Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the States/Open Houses

On Sunday we traveled from San Jose to Minneapolis where we are enjoying spending time with Tracey's family and friends. Olvia and Sawyer are enjoying the snow! At every opportunity Olivia wants to bundle up and head outside. Sawyer was a little nervous about playing in the snow, but now that we are here seems to enjoy it. From MN we head to CO and from CO to CA.

We would like to connect with as many friends and supporters as possible during our time in the States. So we will be having open houses. We have ones scheduled in MN and CO and will let people know the details of the one in CA when we know them. Here are the details for the two in MN and CO:

Minnesota
When: Saturday January 2, 2010
Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Where: Tracey's parents house in Ham Lake, MN
For directions please email us

Colorado
When: Sunday January 10, 2010
Time: 2:30pm - 5:00pm
Where: Jeff's parents house in Littleton, CO
For directions please email us

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 Video

Below is a video slideshow that recaps 2009. We realized that we don't have a lot of great pictures of the various ministry sites we are involved in, but the ones included in the last section should give you a good idea of what we are up to. The first section shows some of the beauty of Costa Rica and a few shots of our family. Enjoy!

video

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lucy

A few weeks ago we added a new member to our family. Lucy, a beagle puppy, joined us. She is very sweet, sometimes hyper, and all-around fun to have around. The kids love her (sometimes a little too much. . .) Here's some pictures of her:

She likes to snuggle Mommy.

From Lucy

From Lucy

Bad dog! But so cute, hiding in the closet and making a 'nest' in the clothes.
From Lucy

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Luxury of Options

I get to spend Thursdays in the community of Las Fuentes. This is where Cailah Pritchard (there is a link to her blog on the right) works in a variety of activities. On Thursdays she has an after school type of program. Well actually since children go to school in either the morning or the afternoon, she has two sessions. One before school for those who go in the afternoon and one after school for those who go to to school in the morning.

I usually take the bus from our house to Las Fuentes, so that Tracey can have the car. In order to get there for the 10am start time I need to leave our house at 9am as I need to take 2 buses to get there. The total bus fare is about $0.80. Last week I had a few things I needed to get done before going to Las Fuentes. So I decided to take a taxi instead of riding the bus. I looked at the clock as I walked out the door 9:48am. I arrived right on time and the total cab fare was about $2.65.

Having options is a luxury that most of the people we work with do not have. Many will never have the option to decide to take a taxi instead of the bus even though the difference in the fares is usually less than $2.00. I started to think about many of the options I have in my life that many do not. Here are just a few of the options I have each day. I have multiple options of what to wear. I can open the refrigerator and choose what I want to eat. I can choose to watch TV, a movie, surf the web, read a book, play a game, etc. for entertainment. We can choose private or public schools for our kids. I can choose to take a taxi or a bus.

Do I feel guilty for having options? Sometimes. Should you feel guilty? No, that's not the point. The question I think we should ask is what is God calling me to do with the options he has given me? What options should I choose so that His kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Protege

God has provided us with an office that is attached to our house. It has a large meeting room that we use for staff meetings and we would also like to use it to host various other training events and networking events for people and organizations we work with. Last week we hosted our first training in the office. It was a two day event last Wednesday and Saturday.

We have been invited to join a network for those working to protect children and working with children at risk. So the training we hosted was in conjunction with this network. The folks in the network were invited, our entire staff team came, and we also invited some of our key partners. Some of the organizations represented were: Students International (of course), Food for the Hungry Costa Rica, YWAM, Viva, and La Iglesia Cristiana Reformada de Los Guidos.

The training was one which Viva provides called Protege. The topic was a sobering topic as we learned about and discussed what constitutes abuse, how we can work to prevent it, how to recognize it, and what laws and systems are in place to deal with abuse in Costa Rica. Two amazing, gifted, and knowledgeable women taught us. Gabriella works in a large city in a city office working with abused women and Cristina works for Viva training and providing resources for people working with children at risk in Costa Rica. While it is not an easy topic to talk about it is an important one. It was extremely helpful to learn what options are available to us as we seek to walk along side those we work with when abuse takes place.

Here are a couple of pictures from the training time. As you can see I had help setting up the tables and chairs :).

Monday, October 05, 2009

"Just like you, right?"

We face many pressures and stresses in life these days: pioneering a new ministry, program development, leading a staff team, and navigating a second culture and language to list a few. But perhaps the most pressure comes from being a parent. One of the many ways that life is not all that different for us than it is for our friends in the States.

This morning Sawyer and I were up a while before Tracey and Olivia. We had a great time together! We made and drank coffee together, got ready for church, and simply hung out. As Sawyer followed me around the house we we did various things like get dressed, brush our teeth, and yes get our coffee ready he would say things like, "I'm going to wear pants. Just like you, right?" "I'm going to brush my teeth. Just like you, right?" "I'm going to button my shirt. Just like you, right?" You get the idea.

(On a brief side note both Olivia and Sawyer have taken to using the word right almost like a question mark to punctuate their sentences. My guess is it is a cross over from a grammatical structure in Spanish. It is interesting to see how their Spanish is affecting their English. But that is another blog post. Heck that could be a dissertation topic.)

I want to tell Sawyer, "Look I know me, and believe me you really don't want to be like me." Yet I read the Apostle Paul and I see him telling his readers to follow him as he followed Christ. So I am learning that in many roles right now, especially in parenting, I need to embrace Sawyer wanting to be like me. I also need to ensure that being like me means seeking after Jesus. Now that's pressure, right?

