation for civilization: having a hot shower for the first time in a week, enjoying a soft, warm, fluffy bed with a mattress, clean clothes, toilets that flush, coffee, music, and time to be ALONE. Despite the twenty bug-bites on each of my arms and legs, I am thankful for this time that taught me so much. I am now prepared to be flexible, willing to serve, and patient with others on my outreach, which begins this week. For our first week we are staying in the San Jose / Cartago area, and most nights we’ll be here at the base doing local ministries. Then next weekend we’re loading up the vans to travel all around Costa Rica – and we won’t be back for 7 weeks! Our next stop is Puerto Viejo, a town on the Caribbean coast, and then Jaco on the Pacific. I’m excited to see what opportunities we’ll have to serve the ticos there. 


Please pray for myself and my team of 12 students and 4 leaders as we shine the light of Christ to Costa Rica.

**John 3:21 “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nicaragua

   This weekend we traveled north to Nicaragua to renew our visas and stayed in a cute little beach town called San Juan del Sur. The culture and feel of this country is very different than Costa Rica, but so vibrant! Here are some pictures from our adventure:

The beach literally a block away from our hostel.

Hostel Pacha Mama, our home for the weekend

View of San Juan del Sur from the top of the Jesus mountain

Standing under the Jesus statue: Jesus in you I trust

Enjoying the waves in the rocky bay
Our secret cave adventure

Sunset on the beach = heaven

The Perfect Day:


      The focus of last week was prayer and worship. It started off with several great heart-to-heart conversations and prayer with different people Sunday night. Then on Monday began an amazing few days of learning how to pray and developing a deep desire in my heart to know God more. Let me just say: it has been INCREDIBLE. I never knew how much fun praying for 2 hours could be. My heart is so full of joy because of what God has done in my life. So I want to share with you my perfect day – September 7, 2011, a day I will always remember.
      My alarm went off at 5:30 and as usual, my first instinct was to turn it off and go back to bed. But this time I decided to brave the early morning and start my day the right way – with a jog. So I snuck down the stairs in my running shoes and took off, running past familiar shops and the local university. I felt the freedom that always comes with running. What a great way to start the day! After breakfast I had some great quiet time with God reading my Bible. Then we had base intercession, which involves worship and praying for a specific theme, which today was human trafficking. We prayed specifically for victims in San Jose and for the demand for trafficking to end. Afterward we all got a small bracelet to wear on our wrist for the day to remind us of the bondage many people live in.
      Stepping out into the sunny morning, I was ready and energized for class today. Vanessa talked to us about how we are part of the God’s royal priesthood here on this earth. We are the stones of a spiritual house whose foundation is Jesus. It all has to do with relationship! Following the lecture we had a time of praying scripture. When we lack the words to say to God, we can go to the Bible and use the prayers of others to express our feelings. After class I stayed in the prayer room and soaked up God’s presence. I have never prayed that long in my life and it was SO GOOD!
      Today I spent hours in the prayer room, and though I didn’t eat all day, God sustained me. Physical food is not everything…our need to be spiritually fed is even greater. I discovered my need to spend time with God on a daily basis. And I have so much to tell Him! When I start talking to Him and enjoying his presence, I don’t know where the time goes. A few hours felt like only half an hour. Something I am learning along with this prayer time is to listen to God. It shouldn’t just be me blabbing the whole time, but I should seek to hear his voice too, whether through his Word, other people, or directly.
      In the afternoon I took a nice long nap before work duties – sweeping and mopping the dining area. Then I had a wonderful talk with my Mom on Skype and an awesome 1-on-1 reflecting on my week with Rossela. J Tonight we had a time of worship with the DTS in the prayer room. We all gathered in the room decorated with candles and colorful curtains to set the mood. As Chove played the guitar and sang we reflected on God’s goodness in our lives. It’s so freeing to give everything over to the Lord – to be completely dependent on Christ! I went to bed shortly after this wonderful close to a day. Satisfaction comes from God alone.

