Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Latest In The Jungle: An Update and a Thank You

Hey all,
I haven't written an update in a while and thought that now would be a great time since Phil and I are on the brink of a lot of changes as we come closer to a close to our time here in Puerto Viejo. For those of you who have not heard, Phil has been accepted into Dallas Theological Seminary and we are both extremely excited for this next chapter in our lives as well as very aware how monumental this one in Costa Rica has been for both of us. A good friend of mine in town asked me what I was feeling when I was thinking of moving from here to Dallas and all I could tell her was that I know that processing this place, and what God has been doing with it in both Phil and myself will come very slowly; months after we are settled in a new apartment in Dallas. This place, the complexities of it, and the time that we have spent away from the things we know and were comfortable in, has taught me things I am very grateful for. I have seen different sides of God and the ways in which He works that have both tested and strengthened my faith. I have realized that relationships are vital to sharing your life with Christ and that in every situation a great deal of respect needs to be given to both sides of the conversation. I have recognized how "in control" God is and how little control I have. I am learning to be at peace with that.

I wanted to share some of the upcoming thoughts and prayers that Phil and I are facing at this moment. Two major prayer requests and things that need to happen sooner rather than later are 1) selling our car and 2) finding the right family to take over responsibility of the Kirkoff's house. With the second, we are in a unique position of creating a great situation for the Kirkoffs when we leave by knowing and trusting the family that will take incredible care of a house that has been vital in our ability to do ministry here. We want to bless the Kirkoffs and part of that is having God reveal who is meant to be in that house when we return home in December. Please be praying that God will speak openly about this and that we will have wisdom in the matter.

Third, we have 3+ months to go and funding is tight. I have started working in a local boutique when I am not at the skate park or Kid's Church, but we are really praying that God brings more funding in to tide us over until December. We have savings to ensure that we finish our commitment, but we are also looking to start strong in Dallas for the next 3 years. We are confident that God will provide, but with the breakdown of our car last month things are tight.

Forth, ministry here is going awesome! Praise God for what He has allowed us to see change over the last year or so. More youth are coming both to the skate park on Friday nights for Youth Night, as well as to House Church, and Phil and I have been here while a handful of them have been baptized. Kid's Church remains my favorite ministry, and each Sunday I am delighted to go see the youngins. THEY ARE SO COOL! Tammy and Ronnie continue to be amazing teachers to both Phil and I about loving this community, and Phil is also learning a lot about leadership and directing a ministry through his time spent with Barrett Cruce, our director. God is continuing to teach us with this time here in Puerto Viejo, and for that we continue to give Him praise.

I want to thank all of you for the love and support that you have shown Phil and myself over this last year. We could not have been here without your help, your prayers, and your encouragement. It has not gone unnoticed, and I want to make sure that you hear from me how thankful I am that we have supporters like you behind us. You have given us an incredible gift with our time here in Costa Rica. Thank you for allowing us to minister here.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Getting the Word Out

Hey Guys!
I wanted to share with you that I recently got published on Associated Content. The article is titled A Different Kind of Faith. To read the article visit this site:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Cold Costa Rican Retreat

Can you remember the first time you went on a Christ Centered Retreat? If you are like me, you probably remember some vague concept of a retreat from your childhood, but really, the FIRST one is like trying to remember the first time you ever shot an air-ball during a basketball game – there are just so many to choose from.

We just returned from a four day retreat with our youth group from Puerto Viejo. We took them to a goat farm in the cold mountains of Costa Rica a complete opposite lifestyle to what they all grew up in. When we pulled up, the most excitement centered on the fog that would come out of their mouths when the exhaled. Can you imagine someone seeing that for the first time!

We had 4 teaching sessions led by a leader of a short term team that assisted us in the retreat. He spoke about prayer, changing our lives to live like Christ, and having the courage to be different than the people around us. We gave all the kids a journal that they could write their thoughts on the verses we were reading and what they were going through. I was amazed to see all of the kids writing in them, not just during the lessons but at every hour of the day, kids were writing in their journals. I got to read some of them and what they wrote was amazing. A desire to do what is right and asking God to help them have a good heart were just some of the types of thoughts that I read.

We ended the trip river rafting down the Paquare River. It is located about half way between San Jose and Puerto Viejo. Again, a new experience they have never had. It was amazing to see these kids who surf some of the most dangerous waves in Costa Rica, be scared of the white water of the river and then be emboldened as they raft though unknown rapids.

As we finished the retreat, I have seen friendships built in our youth group, leaders stand up and a unity of the group that was not there before. I feel more connected with them then I ever have and my heart has broken more and more for the youth that seem to have the hardest life. I am grateful for the blessing this first retreat experience was for this youth group and I was blessed to be a part of it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bocas Baby, Bocas

Shan and I are heading out this morning for Bocas Del Toro, a group of islands off the coast of Panama. This little forced vacation is required to renew our visas and we will be gone for two nights. We look forward to some time alone, long conversations at dinner and some relaxation on a secluded beach somewhere. It's been busy with short term teams and we look forward to the rest.


Friday, June 29, 2007

3 Team Wrap Up

It has been a while since I have posted a blog entry, I am sorry. But let me tell you about the excitement these past few weeks. We have been having a great time with several Short Term Teams that have come down from The US. They are being used by God and blessing this ministry big time. It can be busy and chaotic but at the end of the day the accomplishments more than make up for our tiredness.

In the last three weeks we have finished several “projects.” We built a playground in the community for preschool kids. It is so cool to see the relationships increase as we increase our image in the community. People are really starting to know who we are and what we are “about.” We also built a barbeque at the property which was then used for feeding all those who attended a skate competition. We had at last 70 people show up for food, skating and hanging out. So many cool relationships are being built around that Barbeque. I love it! We also did a Vacation Bible School at our Children’s church program that brought even MORE kids to children’s church. We have over 50 kids attending now, when we got here there were only around 25, and that’s even big for this area. Shannon is being stretched and blessed by that ministry and I know God is using her. I love hearing about it every Sunday afternoon as she speaks with an exhausted excitement about kids being taught about the love God has for them even if they don’t get loved at home. The team that is here this week is doing ESL classes at the High School. They are having some great success and again, relationships are being built. We have already had several students show up to the skate park that have not been before. The big on-going project is finishing the Music CafĂ©. There in now a beautiful mural on the wall upstairs that one of the Short Term Team members painted. It is amazing! It’s been really neat to see who God brings down here. There is a lot more happening but this post is getting to long, I’ve probably lost half the readers already.