From October 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Night on the Town (or at least at the mall)



Three out of the four of us were in need of haircuts this afternoon (read on), so we decided to head to the mall after picking the kids up at school. There is a good place there that has cars that Sawyer can sit in while his hair is cut. Hard to believe that he actually sits still long enough for his hair to be cut, but he does pretty good. Olivia sat as still as a statue with a huge smile on her face the whole time. I did okay as well :).

Following the hair cuts we picked up dinner at the food court, followed by ice cream. It was a fun night as a family after a busy week and weekend.

Part of the busyness is due to the fact that Aiyla, our great intern who is living with us, discovered she had (hopefully had in the past tense) lice. Amazingly enough it seems like the rest of us have avoided getting them, except for Tracey, who also had a few nits. So thorough cleaning, research on lice-riddance, lots of laundry, regular head checks (and yes, the haircuts) have been a normal part of our last few days, and will probably continue to be normal for a while. Please pray that we and our house will be lice-free quickly!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Brave, The Bold, The Pioneers: aka Our First Summer Teams

We actually said good-bye to the last of our summer teams about a month ago, but it has taken me that long to get to this. . . . Our students (shall we say, 'life-long learners') ranged from 11 to somewhere-in-the-60's this year, and represented many different states, including Nebraska, California (several teams), Indiana, Virginia, and Texas. Plus we had individuals representing Maryland and Pennsylvania, and a vision team here to check things out that brought people from California, Florida, Texas and Indiana, as well.

Overall it was a full and wonderful 'first' summer in the city. We SI staff were tired at the end, but I think we all agree that it was worth it! The teams all came with adventurous spirits, for which we were grateful! They were flexible as we worked through the logistical challenges of transportation, lodging, etc. They learned to 'hang-out' and 'be' when there wasn't a lot to 'do' at times. They engaged with children and adults, and learned and practiced new Spanish vocabulary. Some helped at a daycare, and painting a mural, with a Friday Kid's Club, and at a tutoring center. Others helped a neighborhood build a street, re-modeled a bathroom, built a retaining wall, taught English, and visited and baked for shut-ins. Some even went to the jungle and supported some missionary friends on the coast.

In the evenings, the teams participated in various activities. We had cultural activities like cooking, local speakers that shared about Costa Rica, we hosted a 'poverty dinner' and discussed some of the complexities of poverty around the world, had game nights, and prayer times.

Whew! It's really quite a list. A lot of love was spread. As one of our partnering pastors said to me yesterday, "All the neighbors, and the auto-shop across the street, want to know why these people would come and visit the elderly ladies, and why they would come without receiving anything in return, to build a wall for our church, or why they would come and help our kids with homework, or teach English. They don't understand that it's because of God's love. Seeds are being planted by what you guys are doing." So, if any of you participants are reading this, know that your presence here has made an impact! We'd like to thank you for making it a positive impact! You truly were a blessing, and we hope you'll come back again sometime! Thank you for being a part of the beginning of SI Costa Rica!

For our quiet times this year, we focused on Ephesians. Themes centered on unity among believers, God's secret plan to include everyone in his family, being alive in Christ, living with a new nature that is controlled by the Holy Spirit, etc. For me, the theme of UNITY stuck out the most. Not only have we witnessed a lot of division among believers in the communities where we work, but we, as SI, risk a lot by doing what we're doing. What I mean is that we are outsiders trying to unite with Costa Ricans in ministry, then we are adding 'students,' (who are virtually strangers) to the mix. And those students represent different denominations, economic backgrounds, races, political ideals, family backgrounds, ages, experiences, and careers or career interests. We risk a lot in the way of unity! But the wonderful thing is that we are all part of Christ's body. We are. It is mysterious, and we tend not to live the truth of it well, or appreciate the 'other' parts. But the declaration is there and Christ is working to bring all of us together, and to bring all things under his authority (Eph. 1:9-10,3:10-11). So, I don't know if anyone else realizes what a big deal it is, but I love that we can ALL (Ticos, SI staff, other ministries, outreach participants) come together in an outreach and represent the Kingdom of God to a world that is fractured and falling apart. It's what Jesus said would prove to the world we were his disciples (John 13:34-35). Maybe that's why God does big things when his children come together, even though we might be awkward or imperfect. God can make up for those things; he just wants us to love each other the way he loves us.

In a few weeks a vision group is coming to explore semester program opportunities. And in November a team from Wasco, CA is coming--actually my college roommate, Jenn and husband Steve, are leading it! Please pray for these upcoming groups, and what God might have in store. Also, pray for all of the participants that have come so far, that God would continue to work in and through each of their lives, as well as for our ongoing development ministries, our ministry partners, and the people we are in contact with each day. Thank you! --Tracey

"When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth." Ephesians 3:14-15

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

New Glasses!

Drumroll please! Announcing Miss Olivia and her new anteojos, glasses. She is super excited about them, thankfully! This pair is mostly to get used to wearing the glasses she will most likely need later on. We think she looks pretty cute! :)

From glasses, face painting

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Newsletter

It is incredible how time flies by! We have now been here in Costa Rica for over a year! It has been an amazing year of watching God work. Click on this link for a copy of our Summer 2009 newsletter. If you would like to receive it via email or a hard copy let us know. http://thedixonz.googlepages.com/Summer2009.pdf

Thursday, July 30, 2009

¿Cual es su lucha?

One of my new found past times is helping our staff to be stretched. Well not long ago it was my turn to be stretched. About a month ago I was asked to speak at one of the churches we are partnering with. Actually the pastor had been asking me repeadedly and there was always a reason, or I found a reason, not to be able to do it. It wasn't that I mind sharing/teaching it was that I would be doing it in Spanish.

