Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I have known Elvis for almost 5 years.  He was one of the first youth to come to the woodshop when it opened.  His attendance at the shop has gone in spurts.  He will have months or even a year that he is at the shop faithfully several times a week, then a few moths in which we won’t see him more than to say hello.  As I am not at the shop everyday my interaction is limited with Elvis.  However, I cherish the interactions we do have.  He may be the most knowledgeable Tico I know when it comes to U.S. sports such as football and baseball.  So of course we often talk sports and he frequently tells me the Broncos will never win the super bowl.

I enjoy these conversations about sports but more so enjoy the conversations about life.  I frequently ask Elvis about what he is learning and what God is teaching him.  For a long time if he had not gone to church recently he didn’t know how to answer, because to Elvis what God was teaching him was exclusively tied to the last sermon he had heard.  And too be honest Elvis’ church attendance is let’s just say sporadic.  However he is receptive to the Lord and eager to talk about spiritual matters.

Over the last five years I have watched as Elvis has grown from a squirrely young teen-age boy into a man.  He has grown in patience, perseverance, responsibility, truthfulness, and grown closer to the Lord.  Recently two events have demonstrated Elvis’ growth.  First he finished 8th grade.  Elvis dropped out of school several years ago, and went back to night school this year.  He stuck to it and was able to pass the year and advance to 9th grade.  He also finished a ukulele at the shop (the photo above is of Elvis with his ukulele in process).  He persevered and showed patience as he chiseled, planed, and sanded his ukulele by hand.  The Elvis I met almost 5 years ago would not have accomplished either of these.

Over the time I have known Elvis God has slowly transformed his life.  It has been transformed through consistent interactions with our staff members at the shop who have faithfully and consistently poured into his life.  Thank you Jeremy, Dustin, Jehudi, and Joshua for pouring into Elvis!  I see great potential in Elvis as he continues to become the man God is calling him to be.  I look forward to watching what God will do in and through my friend in the years to come.

La Convivencia

In October we were approached by the principal at the school we partner with in La Capri (this is the school where our Special Education Ministry Site is located and we also have sports programs at the school) about helping with the “Convivencia” for the 6th graders.  The “Convivencia” is a traditional year end activity celebrating the 6th graders accomplishment of finishing elementary school and launching them into high school (here we don’t have Jr. High/Middle School.  It is straight from 6th grade to High School).  Usually this event is done in conjunction with the school religion teacher and very rarely is an outside organization trusted with thus event, let alone an evangelical one.  As we continued to talk with the principal it became clear that she did not want us to help with the event, but rather she wanted us to take charge of the event.  So we politely said we would be happy to do so, but we would clearly present the Gospel during it.  She said that would be fine.

Over the next few weeks as we began to plan I asked myself several times what we had gotten ourselves into.  You see there are 4 sixth grade classrooms at the school with over 30 students in each class.  So we were in essence planning a party for over 120 6th graders who look forward to this day for years. No pressure.

A local camp connected to the church we attend agreed to let us use their camp for the day at less than 25% of their usually fee, since it was during the week and an event working with youth from an at-risk neighborhood.  We also were able to schedule the day during an outreach so we would have extra logistical help.  The team members from Highlands Church in Paso Robles, CA were amazing as they helped prepare and serve food, fill water balloons, clean up, etc.  We could not have done it without them.

Too be honest I had little to do with the actual planning of the event as our staff members Diego, Jana, and MacKenzie took care of the planning and preparation.  The rest of our staff joined us for the day and it was a tremendous success!  Our staff members worked in teams as each team was in charge of a group of about 15 6th graders as we moved through 4 game stations in the morning.  Each game was debriefed afterward discussing the values we could learn from each one and how those could help us as we started high school.  Our staff also took advantage of every opportunity to talk about Jesus, and how we all need him.

Following lunch the associate pastor, Roberto, from our church shared a great message about conquering the giant that is high school and clearly presented the Gospel.  After a time of response and reflection each student received an envelope of letters from key people in their lives encouraging them during this time of transition.

