Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trying to be Grateful, and Trying to See with His Eyes

Spencer Paveley, one of our base administrators, spoke this week about worship. We usually think of worship as singing songs, eyes closed with hands raised, and within the four walls of our sanctuaries. Spencer challenged us with the idea that worship is actually meant to be a lifestyle. He described worship as a "response to the revelation of who God is." This could look different depending on the situation, because we respond appropriately to things provided our understanding of something.

Worship is an expression of appreciation and admiration. Although God did not create man solely for the purpose of worship…He actually doesn’t need our validation, or anything really, because He is self-sustaining…it is actually beneficial for us to do so. When we direct our attention on who God is, it changes our perspective. This is because we’re choosing to focus on the best thing there is; the most faithful, the most lovely, the most excellent thing in existence. When we fill our mind with God, we find in Him the peace and freedom we are searching for. It’s good. It’s healthy. To emphasize the benefits, we worshiped significantly more this week through music. It was awesome.

Our responses can vary so much. Some sing their praises. Some dance. Others serve the poor. Others teach or preach about their revelations. You can respond to God by using your gifts. I love to sing in church. I love to write poetry. Perhaps what is truly worshipful is the reason behind our actions. The response is born from a thankful heart.

A thankful heart. Interesting, huh? Spencer challenged us with the idea that we come before God in one of two conditions: gratitude or complaint. He said that there’s no middle ground. Either you are satisfied or you are not. Wow. You know what I realized this week? I am not a grateful person. I always seem to be thinking about what I don't have, or what I could have, or am not, or could be or whatever. It's not very like me to focus on what God has blessed me with. Maybe this is the key to my dissatisfaction; I’ve been struggling a lot with boredom. Lecture has been too basic for me. Our schedule is getting kind of dull. Feeling like what we’re doing has no value. These thoughts are coming from a heart filled with complaint!

But is not God the giver of good gifts, like it says in the book of James? Does He not lavish His love on us continuously, every second of every day, like it says in Romans? Every breathe I take, every beat my heart makes is all because of His grace and love. He has abundance for us. He said, in John, that He came to bring us life to full. This word from Spencer was very, very convicting. Something to pray about, for sure. Something to

Wednesday night we had a really fun time. These are designated as our Family Nights. We had a team of high school students from Colorado with us this week, so we had a full house. We had music going on and dancing. There was a spontaneous jump rope competition, after an intense limbo session. People were playing hacky sack and foosball. Lots of laughs.

Vanessa, Spencer’s wife, invited us over to their house to hang out one afternoon. It was really relaxing. She had tea and bread for us, and we all just kind of hung out for a couple hours. We watched youtube videos and played hacky sack.

After that, we had lunch and had a bonfire at the base. Why, you might ask? In the middle of the day? We were burning our “soul ties.” Vanessa introduced to us, back when she spoke in week three, the idea of “soul ties.” As cheesy as I think it sounds, it’s actually a really heavy topic. A soul tie is an intimate connection human beings make with others. They can be healthy or unhealthy, but either way they are influential in our lives. Healthy soul ties occur between loving parents and their children, or loyal friendships. An example of an unhealthy soul tie would be a negligent or abusive parent or even a cheating lover. The fire was open to anyone who wanted to proclaim freedom from their past; any abuses, heartbreaks or regrets that plagued us. It was really cool to see people write these things down and throw them in the fire. Some people even threw out clothing. We got to pray for them, and exalt healing and freedom in Jesus. I’ll say that I even made a step in that direction…but that’s between me and God. Hallelujah.

I got a new backpack after the fire. Isaac, the guy who runs the kitchen, took me downtown to buy a good backpack for traveling. We took the bus to the main shopping strip, and we bought this sweet, black high sierra 75-liter backpack at a gun shop. Kind of a random place to buy it, but I finally got it! It made this weekend so much more enjoyable.

We went downtown again to feed the homeless, this time to the red light district. It was a little more sketchy than the first time…just because of our location…but it went so much better. I prayed beforehand that God would reign and the enemy would be silenced. I proceeded with caution, nonetheless, but ended up having a cool encounter with an older Nicaraguan man named Victor. Carole, one of my leaders, and I chatted with him while one of my friends Luis translated. For a while, he was trying to teach Carole Spanish, and pointed out to us that we were gringos...but then all of the sudden he started asking about Jesus. He said he didn't know Him, but he wanted to.