When the Sunday rolled around I had not had as much time to prepare as I would have liked, so needless to say I was a little nervous. I spoke on passages out of Philippians 3 and Ephesians 1 about seeking to know Jesus with the title being what are you striving for? SO often in life I strive after many things other than simply knowing Jesus. They may be good things, but they still get in the way of simply knowing him.

As I spoke I kept thinking, "Ooh said that wrong, wrong verb tense, put the pronoun in the wrong spot, etc." The challenge was knowing when to just keep going ignoring the grammatical mistake or when to go back and fix it.

After 30 - 40 minutes I wrapped up. Much to my amazement it seemed as if what came out of my mouth connected with the hearts of many. So either my Spanish wasn't horrible or the Holy Spirit corrected it from when it left my lips to when it entered the ears of the congregation. Or a little of both. Let's just say if God can use a donkey to communicate he can use me.

It was a good experience and it helped to further our relationship with the church. Now that the first public speaking in Spanish experience is over the second one will hopefully come a little more naturally.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Residentes

Great News!!!: We are official Costa Rican Residents! We got our CEDULAS (like a SS card) last Friday! This means we have legal rights to live here, can get our own phone line, get discounts at national parks, etc. We are super excited, as you might guess. This process has taken over a year, as well as lots of $$$. BUT, it could have been much worse, and we are so thankful!! We also have to keep really good track of our money exchanges from now on, to make sure we are exchanging the $3000 into colones each month that is required, but otherwise we only have to renew our residency every couple of years, and we can do it at the bank through a fairly simple process! Thank you Jesus, and thanks to all of you that have been praying about this with us!!

From Earrings, teams, tortillas, cedulas, and campesinos

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Jesus in my Belly Button"

This morning the kids and I had the following conversation. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It shows that you never know what you are going to get with a 5 year old and a 3 year old.

Sawyer: "Daddy I have Jesus in my belly button"
Daddy: "What?"
Olivia: "He said, 'I have Jesus in my belly button'" Laughs uncontrollably
Sawyer: "Yeah, I have Jesus in my belly button, and I am going to push him out with a stick."
Daddy: "How are you going to do that?"
Sawyer: (Shoulder shrug) "I don't know."
Olivia: Still laughing
Sawyer: "I have Jesus in my belly button, but the baby doesn't push him out because it is too little. Babies can't eat anything by themselves."
Olivia: "They can eat ice cream."
Sawyer: "Uh no."
Olivia: "They can eat ice cream."
Sawyer: "Uh no."
Olivia: "They can eat ice cream."
Sawyer: "Uh no."
Olivia: "Yeah, they can eat ice cream from Pops (local ice cream chain)!"
Sawyer: (excitedly) "Yeah they can!" (Pensively) "Maybe I should give it to them."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New School

As many of you know, our kids' schooling has been (and will perhaps continue to be) a big concern for us. We are thankful to live where there are some good options around us, but it's still a bit stressful not to have 'perfect' options--at least for a mom who's a teacher! For now, we have found what we feel is a great place for Olivia and Sawyer. It's actually a small kinder (preK, basically) that is within walking distance of our home. It's in it's second year of operation, and run by a wonderful lady, Pilar, who has lots of experience teaching and really knows her stuff. There are only 2 classes, Olivia's and Sawyer's, and the teachers all seem really kind and well-trained. It is about half the cost of their previous school (which we also loved and were impressed with), and we've been attending the church that houses it. The other nice thing about this new school (Kid's Academy) is that they have a daycare option for the afternoons. So our kids get a home-cooked lunch, rest and extra playtime if we want it, and we don't have to rush to pick them up in the afternoon. We are so thankful that God has provided! We'll keep you updated on how it goes--we need to be making another decision for Olivia's kindergarten soon. . .
By the way, they LOVE to wear uniforms. Olivia was asking for a week to be able to wear hers!

From potty, b-days, new school

From potty, b-days, new school
From potty, b-days, new school

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Sawyer and Olivia!

Our kids' birthdays are a week apart and we have, so far, been able to take advantage of that fact by celebrating their birthdays together. I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to get away with it, though. This year we celebrated each of their birthdays a little on the Real Birthday, as Olivia calls it, and then had a nice party with our teammates, plus Krysta's parents, and friend Josh, the Saturday in between. Here are a few pictures:

"I'm 'free'!!"

From potty, b-days, new school

From potty, b-days, new school

Sawyer wanted an 'umbrella cake'; this is what he meant. He's taking a bite of it--traditional Costa Rican thing.
From potty, b-days, new school

These were the cakes for their party: a Princess and a Dinosaur.
From potty, b-days, new school


From potty, b-days, new school


This is the amazing playground that Jeremy built for the kids for our 'backyard'!!!
From potty, b-days, new school


We even had a piñata. . .
From potty, b-days, new school


Excited to do that bite thing again. . .
From potty, b-days, new school


On Olivia's "Real Birthday" we took her to get her ears pierced! She was super excited, cried just a little, and has been taking very good care of them since!
From potty, b-days, new school

Thanks for making it a fun week for Olivia and Sawyer! They have been enjoying new toys and art supplies, etc. Thank you! We are so blessed by you, our friends and family.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

VIdeo

Here is a video that our new friend Derek Davis of Davis Productions produced for us during our first outreach here in San José. It does a great job of capturing what God is doing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Approved!!

