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!