As far as me personally, I have been taking on a stronger role in the Youth Ministry and am now the designated “speaker” on Friday Nights. I feel like I got a promotion. :) It’s a lot of fun preparing and trying to be creative. Last week I spoke about purity of heart and defined it simply as, “living the way God planned for us to live.” I “advertised” that we were digging a grave that night in which we placed a self disclosed list of impurities we wanted to bury and “put to death.” It was a powerful illustration of what Christ can do and the youth gave a very positive response later to other staff. I was encouraged when it got back to me. It’s amazing how simple demonstrations that we are maybe use to seeing in the states can be so effective here. I shared from Rom 12:1-2 and 2Tim. 2:22.

Well that’s a quick wrap up. We will be heading to Bocas del Toro on Sunday to renew our Visa’s. After 4 weeks of teams, we are looking forward to a little time off to recharge before the next wave.

Also… Check out
Barrett Cruce’s web site for more stories and info about what is going on.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

We're Still Here

I am sorry that is has been a while since we have posted. It definitely is not because there is a lack of blogging fodder. Our internet has been a little sketchy this past month but I think the worst is over now. Also as mentioned in our email update, we have started our Short Term Team season and boy does that get busy. It is basically a week of 15 hour days. We have three teams back to back coming up. It will be exciting, intense, and probably a little frustrating, but we are looking forward to the challenge.

Great news! Shannon and I are celebrating our 3rd year anniversary on Tuesday. I can't believe it's going to be 3 years. I feel like this woman is so a part of me that I wasn't really living 5 years ago, before I met her. It has been an amazing three years and I can say I am a better person today than I was three years ago.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


What – Part one? Yep, that means there is a part two, but we’re not ready to let that one out yet. There is still a little more prayer before we know what part two is.

Part one is long overdue though. I want to expand a little about what was written on a CR Update last week. Shannon and I announced to those on the update list (join here) that we will be moving back to the States at the end of December. That is really all we know for sure right now. We feel led that direction but I don’t want to make the same mistake I have made before by adding to that. All you need to know right now is that we are moving back to the states in December.

I want to address any suspicions as to why we are moving back.

1) We are not getting “let go.” If that was the case, we would be coming home sooner than December.

2) We are not leaving because we disagree with the Alternative Missions vision or goals. Again, if that was the case, we would be coming home sooner than December. Our supporter’s resources are much too valuable to spend them on something we do not absolutely believe in and agree with. We know we are supposed to be here in Costa Rica, that is not in question at all and we are here 100% while we are here. We completely agree with the direction of Alternative Missions and love being a part of what they are doing. We are exactly where we are supposed to be right now, Shannon and I know that to the core of ourselves.

3) By leaving, we are not “Hurting” the ministry. When we are following Gods direction and leading, we do not have to worry about ministry “being dropped” or suffering. We know that God will provide. Sharing the plan that we feel God is leading us on now verses giving a “2-4 week notice” only helps us, being alternative Missions, prepare for that transition. We are already taking strong steps to involve more local’s in the ministry which has been one of the goals from the start.

This leads me to share about the process we went through in finding the direction we feel led to go. I would like to say that God beamed a light down through the Costa Rican Clouds or parted the Caribbean ocean and said to us, “Leaveth this placeth in Decemberith!” But that is not how God usually directs us. The process started by reading a book that I wrote about several months ago called Chazown. In it we were challenged to look at who God made us to be and the abilities and gifts He gave us. We also clearly confronted our desires and passions God placed in us and the history and experiences He gave us. After summing up all of these areas as well as taking a good hard look at who we are, who we really are not who we think we want to be or what others want us to be, we came to some conclusions.

1) We came to realize that our mission to Costa Rica would only be for a season, not for a longer or open-ended amount of time.

2) We realized that we are not called to Long term Missions. Whew! What a relief! (Just kidding. :)) This is a serious question that we have been asking ourselves and in coming to Costa Rica, we planned on that question being answered.

3) We realized that further education was something important to us. Whether it is Seminary part time while we work in ministry or going to seminary full time for 3 or 4 years, getting a Masters Degree to further prepare and equip me for future impact and effectiveness is important.

4) We realized that College ministry is very important to me. I love College ministry and feel that I want to minister in that field again.

With these conclusions and other smaller ones we began a process of emailing and chatting with advisors. We believe that God speaks through older and wiser people in our lives. Finally and most importantly we turned to God through prayer and reading the Bible in this entire process. At every stage we were praying and reading His Word to see if the Holy Spirit would offer more direction in the process.

We are going through what many young married couples in our position go through. We are learning the direction that we are going to be taking. We are learning more about ourselves, our marriage, what we want our marriage to be and the direction we are to go. This is not a quick process but a journey that we have been taking since we said “I Do.” As hard as it is to figure out what we are called to do vocationally and the direction God is leading us, we are learning that we love the process. It draws us closer to each other and closer to God as we submit and depend on him. The highlight of last week was getting on my knees with Shannon and praying hard for the will of God, for His will to be done.

I ask for your prayers. We are not done in Costa Rica; we are just getting a clearer picture of where God wants us to go next. We still have financial needs to be met for us to complete the tasks that God has given us to do here in this season. (If you want to help us there, here’s how) Please pray for effective ministry and that God will continue to give us eyes to see the direction he is taking us.

Running His Race,
Shannon & Phil

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sharing a Sunday

Phil mentioned earlier in his blog that we had a different experience of Easter this year. I want to share that experience with you; for it was one that came as a sign of God’s faithfulness and interest in the two of us being in Costa Rica and it was one that completely touched my heart.

