Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Our Thriving MK

A lot has happened in the 2+ years we have been in Costa Rica. While continuing to think and reflect on some of the most impactful moments and aspects of our time here, Genevieve came to mind.

When we arrived in January of 2014, Genevieve was just a couple weeks shy of her 3rd birthday and still an only child. Before coming to Costa Rica, Polly was a stay-at-home mom and Genevieve had never gone to day care and had barely ever been to school (she spent some time in a kindergarten class on occasion at the school where Polly taught gym and computer class, but never for a full day).

Don't get me wrong, she had already had an opportunity to meet so many people and have great experiences during our itineration (going to different churches each week to raise funds) and did not have separation anxiety when going to kids classes at those random churches during that time.

It was only our 2nd day here in Costa Rica when that all began to change. Genevieve spent her first day at school. She was still so little even though I know at the time I couldn't help but think about how big she was.
And that really was only the beginning. She would go to school Monday-Friday with a Spanish-speaking teacher. Soon she was speaking Spanish like it was no big deal. And in just a little over a month, she was a big sister. Her life was constantly changing. And while she went through culture shock in her own way, in short time she had embraced and even thrived in this new world.

I'll never forget when we were in Panama on a visa trip and she went with me to see if the hotel still had a blanket we had left during a previous trip there. On the way it occurred to me that I had never learned the word for blanket. So I turned to Genevieve and asked her. Without hesitation she responded, "Cobijita." What a humbling moment! (And she still teaches me new words sometimes.)

There have been cool personal, cultural experiences for her along the way, like meeting the president of Costa Rica on 2 separate occasions and even ending up in the national newspaper with him once.
But mostly I've been impressed by her ministry involvement. We always say that MKs are not missionary's kids but missionary kids. They are missionaries who just happen to be kids. In April 2015 at 4 years old was asked to share the story of David and Goliath in Spanish in front of a church full of people. She excitedly accepted the offer and did a great job.

She loves when teams come to work with us from the States, always making friends. And she loves hanging out with the chicas from Chicas de Promesa as well as other kids we work with. And let's not forget about how much she helped me with the OneHope book deliveries last year.
This week is exam week at the school where we do ministry 2 days a week. But since Genevieve goes to kindergarten at the school (all Spanish-speaking) when she goes with me, I decided to still let her go to class this week. At first I didn't know if it was a good plan since I am not doing ministry here this week and don't want to create more work for the teachers. But then it dawned on me that even though I'm doing work on my computer rather than normal ministry at the school these 2 days, she can still do ministry by showing the love of Jesus to her friends at school. These are her days of ministry. I guess I just forget sometimes that God wants to use her too. So while I type this, she's hanging out in school with her friends and I'm praying that God empowers her by the Holy Spirit to be a brightly shining light.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Impact of Hugs

We have had some amazing ministry and personal experiences in Costa Rica. As we move into our final three months here, I have begun the process of reflecting on some of those. While reflecting, a "simple" question came to mind: Which experiences have impacted me the most?

Of course, this is not really a simple question at all. It takes a lot of processing for me to assess these kinds of questions. But I want to take some opportunities over the next few months to unpack and share some of the most impactful experiences, events and moments from our time in Costa Rica.

It's hard to say which is the most impactful but I want to start with the one which has stood out to me the most during these recent contemplations: Hugs.

I love hugs.

I hug my wife and children multiple times each day. And they hug me. I also often hug other family and friends. I guess you could say that I'm a hugger.

So perhaps it's no surprise that some of my favorite, most impactful moments here have involved hugs. While I cannot share an exhaustive list, I wanted to share some examples.

1. Fatherly Hugs

I wrote a blog entry about these hugs when I had this incredible experience. Let me share a summary. We were asked by a church to help with a children's ministry event. One of the teaching sessions was on fatherhood. I was with the younger kids for this session (up to age 6). The session was followed by a time of prayer. During this time I was approached by the teacher who asked if I would hug each kid with a fatherly hug and pray a prayer of blessing over them.

The first kid latched onto me and didn't want to let me go. I just stood there hugging this boy and letting him hug me. They finally had to pull him off of me to allow a chance for the other kids.

The last kid also grabbed hold of me and just laid on my shoulder for a long time while his aunt stood by bawling. I later found out he didn't have a dad.

I have kids and love to hug them as their dad. And while those kids were not my kids, for that day those kids (especially the first and last) were like my kids and I hugged them as a dad. It was one of the most special and powerful moments of my life.

2. Constant Hugs

I'll never forget when I heard that some students at the Latin America ChildCare (LACC) school in Linda Vista lost their house to a fire. I was asked to go and take photos so we could see how we could help. We ended up having the privilege of helping the family build a new home. But more than that we became friends with this family and we became close with the kids. To this day, the 3rd and 4th kids of the family give me big hugs when they see me at the school. And I can feel the love with every hug. It's something so genuine and so precious.

3. Comforting Hugs

One privilege has been the opportunity to pray over kids here in Costa Rica, especially in our LACC schools. Last year during the 5th grade spiritual emphasis chapel I was asked to pray for one of the students, one of the chicos I had been working with, as he was going through a tough time. I couldn't really do much but pray over him and wrap my arm around his shoulder to comfort him as he wept. 

4. Random Hugs

I was recently at the Linda Vista school when a kindergartner randomly approached me and gave me a hug before he returned to where he was sitting on the steps. I do not know why he hugged me and likely never will but I'm glad that he did.

Another recent situation found me at our school in Los Cuadros. Genevieve was with me and wanted to stay to watch a movie other missionaries were showing to a group of students. During the movie this one sweet little girl just kept snuggling up to my arm and shoulder before finally propping herself against my knee for the rest of the movie.

Final thoughts...

As I said, there are other examples I'm sure I could share (and Polly could add even more to that) but these are the ones that stood out to me the most. It occurs to me that all of these hugs have something in common: I didn't/don't deserve any of them. I am blessed and feel privileged to have these opportunities. Maybe that's why these moments stand out to me above so many other amazing experiences we've had here.