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: