Monday, March 21, 2016

Finding the Balance

Last week was our Assemblies of God national pastors' meetings (Asamblea General) in Costa Rica. What a great time connecting with friends and making new ones. This country is in great hands with excellent pastors and leaders.

Beyond the meetings themselves, the 2 days I spent there really offered a good glimpse into the balance between finishing well here and preparing for our upcoming transition and itineration.

Double Duty Scheduling

As we told pastor friends our plans to leave in August, a number of them wanted to be sure to schedule us to come and preach at their churches before leaving. We also scheduled a couple of kids' ministry classes to teach and a potential final trip into the jungle to minister to the indigenous.

We had submitted our newsletter on one of the first day I was at the meetings. In the newsletters we let pastors know that we're beginning to schedule services from when we're home in August until the end of the year. So I was on my phone responding to requests for itineration services.

We were (are) building 2 different schedules. One for the remainder of our time here and the other for our return to the States. This really offers a good picture of where we are right now. We are committed to the people of Costa Rica and our responsibilities here until the end. We want to finish strong and finish well. And then there's the need to set up our schedule for when we arrive in the States to prepare for Bolivia. It's a balance.


We are going to keep going strong here. We love the people and we love what we are able to do. And we look forward to still learning as much as we can these final months here. But I want to take this opportunity to focus more on when we'll be home for itineration.

As I mentioned we are looking to fill up our schedule from when we're home in August until the end of 2016. We can't really schedule further in advance because we still await official approval as appointed missionaries, which would be in October. We believe God is in this and that everything will work with this, but we still leave it in His hands and ask you to pray that His will be done as we go to our interview. If we are approved, we will immediately begin filling our 2017 schedule as well.

There are 3 encounters we would like to schedule:

  1. Churches - We would love opportunities to come and share our hearts at churches in Sunday or Wednesday services, children's services, youth services, small groups, men's groups, women's groups, etc. This is true both for already supporting churches and potential supporting churches.
  2. Pastors - We would love to connect with pastors and/or missions leadership of churches over coffee. While we love connecting with the whole church body, we understand that sometimes this works better for some pastors for various reasons.
  3. Individuals - We have a decent amount of monthly support and one-time donations which has come from family, friends and complete strangers. We would love to connect and share our hearts on a personal level with those who partner with us financially or who would like to consider financial partnership.

We are also asking for prayer and really want to work on building our prayer team more intentionally and strategically so stay tuned for more about how we'll be implementing this aspect of partnership.

Please pray that the details will still come together regarding where we'll be staying, how we'll be traveling, Genevieve's schooling and other technically details.

We're doubly excited I guess. Excited for what's already here (ministry in Costa Rica) and what's to come (the transition to ministry in Bolivia).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Oops! Moments

After 30+ years of living in the U.S. (mostly Massachusetts), I arrived in Costa Rica with my family to learn the language and culture of Latin America. 2+ years in, we feel like we have learned a good bit of each. Of course, 2 things remain undeniably true:
  1. We have made and still make mistakes culturally and linguistically in Costa Rica; and
  2. Latin American countries are not exactly the same, neither in language nor culture.
With truth #2 in mind, we expected some cultural and linguistic differences when we visited Bolivia last week to check out the place where we feel the Lord is calling us.

Costa Rica Oops Moments

Before we look at a couple of those oops moments in Bolivia let's go back to truth #1 above and relive my 3 worst oops moments (so far) in Costa Rica.

1. Hole punch

Shortly after our arrival in Costa Rica, I went to a local store looking for a 3-hole punch.  The problem: I didn't know the word for it. I found a dictionary in the store, but it didn't have the word. So I found a word for "hole" and a word for "punch."

Armed with "hoyo poncho," hand motions and "uno, dos, tres," I gave it my best shot. I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know what else to do. The worker looked at me and in perfect English asked, "You need a 3-hole punch?" In hindsight, I should have asked if he spoke English first.

