I am back in Costa Rica. I was in the states, mostly California, for about 3 weeks. It was a whole lot of craziness. It was amazing being able to be home and spend time with family (especially my little niece who was 2 months old at the time) all together and individually, as well as visit with friends. I was really blessed just to be able to rest and relax and go on bike rides with my mom or a friend, have lunch or coffee with my dad, hang out with each of my brothers and sister-in-law and niece and even just sit and be with or around people that I don't get to see very often. It really was a blessing. It was also a very good time of refreshment to prepare me for the craziness that would pick right back up upon coming back to Costa Rica. I've been back a week now and it feels like a month has gone by. Our first ever semester students from Fresno Pacific University arrived last week, so we took a few days to orientate them and get them situated. I think it's going to be a great 4 months for them here. Other than that, I've been getting things in order in the house, with the car and to start everything up again in Las Fuentes next week. Some things have gone smoother than others, but just to give you some idea of what a day could and actually did look like: Today I woke up early but also very excited because our widow-maker (electrical shower head water heater- yes, it's probably as dangerous as it sounds) was going to be replaced by one that works, thus giving us warm showers for the first time since I got back (there were quite a few previous attempts at fixing it). This was done by our very kind retired electrician neighbor, Don Rodrigo. He came over, installed the new shower head, no complications, no one got electricuted- it was a complete success! So, I started off my day with a much appreciated warm shower! Then, I had planned to meet with Jehudi, who works with me in Las Fuentes, in the SI office to go over some stuff. As I went to leave, I could not help but be aware of the flat tire......so, I hurried to catch the bus, as I was already running good and late. I finally got there and we got a little flyer made to put up in the Fuent- it turned out super cute, I'm not gonna lie. So, after that, Jehudi said that he needed to go by the hardware store to get some stuff and he would help me find a car jack, if I wanted (because we have a car jack, but it doesn't really work with our car. i'm sure you're asking why, right? yeah- i don't know). So, we headed out. We arrived to the hardware store only to discover that they were out of any car jacks that were not ginormous and expensive, and so I would have to wait on that (Jeff offered to come later to help me change the tire with some of his tools =). So, then, I headed over to the grocery store because I had to pay an electricity bill and that's how you do it here. So, I waited in the line and when it came my turn, the lady informed me that that system was currently down and so I could not pay that bill at that time. So, I then just walked home to work on something that maybe wouldn't be so affected by outward circumstances and then feel like an unavoidable failure. And that probably actually sounds more negative than I feel. But I feel like this is kind of more what the reality of living here in Costa Rica feels like sometimes. And I felt somewhat frustrated, of course, but I don't know if it was just having a different mindset being back in Costa Rica or if it was just THAT good to start off the day with a warm shower, but I feel like God's just really helped me to have peace with all these little things and not worry about what seem like failed attempts adding more things/stress to my to do list. And if I do start to feel stressed I might just have to decompress in what sometimes feels like the, oh so spiritual act of taking a very appreciated warm shower. =)
We recently finished our summer season, full of teams from all over the states and Canada. It was a great time of being able to share with others and receive help in our ministry sites. I had an intern, Mark, from Fresno, California, who was a great help to me throughout the entire summer. He brought a lot of energy and encouragement and was always willing to lend a hand. He really was a huge blessing in what can be a kind of hectic time for us. In the first 6 weeks of the summer, we had a group of 4 students from Trinity Western University in Canada, one of which, Joti, was placed at my site. She was also a huge encouragement to me and the kids we work with. In addition to everything else this summer, I had the joy of spending one night a week with all the interns, encouraging them and giving them a safe place where they didn't have to worry about being "on" or in charge of something, or even having to figure out how to express themselves in spanish. I really enjoyed being able to provide this time and place for them, as I know the experience of having to be abroad and being in charge of things and having plenty of responsibilities. Overall, the summer was great! It wasn't without a few glitches here and there, but the kids involved in our programs and those that came from the states seemed to do really well and enjoy their time together! Here are just a few pictures from these last few months:
Joti, Mark and I
A rainy day soccer game with the kiddos.
Best buds: Kevin and Axel
Aerobicizing, of course!
Valeria, Joti and others in the background at the church
In Las Fuentes, we have been incredibly blessed in our partnership with the church there. It's been over 2 years that I've been working out of the church rent free. They've been very gracious in allowing us to use their space and various resources there. It's been a huge blessing. There are still some drawbacks in not having a place of our own, however we are taking steps towards growing and bettering what we do have available to us. For example, for the last 2 years or so in Las Fuentes, because we don't have a space that is just for us, we have kept all of our materials and supplies locked in a 2'x3' plastic box that we would have to carry up and down stairs from where we would store it to where we would have our program with the kids. It was pretty hefty and jam-packed with lots of great things. But it was also not the easiest to manage with having to move it all the time and having little hands rummaging through it, making it seemingly impossible to keep it in some kind of order or system. So, with the amazing servant's hearts of Jeremy and those working with him at the woodshop, we put in a request for some kind of cabinet that we could lock and keep up in a more permanent spot in one of the rooms where we work with kids in the church. In not much time at all, the cabinet was finished and moved into it's place in Las Fuentes! And we are so very grateful for not having to lug that large box up and down the stairs and having a more organized and larger place to keep all of our supplies! Below are some pictures of the day that we got the cabinet and transferred everything from the box to the oh-so-spacious cabinet.
This is a picture of everything we took out of the box and various other places to put inside the cabinet.
You can see the infamous old box in the background, being cleaned out.
Nicole and Mark helped out with the transfer and the Jeffs, on the right, helped move the cabinet and put it in it's place.