**Psalm 37:4 "Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Manda el Fuego


      It’s really hitting me now that I only have 3 more weeks in this city. I am becoming familiar with the streets and feel at home here. However, as much as I love having heart-to-hearts on the hammocks, random dance parties in the classroom, and watching a movie with my family on the weekends, I know I’m ready for outreach. Sometimes I think I’m too comfortable just hanging out on base all weekend. It’s good to relax and spend time with friends, but I feel a tugging on my heart to go outside. God has bigger things planned for me than just sitting around all day. Doing ministry during outreach is going to give me a taste of this. What it’s like to be a missionary. Not every single day is going to be extraordinary, but following the path God has for you will change your life.
      A couple mornings this week we had the opportunity to go into communities and pass out Bibles. What an incredible experience we had. We went door-to-door and talked to people about God’s Word. Instead of just giving them a Bible and leaving, we shared scriptures with them and talked to them about their relationship with God. I was surprised at how many people opened up to us. Whenever people had a concern, we prayed for them. It is amazing how you can bless people just by listening to a stranger’s problems and showing that you care. The power of prayer is real. This Sunday our team went to a church event in Alajuela, about 30 minutes from the base. The church that hosted it was a small community fellowship and everyone there was super friendly and welcoming. And when the worship started, WOW, this church was on fire! Their hearts were pouring out for Jesus.
      Last week was an opportunity for growth in many areas. It was a hard week because I was a bit out of it, not in the brightest mood. There were so many little things putting me in a down sort of mood. When you’ve lived with the same six girls for over two months, the little habits get annoying. It has been a test in patience and love for me. I have learned that in spite of the occasional dispute over when to turn off the light, how to mop the floor, or planning last-minute events, I love my 12 classmates and share a bond with them that will last forever. We all need to be considerate of each other. That being said, this week there was an amazing transformation in my heart! I have never felt more alive and content. More about this in my next post.     
      One thing our team definitely needs prayers for is fundraising. Many people on our team do not have the funds they need for outreach. We have had a couple of small fundraisers as a team, but there is still a long way to go. Please pray that God would provide for us in this area, so that we would all be able to travel throughout Costa Rica ministering to the people in this nation.

Isaiah 61: 1-2
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has annointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release from darkness the prisoners. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God. And to comfort all who mourn.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cosmovisión

      Wow, it’s been way too long since I’ve written. And in only 3 weeks we leave to go on outreach! Last week the April DTS came back from outreach, so I had the chance to talk to some of them about their experience. They also did a presentation for the base sharing about some of the ministries they did during the 2 months. It was amazing to see how they served people in different communities and nations. Seeing the pictures and hearing the stories made me so excited for our outreach! Also this week in class we really started preparing for outreach. We made an outline for each type of ministry we might be doing, like kids ministry, church services, prayer ministry, and evangelism. Now we just have to work on the details for each program. We’ve also been practicing dramas and dances like crazy. Our team has really come together during this time. Sometimes it’s frustrating because not everyone can participate in everything, but I believe each of the members of our team has a vital part in serving the people of Costa Rica and making the Lord known to them.
      Last week in class we talked about Biblical worldview, specifically about seeing the world through God’s eyes. It can be difficult, but when we begin to view people as God does, it allows us to reach out in a deeper way to these people. The speaker said something that really struck me this week: reality is a description of the truth, and our perception of reality is our worldview. For me the truth is God, and he is absolute. For some people who don’t know Christ, their reality is different than mine. Therefore their worldview is different because they see the world in a different light. An interesting way of looking at this is that everything is spiritual. Although the world is physical, it’s firstly spiritual because God created it. And all humans are spiritual beings because we are created in God’s image. We were born to love and praise the Lord.
      On Thursday we went to the University of Costa Rica to do short surveys about people’s beliefs and worldview. In small groups we walked around and asked people questions like “What is truth?” “Where do we go after we die?” and “Do you believe there is a God?”. The responses we got were interesting. One guy who talked to us said he thought truth was relative but God was absolute. I’m not sure how that works if God is truth. Another man said he thought all truth was relative, and he didn’t think God could exist because of all the bad things that happen. The third person we talked to was a strong Christian who said he had faith in God and God gives him purpose. I wasn’t sure what to think of this activity at first, because we were just asking to get an idea of what people think (not a real survey). It was hard for me sometimes to keep the conversation going in Spanish, but it stretched me to go beyond my comfort zone and it expanded my understanding of people. 
      God is challenging me to think about my own worldview in the context of my life. When I don’t know my purpose or have doubts about what I can contribute, I need to realize that He is in control. What is going to maintain my life is revelation from God. I should never doubt but instead surrender my worries and fears to God. We’re reading a book now about giving up our rights to Jesus. This basically means allowing Jesus to guide us and being obedient to him when he asks us to do something, whether it be giving away a material thing, sacrificing our time, or simply reaching out to a friend with kind words. One thing I’ve learned is that when God wants you to give something, he will confirm it. I had an incredible experience a couple weeks ago where I felt God telling me to give some money to a fellow student who had a need. I wasn’t sure when to give it to the person, so I put the amount in an envelope and waited for the right time. A few days later, the person shared with our small group the amount that she needed by a certain date – and it was the exact amount I had put in the envelope. This was the confirmation I needed. By trusting in God, he used me! 

