Monday, December 16, 2013

Pasantes Especiales/Special Interns

These two young men helped us launch an internship program this year, and we are so proud of their work.  Justin and William are on the soccer team in Los Guido that is part of our SI-CR sports ministry.  They had both dropped out of high school, which is pretty common, but makes future job possibilities bleak.  Both of these guys had demonstrated leadership qualities, and at the beginning of 2013 we were in need of some extra help in our ministry sites.  Hence the idea to start a program to help young people finish high school (or go to trade school) while gaining valuable resume experience, give them an opportunity to be discipled, AND provide real help in our ministry sites. 

We weren't sure how it would go, but we're happy to report that it has been a good year. William and Justin have truly been a support and blessing to the sites they've been a part of, and we are all very grateful for their willingness to be guinea pigs.  Of the 4 young men who started the program in January they are the only two who finished the year.  William successfully completed a certificate program in basic electronics and Justin took a giant leap forward toward being a professional soccer player as he played regularly for a local second division team.  They  also served in our sports, social services, and micro business ministry sites.  They were a tremendous help!

As is usually the case, this program would not have been a success without God's faithful hand and many hours of hard work by our incredible co-workers.  All of our staff invested in some way in these two lives.  I (Jeff) enjoyed getting to know these two guys who are both filled with potential and have many challenges to overcome.  Throughout the year I had the privilege to laugh, cry, and pray with them.  We had several heart-to-heart conversations as we rode the roller coaster of life together, and as I tried to learn the balance between loving mentor and stern boss.  What a privilege it was to watch as both took significant steps forward in their faith journey.  In the midst of the business and the to-do lists, working with William and Justin was a reminder of why we do what we do.  They are two lives in the midst of transformation.  Yet a funny thing often happens when we seek to serve and see lives transformed, as God often does a work in our own lives.  As I sought to mentor and to teach I found myself being the student, as I learned much from these two young men.  Thank you William and Justin for being good teachers!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

That Explains It

Sawyer has hated church for as long as I can remember.  It's boring.  It's loud (he plugs his ears most of the time during worship).  It's hot.  There're too many people.  This has created problems for us, his missionary parents.  How embarrassing that this cute little blondie-foreigner cannot sit still on a chair in a crowd of people and ends up kicking them, or shouting out at the quietest moment, or in some other way is at best a distraction for sweet old ladies that want to worship and learn, or for other families whose children sit still and entertain themselves. . . or actually listen and sing and pray at all the right times.   So often one of us has ended up pulling him out and sitting in a side room with him.  Torture for him.  Torture for us.  Is he going to hate God because we make him go to church?  Hate us because we whisper threats to him, hoping no one around us speaks enough English to understand?

Some Sundays are okay.  There was the one that I let Sawyer play his harmonica down between the chairs during worship.  He played his heart out.  Many have been the kind where I wonder, "What must they be thinking about us?"  Crazy gringos.  Horrible parents.  Wild, naughty child.  All in Spanish, of course.  This kind of thinking, naturally, does a lot for feeling nourished.

We love Sawyer.  He is funny, smart, quit-witted, kind.  He is creative and imaginative.  He loves to 'fix' and invent things.  He loves puzzles and figuring out things.  When he focuses, there is no stopping or deterring him.  He needs to be told 138 times to get his socks and shoes on. . .  He loves sports, climbing, anything active.  He also loves music and God, just not-so-much in church.  He makes huge messes looking for one tiny lego piece, and then can't understand why he should clean them up.  He loses all his glue sticks and colored pencils within a week of getting new ones.  His teacher staples a note or homework list in his agenda book and sometimes they are lost by the time he gets home--and he doesn't even ride the bus.  I finally patched his school uniform pants; now the patches are getting holes.  He's an encourager and an optimist most of the time, but is easily frustrated and hurt by things that seem trivial.  He will grasp any concept that he is taught, but has a hard time remembering rules and manners.   He's loud, but hates a noisy environment.  Loves to entertain, but feels better alone or with just a couple of people.  He will throw himself on the floor playing and not get hurt, but then flip out when someone touches him.