Victor started crying and hitting himself in the chest, because his "heart was empty and longing." We asked him if we could pray for him, and if he wanted to accept Jesus into his heart. He said yes, so we laid hands on him. Luis led him in a prayer in Spanish while Carole and I held his hands. At some point during the prayer, as Luis and Victor called on the Holy Spirit, I felt something descend on us. Something so contrastingly opposite of what I felt the last time we went to the streets; light. Every hair on my body stood on end, a chill of excitement ran up my spine, my hands tingled and I couldn't help but smile. I really think Victor met Jesus that night. Before he left us to go find somewhere to sleep, Victor asked us to pray for his asthma. I prayed for healing, while Luis translated, and declared wholeness and peace in his life. He thanked us with some sincere fist-bumps, and told us he believed he would be okay. He was exhausted; Luis walked him to the shelter around the corner where he could sleep. Highlight for sure.
Eight of us went backpacking this weekend to this little town called Montezuma. We took a bus to the coast, and then a ferry across the peninsula to another bus, finally to arrive at our destination. I think I liked the traveling aspect more than anything this weekend. I got to spend some time with Merlin, our non-English-speaking friend from El Salvador for two hours on the bus entirely in Spanish. I loved the boat ride, too. It was simply gorgeous. The sun was setting and the clouds were ablaze with color.

We spent most of the weekend just walking around and exploring the beach. We played in the waves for a little while, before coming back to the hostel to make lunch. I think a lot of us were pretty tired, so we didn’t end up doing very much. Nonetheless, it was very nice. I must say, it was kind of strange, too. I’ve never been to a place like this before. Montezuma is a party town on the beach. The downtown is about as big as our YWAM base, full of souvenir shops, vendors, restaurants and hostels. You can do pretty much anything during the day. You can go for a hike to the waterfalls, rent motorcycles, go snorkeling, go horseback riding, go zip-lining, learn to surf or even take a yoga class. At night, everything shuts down except for one bar in the center of the town. Everyone goes to the bar at night. Everyone. Alcohol is cheap. Drugs are cheap. Prostitutes are cheap. It’s really hot in Montezuma, so most people walk around in their bathing suits. There are a lot of young singles with gorgeous bodies running around in the jungle and the beaches. Our first night there, I actually saw two people having sex on the beach right outside our hostel. We were offered marijuana and cocaine like three times in one hour when we went downtown to check out the vendors.

Someone said that Montezuma has a population of under one hundred, and the rest are all tourists and backpackers. We met a lot of Canadians and a lot of Europeans. They were all either on vacation for the weekend, or fleeing their home countries to do something different than what they have been doing. Some were in Costa Rica for volunteer work, and taking the weekend off to party. We got to talk with some people here and there about it and it was very interesting. There was such a vibe of waywardness to this place. Not a lot of people knew what was next for them.

After exploring the beach, dinner and a worship session, we went downtown for the evening to “practice” loving on the travelers. Like I said before, everyone was at the bar. If not inside it, they flooded the street outside. Loud reggae music was playing across the street, combating the hip hop and r&b blasting from inside the bar. We prayed and split up into pairs, hoping God would cross our paths with someone to bless. Julia and Val, our leaders, told us to look for opportunities to get to know people and look for opportunities to share God’s love with them. They suggested buying someone a drink or dinner, or inviting them to hang out with us tomorrow when we went hiking. Bold moves, huh? A little intimidating, I would say. Val and I bought some guy a beer, but it didn’t go anywhere. We ended up sitting on the sidewalk with all these other people drinking and smoking. Val said sometimes it’s best just to pray for the others. We could see our friends talking with people, so we just prayed that they would be able to share God’s love with them. My friend Aryk, from Canada, was on fire this weekend! He was so bold, and got into so many rich conversations with the travelers.

It was a strange experience. I had never been to a place like this before. At first, I found myself judging the people around me. I would never do any of this. Why would I leave my home to come all the way down here to get wasted and hook up with random people? Why would anyone want to invest in such a journey? As I sat there on the sidewalk with Val, the clouds started to part in my mind. They’re looking for pleasure; they’re looking for satisfaction. They want to experience something more than what their normal lives offer. Some want to see something beautiful; human beings, mountains, rivers, the ocean. Others want to feel significant, like they’re doing something matters; volunteer work, language school. They want to feel joy, unspeakable joy; cheap alcohol, plentiful drugs. What can placate these thirsty and hungry people? God. They’re looking for God. They don’t know it, and maybe I don’t either, but I think that’s what they’re ultimately searching for; the love of God.

