Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Last One

Well, we are finally home and mostly settled in. It is nice to be back in Michigan, though we are already missing life in Costa Rica- it was really cold last night! Camden had three pairs of socks on today because his feet could not get warm. We had a relatively easy trip home and a relatively easy transition back into our house. The Grays, the family who had been staying in our home, left it in near-perfect condition, far better than we left it for them!! That was a huge blessing. April is ready to do some gardening, Camden is back playing baseball, Mason is relieved to have a big yard again so he can "conquer" the world, and Karis & Ellie are just happy to see grandparents and friends.

We would like to thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers, and support over the past 8+ months. It seems to have gone by so quickly. We would especially like to thank our church family for supporting this endeavor. We hope it will pay dividends as we move our missions ministry forward at Brown Corners. As for now, this blog is signing off. We hope to begin anew in the months to come!! Adios!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Almost There!

The gang had quite an interesting trip home. They were bumped from their flight in Fort Lauderdale in exchange for free tickets to anywhere Spirit flies. Last time I talked to them, they were enjoying the pool on the 5th floor of their hotel!

I can't believe that we only have 2 weeks left here in Costa Rica! Jeff and I took our exams and both came out well. We both scored an Advanced Medium. So, I may have won in the classroom but in conversation, were it really counts, we are essentially even.

I think that I mentioned that I have been studying the Psalms. I discovered something pretty interesting yesterday. David wrote 23 Psalms. Over and over, David is under attack from his enemies. He asks God for help, for refuge, for love, for justice. But there is one thing he doesn't ask for. He doesn't ask for the strength to defend himself. I can find only one time in 73 Psalms where David ask God to raise him up so he can repay his adversaries. Every other time, he asks God to work on his behalf. He asks God to defend his rights. He doesn't ask God to give him the chance to defend himself. In fact, in several places, he says that he is silent before his accusers and asks God to fight for Him. This is very interesting to me because David was a man of courage, a man of war. He was also king. He had the rights of a king. Yet, he doesn't speak of personally fighting his own battles. He asks God to be his defense.

I am sure that you know the verse (Psalm 37:4) Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. I think that I have been looking at it the wrong way. I have always thought A + B = C. If I love God then he will bless me with what I really want. What do I want? What do we all want? Significance, love, importance. If I delight in the Lord, as David did, I don't have to fight for the things I want or the rights that I think I have. God is the one who gives when and how he wants. Instead of focusing on the desires, I can focus on God who fulfills them according to his wisdom. Even more that that, God becomes my significance, God is love, God is my happiness, and God gives me importance.

Are you like me? Do you want to defend yourself in every situation? Do you want to fight for your happiness at work or at home? Even David asked for God's help to repay his enemies once, he was human after all, but most of the time he asks that God fight for him. David had real enemies. My life is tame in comparison, yet I want to fight. Can I let God be my defense? Not without God's help. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example. He gave up his rights for me. He was silent before his accusers. How can I hold on to my rights, when the Jesus, God's Son, gave up everything for me? Somehow, everyday it is a battle to let go of what I think I am owed. Lord, give us the strength to let go!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

4 Women on a Mission

And now, our guest bloggers....

Buenos dias!

This is our last day in Costa Rica, where did our week go? Our trip was perfect! The Dices were wonderful hosts, a home away from home! Even as we write we cannot come up with the words that could describe our adventures. You will just have to see our pictures, well maybe not all of them! We experienced so much; strong ocean tides, zip-lining through the rainforest, bridge-walks through the treetops, relaxing in hot springs at the base of a volcano during a downpour, a night walk, which we fondly called our snipe walk, and even checked out Clinical Biblica. Our resident nurse, Deb, said that both Kate and the hospital passed with flying colors! As if we weren't pampered enough, we had to have a massage ($15/hour).
While in Costa Rica we traveled by air, boat, bus, taxi and even by horse. We all agree that it was an experience, but a 5 hour city bus ride was not our favorite mode of transportation. Dramamine was our friend, at least mine! A few thousand kilometers left in our journey. We may be stopped at customs, bringing in bananas and pineapples, but if you tasted them you would understand why we risked it! They're much better than a bag full of apples! Amazing fruit, and would you believe that Costa Rica has the best Chinese food!
While in Costa Rica we witnessed unbelievable landscapes, everywhere you looked there were sights to take in, but that can't compare to the people. There are many lessons we need to learn from them. Ticos are such happy people, content. It is their custom to say hello or good morning when they pass by or enter a room. How often do we do that?
Thank you Jeff, April, Camden, Mason, Karris and Ellie for opening up your home and allowing us to experience Costa Rica!

