Monday, May 02, 2011


Church is a topic that comes up often, so I thought I'd write about it. We are not church-planting missionaries, but instead seek an established church to be involved in. In Costa Rica we have that luxury. So you would think, with all the options, that it would be easy to find a spiritual community of believers with whom to share life. But, it hasn't. And it's been one of the hardest things about trying to plant new roots here. A shared sentiment among our staff is that we miss knowing people and being known. I think it's caused all of us to re-examine the meaning of 'church' as well. But I'm not taking that path in this post.

At first, with limited Spanish, it was obvious that making relationships would be tough, but even still it is hard at times to really connect with people in Spanish. I still wonder if I'm REALLY communicating what I mean to say, and if I'm REALLY understanding the other person. Costa Rica is outwardly a very friendly and hospitable place. But when push comes to shove, it's been really hard to get close to people. People work late, we work crazy schedules, everyone has their family and extended families (which is a good thing, except for us who don't have our families here), and the social circles have been drawn for years--hard to break in. Plus, a lot of outsiders come here for vacations, visits, language school, and then LEAVE. Why would people want to invest in us if they think we're leaving? I think we've finally convinced a few that we're staying. . . but we heavily feel the burden of making the first (and subsequent) moves to get to know others. And, frankly, it can be exhausting; it has made us wonder if it's worth the effort. Then there are the actual churches themselves. Will there be Sunday School (or something) for our kids so that we can listen to a sermon? How long are services? What are expectations for involvement (many churches here are legalistic about coming to every event/prayer meeting scheduled), membership (some are very tied to their denominational roots, and we are not), etc.? Are there anything akin to home groups that we could be involved in? (So far, not really.) And, we don't want people to expect us (as 'gringos' and 'missionaries') to be willing to run everything, either. If 'sabbath' is about rest, sometimes it's more restful, and less stressful, to just stay home.

We have been attending a church for about 2 years that we call "our church." It's a smallish Baptist church a few blocks from our house. It's full of great, very capable people--one reason we liked it; there was no pastor when we first started there, but all the programs were functioning well and they didn't need our help (!). They have a praise band that leads us in a mix of hymns and contemporary worship songs, there is a Sunday School for kids and adults, and prayer meetings during the week. It is very traditional in some things (order of service, "Baptist" governing traditions), progressive in others (women are allowed to preach, they recently started a holistic minsitry, care of the Earth is preached from the pulpit on occasion). There are things we really like and appreciate about the church, and things it lacks that we miss. No such thing as a perfect church, right?

So, while it's been a struggle, we decided to stick it out, hopeful that it'll be worth it in the long run. We know that we need to be connected to the larger body of Christ, that church isn't all about meeting our needs, and that we need to somehow form relationships outside of SI. (We LOVE our staff, and have community there, but we also know the danger exists of becoming ingrown and that outside perspective will help keep us healthy.) I keep thinking, "if they would just start small groups. . ." and someone asked me why we don't start one. The thought has crossed my mind, but leading one more thing seems too big to take on right now. And, maybe small groups don't work here, I don't know. Maybe someday we'll try it and find out. For now, though, we're still hoping for friendships and to find the community we desire through the current available means. Jeff went on the men's retreat, I on the women's retreat. . . we have actually been invited over to a couple of homes for meals, and had a few people to ours. . . I've been trying to get a few phone numbers. . . Lynnea is a natural ice-breaker. . . maybe, just maybe, we are starting to break in. So, please pray for us (and our staff who also struggle with this) that we would have the energy and time to persevere in relationships, and that God would provide the authentic communities we all crave and need.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Spring Newsletter

No excuses here, but it has been too long since our last post. Here's a start, though I realize most of you have probably seen this already: our spring newsletter. Just click on the title of this post!