The day went better than we could have imagined.  The 6th graders had a great time, a memorable time, and repeatedly heard about Jesus.  It was also a humbling day.  Humbling to think about the favor God has given us in the communities where we work. To see some of the now young adults whom we have been working with for the last 4 years enjoy this day was rewarding.  It is also humbling to reflect on being asked to do this event.  For an evangelical organization to be asked to do this type of event by a public school is unheard of.  Praise God for his faithfulness and for allowing us to be his hands and feet.  Please join us in praying that the seed that were planted and watered that day would grow and flourish into Godly men and women.

Here is a slideshow of pictures from the “Convivencia.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

15,000 words more or less

 The view from the porch.  So many shades of green and red!

 The "chicken coop" that currently houses our trash and recycling.  Also doubles as a playhouse.  The gate to the right goes up the mountain to the lookout and bonfire pit.

View through the fence where we are going to plant some veggies.

 Tucker, who we adopted with the house, and Cici.  Thankfully, they get along wonderfully.  I think they got mixed up about their beds, however. . .

 The road that runs in front of the house.  To the left is Desamparados Centro, to the right Patarrá and Los Guido.

 Bathroom #1.  Fun and spacious.  To the left is a HUGE closet.

 Sawyer's room which doubles as a guest room. At such times he is happy to sleep on the floor in the other bedroom.

 Olivia and Lynnea's room.  Check out the perfect bed nook.

 Master bedroom.  Windows, windows, windows!

 Bathroom #2, aka master bathroom.  Shower and toilet are to the left, but I wanted to highlight the storage area!

 The AMAZING kitchen!  It is about 3 or 4 times bigger than each of the other kitchens we've had here, plus tons of cupboards and counter tops.  And WINDOWS!!

 The dining room.

 The living room.  Beautiful wood, and more windows!  The area behind the couch houses books, art supplies, toys, and some boxes that still need to be unpacked.

 From the driveway.  The kids now have room to ride scooters and bikes.  They also love the basketball hoop.

Looking up the left side of the house to the patio/laundry area.

I realized I didn't get a good shot of the actual porch, which is also AWESOME, nor of the mountain or fire pit.  But, in order to get some pictures up here, those will just have to wait for another post. . .  
Thank you to all who have prayed (and prayed and prayed) with us about housing!  Thank you, Jesus, for this over-the-top provision!!  Praise him with us?!!

1 + Months Already!!

Many of you have heard that we moved into the amazing house that I posted about a few months ago.  It's TRUE.  It all happened quickly at the end, but here we are.  God is GOOD.  Praise God with us!  We were in the middle of hosting teams and other guests, so I hadn't had time to do more than post a few random pictures on Facebook.  Entonces, I'm making myself sit down to write a post that will hopefully fill in some of the details.

Essentially what happened is that the missionaries that own this house really want/ed to sell it.  It would have been so much easier for them to return to Canada without a house here in Costa Rica to think about.  They all-but-sold it twice, but backed out of each deal for lack of peace and a conviction that they weren't supposed to sell to either of those couples.  So, after that roller-coaster ride, knowing that we were really interested in it, but without a way to buy it, they asked if we'd rent it while they took some more time to pray and regroup.  So, after a couple of conversations working out the details, we packed our stuff and moved it over.  (At the end it all came together in maybe a week or something!?!)

So here we are.  We keep marvelling at the way God has worked things out.  "We get to live here?  Really?"

This property is truly amazing.  We are still very close to our office, ministry sites, host families, etc.  We are on the main road (our only reminder that we are, in fact, still in the city), but surrounded by fruit trees, grass and flowers.  There is an amazing 'mountain' that rises behind the house to the bonfire pit and a breathtaking view of San Jose.  The house is spacious, has an amazing kitchen, porch, and tons of windows.  I'm serious about the windows.  Somehow washing dishes isn't so bad when you have a great view.

