Saturday, November 28, 2009

Almost There!

From Jeff: We have just 4 more days of classes left! It is hard to believe that it is December when it is 79 degrees out with a light breeze blowing. Time seems to have flown by. As for our Spanish, I can only say that it has improved over the first day I arrived. I had to retell a story about a disobedient mouse today in class, using the past tense. I made it through okay, but I felt as though my head might explode at any moment. My level of speaking ability compares favorably with a 2 year old. I may have to get involved with a ministry to Spanish-speaking babies somewhere. Hopefully, the next trimester will see me improve to the level of a kindergarten student. Our last exam comes on Tuesday!! Then, hopefully we'll get our grades!!

From April: Boy, it's been a busy couple of weeks! Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. We spent it with our cousin Bill, who has lived here in Costa Rica for 16 years. He brought the turkey and it was wonderful! His girlfriend and her son came as well. It was a great night.
We had a three day weekend which was also nice. We were able to get some Christmas shopping done down town. I spent most of the weekend preparing for the Christmas party in La Carpio. I think I mentioned it before, but La Carpio is a Nicaraguan slum. It is built in around a trash dump in a old mine for cement material. (I don't know what exactly you put in cement but....) Now there are about 50,000 people living there. Most houses are of corrogated metal. The city doesn't recognize property rights there, so people build but never actually own the land. So, as you can imagine there is a lot of poverty and crime, but also a lot of great people just trying to survive.

The idea was to do a movie night on Thursday as a Christmas party. We were going to show the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and then present the gospel. Some popcorn and drinks and we were all set, right? That's what I thought. Well, a couple of churches in the states donated about $450 for gifts, which was awesome. Well, the woman in charge of the party wanted to decorate gift bags for the kids. Then she wanted to buy different gifts based on gender and age. So.... Friday night we decorated bags. Saturday, we shopped all day. Sunday, we decorated bags. Monday, I played for a Christmas Party at the school. Tuesday, we spent 7 hours in La Carpio decorating the room and making up the gift bags.

Ok, so here I am trying to survive the week of school with a grammar exam and a difficult subject to understand. I didn't have a great attitude about all the time preparing for the party. I was exausted and frustrated and hadn't spent any time with my family. I am sure you know what I mean. I was on the verge of tears every moment. I didn't even want to go the party.
I had told the girl in charge that I wasn't going but I don't think she heard me. So, when the email went out about the part, I was in charge of a couple games, so I went.

We had planned for 150 kids which is double what we normally have. When we pulled up the the gym on Thursday, there were about 400 kids! Word had gotten out that there were presents! Every plan we had made had to be changed. The movie was out. We couldn't use the room we had decorated. The kids could hardly fit in the gym and they would not quiet down enough to sing carols or hear any gospel presentation. Five of us had to go dump out all of the bags we had decorated and then sort everything into different boxes. The kids lined up down the street and we gave out one item to each kid. It took an hour and a half just to pass out presents. But, God was good and we had enough!

I don't know what exactly the moral to this story is. It was quite an experience. I just find it comical that the 25 hours spent planning for the party were all for nothing! Serves me right for having a bad attitude! Nothing went according to plan. But, I'll tell you one thing- everyone in that neighborhood knows that there is a place where people love God and love them. So hopefully, God will use this event to open doors for the full-time missionaries there. But, I did come home to a bouquet of gerber daises from Jeff. He was such a support this week.

Well, that's enough about that. We can't wait to see you all. Only one more week. It's so hard to believe! Love to you all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Home Stretch

Three weeks to go and the heat is on! All of a sudden we are getting lots more homework! At the mid-term break we had meetings with all of our teachers to talk about each class and how it was going. I humbly requested more homework and it looks like I am finally getting my wish! Since we will only be here for two-thirds of the normal time, we had hoped we could move quickly so that we could complete most of the grammar. Spanish is not as easy as I once thought. Picking up vocabulary is the easiest part. Actually using it correctly in speech is decidedly not easy. There are so many different verb conjugations (endings of which there seems to be an infinite amount), words need to be in agreement according to their "gender" (casa bonito is incorrect- it should be casa bonita), indirect and direct pronouns appear before the verb (as opposed to after the verb in most English sentences), some verbs are reflexive requiring a pronoun to be inserted before the verb, and the list could go on. The encouraging part for us is that we should finish the trimester one-third of the way through the grammar for the next trimester.

Camden has been cleared to resume his normal life. We are thankful because he was driving us nuts being in the house all day not able to go do something! He does need to take one more test, but that should be the end of his little ordeal.

We visited a missionary friend named Roger Reeck in the hospital yesterday. Roger primarily serves in Honduras but travels all over doing training and lots of other stuff. Several years ago he showed up at our hotel in Managua and almost got a certain person with a passport photocopy out of the country. It was fun to catch up with him, though the circumstances weren't of his choosing. He fell and ruptured a tendon in his leg, had surgery, and will be in a full-leg cast for 2 months. He had just returned from Africa where he was bitten by a kind of fly that lays its eggs inside your skin. The eggs hatch and the little buggers start tunneling through your body. Remind me to not go to Africa.

April went on a walk today with our neighbor, Audrey, and past by a vendor selling scarves and knit hats. After all, it is 65 degrees here! It has been rather comical to see how bundled up many of the locals get. The sad part is that April seriously considered buying a set of them. I'm in heaven, though I still break a sweat on long walks! 5 degrees cooler would be perfect.

Friday, November 13, 2009

CAT Scans & Compliments

Wow! We've had quite the week! On Tuesday night, Camden tripped while playing soccer, crashed his abdomen into a bench, hit his head on the wall, and proceeded to vomit in the bathroom. Our neighbor, Charlie Leckie (who is a family practice doctor), checked him out and advised us to keep an eye on him. Camden ate pizza, said he felt fine, and went to bed. On Wednesday morning, he said he felt fine and went to school. We got a call Wednesday afternoon at about 2:10 saying that Camden had fainted during chapel and emergency services had been called. We rushed to the school and found him laying on the floor of the chapel in a daze. I rode with him to the hospital while April gathered up our other kids. She later joined me at the Clinica Biblica for what turned out to be a 5 hour saga. Several tests were administered on Camden, including blood & urine tests, a CAT scan, and an ultrasound for his abdomen. We found out that he wasn't pregnant and that he does have a brain. All the tests came back normal, so they let him return home with us. We weren't convinced the two incidents were related, but we wanted to make sure. By the way, if you are in need of an MRI or a CAT scan, plan a vacation to Costa Rica. The total cost of all our tests and doctors was $500. We have a friend, Nina, who has decided to get a full body check up. Not a bad idea considering the price. April is thinking of having my brain scanned to see if there is anything going on in there. The worst part of the whole deal for Camden is that he has been restricted from playing sports for 5 days.