Ronnie and Tammy are members of our team here in Puerto Viejo and through Kid’s Church ministry they have become an important couple to Phil and me. They invited us to go to a church service in Manzanillo, about twenty minutes south of us, on Easter morning. With them was a couple, the wife of which I teach the really young ones with at Awana’s (the Ositos are the name of our age group here). They speak literally no English and it is amazing how much I love them and feel a connection with them regardless of the fact that half of our relationship consists of broken sentences and shy smiles. It really is true that God gives you a connection with people through your faith in Him that outweighs and out-trumps any language barrier that exists.
We sat in a tiny church, with fake flowers tacked to the walls and a banner over the pulpit that read “Jesus is the same today, tomorrow and forever”. The service was a mixture of English and Spanish, and worship was led by a woman I have come to know as Ms. Spence singing loudly into a microphone as Rasta Music trailed in from the beach outside.
We had hymnals to sing from, we sang “He Lives”, and I have never realized how much I liked hymns until that day. It has been almost 7 months since I have been inside of a church here in Costa Rica; there literally are none to go to, and to be inside of one at that moment filled whatever was missing inside of me that could now be in peace. I was watching Ms. Spence, and Tammy who sat one row in front of me, and I watched Ronnie help lead with his guitar, and at that moment I was so thankful that God had brought me to that place. There is something powerful and sacred about being in a congregation (of five or 200 people) that lets you see a glimpse of God’s desire for His people; the love that we are supposed cultivate and maintain within our community, and how we have the privilege not the responsibility to be a part of this body. I told my mom on the phone that night that I have never appreciated church more than I do after being here and not having it. I remember sleeping in, or making other plans some Sundays and I kick myself now for not realizing the opportunity I had.
Tammy was saying that when she and Ronnie first came to this church it was just a deck. There was no roof and no side walls, but people wanted a church and so they fixed it. I was in their building yesterday; the building they built because they realized the importance of community and having a place to worship God in together.
We took communion after a two and a half hour service was coming to a close and as a ate a piece of soda cracker and drank a sip of Welch’s grape juice I could not help but thank God for allowing me to see His church that day. He was in the people I met, the songs we sang, the communication that happened in English and in Spanish and in some small way I felt like He was remembered more that day than I have remembered Him in a long time. I could not leave without knowing that God is continually going to show Himself in new ways while we are here in Costa Rica, and that He will bring His people into fellowship with Him in many different ways.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Some Thoughts the Day after Easter – Hiding the Resurrection

I learned something about myself this past Easter Season. Here’s my point that I want to explain:

I think I/we may have inadvertently and unconsciously hidden the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with the luxuries and comforts that come from our prosperity that is inevitably a part of our culture.

Ok, let me explain. I know that all of us don’t fall into this category at first glance, but when I took a second and third glance at myself, I can see how the commercialized easter and the spiritual acts of easter tradition may have clouded my view of the reality of Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer #1 – I know that a lot of the traditions point many people toward Christ, but not all people.

Disclaimer #2 – I know that many of the great traditions and commercialization are not in themselves bad, but if I am not careful, I can allow them to distract me from Christ.

Disclaimer 3# - I place myself first on the list of “Hiding the Resurrection.”

I’ll be honest; I missed the easter eggs, pastel shirts, and the buzz on Easter Sunday service this year. A week before Easter, I began thinking to myself, “what is this holiday going to be like,” and I had the feelings of, “I’m really going to be missing out on all the fun of Easter.” I think God is teaching me that I need to remember the real reason for the Easter celebration and that all the other “easter luxuries” are superficial.

My Easter this year was different than what I grew up with. In Costa Rica, where financial status does not allow for to many additions to the holiday, I saw no easter eggs, easter lilies, rabbits or baskets. When Shannon and I asked some of the kids, “Did you get some candy?” or “Did you do something special for Easter?” (from our Americanized cultural reference on Easter no doubt) we got blank stares. The youth here have never had the “easter luxuries” so culturally normal, and at times demanding, in the states.

Before I ruin the fun of Easter, I better offer …

Disclaimer #4 – I will be celebrating Easter with my children (who are in the far future) with Easter baskets, chocolate and eggs. I love that stuff and I think it is great for building memories with the family. But, I want to make sure and keep this in balance with the Truth of the Resurrection.

I guess, going back to my point, this is something we better think about and if we are bold enough, take some action. Making sure our children know far more about Christ’s resurrection than about the different kinds of chocolate under the different color wrappers. We need to make sure that the buzz of Easter Sunday, the new Easter dress, and the Beautiful open and un-open Easter lilies don’t fog the real reason for celebration, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Where would we be with out the Resurrection? We would not be saved from our sins which translates into a very hot and uncomfortable eternity apart from God. We would not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Jesus would be just like any other really influential person of his day or even ours.

Am I going to stop celebrating Easter they way I grew up celebrating it? No. But, I will make sure that I add a fresh and relevant dose of Truth, uncovering and remembering the Resurrection.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Taking Note

A very wise man on staff with Phil and I talked about this this morning and I put his wisdom to the test. This is what resulted.

Ronnie McGlocklin made the comment that when we take note, record, and revisit what God has done on our behalf, the ways He has provided without us knowing how he would, and when we put on paper the many details He has followed through on along the way of our just walking by faith, the amount of times He has moved might astound us. That I could have faith enough to not need to record these and revisit them to notice them is my prayer; till then I was humbled by this little exercise of my friend’s.

Since arriving in Costa Rica:

God provided a contact, a pastor in San Jose, who picked us up from the airport when we arrived and helped us by a car in the first week of us arriving. The contact was through a relationship based through FCA, Phil’s former job.

We bought a car in one week of moving to a new country.
That car still works today (6 months later on really bad roads)

We switched hotels in Alajuella the first night in town to the one we now stay at every time we go there. The owner has become a great friend and continues to bless us with information on how to handle car situations, legal situations, and other daunting tasks. He and his wife have taken great interest in Phil and I and it is a joy for us to return every time.

When we first joined the team we were ministering primarily to guys. Our prayer was how to reach the girls.
We now have 8 or more girls come every Tuesday for Girl’s Skate Night, and one girl that has been particularly on my heart has recently began coming to house church.