Hasta luego!
Deb, Julia, Kate and Christina

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Final Home Stretch

We have just 8 days of class remaining, so we are all but finished with our Spanish studies here in Costa Rica. Time has really flown by. It seems strange to be preparing to come home. We have some big events coming in the next two weeks, though. We took our ECO exam last Friday, which will tell us which level of oral proficiency we have achieved. We are both a little nervous about it. April also took the 3-hour grammar exam- I'm concerned as she may need see a professional. Then, next weekend Camden makes his Costa Rican stage debut in "Reserve Two For Murder," a play in which he gets killed 2 minutes in and gets dragged around the stage for an hour. And, of course, 4 women showed up at our house last Tuesday. They will appear as "guest bloggers" in the next blog.

During Easter week, we had the privilege of going to Nicaragua for 6 days. We left on Saturday morning at 5:15, got to the border at 10:15, left the border at 3:30 (yes, we spent 5 hours waiting in lines at the border), and arrived in Granada at 5:30. I organized this trip for 33 of my classmates, so it was a little stressful, but it turned out to be a great experience. A few families from Browns, the Carter's and the Kleinhardt's and Jodie Robinson, showed up to get a project started at Pastor Juan Pavon's church. They began to redo the entrance to the church, working with a crew from the church, to make it handicap accessible (there are 2 people in wheelchairs who attend the church) and to make it easier to pull the microbus in. It will look very different when finished. The trip went really well, but we were glad to be back in Costa Rica. We did absolutely nothing Good Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Low Expectations

Hey all,

We are finally posting another blog! We have had a very busy week. We had exams in both classes this week and we have been studying a pretty difficult theme in Spanish grammar. Just when we thought we were starting to make some progress, we have to add in subjuntive. Subjuntive basically means when you are talking about emotions or things possible but not real you have to change all of your verbs. Yuck.... It is coming but pretty slowly. I feel like there is a huge ball of string in my head and I have to find the right string at the right moment and pull it out, which means it takes a while to say anything. The one positive is that our comprehension has really taken some huge leaps. We can actually sit through a sermon and understand most of it.

We did learn something pretty interesting about Costa Rican culture last week. We were trying to explain the saying, "don't sweat it." Eugenia, our teacher, told us that it doesn't exist in Spanish because they don't need it! It is us Americans that have to be reminded to relax. (Although, they do say, "tranquillo," which is pretty similar.)
Along the same lines, I read an article about a survey that rated countries according the people's personal happiness. The U.S. was number 15. The surprising thing was that Puerto Rico, Columbia, and Mexico were in the top 10. Crazy isn't it? The survey found that after basic necessities were met, money had very little to do with happiness. Denmark was number 1, because the people there have very low expectations of life. Maybe that is the key!

We leave tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. for Nicaragua. Everyone has Holy Week off and we are taking a group of 33 students to Granada. The Carter's and the Kleinhardt's from Brown's are already there. We can't wait! Also, Maria Pavon, the superintendent's daughter, received an international scholarship to Huntington University. We are so excited! She wants to be a missionary to Africa. She is an amazing young women.

Well, we are off to Nicaragua with very low expectations so I'm sure we'll have a great time!

Love to all,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quakes, Moles, & Sheep

Okay, everyone, it is almost unbearably hot here now. We topped 90 degrees and our fan stopped working. I'm almost ready to return to Michigan. Is it in the 70's there yet? We had a fun week last week. First, we had our biggest quake late last Friday night. Our house shook for about 5 seconds. It was a little unnerving. We had just gone to bed, but afterwards I couldn't fall asleep for more than an hour.

A couple of weeks ago April and I were asked to speak during one of our chapel times. So, we did our presentation on Thursday. It went really well as April did most of the sharing.

April finally went to the plastic surgeon this week. However she only got 5 moles removed. One of them was on her forehead which is why a plastic surgeon was recommended. Botox is next on her agenda, though I'm not sure why. I happen to like wrinkles. They go well with my receding and graying hair.

We (I) haven't said much over the last couple of months about our grades. This is because the race was over after the first test in which April scored a 98 on and I scored a 79. However, we received our mid-term grades and the gap was closer than expected: April- 94, Jeff-90. This is probably the last I will report on them as I am conceding the race. My campaign funds are all used up.

