Thursday, June 23, 2011

One week later

A week ago today we pulled into the church parking lot at 2am with the glow of a great missions trip to Costa Rica on our faces. After some restful hours of sleep we all awoke to June gloom (fog) in Santa Barbara and the accompanying sadness of missing our new friends in the land we left.

In the midst of the sadness there was joy in knowing we had faithfully followed the God who led us to that place and the God who will lead us on from there.

A week later what am I feeling?

*the few remaining bug bites on my ankles
*the honor of leading an exceptional group of high school youth
*the reward of being blessed and being a blessing in Costa Rica
*the desire to have a big plate of gallo pinto with eggs
*a greater respect (if that's possible) for the loving ministry of Dennis and Kyle Leon among the people of their country
*the pleasure of having served with two wonderful adults who sacrificed vacation and money to love kids with me. Thanks Mike and Carri!
*the loss of a slower paced life
*the joy of what God has next for me, the people of our team, the people we loved and love in Costa Rica

God once again gave me the unbelievable gift of living and serving in community during the days of June 5-15, 2011. It is a gift I will never receive in the same form again but it is a gift that will eternally keep giving as we all move ahead to where God is leading.

What are you feeling?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Down to Earth

Yesterday I talked about what our team would feel upon re-entering our own culture after serving God and loving people in Costa Rica. Today we look at some of the tips I gave our team on experiencing a healthy return to life here:

1) Rest - We are physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually weary. We have gained much but given more. Extra sleep is okay!!
2) Pray - We may be back home but God still has more to say about our experience. He comforts us in the sadness of the trip's end, He reminds us of the lessons learned and blessings received. We will only hear these as we speak and listen to God.
3) Spend time with God - It is God who led us on this trip in the first place and it is He who will ultimately lead us home to Him. Spending time in the Bible and the quietness of His presence feeds us and strengthens us for what is next.
4) Talk - It is good to talk about our experiences. Some people really want to hear everything, some want to hear a few paragraphs and some are interested in a few sentences. Give your listeners what they want to hear and hear again what God has been teaching you!
5) Create action points - We learn so much on trips like this therefore it is important to break it down to a few clear and measurable ways you will allow your experience to impact the rest of your life. I have my three. What are yours?
6) Give yourself permission - Don't just move on. Allow yourself the time and freedom to do all of the above. It takes time. God walks with you.

May these tips be ways you can pray for our team and may they be helpful to you in future experiences of re-entry to the life God has called you to live.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flaming Re-entry

Very early this morning, 2:30am to be exact, most of us arrived home to sleep in our beds after ten nights in Costa Rica. Though the bed and conveniences of home felt good the challenge of re-entering our own culture is now upon us.

I spent part of yesterday’s team meeting talking about the tough pieces of coming home after days of serving God, loving people and immersing ourselves in the rich culture of a Central American country.

Just as space shuttles produce exterior flames upon entering the earth’s atmosphere so we too feel the tension of re-entering the “earth" we know and love.

I broke down my comments in two categories to our team members on this topic. May it be helpful to you as you pray for us.

The first category is “What We Will Feel:”

1) Tired – Though we have slept well we have given much. Serving and loving others can be draining. We may feel "out of it" for a few days.

2) Digestive issues – We have eaten lots of great food but not the same we eat at home. There may be challenges related to this transition. We'll do our best to ease back into our routine here.

3) Impatience with self-absorbed people – After being with people who have so little and coming back to those who have so much we may feel a little frustrated with those who complain about what they lack.

4) Indifference towards things we once thought were important – Trips like this have a way of re-aligning our priorities. It is our desire to care more about what is eternally important.

5) The loss of Costa Rica pace – Life in Costa Rica like so many other Latin American countries is slower. Life for us is often hurried and busy. We want the life that stops and listens more. We want to be more still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10)

6) Mood swings of happiness and sadness – We are richer for having been with the people and churches of this beautiful country. We feel great sadness in leaving them behind. Over the next many days we will likely display both of these emotions prominently. Be patient with us as we work through the feelings and embrace the tremendous gift God has given us.