I felt God speak to me as I looked around at the partiers. Luke 15 came to mind, where Jesus tells parables of the lost sheep, coin and prodigal son. The shepherd leaves the ninety nine to find the one lost sheep, and the widow sweeps here entire house until she finds her coin. The Father rejoices and throws a party when His son returns to Him. God reminded me that these people before me were His lost treasures. They were His sheep and His coins. They were His sons and daughters. He wanted them back. He didn’t want them to numb their pain with substances. He didn’t want them to give away their bodies for validation. He wanted them to know that He loved them.

Pray that God would give me His eyes and His heart for the backpacker community.

The next day, we were going to go see the infamous waterfalls of Montezuma. You could get to them by walking upstream along this little river by the hostel. It was beautiful. Chris and I never made it all the way there, unfortunately. We only saw a little one, but there were supposedly bigger and better ones further up. We walked along the riverside trail for a good while until out of nowhere it started pouring rain. You guys, this was what I envisioned the Great Flood to have been. I was drenched from head to toe within seconds. I got water in places I never knew I had! Chris didn’t feel like trekking through the storm, and I had my camera with me, so I thought it better to just go back as well. We walked through the shower for like twenty minutes and got back to the hostel to dry out our clothes.

I thought my daypack was waterproof, which is why I brought it, but it apparently is not. My camera got soaking wet, and no longer works. Of course.

Praise Report
-God is speaking to me. Very clearly. I’ve been receiving so much revelation.
-Great time with the homeless this week.
-We got to experience God’s glorious creation on the beach this weekend.

Prayer Requests
-Pray for Victor, wherever he is. Pray for God to lead him, and to heal him.
-Pray for a thankful heart. I want to be grateful for every breathe.
-Pray that I would have God’s eyes and heart for the backpackers.
-Finances, as always. Please pray for provision.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

View From Above

Our speaker this week was the founder of the base, Giacomo Coghi. He talked about having a Biblical worldview, or as PCC refers to it, a kingdom perspective. As Christ-Followers, we need to see ourselves as citizens of Heaven. When we come into the family of God, we also enter in to a new system of society. In light of our “naturalization” to this new kingdom, we inevitably have to adopt new standards to live by. This week we talked about what God values, in contrast to what the world values. We can see what God values through looking at what He commands of us; His heart is revealed in the things He wants us to do.

Why does He tell us not to covet our neighbor’s wife (or his other stuff)? Because He wants us to be content with what we have. Why does He say not to lie? Because God values authenticity. Why did Jesus tell Peter he would be a fisher of men? Because people matter to God, and that’s what He wants us to focus on. It’s so interesting looking at the core of what God tells us. There’s so much more going on that just what we read with our eyes. These commands are the fruits of something deeper inside God’s heart. In addition to our studies of the Bible, we tried to analyze various social problems through the lens of a biblical worldview. Worldview drives societies. For example, human trafficking is a fruit of the belief that people are commodities, rather than individuals created in God’s image. Racism and segregation are fruits of the idea that some people are better than others. It was a very interesting, thought provoking week. The idea that “a tree is known by its fruit” makes me want to discover what other roots lie beneath the surface of society.

Giacomo presented us with a very striking, but simple, question at the beginning of the week: why are we here? After showing us this awesome slideshow which documented 50 years of YWAM adventures happening all over the world, our base leader challenged us to think about what God might have for us here in San Jose. Good question, don’t you think? God obviously brought me here. He confirmed it time and again that I was supposed to come; everything worked out as it was supposed to; He paved the way and provided everything as needed. But…why? Why did He go to such lengths to bring me to this little country? How will these few months away from home shape the rest of my life? What treasures has God hidden for me? What new adventures is He beckoning me towards? Exciting to ponder, isn’t it?

Perfect timing, I thought, to bring this up. I was certainly feeling sucked into the routine of our quasi-monastic lifestyle. A lot of us have been kind of bored, even jaded with what we’ve been doing. But that’s not what God brought me here for, is it? No way. God is a God of abundant life. There’s always something new to discover, always something profound or amazing to experience.

On Wednesday, a DTS from Korea made us dinner. It was a nice change, to have something other than beans and rice. Don’t get me wrong; I love Costa Rican food. But I also love Korean food, and I didn’t think I’d get the chance to have that until I got home!