We received a phone call from our lawyer yesterday telling us that our residency paperwork has been approved! Praise God!! Thank you to all of you who have been praying for this process. We still need to get our cedulas (similar to a social security card), but we should have them this month. Being residents will make many of life's tasks simpler and allow us to do things like have a phone line in our name. It also means that we don't have to leave the country every few months to renew a tourist visa. So needless to say we are excited, overjoyed, and relieved to have our paperwork approved. Now we are just waiting on our Non-Profit Association paperwork to go through.

First Team in San José

This last week we hosted our first team in San José! We had 13 college students and young adults working with us. They worked alongside our staff team in 3 or 4 (depending on how you count) ministry sites. A few worked with Jeremy in extending a roof line, refinishing a table, and remodeling a bathroom in the house of a Tica missionary who hosts Bible studies, women's groups, and a sewing workshop in her home. A few others worked with Cailah in Las Fuentes in varies projects such as visiting the elderly and shut-ins, promoting and starting a tutoring program, and in doing various tasks around the church we are partnering with. The last bunch worked with Tracey and Krysta at the daycare center loving on kids, reading to them, baking cookies with them, and playing with play dough. They also helped at the kid's club.

What is my job while teams are here? I work to make sure the logistics of housing, transportation, and caring for the team members are taken care of. I also fill in at various ministry sites when extra help is needed or a staff member has something come up that they need to take care of. My main job is working hard to make sure that our staff and students are in a position where they can encounter God and can carry out what God has called them to do.

With this team I was privileged to facilitate several morning and evening times with them. One of my favorite questions to ask students while they are here is, "What is God teaching you?" So it was appropriate when at our final banquet Adam asked, "So Jeff what has God been teaching you during this outreach?" My response was two fold. It is easy to get caught up in the programing aspect of what I do in planning outreaches and ministry activities. It is easy to focus more on the program than the people for whom the program is for. God reminded me that the program is not important, but the people are what is important. Secondly, the outreach was a confirmation of my/our calling to Students International Costa Rica. I am passionate about the poor and the people we are privileged to serve here in Costa Rica and I am also passionate about students and giving them a chance to encounter God here hoping that encounter will transform their lives. Watching those two passions come together during an outreach is unbelievable. The late nights and early mornings are more than worth it when you see a student holding a child, finish a project, or teaching an English phrase. I couldn't help but sit back and thank the Lord for allowing me to be a small part of what He is doing here.

Verde is...

This morning as Sawyer was pulling on his green socks he looked up and said, "Verde is green in English." Uh not quite. To be honest I am not sure how much of a difference there is n Sawyer's mind between English and Spanish. He knows that some people speak one way to him and others another way, but often he looks at me like I've lost my mind (which I may have) when I ask him to say something in Spanish. It is not that he doesn't know the words, but I'm not sure he knows that he speaks two languages.

Depending on your perspective we may have given up a lot by moving to Costa Rica. Are there things we miss? You bethca! (That's for all our readers in MN!) However, there are more things that we wouldn't trade for the world. One of them is our children having the opportunity to be bilingual. I love watching them speak Spanish with each other, or playing with Tico kids at the park. I also chuckle when someone makes a comment about them on the street thinking that Olivia and Sawyer can't understand what they are saying only for Olivia and/or Sawyer to respond. And did I mention that Olivia and Sawyer have near perfect Spanish accents? I am more than a little jealous, and I probably will be even more jealous when their Spanish is better than mine.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Los Guido. . .aka What Tracey Has Been Up To For the Last Month

It has been a busy month as far as ministry sites go. Krysta and I have been going to Los Guido almost every day, though just about every day has been different! We are starting to get into a routine, but that will probably all change again soon. Such is life these days. Ha! Sorry I don't have any pictures. I hope to have some soon, but while there is much I could be taking pictures of, I haven't felt at liberty to do so yet. On one hand, I don't want to flash my camera around and have it stolen, and on the other hand, Krysta and I saw a van of gringos stop and take pictures of the slums where we were doing home visits, and decided we Do Not want to be that ridiculous. How would you like the world's 25 richest people taking a tour of your neighborhood b/c they felt sorry for you and knew that nobody would believe the ghastly conditions you lived in without photos to prove it? Same idea. I say that with 2 qualifications: the other day, I Did take a few pictures with Krysta's camera (subtly) that maybe she'll let me, uh, borrow. . .and I will take some of my own someday soon. I promise.

Anyway, we have been focusing our time in several ways: helping Gabby at the Guardería (daycare), doing home visits with a few of Food for the Hungry's sponsored kids (with whom we are actually in the process of opening a tutoring center), and doing a kid's club (Club de Niños) on Fridays. We also spend a good bit of time planning, and meeting with different people. We had an open door to go and observe a second grade classroom this past week; let's just say it was eye-opening. There was not a single book in the entire room! The walls were completely blank except for half of a chalkboard. Safe to say, I think the teacher, Raquel, is doing the best she can with what she's got. I would really like to see a school in a wealthy area of Costa Rica; I suspect it would be much different.

At the guardería, we help Gabby clean, feed kids, play with kids, do play dough with kids, etc. When we have a more consistent schedule, we will also work with some of the school-aged kids in reading and math.