For the last few years, we have had meetings with Sawyer's teachers and the school psychologist regarding his impulsivity and the things written above.  Every time they said to wait on evaluating him because maybe he would mature (and he has, some), maybe he just needed an iron fist, maybe he was just a normal-active little boy.  This year, his 1st grade teachers (who were angels!) finally agreed that maybe it was time to evaluate him. They were amazing, for the record. They knew all the tricks for getting him to listen, cooperate, excel and thrive.  They were patient, but firm, and loved Sawyer very much.

So we took him to a psychologist who met with Jeff and I, then met with Sawyer a couple of times.  Long story shorter is that she told us that he has ADHD.  We were not extremely surprised and were actually kind of relieved to have answers, thinking, "that explains it. . . ."

I can't say that a whole lot has changed so far.  The psych actually said we were already doing a lot of the things she would have suggested to us, and so were his teachers.  We are not medicating him at this point, and hope that it won't be necessary in the future, either.  We have cut him back almost completely on screens (computer, video games, etc.) because we learned that the visual stimulation in screens short-circuits the brains of kids with ADHD, making things like tics worse (which Sawyer has sometimes in his eye), and also aggressiveness, even if they don't watch or play violent things.  She also said kids with ADHD in particular NEED contact with nature and outside play, which was great to hear since we've seen how much having a yard helps him.  I also picked up some massage techniques from a special ed teacher I met here that make Sawyer melt like butter.  Massaging his hands and fingers is currently making church (and other crowded places that don't interest him) much more pleasant for both Sawyer and us.  Honestly, it's really bizarre how well it works to relax him.

There's a lot more to research, like diet, weighted vests, supplements. We need some new strategies in our bag of discipline tricks.  Because of some of his extreme sensitivity to certain things, I also suspect that Sawyer has some sensory processing (integration) issues, though there is debate as to whether it is simply part of ADHD (and other disorders) or if it is it's own special thing.

Do I like labelling children?  Not especially.  I hope this doesn't put Sawyer in some kind of box.  Will it help us to know how to help him, and give us more understanding?  Absolutely.  Will it help him at church, in school, in life?  I hope so.  Now that we know a little more about how Sawyer's brain works we can find ways to harness the positive things and teach him how to cope with the challenges of ADHD.

And we can pull him out of church without feeling so frustrated.  Maybe church, in the traditional sense, will never be Sawyer's favorite thing, but now we know that it's okay to give him some help to get through it.  I know he loves God.  Thankfully God understands and loves Sawyer, too, and isn't offended if he plugs his ears during worship!  Hopefully the worship team understands, too. . . .

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Between semester students, the ladies from two classes, and us teachers, we realized that we represented 6 different countries!  That's a lot of diversity for a small group, so we decided to celebrate the end of English class with a cultural activity where everyone collaborated and brought food to share from their home culture. We shared a little about pilgrims and Wampanoags, turkeys, etc., too.  It was fun--and delicious!

But the point I want to make is not actually related to the food or the cultural bit.  

We took time at the end to go around and share what we were thankful for.  It was amazing.   

Sometimes we wonder if the things we do matter.  We wonder if we are really following the Holy Spirit's leading or if we are just inventing ministries on our own in vain.  And sometimes I wonder who is ministering to who.  (to whom? Hmm.)

God used Doña C that day when she shared (again) how her life changed when Maria Eliza and I went and prayed with her one day two years ago and invited her to join the micro-finance group.  To be honest, it was all Maria.  And I really have done nothing special to deserve her love and loyalty except to push her not to give up on coming to English class.  

She has never been to school.  Four of her five children have been or are in prison.  Her husband left her several years ago.  She is raising some of her grandchildren, and she has health problems that she deals with on a daily basis.  

And yet, she has learned to read enough to be able to read the Bible.  She comes to English class, not to become fluent in English, but to exercise her mind, to get out of the house.  She is thankful for all that God has done in her life.  She is thankful for the way he has acted on her behalf in the last two years.  She said that God has been so good to her, that he has spoiled her, that he has always taken care of her.  She is so thankful for the other ladies in the group, how they encourage her and lift her up.  So thankful for Diana and Cindy, the leaders of the micro-finance ministry.  And she's thankful for me, for praying for her, for helping her learn English.  