The whole DTS went northeast to Monte Verde this Thursday and Friday. We stayed at this crazy hostel up in the mountains. Everything was painted with these really vibrant murals, and there was a pool table. They spoiled us for breakfast, lunch and dinner…but that’s another story. We came to hear the testimony of this one of the guys who managed it. Ricardo was a Christ-follower, formally gay and formally a Quaker, and was married with three kids. He told us his story…which was so unbelievably long and complicated…and the history of the Quaker community his parents founded. Basically, a bunch of pacifists from Alabama fled the United States during the Korean War, and started a village in the mountains of Costa Rica. The story was supposed to be related to the ideas of worldview and how it impacted the community of Monte Verde. I’m still trying to figure out how it did, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Quakers in Monte Verde have evolved into a modern hippy movement. They are peacefully on the search for truth, and they’ll look for it however they can, whether it’s in drugs, music, art, extreme sports or whatever. Monte Verde is like the Santa Cruz of Costa Rica; very eclectic, very earthy, very alternative. Ricardo wanted to show his parents Christ’s love so badly, because they had lost sight of Him over the years. His parents were very old and feeble, but still had this huge farm up in the mountains. We were given the odd task of re-blazing trails around his parent’s farm. His dad was the original blazer of these amazing trails, but could no longer wield his machetes and hacksaws the same way he once did. So we went into the rainforest surrounding the farm and cleared the paths. We walked along, hacking away at overgrown bushes and sawing in half fallen trees that blocked the path. Eventually, everyone was split up in pairs all over the forest. Lennart and I sawed two trees and moved them from the trails, but then we just walked around since the people before us already removed other trees and stumps. We followed the trail really far, kept slipping in the mud and swatting these monster bugs off of each other. We almost got lost, but we found some of our other friends and then we found Ricardo, who led us back to the hotel.

And of course, once again, I did not have my camera for this. I know. I know. You all want your money back. You never want me to come home. I know. I know. It was raining, okay? It was raining! I didn’t want to ruin my camera! Anyways, other people took pictures, so I’ll direct you guys via Facebook to those images when they’re uploaded. The rain forest is something else, you guys. It’s so dense. It’s so full of life. There are so many different kinds of plants, so many animals and birds. God made such a beautiful world; He is truly an artist. The colors are so vibrant, the textures are so diverse. You really can’t help but feel close to God in His creation. He continuously keeps reminding me how big and complex He is. I encourage you to go be with God outside. Go for a hike at Edgewood Park. Go to the beach this weekend (God willing the weather is good.) Let God reveal himself to you through His glorious works.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

Friday was quite a day. After breakfast, we went zip-lining! Supposedly, these were the longest, highest and fastest zip-lines in Costa Rica. Obviously, I was quite nervous at first. I hate heights. I hate speed. I opted to be one of the last people to go, but when I finally did, I loved it! We took a “sky tram” (6-person ski lift) to the top of the mountain after our practice run. We could basically see the entire country of Costa Rica, the Pacific and Caribbean coasts lay bare at the bottom of either side of the mountain. Right below us was the rainforest. This was such a unique experience, because I got to enjoy God’s creation from above…at 50 miles per hour, no less. How weird! We went on nine zip-lines all the way back down to where we started. I got to see that same rainforest I was hiking through the day before from over two hundred feet above the canopy. You really feel like you’re flying. I would recommend zip-lining to anyone. Let’s go when I come back home, okay? We’re gonna have a blast.

On our way back to the base, we found out there was a 6.0 Earthquake in Cartago. All the staff on the base said they felt it, but there was no damage anywhere in the country and no casualties. Crazy stuff. We had a gnarly thunderstorm Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t rain in Redwood City like it rains here. Nor do the thunder and lightning come with such force. It literally makes you jump when it strikes.

I was feeling extremely overwhelmed on Saturday night. My Canadian friend Aryk was organizing a neighborhood worship session in this little park next to the grocery store. He wanted to establish a presence of YWAM in the neighborhood, especially because there were so many college students around. At the same time, YWAM’s prostitution ministry was having a prayer and worship gathering, and was planning on going out to the streets that night. I wanted to do both. But then again, I had stuff I had to finish like our weekly journals and book reports (which I still haven’t finished.) Even more, Giacomo’s question for us this week still haunted me and demanded more meditation and prayer. I just didn’t know what to do. I finally decided I wanted to go to the prostitution thing, because I figured I wouldn’t have this opportunity in the states (prostitution is legal here, and therefore decreases the risks involved.) In my hurry, I forgot about the rain and slipped off my porch and landed on my tailbone. Ouch. I decided not to go, and I ended up not doing anything productive that evening. This kind of depressed me for a few days, but I'm doing much better now.

Kind of a crappy end to the week, but it was a good one overall.

Praise Report:
-I’m continuing to conquer my fears, and live in the freedom of Jesus.
-God has stirred a renewed excitement for my time here, thanks to Giacomo’s question.
-One of our friends was blessed a great deal, financially. I’m gonna post a separate blog about that.