 Thanks everyone for your prayers and support. I would appreciate prayer for energy and a good attitude for me - I've been tired and a bit stressed lately. Living in community is tough and stretches me daily, but the lessons and joys are worth it. And God has given my strength and patience. :) Hopefully I'll be writing more this weekend. But for now, nos vemos! 

Spanish word of the day: misericordia = mercy

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

La Luz que Brilla en la Oscuridad


      Studying the Bible was our theme this week, and we had a very interesting first class. We took the bus downtown to the park to study specific Biblical passages. We all spread out across the park and read passages from the Bible aloud in small groups. As we were reading the verses en voz alta, it was awesome see the diversity of the different books – poetry, hymns, stories, parables, advice, and visions. We were challenged to think about what they meant for the original readers when the book was written. During our Bible study this week I have realized how what was written thousands of years ago is still applicable to us today. In the book of Judges, it talks about how God repeatedly sends his people a judge to help them stay faithful and lead them on the right path. And every time, the Israelites mess up again and stray from worshipping God. But through all their mistakes and betrayal, God remains forgiving and merciful. He always gives them a second chance. Today God is the same – no matter how much we try to live our lives independent of him, he keeps pulling us back into his embrace.

      During the rest of the week we did an in-depth study of the book of Philemon. This is one of the shortest books of the Bible yet there is so much in it! The purpose of the book is Paul’s pleading for a slave to be released and freed to do the work of Christ. Just as Paul pleaded for the life of Philemon, God is pleading for our lives to be given to him. God wants us to give up our rights to him. One of the greatest challenged for me this week was missing home and life in the states. I found myself complaining frequently about not having a hot shower, my own room, and being able to drive to the store when I wanted to. Then I realized that these are rights that God gave me, even though I don’t deserve them. I am privileged to have grown up in a loving family, to have shoes to wear, and to have an education. Here in Costa Rica I don’t have all the luxuries of home, and I have to be willing to give these up to serve God. I am learning to surrender these rights to God daily. Sometimes obeying the Lord requires that we live in conditions different than what we’re used to. The beauty of it is that God will provide everything we need in his time.
      Another way I am being stretched here is living in community. For about the first month I was in this bubble of bliss, soaking up the joy in the new friends I had made, but at some point there came the struggles as well. There are times when the little habits of my roommates really get to me, or when I am sick of having to make small talk at lunch with the same people day after day. There are days when I just need to get away and take a walk by myself to think clearly. But then I think about going home to a room alone, and I know I will miss these beautiful women I share a room with, the conversations we have, and the hours spent with my classmates just hanging out being goofy. I am truly blessed to be here with this amazing group of people who are passionate about knowing God and walking with him daily. 
      Last night I had the opportunity to work with Freedom Streets, the human trafficking ministry here. A couple weeks ago I had gone to observe and pray, but I didn’t have any interactions with the prostitutes on the street. For a week or so I was really struggling with whether I had the capability to relate to these people who had been trafficked – what did I have in common with them? How could I start a conversation with them? Over this week, I started to think about the ministry in a different way. Even though my life experience has not been anything like that of the prostitutes we talk with, I can simply treat them as friends and love them. The most important thing is to let these men and women know that they are valued. Through these relationships comes the opportunity to share about Christ.
      The title of my blog means in English “A light that shines in the darkness.” This comes from John 1:5 which talks about Jesus coming to earth as the light, which the darkness cannot overcome. What came to my mind was that we are a light in the darkness, representing hope for these victims. So when we went to the streets I had the mentality of just hanging out with and loving the people we encountered. I asked God to give me an understanding of Spanish, and he did. Another girl and I talked to a woman for about 20 minutes in Spanish, just joking with her and sharing with her about life. After that encounter, I knew that God would continue to give me confidence and the language skills I needed to bless the people I talked to. Even when we can’t change someone’s situation, just talking to them without judging is enough to give them hope. 