How did I get included in that list?  I hope that I'm communicating this right.

Doña C has been through some very excruciating situations in her life.  She has suffered and has not given up.  She has persevered.  She is letting God take the muck of her life and form something beautiful.  She was so close to giving up (probably many, many times), but she hasn't.

She is a hero.  And she is thankful for (among all those other things) how God has used little-old-me in her life.  I am humbled.  I am convicted.  And constantly floored.  Her praise to God cuts my soul.  While I see and rejoice with her in all that God has done, I recognize that she is still in the middle of, and reaping, terrible circumstances.   How can she be so thankful?  

And how can I be so un-thankful sometimes?  Who is ministering to whom? (to who??)  I am definitely on the receiving end with Doña C.  And I am thankful for that.  Thankful for her special spirit.  Thankful for her example of dependency and trust in the Lord.

She lives Romans 12:12.  12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

I have found myself saying many times in the last couple of years that I will probably never know Jesus in the same way that many of the ladies in our micro-finance site have come to know him.  I haven't really concluded whether that's okay or not.  I do, however, deeply respect and admire the strength of spirit, the depth of faith, that has developed in women like Doña C because of clinging to God in the middle of suffering and pain.  So, while I might teach Doña C a few words in English, she has taught me infinitely more.

I have much to be thankful for.  And I guess I'll keep teaching English class, because I have so much still to learn.  

Psalm 103

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Own Understanding

Yesterday in English class with the "avanzadas" (the advanced group), our semester students shared Proverbs 3:5 with the ladies, which says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding;.

Verse 6 goes on to say:

in all your ways submit to him, 
and he will make your paths straight.

In light of some of the issues several ladies from English class are facing (financial, immigration, health, unfaithful husbands, etc.), this verse was spot on for yesterday's class.  (Thank you Cristina and Elina.)  And I have been thinking about it ever since, in light of some of the things that friends are facing, that we are, too.  Things look very bleak if we see only with human eyes and human understanding.   How many times have I said things like, "God wants us to use our brain."  Or, "God gave us a brain for a reason."  But, as I have been pondering the words above, words that I memorized in my 4th grade Sunday School class, I am struck that I rely on my 'own understanding' far too often.  And I 'submit to him', or another version says 'acknowledge him,' far too little.  I try to straighten my own paths more than I trust God to do it.

Let me clarify that I DO think God wants us to use and exercise our brains, our creativity, etc. In fact the scriptures strongly encourage us to seek wisdom and understanding, to grow in our knowledge of God, etc.  But even wisdom originates with God, and is given to us by him.

I have had the luxury of a lot of safety nets in my life, including family, government, the race and class I was born into, my education, etc.  Until the last few seasons, I have not really had to depend much on the Lord.  (At least I have not recognized my dependency on the Lord.)  I can figure a lot of things out on my own, or someone I know will help me.  My 'own understanding' has typically been enough for me. And even when it hasn't been, my tendency is to worry, not to take things to God.  The culture I grew up in encourages me to be self-sufficient, independent, able to conquer anything I put my mind to.  It does not encourage me to be dependent on God, interested in the common good, or submitted to any plans God might have for my life (especially if they do not resemble the "American Dream" in some form).  My culture says it's all about me and what I want, what I can do, how smart I am.

Even the Christian culture in the USA gets these things confused sometimes. . . but I think that's another blog post.

I have written before about how much the ladies in English class teach and encourage me.  Hopefully they learn enough English to balance the scales!  As I look at some of the desperate situations they face, and as I have been learning a new kind of dependency on God, much of it from their example, those words in Proverbs take on a new, deeper meaning for me.  I might be a smart person (and I may or may not believe I'm much smarter than I really am!), but my knowledge, understanding, wisdom are NOTHING compared to God's infinity in those things.

The reality is that relying on my 'own understanding' is actually a really dumb, albeit really easy, thing to do.

So, as the paths get crooked, my current prayer is that God reminds me to trust him fully (and that he helps me trust him fully!), that I will seek HIM for answers and peace and direction, and that I will actually submit to Him when he gives those answers and direction.  The rest, the straightening of the paths, belongs to him.

