Posts Tagged With: Costa Rica

God’s faithfulness in a year of change

We began fundraising a year ago this January. As we look back on 2014 it is amazing that we have come so far and accomplished so many things during those quick 12 months.

It has been an exciting time, seeking partners and meeting many like-minded friends for our mission. We’ve worshipped with many churches in New York and Pennsylvania, sharing how God has called us and how he continues to provide for us. We’ve fellowshipped with many wonderful people at the mission conference in Bell Run and at various events. We’ve rallied together for God’s cause to bring hope and justice to the wonderful K’ekchi’ people in Guatemala.

Saying good-bye

Saying good-bye in August

We’ve also had to say good-bye to a lot of friends and a lot of the things that are dear to our hearts. We remember the tearful good-byes at church, the last Christmas with family and the last picnic and bonfire with friends. We’ve sold our possessions and our house and land, and brought our children to a different land with new people and customs.

We’ve been in Costa Rica now for 5 out of 10 months, learning Spanish and adapting to the culture of Latin America. In a way it feels like we’re in a holding-pattern, in between the excitement of being sent and the compelling work of being on the ground in Guatemala. At times it can be discouraging and uncertain, when our resolve is tested and the mountain of spanish verb conjugations piles up endlessly, or when our children deal with culture change in different ways.

However, we know how important this time is for us as a family. We are growing in ways we didn’t foresee, drawing closer as a family as we draw closer to God. We have learned how to be a witness in our community, even when we are unable to communicate the language. The children have made friends with our neighbors and with the local kids at the park. We shared in the joy of providing Christmas for a nearby orphanage and we spent a number of mornings after the New Year picking up the trash in the playground.

Cleaning up the playground

Cleaning up the playground

At first we didn’t see the need for so much time studying in Costa Rica, we were eager to get on the field as quickly as possible. But we’ve come to appreciate this incubation period, this time for God to work in our hearts and teach us to be humble and patient, allowing Him to work through us instead of trying to rely on our own strength.

We are thrilled that you have joined us on this journey of the past year. We praise God that with your help we have 98.5% of the needed funds for the coming 2.5 years. With $5,000 left to raise, there is still an opportunity for you to join us by donating if you would like to join us in what God is doing among the K’ekchi’ in Guatemala.

Christmas for the orphanage.

Christmas for the orphanage.

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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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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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Approval and Exploring

We received the following news in an email today:

Dear Ted and Julie, Congratulations, you have been approved for an assignment with Eastern Mennonite Missions!” 

Although the blog has been quieter the last couple of months, we have been busy playing catch up. We were approved for a short-term assignment in May, but EMM understandably has a longer and more involved process for long-term approval. So when we switched to long-term, we had to backup and complete those extra steps. After completing doctrinal questionnaires, life inventories, and growth plans, we had our final interview this week.
The next step is to establish our budget and form our support team. We saw the first draft of the budget this week and it was a bit overwhelming. But God is faithful!  We will initially be going for a three-year term. The first year we will go to language school in Costa Rica, and then to Guatemala for almost two years before returning for a 3-month visit. We are hoping to be able to raise the money so that we can make it to the start of the August term in Costa Rica next year.
Our language study here has been coming along. Ted, Esther, and I will get a chance to test it out this coming week. We will be joining an EMM employee for an exploratory trip to Guatemala to meet the missionaries that are there now as well as the people that we will be working with in a couple years. We are very excited about this opportunity and would appreciate your prayers for safety and successful connections. 
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