One week ago, I returned from a trip to the states---California, being the specific one I visited, actually. Ya see, what actually happened is that every year, my home church in Hanford has a Mission Fair. And each year they have a guest speaker. This year they asked Dave Hansen (the president of Students International) and I to be the speakers- a tag team type of effort. So, after some anxious weeks of prayers and nervous planning, I flew back to CA for the event. On Saturday, there was an international dinner, including a salsa (the food kind) contest! Following the dinner, there was a time when people could go around and here different people from different organizations speaking about their ministries. There were four sessions, so that people could here each of the speakers. In this time, Dave and I gave a little introduction to Students International- what it is- what we do. And then I spoke a little more specifically just about what all is going on with SI Costa Rica. It was good to be able to share that much with people in my home church that have supported me and seen this facet of God's plan begin to develop in my life. It was also very encouraging to see so many familiar faces. Which was also SUPER helpful Sunday morning, two services, when I saw the hundreds of chairs (I'm really bad at estimating, it could have been less...like 12...well, no, not really. I'm pretty positive it was more than 12) beginning to be filled with bodies- living ones, with ears, ready to listen.....to me =/ But I gave it all to God. Dave spoke some, gave kind of an introduction, I, then, gave kind of my personal story and testimony in missions and then Dave closed it out. It seemed to go pretty smoothly and well. It was also amazing to be able to have all of my family there, parents, brothers and sister-in-law, everyone!
Afterwards, I got to spend some quality time with my family all together, which I LOVED, of course. Throughout the following week, I also got to meet with people who are either coming to Costa Rica this next year or are interested in doing so. My mom and I even made a trip down to L.A. to get some paper work for my religious visa application for Costa Rica. It was a really good trip- pretty full, of all good things, but also a good time of being able to see and share with my church family, as well as my family-family and some friends. =)
My home church, First Baptist Church of Hanford, is having their annual MIssion Fair April 9-10. They have asked Dave Hansen (the president of Students International) and I to be the speakers. So, I will be in the Central California area at that time and while I do not revel in the idea of speaking in front of large groups, I would love to see you then and have your support for this event. Even if you're not able to attend, please keep me in your prayers, as I'm pretty nervous about it. I'm sure it'll be great and I have confidence that God will give me the words that He has for everyone to hear. Thank you for your prayers =)
In Las Fuentes, we've begun to put into practice some of the new ideas for this year. One of these ideas for the boys and girls club was to assign a theme or a value to each month. Each week of that month, we set aside some time to talk about different aspects of that value and do some kind of activity with it. Some examples of these themes are, Goals, Self-worth and Respect. It's something the kids are still getting the hang of, but there have been some good discussions that have come of it and it's been helpful to refer back to for the children in other situations.
In hopes of creating a more community centerish type of environment (but without the whole actual physical building part), I've been brainstorming and creating a list of special activities to take place on Friday afternoons. Some compiling of resources, supplies and able-bodied help are still needed for many of the activities, but so far, we have also been able to host two movie afternoons. For these events, we were able to borrow a projector to have more of the big screen kind of feel. We were given permission to use the community building (where we also do aerobics), which also provided chairs and we brought snacks to make the whole movie watching experience complete. We chose movies appropriate for the ages of those that came, between 4 and 13. Although, some had made suggestions of movies ahead of time that would not have been appropriate, we stuck with movies like, Monsters Vs. Aliens (the Pixar one) and Yogi Bear. They all loved it, even the too cool for school ones- I saw them laughing. This is just a small thing that I'm sure a lot of them maybe haven't able to experience before. And starting out with this kind of activity, rather than something more complicated or involving, I feel like they'd be more likely to get involved when we plan for things that require some more involvement, such as tournaments or special projects. So far it seems to be going pretty well. Each time we've had about 20 kids show up and they behaved excellently both times, also showing me that I can attempt something a little more challenging with them. Especially when teams are here to help direct such activities.
Speaking of teams, we've had our first two student teams of the year. The first group was made up of a team from Jupiter Christian High School in Florida and an Intervarsity group from James Madison University in Virginia. The second group contained a women's soccer team from Crown College in Minnesota and a team from Taylor University in Indiana. Both of these groups were excellent and gave us a great jumping off point for the year and the teams to come. They were very willing to jump in, flexible with everything and very encouraging with their interest and care for the work being done here.
Here are a few pictures from one of the movie days with the kiddos:
Our movie clan, making our best monster and alien faces! Krysta and Tracey Dixon (neither of which are pictured here) came to help out on separate occasions. Erin Janzen, who is pictured here, also came to help out.
Back in February, we had a group of about 25 women from California, Texas, Guatemala and Austria, one of which was my mom, that all met down here in Costa Rica for an SI women's trip! It was great to be able to spend time with so many women that I'd known from California and Guatemala and to get to know the others. It was also amazing to be able to share in it all with my mom. She'd come to visit before, but never in the context of an actual outreach, so I think it was good for her, along with the others I'd known as well, to see what all goes on in my site and how teams fit into that. We had a good and very encouraging week with this team. It was not without it's challenges, though. In working with kids of the age that I do, pre-teen or early teens, there presents quite a few challenges with disciplinary issues. This women's team got to see some of these challenges first hand, but were very supportive and encouraging in how it was handled. It's always exciting having new people work and experience our lives here, but there's something special about sharing it with those who are close to you or have known you beforehand.
Below are some pictures from this outreach:
Janice Hansen (who lead the women's trip), me and my mom.
Tracey, with Lynnea, leading the way on our excursion to La Paz Waterfall Gardens