Since the 8th grade and after watching a film that I swear scarred me on Revelations, I have not revisited the book, even though I have felt I needed to. Shaun, a woman I do Pilates with and someone that is becoming a really cool friend has asked for me to sit with her through the book. To be with her and just be available to talk through things with her as they come up. We are going to explore it together and God has given me the confidence between 8th grade and now not to fear that.

Pilates classes (don’t laugh it is hard stuff) are continually introducing me to more and more of Shaun’s world. I have more people to pray for each time I go and would not have met them if God had not opened this door.

The skate park continues to grow. If we had more staff we would have more sessions running during the week. The Concrete Jungle opened in April and already we need more people to man it!

God directed our staff to the AWANA’s program for our Kid’s Church. It starts this Sunday and all of us are extremely excited. This is the right step for our ministry.

Ronnie and Tammy have been praying for local people to help lead Kid’s Church. Between this last December and February we now have 5 new local leaders committed to being teachers and helping run AWANA’s. We just finished our training.

Mike and Joanna a local couple who live next door to Barrett have begun leading house church on Monday night through Barrett’s discipleship. This is a key step in planting house churches and has needed to happen.

Kashara, a girl who came to the skate park every once in a while but lived in Limon, has now moved permanently to Puerto Viejo. She lives five minutes from the skate park and works across the street. I see her almost every day I am in town.

Costa Rica has been the best marriage seminar Phil and I will ever go to. God is working to create the marriage He wants us to have. I have never enjoyed talking with my husband more.

God is teaching me to cook! (in Costa Rica with funky meat of all places) =)
Anyways, Phil will agree it is a much needed intervention by God.

I am convinced there are others that I have overlooked but this was enough to make me aware that Phil and I , nor our team, have ever been alone in Costa Rica.

In Grace,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Applying Wisdom to Life

I believe wisdom is a blessing from God. I think there’s a Spiritual Gift of wisdom given to certain believers, and then there is a natural ability to gain wisdom that God has put in every person He has created. Both types of wisdom are by the grace of God

God tells us to search out wisdom in the Book of Proverbs (look at Chapters 2 and 3)

The Apostle James writes that if any of us lacks wisdom we should ask God to give it to us and he won’t hold back. (Chapter 1 verse 5)

Wisdom is something we should all look for and I think we can find it in many avenues. I have started a new blog dedicated to finding wisdom and applying it to life. I want to encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think. The blog is called Sophos which is a Greek term for wisdom. I will continue on this blog as well but The PSE will be more personal and talk more about our time in Costa Rica.

Check out the SOPHOS by clicking here and please feel free to give me some feedback

Thursday, March 01, 2007

some of my thoughts

I have been going back and forth over my thoughts about the complexity of mission in this place, short term mission, and mission in general. I feel like God has brought to mind every experience I have had thus far that has led me to this point and one in particular has given me the most comfort these last couple of weeks. Through the recounting and remembering I feel God has given me wisdom to see that mission happens because God was already at work when you got there. There are not several mission fields, Costa Rica being seperate. There are just moments to see the mission, the work in people God has done, and to find your place there.
With that, I want to share with you the remembering God has been doing with me. This was written recently about a time in Mexico with Amor Ministries; an experience I had through First Presbyterian Church in Fresno.

There are certain things that I remember most about that week.
I remember the face of the woman whose house we were building.
I remember how round it was and how it reminded me a little like the face of the snow man in that Christmas clay-mation movie.
I remember that it glowed; and not in the cheesy way that that sounds like, but in the way that made me know that she was one of those special people who have actually seen a miracle, and it had left her permanently changed.
I remember nothing else about her, not what she was wearing or even how many children she had, but I remember her face and how it looked, and on certain days like today it is all that I can see.
Her eyes were dark brown. There was nothing that made them beautiful, but I remember them as beautiful. They were intense, and they locked on in a way that let you know she was hearing every word that you were saying; despite the fact that she could not understand English, and English was all that you were speaking. It went beyond that to her. She was listening to your soul. Somehow she was understanding all that lied in between language and culture, poverty and riches. She understood everything that was happening.
I remember going back the following year and driving by the house that we had built and seeing it standing. It was probably the proudest I will ever feel in my life. I knew that it was good, that I was a part of something that was a good thing, and that people had been left living differently, better, because of me and my week last year. It hits me even now, though, that that look I remember, the one that is etched on this woman’s face and burned to become a part of me, had the expression before she had the house. It was not a look of gratitude. We had not even finished the foundation when I met her. It was a look that was not hinged on what this house could be or do for her. Her face held the look of something different than gratitude or happiness because of this possession. If we had never built that house for her, would her face have been the same? I think it would have.
So what did I give her that week? Nothing that she didn’t already have. If she really had seen a miracle it happened before I got there. It had already formed and shaped her and what I witnessed were the permanent effects of life changed. Joy created. Hope birthed. All that took place outside of the house we built. I believe that the house was testament to her life and God’s faithfulness. That the house came from days spent in humble obedience, joyful days spent in knowing that everything she needed she already had, and that He had proven faithful over and above a simple roof to cover head. She would be fine without it.
Because of that her face was weathered with a peace that only welcomed the house, knowing that this was no surprise or day of good fortune it was provision from her God that showed up all the time in very unexpected ways. To wear that kind of face takes an understanding that only God has given you.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Remembering The Impact

I was asked to write a few words about a college retreat that I attended as a leader when I was in college. The reason I am posting what I wrote is because just writing it impacted me and there are some of you who I think would like to hear about how God moved and impacted a group of College students. Here is what I wrote:

When I look back at the spiritual growth in my life, which basically went into action when I was in college, that winter retreat is by far the most memorable and impacting of all spiritual growth events in my life, except for the day I chose to follow Christ for the rest of my life.