Next blog: “Time Tested Tips for Re-Entry”

P.S. I unintentionally left out the profile of one of our team members: Ally Shiras. So . . . last but certainly not least, here is what you should know about her:

Ally is a recent graduate of San Marcos High School. This fall she will begin studies at the University of San Francisco in filmmaking. Her love for life and joy in the Lord fill any room. She loves to sing, play guitar, take pictures, shoot films, create artistic designs and happily dance. These all were great blessings to our team. Pray for her as she makes the transition back to life here and prepares for college in the fall.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pura Vida People

It has been an active couple of days since we landed in Esterillos. Dennis Leon, our host, encouraged us to focus more on being than doing in this phase of the trip. To "do" the "being" requires placing ourselves in the middle of people (not hard in this seaside rural village where everybody knows everybody's name!). As we have focused on relationships God has opened doors for the outreach ministry of Pura Vida Church to go forward. We have made friends through card games, soccer games on the field, watching soccer games, eating in people's homes, soccer games on the beach, helping run a community fundraiser carnival so the local school could be funded, helping to lead worship on Sunday with the church (see pictures of church above) and more. Through all this it has been our desire to extend the good name of this ministry in the town and beyond and open the doors for a more healthy and sustainable ministry. God continues to lead us.

Though we have seen God's handiwork in the beautiful creation we find in Costa Rica we would all agree the people we have met have made our lives richer and we trust God has used us to do the same.

Every day we have had a team meeting where we talked about the good, the challenging and the silly things we have experienced each day. You would have loved sitting in the circle last evening to hear the great things God has been teaching each of us. I am asking team members to write down the one big thing God has been teaching them. You will be encouraged to see what they shared when I present those in a future blog. I was reminded again of another important reason we sacrifice so much money, time and talent on these trips. God reaches in teaches each of us in areas we could have never previously imagined. It is my prayer that some of these team members will be on future missions teams, lead future missions teams and maybe follow God into full-time ministry!

Tomorrow is our last full day. In the afternoon we will be taking the kids of Esterillos on a field trip to the waterfall. This is a treat for them and another way we can show the love of Christ. Pray for us as we do this event together.

We are grateful for good health throughout the trip. The team has gotten along well and been a joy for me to lead. Thanks to all of you who have invested in their character and spiritual lives. They are a blessing.

On Wednesday we will leave Esterillos about 11am California time and will ultimately depart San Jose around 6pm arriving at LAX around 11:30p. After customs and packing the bus we should be on the road by about 12:30am with final arrival in Santa Barbara by about 2 or 2:30am.

This will be my last blog until we return. Thanks for your prayers which have sustained us. Pray for us as we re-enter our own culture. This will be a challenge for all of us. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding. Thanks for your faithful encouragement and love.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To the Top of the Hill

We are now in our fourth day of being with the wonderful people of Costa Rica. The team is doing well. You would be proud of them. We thank God for health and youth who love to serve.

Our work in Tilaran is coming to a close. The roof of the parsonage was completed yesterday. Not only did our money provide for protection from the rain but it also employed several people for a couple of days. In addition we had a surplus of supplies that were returned for the option of buying interior ceiling tiles. The Lord took our giving and multiplied it!! This is something we have seen several times since we have been here.

We have been blessed with good eating. Everyday at the lunch many people from the church come in and provide us with a full cooked meal. In the evening we split up into four groups and go to different houses for dinner. We are hosted by the same family each evening so it has been fun getting to know them better and having lively "span-glish" conversations together. All team members are doing great with attempting to speak.

After preparing songs and dramas for the night time outreach in the park we took some free time and went on a hike up a very steep hill to a cross overlooking the town. Once we reached the top, hiking through bushes and thick grass, we saw an amazing view. While there we took the time to face the town and pray for it. It was a moving moment in our trip. We know Jesus died for all the people of this beautiful little town and we are humbled to serve Him in telling the good news.

Our day finished partnering with the church to present an outreach at the city park. In the midst of heavy rain we went around town to hand out invitations and then offered our songs and dramas. The church people also presented drama and dance.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Esterillos! Pray for our traveling safety, continued health and faithfully following God's lead in all we do. Thanks for your love and prayers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aqui en Costa Rica

It's Tuesday morning, I am sitting at a laptop in the Iglesia Metodist Libre de Tilaran with a glow on my face, from happiness and humidity. We had a smooth trip arriving here having flown all night Sunday, jumping into our rental vans around 11:30am. We traveled north and west out of San Jose along curvy and hilly roads passing through many small towns while marveling at the diverse and lush scenery before us.