Also, I am praying for the ladies in English class and all of their tough circumstances.  That they, too, will seek and trust God, and submit to him.  And that he will straighten their paths, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Little Things that Make a Big Difference

Yesterday morning as I ran errands I stopped by Mas x Menos, a local grocery store.  I walked in to discover that every senior citizen in Desamparados was there, or at least it felt like it. It all made sense when I remembered it was Wednesday and that meant it was it was Miercoles Fresco (Fresh Wednesday), which meant daylong specials on various items throughout the store.  Half of the time they are nothing to write home about, but the other half they have some great deals.  Yesterday was one of the days they had some great deals.  The best one was fresh boneless, skinless, chicken breast for 2,950 colones per kilogram (about $3/pound), the usual price is 5,100 colones per kilogram (just over $5/pound).  So since we tend to eat a lot of chicken and have freezer space to store it I bought 5 kilos of chicken breasts.

Due to some recent events at our ministry sites, preparing for our fall semester program, and the constant desire and quest to be more effective (whatever that means, but that is a blog post for another day) in our ministry sites I have been thinking a lot about poverty and the various cycles we see repeated in the communities we work in.  As I drove home from Mas x Menos I started to think about the little things that made it possible for me to take advantage of a good deal.  Little things that make a big difference, things that I have in my favor that many of my friends, here, do not.

I was able to get to the store to take advantage of the sale.  Transportation is something we tend to take for granted until we don’t have it.  I like to remind our student teams that being able to ride the bus is often a privilege.  Owning your own car is a never realized dream for many.  But the fact that I drove to the store meant that I did not have to think twice about how I was going to get the 11 pounds of chicken home.  I certainly would not want to carry it and the other items I purchased as I walked to the bus stop, climbed on the bus, fumbled for change to pay the bus, stood up on the full bus, and then walked from the stop to my house.  After all they don’t make those plastic grocery bags as strong as they used to!

I knew that we had room in the freezer to be able to store the chicken until we needed it.  I also knew that while money tends to be tight these days we had enough in our bank account to be able to make this unplanned purchase that will in the long run save us money.  Forget living paycheck to paycheck, I have been reminded lately how many of my friends are living moment to moment not knowing where the next meal is coming from.  Many of them would have been thrilled to get one chicken breast, let alone 11 pounds.

There are probably many other “little things” that combined to make it possible for me to buy that chicken.  Little things that don’t seem like a big deal like transportation, freezer space, and a few dollars in a banking account, but that make a big difference.  So often as we walk alongside people the world has forgotten I want to make a big difference or do something that will drastically change reality for people I have come to love dearly.  But yesterday as I put the chicken in the freezer I found myself thinking, “How can we empower someone with something little, that will make a big difference?” --Jeff

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Backyard

We have longed for a backyard for what feels like forever.  There are not a lot of backyards in the San Jose/Heredia/Alajuela Metro Area.  Some city planner realized years ago that this mesa (valley?) we live in had limited space and divvied it up into miniscule plots so as to be able to squish as many people as possible in between all the beautiful mountains.  Or so it would seem.  At any rate, most people here seem to value more house-space than yard-space, so not many houses have yards left, even if they started out with one.  We feel lucky to have the little green patch that we do right now.  It needs a little TLC, and we'd love for it to be bigger.  But.  We love it for what it is.

It has a cas tree that is about to be laden with cas.  And aloe vera--the biggest one I've ever seen.  The whole space can be weed-wacked in about 10 minutes.  Since our dryer is out of commission, we can hang our clothes out and they dry fast (if it's sunny).  It's big enough for a kiddie pool, a rope 'swing', reading books, and a little patch for the kids to throw seeds into.  You can even throw a ball back there--though not too high--we've had to retrieve three balls from the roof/gutter so far.  

Laundry (pila) area
Roofed clotheslines
How I actually like to dry the clothes (but I still miss the dryer, for the record)

Makeshift closet/storage area/bodega (red door is to the guest room)

Yay for sun and water!!