April here: I have been studying the Psalms lately. I learned something pretty funny when I was looking at Psalm 23. I thought that is was interesting that it says that the shepherd makes his sheep lie down to rest. He doesn't just give them a choice. He makes them lie down. So, I thought about that. Are sheep too stupid to know that they need to lie down? I looked on the internet and found a lot of info on sheep. A good shepherd often makes his sheep lie down mid-day to ruminate (chew their cud). Also, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from fear, insects, hunger, and fighting. Interesting isn't it? I think that we as humans won't rest until we are free from fear, irritations, hunger (spiritual and physical), and in-fighting. In every case, it is only the Good Shepherd that can bring that freedom.

I really feel like the Lord has made Jeff and I lie down to rest here in Costa Rica. It has been so different from life in Michigan. A time to rejuvenate and be challenged again to pursue Him. We are ready to get back home and ready to serve again. Ready to be surrounded by people we love and that love us. Ready to see God move in MI and Nicaragua. Ready to follow the Shepherd.

See you all soon,
Jeff and April

P.S. I found an article in USA Today from 2005. While the shepherds in Turkey were eating breakfast, one sheep walked off a cliff to his death for no apparent reason. 1500 followed him! 450 died and the rest only survived because of the big pile of sheep at the bottom to break the fall. And we are called sheep over and over again in the Bible, hmm.........

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spiritual Emphasis Week

Well, it is Wednesday already! We have just completed Spiritual Emphasis Week at our school. It was a great week in so many ways- no homework, good speakers, and the temperature was pretty mild (75-85) all week. Our speakers, Jack & Mary Anne Voekel, shared many of their experiences from over 40 years serving as missionaries in Latin America, with the life of Moses serving as the starting point for each of the 8 services. Of particular note was Thursday evening's service where we "prayed through" the tabernacle. April and I learned much about ourselves and how much God wants to be with us.

It is hard to believe that we only have 2 weeks until Spring Break! We are ready!

Tomorrow is a busy day for us. First, we are speaking in chapel and then April is going in to have a potentially cancerous mole removed on her forehead. Since it's on her face, she has to have a plastic surgeon do the procedure. She is seriously considering having some more work done, but we are not sure our insurance would cover it!

Spring Break should be a blast as we are taking 28 other people with us to Nicaragua! Many students need to renew their visas, so they decided to take advantage of this trip. We are excited to have them all see such a special place. Sunday evening we will all be attending Juan Pavon's church! Plus, there are 2 families from Brown Corners who will be there to do some destruction and rebuilding of the front wall of the Ebenezer Church property, a much-needed project that will be of great benefit to the church and to anyone who has had to drive the microbus into the property!

That's all for today. Until next time....

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Off!

It has just been a great day today! It's Friday and we did not have classes today due to a teacher in-service day. It has been a much needed break for me as my brain has not been functioning at a very high level lately (to some of you, that would appear normal for me). We had a grammar test yesterday, which means I am now even farther behind April. She is doing quite well with her language acquisition. I, on the other hand, am just trying to make it through most days, so a day off is just what I needed. There is just so much to learn. I am really looking forward to next week as it is Spiritual Emphasis Week, a week where we have special services every morning and evening. This means we have no homework or tests. Hopefully, this also means that what we have been learning will sink in a little more.

We are getting excited about some things being planned right now! We have a Spring Break trip planned to Nicaragua where our family will meet some folks from Brown Corners to get a project started somewhere near Masaya. I have also been planning a trip from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. 28 students from the Institute will go to Nicaragua during the same week. It's been challenging, but Nicaragua is such a cool country that it will be worth all the work. It will be encouraging to see how our work there changes with our improving ability to communicate. As for this year, we will continue supporting the local church through project work, but we are looking forward to expanding and deepening our work in several other areas. Our main trip this summer will add a new dimension to our work, too, as we will be running day camps for the children surrounding Santa Rita. If there is interest, we will take a different group of people to continue the project that will be started in March. It is exciting to see what God is doing for Nicaragua through our church!

Tonight, we are doing pre-marital counseling with a young couple from our church. It is the second time we've met. One really interesting thing I want to share with you is Juan Pablo's background. He is not from a Christian family. He started his journey to Christ as a 12 year old because someone came on a short-term missions trip. Juan Pablo came to play baseball and was introduced to the Lord. He is now 27 and still following Jesus. It is fun to see the result of short-term missions 15 years later. You just never know the impact you are making.