We have already had the privilege of hosting Jeff's parents and our nephew Thomas, as well as Nate and Maggie Slabach, as overnight guests.  And we've been able to host cultural activities/bonfires with 2 different teams, plus a couple of other activities.  Amid the many unpacked boxes and chaos of moving (our guests have all been very gracious!) we have been in awe to see God fulfil this sueño (dream) and allow us to steward such a place as this.  May we steward well.

Olivia, Sawyer, and Lynnea are all thrilled, too.  I was watching Sawyer playing outside yesterday, running and shouting and throwing and other boy-things, and it struck me again how much God cares not only about our ministry, but also about our kids.  I trust that the years that we have lived without a yard and without amazing windows have been for great purposes, too.  But my mommy heart cried out for nature and space for my kids--Sawyer especially--and God has answered in such a big way that my heart spins.  I have no way of knowing how long we will live in this house, but for this time I am thankful beyond words.

God, I was crazy to hope for something like this, to ask you for something so great; you are spoiling us and I don't deserve it, but thank you.

Please pray for the Hilstad family as they transition back to life in Canada, and that God's will would continue to be done with this house.

Pictures to follow soon!!

PS Another great thing that God has worked out of this is that the landlords of the old house were willing to hold that house for our new teammates, the Fasts, who will be arriving this week.  They will be cozy as a family of 6, but the location is perfect for them as they settle in and get to know Desamparados, especially without a car right away.  They'll be walking distance from the language school, groceries, the SI-CR office, preschool and bus lines.  The other advantage is that we can have it set up for them before they get here.  Friends, God is a God of details.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

More Housing Prayer Requests :)

If you've followed our adventure in Costa Rica at all, or have prayed for us even occasionally, you know that we desire to buy a house here.  Sparing you the monotonous details, we need to make some decisions about housing again in the near future.  Our rental contract will be up soon for this 'new' house we moved into last year.  We have also been keeping our eyes open (though not really actively looking) for properties for sale.

So here's the deal:
Please PRAY!  We need direction from God.  Pray that we will hear him clearly, that he will open and close doors very specifically.  Things like location, finances, hospitality possibilities, and a yard are all important to us.

*If we are supposed to stay in this house--that we could arrange a new, fair contract, that any rise in rent would be minimal.

*If we are supposed to keep renting but move somewhere new--that God would lead us to the right place, in the right timing (around team / summer / semester schedules), be for long-term, and close the door to the house we are in currently

*If we are supposed to buy something--that God would drop the right thing in our laps, provide for a low-intrest rate loan and down payment, etc.

*If we are supposed to buy THIS house:  (Click below and check it out!)

A House We REALLY Like!

--That we would know, the owners would know, and that all the finances would come together.  Please pray specifically about this one!!  Last year there was a house we were interested in and it sold within a week of seeing it.  I actually called on it to move forward and it had sold the day before!  God gave us great peace about that situation--it wasn't for us.

We are praying the same for this opportunity, too, something like this, "God, if this is the place, please open the door wide, and provide a way for us to be able to financially make this happen.  If it is not for us, please let someone else sweep in and buy it quickly--have mercy and don't let us get our hopes up if it is a closed door."

So, hopefully you've looked at the pictures and are wowed.  :)  Let me just emphasize some of the things we love about this property.  Of all the ba-jillions of properties we've looked at, this is pretty much what we've been praying for.  It is in a great, safe location for us and our ministry sites, has a lot of land (WAY more than we need!), and has great possibilities for adding a guest room/suite (or 2).  There is a bonfire pit at the top of the hill, and a great spot for camping out.  It's an older home, but the missionaries who own it have done a ton of work on it, so it is 'move-in ready,' which we love because we have neither time nor know-how to do much more than paint and take care of occasional fix-ups.  The kitchen is A.MAZING.  Go look at the kitchen pictures again.  Amazing, right?  We would be so spoiled.  And there are tons of windows through the whole house, making for lots of natural light and great ventilation.