Prayer Requests:
-Finances, as always. I’m about to write an official update about that.
-Self-discipline for my quiet times, still. I’m hopeless.
-Healing for my tailbone.
-Intentionality and deliberation as I try to embrace every day I have here. Pray against apathy and complacency, and against falling into the routine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Hey friends and family.

We found out our approximate cost for our Outreach to Peru and Bolivia, which is approximately $2,350 per student. It's a little more than we expected, because we're going to be traveling during high season, but we're trusting God to provide for our housing, food, transportation (to, from and within these countries) and ministries during these 8 weeks.

I've got about $600 so far, and I need $200 more so I can buy my ticket to Peru. I know it'll happen, somehow.

Something really cool happened for one of our team mates this week. He shared with us this last weekend that he was $900 short of what he needed for Lecture Phase. If he didn't have it by Monday, he would unfortunately have to return to El Salvador. As you can imagine, we were really sad to here of that possibility! God really stirred in our hearts to give to our friend, so he could stay with us. He was brought here by God for a reason, and surely not to be kicked out halfway through, so the rest of us pooled our money and were able to keep him aboard!
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Acts 4:32-35
So cool to see this worked out in reality. We're all hoping and praying for more provision. We know from the Bible that "The gold is mine, and the silver is mine, declares the Lord." It's all His. If He wants us to go, He'll make a way. I invite you to join us in prayer. If you feel God stirring in your heart to give to YWAM, please click the link below to make an online donation so that I can help contribute to our cause.

Thank you to everyone who helped get me here to Costa Rica. Everything I have is a gift. Everything. So thank you so much. Despite the few challenges here and there, I am having the time of my life. I hope I can encourage you by sharing about my adventures. Feel free to email me, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Long Story?

I’ve getting pretty tired the past couple weeks. Especially after this last weekend’s backpacking trip. I haven’t been getting up on time in the mornings, purposefully skipping breakfast and even my quiet time with God before classes. Bad idea! I’m actually beginning to feel the consequences and I’m starting to realize that He really is my daily bread. When I don’t spend time with Him, I forget who I am and what I’m here for. I find less meaning in my daily activities, and my classes seem really boring. No one could have ever guessed, but I was totally ditching out on my devotions!

On Tuesday, we prayed for one another by drawing names out of a hat, but we weren’t allowed to read them until after we prayed for that person. We were to listen to God for scriptures, or words or pictures about our anonymous person and write them down for them. One of my leaders, Dan, got my name. God told Him that I needed to spend more time with Him, and that He would give me the rest I needed in His presence. Busted! I guess the Lord has missed our quiet mornings together. Time to buckle down, I suppose, huh?

I loved our speaker this week. We were blessed with the charmingly stereotypical Californian Scott Freeman, who heads up a surfing and skate ministry for at-risk youth in Jaco. He talked all about the character and nature of God. The nature of God encompasses the intrinsic qualities that He exhibits. For example, God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; all knowing, all powerful and having the ability to occupy all space. God’s character refers to the ways that He expresses His nature. Because God is omniscient and omnipotent, He is also creative. He is able to make things out of nothing. We need to have an accurate view of who God is and the way He works. Scott argued that our lives gravitate towards our view of God because we will respond accordingly, whether we realize it or not, to however we think He is. If we think our God is loving and good, we will live in light of that. It is also true with the opposite.

We spent some time in class going over various characteristics of God, but the best was when Scott took us to this really beautiful park near the base to investigate God in nature. It was a surprise, so once again I did not have my camera on me. I know, I know. I suck. Anyway, Scott wanted us to discover who God was through Creation, because in Romans it says that He has revealed Himself in what He made. Just as artist leaves a piece of himself in his work, so does God leave a piece of Himself in His. We walked along trails, across a field, climbed trees, sat on logs and rocks, enjoyed the coolness of the afternoon…it was lovely.

I walked along this one trail by myself for a little while, looking around at the forest. It was crazy to really observe how complex the forest is. Supposedly, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, meaning it has the most different kinds of plants and animals. I believe it; within one meter, you can see so many different colors, textures, and shapes growing out from the earth and coexisting in this forest. You couldn’t count it all, you couldn’t measure it. You couldn’t really even see past it, beyond the wall of trees and bushes and flowers and plants. The forest is complex; it made me think of God and how complex He is.

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve figured Him out, though. I feel like I’ve learned all I could about Him. But how could I? How could I fully understand the fullness of this being who is transcendent of time and space, and who knows everything and can do everything? Looking into the forest reminded me that there’s so much more to God than I realize. A lot of people have been praying that God would reveal to me new things about Himself. I want to walk into God’s forest and see the mysteries He’s got hidden there.

