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....