2. Walk of shame

3. False cognate

I was talking with 2 tica friends (though we were in Panama at the time) once about the health concerns of foods with preservatives. Well that's what I wanted to be talking with them about anyway. I quickly found out the word was not "preservativos" as I had was "preservantes." "Preservativos" happens to be another word for prophylactics. Oops.

4. Deaf or Left-handed?

I once told a tica friend that Polly knows sign language because her parents are deaf. Actually, that's what I meant to say. What I did say was that her parents are left-handed. Why the confusion? Surdo = left-handed; Sordo = deaf. My dad, for the record, is a may be Jonah.

Bolivia Oops Moments

Okay, back to Bolivia. While we didn't have many oops moments there, two do stand out. One was cultural and the other linguistic.

1. A Bolivian greeting

During our first day in Bolivia, I met a local pastor who oversees an LACC school. At one point he shook my hand and came in for a hug. Well, it seemed to me he was coming in for a hug anyway. I'm a hugger and many ticos are huggers so it seemed right. As I hugged him he put his hand on my shoulder, pushed me away and said, "Okay, okay." It was awkward but no biggie.

It wasn't until the next day that I found myself in a similar situation. I finally figured out what was going on. My missionary friend in Bolivia had forgotten to give me the heads up on the proper Bolivian greeting between two men: They shake hands, with the same hand pat the back of the left shoulder of the other man twice and then shake hands a second time. That pastor must have thought I was crazy.

2. Tico

Having learned Spanish in Costa Rica, it should come as no surprise that I use a number of words that are common here but nowhere else. I used them a few times and got blank stares but I generally did well to avoid them. Only one provided a funny moment.

I used the word "tico" when I referred to people or things from Costa Rica. That's the word I always use in Costa Rica and throughout Central America. Well, apparently this term for Costa Rican has not made its way to Bolivia. To make matters worse, they do use the word, just differently.

So when I told a group of pastors, "My son was born in Costa Rica so he's a tico," they laughed. Only later did I find out that they use it to mean "little people." While my son is in fact little he is not a "little person" and that's not what I meant to tell that particular group of pastors.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Tale of Two Cities

Polly and I had a great trip to Bolivia last week. We left feeling encouraged and further confirmation that this is the country where God is calling us to serve. In our last blog post, I shared about how we came to this point. Today I wanted to share about some of the process and prayer requests to actually get us there.

The Switch

We knew we were going to switch from missionary associates to career missionaries after one term in Costa Rica. Knowing we were going to switch and actually walking through the process are two very different things. We have already completed most of the application process with only a few simple steps remaining. Assuming all this goes well we will be invited to our official interviews in Springfield, MO in October. If all goes well there, we will leave as officially appointed career missionaries.
  • Please pray that all our paperwork is well received and for favor in the last real step we have remaining, our physicals.
  • Please pray for favor in the interviews. This is not like a regular job interview. We're not just trying to show qualifications. We need to express our heart and why we desire to go to Bolivia. Please pray that God would give us clarity and the right words to communicate all that we need to communicate.
Partnership Building

We will actually begin sharing at churches before we are officially appointed. We are limited in what we can really do and accomplish prior to appointment, however. After appointment, we will have to redo paperwork for all current financial partners who want to stay on board with us and then will have to pick up a lot more.
  • Please pray that churches and individuals will want to stay on board with us and that redoing paperwork and commitments will go smoothly.
  • Please pray for God to already begin putting more churches and individuals in our path to financially partner with us.
  • Please pray that God would help us build a stronger prayer partnership for our time in Bolivia.
  • Please pray that God will work out all the details regarding where we'll live and what we'll drive, etc. while we're in the States working on this part of the process.
The Ministry

We still need to decide exactly which ministries we want to be involved with when we arrive in Bolivia. We feel good about a couple of things already which fit into our vision of "Seeing entire families made whole."
  • Please pray that God would help us as we make decisions on which ministries to be involved with.
  • Please pray that God would help us develop those ministries and help us prepare well once those ministries are identified.
A Tale of Two Cities