 I have loved the unity that we've experienced on in our DTS class since being here. Thought we've had our challenges, we stick together. :) Here is a picture of our team: 

Spanish word of the day: abrumado means overwhelmed

Psalm 139: 1,4 “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adelante

      Before I came to Costa Rica I was determined to do one thing while here: go zip-lining to see the beautiful rainforest here. And last weekend I did just that! A group of us went on a canopy tour and whitewater rafting in a town called Sarapiqui about two hours away from San Jose. It was my first time zip-ling and it was incredible! As I soared across the cable, taking in all the huge trees, bright green surrounding me, my heart was happy. I know that I am in this incredible country for a reason. And whitewater rafting was a blast! One of the commands our guide used was “adelante” which means “forward”. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie with all the vines and thick trees around us. At one point we saw the most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen – it was iridescent blue on one side and bright neon yellow on the other. About halfway through we stopped at a small cliff to jump into the deep water. The beauty of God’s creation is beyond words. 
      During this past week God revealed so much to me through our theme of relationships. One of the base directors here, Mar, was our teacher for the week. She brought us so much wisdom and encouragement about relationships with family and friends, as well as romantic relationships. She talked a lot about God’s intentions for relationships: that they would be glorifying to him. I have realized this week that not only does God create relationships to bring us closer to his heart, but to allow us to experience the love with the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The fullest way for us to experience this love is in marriage. At the center of a marriage should be God, leading the way.
      I had the opportunity this week to practice translating some in our small groups. Every Friday afternoon the girls in our DTS meet to talk about how we’re processing everything and reflecting on the week. When we met this week we spoke all in Spanish. It was interesting because of our varying levels of knowing the language, but really encouraging to see everyone try to express themselves in Spanish. I had the opportunity to practice translating along with another girl in our group. It’s much easier to translate from Spanish to English because I can convey my feelings better in English. However, later that night I also got to practice translating from English to Spanish. We had a prayer meeting regarding raising the finances for the outreach. After a time of individual prayer, everyone came back together to share thoughts and ideas. Most of the students in our group are English speakers, so I had to translate what they were saying into Spanish. It was definitely challenging at times to find the right words, but it was exciting. The more I practice the more confident I will become. J
      We found out more details about outreach this week. We’re going to be traveling all around Costa Rica throughout the two months, going to about 10 different cities and towns. Our leaders showed us on a map where we’ll be going. In each location our ministry will be a bit different. For example, in one place we’ll be working with orphans (yay!), in another we’ll be ministering to prostitutes who were most likely trafficked, in one city we’re going to do a couple days of intense prayer and intercession, and in some places we’ll be mainly working with churches. It will be good to experience a variety of different types of work throughout this adventure of spreading God’s love in this beautiful country. To prepare for this time we’ve been practicing dramas and songs that we can perform in churches or on the street. It’s awesome to see how each of us will have the chance to use our individual skills and talents to bless the people we encounter.
      Ending this week was a fun variety show fundraiser for one of the students here. Many of the students from my class showed off their talents – juggling, comedy, jokes, and singing. I was part of a dance group that danced to the song Africa by Shakira (the World Cup theme song). Two of the girls from my class choreographed the dance, combining African dance moves with their own creative combinations. Sooo much fun!! I am attaching the video of our dance. Here is a link to the video of our dance:
Until next time!
**Bible verse: “He has showed you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
**Spanish word of the day: remar = to paddle

