Our New “Pets”

One thing we didn’t anticipate when we were preparing to leave for the mission field was what new ‘pets’ we might acquire. We have seen many new creatures here in Costa Rica, some of them we have appreciated and invited back, some not so much, and some are ok..in their place (which is not inside the house). Here are some we’ve captured on ‘film.’ (Click on any picture to see it larger.)

mothMoth: This large guy was discovered hovering around the light in the boys’ room one evening. By turning various lights on and off, we gradually lured him outside and he spent the night on our back porch. We didn’t mind him in the house, per se, but something that size flitting around in the dark is rather disconcerting.

 

antsAnts: These tiny ants are ever-present in Costa Rican kitchens and virtually impossible to get rid of. If you drop something sweet on the floor, you are sure to have an entire colony within an hour or so. Sweeping them up is quite a treat–ever watched your dirt pile walk across the floor in front of you?

 

geckoGecko: This picture is a baby-size gecko I found on the shower curtain one morning. We have a larger one (3″-4″) in our kitchen that shows itself in the evenings–but never hangs around for a picture. We greatly appreciate these guys for helping to keep our insect population under control, though they do make quite a loud chirping noise for such tiny creatures. The first few weeks, we looked around for a bird whenever we heard one.

 

leaf bugLeaf bug: This picture is an actual Katydid, aka walking leaf. However, walking down the sidewalks we often see many leaves moving across their sidewalks, what looks like on their own. A closer look reveals to them be ants carrying pieces of leaves. During one walk to the park, we followed a trail of them over 25 feet and up a tree. The ants around here quite industrious!

 

monkeyMonkey: We visited one of Costa Rica’s many beaches (Playa Doña Ana) during a national holiday back in September. These monkeys were very used to getting food from the beach-goers, though we’ve heard that isn’t the case for the monkeys at all the beaches.

 

birdsBirds: We have enjoyed finding new species of birds here. Many look and/or sound similar to ones we know from the states, but there are many new ones too. Because we leave our doors and windows open the majority of the time when we are home, these two little guys found their way int the house once morning, It took a little encouraging to get them back out again.

 

I’m sure we will continue to expand our knowledge of the animal kingdom greatly in the coming months.

Our Spanish knowledge is coming along too. Just last night, Chimp was “reading” Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to me and he read, “Blanco dog, blanco dog, what do you see?…” and “Negro sheep, negro sheep…” I’m pretty sure he didn’t realize he was mixing languages!

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Back To School

First Day of School

First Day of School

Rosebud working on her Spanish homework in our backyard

Rosebud working on her Spanish homework in our backyard

The phrase “back to school” has loaded meaning for our whole family this year. Not only are the kids starting a new school year, but Ted and I are heading back as well—for the first time in over a decade! On top of that, the younger two kids have their very own classes during mommy and daddy’s school time. This is the first time ever for any of the kids to be in a classroom since we have homeschooled up to now. That is a big change not only for them, but also for me as I am adjusting to not knowing all about their curriculum and what they are learning on a daily basis.

That said, the first week went pretty well. By the end of the week, Rosebud was going to class without crying—though she was sometime still upset at pickup time if all the other parents got there before we did. Chimp really enjoyed his PreK class which is all in Spanish. He hasn’t used much at home yet, but they said give him a month or so and he may be our translator!  Cub is doing well and loving school despite my concerns about his ability to focus for long periods, and Daisy is relishing in the structure and lack of sibling distractions. Ted and I were both placed in an Intermediate level class to start and are doing well. We have four hours of class each day, split into three different classes: Grammar, Phonetics, and Language (mostly oral practice).

Walking to School

Walking to School

Walking by the park across the street from our house

Walking by the park across the street from our house

Our adjustment to Costa Rica is still very much a work in progress. One of the biggest changes is transportation. With no vehicle of our own, we are doing a lot of walking. We have used the bus a couple times and we usually take a taxi home from stores when we buy a lot of groceries, etc., but other than that, we walk. To the park, to school, to friends’ houses, to the market, to the corner store, to church, to the bank, to the panaderia (bakery, yum!)… It is probably similar to city living in the U.S., but coming from a very rural area, it is an adjustment for us. I think the stroller we brought has more miles on it in the two weeks we’ve been here than any of our other strollers in their entire lifetimes. 🙂

The other big adjustment has been security. Partly city-living and partly as North Americans (whom they perceive as being rich), we do have to be watchful. Not only do we have to keep an eye on our children at all times, but we also need to be conscious of making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. Since the current targets seem to be smartphones and passports, we purchased a “dumb phone” for me to use (instead of the smartphone I already own) and we have had wallet size copies of our passports made so we don’t need to carry them with us (needed as ID whenever we make a purchase with a credit/debit card). Unfortunately, there has been at least one student held up each trimester at the school. I don’t think anyone has ever been seriously injured, but we still want to minimize our risk. We would appreciate ongoing prayers for our safety in this area.