The week ended pretty rough, I must say. Thursday night was particularly challenging. It was our second time doing homeless ministry, but this time it was more spontaneous. We didn’t go through an organization, we just went to this one square downtown after dinner where we handed out coffee and bread to anyone we saw on the street who looked hungry. We set up a “fueling station” at this gazebo in the center of this square downtown where we take our goods out to the people. Most everyone had a pretty positive experience, whether it was praying for one of the homeless people or just listening to their stories. Thank God it had stopped raining, too, because it had been pouring all day. Based on our last experience, I had pretty high hopes for this evening, but I went home extremely discouraged.

First and foremost, there was an undeniable presence of the Enemy. It was eerie. Every sight and sound seemed harsher. From the moment we got there, I was feeling very uncomfortable. It was an odd feeling, because I am no stranger to feeding the homeless at night. I wasn’t concerned about my safety, but I felt like we were unwelcome. I felt like we were being watched. It was so, so strange. I had to keep stepping in and out of the activity to collect myself, because the feeling was so strong.

We split up into groups and went off to feed the homeless. Lennart, Jakota (from Montana) and I found a trio sitting on a bench holding cardboard, two men and a woman. I was the only one who spoke any Spanish, so we were hoping for the best. The three of them were obviously very drunk, but they greeted us nonetheless. The older man immediately blurted out “Ustedes son angeles del cielo!” (you guys are angels from heaven!) and they gratefully accepted the bread and coffee. The woman, called Ivania, spoke some English and thanked us in a way my Danish and American friends could understand. She told us that the older man was a painter, and used to teach art at Universidad Fidelitas, the college next to the base. The younger man, who stood there glaring at us and mumbling obscenities in Spanish, was apparently an actor. They were alcoholics, she informed us.

I began talking with the older man, whose name I never discovered, while Lennart and Jakota talked and prayed with Ivania. The younger man, for whatever reason, started crying and rested in Ivania’s arms while my friends prayed for her. My conversation with this man was quite bizarre. First, he told me was a fallen angel running away from Satan. I told him that we were here to serve God. When I asked his name, he told me he didn’t have one, but then later he told me his name was Edgar Allan Poe, and then Ernest Hemingway. He was surprised I knew who those people were, so he kept telling me that I was intelligent. Out of nowhere he started singing me some jazz song, and then asked me if I liked Michael Jackson. He reminded me that he was an alcoholic, and he didn’t know why he drank so much. He kept asking me who God was, too. “Quien es Dios?”

The younger man, I noticed, kept looking at me while I was talking to Edgar Allen Poe. He would come up to us like he wanted to fight one of us, but he would just stare at me and then walk away and come back a little later. He would go up to Lennart and Jakota and throw himself onto them, collapsing into a desperate embrace, before coming back to glare at me. Edgar and Ivania kept telling me to quit whatever he was doing. “Dejalo! Dejalo!” they kept commanding, quite passively and unconcerned. I went to the gazebo to get some more bread and coffee for our drunken trio. Ivania and Edgar accepted gratefully, but the younger man just grimaced at the drink and snapped at me in Spanish that he wasn’t interested.

I tried to start a conversation with him, while Lennart and Jakota continued talking with Ivania. I asked him his name and he told me it was Mauricio. When I told him it was nice to meet him, he responded by asking “Me quieres que mate?” I simply looked at him, taken aback. He just asked if I wanted him to kill me. He looked me in the face with the darkest, most hateful eyes I have ever seen. It was paralyzing. All I could think of to do was shake my head and tell him no. His eyes softened for a moment, and then he fell into me and hugged me very tightly. He buried his face in my neck, let out a sigh and then stumbled backwards. He asked me if Lennart and Jakota were my brothers. I told Mauricio that they were my brothers in Christ and that we were missionaries. All of the sudden, he stood up straight and began glaring at me again. I told him we were here to help, and asked if I could pray for him. “Nunca!” he said through gritted teeth, “Dios ha matado a mucho gente!” Never! God has killed too many people. He backed away, but continued to stare me down.

Ivania told us that Mauricio was depressed. His brothers were dead and his mother hated him. She didn’t explain this in depth, but that was her rationale for Mauricio’s behavior. He was mumbling something in Spanish and began hugging us all again, very aggressively. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I called one of our Costa Rican staff workers, Rosella, over to translate for us. She listened to him for a minute and I saw a look of concern fall over her face. Turning to me, she said very calmly, but firmly. “We should go. Get the other two. Just walk away.” I asked her what he was saying and she said not to worry about it; it was just better that we go. So we did. He did not follow us. “Just pray for him.” Rosella said, gently leading us away.