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hambre Para la Justicia


      Isaiah 30:18 says this: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him.” This verse came to me last night in a very special time of experiencing God’s Spirit. It all started when I attended a training session at 7:00pm on this seemingly ordinary Tuesday night. This training was for an active ministry at our base called Freedom Street that works with victims of human trafficking. I have felt for two years a nudge in my heart for this issue, and whenever I hear people talking about it the reality of this evil shocks me once again. Over the past few years I learned about this issue at conferences, looked up information online, watched documentaries, and read a book about it. But I never knew how to get involved in a practical way, to go beyond knowledge about the problem.
      During the training last night, I kept thinking how horrible and unjust human trafficking is. God does not want this to happen to people – his heart breaks for the victims as does mine. I could feel the Lord stirring up this issue of injustice in my heart again, but this time was different. This time God was confirming this passion, this calling for me to do my part to stop human trafficking. Before coming to San Jose, I didn’t know that there was a human trafficking ministry here, but now I am sure that God is confirming in me the need to reach out to this hurting population. After I complete the four nights of training, I will be able to go out onto the streets with the group to be part of the prayer vigils and conversations.
      The most amazing part of the night happened after the training, though. We had a short time of worship in the prayer room before the people who had already received training went out into the streets. Two other girls and I felt that we should pray or intercede for those in the streets, so we stayed in the prayer room. We then proceeded to share with each other how God had spoken to us individually about justice. That very night God had stirred in each of our hearts a passion for reaching out to the oppressed and hurting, specifically victims of human trafficking. All three of us had difference experiences and knowledge about the issue, but after talking about it together, we realized that God has a plan to unite our group through his heart for justice.
      For the next hour or so, we shared how God was leading us to work with human trafficking. It was amazing to see the connections we had and the ways the Lord showed us things through scripture. I was super excited because this is the first time I have really felt God speaking to me about something this specific. That night he confirmed my passion and one of the paths he has planned for my life. As we continued to pray for those out on the streets, the Holy Spirit was guiding us. What an incredible night of passion and confirmation!
      On another note, we found out yesterday where our outreach will be: we’re going to stay in Costa Rica for the whole two months! I think this will be good because we’ll get to see other parts of the country, and I’ll be able to improve my Spanish even more. J Also, most people on our team have felt a call to work with justice issues on our outreach, and I think God is definitely speaking to us about working with human trafficking. We don’t know any details yet except that we’re staying in the country, but please pray for our team as we try to discern what places to go and what ministries to work with during these two months. It will be a time of learning and growing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dios, Nuestro Padre