Reading with friends who visited (note the aloe vera on the back wall)

Changes Changes Changes

I checked the blog today and realized it's been about 3 months (!) since our last post.  Wow.  A lot has happened here since April.  I'll give the sped-up version of things.

In April, the SI-CR office was relocated from our home to a house near the language school that we partner with.  It felt strange, but right, to not have the office buzzing upstairs above our heads.  God provided just the right place for the new office.  It's the one I had mentioned and many of you prayed for, with a big meeting room, a storage room, kitchen, small office space, etc.  Thank you for praying with us for this!  We are still in the process of unpacking and organizing the spaces in the new office, but it has already proved to be just what we as an organization needed.  

In May SI-CR hosted a training time/retreat for our staff, plus the staff from Nicaragua.  We even had a family from New Zealand here that is headed to Fiji!  It was quite the international event!  Recently, we welcomed two teams (from Reedley, CA, and Indiana) who were both great groups.  They were able to help break in the new office and be guinea pigs in how to run things from a place that was not also our home.  Both groups served alongside our staff in the five ministry sites, participated in devotions and evening activities, and stayed with host families.  We also welcomed two summer interns (Jonathan, and Cinthia, who was a semester student this spring), and five new staff! Three of our new staff are North Americans, two are Costa Ricans.  Talk about some quick growth!!  

On June 25th, Sawyer turned seven!  7.  I think all I did was blink and my 10.5 pound baby boy turned into a big kid.  No other explanation.  Here's some pictures of his special day:

About a week and a half ago (*month ago*), we Dixons moved, too.  Yep, it happened.  We are settling in, unpacking, trying to stuff our things into two closets and a few kitchen cabinets, and ENJOYING having some green space again!  

Taken from the side of the front, at night.  Parking.
It is not the house of our dreams.  I feel like I have to say that for the sake of being honest.  God definitely led us here, we feel we are supposed to be here, and we even LIKE it.  But, I can't say that I am super excited about it like I wish I was.  I wish God had provided the PERFECT thing for us.  Perfect as in my definition of perfect.  But he didn't.  I know there are lots of things to learn from that, and I'm learning them.  Slowly.  The house IS growing on me, and I've been praying like crazy about my attitude and disappointment that we haven't been able to buy, that the yard isn't bigger, etc. (I mean, honestly, I have issues).  The more we unpack, and the more shelves Jeff builds to put all the things we unpack, the more at home I feel, and the more I can see the benefits of this new place.  And, it's funny, because in some ways, God answered some very specific requests that I had:
*There is a window in every room.  The ventilation isn't great, but the natural light is amazing.  I can even see green out the kitchen window!  
*We have green!  Not a lot, but enough.  It's enough for the kids to play, get dirty, plant bean seeds, and hang a rope from the tree and swing.  There's a city lot across the street, too, that we can take advantage of.  
*The floor plan makes sense to us, for the most part.  
*The kitchen is big enough for several people to be in all together at the same time.  Granted, there isn't nearly enough counter space, but Jeff and the guys at the wood shop are remedying that.  
*We have a guest room.  Right now it's a storage area for bins and boxes and random stuff, and it may or may not have a couple of leaks, but it's GOING TO BE the guest room.  
*Our new house is about 5 blocks from the new office--well inside our geographical 'circle.'

The Backyard
3 kids in one room + bathroom

We are rich in children's books.
Overall, I really am thankful.  Thankful to be moved.  Thankful not to have to scour the internet and run around looking at houses like a crazy person for awhile.  Thankful for green.  Thankful that the kids are adjusting well to sharing a room and sharing smaller space in general (they've had their moments of needing alone time and space that we just don't have here, but overall. . .)  Thankful for our cas tree and our giant aloe vera plant.  Thankful to see the clouds and sky.  Thankful to be close to the new SI-CR office.  Thankful that I can trust God that this home IS where he wants us for now, and  that he will provide the next one, too.  Thankful for my husband.  Thankful for my kids and the work I see God doing in each of them.  Thankful for all he is doing in SI-CR.  Thankful for new staff.  Thankful for all of our amazing staff.  Thankful for great teams and the communities we work in.  Thankful for all of our faithful supporters and prayer warriors that are so vital to all that happens here.  Thankful for a God who helps me be content and thankful and changes my attitude faithfully and patiently.  