The home visits have been really fun. Some of the homes we have been in are squatter shacks, in the bottom of a ravine called El Hueco (the Hole). One of the girls we are working with, Solangie, is in 2nd grade and cannot read. She probably needs glasses, but will likely not get them anytime soon. There's also a 12 year old girl, Karla, who we've met that has not been to school since 1st grade. We suspect there are some other major issues in her life aside from dropping out of school, but we don't really know. And, the not-being-able-to-read issue is a big one; like I said, books are hard to come by. There just isn't a lot of children's literature in Spanish, for one thing, and what I have seen in bookstores is highly priced. Even the library that I visited the other day only had old, poorly published, out-dated books for kids--and not a whole lot of them, either. I am SOOOO glad that we brought down the books we did on the container!!! Thank you to whatever school it was that was throwing away their bilingual curriculum!! It will go to good use here! (By the way, if anyone else has access to stuff like that, let me know! We can always use more!) Anyway, special ed. is also hard to access here, and I'm sensing that many of the kids we are working with, or will work with, have learning disabilities. Then again, it is hard to know at this point what is simply due to lack of academic stimulation, rough or difficult home and family situations, and impoverished neurons.

The Friday Club de Niños is something that Food for the Hungry has done in partnership with a church in Los Guido that we are helping to carry on. It is basically like a VBS or Sunday School-type program. Our focus is Psalm 139: 13-18 and God's amazing love and care in forming each one of us, how God knows us and cares about what happens to us, how God wants us to know him, how everyone else is loved by God the same way, and therefore how we should treat others, how God wants us to take care of our bodies and be healthy, etc. We have 2 groups: the first meets in the front room of the church (where they also have a comedor, or lunch program, for kids), and our second group meets across the street on a front porch. Perhaps it goes without saying that the first group is much easier to manage since they are in an enclosed space. :) You can pray for the focus of group #2 if you think of it.

Please pray for all of these little projects, as well as the tutoring center that is in the process of starting. We have lots of vision and ideas--we'll see how it all develops. We also have our first student team arriving from the States on Mon. and Tues. this coming week! They will be in the jungle for the first week, and then with us in the city the week of June 1st. We are all super excited, and a little nervous, to have them come. Pray that the Lord would have his way in each of our lives--the students, us staff, the communities where we work--and that we would continue to listen closely for God's voice. Also pray that God would protect our hearts as we face some very difficult situations in Los Guido. We are only beginning to uncover the stories, the muck, the tragedy, dependency, etc. We need loads of wisdom and discernment!! And I will get some pictures posted--they will help you "see" the things I see and do each day. :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Silly Sawyer Pictures

Sawyer is at a fun and crazy age (almost 3), with crazy hair and good photo ops. So, I thought I'd share some recent ones.
Being "rocks" after a bath.

From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

Putting Paci and Blankie in his giraffe rain boots. Not sure why, except that P and B are his best friends. When the paci fairy comes on his 3rd birthday, it could be rough. . .
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

This is quite possibly my favorite--naked with the giraffe rain boots--one of the best ways to run around. :)
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

What happens when you play hard all day:
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

Happy 31st Birthday, Jeff!

Jeff turned 31 on the 14th!! We had a fun little party with our team after a staff meeting on Wednesday.

Singing 'Happy Birthday.'

From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

The Deep-Fryer--from everyone. Our health may never be the same, but now we can make In-n-Out fries in our very own kitchen! We love you, Jeff!
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

Everyone needs a Jesus beach towel, right? :) Thanks Cailah.
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

This was the Peanut Butter Pie/Birthday Cake. Notice the work of Sawyer--he did that while Jeff was opening gifts and no one was watching.
From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer


Jeff, you are an amazing husband, father, and person in general. I love you and am so thankful for your life and that you share it with me! I pray that you know Jesus more deeply, and his love for you, this year! Love, Tracey

Chef Aiyla

From Cailah, Jeff B-Day, Crazy Sawyer

Aiyla has been branching out a lot in her eating and cooking habits with us in Costa Rica. She actually bares a good bit of teasing for it, but, I have to say, has been willing to try lots of new things. She even cooked chicken and rice pilaf for us one night! It was delicious, and very appreciated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

El Buen Samaritano/Samaritan's Purse

So, we went to Las Fuentes on Saturday. Las Fuentes is a little community where Cailah will be working with the church. The little church there seems vibrant and holistic, the pastor is humble and being used incredibly by the Lord--everything from new roads to miraculous healings--but that's another story.

Saturday, we were invited to join them for a kids party as they passed out 100+ shoe boxes from Samaritan's Purse--you know, the ones you've perhaps filled and sent at Christmas time for children in less fortunate countries. . .Let me make a couple of initial observations: 1. It is way past Christmas, but that didn't seem to matter (they passed some out then, too, as I understand; these were leftovers, or something). 2. The variety of what is put in those boxes is amazing--I encourage you to fill them well, if at all. 3. The "Boys 10-14 Years" category is the least popular to buy for, so I recommend that you please choose that group and let everyone else buy all the cute preschool girl stuff--because it was the only group for which there were more children than boxes. However, I will say that they worked it out and everybody shared.

That said, they had clowns that gave a message about our worth b/c God made us, a puppet show about being kind, a couple of go-up-in-front-of-the-crowd games (which Olivia participated in!), and hot dogs.

From Las Fuentes


Then they did the box giveaway, by gender and age. Girls 2-4 were called first. I have a daughter who is 4. Can you see where this is going? I had no idea how to navigate this. I had told Olivia that the boxes were going to be for the kids at the church and that I didn't know if she'd get one b/c there might not be enough. Pastor Gilbert had said when he invited us that they'd have a box for Olivia and Sawyer as well, which we politely said wasn't necessary. But, really, how do you explain to a 4 and a 2 year old that everyone else gets a box, but not them? Was I supposed to say that these kids were "poor" and that's why they got a box? Was I going to tell mine that they were NOT poor, that they already had lots of toys, that their grandparents had just come from the states and so they already had LOTS more things than they needed? I could have, and some of you might think I SHOULD have. And we will. We have in other contexts. Olivia understands that some people have less things than she does, that some people don't eat food every day. But this is what stopped me from insisting that my children not get shoe boxes on Saturday: Olivia and (especially) Sawyer have no idea that they are different than the kids in Las Fuentes, other than being blond, and that they speak English better than Spanish. WHY WOULD I RUIN THAT??? Why would I draw one more line in the sand separating my kids from these kids? Why highlight for the Las Fuentes Kids more differences than necessary? In the end I figured it was better to not make a big deal and to just let my kids be part of the group. In an ideal world, that's how it would be. In an ideal world there wouldn't be a reason for the Las Fuentes Kids to receive shoe boxes from the US. I figured their innocence will be lost soon enough.

So, if you happen to be someone who sends those shoe boxes, thank you, and if you are offended, I'm sorry; I'm sure situations like Saturday don't happen often. And if our presence in the community makes a difference at all (thinking long-term), then I hope you'll see those 2 shoe boxes as a worthy sacrifice. If it makes you feel better, we shared most of Sawyer's box, because boxes for the 5-9 Boys group were a little scarce, too. I welcome all comments on what others would have done in this situation, by the way!! :)
From Las Fuentes
Aiyla, watching girls open their boxes

All in all, it was a fun, albeit somewhat awkward (for me), morning. We love the things that God is doing in that Las Fuentes and are excited to be a part of it. Please pray for Cailah when you think of it, as she begins a ministry site alongside Pastor Gilbert, Pastora Araceli and their daughter, Madeline. Some of the possibilities include English classes, visiting the sick and elderly, computer classes, and children and youth programs.
From Las Fuentes

Cailah with Pastor Gilbert and daughter, Madeline

One Thing

We are often asked what is different about living in Costa Rica or what has been difficult to adjust to. We are learning to adjust our expectations of what we will be able to accomplish in a given day. Life and life's tasks simply take longer. So instead of having a lengthy list of things to do in a day I am thinking, "What one thing do I need to get done today?" Beyond that, what things do I hope to get to today? For example blog and respond to emails have been on my "hope to" list for the last several days and now when I am done blogging I hope to answer and send email.

A good example of things taking longer is paying bills. When we lived in California I would pour myself a cup of coffee, walk to the computer and pay our bills on-line. All in all it would take 10 - 15 minutes (including making the coffee!). Now here is my current bill paying process:

1. Go to the ATM machine to get cash.
2. Wait at least a day and then go and get cash again at the ATM machine (Do to daily withdrawal limits I need to go twice).
3. Go into the bank to pay rent (we deposit it into our landlord's account). However, first the teller needs to change the Colones I withdrew from the ATM into Dollars. I could withdraw Dollars from the ATM, but due to our residency requirements we need to show we are changing a certain amount of money from Dollars to Colones each month. If we were to draw the money out in Dollars it wouldn't count and we wouldn't meet our required amount. So in a matter of minutes I change Dollars to Colones at the ATM machine and then from Colones to Dollars at the bank window.
4. While at the bank pay water and electricity.
5. Go to the grocery store where there is a bill pay center to pay cable, internet, and phone.

Total time 1 - 4 hours depending on the length of lines at the bank and bill pay center (not counting the two trips to the ATM machine).

Arenal

A couple of weeks ago while Tracey's parents were here visiting we took a few days and went to Volcan Arenal. It is an amazing volcano with an almost perfect cone shape. We were reminded yet again that we are privileged to live in an incredibly beautiful country! We had a great time exploring a new place and spending time together. There are numerous hot springs in the area, beautiful waterfalls, the largest lake in Costa Rica, and we visited a butterfly garden where we enjoyed seeing various butterflies, sloths, birds, and cayman crocodiles.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sprng Newsletter

We just emailed out our Spring 2009 newsletter. The hard copies to those of you who prefer them or for whom we don't have email addresses will go out in the next couple of days. Here is the link to download it in case you did not receive it. http://thedixonz.googlepages.com/Spring20009.pdf

You can also access our newsletters on the right side of our blog.

If you did not receive an email with the newsletter and would like to in the future please let us know what your email address is and we will gladly send one to you.

Asociación Estudiantes Internacionales de Costa Rica

Part of beginning here in Costa Rica is to form a Costa Rican non-profit entity. This meant we needed to form an association of at least 10 members with a board of directors. We also needed to submit our by-laws for approval. After working with our lawyer on the wording of our by-laws for the last several months we were ready to sign and submit the paperwork at the end of March. So we gathered in our lawyer's office to sign and then celebrated with a nice staff dinner. Now we are just waiting for the paperwork to be approved. This should only take 1-3 months, but it is also possible it may take longer. Please pray that the approval comes through quickly.

If you would like to see the exciting pictures of us signing the paperwork you can click here:

Signing Assoc Paperwork

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Men's Trip



The last week of March I had the opportunity to help lead an outreach of men to the jungle town of Shiroles in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica (the southeast corner). We had a great group of guys on the trips from various walks of life. For a run down of the trips activities you can check out Jeremy's blog (Our friend and teamate).

I always enjoy the men's trips as they are a combination of men's retreat and mission trip. After several months of working hard to build relationships here in San José and beginning ministry the trip was a chance for me to catch my breath. I enjoyed spending time with men who are seeking Jesus and striving to be more like him. Some men who have become good friends over the last few years were on the trip and it is always special to spend time with them. I returned home tired yet refreshed and encouraged to continue to watch God do his thing in my life, our family's life, and in the midst of SI Costa Rica.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2 Things

Thing 1: Jeff is currently taking our paperwork to Juan Edgar's office (our lawyer) to be translated and hopefully turned in and accepted by our "friends" at the migration office. Pray that they will accept it and not say we didn't get it in on time or something!!! I have no idea how long it will take (assuming they DO accept everything) to get our cedulas (the ID card, equivalent of SS card), but I'm hoping for soon--maybe next week??? Might be too much to ask. But when we get those, we'll be residents, with full legal privileges, etc. Aka, we'll be able to get a phone in our own name and other exciting things like that!! :)

Thing 2: We have a new address! It's a Costa Rican PO Box to which you can send letters, care packages, etc. (hint hint) Actually, it's not cheap to send packages, and anything sent is subject to import taxes if the officials feel like tagging those on--it's a gamble, so please don't include anything of much monetary value if you send something. With that said, it is a fairly secure way to send us stuff, and we have APPRECIATED all the packages we have received and have not been charged anything as of yet! I will maybe try to post more specific guidelines later. Here's the address:

Jeff, Tracey, Olivia or Sawyer Dixon
Apartado 946-2400
Desamparados, Costa Rica
América Central

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Residency Update Part 2

Well as far as we know the Tulare County system is still down. Thankfully we were able to find a way around it thanks to Hector and Dave's help. So now we have through step #4 (see previous post) complete. The plan is for it to be authenticated by the consulate and sent to us Monday morning. Please pray that everything goes smoothly and quickly from here. The clock is ticking!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Residency Update...Please Pray

We were awakened early last Friday morning by a phone call from our lawyer. Immigration had requested a letter verifying that our income will be "stable and permanent." We had 10 business days to deliver the letter. After exchanging emails with our lawyer on Friday we had the letter drafted and it looked like the process would be fairly smooth. Here is what we need to accomplish.
1. The letter is signed by Dave, the SI president.
2. The letter is notarized as he signs it.
3. The notary is authenticated by Tulare County in CA.
4. Tulare County's authentication is authenticated by the CA Secretary of State.
5. The CA Secretary of State's authenticaion is authenticated by the Costa Rican Consulate in Los Angeles
6. The letter is overnighted to us here in Costa Rica.
7. The letter is translated into Spanish
8. The letter is turned into the immigration office.

Steps 1 and 2 were done late Monday afternoon (our internet went out at home, so we were a bit delayed in sending it). However the "system" has been down in Tulare County the last couple of days, so we have been stuck. Our good friend and co-worker, Hector, has graciously offered to run the letter around to the carious offices in CA that it needs to visit.

Please pray the the "system" would be up in Tulare County and that the rest of the authentications would be quick and smooth. Pray that the letter then arrives safely and quickly and we are able to turn it in on-time. Finally pray that immigration approves the letter and grants us residency.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Guatemala Women's Outreach

I'm a little behind, but here goes! Last week, I had the privilege of participating in the first-ever-SI-women's-outreach in Guatemala. All of our female SI Costa Rica staff went as well. It was a fun time of fellowship and serving together. It was great to see some familiar Visalia faces, too!! Though refreshing in many ways, I admit I was exhausted by the end!! Mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.!

On this outreach, I was privileged to work with the medical team in the town of El Gorrión. It's a small community that was built by government sponsorship after some hurricanes about a decade ago. Basically the government relocated these families and gave them bricks and a plot to build a small house on. There is no running water, or sewer, though there is electricity. SI has been working on some cistern and water-filtering projects up there for a few years, as well as other things like pouring cement floors and making fuel-efficient stoves. There is also a small public school in El Gorrión where one staff member works.

Anyway, aside from hosting a medical clinic one day (which was held in the home of an El Gorrión family, and was a huge success!), the medical team's task for this outreach was to help SI with a community survey. The questions ranged from demographic info, family health issues, and opinions on a new community center for which SI has purchased land. The whole experience was so interesting! I, having no medical background except for a mother who is a nurse, served as a translator. In many ways, it reminded me of my home visits with FIRST 5, minus the educational part. We were invited into homes and got to know a hint of people's lives. One of the new Guatemala staff, Maurine, was in our group, and my prayer for her is that she (and her husband, Nick) would be able to build relationships with people in El Gorrión because of the time we spent in their homes. And also that the information gathered from these 50+ surveys would be useful to SI and the community leaders who are working together to improve the situation there. Aside from the need for water, etc., people shared many wonderful ideas for a community center like literacy programs for adults (to assist in jobs/applications), vocational training programs for youth, and a clinic. Pray that God's purposes would be met and that lives would be transformed because of Christ!

In the big picture it looks so exciting--and I know it IS. Where I get bogged down is in the dirty details of reality. For example: we visited a family that has 3 children. Mother is super sweet, but Dad is an (abusive) alcoholic. She is the victim of her gender, culture, and socio-economic situation--my heart aches for her. Of the 3 children, 2 (boys) have muscular dystrophy. The youngest child, a girl, goes to school, but the boys do not. They recently had surgery on their legs and were in casts, sitting on beds when we visited. (Apparently Dad was abstaining from alcohol during the recovery so that he could be helpful to Mom--to his detriment; his liver was severely swollen.) Anyway, the boys are basically prisoners to the 4 cinder-block walls day in and out. SI has worked with this family in the past (they helped put in a cement floor so the boys weren't crawling around in the dirt, and arranged for the surgeries), and will now be working to get the boys to school, maybe some therapy, etc. It's wonderful and discouraging to me all at the same time. I can see the potential for change and victory, and it gives me hope. But I've also seen enough to know that change happens s-l-o-w-l-y and only when people want it. You can lead a horse to water. . .and Jesus does not force his way in to our lives. It was this way with FIRST 5 for me, too. In the big picture, I could see the effects of all the work we were doing; but in the individual families, victories seemed infrequent and sometimes insignificant. Why does God choose to work through the process of our lives (myself included)? Why does he let us fail soooo many times? Why is God patient enough for all of this and I am not????! Why do I demand to see results when the results are not my responsibility? And where is my faith--believing in what I cannot see--that God will restore all the wrongs? That God is the God of hopeless situations?

I think of these things in light of starting SI Costa Rica, too. We have seen God's hand move in so many ways that we cannot deny that this whole thing belongs to Him. The big picture is very exciting, and we know, we believe, that God will do great things. . .but he will do them as he sees fit, not necessarily how I do. And it's not about me, either. It's about Christ being glorified. He will transform lives so that He receives glory--so that the world can see his amazing redemption and awesome love. So easy to remember in this moment. . .

Anyway, Guatemala was a good time. There's lots more I could say, but I think I'll leave it there! Oh, and I'll post a link to some pictures later, too.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Choice to Make

Yesterday afternoon I had a few hours where nothing could or would go right. As I took Tracey and the rest of our female staff to the airport (they are currently in Guatemala participating in a women's outreach) I discovered that there is still something wrong with our car. We had some broken engine supports (at least in Spanish that is what they are called. Could be engine mounts in English) replaced. Well now there is a new sound, similar to a 747 landing, and a vibration that shook my seat better than any of those massage chair things ever could. Needless to say, something is not right and I will be keeping my weekly appointment with our mechanic again this week.

After the kids and I arrived home I was busy chasing Sawyer when I heard Olivia screaming for me in the other room. Turns out she had grabbed a pair of scissors and cut her finger. Nothing too bad, but of course she wanted mommy and was not happy when I reminded her mommy was in Guatemala.

Shortly after getting a band aide on Olivia's finger some furniture we had ordered was delivered. As we were unloading it I began to notice things like a mirror on a dresser wasn't the design we had ordered, a bed wasn't what we had asked for, and some poor work on the bed for the kid's room. So about half or more of the order had something wrong with it.

It was just one of those days. In the midst of feeling sorry for myself the Lord spoke to me. He has a habit of doing that when I least expect or want him to speak. In the quiet of my heart I heard the Lord telling me, just like I often tell Olivia, "You have a choice to make." Don't we always have a choice to make? We can not always choose or control our circumstances, but we can choose how we react to them. As we continue to adjust to life in a new culture I find I need to tell myself to choose to react well far more often than I have ever before.

I think it was Charles Swindoll who once said, "Life is 10% circumstances and 90% how we react to them." Well with all due respect I think his numbers are a bit off. It seems to me it is more like a 5%/95% split, maybe even 1%/99%.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ram Luna

As an early Valentine's Day Surprise (and our 2nd official get-dressed-up-planned-date since arriving in Costa Rica--kinda sad, we know), Jeff took me to Ram Luna, a restaurant up in the mountains, not too far from us. It is decorated in traditional Costa Rican style, with an amazing view of the city. They serve typical food, and on Wednesdays they do a traditional folk dancing show. Overall, it was a fantastic evening, and we recommend everyone go!

Us, overlooking the city lights.

From Ram Luna


With the dance troupe. This was pretty funny--and very touristy (that they posed for pictures with all the guests)! They actually 'introduced' all the tables, too, and announced where everyone was from. There were people that night from as far away as Spain, France and Turkey!
From Ram Luna


One of the talented dancers. I love their outfits!
From Ram Luna

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Our Home

We have been blessed with a tremendous home! After almost two months of looking, walking through numerous neighborhoods, calling on countless adds, and talking to everyone we could think of we found a house. Actually I should say that the Lord provided it for us, just in time. About 2 weeks before we had to be out of our apartment. Our new friend Carlos, who is a real estate agent, helped us find it.

To be honest it is more house than we need, but it gives us room to host the various guests we will be having. It also has an attached office with an independent entrance that will serve as the Students International Costa Rica office. We have a great landlady and the rent is probably about 60% of what it should be. We are slowly, but surely acquiring furniture and are meeting a lot of interesting people via Craig's List, newspaper adds, and small furniture stores owners. So without further adieu here is our home:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Our First Visitors

We were excited to welcome Ken and Candy as our first visitors in January! They stayed with us for about 10 days and got a taste of what our life is like these days, including car trouble, our new house, early mornings to get the kids to school, the feria to get our fruits and veggies, gallo pinto (rice and beans Tico-style), and a trip to Manuel Antonio beach and national park (we WISH that was a REGULAR part of life!!) It was really fun to have them here. The kids were ecstatic to have Grandma and Grandpa visiting (I think Olivia was worried no one would ever come to see us.) We were all blessed by their presence and helpfulness. As Ken would say, a fun time was had by all! Here are a few pictures of their time with us, complete with one of Olivia's favorite songs!

video

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Email Update

We sent out an email update this week. If you did not get it and would like to get future updates please send your email address to thedixonz@gmail.com. If you would like to get the PDF file click here.

We will post some pictures soon as well as a ministry update.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We moved into our new home about 3 weeks ago. We like the house and the location. However, we are still waiting on our internet connection to be hooked up, so our communication is a bit limited and sporadic these days. When we are hooked up we will post a more detailed post with an update on what all is going on.

If you have heard of the earthquake a little over a week ago here we felt it in our home, but did not have any damage. Parts of the country are pretty devastated, so please keep Costa Rica in your prayers. Hopefully we will post soon with more info for all of you who faithfully follow our blog. Hopefully our internet will be connected in the next few days.