Daisy and her friend, Anatina

Daisy and her friend, Anatina

Playing futbol (soccer) at the park

Playing futbol (soccer) at the park

On a positive note, the kids have really enjoyed the increased opportunities to spend time with friends. Not only during school time, but we often meet other families at the park or go to their houses for a bit on the way home from school. There is another family here, also from EMM, that has children similar ages as all three of our older kids!  Ted has also made some great relationships as well. He enjoys working on his Spanish with locals whenever he can and already has several people he chats with on a regular basis. We have also connected with several other missionaries at the school who are also planning to work with coffee production/sales in some way or another. Even though we are eager to get to Guatemala and begin working with the K’ekchi’, it is obvious that God is using our time here in a great way too. Thank you to everyone who is making this possible.

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The Great Adventure

“Saddle up your horses we’ve got a trail to blaze…”  This Steven Curtis Chapman song has been the theme song of our journey this year. As a family, we have started every one of our many car trips for fundraising with the Overture and song.  Today, as we take the next BIG step on this path God has us on, we invite you to join us. Big or small, local or global, God has invited each of us to follow him in our own Great Adventure!

Let’s follow our Leader

Into the glorious unknown

This is a life like no other

This is the great adventure

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To say goodbye is not to forget

goodbye

I came across this quote this past week and it really hit me. We have been saying so many goodbyes lately, and they are getting harder and harder. Yes, our goodbyes do mean going away at this time, but it is our prayer they do not mean forgetting. Although we cannot be directly a part of all the lives we were before, we still hope to be able to share in each other’s lives and support each other. We are very thankful for Facebook and email and Skype that allow us to continue to be connected in spite of physical distance. Not only can we share with others about our lives and how God is working in another part of the world, but we can also hear from you all about your lives and how God is working here!

We left our house and home community two days ago and already we have received several emails and notes from friends. This is such an encouragement to us even in this early stage of our travels. We covet your prayers greatly, but hearing from you is just as important to let us know we are not forgotten.

So, maybe we should not say goodbye, but see ya later, knowing that we will still be able to share our lives and with the knowledge that we will see each other again, and that this span of time that we are gone is very short when compared with the eternity we know we will have together.

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Getting Closer

Last summer and fall I religiously checked the blogs of all our friends from missionary training, wanting to see how they were doing as they prepared and left for their assignments around the world. I was frequently disappointed to find no new posts. But now I understand!! When you are uprooting your family, selling most of what you own and packing the rest up in an impossibly small number of suitcases, and preparing for life in another culture, you can hardly see straight, let alone stop and write down a coherent post about what’s going on.
That’s said, I’m going to attempt to highlight a few things going on with our family at the moment and hope you can make sense out of it.
 
 – We have tickets!! We got a wonderful deal on tickets and will be leaving at 7AM on August 21.
 
 – We were able to spend a couple days in early July with Julie’s family before saying good-byes following the commissioning service with EMM. We will be traveling some more this week to spend time with more family.
 
 – We had a wonderful week of learning and refreshment with other missionaries on home leave at Oasis.
 
 – We are working to get our student visas for Costa Rica and ran into a problem with the original birth certificates we had, requiring us to quickly get new certificates for all but one family member. (God was good and we already had a recent certificate for the Michigan birth, requiring us to only have to go to nearby NY and PA.) We will be traveling to Washington, D.C. this week to the Costa Rican consulate to finish up the U.S. part of this process.
 
 – We are procuring luggage and starting to narrow down what will go with us and what will stay/be sold.
 
 – We have been communicating with our “Big Brother” in Costa Rica who is finding a house for us and making other preparations on that end, as well as answering my onslaught of questions on what things are like there.
 
 – We went real school shopping for the first time ever to purchase some of the needed supplies for Daisy and Cub in Costa Rica.
 
 – We discovered that the other family from EMM currently studying at the language school has children the same ages as Daisy and Cub! They have been a great resource to us, and we are looking forward to meeting them soon.
 
Thank you all for your continued prayers as we navigate this maze and try to stay sane. Please pray for favor with all the authorities and a smooth transition for our family. Also pray that the remaining funds would come in so that we can focus on Spanish learning during our time in Costa Rica.
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Celebrating Our Anniversay

No, not that one; we were married in May.

Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the day God called us to Guatemala and then confirmed that call in several ways.

We look back and remember how God gently led us to the point where we could accept His will with eagerness and not reluctance or fear.

We look at the present and see God’s faithfulness in providing for us as we raise funds and prepare our hearts and house and minds to go.

We look to the future and have faith in God’s continued guidance and that He is preparing the way for us even now.

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

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Fundraising Thoughts

funds 06-21-14

Funds Raised or Pledged as of June 21, 2014

As we come to the critical point of making the decision whether or not we can begin the applications and paperwork for an August departure as planned, fundraising has been on my mind quite a bit. We have travelled a lot of new ground for us in the last several months—both literally and figuratively—as we have shared the vision God has given us and sought to find partners in its fulfillment. It has been wonderful to meet new people and make friends who are supportive and encouraging of our mission. However, stopping to look at the cold, hard numbers can sometime be rather discouraging; they seem to grow so slowly sometimes. Even so, God has been faithful in many expected and unexpected ways and we have inched our way to over 77% of the needed support! Which means we still need to find another 23% in barely two months time. Two months that have many other things that need to be done if we are to leave on time. (To break that down for the detail-oriented people, that means we need to raise an additional $1,600/month for our first 3-year term.)

Recently, I have been following a short Fundraising Bible Reading plan from the YouVersion Bible App. It has encouraged me that in the two Old Testament passages, so many gifts were given that they had more than enough. Moses even had to tell the people to stop giving! I have also found encouragement in Paul’s “appeal letter” in II Corinthians 8-9.

As you consider giving (or if you have already pledged) to our mission, please take these words from 2 Corinthians 9:12-15 to heart:

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Another thing that keeps going through my head lately is the lyrics from a couple of the songs Daisy danced to at her ballet recital this past weekend:

When you take that first step into the unknown
You know that He won’t let you go
So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities, they try to alter you
But you know you’re made for more, so don’t be afraid to move
Your faith is all it takes, and you can walk on the water, too
(“Walk on the Water” by Britt Nicole)  Lyrics  Video

I’m stepping out to take a chance.
And if I fly or if I fall it’s in Your hands.
You’re the maker of my dreams,
And You’ll make a way with me.
So I’m stepping out, I’m stepping out
To take a chance
(“Stepping Out” by Group 1 Crew)   Lyrics  Video

Please join with us in praying and believing for the remaining funds to come in before it is time for us to leave. Thank you.

Here’s an encouraging blog post if you’ve got so many obligations at the moment you don’t feel you can give.

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A Special Story

One of the most special parts of our training last summer was the morning worship time that was spent praying over our children. One of the things that was prayed for our kids was that God could use them as we were discerning where to go. God answered this prayer in a very special way. Although he did not tell us our assignment through our children, he did confirm it through them, in more than one way.

As we talked to Daisy throughout training, she frequently expressed the desire to go somewhere that spoke Spanish. Spanish appealed to me as well since I had some in high school/college, but language obviously wasn’t going to be our determining factor. Even so, the options before us at the time were not remotely Spanish. Once we determined our calling, we saw how God had been faithful to her desires.

Image

Similarly, Cub has had a growing love of soccer over the last several years. Although this is a sport played in many countries around the world, it is an especially favorite sport in almost all Latin American countries, Guatemala not excluded. He was quite excited to find out that there would be no lack of opportunities to play soccer where we are going. 

Daisy was also working on writing a story during training. She started early the first week and finished the second-to-last day. We were not allowed to read it while she was working on it. In the story, she used the names of many of the other people at training: Princess Jada, Duke Sid, etc. except for one part. The story is of our (royal) family needing to hide out for a while to escape attacks on our lives in the castle, so we escaped to the woods. In the woods was a family that took us in and hid us. Their last name was Groff.

When we read the story after the last day of training (the end of the day in which we felt the strong call to Guatemala), we asked Abby how she came up with that name. She couldn’t remember. Wherever she got it, it served as a special confirmation for us. Galen and Phyllis Groff are EMM’s Regional Representatives for Central America and also the missionaries that have been serving with the K’ekchi’ for the last 20 years! This confirmation and answer to the prayer for God to use our children is something that we treasure as we continue our journey. Not only are these all special in and of themselves, but they serve to remind us that this call is not just for Ted or for Ted and I, but for our entire family.

Please consider partnering with us so that our family can begin to fulfill this call in August. You may do so here.