I have a poor memory, but few things stand clear in my mind that I will never forget. I remember Katie Christianson so touched by the power of God that she left that retreat a different person entirely. I got to minister with here on the Track team at Fresno State and see the response from our teammates when they saw Katie’s transformation. I remember Katie Wilkinson, now Pope, giving up a trip around Europe for the summer with a clear call from the Lord that she needed to go to El Salvador that summer on the short term mission trip. In hindsight, that trip to El Salvador impacted her even more, as well as introduced her to Nick Pope, her future husband. I remember 40 of us waking up at 6:45 to be at the prayer meeting at 7 the first morning we were there – I expected 5 of us to be there. I remember the next morning waking up at 5:45 to be at the prayer meeting at 6. Josh and Paul showed up late to see the same 40 + people waiting for them. I almost felt led to start with out them. Thank goodness they showed up. J Those two prayer meetings set in motion the Holy Spirits transformation of the College group. We increased in size, depth, and hunger for the Lord like I have never seen in ministry before. It was the closest thing to a Spirit led revival that I have ever seen, if it wasn’t actually one.

This event was a movement of the Spirit – it was not Paul’s Idea or Joshes plan. It was God’s plan to transform the lives of several college students that spread to an entire church. I don’t believe it is something that can be recreated by our own effort, discipline and determination but only by our humble submission to God through humble Spirit led prayer. I have begged God to allow me to be a part of a revival like that again, to have a hunger for the word and for prayer as I did that year. In a way, that year has set the highest standard for my spiritual barometer.

I wish I could be with the college group at this retreat, I know that God will move his hand in many ways and is willing to touch every person that goes on this retreat. I truly believe this, but I challenge every person going, if God is ready to move, are you ready and willing to humbly submit and be moved by Him.

Phil Ogilvie.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Your Ministry to the CHURCH

I’ve gone through a few areas of doing Christianity in the past few post. First, we are all uniquely created to do Christianity, it is not only a self focused faith and last post, I mentioned that we are called to minister at HOME. (click here for parts 1-3)

Today I want to talk about another calling that we all have as Christ followers. I believe that we must do Christianity at Church. If you are going to church on Sundays and you are only sitting in the pew or chair you really are missing the point. Church wasn’t created just so that you can learn from someone else. Your Church is a place where you can connect in fellowship with other believers, learn from other believers, teach other believers, and serve other believers – give of yourself for to bless others. It is a place where you are supposed to use your unique gifts that God gave you for the betterment of the Church body. What are you good at? How can you use that to build up the church that you attend? We all know churches that have “Sunday Sitters” – People that have a Sunday self-focused faith. (Isn’t that called religion?) More than ever, we need Christ followers making an impact in their Church – serving in the youth group, children’s department, cleaning tables and bathrooms, and for the people who have it, Givers who can drop more cash than the tithe to help fund the ministry. Where do you fit in the ministry of the Church. Why did God bring you to the church that you are sitting in – it’s not just to listen to a speaker and music. You will experience God far more when serving, giving, and ministering with joy at your church.

My Point: God has placed you in your church to serve and minister – how are you using the unique gifts God gave you to bless the church you attend?

I want to give a quick applaud to all those who went to Mexico from Clarksburg Community Church for the Short Term Missions trip. I am sure you received far more than you were able to give – that’s how it usually works. Good job to those of you who planned and prepared it – I’m sure you didn’t make Dennis do all the work.

I would love to hear some personal reports of your trip for those of you who went.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Doing Christianity - Part 3

You're the minister - at HOME

I have been posting a series of thoughts about Doing Christianity. In Part 1, I wrote that if you consider yourself a Christ follower, that we must make an impact on the world around us, not just on ourselves (don’t turn your faith into a self-help Christianity). In Part 2, my point was that we are all uniquely created to be a part of Gods plan to impact the world. I finished the post with the question, “What are you supposed to be doing to fulfill the purpose that God created you for?”

Today, I want to talk about the first place we are called to make an impact. As Christ followers, I believe we are all ministers, starting with our HOME. What if you started looking at your home, family (yes, the in-laws count as family) and neighbors as a ministry field? When I talk about doing Christianity in this realm, I am not saying that you increase the length of your dinner prayers at Christmas, or preaching fire and brimstone over thanksgiving turkey. What I am saying is that I think we should be living your life with a view that HOME is a mission field and the way we handle those relationships will or will not glorify God. God has a serious plan and purpose for us in the realm of Home. Are we fulfilling that purpose?

My Point: God created us specifically to be ministers and impact the world around us. The first place we are ministers is at HOME.
For wiser words from wiser people check out these links:
Irish Calvinist on Husbands
Mark Batterson on Fathers

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Help me Fly

Does anyone know a good online flight finder or even a good travel agent? Please let me know. Thank you

Cool Complement

I sent out our weekly "CR Update" a few days ago. One of my donors and good friend emailed me back. She gave me a cool complement and made me laugh so I thought I would post part of her message. She said...

...Just remember we are all here praying for you and excited about what you are doing down there. Keep on keeping on. And thanks again for sharing. It is so nice to hear a missionary keeping it real. I mean, most of the prayer letters I get from missionaries are all nicey-nicey. It is good to hear that someone is honest for once!! :) Missionaries have bad feelings just like the rest of us. Thanks for admitting it. I, for one, greatly appreciate it!!

For our honest and not so "nicey-nicey" email updates and prayer lists email me. :)

Monkey Business

I woke up this morning at about 4:30 to a pack of howler monkeys outside my bedroom window. As their name implies, they were doing their best to make sure I was awake. I got up started the coffee and sat down to do a little bible reading, following the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan (my favorite) and came up on a passage of scripture that is important to me. It’s about our traditions. Read the full text of Matt. 15:1-9 to get more info but here are the details.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law go to Jesus and ask “Why do your disciples break our fathers traditions and not wash their hands before they eat?” Jesus gives them a scenario to show their own hypocrisy and braking of commands as well and then implicates them in scripture by quoting Isaiah 29:13 , saying

“These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

Questions: Are we teaching rules taught by men? Is our worship coming from the heart or from our lips?

POINT: We can not be “Relevant Traditionalists” but must be “Relevant Missionalist” (I think I made up some words). In ministry, we can not let “what worked in the past” or “what we’ve been doing for generations” keep us from “what needs to be done” to reach the people that need a relationship with God the most now. Whether it’s Hymns, Robed Pastors, Sermon length, etc, these cannot get in the way of people coming to the Lord for help. Being a relevant missionalist is putting cultural relevance before personal traditions as priority.

