Friday, December 31, 2010
Today, the generous contributions of CBC’s congregation were used as a tool to share the love of Christ and The Gospel with those living in unfathomable situations. There is a neighborhood here in Los Guido, Costa Rica called Sector Seven that is known for its extreme poverty and gang violence. Recently, the leadership team here endured the loss of a young girl in a gang-related murder which occurred eleven months ago in this area. Due to the hardship of the loss, the ministry had yet to minister to the area until today. Alongside the leadership team, the GO Costa Rica Team sought out the opportunity presented to us; because many fear the area, those residing there have not received any help or outreach for almost a year. The food bags that you, our CBC members, provided were given to every home; each bag can feed one of these impoverished families for about a week. I wish that I could show you the faces of those receiving the gift, not only were they surprised that we dared to enter their neighborhood, but their smiles glowed with gratitude and hope. When the food bags were presented to each household, they also had the opportunity to hear the truth of Christ; the leadership team presented them with God’s gift of salvation through His son Jesus.
While the Good News was shared, the CBC team members prayed over every home. The entire experience was incredibly moving and eye-opening; as the families listened their eyes were filled with hope. In an area where fear is prevalent every day and a hungry stomach is familiar, a message of comfort and unending peace overcame the reality of the area. One household that we came to really stuck out to me; the leadership team uses a worksheet to help share The Gospel and when we approached one home a man said that he was vision impaired and therefore could not use the worksheet. Though his vision proposed an obstacle, it was immediately overcome. He listened with interest as the leaders clearly shared the Truth; nothing can come between Christ’s love and His people. So THANK YOU for supporting our ministry by donating these food bags!!!
After our ministry in Sector Seven, the leadership team and the CBC team headed out to another day of VBS; I am almost positive that there was not one frowning face. Between the dancing, singing, games, balloons, bracelets and just playing with the kids it is a blast; but I think I may enjoy it more than the kids do! In just a matter of days, I have come to adore many of the kids that I have met. The kids are given love and attention, two things that we often overlook but they long for. After songs and games, the same worksheet presented alongside the food bags is given to the kids. The verse Matthew 18:3 states “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”; the truth of this radiates during VBS, the kids receive the message with such excitement and eagerness.
Our last activity today was a rather fun one; La Finca held a bonfire fully equipped with dinner, plentiful laughter, a huge bonfire and smores. I saw this evening as a wonderful opportunity to bond with the leadership team and the people of Los Guido. The people and families were served a hot meal, a rarity here. Though The Gospel was not directly presented there, the evening was not at all lacking in ministry; my constant prayer while we are here is that Christ’s love will be prevalent in all of our actions, and I believe His love shown brightly this evening.
Tonight the CBC team awaits the arrival of the New Year by playing games and hanging out; it has been amazing to watch a group of people that barely knew each other become a unit and team for the same purpose, to serve Christ.
-That our team will continue to work together, that we will not be discouraged or grow weak, but rather persevere and serve with joy
-Pray for the leadership team here at La Finca. The truly are an amazing group, they are all between the ages of about 9 and 19. They have devoted their vacation to selflessly serve the Lord. Pray they will be encouraged and that they will continue to be impassioned with His love
-Pray that God will prepare to hearts of those here in Costa Rica to hear His Word
We begin each day with a time of worship and bible study. Conway is leading us through the book of Philippians, in which Paul writes to the church of Philippi about joy. Throughout our study today, I was amazed by the similarities between the book and our trip in Costa Rica. Paul specifically brings a message of joy in suffering to the Philippians in order to remind them that they can be joyful despite their circumstances. The churches of Costa Rica are nothing like that of America. These people have nothing and are constantly faced with tragedy, yet they cling to God for even their basic necessities. Their joy comes from the Holy Spirit rather than their circumstances.
Today we spent a lot of time with the leadership team from the church we are working with. As we interacted with them, I couldn't help but think about how Paul interacted with all of the early Christian churches. It is so awesome that we can come to Costa Rica and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to continue their work in this country.
A big part of our day was devoted to Vacation Bible School in the streets of Los Guido. First, we walked through the streets to invite kids, passing out candy and balloons as we went along. VBS was a great time to share Christ's love with these children. We played games, danced to worship songs, and made bracelets that explained the gospel story in a way that the kids would understand. We really enjoyed being able to give the kids an opportunity to escape from their everyday lives and experience the love that Christ has to offer them.
