Thursday, July 10, 2008

From There to Here . . .

At 3:36am this morning the Costa Rica team arrived back in Santa Barbara. The journey home began in Esterillos. The two rental vans chugged up steep mountain terrain on rainy roads, stopping for souvenirs and lunch, to the airport in San Jose. After an uneventful flight we took the final leg home on Santa Barbara Airbus.

We are thankful for God's protection over our travels and throughout the entire ten days. We thank Him even more for allowing us to be His humble servants. Though we miss each other, the sights/sounds/smells, the people whom we loved and loved us in return, our hearts are full of God's reminder that this is his ministry and work.

Pray for us as we make the transition back to life in the U.S. We come home with mixed feelings and a desire to apply what we have learned to the ministry we have in our own community. Pray for our wisdom in sorting these feelings and resting in God's love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Packing Up

After 6 months of anticipation and 10 days of being here this is the day that came too quickly . . . our last full day with our great friends and the wonderful people of Esterillos. We had originally planned to go 1 hour south to Manuel Antonio Park. This is a fun beach with white sand and the opportunity to snorkel. After taking a poll we decided to stick around. All the kids of Esterillos are on vacation and we didn't want to leave them behind on this last full day.

Instead we went to the beach early in the morning, hung out at the house, had lunch, a team meeting, a big beach soccer game and finally dinner tonight with many guests to join us.

Of course the other thing we had to face today was the reality of packing. You will notice in the picture we were well on our way to being ready!

We have also been making a pile of clothes (including our team t-shirts . . . we'll make more) for the kids and youth. Our hearts have grown bigger in compassion and we feel this is the least we can do.
John Perry has had fun putting his surfboard shaping skills to work with all the locals. He has repaired many boards and built great connections with the surf crowd. It is rewarding to see God use his skills in that way.

Tomorrow we will leave the house around noon to head toward the airport. Originally we were going to participate in the lunch program at the Alejuela Free Methodist church but the kids are now out of school so the program is closed temporarily. The pastor still wanted to meet us and so will meet us at the airport!! We are blessed to have one more opportunity to encourage a fellow teammate in ministry.

For those of you who need to know . . . we are on flight 604 Taca Airlines and due to arrive in LAX at 12:20am assuming all is on time. After customs and loading up the bus it may be anywhere from 2:30 - 3:30am before we arrive in the church parking lot. If you need any more information call my cell phone, 805-252-3216. I will check all voice mails once I reach LAX.

Pray for our safe travel and healthy transition back to life in the United States.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Field Trip to the Falls

Today was a field trip day for our team and . . . we took along 15 kids from the town. This was a big treat for them as we took them to a waterfall about 15 minutes south and 30 minutes east. Our emphasis throughout the trip has been on relational ministry so we have been doing this from a 6 in the morning surf session, to a special Costa Rican breakfast hosted by a local family, to the field trip, to shopping in Parrito, to a houseload of kids in the house tonight for dinner and even hosting another pastor and family traveling. They are staying the night the night with us! One big happy campout.

No rain again tonight but it is hot and humid.

Thanks again for your love, encouragement and prayers. We are blessed and humbled.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

On the Seventh Day . . .

. . . we rested.
A few went for an early morning surf and then at 9am we all walked to church on the other side of town. We took the shortest route possible, on the beach! We were warmly welcomed, Dennis translated for his brother Henry and the end of the service we sang happy birthday to the brothers (born four days apart) and to Lindsey Appleton who also had her birthday this week.

After a great lunch hosted by the church we had a brief team meeting and spent 30 minutes in solo time with the Lord. We have practiced this discipline daily in making our own spiritual walk a priority.

The remainder of the day was spent relaxing at the beach with many of the people of the town and the church we have met. The kids are loving the surf boards we have brought. They have become people magnets.

Tonight we will eat some sandwiches and welcome anyone who walks through the door (which on a daily basis is many!!).

Your prayers and encouragement strengthen and support us. Thanks!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Beach Bash

Saturday began early for some of us as we rode over to Jaco with one of the young surfers Dennis has been discipling. He was going over there to participate in a surf contest partially sponsored by Christian Surfers Association. There are a few other kids from Esterillos who are also participating. Tomorrow afternoon we will go cheer them on in their competition.

After our team meeting and solo time we loaded up the van and headed to the beach in front of the elementary school. We had spontaneously invited kids from our Kids Club to a "special beach edition" from 11am - 1pm. At first their were four kids and by the time we finished there were at least 40 not including moms, dads, teenagers and even two policemen who took home craft projects for their kids.

Activities for the time included crafts (soccer ball bags), a treasure hunt in the sand, beach soccer, tug of war, water balloon fight, swimming and more. We were moved by the simplicity and sponaeity of the event coupled with the huge smiles of children experiencing the love and care of a church to come. It doesn't get much better.