We thought that there might have been some demonic activity going on. The Enemy no doubt had a stronghold in that square that night, with all the drugs and alcohol and hunger and thirst, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that someone could fall prey to spiritual attack. We were safe. Policemen were patrolling the square, and were aware of what we were doing. They were looking out for us if anything happened. The bipolar behavior of Mauricio was just so striking. One second, he’d be completely passive, to the point of tears, and the next he’d be hostile and profane...whenever we would mention God. It just seemed so unnatural. What bummed me out about this experience was that I completely forgot about God throughout all of it. Everything we talked about this week was out the window. I came face to face with poverty, with addiction, with rage and despair... and I never prayed once. I had nothing positive to say to the people we were serving. I was intimidated. I was afraid.

And to think, I’m on the winning side. I have the living God dwelling in my heart. I have the light of the world shinning against the darkness in my life. I couldn’t believe how blinded I was by the dark. Lennart, on other hand, was bold. He didn’t understand what Mauricio was saying, so he wasn’t fazed by him. He kept on pressing in to our new friends, trying to understand them and trying to be a light in this dark and stormy night. Lennart was actually very encouraged by the experience, he told me later. He really enjoyed being with the homeless and loving on them.

I was hoping to spend the weekend resting, since the last weekend we were backpacking, but I was sad to find out that I had weekend work duties. Everyone, both staff and student, has to work one weekend during of our time here. We just have to prepare breakfast and dinner, and clean the common areas. It’s not horrible, but it just takes up a lot of time and it can be hard if you’re not familiar with those areas of service. I’ve never prepared food for lots of people. What made it really difficult was that I was given very little instruction for the tasks at hand. But then for simple tasks, that require no explanation, there was a very specific way of doing it that was commanded by my supervisor. At the time, it was very frustrating, but in hindsight I think it was a pretty comical experience. I really bonded with my Australian friend Scott during this time. We're still laughing about it.

During one of my breaks, I went downtown to buy sheets. It was quite the adventure. I didn’t know how to say sheets in Spanish, so it took me jumping around to about ten different shops to finally figure out where I could purchase some. I got some for $6. Score.

Prayer Requests:
-Self-discipline as I work on getting up on time and committing to my quiet time with Jesus in the morning.
-Confidence in the Lord. Pray that I would receive revelation and understanding of who God is, and what He is like.
-Spiritual protection. Pray that I would know that the victory of Jesus is mine, and that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.
-Pray that God would reveal His mysteries to me, and that He would walk with me every day. I’m ready for some adventures with Jesus.
-Financial providence, as always.

Love you all. Send me an email, I'd love to hear from my brothers and sisters back home!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Backpack Sucks

This week, although very loosely scheduled, weighed pretty heavy on me. Our topic for lecture was intimacy with God. Sounds simple, right? It is; God is love, and everything He does is motivated by love. His desire is for us to know Him. In Hebrew, the word “know” is yada. This word is so intense; it is usually used to describe the relationship between a husband and wife. It’s so rich with meaning:

“…an intensive intimate and experiential involvement that exceeds mere cognitive awareness. Yada encompasses contact, trust, intimacy and mutuality in the context of an ongoing and deepening relationship.”
-Vanessa Pavely (who stole this from someone else, I'm assuming)

Wow. So this is what God wants for me?

So, why the heaviness? I honestly don’t want to go too much into it, but I will say this: the knowledge of God’s love and His desire for intimacy with collided full force with my desire for the love of a woman. It made me realize that I probably desire a woman’s affections more than I desire God’s unconditional love, and I never really realized that fully until now. What was most disturbing is that the hunger I feel, I know in reality, can only be filled by the Lord. I know He is the only thing that is faithful, and the only thing that can satisfy. Even still, I try to fill it with something lesser, something imperfect and fickle, but something that is tangible and familiar. That tension between what is true and what I feel is a war inside me. Pray for clarity and focus as I try to open my heart to the Lord.

One thing we did this week a side from class was hear about our options for Outreach. The eighteen of us will split into two teams which will go to either Central or South America, specifically to Peru and Bolivia. That’s kind of exciting, isn’t it? We were to request which one we’d want to go to, and the leaders would pray about it and tell us sometime this week where we’d be going. We had to explain our choice, too…if we had a vision, or felt like God was telling us to pick a certain option. I didn’t really feel particularly led in any direction, so I flipped a coin five times (heads for South, tails for Central) and got South America as my option. Eventually, I found out that I will in fact be headed South America for the summer!