Now before you think I am a Traditions Hater, (because I am not, they just need to be put in their right place on the list of priorities) take a look at the beginning of the text again. In verse 2, the Pharisees are not accusing Jesus, just his disciples. I think Jesus followed the tradition of ceremonially washing hands. Why? Because Jesus didn’t want to cause people to stumble at that point. Their could be other reasons as well. Sometimes we have to do things, not because we believe them but because others believe them. (See also Rom. 14:20, 1 Cor. 10:32)

Monday, February 12, 2007

I Paid off the Police

I am embarrassed to admit it but I bought my way out of a traffic ticket yesterday. Actually I was forced to do it. I was stopped by "Transito" (a mandatory police stop) and the officer (If i can call him that) got me out of the car, wanted to see all my documents - which
I had in order, and he made up some bogus charge that my insurance paperwork said "2006" on it. That is when the document was created and it clearly said that I was insured through March! He said it was wrong because it didn't have 2007 on it. I showed him that but he didn't care, I was a white American with $$ sign on my forehead. He kept saying, "what are we going to do about this?" I kept trying to wait him out but finally he had to ask me how much I would pay him not to write a ticket. With my classic Ogilvie tongue, i disrespectfully gave him all the money I had - 4000 colones which is a little less than $8.

I would rather pay the a real traffic fine in the US for $80 than pay $8 like that. It burned me for a while. I am glad I didn't have more money in my wallet.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Doing Christianity- Part 2

Uniquely Created - Part of Gods Plan

I am sharing some thoughts that seem a little basic but I feel I need to share them. Last entry I talked about a self focused faith that seems to be cultivated instead of an outward focus – serving others and impacting the people around us. Come on, am I the only one here that struggles with this? I have to remind myself often – I am here for a reason bigger than my own comfortable “Self Help” Christianity.

The next point I want to make quickly is that once we realize the call that God has put on all out lives, we realize that the mission field is all around us and God created US to impact that mission field. Wow, are you humbled by that? Really, God uses us – we are messed up people, but God uses us. That amazes me. Moving on… Add this to the craziness. God didn’t just choose to use us – despite our messed up state – but before we existed, He created us to be a part of His plan, to be used by us! Keep tracking with me, we realize that God created us uniquely to implement his plan where He places us. What does that mean? God created some people to specifically live in the suburbs and Do Christianity there. God created some others to live in a small town, on a specific street, or working with a specific person, as part of his plan. Still others, he creates to be specifically in ministry. Really, that is an exception to the fact that we are all created as ministers. With that in mind read Psalm 139. Remember that verse from there that says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…my frame was not hidden from you…” Read the whole psalm in its context (here) – it rocks.

So, my point: we are all created to be a part of Gods plan to impact the world – to Do Christianity, and we are created uniquely to fulfill that purpose.

What are you supposed to be doing and how where you uniquely created to minister there?

I found a recent post on on this topic, check it out.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I want to start a series of posts that will pertain to something I have been thinking about for a while now. Maybe I will jump in with the big dogs and write a book someday – maybe not. For some readers these posts will be something you’ve heard before and honestly don't need to hear it, for others, it will be something that needs to be heard and applied, and for those of you who are just like me, I need to remind myself evey day about it. A lot of these thoughts have been encouraged/inspired by a few books and blogs I have been reading, namely CHAZOWN by Craig Groeschel and Maximum Impact Short Term Mission by Peterson, Aeschliman and Sneed.

I want to start a discussion about “Doing Christianity.” I know a lot of people are, but seriously, I think we get into those forgetfull slumps, at least I do. My frustration is that often we start looking at Christianity similar to a “self-help” book. We try to look for ways to improve ourselves, and ourselves only. Hear me on this, we must keep improving, investing, and growing spiritually but as we mature, (especially so) we must show fruit of our faith in God, by impacting the lives of others. I think often we look at our increased discipline or integrity and say, “here is the fruit of my faith.” Yes, that is fruit, but not the fruit that defines the impact you are making on the world God has placed you in. The fruit I am talking about is that which, because of your increased discipline, people at work ask you why you don’t cut corners like everyone else. Or students in class wonder why you won’t let them look at your answers during a test. This is the kind of fruit where, because of the personal fruitfullness that God has graced you in your life, you allow room for the Holy Spirit to provide avenues for you to share your faith. “Christ following” must impact the world around you. God created us to be a part f His plan to save the world. How do you fitting in that plan? This is a question I have to ask myself over and over, If I don't, I may start falling into the "self help" book christianity.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

BOOK REPORT: Maximum Impact Short-Term Mission

Title: Maximum Impact Short-Term Missions
Authors: Peterson, Aeschliman & Sneed
Categories: Missions

I was given this book by a fellow Alternative Mission's staff member and it has helped me put in words some core beliefs that I have had about mission's and added to them as well. This is not a book for everyone to read, thus I almost didn't put it on the blog, but... I decided to because there are a few points that I want to highlight.

First: As Christ Followers we are called/mandated (i believe - created to) increase the kingdom. We are the salt of the earth, the light to the world and the hands and feet of God. We have this ability namely through our relationship with Christ. It is not something we necessarily have to study for several years and then we are real missionaries. Jesus trained his disciples by having them tag along in what he was doing, they learned by experience. I believe we all must take part in the great commission, and more specifically, missions.

Second: This book gives a lot of details and brakes things down - almost too much but one thing I like is what they call the Participant Trilogy. That is, there are Senders that help to send out people that go. There are Goer-Guests, the people that go and are guest at a ministry location. and finally the Host Receivers, the people receiving the goers and facilitating at the ministry location. The challenge that this book puts forth and that I uphold is this: As Christ Followers, we must place ourselves in at least one of these three ministering vessels (sender/goer/receiver) and i believe God has created us to fit in one of these areas. Which one do you fit in?