While I was writing this blog, we experienced an earthquake!! Well, at least some serious tremors! Everything started shaking and the windows rattled as it lasted for about 10 seconds. It was pretty cool! However, I'd rather not experience anything more severe.

Lately, April has been kicking my tail in all of our classes, mostly because she studies more than I do, but also because I have been the victim of some unfortunate circumstances! We had an oral Phonetics test last week where I was the first person to take it (I volunteered to go first). I had to read about 30% more than everyone else, thereby giving me more to mess up! I scored an 80%, while April received an 85%. Oh well, those are the breaks. Then, today in Grammar class, our teacher, Maritza, comments on how much April has improved over the past 10 weeks. If this continues, April will soon have trouble getting her t-shirts to fit over her inflated head.

And, my favorite thing to happen this week: we've discovered an awesome Cantonese restaurant that serves food exactly like the food we loved while in Macau. The owner even speaks Cantonese (even though I can't speak much anymore). We have eaten Chinese 4 days this past week. It is soooooo good. We had beef bak choi today for lunch.

Today was 70 degrees and overcast with a little breeze blowing. April had to return home to put on socks, shoes, a sweatshirt and a jacket, as well as ordering a hot chocolate from Cosas. I thought it was the nicest weather since we arrived 2 months ago!

Well, gotta go. We are looking forward to being home for a while!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hitting the Wall

It took me longer than most, but I have finally hit the proverbial wall in trying to learn Spanish. Thankfully, I feel like I have busted through the wall for the most part. It was a tough week for me in my studies because I was glued to the World Series every night. The Phillies just couldn't get a big hit. Oh well. However, this has allowed April to pull ahead in our classes, much to my dismay. This week we learned direct and indirect objects and their pronoun substitutes. These are a little difficult to use when speaking because they come before the verb instead of after. For example: "Jeff gives the book to April" using pronouns becomes "I give it to her." In Spanish you would say "I her it give." Of course, this makes absolutely no sense to me. So, to actually use them I have to speak slower than a 2 year old which makes me feel about as smart as one, too. I want to go back to just butchering the language yet getting my point across. It was better for me not to know how incredibly wrong I was. Believe it or not, this actually has reinforced the topics from Spiritual Emphasis week. Most days, we don't have a clue as to how sinful we really are. When you realize how sinful you really are, it is quite humbling to know that God loves you anyways. It is easier to walk around in a bubble of "I'm doing pretty good" than to repent of our sin and try to walk in obedience.

It is 72 degrees and Maria is huddled on the couch under a blanket.

Camden and I went to see the Harlem Globetrotters perform a day after his birthday. They really put on a great show! The basketball wasn't that great, but the ball handling and the showmanship were really fun. One guy could spin the ball on his finger, transfer it to his bald head, and have the ball stop and balance on his head. That was pretty cool. The whole basketball team went so now they want to do the three man weave during a game. We had a junior high game on Thursday and we actually played pretty well. We lost 24-18, but that is a big improvement over our first game in which we lost by 41. It's hard to improve much only practicing 3 hours a week.

On Friday night, April and I got together with Pastor Eric and his wife Iris for dinner. We went to a Cantonese restaurant and it literally tasted like we were in Macau again. It was awesome! We had a great time practicing Spanish with Eric and Iris while enjoying some of the best food on earth. We rarely eat out (except for PriceSmart pizza once a week) so this was a real treat for us!

We are excited about things going on in Clare! We are praying for the FMSC event that is happening even as I write this blog! We are also excited about the baptism service! God is still at work in the lives of people!

Until next time...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hola, everyone! Today is a very exciting day for me (April). Today, something I've been dreaming of and hoping for since 1989- for 20 long years has finally come to pass. Today, I, for the first time in my life, was able to roll my R's. I have been trying to do this since freshman Spanish. I finally can. A whole new world of Spanish pronunciation has opened up. I can say carro, arriba, error, and so many more! It is a wonderful, exciting day. I have been released from my speech impediment. It is time for bed, but I just had to share the news.

We are so excited about the baptisms at Brown's. The news from home has been very exciting. God is still in the business of changing lives, including mine. I have been really challenged here in Costa Rica. Our last speaker talked about how much Christ loves us, not because of anything we do, but just because that is the way it is. You would think we already know this and we do when we are saved, but we seem to get confused along the way. We think, "Hey, I've been a Christian for 10 years. I'm doing pretty good so God must love me, at least in part, because of what I'm doing for Him." Or, we think, "I've been a Christian for 10 years and l'm a mess. God must be so disappointed in me." So we live either with pride, or with a sense that God is disappointed. We forget that Christ loves us no matter what. He wants our obedience, but that doesn't add to his love.

I have been feeling that way for a while-that God is disappointed in me. Why can't I do more? Why can't I forgive more easily? Why can't I keep my mouth shut? How can God be pleased with me- He has given me every opportunity in life and shouldn't I have more to show for it? It seems like I was doing better at 20 than I am at 35! It was a real shock to admit what I was feeling. I was trying to earn the love of Christ and not succeeding. I guess I needed to be reminded of the Gospel again- that God so loved the world...while we were yet sinners Christ died for us... We don't stop being sinners and we don't stop being loved. I am going through my Bible right now and underlining every reference to God's love for me. It should be fun.