In between VBS and lunch, we took a moment from our schedule to stop and pray for one of the families that is very involved with the church. Sometimes seeing the life style that the people from these small cities survive through can be discouraging, but God reminds us that He is still here. It's very eye-opening to see people who struggle to survive each day have such a deep faith and commitment to God.
Our favorite activity today was rollerskating with the youth from the leadership team. The majority of them had never gone rollerskating before and clung to the members of our team. Let's just say everyone spent most of the time on the floor of the roller rink laughing so hard we could barely pull ourselves back up. The youth and the team members had such a blast we spent hours circling the rink. We took a step in bringing our team closer by building a stronger relationship with the youth leaders.
After each VBS the kids are taken through the "Bridge Illustration" which explains the Gospel in a way that is easy for them to understand. Over 150 kids have already been taken through this illustration during our last two VBS events.
Heilenia is the youngest member of our team and is proving VERY helpful with her spanish speaking skills! The kids love that she can talk to them and our team loves that she can help US talk to kids.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
In a world where so many suffer, several people have asked me why we would go to Costa Rica to help people. There are, after all, plenty of people who need food and shelter back at home. However, there is something much different about mission work compared to any other kind of volunteerism or even evangelism. Mission work is the opportunity to plant a seed and heed the Great Commission. The Go Costa Rica trip is a unique opportunity to take part in mission work as well as evangelism. We help the local missionaries plant the seed in new regions and help grow their ministry in places that have never heard of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Today we took our first trip into La Carpio, which is far worse than any living conditions we would find in the states, and passed out hygiene products for the families who live there. As a team, we reached out to new people within the community and reestablished a connection with those who were more familiar with Mark and his team. After spending time in this place, it is clear that God is working in this community. Recently, tragedy struck one of the families living in this community and one of the Costa Rican team leaders was able to reach out in their time of need. As a result, this family has engaged in discipleship with the local team and a new outreach has begun within the Costa Rican high security prison. We also learned of new plans to buy land and build a community center for La Carpio, in order to offer a safe haven for the people there. With all of the recent developments in La Carpio, it is clear that there will be great things done for God in the near future. It will be great to see what will come of this soon.
After our time in La Carpio, we spent the afternoon doing our first Vacation Bible School event in Los Guido. The community of Los Guido has become well accustomed to the songs and games during the VBS, so there were lots of people who came to spend some time with us. We had the opportunity to spend time with many of the kids of Los Guido and got a quick start to building great relationships with the locals here. One of the best games during this VBS event, and my personal favorite, was the pineapple eating contest. Everyone split into two teams and took turns trying to eat the hanging pineapple... without using any hands. Things got very messy very quick and the hilarity ensued. This event was a great start to our trip and gives us a lot to look forward to in the coming days.
After La Carpio and Los Guido, we took some time off and went to Las Fiestas De Zapote, a local carnival that takes place once a year around this time. We rode a few of the carnival rides which may or may not be considered legal in the United States and then went to the running of the bulls event. I was hoping to be able to get in the ring this year, but decided that spending my time doing outreach with the locals was a better way to spend my time than standing in line all day. The running of the bulls was a lot of fun and only a handful of people got really injured. You can see more of the bulls on the Fiestas website.
All in all, it has been another exhausting and wonderful day in Costa Rica. I can't wait to see what will happen in the next week and I can't wait to spend more time with the people here. It is truly a blessing being able to grow relationships with people in a foreign country without even being able to speak the same language. For many of the kids, the language barrier makes absolutely no difference. As long as they get someone to hold them and give them candy, they will be your best friend for the whole day. Even after only one full day here in Costa Rica, we have already grown new relationships, reached out to new people in the community of La Carpio, and continued the evangelism in two local communities. The experiences here and the ability to be used as a part of God's work being done in the world is incredibly rewarding and this is why we GO.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
We are here!!! It is so exciting to finally be here in Costa Rica. We have all been planning and praying for so long. We left the church about 8 PM on Monday night. Once at LAX, we got all checked in and boarded the plane about midnight. The flight was easy and most of us were lucky enough to get some sleep. We had a layover in Guatemala, but we didn't actually get off the plane. Going through immigration and customs was easy and we were quickly lined up in our single file line ready to board the bus. Mark, one of the missionaries we are working with, and two of his daughters were eagerly waiting for us as we exited the airport. After a few moments, Cory, our faithful bus driver, pulled up. We loaded our luggage and headed to the mission house.