Third: I semi-mentioned this, but God calls everyone to get involved. This book highlights the amazing blessing that we as obedient followers receive. Just think of them yourself, you don't need the book to tell you that God is going to bless you more than you can imagine. Also, This book highlights so many Old Testament and New Testament accounts of Short Term Missions, it seems that it has always been a part of God's plan. Yet, somehow, we have turned short term missions into the second rate - not the real thing- mission trip. (Examples, read the stories of Paul, Barnabas, Philip, Steven, The Spies of Jericho, the several accounts of David, Nehemiah and Jonah - all Short Term Missions.

If you are involved in Short Term Missions at all, especially if it is part of your job at a church or missions organization you will do well to read this book.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

BOOK REPORT - Chazown: A Different Way to See Your Life

TITLE: Chazown: A Different Way to See Your Life
AUTHOR: Craig Groeschel, Pastor of Life Church, AZ
CATEGORIES: Spiritual, Vision, Life Application

Hey all, I have been reading this book and it rocks! At least if you like getting your life in order, creating vision, and setting goals to accomplish your vision. It is a little more than a self help book and actually helps you take steps to improve areas in your life. Check it out when you are at a books store or here at Amazon.

One constant quote in this book is, "Everyone ends up somewhere, few end up somewhere on purpose." the First few chapters about finding your personal "Chazown" - God unique and specific vision for your life. The author takes you through applicable steps in finding that by help you examine your Passions, Core Values, an God given Spiritual Gifts. Next, the Author takes you through 5 areas of your life that can influence your Chazown positively or negatively - Work, God, Finances, Health and People (Relationships). It is a pact book and every time I read it, I am motivated and excited to get to work on what God has created me to do and do some hard work on these five areas of my life. This book WILL impact you.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Can't Sleep but I'm Tired

Don't you hate that! It's after twelve a.m. and my mind isn't stopping - so, I thought I would post a quick blog. Here's is a favorite proverb of mine:

A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest -
and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
Prov. 6:10
This has been a favorite proverb of mine for a long time. It applies so much. I used it when I was running to help me get out of bed and run, I used it when I was working for FCA and had to take the long drive out to Coalinga to build relationships, and I still use it when I have to get up early to cut back the jungle that never sleeps or slumbers. It is easy to apply this to our sleeping or working habits but I really unlocked the door to conviction when I started applying this passage to...well, every area of life. I look at poverty not just financial but spiritual, relational... more of a lacking of necessity, I guess. Like spiritual disciplines, for example. I have never made up my mind that I would stop reading my bible. But, I have gone through months at a time with out cracking the thing open. That doesn't happen overnight. It was a little less bible here, a little less there, skip one day, then skip two and three. Soon, I don't even sense the spiritual hunger anymore, I am in spiritual poverty in a way. We need to be on our guard! Poverty sneaks up on us!
On a more positive note - I am learning that the reverse is true as well. It's the, "Set a large goal and then divide it up into smaller goals" approach that I learned while running. We say we want to read the bible in a year - that is so do-able! Go for it. But you should divide that big goal into a smaller daily reading plan ( like this one, it's my favorite). Maybe we can write a converse to proverb 6:10 as something like this:
A little discipline, and little sweat
A little less cutting the corners -
and richness will come on you before you know it
and blessings you never expected
I have been applying Proverbs 6:10 to other parts of my life as well such as my relationships, marriage, exercise, spiritual disciplines and others tuff I cant think of.
Keep watching for the armed men,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What I've Learned - Part 3: I Need to Marinate

This is part three of 3 parts of a message that I gave in Clarksburg. This is a "semi-Transcript" so if you were there you may remember a lot of it - or maybe not :)

3) What I Have Learned About Myself:
I think I have all the answers. I don’t. I need to Marinate.

When Shannon and I got to Costa Rica and found Alternative Missions and saw all the great ministry they were doing we wanted to get to work right away. The Director said, “don’t make any commitments.” We saw the Skate park and 40 kids taking turns skating, We attended the youth night and I wanted to share my vast amount of experience in American, upper middle class youth ministry, our Director told us to hold on and wait. We attend our first house church and got so excited afterwards I thought, why aren’t we starting a new one? – The director told me to wait, watch and learn.”

I came in trying to give answers and solutions. My natural tendency is to look at any situation or product and ask the question, “How do we make this better?” After a few weeks of that the director actually had to sit me down and help me understand that there is a lot more at work than what I see.

After an embarrassing first month of pushing and pushing, I finally understood that I had to learn a lot more than what I saw in front of me. I learned of the need for more staff and if we start something with out prepared staff we can loose integrity in the community, exactly what other mission organizations have done in that area. I learned that there is a lot more happening than what I notice at first and I need to wait it out.

I need to wait and listen a little more, I don't know it all.

Here are some proverbs:
- 18:13, “He who answers before listening, that is his folly and his shame”
- 19:19, “Listen to advise and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise”

Sharing The Experience,

Sunday, January 07, 2007

For Our Supporters

I have received a few questions on how to support us financially. There are two ways.

1) Write a check made out to Alternative Missions and a note saying Phil and Shannon Ogilvie and send it to:

Alternative Missions
PO Box 5835
Goodyear, AZ. 85338

2) Or, an easier, safer, and more reliable way is to donate online through "Egiving." Through Egiving, you can set up an automatic withdrawal so that you don't have to worry about sending on time, missing or sending twice. For Egiving Follow these steps:

a) Click the "Egiving" Link on the bottom of this post or the bottom of the blog.
b) Next fill out the required information.
c) IMPORTANT- In the drop down box asking "Which Program?" select, "Missionary Support"
d) In the next text box indicating where the donation is to go, type, "Phil & Shannon Ogilvie"
e) Finish filling out your info and click "Send Your Gift" it's that easy!

Thank you to all who are supporting us financially, with out you we could not live here or minister here.

Sharing the experience,

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What I've Learned - Part 2: Land Of Plenty

This is part two of 3 parts of a message that I gave in Clarksburg. This is a "semi-Transcript" so if you were there you may remember a lot of it - or maybe not :)


This next lesson that I learned was a little tougher to swallow. It should convict all of us a little. We, as Citizens of he United States are blessed in a way unimaginable by most people around the World. We live in the Land of Plenty. We have so much and we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to realize that. We don’t just have a lot of money but we have a lot of places and things to spend it on.

