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

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hola Pura Vida!

      Hola from Costa Rica! I am finally here in the land of ticos, gallo pinto, and rainforests (i.e. rain). I was nervous getting off the plane, wondering if things would turn out okay. After getting through immigration and customs, I was excited and relieved to see amongst the plethora of signs one that said YWAM. Crazy how nerve-wracking it is to exit the airport and try to find the group that you belong to. Two leaders from YWAM San Jose were there to greet me, and soon the three of us and two other students were taking off in a van for the YWAM base. As we twisted and turned down the streets on the hour-long drive back, I took in the beautiful mountains and forests surrounding us. As we chatted in English and a bit of Spanish, I was absorbed in the Latina music blasting from the stereo, the small supermercados and houses dotting the scenery, and the crazy driving of the ticos (Costa Ricans).
      Finally we arrived at the base. It is smaller than I expected, and most of our activities are in one building that used to be a coffee factory. My dormitory room, the kitchen/dining room, our classroom, and the place we have worship are all in this building. It is crazy here right now because many other groups are here as well as our Discipleship Training School (DTS) group of 13. I share a room with the 6 other girls in my DTS. It’s pretty small so there is not much room for each of us (therefore my bed is often full of junk!), but so far it’s been good. There is a really neat little prayer room across the hall from my room and just down the stairs is a small Internet café / snack shop where we can buy Internet hours. I don’t think I’ll be online too much, though, because our daily schedule is pretty busy!
      When I arrived Friday afternoon, not everyone was here yet, but people continued trickling in throughout the evening. Now that everyone is here, I feel like we’re getting used to living together. It is truly amazing how close I already feel to the other students in my DTS – since we do practically everything together, it’s like we’re a family. Already the girls in my room and I have had several deep conversations and shared what’s on our hearts. This feeling of community really helps me feel at home here. In fact, I haven’t really felt homesick at all since I’ve been here. I miss family and friends at home, but I’m so happy to be here! We are all connecting so much…even though I have only been here four days I feel comfortable around everyone.
      The bilingual aspect of this school has been amazing so far – virtually everything we do (class, meals, activities) is translated from Spanish to English or vice versa. This has been a great opportunity to learn. Even when the speaker says things first in English I find myself listening to the Spanish translation too. About half of the students are from the United States, but most of us know Spanish to some extent. So we try to speak Spanish as much as possible. We have one student from Honduras and one from Costa Rica, so I always talk to them in Spanish. The DTS leaders are bilingual, so it’s good practice to have conversations with them Spanish too. One of the leaders even said he might give me private lessons so that I can reach a level where I will be able to translate when we go on outreach in a few months!
      I am definitely being pushed to grow here in many different ways. One of the most evident is the time of our daily schedule. We have breakfast each morning at 6:30am, which is much earlier than I’ve gotten up in the past few years. But amazingly, I have felt rested each morning when I got up. The Lord is definitely giving me strength in this area. I can also feel God breaking down spiritual barriers in my life. I am learning to trust in his divine power, and not put limitations on what God can do. As a class we have already had several powerful times of prayer together. This is really enabling me to see God working here; I’m trying to give him control.
      There is so much more I could say now, but it’s time to go do my work duty (cleaning the dining room before dinner), so I will write more later. Despite the rain and heat, I am loving life here in San Jose. 

This is a few of the girls I live with in the YWAM base.

Spanish vocabulary trivia: tuanis means cool in Costa Rica. ¡Que tuanis!
Bible verse of the day: Luke 11:9-13