*****  Now that more time has passed and I am FINALLY publishing this, MORE has happened.  Olivia also had a birthday, number 9, (see pics below), we have put our guest room to use 3 times, and are hosting a mixed team from The Well Church in Fresno, and Bellvue Christian in WA.  We are blessed.

How did this 9+ pounder become a 9 YEAR OLD???

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

His Presence

Exodus 33:12-17

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 The Lord replied, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

I read this the other day as part of the Jesus Calling devotional I've been reading.  And here are some of my thoughts about it.  It was timely, b/c I've referenced this passage recently while talking about finding a house for us to move into. And because we saw a house with a yard last week that we actually liked at a price we can think about affording.  We have been really convicted throughout this whole process that God's hand is, and needs to be, involved in choosing the right place to live. We need God to show us very obviously where he wants us.  Until he does, and if he does not 'go with us', it's better to wait.

I feel like I should add that I don't think God works this way all, or even most, of the time.  Most of the time I think God says something along the lines of, "I gave you a brain; use it.  I gave you freedom; use exercise it."  When we bought our house in CA, we simply looked for 1) something we liked in 2) our price range.  Two filters.  Yes, we considered neighborhoods and resale, but barely.  It wasn't excruciating to find that house.  I think we looked at maybe five others (maybe) along with ours.  And when we saw it, we knew.  I think we moved in within about a month.  I think that house was God's provision and blessing for us, and he gave us a lot of freedom in choosing it.

This time, we have more filters with which to sift the options.  We feel constrained.  We feel like we could easily make the wrong choice.  We are accountable to more people, our ministry, our kids, more responsibilities.  Our biggest filter this time is geographic location so that we are not too far away from (or inaccessible to) staff, the communities we work in, the students and groups that come, and the new office (!).

Defining 'too far' has been a Gethsemane battle, because we could move up far into the mountains, where it is beautiful and peaceful, have a finca, pay very little, and justify the distance and tranquility with finances.  Or, we can keep looking within the circle (more or less) that we feel convicted to stay within, which means (generally speaking) few and small yards, expensive properties (to rent or buy), noise, and crime.  The pay off for option #2 is convenience.

Option #2 is where God has called us.

Anyway, the temptation is strong, folks, and I have had to sacrifice my will to his over and over.  And over.  What I 'like' seems to be becoming the least important of the filters. . .  and so even-more-so, we need God to show us, we need to know.  He could lead us to the diamond in the rough (Oh, I hope!), but he might not.  Ouch.  Then what?  He's God.  Will I choose to accept his will and be content?  Will I trust him? While we have a lot to consider and a lot of responsibilities, we also recognize that we are not more important, or more special, than anyone else who also might prefer to have a yard-and-tranquility-and-a-guest-room-and-windows-in-all-the-bedrooms-and-a-kitchen-that-more-than-two-people-can-hang-out-in-and-, wait--I may or may not be on the verge of whining.

Will I trust him?  Will I trust him if his Presence leads us through the desert?  To a house I don't like? Will I trust him if his Presence leads through suffering?  If he doesn't do what I think he should?

I want to say that, yes, of course.  But, if I'm honest, I'd rather not be tested on that one yet. . . and, while they go hand-in-hand, maybe sometimes obeying out of sheer grit is easier than actually trusting and having peace.

This giving up my preferences and the things I have for so long considered my 'rights' is, by far, the hardest part (maybe the ugliest, too) of my USA identity and culture to sacrifice.  (Jesus, how did you give up so much???  And how am I ever going to be able to have that same attitude???  Phil. 2)

It's not called a refiner's fire for nothing.

"My Presence will go with you." Yep, I know I don't deserve it, but that's what I want, too.  What I need.  

"I will give you rest."  Funny that Moses didn't even ask for that, but God knew he needed it.  

"I am pleased with you and I know you by name."  Pretty amazing to hear from The.God.of.the.Universe. Moses was full of faults and humanity, just like me.  And God knew him and was pleased with him.  So, there's hope for me, too. :)  

God, please make your Presence obvious to us.  Maybe not the pillar of smoke and fire, but something, so that we know where you want us to go, to live.  Help us to trust you while we wait, and help us to trust you when you say to go--no matter what the house looks like, no matter how much it costs, whether it has a yard or not, whether or not it's what I imagine.  Your will, not mine.  We just want your Presence to go before us.  Don't let us go anywhere without it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Programa de Becas

In December, as we looked forward to 2013, we had two challenges that combined to create a great opportunity.  We were wanting to have more help at some of our ministry sites to continue to be able to grow and improve.  Simultaneously we had several guys on our soccer team who were needing something more.  We had guys who were ready for a next step as they considered their education and we also wanted to find ways to have a more intense discipleship and mentoring program with a few guys. Due to varying circumstances many of the guys on the soccer team are in night school or only attending high school a couple of days a week, so this means one of their biggest resources is time.  A few of the guys asked us if there was something they could do to work and further their studies. So in conversations with Diego Soto (Our director of Sports and Recreation and also the coach of the soccer team) the idea for the "Programa de Becas" or Scholarship Program was born.

In January we started a pilot program with room for three participants.  As part of the program they would be required to be attending some form of high school, attend the weekly English class we offer for the soccer team at the Tutoring Center, attend a weekly meeting, and work 3 or 4 days a week at a ministry site.  As part of the program they  receive the use of books for high school and enrolment in a trade school class of their choice.

The program has gotten off to a great start, although we did have to ask one participant to leave the program as he was not completing the requirements.  However, this happened early enough that we were able to add one more from the waiting list to have a total of 3.  Rigo, William, and Justin have been incredible!  They have been a tremendous help at our ministry sites and helping us host short-term teams.  Please pray that God would continue to transform their lives through the formal and informal times our staff share with them.

Rigo signing up children for an activity at the sports ministry site

Rigo, William, Justin (on the right), and some of our staff with a team we recently hosted from Mississippi.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Few More Things

1. I never gave a report on my eye surgery last November.  (Oh, for consistent blogging. . .) Praise the Lord!  The surgery was successful and all my follow-up appointments have shown good scar tissue and no new areas of concern.  The doctor ended up sealing up most of the sides in both of my eyes, which was a little spooky, but also good that she caught all the little potential problems.  The other great thing is that our insurance covered most of it!!  Whew.  Thankful on all counts.

2. In December, right before Christmas, my Grandpa Roub (dad's dad) slipped on some ice and broke his hip.  After a successful surgery, he experienced complications that unexpectedly led to his death.  I was able to go to Minnesota to be with everyone for his funeral, for which I was, and am, so very grateful.  These are the things that can make Costa Rica feel really far away.  My grandpa was a wonderful man.  A word several people used to describe him was steady.  He was a steady example of a follower of Christ, of a husband, father, grandpa, friend.  I know he is having a marvellous time in heaven, and am thankful for the hope I have of seeing him again, but for now I miss him.

The 3rd Generation (minus Jeff) at Grandpa's funeral

3. At the beginning of January our 2nd-ever semester program with Fresno Pacific University kicked off.  This spring we are hosting 14 enthusiastic young men and women in our program.  They are living with host families, studying Spanish, and taking courses with us on culture and incarnational ministry.  They will also travel to Nicaragua for a week this month.  We love semester programs for their life-impacting potential, and the chance to mentor students on a longer-term basis.
FPU semester students + some SI staff 

The BEACH!!!
4. Recently, my parents visited with us for about 10 days.  We got to take advantage of a wedding near the beach and an excursion with our semester students from FPU to do some 'touristy' things with them.  It was fun, and I'm pretty sure they were tired out from playing with Olivia, Sawyer and Lynnea by the end!
At the Basilica in Cartago

Grandpa's "surprise" birthday party, planned by Olivia
At the house we rented near Playa Negra

2 Things: School 2013 & Office/House Update

School 2013
We'll start with the good news.  :)  Yesterday and today initiated the start of the 2013 school year here in Costa Rica.  Olivia and Sawyer both had great first days back, as did Lynnea (though she's been going intermittently to daycare since December).  As I dropped the older ones off at their classrooms, met their teachers, listened to the principal share her pep talk and hopes for the new year, and put the students, teachers and facilities in God's hands, I felt confirmed that this is the right place for them again this year.  See, this last year I started thinking about homeschooling.  Gasp.  Yes, I, the teacher who has never had a desire to try teaching her own children at home, opened the door of my heart a little bit to the possibility.  The main reason is finances.  St. Michael has been getting more expensive every year by about 10-15%, and I would rather choose to homeschool before I am  forced to homeschool.  But all the positive reasons that we have them there in the first place were right in front of my eyes the last couple of days.  Caring teachers, good friends, bilingual education, a great playground (I cannot over-emphasize the playground), positive environment, art/music/P.E./computer/extra-curriculars, organized curriculum--St. Michael is a great place.  It's not perfect, but what school is?  And we see it as the closest, most economical, best option for our kids.  Now, I know that the whole rest of the year is ahead of us, and a lot could happen.  But, I am thankful, for now, that we can keep them there.  We're going to drive them ourselves to save expenses on bus service--might end up being a frustrating idea since the entrance/road getting in is narrow and gets backed up like crazy--but since Olivia and Sawyer are on the same schedule this year, at least it's only one drop-off and pick-up per day.  We'll see how it goes.

Office/Home Search
In other news, we are hunting for a new office location, and still looking for a new home for our family as well.  To be honest, while it's been really interesting to look at so many places, we feel like we've turned over every rock and leaf and come up with NOTHING.

There is a possible office location on the same street as the language school we work with, and therefore near our host families and near bus lines, that we think would be perfect.  It has a big-separate-open room for meetings, devotions and team activities, English classes, etc.  And also a small house that we could use for individual offices, storage, a work station for students, cooking/baking for different events, etc.  It even has a little back yard that students, staff, people from our ministry sites, etc. could sit and enjoy.  The only problem is that the rent is at least double what SI-CR is paying now for the current office that is part of our home.  We had the idea of renting one of the rooms to a staff member, but it looks like that won't work out, so the finances are even more limited.  We, and the neighbors, feel that they are asking too much for the space, but that probably they have invested a lot of money into it (they just bought it and are remodelling it) and can't afford to go lower.  So, we're not sure what to do.  In the meantime, we're waiting, I guess.  We don't want to cheat them, but we simply can't afford what they are asking.  We are trusting that God will show us exactly where he wants the next SI office to be, as well as make the finances work out. . .

As far as a home for our family. . . more NOTHING.  We've looked at a lot of mediocre options that are too expensive, a few good options that are even more expensive or too far away, and a few things that just plain would NOT work for a multitude of reasons.  For example, Jeff and I looked at a 1/4 acre lot today that is being sold for about $22,000, only to find out it's located right above the huge stinky dump, and on a steep dirt road that might be impossible to climb in rainy season.  No wonder it's so cheap.  Waste of time.  Sigh.

So, on the plus side, the search has been interesting, and we've also successfully eliminated half (or more) of Desamparados from all the possibilities.  I actually have a notebook that is filling up with big X's.

Please pray for us.  We're really not sure what we're supposed to do, or what God is trying tell us or teach us in all of this--or if he is.  Will he find us 'just the right thing'?  Or will he teach us to adjust our idea of 'just right'?  Should we rent or buy?  Should we try to get a loan here after all, even with high interest rates? (Someone recently told us about a law here that says foreign banks can't hold titles on houses in CR, not that we had much hope in soliciting Wells Fargo anyway. . . )  Should we invest money in something we don't like, even if it's all we can afford?  Should we try to get a personal loan?  From who?  Should we pay a ridiculous rent (or mortgage) to get something with a yard and windows that would have room for guests (our desire)?  Is it too much to ask for a floor plan that makes sense?  Are we asking for too much?  Being too picky?  Is something else going on that we are unaware of??  Maybe we're just being impatient and not trusting the Lord enough.

Maybe we're just plain going crazy running circles like these around in our heads!?!?!   : P

Seriously, please, pray for us.  We're tired of guessing what would be best for us.

P.S.  I have discussed with the Lord that I'd be much more open to homeschooling if we had a great yard for doing recess. . .  I'm sure he loves that.