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.