Well, I am really hot right now- it has been almost unbearably hot and humid for the past few days. Makes me yearn for Michigan....not really. 2 months to go, unless there is still snow on the ground April 28th, then we will be changing our flights.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fun Times

Every once in a while, something happens in class to make us all laugh. In fact, this happens weekly. But this week was more special than the previous ones. It was Thursday, and on Thursdays we present Bible studies in Spanish. I had chosen Psalm 51 largely because it contains several desires of David which could easily be changed into the sentence structure we are practicing right now. Verse 6 states that God desires truth in our innermost parts. I just happened to translate this into "God desires truth in our intimate parts" which in Spanish specifically means your "special private place." For some reason my Bible study, for all intents and purposes, ended right there- though for David this still might have applied. It was a memorable Thursday.

A couple of weeks ago, April signed up to attend a women's retreat for all the ladies at ILE. Over 30 women attended this Friday-Saturday event. They were supposed to leave on Friday at noon, but the bus had some problems and they had to wait for another bus to arrive. So, April returned home for a few minutes before leaving again. But now she was wearing a name tag with the words "The Love Connection" on it. Nothing like 30-plus mostly married women heading to a hotel to make a "love connection." She returned Saturday night thankful for the time away from the hustle and bustle we find ourselves in daily.

One of my baseball buddies, Juan Pablo, recently asked April and I to give him and his fiance marriage counseling. Thankfully, JP and Natalie both speak English. God continues to give us opportunities to be involved in people's lives. If it goes poorly, perhaps Dave Luther could use a vacation to Costa Rica.

The kids are all doing great. Camden gets dragged around at play practice 2 or 3 times a week (he's playing the part of a dead guy), basketball is going great, and he had his first 4-hit ball game with the team we play for every Sunday. Mason is having fun making and throwing paper "stars", writing new "Stick-Man Ninja" comics, and playing soccer. Karis is still enjoying gymnastics (she can do a cartwheel, something her mother still hasn't mastered). Ellie is in an "accelerated talking phase" where she must get in around 50,000 words every day. Unfortunately for us, Maria just returned to Nicaragua. Now April and I get the brunt of Ellie's constant questioning. I love answering questions like, "Will you still be strong if you're skinny?" "Why do you have to wear rings if you're married?" "Why do boys have hair all over their bodies?" For the past month we've been referring these questions to Maria so she could practice her English.

We miss our family and friends, just not enough to come home just yet. After all, it was a breezy 85 today. Until next time...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hola! It's been a crazy month for the Dice's in Costa Rica. We had a birthday, a visit from 16 family members, Maria came back for another month, and we have had a ton more school work this tri.
It is a whole new ball game. We now have learned all 14 of the verb tenses, we just don't know how to use them all yet. I am considering taking the 3 hour grammar exam at the end of the tri for college credit. Jeff is considering death by lethal injection. Really no difference, except Jeff's solution is painless and quicker. I have started studying for it already.

The 15th was Karis's birthday. She had a blast. 7 kids came over for brownies and games. (See the pic above.)

On January 24th, the whole Palmer clan arrived for a family vacation. That is Aunt Beth and Uncle Lee and their kids and grand-kids as well as Aunt Jody. For those of you at Brown's that includes Treena and Duane Hall and Todd and Lori Palmer. It was pretty awesome because many of the kids had never flown or been to another country besides Canada. They spent the first day with us exploring around San Jose and then headed for the beach. They enjoyed exploring and snorkeling. The fun was mixed with jelly-fish stings and sunburns!

Aunt Beth was gazing at the moon, tripped, fell, and broke her nose! She was walking with Guillermo, the guide and bus-driver. He says he tried to save her, but she was sure that hand on her back was pushing not pulling! Actually, he felt terrible and Aunt Beth loved to tease him about it. Ellie told Aunt Beth that she had very colorful eyes. I guess that was true since they were black and blue!

After school on Friday, we took the public bus and met the family in Monte Verde. It was a five hour trip. The bus was packed and people stood in the aisles the entire way! Our hotel, the Monte Verde Inn, was at the edge of the jungle. We got to see monkeys, coatis (a type of raccoon), sloths, tarantulas, a porcupine, wolf-spiders, a huge ant mound, and lots of other bugs! It was pretty awesome. We went on a suspension bridge walk high up in the rain forest. It was something right out of Tarzan complete with hanging vines. As David said, "On your wonderful works I will meditate." God is amazing.