      Last week was such a full week. Our lecture was on the Father Heart of God, basically about how God loves us and protects us like a father does. Throughout the week we did many activities designed to reiterate this principal. Our speaker Jack took us bowling and out for ice cream one afternoon. He bought us candy bars. We had a fun movie night. He gave us periodic breaks from the lecture to stretch our legs. Even though some of these things were so minor, his generosity and fatherly love really touched me. This is the kind of love our heavenly Father has for us.     
      One very special activity that comes to mind was when we took a bus downtown to hand out gifts to fathers. We had put together little gift bags and made cards thanking and appreciating fathers for loving their children. So when we arrived in the center of town, we separated into pairs to search out fathers with their children. Melissa and I went down a side street where lots of people were walking. The first father we encountered was walking with a small boy, probably around 3 years old. We gave him the gift, saying we wanted to thank him for being a good father, and then we prayed for him and his son. They were very receptive to our prayers, though the adorable little boy asked his father during the prayer “Why are they closing their eyes?” Hehe. Each time we talked to a father and his child, it was a bit easier. I found it challenging to start the conversation, especially in Spanish, but once we got to talking about their family, it was fun. What a great opportunity to share God’s love by blessing strangers with gifts and prayers.
      During the lecture Jack talked about how God wants to help us climb to the top of the staircase, but we can’t just leap up the steps. We have to take it slowly, one step at a time. On each step there is an important lesson God wants to teach us, so we need to slow down and enjoy the journey. This week I have felt so relaxed and content here in God’s presence. Whenever we worship as a base, God’s power and love is so evident in the hearts of those around me! Because I’m not a very patient person, it’s difficult sometimes, but I’m trying to soak up everything without jumping up onto the next step. The Lord is really teaching me to question the lifestyle I have been living and to boldly follow him.
      I have been thinking lately about the body of Christ. God calls Christians to be the body of Christ, working together to love the people of this world. Some of us have a powerful voice, others have passion, and others have the practical skills for certain ministries. 1 Corinthians 12 says that we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. Each part of this body is unique and vital to the whole, but cannot function effectively on its own. Only when we come together as one body do our individual gifts make sense. Somos el cuerpo de Cristo!
      God showed me how the body of Christ truly works on Giving Day. This was a day when everyone had to come up with something, no matter how big or small, to give someone else in the group. Some people gave small candies or scripture verses to everyone in the group, while others gave an individual something very dear to them or an object that held significance for that person. I was amazed at the generosity God put in people’s hearts – a camera, guitar, and even computer were all given! However the most amazing illustration of God’s goodness came when Kristen gave a sum of money to Elena to help finance her outreach. Then Elena got up and shared how God had told her to give money to someone else in the group, but she didn’t have any to give. She had trusted God to provide, and he had just done it! So Elena gave this money to another girl in our group who needed it. The money Kristen had given Elena was the EXACT AMOUNT she had wanted to give to Lauren. God works in amazing ways!
      Now that we are a good bit into the lecture phase, we are going to decide on our outreach location. We have been praying individually about this for weeks now, and this Thursday our group leaders will present the location options and we will make a prayerful decision together. More important than the location, though, is the purpose of the outreach. Last week during our outreach preparation time, several students in our group shared how God was speaking to them about justice. I think our focus is going to be related to that, and I’m so pumped! God has definitely put a passion for justice in my heart. So please pray that as God reveals our outreach purpose and location, we may find unity as a group and be open to receiving what the Lord has to tell us.

Spanish word of the day: lo que sea – whatever

Bible verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dulcemente Quebrantado

     Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve written, and SO MUCH has happened this past week. A quick overview: last weekend I went our DTS group went to the roller-skating rink on Friday. At first I didn’t think I was actually going to skate/blade (patinar in Spanish), because I haven’t been on wheels since I was 12. But when I put on the blades, I got the hang of it again. There was dance music playing and the lighting was sort of a disco theme. It was a fun night.
      Last Saturday morning, I left the base at 9:00am to help with a kids ministry called Metro Ministries. This is a program that brings a fun Sunday school type program to kids in isolated neighborhoods that would not normally have access to church. The ministry is set up from the back of a van, which folds out into a stage where we did dramas and Bible stories for the kids. We also played games and sang worship songs with them. My heart was touched by the precious children in this neighborhood.
      On another note, I am getting to know the city better. Jogging a few mornings a week has helped me familiarize myself with stores and markets around town, as well as the houses with dogs that bark as we run by. There is a small convenience store about a 5 minute walk from our base, and a couple blocks farther there is a grocery store with more items. Today I went to lunch at a pizza place called “Pizza in a Cone”. They literally serve pizza cone-style – a cone of crust filled with cheese, sauce and toppings. It’s delicious! Elena and I found a small printing shop where we can print off papers, and I even discovered a store similar to Office Max the other day. It’s interesting trying to figure out prices – about 500 colones is $1, so a 10,000 colones bill is like $20. Some things here are cheaper, but others, like Scotch tape, Dove chocolate, and peanut butter, are so expensive!
      This past week we had Inner Healing during class. The first three days we talked about emotions and hurts deep inside of us that affect our way of thinking and how we react to others. We were challenged to examine our souls and to cleanse ourselves of any unforgiveness, bitterness, or insecurities that we were still harboring. It is so refreshing to just give everything to God. The final two days of the week we had a very unique time of confession. Everyone in our group had a chance to share their hurts and sins with the rest of us. As we bared our souls to each other, the other students interceded and prayed for us. Each person’s story and healing process was different. After this time of restoration, we symbolically burned a list of anything that was keeping us from God. Throughout this entire process, I felt completely liberated. I have given all the negative in my life to the Lord and he has forgiven me. I am free!
      Since inner healing, I have felt a deep sense of joy in my heart. Friday I woke up at 6:00am as usual, ate breakfast, and enjoyed my quiet time with God. It’s so encouraging to be reading God’s Word and to spend time in prayer first thing in the morning. What a great way to start the day! Then we had worship. Praising God is just so awesome. And he deserves all glory! In addition to spending time with the Lord, lately I’ve really been taking joy in little things: washing clothes by hand, walking to the store, reading in a hammock, talking to my fellow students about life. One night I was washing clothes with Kristen at 10pm and we had such a wonderful talk. There is something soothing about scrubbing each shirt – it takes patience. And just laying in a hammock enjoying the cool breeze in the afternoon after lunch. Spending time here is just so wonderful. Though some days can be overwhelming, God has truly blessed me with this opportunity. Ahhh. God is good – all the time!