Friday was our monthly base clean-up. Everyone had to work on cleaning the base from 9am until 4pm. Some people were doing yard work, or kitchen work, or construction work. Some people were working on the bathrooms, and washing the cars outside. I had the privilege of retrieving rocks from the river surrounding the base to fill this huge hole someone dug in the ground. What a random job! Clad in rain boots and rubber gloves, new friend Danish friend Lennart and I assisted one of our Costa Rican leaders, Luis, in bringing large stones up from the river onto the bridge and into a wheel barrel. I guess they were working on some plumbing outside and they needed to cover the pipes with rocks before they could fill it with dirt again. I don’t really know. It was fun, though. Gross. But fun.

While we were tossing the stones on to the bridge, I accidentally missed and threw this huge rock into some exposed pipes which immediately shattered upon impact. Oops. It was no big deal, really…the construction guys fixed it, but we didn’t have running water for like three hours. I was pretty embarrassed at first, but it was mostly really funny. Lennart was having a ball.

I went on my first backpacking trip this weekend! Half of the DTS went surfing in Jaco, while we went to the little town of Orosi, which is an hour bus ride southeast of San Jose. We almost lost our German friend, Robin, because he stepped off the bus for a second to get out of someone’s way and the bus started driving away. We yelled for them to wait, and we got him back on. His European courtesy had almost become a disadvantage. So funny.

Orosi was gorgeous! It’s in a valley surrounded by these unbelievably green mountains. Judging by the numerous hostels and souvenir shops we passed by on the street, I guessed that this was a popular stop for backpackers. We stayed in a hostel on the edge of town, and basically had it all to ourselves. This time of year, according to our Dutch landlord, is normally really slow for them.

There was only one other person staying there; a woman from Seattle named Melissa who moved to Costa Rica to learn Spanish. She was in her late thirties, single and just quit her job as an art teacher to travel; she was “following her intuition”. Melissa was a little strange, but very sweet, and we got to cook for her and invite her to hang out with us. Before we eventually parted ways, we got to pray for her, which she eagerly invited.

Our first night at the hostel we just relaxed together; unpacked, had an awesome dinner at this restaurant down the street, sang some worship songs, and looked at the local attractions in this tourist magazine. During dinner, I was able to speak entirely in Spanish for 30 minutes straight with my peers. God’s really blessed my tongue on this trip. We went back to the hostel after that. I liked our rooms because they had clean blankets and sheets for us to use. It was nice to not sleep in a sleeping bag for a few days. Before we went to bed, however, we decided to hike this trail known for its impeccable views of the valley.

We made breakfast the next morning (after being roused by this annoying rooster and waking up with a cat in my bed) packed our lunch for the day and set out for the mountain. As we trekked out of the town and towards the mountain, one of the dogs from the hostel decided to follow us the whole way. At the base of the mountain was a swimming hole, where we spent some time jumping off rocks and relaxing in the cool water. I’m so glad we did, because it was unbelievably hot that day. After that, we continued up the mountain for about six hours. The scenery was pretty average until we leveled out, then we got to see some pretty spectacular views. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera…so I have nothing to show for it.

We walked up and down the mountain for a total of six hours, and accidentally came out of the trail about 3 kilometers away from Orosi. We tried to hitchhike back to town, but with no success. We enjoyed our walk back, anyway, despite our weariness. We made dinner when we got back to the hostel, and toured a coffee farm the next day before returning home.

Praise reports:
-I can speak Spanish! Like I said earlier, my skills are improving so much. I've been able to connect a lot more with my peers who don't speak English, and even the Costa Rican kitchen staff when I wash the dishes after dinner. I'm feeling really confident in my ability to communicate.
-I got my first choice for outreach. I'll be going to Peru and Bolivia in a couple months. We're not sure what we're gonna do specifically, or where we're gonna go, but we're going.
-I love my new friends here. We're all really united, and becoming really close with one another.

Prayer Requests
-Pray for God to work in my heart. I feel myself loosing focus. Pray that He captures my heart above all the other things distracting me.
-Pray for guidance as we figure out where to go in Peru and Bolivia, and what ministries God wants us to be a part of.
- Pray for financial provision. Our trip to South America is going to cost a little more than the original price, and a lot of my peers are short on money still. If you feel led to donate to YWAM, there's a link below that I can use to collect funds for our mission. Your generosity would be greatly appreciated.