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A Brief Update

Weekday life continues to go about the same: school, homeschool co-op, and a few other activities. Weekends have been for traveling. We visited a different church each of the five Sundays in March and the first Sunday of April! Each of those visits were opportunities for wonderful connections and sharing. The last week of March, we had been planning to go to our home church, and we were all looking forward to it. However, at the last minute, we were invited to speak at a Missions Conference nearby. Although we were disappointed to miss our church family once again, we were truly blessed by the conference. 

A family at New Bremen Church

We really enjoyed our time visiting with a family from the New Bremen Mennonite Church–especially the chance to get up close and personal with their alpacas.

Clarence Center Church

Visiting a church near Buffalo, NY

We continue to work on logistical matters as well. The past few weeks I have been working to figure out visa requirements for our time of language study in Costa Rica. There are several documents we need to obtain and/or have certified for that process. Some of that we can do now and some can’t be done until we are released to do it by EMM—-once we are at 75% to 80% of the funds required.

The fundraising has been going well. If you have been checking for the non-existent blog posts, you may have noticed that, even though they have not been appearing, the thermometer in the sidebar has been going up (unlike the one outside, but that’s another topic!). We are now just about halfway there. Praise the Lord!! If you would like to become a partner with us, you may do that from this page (links in the side bar—you can pledge online or print it out and mail it in). You can also sign up to receive our monthly prayer and quarterly newsletters.

This past weekend we had the end-of-year program for our homeschool co-op. The kids performed the musical Everyday Heroes. It talked about how God can and does use ordinary people to do extraordinary things, using Gideon, Esther, and Nehemiah as examples. I’m pretty sure the lady who chose this musical was only looking at having enough parts to go around (beyond the Christian theme), but it seemed quite appropriate for our situation as well. I want to assure you that we are a most ordinary family with struggles and sibling rivalry and frustrations and whining and tempers and doubt. And when we look at what God has called us to and the amount of funding required to get there, it definitely seems next to impossible. However, we are learning that if we just follow one step at a time and lean on God, He is faithful and He will do it. One song from the Gideon part of the musical that is on repeat play in my mind had the words, 

He never, never, never, ever, ever, ever,

Thought God could use him.

He never, never, never, ever, ever, ever,

Thought He could.

He never, never, never, ever, ever, ever,

Thought God could use him.

He never, never, never, ever, ever, ever,

Thought He would.

God will fight the battle, if we’ll answer the call.

That about sums it up!

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On the Road Again…

This seems to be the motto for our family lately. Fortunately, for the most part, it has not been accompanied by the oft-associated “Are we there yet?”
January we began fundraising in earnest, spending three of the four Sundays traveling to other churches to share what God is calling us to do. We were truly blessed at each of these churches by amazing connections and encouragement. At almost every place, we encountered people with connections of some type to Guatemala. Some had been there themselves and many had relatives or friends who had been there. Talking with people after each service about our call and hearing about their lives and how God has used/is using them has been inspiring as well. We had a bit of a break during February, only visiting one church, but we will hit the road again in March with all five Sundays away.
Another thing that has kept us on the roads is our medical preparations. We are all required to get physicals and one or two vaccines before leaving. As such, I think we have been to the doctor’s or dentist’s (30 min one way) six times in the last four weeks. However, we now have 2/3 of the physicals complete and a couple rounds of shots done. (Unfortunately, the vaccines needed come in a series, so that will still require several more painful visits…which are always concluded by a chocolate shake, of course!)
We have been working on some educational preparations as well, although these have not involved much travel. All of us have been working to some degree on our Spanish. Ted has passed me up in placement at duolingo.com, though I still have a higher total score than him. 🙂 Daisy is working on that as well and has got several of her friends learning along with her, keeping her challenged. The younger kids enjoy watching Pocoyo videos on youtube and learning as we use different words in everyday conversations. Ted has also been taking some college level classes online for free. He found one on sustainable economic development and is looking into another on Latin American culture. He’s been quite active in the class forum where the discussions have been spirited and energizing.
We have been blessed to see God working as he brings people into our lives we haven’t connected with in a long time and our partner base grows. Although we are in the process of leaving our home here for a while, we have felt not a loss but a gain of support and friendship and connections–some of it in person, but much of it electronically. Our prayer is that this will continue as we leave the country and share God’s love with a people who have suffered greatly at the hands of others.
One additional way each of you can help us that I did not include in my last post is to like our Facebook page (see right column to do this) and invite your friends to like it as well. The more likes and shares we get, the more we can spread our message of providing hope for the K’ekchi’ people. You can also find more pictures and information about our plans on our Facebook page.

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