Friday, July 15, 2011

How He Loves Us


      I have now been in Costa Rica for almost two weeks. This weekend was a lot of fun fellowship time with my fellow YWAMers. Friday night we had some crazy games and then a bonfire with s’mores, singing, and laughter (complete with breaking a bench, bugs, and jumping over the fire). It felt like I had known these friends for months, not a week. Getting to know each of these unique people gives me so much joy. Then Saturday we drove 2 hours to Jaco beach. It was a bit hard to walk on the pebbles on the edge of the water, but it was gorgeous! Standing with my toes in the sand surrounded by bright blue water and mountains on either side, I was in Heaven. And the waves were spectacular! We spent hours in the water, which resulted in me getting pretty burnt despite the sunscreen (estoy quemada). But it was worth it! After Jaco we visited another beach with smaller waves. It was much more peaceful and relaxing.












      Since being here in San Jose, I have felt a sense of home in the friends I’ve made, the base that is becoming familiar to me, and most of all the amazing God I am getting to know more and more each day. Coming off of last week’s incredible lecture on Intimacy with God, I have realized that in my relationship with God I must be the one to take the next step. If I wait for God to speak to me without doing anything to bring myself closer to Him, it is not a real relationship. In a relationship, both individuals work toward getting to know one another. If one doesn’t try, the relationship fails. God has been trying to talk to me for so long now, but I haven’t been listening. I want so much to get to know his heart and his will for me, so I must devote myself to praying without ceasing. God should be my best friend – that special person who I tell my deepest thoughts, concerns, and joys.
      So with this desire in my heart, I am seeking to know the Lord. This week we are talking about Identity in Christ. We talked a lot about what makes up our identity and how we define ourselves. In line with this topic, this Tuesday we went to the streets of downtown San Jose to film a short video about identity. What an unforgettable experience! Each one of us held a sign and dressed in costume to go with the words we held. Half of us held signs that said things like “I am what I wear”, “I am what I play”, or “I am my music”. These represented aspects of our life that often define people. Behind these people stood Jesus with the words “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Following Jesus, the second half of our team held signs saying things like “I am loved”, “I am free”, and “I am beautiful”, representing how we find our identity in the love and sacrifice of Christ. Standing with our signs being videotaped was a powerful witness to the people around us. Many people stopped to read the signs or take pictures, and some people even asked us what the video was all about. This was a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Christ and about our mission at YWAM.
       Along with all we are learning about Christ this week, we have had some incredible times of intercession and prayer. On Tuesday during our designated intercession hour, we did an activity that was new to me. We each drew a name of another student from a bag and put it in our pocket without looking at the name. Then we went off somewhere to pray for 20 minutes for this person. I was extremely nervous at first because I thought, how could God speak to me about this person when I didn’t even know their name? But I opened my Bible and a verse came to my mind, so I wrote it down. Then somehow, I thought of the word JOY. Without knowing what this meant, I returned to the class and we shared our insight with the person whose name we had drawn. When I told Kristen the verse and word God had shown me, it impacted her. God was using me to speak to her! Another example is Thursday, when our leaders washed the feet of each of the DTS students. What a humbling act of service. During this time we all prayed for each other. Many of the students were quite emotional, and the group responded to this by surrounding them with love.
      Every day here I feel incredibly loved and appreciated. From people praying for me to compliments to actions of servant hood, I can feel the body of Christ being fulfilled here. It is a glorious thing! There is something different in this community. There is more than just a willingness in these hearts to reach out for the hurting and the broken. There is a pure love that transcends all borders and perceptions.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7