Love to you all from Jesus Christ and from me,
Amen and Buenas Noches

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Refreshing Week

We finished up our Spiritual Emphasis Week with the morning service on Friday. Our speaker, Josiah Bancroft, did a great job of reminding us that all we do should be in response to all Christ did for us and not a part of some game of competitive sanctification. When we realize how sinful we are and how perfect God is, our response to His salvation should be incredible joy and a heart's desire to be obedient, though our attempts at obeying perfectly pale in comparison to Christ! We should not be comparing ourselves or others to anyone else. It was a very refreshing week spiritually, but quite exhausting. We didn't have homework or tests, but our schedule was very full with services every morning and evening with classes sandwiched around them.

I volunteered to coach the junior boys at Sojourn Academy since we have 6 of them on the high school team. We had our first practice Saturday, which was pretty fun. We have three games scheduled already over the next 12 days. Camden is really excited- he's ready to play against kids closer to his size. We both got a chance to play modified softball Sunday morning. Camden made a great play in the outfield. The field was really wet- several times I jumped large puddles to make a play. It was fun nonetheless.

What a fun time of year right now! The Phillies are in the World Series again, the Steelers beat Favre and the Vikings, and Penn State finally won in Ann Arbor. Let's hope it continues!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Homework?!

This week is a special week on the campus of ILE (Instituto de Lengua Espanola) as we are in the middle of Spiritual Emphasis Week. There are several likeable things about this week, including the fact that we do not have any homework or tests! We get to enjoy a special speaker, Josiah, both morning and evening. Here are some of the highlights so far:
  • From Luke 7 we began with a discussion/presentation about joy. Josiah contrasted the joy factor in Simon, the host, and the uninvited woman. The catch phrase of the lesson was: "forgiven little, love little- forgiven much, love much"
  • From Philippians 3 we looked at Paul and how he needed to repent of his religiosity. This led to a discussion on how we need to better understand how deep our sin is and how incredible God's holiness is.
  • The whole gospel is equal parts forgiveness and righteousness. Jesus death on the cross gives us forgiveness once and for all, and He imparts his righteousness to us through our faith in Him- we cannot earn it. When we couple our forgiveness and our unearned righteousness with a bigger understanding of our sin and God's holiness we should be overflowing with joy and motivated to be obedient!!
  • And, we received an assignment today that challenges us to refrain from doing a laundry list of things for the next 3 days. Among the items we can't do are gossipping, criticizing others, complaining, boasting, deceiving, stretching the truth, interrupting others, making excuses, and defending yourself. Sounds like fun, eh?
We are anxious to hear the next 5 sessions! The kids get the added treat of participating in VBS in the evenings thanks to a group of people who came from the States just to do that!

Mason has been working hard at learning "Fist of the Dragon" martial arts. He has 3 sessions each week and thus far there have only been two students! I watched the lesson today and was pretty impressed. Devin and Mason worked hard for 90 minutes, kicking the heavy bag, learning how to properly fall, doing flips, slightly punching each other, stretching body parts I'd rather not stretch, and having a blast doing everything. I really think April should sign up for the class. Then she wouldn't have any fear in walking after dark!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sights, Baseball, and oh yeah, Grades!

We received our mid-term grades today, and to the surprise of most, I actually am ahead!! Not by much, but one percentage point can change the world (think Bush/Gore 2000). Here is a rundown of our grades thusfar:

  • Phonetics: Jeff 98, April 97
  • Language: Jeff 98, April 96
  • Grammar: April 99, Jeff 97.5 (April seems to think this is more important as we have this class for 2 hours. I would like to point out that the only reason I don't have a 100 is because I screwed up on part of an oral quiz 3 weeks ago.)

This weekend, April, Camden, & Mason went on a very long hike up a very steep mountain. That was Saturday, today is Monday and April is still complaining about how much her "nalgas" hurt (that's "buttcheeks" for those of you who don't understand Spanish). They hiked for about 4 hours with an hour of bus riding to and from the mountain. Upon returning, April stated that she wanted pizza and 5 hours of tv. I fell in love all over again. The boys had no trouble going up and down the mountain. They loved it! Mason took tons of pictures!

I am now officially part of a modified softball team. Saturday mornings we hold practices for a kids team we are trying to put together, but the dads of the kids would also practice. So, we decided to form our own team. We had our first game Sunday morning (before church) and got thrashed. It is a little different than traditional softball as the pitcher throws as hard as he can underhand without raising his hand above his head. So, you can't throw the ball as hard as in fast-pitch, but it is still pretty fun. I left the house at 7:15, road my landlord's bike to the park a few miles away, played most of the game, left the park at 8:55, got back to our house at 8:59 (it's all downhill on the way back), showered and got to church by 9:15.

Speaking of teams, Camden's basketball team had its first game on Friday. Final score: 83-28. It was a good effort. It was pretty funny to see Camden and some of his junior high buddies going up against much taller high school boys. We actually are putting together some junior high games that I will help coach so the younger kids can play against teams that aren't so big!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This weekend was a whirlwind as we made a trip to Nicaragua to renew our visas. We left our home at 11:30 Friday morning and arrived in Granada at 10:30 or so. It was a long trip made much more bearable by the company we had with us. We took two young ladies, Tricia & Kate, with us on our adventure (their first trip to Nicaragua) and also had another family, the Johnson's, traveling to Nicaragua at the same time. The Johnson boys, Jeffrey & Wesley, are good friends with our boys and their daughter, Katie, took care of our girls for much of the bus ride. The Johnson's were headed to Diriamba to visit a home for troubled teenage girls. We got up early on Saturday and everyone went to the market in Masaya while I met with Jesus concerning a side project we hope to get started. After the market, we headed for "TelePizza" to get some cheese! Cheese is really expensive in Costa Rica, so Tele's monster cheese-filled calzones were on our to-do list. After eating more than we should have, we went to visit the church that we built in August. It is finished for the most part and looks great. We saw several of the kids and a couple of the mom's. Of course, they asked about Linda and when she was coming back! We then stopped by Catarina for some photo ops before returning to Juan Pavon's for tacos, a youth church service, and updates on what's going on with our churches in Nicaragua. We finished the evening by meeting up with Kristen Haskin's toothless Romeo. He's patiently awaiting her return!

The next morning we experienced our first baptism service in Nicaragua. Maria said it was a only a 30 minute service, which sounded pretty good to us. What we didn't realize, was that it was 45 minute drive. The service was held on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America (think Lake Michigan). The other important fact Maria left out was that everyone gets in the water and forms a circle around those being baptized. We didn't bring extra clothes, so we just watched. After watching the service, I really think we should try this at Kleinhardt's pond next summer! The ladies spent the early part of the afternoon seeing Granada's seven beautiful cathedrals. It really is a beautiful city. We are really trying to set up one of the girls with Dan Best, but after viewing his Facebook page, she is having second thoughts! He needs to step it up a little. Then we ventured off to Diramba to see the home for troubled teenaged girls. We learned a little about the ministry there and got to spend some time with one of the girls- she is 16, was "abused" by a half-brother, got pregnant, tried to commit suicide, but then a miracle happened! She is now saved by grace and is doing as well as can be expected. April had a fun time with her 6 month old son!

To wrap up the weekend, we spent an afternoon at the ocean with Juan, Candida, and Maria Pavon. The kids had a blast. The ocean is very warm there with lots of crabs and other creepy crawlies to discover. This was the first time at the ocean for Ellie, and probably the first time that Karis can remember. After another 8 hour bus ride, we were glad to be back in San Jose, especially because it is about 10 degrees cooler and probably 25 percent less humid.

So, we returned to classes today and got some test scores back. April sorely missed Maria, because in her absence I have drawn even or overtaken the lead in all our classes. Now that Maria has returned I will have to step it up a notch to maintain all that I have accomplished! Actually, we are both doing really well. My lowest test score was a 90 I received on a grammar test, and April's lowest was a 90 she received on a language test. Every other score has been over 95. However, those great scores have not carried over into our ability to speak! We've been told that at some point things will just "click." We hope it happens soon! Pics from the weekend are coming soon!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

We are trying to add a few more elements to our blog. Each week we hope to post new pictures which will appear in the form of a slideshow on the right side of our blog. I just posted a few pics of our kids with their teachers (Camden has yet to get one taken with his teachers). Ellie's teacher is Miss Monica- she only speaks Spanish so Ellie is actually doing really well with her language learning! Karis' teacher is Miss Bedortha, though she is getting married soon! Mason's teacher is Miss Siscoe, who happens to be traveling with us to Nicaragua next week. We broke the news to Mason yesterday. He took it well. Camden has a couple of teachers, but his primary teacher is Miss Faulk. Also seen in one of the pictures is Mason's best friend, Skylar. He is a freak like Mason. They are so similar it's scary. Mason continues his new class in martial arts called Fist of the Dragon tomorrow. He and our neighbor's boy are the only two in the class. I'm trying to get April to take it, but my attempts to coerce her have been thwarted. Thanks to all of you who are committed to remembering our family in prayer. Hopefully the pics will help you get a visual on some of those prayers!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Me and My Barbies

We did not have school Friday, as all the teachers had an in-service training day, so we decided to go to the Children's Museum with our neighbors. We took a bus to the downtown section of San Jose, then had to walk for about 20 minutes to get there. It was pretty fun, with lots of exhibits and things for the kids to do. The highlight of the day for all of us was when a local woman came up to Ellie and commented that she looked like a Barbie Doll. Then the woman saw April and made the same comparison. As we walked back toward the bus stop, April began to take note of all the people passing by looking at Ellie and commenting "que linda" which means "how cute." It pays to be blonde and beautiful in a dark-haired country!!

Our landlady, Ivonne, recently told me I could use her really sweet mountain bike if I could fix it. I fixed it and went for a ride this morning. This bike has disc brakes, shocks, and just about anything you could ask for on a bike. I went to the bank, and as I was leaving, I decided to ride off the curb and onto the street. Bad decision. The front shocks compressed and sent me over the handlebars. I did manage to perform a hand-stand for a few seconds before regaining a standing position with the bike wrapped around me. I have since tightened up the front suspension and can now focus on all the cars that could potentially hit me. No, April will not be riding a bike, so you don't need to add that to your prayer list!

Monday, September 28, 2009


From Jeff:
It took some time, but I have finally pulled ahead of April in one of our classes, Phonetics, thanks to a stellar performance on our last exam. Of course, she is leading in Grammar and we are about even in Lenguaje, but I must relish this potentially short-lived supremacy! Praise God she can't trill her "r's" yet!

The papers here are saying we are headed for water shortfalls beginning in January. Most areas are between 20% and 40% under the normal rainfall for June through September. This means April will not be able to take her normal 20 minute shower and I've decided to only take sponge baths to help out. I am beginning the search for a nurse to bath me. Really, though, the whole country suffers when it doesn't rain because so much of the infrastructure here is related to the agriculture industry. However, it has been raining for the past 5 hours, so maybe we could catch up a bit!

Prayer points: Our kids are having a bit of an adjustment to actually going to school. They need prayer in the area of forgetfulness. As in they forget their books, forget their homework, forget they need supplies for cooking class, forget they need to bring.... We would also appreciate prayer for our meeting with our 4 Costa Rican UB pastors. We are taking all of them out to dinner on Friday! And finally, that April would actually apply some of the knowledge we gained in our PeaceMaker Seminar (see below).

From April:
Jeff almost cried when I kicked his tail in grammar so I decided to back off a little. I don't want to destroy him this early in the trimester. Saturday we had an eclipse of some kind. It was cloudy, so it was hard to see exactly but it made a large ring around the sun. It looked like a rainbow in a circle. It was pretty cool.

Yesterday it was pretty hot. Ellie said, "It's always hot on Sundays, that's why they call it SUNday." Makes sense, doesn't it?

Today, I get to give my first piano lesson to a 14 yr.old. boy from La Carpio (the Nicaraguan slum). They call him Lapiz, which means pencil in English. He is a gifted musician but hasn't had any formal training. I am looking forward to it. Steve, the missionery in La Carpio, hopes that music could be Lapiz's ticket to a better future. It is exciting to see what God will do.

I told you Jeff and I attended the peacemaker seminar on conflict resolution. We learned some really good stuff. The lesson we both appreciated most was the one on confession. We learned how to apologize in meaningful ways like: 1. I'm sorry if you're hurt. 2. I'm sorry if I did something wrong. 3. I know I said something wrong, but what about what you did wrong? 4. I'm sorry you are so sensitive. Jeff and I are already experts in this area but it was good to be reminded. If you want to take advantage of this wisdom just make sure you use key words like if ,but, and maybe in your confession and you too can be on your way to a successful marriage.
Well, off to my piano lesson in Spanish! Adios

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Win Some, Lose Some

Well, after a miserable showing on a grammar quiz today, I fell a few percentage points behind April. She just had to score a 100. However, things should begin to even up a little since her private tutor, Maria, just returned to Nicaragua for a few weeks. Maria ran into a little trouble with immigration and could not extend her visa (she needed two letters she did not have at the time) so she needed to return to Nicaragua immediately (her current visa expired today). We are hoping she will be able to get another visa soon so she can come back. I have a feeling April is going to need her! So, I was sulking a little bit after getting smoked on that quiz only to receive the news that my final project for graduate school had been accepted and that I have officially completed my work for my master's degree in Pastoral Ministry. This comes 14 years after taking my first graduate school class! What a relief to finally finish! Then, after getting that news, I went to an appointment with an athletic trainer at the gym I joined the previous day. I had been walking every morning for the past 4 weeks, but my feet became really sore and the pain I felt this week made it easy to not get out of bed. So, I decided to join the gym 1 block from our house so I could ride a bike, do some boxing, lift some weights, and generally take the pressure off my feet. I didn't realize I was getting the complete package- the trainer took all sorts of measurements including measuring my fat levels from 4 different areas of my body. "Hey, buddy, I didn't sign up for this!" I really only wanted to ride a bike- instead I was informed that I really needed to move into the gym. Win some, lose some.

On a related note, on the way to school this morning Ellie complained about having a little pain in her legs. April asked what it was from. Ellie responded, "I think my bones are tangled." At least I don't have that problem.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It is funny to post a blog about how much we love the internet only to lose it the next day. We are still waiting for it to be fixed. I´m typing from the school computer lab. We are fighting about whether or not to attend a seminar on conflict resolution. I let you know who wins.

Other news... Jeff and I are still neck in neck. We have three tests this week, so here is my chance to pull ahead. Maria needs to go back to Nicaragua. They denied her visa extension. She should be able to come back in October. Also, her grandfather passed away. It was a rough day.
Pray for her, please.

Speaking of praying, we could really use rain down here. If we don´t get some serious rain soon, we are looking at electrical shortages (most of the power is hydrolectric), water shortages, and price increases for food. They think it is already too late for Nicaragua and Guatamala. They probably won´t be able to plant at all. They are predicting famine for parts of both countries. So, for all of you working with Feed My Starving Children at home, you couldn´t have picked a better time. It is going to be desperately needed this year.

Well, we have to go to learn to get along... see ya... love ya.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We Love The Internet!

I haven't really mentioned how much we love having high speed internet in our home. Well, we do! We have been able to download the latest season of Psych and Monk, we can check our emails every day, we can "blog", and our kids can find fun stuff like Bernard Bear. Follow the link to check out one of our favorite Bernard sketches.

Death to the Invaders!

Today is a national holiday meaning we don't have classes, so the kids had a little sleepover last night. I woke up at 5:15 but refused to get out of bed until after 6! The kids were all hungry so I went to the kitchen to make breakfast- 8 bowls of cereal for them, a nice hot bowl of oatmeal for me. I put the water on the stove and poured all the cereal. I yelled for April (she refused to rise before 6:30) and she and the kids began eating their cereal. I opened the cupboard to get my packets of oatmeal out of the box (we bought a mega pack at PriceSmart) and as I pulled the packets out a cockroach jumped from the box. I acted as if someone had just pulled a gun on me as I tossed the box to the floor. It was a scene out of a horror film (at least for me as I hate horror films) as 10 more cockroaches poured from the box. I yelled for a shoe, April tossed me a flip-flop, and I went on a killing spree. After about 5 minutes, 10 cockroaches lay dead on the kitchen floor battlefield. It really was shocking to see them because we just had the kitchen sprayed for cockroaches 3 days ago. Evidently they had all congregated in the oatmeal box to avoid death. Unfortunately for them, I'm trying to eat better and decided to eat oatmeal today!

At a place like language school, you would expect to meet some interesting people. I mentioned in a previous post that Camden's basketball coach, Trish Wegman, is the daughter of Bill Wegman, a 10-year veteran of Major League Baseball. Well, another pretty, single, young lady named Kim goes to church in Houston with Troy Aikman (former QB of the Cowboys), Ross Perot, and George W and Laura Bush! So, with all these stories about famous connections floating around, we had to share some of our own. April said that her dad shot the biggest buck in Clare County, and that she played piano for Dan Quayle, and the owners of Jay's Sporting Goods go to our church! That shut them all up right away.

Camden had his first basketball practice last night. I'm not bragging or anything, but he is in 6th grade and made the high school varsity team. I don't think he'll start, but he made the team. (Of course, there are only 10 kids trying out for the team!) On the way home from practice, he told me it was the hardest 2 hours of his life. I watched the last 20 minutes of practice. It was pretty intense as Coach Wegman made the team run suicides if one player was lazy during their scrimmage. Camden did win a game of "lightning" and looked pretty good out there.

Well, since this is "Independence Day" in Costa Rica, we need to get ready to go to a parade. Oh, we did get some test scores back from our Phonetics class. April pulled into an overall tie with Jeff as both did very well on their test. Our next opportunities to shine are Thursday (Conversation Class) and Friday (Grammar). May the force be with me!

Friday, September 11, 2009

2 Weeks Down, 13 To Go!

We have now finished two weeks of school and we're still seemingly sane. Next week, we'll begin to see with clarity how April and I are doing as we have a couple of exams, including a big one in Gramatica. Yesterday, we went to La Carpio, the place we mentioned in our last article. For those of you that have been to Nicaragua, it reminded me of the slums near the market in Masaya. Kids are kids, however, and we had a fun time with them. The center is pretty cool- it has a very small gym (think smaller than the foyer at Browns), a kitchen, a small computer lab with 10 computers, and another room for meetings and less strenuous activities. April was able to do a little piano tutoring with a young man who plays mostly by ear and goes by the name, "Pencil." Our contact person is a man known as "La-Low" though his real name is Steve. He came and picked us up in a microbus similar to the one we have in Nicaragua. We packed 16 people into the van and off we went. I'm sure we'll write more about La Carpio in the weeks to come.

Comings and Goings:

Camden is pretty excited about his sports. He is signed up to play basketball for Sojourn Academy. There are just 6 high school boys on the team, so they opened it up for junior high boys as well. Cam is one of 5 junior high boys on the team. It will be pretty funny to see him play amongst the giants. His coach is a sweet, single, 6' tall young lady named Trish who happens to be the daughter of Bill Wegman, a 10 year veteran of the Major Leagues (Dan/Matt, airfare is only $300 to visit). Speaking of baseball, Cam and I get to play for 3 hours every Saturday morning with a group of kids and adults. It was a blast last week! We are looking forward to tomorrow.

Mason has made some pretty cool friends. One of them, Skyler, is staying over tonight. They both love Yuh-gi-oh and Pokemon and any other topic that covers swords, fighting, fantasy, or Ebay.

Karis and Ellie are also having friends over tonight. They frequently spend time with the neighbor girls, Mary Esther and Scarlet, who happen to have a mom named Audrey. This confused Ellie because she had thought her Aunt Audrey was a different woman. We confirmed that fact with her.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers and for reading and commenting on our blog. For those of you in Michigan/Pennsylvania, this helps us feel connected to you even though you are far away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

April Deals A Crushing Blow

The oral verb quiz is over and April won this battle. She was perfect on all 9 verbs that she was given, while Jeff partially blew it on one of his 9. April 100, Jeff 93. The big verb exam is next Friday. It will be both written and oral. On a side note, we are so thankful for opportunities we are seeing to get involved in ministry here. Tomorrow, April and I will be traveling to La Carpio, a "village" of Nicaraguan immigrants (some legal, many not) just outside of San Jose. We are going with a group of fellow students to work with a community center there. We will be working mostly with kids; planning activities, playing sports, sharing stories, making crafts, etc. You can watch a video on La Carpio that a student from last trimester made by following this link- We are planning on going there every Thursday afternoon. Then, on Saturday, I get to give my first seminar to pastors and leaders of our 4 Costa Rican UB churches. You can be praying for us as we seek to get involved in ministry here. And you can pray that I find time to study so I can crush April on next Friday's exam!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jeff Pulls Into The Lead

We got our first quiz scores back and Jeff has a commanding lead in the grade race, 5.00 to 4.75! This quiz was on the alphabet. We have a much bigger quiz tomorrow- one that covers over 125 verbs. April has been studying like crazy. I may have to pull an all-nighter. Results will be published here...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend Buzz

We had a most interesting weekend! Friday night, we took a couple to PriceSmart (Sam's Club) so they could check the place out. We decided to walk the 2 miles to the store even though it had started raining. We took our umbrellas and headed out. It soon began to rain as if someone had a thousand hoses all pointed at you. We took a break in a "Lowe's" type store, then continued on toward our destination. By the time we reached PriceSmart, we were hungry so we walked to the mall next door because it has a food court that includes Taco Bell. We finally made it to PriceSmart, did our shopping, bought pizzas for our kids, and returned home. Marv and Anita are really great people. We had fun discussing churchy stuff with them- they have a pentacostal background.

Saturday morning, Camden and I headed to a run-down baseball field (think Sandlot) because we were told people show up to practice. People did, in fact, show up to play baseball! We had a group of about 8 adults and 14 kids practice and play for about 2 hours. Then, some more adults came, so we had another hour of batting practice. It really was a lot of fun. One of the local "coaches" is trying to form a league for kids. Camden is pretty excited. Then, Saturday night we played dominoes with our neighbors, Charlie and Audrey Leckie. They have four kids, too, so we enjoy getting together to let the kids play. We also learned that Audrey was actually a Spanish major in college, a fact she has been reluctant to disclose up until now.

Sunday morning we went to one of our 4 United Brethren churches in Costa Rica. We had met Pastor Eric and his wife, Iris, the week before but had no idea what kind of church they pastored. We thought it would be typical of our other UB churches in Latin America. Well, it wasn't. The facility was beautiful and large (it probably could hold 200 people or more), they had a worship team that could actually sing really well, they had a projector/computer with powerpoint of the songs, and the music was not too loud! The service lasted almost 2 hours, but it was fun to be there. We sang songs we recognized like Open the Eyes of My Heart, Ancient of Days, and The Power of Your Love, plus other songs we didn't recognize but enjoyed anyways. We also took communion. They kept us for lunch and we had a meatball soup that was really good (this was a surprise because "soup" and "good" usually don't appear in the same sentence from our Latino experience!). We got home at around 2:30 and began preparing for an evening on the town with a relative of April's named Bill, someone we had not had the privilege of meeting or spending time with previously. No amount of preparation could have prepared us for the events of this first encounter! Let's just say that we had a nice dinner, met some interesting people, had stimulating and sometimes eye-opening conversation, and made it home safely 3 hours later. It was fun! Bill is definitely a person with much life-experience and many colorful stories. He's broken every finger and knuckle on both hands at least 5 times each from various encounters over the years. We are anxiously awaiting our next invitation to dinner.

Until next time...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cockroaches and Irregular Verbs

Last night, I dreamed of cockroaches and irregular verbs. Nice, huh? Our house had been sprayed for cockroaches before we came, but we have killed 6 or 7 in the last 2 days. There is nothing like reaching for silverware and having a cockroach scury around in the drawer. Yuck! Funny, I didn't see any staying in a dorm in Nicaragua, but here, in a nice house in San Jose, we see them all the time. I have decided I really appreciate Michigan! If cold and snow equals no cockroaches, I think it is a pretty even trade.
Jeff and I are studying verbs this weekend. We have a test on Wednesday of over 100 regular and irregular verbs. For those of you who didn't take a foreign language, let me explain a little. In English we conjugate our verbs like this:
I say
You say
He/She says
We say
They say

See how the verb only changes for the third person (he says)? Well in Spanish it goes like this:
(Hablar: to speak)

Yo hablo
Tu hablas
El/Ella habla
Nosotros hablamos
Vosotros hablais (Vosotros means you plural if you are in a formal situation.)
Ellos hablan

You see how the ending changes for each pronoun? That is how you conjugate regular verbs ending in AR. (Hablar: to speak, Bailar: to dance,etc.) Now, add to that verbs that end in ER or IR (Comprender: to comprehender, Servir: to serve). They have different endings. Those are only the regular verbs. Then just like in English, you learn one rule and 10 exceptions. There are a ton of verbs that don't follow that pattern. For our test on Wednesday, we have to know over 100 hundres verbs, what they mean, and how to conjugate them! Luckily, I have Maria to help me!

Speaking of Maria.... We told you that Juan Pavon's daughter, Maria, was coming to stay with us from Nicaragua. She has been here almost a week. She is so wonderful. Ellie and Karis smother her and she actually seems to enjoy it, or she's a really good actress! We went to the fruit market the other day and Maria asked some questions for me in Spanish. Ellie looked at her in surprise and said, "Wow, Maria, you're really good at Spanish!" It was pretty funny.

We rented The Sound of Music the other night for Maria. She had never seen it and I always sing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" We had a girl's night. It was so much fun. I loved watching all three girls, Maria, Karis, and Ellie, see it for the first time. Maria has such a wonderful innocence about her. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but you probably know what I mean. For most of our American teenagers, nothing is new, nothing is exciting. We know what is going to happen in almost every movie. There is so little that can surprise us. You know how it is to watch your children really enjoy something for the first time? That's how is was to watch a movie with Maria.

The kids are enjoying school. Everyone loves their teachers. Camden is playing soccer. Karis and Camden are doing gymnastics. Mason has a good friend already. So life is good.

Love to you all and keep praying, especially on Wednesday!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Time sure is flying by! My head is spinning a bit from all the Spanish intake that it has had over the past 3 days. I just finished my homework and began trying to memorize some irregular verbs-April made up some flashcards, so I figured I might as well use them! It seems as though I can't fit everything that I want to do into a single day-time just evaporates! Three days into our schooling, I can really understand why it is strongly recommended that students hire an "empleada" (housekeeper). We have no time for much of anything outside of going to class, studying, and involving our kids in activities. Our empleada started on Tuesday and has been a huge blessing so far. She is from Nicaragua, has four children and is a single mom, so the work we are giving her helps to provide for her family. She will be working for us 4 days a week, 7 hours each day. She arrives at 8:30 and basically takes care of just about everything. She makes an enormous amount of food for lunch (around 1:15) which we will then heat up again for dinner (around 6). She leaves us at 3:30, with the laundry done, the floors clean, the dishes done, and the groceries bought. I really don't know how working moms get anything done around the house. Those of you in that situation must be amazing! Language learning is very stressful and emloying an empleada helps with much of the household stress. We are very fortunate to have an empleada! We felt a little strange about having a maid because we've never even considered it at any other time in our lives. When we got here we were given a piece of paper with some questions to answer about whether or not we needed one. The resulting answer was "you absolutely need to hire an empleada." Still not quite sure, we thought we would consider getting a little help. After consulting with Grettel, she encouraged us to hire one for a variety of reasons including helping out a single mom who needs an income (the institute sets the rates- about $300 per month!). So, we did and we now understand why. Well, I must get back to my irregular verbs. I must do better than April. Until next time...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Primeras Clases

Our first days of school are now behind us!!! The kids had a blast going to school for the first time on Monday and April and I had our first day of classes on Tuesday. My head is about to explode! The good news is that though our teachers only spoke in Spanish, I understood everything they said. I had absolutely no problems understanding them because they spoke slowly and enunciated clearly. The bad news is that I think I will have exhausted my knowledge of Spanish in about a week. It is very tiring concentrating for hours in another language. April and I are in the same Grammar class for two hours and we have the same teachers for our other subjects, Phonetics and Conversation, though we have those classes at different times. It is exciting for us to get started. In addition to our Spanish language acquisition, we also have realized we need to pick up "Southern" as well, since most of our classmates are from south of the Mason-Dixon line. We experienced our first chapel session on Tuesday and found it to be really great. We sang some familiar songs, learned "Open the Eyes of My Heart" in Spanish, and listened to a really great speaker. He dressed in camo and used some hunting illustrations. We kind of felt at home. Tonight, I get to play some basketball and April gets to finish "The Sound of Music" with Maria. Until next time...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Domingo Doings

Well, another Sunday has come and gone. We have had two very different church experiences here in Costa Rica. Last Sunday, we went to a church just 3 blocks from our house. It was a nice service. They sang A Mighty Fortress is Our God and Blessed Assurance, both in Spanish, of course. The kids went to classes while the adults had a sermon. We definitely need to learn Spanish! An hour sermon that you don't understand is a long sermon! They were celebrating Mother's Day, so the kids had a program after class. Karis and Ellie got to sing and the boys made me cards. Mason's card said:

Dear Mom,
Thanks you for being a great Mom. Thank you for helping me to grow into a good brother and thank you for everything you have done for me. I hope you will have a good time in Costa Rica. Love, Mason

Camden's card said:

Thanks for being a great Mom and whatever Mason said. Camden

After all, we already had Mother's Day in the States, Camden said. I didn't really need two, especially since my birthday was the day before!

Anyway, this Sunday we went to the same church in the morning. We had lunch and then Superintendent, Juan Pavon from Nicaragua, picked us up to go to a local U.B. Church for a meeting. It wasn't really a meeting. We had dinner (crunchy tacos, an enchilada, and some fried chicken with fries) with four pastors and then had an evening service. Another two hours. 25 of us packed into the pastor's living room. Good news- the sound system was turned off. Bad news- "we" still sang songs, at least that's what we think we did. This church is buying a plot of land in order to build. They were a very nice congregation. On a side note, you all (Bonnie Rae) should be very proud of me. I found Ghirardelli
Brownie's at the Sam's Club (PriceMart). I had just made them and I actually took them to share with the pastors. No, sharing is still not fun, but I guess I am growing up.

Jeff has already been asked to speak next Saturday, maybe next Sunday, and do a seminar for the pastors! He already has an excuse for falling behind on his Spanish homework. Pastor Eric and his wife, Iris are wonderful. Iris speaks English and she had four brownie's (it was her birthday!), so you know we hit it off! We are looking forward to getting to know them.

The really great part of the evening was that Pastor Juan's daughter, Maria, came home with us. Maria is hoping to go to Huntington University next fall. She already does pretty well with speaking English (she translated for us on the last trip to Nicaragua), but she wants more practice and she also needs help studying for the SAT. Karis and Ellie, of course, took an instant liking to her. Ellie is glad that she will get out of school earlier than the other kids so she can play with Maria all by herself. Poor Maria... Well, she wanted to practice her English!

We hope things went well today at Brown's. We thought of you and how nice our music is and how it is in English. We are praying for you and love you all. Our free time is about to evaporate!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rotten Kids

Today in orientation we talked about cultural differences. There definitely are some. Here are few that might interest you.

First, if you arrive on time for a dinner with friends it implies that you are starving. So, you should arrive at least 15 minutes late.

Second, all Costa Ricans, or Ticos, were told by their mothers that sickness comes from germs mainly on the floor. They never go barefoot in the house and concentrate much of their cleaning on the floors.

Third, it is illegal in Costa Rica to spank your child. The speaker said that even yelling was illegal but I don't know if he was joking about that. Also, if you had dinner with Ticos and your child misbehaved everyone would wait silently for you to discipline your child and if you didn't, they would scold him for you. It is not so much a problem that children misbehave, but it is considered very bad parenting for you not to reprimand them immediately. I wonder how this would go over in the States. The next time a kid mouths off to a mom, I think everyone should stop talking until she does something about it. And if she doesn't, then you say something. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

After the session on cultural differences, a local pastor gave us short history of Costa Rica. Costa Rica developed much differently that the other Latin American countries because it had a very small Indian population. Since there were few Indians for slave labor, and so a small chance of getting rich, few Spanish came here. No one wanted to be the governor of Costa Rica because even he had to farm the land himself to feed his family. So, instead of developing a small wealthy class and a very large slave population, Costa Rica became a land similar to the American frontier with small private farms. When Costa Rica became independent in the 1820's, the first elected president was a school teacher who bought a printing press from Pennsylvania and began printing books. Costa Rica has only had one military general elected president. Most have been teachers, doctors, etc.

Costa Rica for centuries had been a refuge for Jews fleeing persectution. Because it had few Europeans and few Catholic churches, Jews came here from Europe to live in peace. The first coat of arms and the first Costa Rican flag each contained a star of David. The Pastor thinks that Costa Rica's care for Jews is one of the reasons for its success as a nation.

Costa Rica has a large middle class. It's literacy rate is over 90%. (Nicaragua's is in the 40's). It has a decent health care system and good infrastructure.

Is that enough info? You know how I love facts!
Pastor Juan Pavon and his daughter, Maria, should be arriving from Nicaragua tomorrow. Maria is going to stay a few months with us to practice her English. We can't wait to see them both.

  • Camden has been in heaven playing soccer everyday.
  • Mason has found a buddy who likes swords and Pokemon so life is good.
  • Karis and Ellie are playing at the neighbor's house this afternoon so life is definitely good for me!
  • Jeff turned his ankle walking this morning right after I asked him if he should wear his brace. I am trying to be sympathetic!

Thanks everyone for all your prayers. We are thinking of you all at Brown's and excited about the 40 days of purpose. God bless you.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dice's fail grammar test

We had our grammar tests today, which along with our oral interviews, will determine which classes we will be taking. We will have 4 classes this trimester: pronunciation, grammar for 2 hours, and language practice. Our daily schedule will look something like this:
  • 7:30-8:20 is hour 1
  • 8:25-9:15 is hour 2
  • 9:15-9:35 is everyone's break time
  • 9:35-10:15 is either break time for everyone or chapel on Tuesday and Thursday
  • 10:20-11:10 is hour 3
  • 11:15-12:05 is hour 4
  • 12:10-1:00 is hour 5

We each get 1 hour to study, with one of us getting hour 5 off to pick up Ellie from her class. The other kids finish up at 2:30. Then, we get lots of homework and other studying to do!

I have gotten up early in the morning for 6 mornings in a row to exercise. This is a personal record. I've been walking 3-5 miles each morning. It's been fun to see the city and to get familiar with my surroundings.


  • Ellie is wondering why her teacher doesn't just learn English.
  • Camden says his calves are about to explode.
  • Mason learned that Pokemon is a world-wide currency.
  • Karis is just plain cute.
  • We will be taking side wagers on who will do better at learning Spanish- Jeff or April. April thinks she should be the early odds-on favorite. We'll see.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting settled in Costa Rica

Hello, everyone!! We are in Costa Rica, having arrived on Friday, August 21st. April celebrated her birthday 3 times, so now that we are finally past that we can focus on getting settled. We've been to Wal-Mart (Hipermas) and Sam's Club (PriceSmart) to shop for various items. Right now we are watching "Night at the Museum 2" with our neighbors, the Leckie's, who also happen to have a family of 6. Costa Rica is very different from Nicaragua in many ways, with the cost of living being the most prominent. The cost of stocking our fridge was a little more than we anticipated. The prices for most food items would be close to or slightly more than what you would find at Glen's. Other items are much more expensive. Hipermas has games for the Wii, but they cost anywhere from $65-$75. The weather has been fabulous. I get up at 5 or so every morning to read and pray, then go for a walk. It has been beautiful and 70 just about every morning. Days get a little hot and muggy, but the evenings are cool. San Jose is at elevation, so that contributes to the cooler temps. We visited our school today and were impressed. Our kids will be in classes of between 12 and 20 students. We met their teachers and are quite confident that they will be well taken care of. Our orientation is tomorrow. Well, I will write much more in the days and weeks to come. Thank you for all your prayers!