Next we took a boat ride to the Volcan Arenal. The drive to the lake was amazing. I am convinced that we just need to move all our family and friends down here. We'll just have to wait for the housing market to come back up! Los Lagos, our hotel, had pools warmed by the volcano!

This was our only trip outside of San Jose and we really enjoyed doing it with the family. We are so blessed to have them. There were a few tears (mostly mine!), but Treena let me borrow her noise-maker (a machine that makes noise so you can sleep), and the next day I was fine and Jeff didn't need to push me off a suspension bridge! It was an amazing experience none-the-less.

I have been really enjoying the experience down here. It has been so different from normal life. I didn't realize the weight I carried around at home. The weight of concern for others in our church and family. A friend told us that God's shoulders are big enough to handle the weight of the world. We can't carry it ourselves. I am convinced I need to pray more and worry less, but I guess that probably isn't news to anyone!

Well, I'm going to leave you all in God's hands. Mine just aren't big enough.
Love to all,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dead Man Walking

Camden tried out for the school play and was fortunate to be cast as half the school seemed to read for parts. He got the part of the jilted boyfriend who gets murdered. I think he has a few lines then gets knocked off and is supposedly carried around for the rest of the play. Though we haven't read the script yet, we are thinking "Bernie" in "Weekend at Bernie's."

April and I are both pretty excited about meeting with our tutors last week. April meets with our Grammar teacher from last trimester, Maritza, 4 days a week for an hour each day. I meet with a private instructor named Marcos 3 times a week for an hour and 15 minutes each session. It really helps to have the extra speaking practice.

We have been blessed this trimester with two good teachers, Eugenia (Language) and Laura (Grammar). Our Language class is really fun and helpful. It is much more structured than last time. We have to do something different for each day of class- things like prepare and present an article from a Spanish newspaper, prepare and present a Bible study, choose a theme and ask 3 people about it- then present your findings to the class, etc. Grammar is grammar. It has been great so far. We've been so busy that we can't find time to watch much tv, which we have come to find out we don't miss that much.

On Friday, we went to visit Cecilia, a lady who runs a soup kitchen for kids in her really poor neighborhood. God uses her to do some really great things and meeting her was/is an inspiration to us to find the joy of the Lord no matter what. We went there to possibly figure out how we could do some volunteering, but instead God used our visit to teach us.

Mason got his hair cut on Thursday. We took photos of Zac Efron to the stylist. It turned out really cool! He is doing really well in school and at playing soccer. Mason misses his buddy, Skylar, who went to live in Peru. Now his best buds are Jonathan & Lucas, though Mason thinks Lucas fell out of his crib and hit his head. Mason thinks he is a bit on the crazy side! Karis is back to doing gymnastics only now she dresses the part! She celebrated a birthday last week and the only thing she wanted was for Camden's buddies to come over and play a game where they try to capture her. Ellie continues to be a source of joy- she makes the craziest comments and faces. She loves the comic, Jim Gaffigan, so pretty much every time we are walking on the sidewalk she will run ahead and say, "See you slowpokes at the Cinnabun!" or "Run for your lives!"

We are now prepping for 16 members of April's extended family to arrive. They arrive on Sunday around 1. So, I need to help around the house a little!

We miss all of you! Until next time....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Back to Work!!

Wow, it is hard to believe it's been 4 weeks since I last wrote a blog! We had such a wonderful time visiting with folks in Michigan and Pennsylvania that the time flew by very quickly. We got back to Costa Rica on Thursday the 7th, and I took off for Honduras on Saturday the 9th (at 4:30 AM). I was invited to attend the General Conference of the United Brethren Church. This was the first time it was being held outside the States. General Conferences of the past were very large gatherings. The old system had individual conferences meeting annually. Michigan had a conference along with several other regions in the States, and each of our countries would have an annual conference too (we have conferences in Honduras, Nicaragua-including Guatemala and Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Hong Kong-including Macau, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Philippines). Then, every 4 years we would all come together for a larger conference, elect a bishop, and generally have lots of fun together. Now, we have nationalized all the conferences. This means each place now has a National Conference which meets annually or biannually. We have one National Conference that meets every two years in the States (we no longer have a "Michigan Conference"). Other national conferences, like Nicaragua, meet annually. For General Conference, each of the national conferences sends two delegates. Guests were able to attend as well. Guatemala was added as its own conference at this meeting, bringing the total number of national conferences to 10. This means we had 20 delegates at GC. Plus, 6 or 7 guests were present.

