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


      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