So, what's the catch???

First of all, we've been pretty cautious through this whole process to pray and seek God's direction for all the houses we've looked at, so we want prayer and confirmation from those who love and know us, and our situation, best.  We feel accountable to all of you who make it possible for us to be here, who support us, pray for us, encourage us.  Bottom line is that we want to live where God wants us to live--exactly where he wants us to live.  Just because we've found what we think is the 'perfect thing' doesn't mean it's really what God wants for us.  I've written about this before that maybe sometimes God doesn't really care where people live, but in our case, we need to be accessible, not too far away from our staff and ministry, etc.

The second thing is finances.  Real estate in the San Jose area is not cheap.  From a human standpoint, we cannot afford this house.  The owners are asking $225,000.  For as close to the city as it is, as much land as it is, the condition of the house, etc., this is a VERY GOOD price.  It appraised for $100,000 MORE than they are asking.  Whoever gets this property will be getting a really great deal.  There are other houses close to us that are not as nice, with little or no yards, that are also around that price.  (The one we are in currently is selling for about $140,000, which is a fair price, but doesn't have a lot of future possibilities.)  Anyway, if this is the house for us, God will be doing a miracle.  Plain and simple.  And he will get all the glory for that.

Soooooo, we want to put some feelers out and ask for input.  Are we CRAZY to even look at this as a possibility???  Does it seem like a good deal?  What is God telling you about it?  Does it seem wiser to keep renting?  Inflation is so crazy here and rents go up all the time. . . we do not relish the idea of moving every couple of years. . . Is it wise to buy?  Would we be able to resell?  Should we sell our house in Visalia?  Any insights or creative ideas for financing???   Bottom line: Pray for God's will to be obviously clear.

If you have any questions or anything, please contact us.  And thank you.  Thank you for praying about these things with us!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Earthquakes and Rocks

"For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear, 
but even then my faithful love for you will remain. 
My covenant of blessing will never be broken," 
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.  
Isaiah 54:10

The LORD is my rock, 
my fortress, 
and my savior; 
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.  
He is my shield, 
the power that saves me, 
and my place of safety.  
Psalm 18:2

Haven't blogged for awhile.  Sometimes too many half-formed ideas and thoughts are swimming around, percolating, in my mind and I can't pin them down enough to write about them.  But this is a big idea that God  has been teaching me in the last season or two.  I think I can write about it now.

Some things have happened around us this past year that have been really hard.  Things that have been both harder and easier for us to watch and be a part of because we live "far away."  Many times I have thanked God for his mercy because we have possibly been spared a lot of heartache due to distance; other times I have maybe grieved more deeply because we couldn't be closer to help and be more involved.  We have likened these events to many things, but I think the most accurate description would be that they have been like earthquakes.  Earthquakes in the sense that sometimes we take for granted certain aspects of our lives as givens, and then something happens to shake it all up, mess it all up, or even just plain change it all.

I look up to the mountains-
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the LORD
who made heaven and earth!  
Psalm 121:1-2

How many times have I looked to the mountains for help?  Counted on the mountains and the things I considered constants in life to be there, to help me---only to have them be shaken, torn down, disappeared?  People, churches, jobs, families, health, hearts--they can all change.  Loyalties can shift, things die.  Some changes are good and for positive reasons.  But usually there is also loss and grieving, even in the best of changes.  The things I once thought would always be around seem to be so swiftly  shaken up and swept away. 

So, where does my help come from?  Who is my Rock?  If everything around or in us falls apart, where do we turn?  Although I always knew the right words, this last year I have really seen, really been learning, that God is the only rock that will never be moved.  My loyalty is to God alone.  My trust is in God alone.  God is my only refuge, my place of safety, my only shield.  The mountains may move--in fact they probably will--but God will always be the constant that does not crumble.  God will strengthen, God will save, God will redeem, and God will bless.  My hope is in him.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken. 
Psalm 62:5-6