After lunch we stopped at some hot springs fueled by a not too distant volcano. It was there we had an orientation meeting with Dennis and Kyle Leon to get a picture of our plan over the next days.

In another two hours we stopped at a little restaurant at the foot of the volcano and were hosted by a man who knew Dennis (surprise, surprise!). After a delicious and extended meal (Costa Rica time) we finished our trip to Tilaran with one more 1.5 hour drive.

Mattresses hit the church floor as did tired team members. The lack of sleep Sunday night resulted in a good night of sleep on Monday.

Today we will be assisting paid workers (hired by money we raised) to replace a leaky roof on the parsonage damaged by acid rain from the volcano. We will enjoy two meals hosted by local families and church members. We will be fed, they will be fed also by money we worked hard to raise. Tonight and every night we are here will end with church services where we will participate with music and drama presentations.

Pray for our continued help and that we will continue to be a blessing in our words, actions and attitudes. Thanks so much for your support!

p.s. This blog may only appear every few days due to internet connections. Facebookers will see something every day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


As I write this only 24 hours separates our team from meeting in the church parking lot for our departure. The bags are mostly packed and the packing list is being given the "once-over." "Road Runner" shuttle called to confirm they are coming and promptly charged my credit card. Tomorrow morning our team will be in all three morning services where our congregation will lay hands on us and commission us for service. We will also have a quick 30 minute meeting, spend the afternoon with family and friends before coming back to the church with all our gear.

For you who have been following this blog you are now reading the closing homeland post. When the next post will appear is anyone's guess. I turn the "flexibility" switch "on" beginning at 7:30pm tomorrow night. God is going before us and so we'll see what that means. I will make smaller posts on Facebook and write here as internet is available.

Thanks so much for your prayers, support and encouraging words. We are honored to serve Christ, love His people and humbled to know you are also on the team.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Profiles of a Team, Part Nine and Final

If there are phases of thinking before one leaves on a missions trip then I suppose I must be in the "wow-are-we-really-doing this phase?!" Our team has been preparing for this moment since October and now it is almost here. I'm pulling out the suitcase today and putting the puzzle together of things to take.

Here is the fourteenth and final profile of our team members . . .

KOLE t'Sas . . . Kole just finished his freshman year at Santa Barbara High School and can now proudly call himself a sophomore. In addition to classes this last year he spent a lot of time on the baseball field playing for the freshman team. Kole has a cool last name but more importantly he is one of the friendliest guys you'll ever meet. He loves people, loves God and is really looking forward to this trip where he will meet a whole new group of people a world away. Pray for Kole as he relaxes a little, packs a little and prepares a lot for the journey ahead.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Profiles of a Team, Part Eight

Flight reservations all re-confirmed, credit card notified, all paperwork in place, praying to remember any big things I'm forgetting.

Another team member for your prayer list . . .

CARRI SVOBODA . . . Carri is another of our wonderful adults who is sacrificing valuable vacation time to go serve with our high schoolers. During the school year you will find Carri teaching Jr. High English at Santa Barbara Christian school. This is the international missions trip for Carri who last traveled on a team led by me, as a college student, to Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. That would have been many years ago! In addition she has also been to Costa Rica for a previous trip. Carri brings a wonderful sense of humor, great organizational skills, a love for kids and will keep us sharp in our drama ministry. Pray for her as she finishes up the school year, directs the eighth grade promotion and then finally gets to fully focus on the trip.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Profiles of a Team, Part Seven

I think the trip has already started for me. I had a small anxiety dream last night that I was in the church parking lot waiting for the shuttle to take us to LAX. Everybody else was hanging out, Nancy was asking me questions about home stuff and all I could think about was the shuttle bus being late! I made contact with them today. They are planning to be on time!

Here is another team member for your prayer list . . .

TRAVIS SMELLEY . . . Travis is finishing his freshman year at San Marcos High school where this year he participated in the State champion marching band, competed in the national championships for drumline in Ohio, sang in the men's chorus and pole-vaulted. Yes, he did school work too! This will be Travis' first mission trip. Though he brings many strengths to this team his greatest one just may be His joy in the Lord. Already in his short life he has experienced the loss of his sister to cancer and the destruction of his house in a wild fire. Even so he walks with Christ, has a heart of compassion for people and knows how to enjoy his days. Pray for him that this opportunity to share the joy of living for God in another culture will not only make an impact on others but in Travis' life too.