It was really a blessing to sit around the table with such great men and women. I had a blast reuniting with Karis Wong, the leader of Living Water Church in Macau, and practicing some long-forgotten Cantonese. The other delegate from Hong Kong was Ajax Wu, who always had a smile on his face. It is always fun listening to Jamaicans speak, so I had fun talking with Bishop Winston Smith and Isaac Nugent. Bishop Billy Simbo and Theresa Muso from Sierra Leone were fun to get to know as well. Bishop Brian Magnus and Paul Plato from Canada, Superintendent Juan Pavon and Pastor Henri Osorio of Nicaragua, and Bishop Phil Whipple and Jeff Bleijerveld of the U.S., Pastor Francisco Najera and Pastor Rolando Venezuela of Guatemala, Pastor Erik Ramirez of Costa Rica, Bishop Dennis Casco of Mexico, Pastor Olim Richard of Haiti, Superintendent Juanita Chavez of Honduras, Pastor Jason and Donna Hollopeter, and Steve Dennie were all there, too. We heard lots of reports and had many discussions of partnering in various ministries. You can check out more about the conference at

I got a chance to explore the large United Brethren campus in La Ceiba. We have a school that teaches over 2,000 students and has a famous marching band boasting over 200 participants. 47 of them played for us one night and they were incredible. I wish I had a video camera with me! The UB Church in Honduras is doing well!

I have lots more to write about from this conference, but instead of cramming it all in this post, I will try to sprinkle other info into other posts. I got back on Thursday night and returned to class Friday morning. Thankfully, I didn't miss too much work! More will come later!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Back in Action

Hello again!
It's hard to believe the holiday's are over and we are back in CR. It was so great to be back in Michigan. It actually felt like Christmas with the cold and the snow. Since there are people staying in our house, we invaded Mom and Dad's. So Mom had six extra people and 2 dogs, bringing the grand total to 8 people and 5 dogs. Not to mention the days we had the Hall and Palmer cousins over! After our dog ate a 3 pound bag of peanut M&M's and vomited all over the house and then the next day chewed up one of those neck pillows with a million styrofoam beads, Mom didn't seem quite as sad to see us go this time! We also spend a week in Pennsylvania with the Dice's. It was a great year for me because I won 2 games of Bid, a card game we play every visit. That brings the grand total of my winnings to 3 in the thirteen years we've been married!

It was a reminder again of how blessed we truly are. We have a wonderful church, wonderful family, wonderful is so easy to loose sight of that. Before we left, Adela, our maid, told me at lunch that she didn't know how she was going to feed her family while we were gone. She didn't realize that we pay her from August through April. When I told her that she was still going to be paid, she began crying, thanking God and thanking us. The standard wage for a maid is about $50 a week. Can you imagine? $50 a week... It was so humbling. She lives in La Carpio, the old dump, with 20,000-50,000 other Nicaraguans. I am sitting here typing on a computer in a home with indoor toilets, a washer and drier. She has none of those things. I gave Adela brownie mix for Christmas, she loves those Garradelli brownies, but she has to cook them here because she doesn't even have an oven! Yet, she loves the Lord and thanks Him for everything. I hope that we can be as much of a blessing in her life as she has been in ours. Dad wanted us to find a good cause for his Christmas present, so he got 4 backpacks for her family. We can't wait to give them to her.

The Lord has been working in my heart since we started traveling to Nicaragua. I am addicted to things, things I want, things I think I need. I am trying to learn to enjoy the things that God has blessed me with without being attached to them. I am not always successful. The author Erwin McManus said that often we let the blessings of God become an anchor holding us back from following Him. We hold on to the things He has given us instead of holding on to Him who gave them. I still have a ways to go to learn this lesson. So often I feel like I am playing a game of Wack-a-Mole. Just when I think that I got one area of my spiritual life taken care of, another problem pops up. It's hard to believe that God loves us anyway, isn't it?

Jeff left this morning for General Conference in Honduras. There will be delegates from every UB National Conference: the US, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Honduras, Sierra Leone, and Canada. The delegates from the Phillipines were denied visas to travel through the US. It will be fascinating to hear what God is doing through U.B. churches throughout the world. He will miss three days of class which means I am going to start out ahead!

Love to you all,
April (& Jeff)