Meg, Mark's wife, had lunch prepared for us when we got to the mission house. This was very exciting since most of us were ready for non -airplane food. We had a brief orientation with Mark about our trip and we were able to rest for about an hour. The plan for the afternoon was to shop for the food bags that we will be handing out in Sector 7 later this week. So, we loaded the bus and headed to Hiper Mas. This is basically the Walmart of Costa Rica. The shopping trip was quick and easy. We purchased some basic food supplies: rice, beans, salt, sugar, spaghetti, cooking oil, and sauce. These few ingredients will feed a family for a week. As we began preparing the food bags, I was overwhelmed. I saw us complete just bag after bag, and I was overwhelmed with God's goodness and providence. I was overwhelmed with the diligence of many of YOU, who supported these food bags with your donations. I was overwhelmed with the thoughts of all the many ways God is going to use these food bags in the lives of the people of Sector 7. So, THANK YOU. Thank you for being such an important part of the ministry that the Lord is doing here.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner cooked by Meg, followed by a time of devotion with Mark. I wanted to share with you a few of the things Mark shared with us, as well as, some of the challenges he gave us. He shared with us two verses from Titus. The first verse was Titus 1:16: They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing good.
Mark used these verses to encourage and challenge us. He shared with our group that we are an incredible example and witness to the Gospel by the work we do while here in Costa Rica. He shared that God has used the ministry and resources we bring in mighty ways. He also turned this into a challenge that we be living this same way at home. That it is not just here on our mission trip that our actions show that we know God. That we live every day in a way that shows our knowledge of God.
Mark also gave us the challenge of pointing the student leadership team to Christ. These kids anticipate our visit every year. Many of us returners have formed special friendships with these kids. Tomorrow at lunchtime, we will get to meet up with them for the first time during this trip. Mark shared that they have already been asking how early they can show up to wait for us to arrive for lunch. This just shows a small glimpse of their excitement. While it is wonderful that this team looks up to us so much, it is important that as they look to us...we point them to Christ.
As I write this, the night is winding down for us. We are quite exhausted yet eagerly anticipating an exciting first day out in the mission field. Some of us are preparing for bed (which is next on my list of things to do) and some are spending time together playing games.
I wanted to leave you with a few specific prayer requests for tomorrow:
*Pray that God will give the team good rest tonight, as well as, strength and energy for the days ahead.
*Pray for the families who will be receiving hygiene bags that we packed tonight. Pray that God will use this small gift as a way to share the Gospel.
*Pray for our first day of VBS. Pray that God will be seen through us and that the Gospel will be heard and received.
I want to leave you with the second verse he shared with us from Titus 3:16: Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.
I pray this for our team-for the next 10 days, as well as when we return home: that we devote ourselves to doing good and providing for daily needs in order that we don't live unproductive lives.
Friday, December 24, 2010
During our trip, we will have the opportunity to host three days of street evangelism and Vacation Bible School (VBS), continue working on the massive multi-purpose building with two full days of work projects, and pass out 75+ food bags to various homes in Los Guido. A late night of roller skating (on a tile floor we’re told) with the youth leadership team and celebrating the New Year (dinner, bonfire, and smores) with the church body, are just two activities our team hopes to use as a tool to share the great appreciation we have for the hard work of those involved with the ministry of the New Life Church. In addition, we will also be assisting the New Life Church of Los Guido with weekly activities such as Sunday service, Kid’s Club, and discipleship groups.
Join us and GO!With your prayers, you GO with us! With your financial support, you GO with us! And with every changed heart, you can rejoice with us!
Please join us in prayer:
That a selfless desire and passion to serve Christ and the people of Costa Rica would be instilled in our team.
That our team would bond together as one and serve with great joy and excitement.
That God’s hand would be a wall of protection around our team, the youth leadership team, and the missionaries as we visit these areas.
That hearts would be made vulnerable to God’s Word and lives would be changed.
That there would be much fruit and growth in the lives of those we meet, as well as the lives of each member of this team.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Would you consider being a part of what God is doing in Costa Rica? You can “purchase” these Food Bags on Sunday morning by stopping at the GO Costa Rica Food Bags display or you can donate now by clicking the button below.