Spanish vocabulary trivia: asombroso = amazing

Sunday, July 10, 2011

La Vida Diaria en JUCUM


      There are many aspects of daily life here that are very different than what I am used to in middle-class America. Firstly, because the humidity here is almost always around 85%, EVERYTHING is ALWAYS damp. My towel never completely dries after I shower, my pillowcase is moist when I go to bed, and notebook paper NEVER stays crisp. Realizing this about paper was so strange, but my notebook, journal, and loose sheets of paper constantly feel damp now. I’ve heard that if you’re not careful with where you put things mold can become a big problem. This humidity is of course due to it being the rainy season here. From May to November it rains just about every day here. I didn’t believe it before I got here, but it’s true. The mornings are normally clear and sunny, but just like clockwork, around lunchtime the downpour will start. It often rains until dinner around 6pm. The rain makes it difficult to wash clothes because the only clotheslines are outside. I haven’t attempted this yet, but it will be an adventure for sure. I have realized here how much I take for granted in the U.S.: hot showers daily, clean floors, free Internet, a bedroom to myself. God has been showing me that these things are minor in light of the awesome community of faith I have here, and what he is going to teach me. It is humbling.
      One thing I really enjoy here is the comida (food). How many different combinations of rice and beans do you think there are? Well, I’ve already had at least 3. When rice and beans are served already mixed, the dish is called gallo pinto, but when they are served separately you refer to it as arroz con frijoles. There are different flavors and spices that can be mixed into these dishes as well. So far being here I think I have had rice and beans at least twice a day. Usually lunch is a similar meal to dinner. The normal meal here is rice, beans, salad, and chips, sometimes with chicken or fried plantains (which are delicious). This is the traditional Costa Rican dish. We even have rice and beans for breakfast sometimes, along with eggs and fruit.
      On the first night that our whole team was here, there was a Welcome Dinner for the new schools – our DTS and a Children at Risk school. The staff served us a meal while a Costa Rican reggae band played music. Then there was a presentation of all the nations represented in these new schools of YWAM. Each nation presented their flag. Along with many Americans, there are people from Canada, Finland, Honduras, Mexico, Germany, Paraguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and many other nations. I have loved getting to know people in other classes during our free time. Most of the students in the Children at Risk class (a secondary school in YWAM) took their DTS in a country other than Costa Rica.

      Our first day of class was this Monday. Here is what my typical schedule looks like in our DTS:

5:30 – wake up and go for a morning run J
6:30 – breakfast
7:00 – personal quiet time with the Lord (prayer and reading Scripture)
8:00 – base intercession or worship
9:00 – class (different speakers give the lecture each week)
12:30 – lunch
2:00 – assorted activities (small groups, outreach preparation, or local ministry)
4:00 – family contributions i.e. chores
6:00 – dinner
7:00 – Bible study or fellowship
9:30 – quiet time
10:00 – lights out

So each day is pretty jam-packed with greatness! It definitely keeps me busy, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all that I am learning so quickly. But we usually have the weekends to relax, catch up on sleep, or hang out with friends at the base. I have learned so much this first week in class. Our theme was intimacy with God. I realized that although I have a personal relationship with God, I do not appreciate him enough. I don’t spend much time with him or even stop to think about how much he loves me! The main thing I learned is that through prayer I can become closer to knowing God and his heart. I will desire him more as I come to know him because he wants to have a relationship with me! Even though I can’t hear him speaking directly to me right now, I have faith that as I continue to seek him, his will for my life will become clearer. 

Here are some pictures of life at the base:






Spanish vocabulary trivia: chistoso means funny
Bible verse of the day: 1 John 4: 7-9