A big decision we need to make is which city we will live in once we go to Bolivia. There are 3 major cities and we are really only considering 2 (though who knows if that could change as well): Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. We visited both during our trip. There are many aspects that go into such a decision including: family considerations, team building, location with regard to ministry endeavors, need, etc. Ultimately we want God to show us and not just make a decision based on our own wisdom. We will also be looking to seek guidance from leadership to help us with this decision.
  • Please pray for God to clearly reveal His will to us with regard to the city where we should live. 
  • Please pray for constructive and helpful conversations with leadership regarding this topic.
  • Please pray for God to send more missionaries to all 3 of these cities.
There's obviously more things to consider and more that needs prayer like how the transition will affect us personally, the kids, etc. But I wanted to highlight some of the major things. Please feel free to trust God and pray as He would lead you, even beyond what I've shared on this post.

Friday, March 11, 2016


When we began the process in 2011 of applying to become missionary associates to serve a 2+ year term in Costa Rica, we knew that it was only the beginning of our life in missions. We wanted to take this time to learn more about missions and ministering cross-culturally. 

We finally arrived in Costa Rica in January 2014. We immediately began learning Spanish and culture. We also began developing friendships among the nationals. After our time in language school, we began serving in a number of capacities under missionary Mary Mahon. This has included a lot of work within children's ministry and more specifically a lot of work with our Latin America ChildCare schools.

In November of 2015 we found ourselves at a bit of a crossroads. We realized that we had to begin thinking and praying about what our future would hold. We knew we would want to transition to full-time missions. What we didn't know, however, was where we would serve.

A Seed Planted

During the week of Thanksgiving 2015 we attended a regional retreat in Mexico. While there, I felt a number of the messages directed at us. I felt like God was preparing us for an upcoming transition. Then the unthinkable happened. For the first time in my life, I felt like God began to put a specific country on my heart. Out of a seemingly chance poolside meeting with a missionary, God began to lay the burden for Bolivia on my heart.

The crazy thing was that I had never considered Bolivia before. In fact, it's probably the Latin American country I would have been most likely to forget before all this. But I left the retreat feeling that God was burdening my heart with this country.

Confirmation after Confirmation

At the airport on our way back from the retreat, I was having a conversation with a missionary friend who works with pastors' kids here in Costa Rica. God had began putting that ministry on my heart as well. I asked him if he knew of any countries with a need for that ministry. His answer was Bolivia. Okay, I'm listening God.

While talking to the director of LACC about potentially working with this ministry we love so much moving forward we asked him where their biggest need is. Yep, that's right...Bolivia.

The area directors for the Andean where Bolivia falls seemed very excited when we told them what God was putting on our hearts. The wife told us she was hoping that was the country we would say when she learned we wanted to go to their area.

Through a number of means and methods, God kept confirming Bolivia. I kept seeing its name and it seemed to be the answer to every question.

Putting the Pieces Together

Where are we now? Well, trying to put all the pieces together.

We're in the application process to become career missionaries. We don't see any reason this won't be accepted, but we're praying God's will be done and favor through the process.

Polly and I just returned from a quick visit to the country where we were able to meet with national leaders, pastors and a couple of our missionary units there. The biggest question is where we will live within Bolivia as we are weighing to options very seriously.

Nothing is official. Nothing is definite. No ministries are determined. But our heart is burning within us. God has even given us a vision: to see entire families made whole.

Why share something so indefinite in reality? Because it's so definite in our hearts and we would love all the prayer for favor and wisdom in this situation as possible. We will be okay if God ultimately leads us a different way, but unless He does we're all in on Bolivia.

And if everything goes to plan, we hope to arrive there in Summer/Fall 2017 after spending about a year in the States sharing our hearts and raising partnerships both financial and in prayer.