For lunch today we enjoyed the famous Costa Rican chicharones (deep fried pork) at the home of Dennis' brother, Henry. This was in honor of both their birthdays which were this week.

Late afternoon we enjoyed playing in the ocean.

It gets consistently dark by 5:15pm every evening so we are now settling in the for the night with another full night of rain expected.

Thanks for all your wonderful encouraging comments. It is good to hear from you and know you are praying. God is doing a great work and He has only just begun.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Flying High

This morning several of us made the decision to go on an early morning Canopy tour. Canopy tours use zip lines to transport participants from one "tree house" to the next, hundreds of feet above the jungle floor. Our particular tour was only 15 minutes from the house and was an outfit where Dennis actually worked for two years. His great relationship with the owner and guides helped us to a nice discount and a memorable experience!

This afternoon we finished up our Kids Club in the rain. There is a myth among some Costa Ricans that children who go out in the rain will get sick. Even so we had a great turnout and the children responded more to the message and songs. You would be proud of our youth and leaders as they reached out to these children and their families.

We have many opportunities all day long in this little town to be a witness for Christ and promote the great love of God through Pura Vida church.

Pray for us tomorrow as set up a beach day for kids in the late morning.

We love you and miss you. Thanks for your prayers!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

When the Monkeys Came to Town

This morning we awoke to another beautiful after a full night of hard rain. In Santa Barbara this much rain would mean "Storm Watch." In Costa Rica it is part of the plan and the next morning there are very signs of abundant precipitation.
After a breakfast of cold cereal, mangos, papayas and some of the best bananas I have tasted we went for a few hours to the beach (7-9:30am). Yes, you read it right. High School students will get up early for the beach!!
When the beach time was over we came back for team meeting, worship, prayer and solo time. The team meeting, worship and prayer time was meaningful as we asked the standard question, "What did God teach you today?"
I sent the team off for their daily 30 minute quiet time but 2 minutes in we were invaded by four monkeys in the tree outside the Leon home. Needless to say, quiet time ended as we stood amazed to see live monkeys in the wild! God has created a world of variety and we experienced another piece today.

After a great lunch in the homes of our local friends Vacation Bible School set up began. We saw new kids, taught many of them "Jesus Loves Me" for the first time and had the opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. Between lots of water fights, soccer, crafts and parrots flying in among us we cared for and blessed the children.

We are all healthy and happy to serve the Lord. Thanks for your love and prayers that sustain us moment by moment.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Half the Town

We had another great day . . . which actually is not done. We are just home from our first day of Kids Club (VBS), cleaning up, grabbing some sandwiches and then we will travel to Jaco to be with the Christian Surfers group there. Also we will take a look at this town where one of our Free Methodist churches will be started.

This morning were up at 6:30am enjoying a little beach time, breakfast and then team meeting at 9:30am. After a good time of prayer, Bible study, quiet time and sharing we cleaned the house and went off to lunches hosted by three different families in Esterillos. We were blessed by their great cooking and hospitality.

In the afternoon we packed the vans, went across town and set up for Kids Club at the local elementary soccer field. As predicted by Dennis we not only had children (almost 50!) but all their families sitting in the bleachers. It is possible we had almost one half of the town watching our activity.
The team was great with their leadership in music, crafts, games and welcoming the children. As Dennis said, "Pura Vida Church has begun."

Thanks for your prayers and love. We feel them!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bringing home groceries and a missionary

Tonight really is a dark and stormy night. It is 7:00pm and we have just finished our evening meal of chicken with rice and beet potato salad. There is lightning and thunder off in the distance with a steady rain hitting the roof.

It has been another good day and a great night of sleep. Some of the surfers were up early to try a few waves, some went for a swim, some slept in. For the early risers Costa Rican coffee was available and even I (for those of you who know me) had a straight, black cup of coffee! I now have a few more hairs on my chest.

Following breakfast we had our first team meeting, spent time in prayer, solo time and journaling.

Late in the morning Dennis, Kyle and I drove up to Orontina (halfway to San Jose) where we had the opportunity to meet, for the first time, our Free Methodist missionary to Costa Rica. This was a fruitful meeting and it provided a great setup for the work to come next year when the Leons begin full time ministry. We invited Patrick to come back with us and he decided to come. Our happy faces are in the picture. You get to decide which of the two pictures depict our meeting most accurately!

On the way home we bought some great fruit and other food for the next days.

The afternoon ended with a soccer game on the beach. The locals came out to show us how it is really done.

Following the game we paraded through town to view our Vacation Bible school venue, stop at houses and invite people come.

Thanks for your love and prayers.