Shannon and I both came home after just 3 months away and we felt the culture shock. It first hit me in San Francisco when after arriving late the night before; I went to Starbucks for a 3 month delay hit of caffeine. As I stood in line to potentially place my order I froze. In Costa Rica I learned that coffee was made two ways, with or with out milk. At Starbucks there were so many choices I couldn’t process them. Shannon went to Walmart to buy toothpaste, in Costa Rica, you have 2 or three choices, here you have a whole isle to choose from, again stunned by available choices.

Now I am not one of the people that stand in commercials making an emotional plea to send money and make you feel guilty for earning what you have. I fully disagree with people that use guilt as a motivating tool. What I am learning about God and how he works is that he gives people resources to go and bless others. He uses people to do his work. I know some wealthy people have a God given vision to increase funds to bless others. To make money so that they can support what God is doing. My fear is that we as a nation have grown into such consumers of good things that the resources God intended for us to use to bless others, have gone to blessing ourselves.

A book to read: The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorne

WHAT I AM LEARNING THROUGH MY EXPERIENCE: God has blessed me so that I can bless others.

Verse: Prov. 11:24, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty.”

Sharing the Experience,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We Have PICS!

Hey everyone, check out the pics from our New Years party Here

Sharing the Experience,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sunday Night

I am blown away by the events of Sunday night. For New Years Eve we had our first annual Youth Skate Competition as well as a carnival for the younger kids and the families that are attending our house churches. We also have a short term missions team of 14 people in from Arizona who were ready to put on the games and face painting for the evening. Everyone on the team and our staff were so excited for this event to take place, at the same time none of us knew quite what to expect. Puerto Viejo is such a mystery to me in the fact that you can get people so excited about something, remind them everyday that it is coming up, and even have them verbally tell you they will be there and then when the day comes no one shows. People come if it works that day, and no amount of planning can change that. Our event started at 6:30pm with games for the younger kids and at 6 we had families starting to walk in. We had enough people in the beginning that food got pushed up from 8pm to 6:15 and it was an exciting predicament to be in. TJ, Phil and I decided to go crazy with the amount of cookies and cake we would offer that night since usually our policy is not to hand out anything. I was blown away with the amount of Thank You’s I got not just in the beginning but throughout the evening. Some of the regulars of our youth knew that this was an evening for them and they showed their appreciation more than I have ever seen before. The amount of people that showed up and the overall feel of the evening has been something that I have been thinking about since it happened. There are certain people that come to skate that I have watched over the months and have seen them interact and improve in their skating, and as much as some of them have grown important to me, I am still very much so being tested. They want to see how long I am going to stick around and what I am about. I can learn their names, pay attention to what skate board and helmet they use when I am working at the ramps, but being accepted is something that is on their timing and I cannot rush that. Sunday night I saw it for the second time since Phil and I got back from our trip home in December, that they are learning me as much as I have been learning them and they are just as undecided as to how to be friends with me as I am with them. Running the food and coffee table I was in a cool position of being able to interact with a large mix of people, and had so many great conversations with kids and adults as I was able to pour them coffee and give them cake. What impressed me the most though was that some of our regulars, the cool local kids who can intimidate me to no end, were coming up to the table and talking to me and not wanting coffee or cake. As much as I was trying to shove food down their throats it was a new feeling to have them just want to be around for a second. They were talking to me about how they were feeling about skating in front of all the people there, and who they thought would win the first and second prizes of new skate boards, and I couldn’t help but think that no amount of trying to “learn” them could compete with how I felt in that moment. It was amazing for me to realize how much I am cheerleading for them in all that they do, not just skating. Downer, one of our older boys corrected a younger kid, Jason, when he tried to take 6 pieces of cake instead of just one, and I just watched in silence as Jason respected him and walked off. Two Sundays ago at our Christmas Eve party, it was Downer being corrected by Topo, a local dad who he respects. I saw the cycle continue through Downer and I was excited that it was never once me who had to initiate it. That is a big part of what we are doing here, to get locals involved but also to put behavioral changes in affect simply by showing that they is valued.
Our team recognizes that God was the only one that could have caused that evening to be a success, and while we planned it out, so much was left out of our control simply because of the nature of this place and this culture. Honestly and not to sound spiritual, the evening in a large way was left up to God and He came through in a way that I still have not been able to shake. So many moments left me so thankful that I was allowed to be there. To be a part of the moment and really just see what it feels like to be in God's favor leaves you with such a strong feeling of unworthiness and gratitude. I hope that I do not forget how that feels; to know that all that I am seeing is because God chose to show His grace and His mercy on all our plans and that in my own way I knew He was proud of Alternative Mission’s heart for this community. Every person on our staff has bought in to this place, the people, and I believe that God continues to give us wisdom and insight into how to reach and serve them. The same reasons that this place confuses and frustrates me are the reasons that I recognize are needed for us to be continually seeking God to help us make a dent in things. God brought people there that night. I watched it. God allowed us to have an amazing evening without having to worry about people causing trouble or bringing things to the property they shouldn't have. On New Years Eve when everyone in the community is getting high and drinking we had no one bring beer or have to be asked to leave. At one point there were 100 people from the community there.
God allowed me to be a part of certain conversations with the youth that up to this point have not happened. I got to see what it looked like for some of our coolest kids to be nervous and excited to skate in front of everyone in what was for some of them their first experience with competition. I heard Raul and Davis tell me how their knees were skating and how all they could think about was just wanting their minute and a half to be over without falling in front of everyone. They were telling me how they felt about it all and I saw them be 16 year olds instead of the adults they try so often to be. Those kind of moments you cannot make happen. There were so many times that in my head I could do nothing more than be aware of the fact that I was priviledged to be there and that it was by the grace of God that I am allowed to be a part of what is happening in this place. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what God did on Sunday. I have never felt so appreciative, and so aware of the fact that God is going to move in His own way in this place and all I can hope for is to be around in those moments to see it, to witness to what He is causing happen, and to turn around and give thanks for all that I have had the opportunity to be a part of. I have never felt more aware of the fact that I have done nothing to deserve it. To Him alone be the glory.