Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 1 - Traveling South

We began wondering whether the tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico would impact us...but overall...besides a few turbulents, all went very well. It strikes me that the amount of faith we must put in jet air craft seems to be so strong (at least for most of us) and yet we struggle to truly deeply trust God in all things. He has never had a mechanical issue, never crashed, never gotten stuck on a runway for hours....frankly, there is no reason to not fully place faith in his great love for us.

So we had a different sort of trip than in the past --- our first flight from C'bus to ATL had us in the last 2 rows of a very large plane. When we looked out our windows, there was the side of a jet engine! So as we landed in ATL, we could see nothing. Later, as we landed in San Jose, it was already dark and raining lightly, so we could see nothing...again that "faith thing".

We are now all settling in at the mission house and set to be ready in the morning for a great day of ministry! Wonder what faith steps will need to be taken tomorrow. Follow us each day for exciting news!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 5 Heavy Metal

Well, this post is from Brett today, not Brian. No reason other than Pastor Brian smells bad after a long day washing everyone's clothes....seriously.....and so I jokingly said, "I'll write it" and he said "Okay" and went off to the showers. So here we go.

We woke up in the morning to wonderful sounds of the man yelling, "Huevos, Huevos, Pinas y Pipas", and the wonderful smells of breakfast which happened to be orange whole wheat pancakes and an array of fresh mangoes and pineapple and coffee like you would not imagine which is drank morning, noon and night. After breakfast and a short discussion about the gospel, Pastor Brian tells us that it is laundry day and graciously volunteers to do the laundry for everyone. We all brought him our dirty smelly clothes and I even found some socks that I put outside to dry after they got wet the day before and they were so stiff that I could hold them sideways and they did not droop down. YUCK. So I handed them to Brian :)

As Brian, our mommy for the day, washed our clothes (have I mentioned that?), we got ready for the work of the day which involved children's ministry for some and and for others, putting the inside and outside walls on the house as well as the roofing. We were like ants coming in and out of Yogi Bear's picinic basket as we carried carefully formed yellow sections of wall and loading them on a truck and then unloading them on the work site while Carlos El Guapo Santana led the way. We got them fastened to the floor amidst the differing and almost arguing cries of 4 different men--imagine that ladies--telling each other what to do, "Yes the top is flush.....No! Bring it up a hair......Back some......Aye Aye Aye loco gringos......"

Then came the aforementioned "heavy metal" which is not slang for the type of music Mama Brian was listening to as he carefully added laundry detergent to our clothes. It started with Steve who is one of the workers here, who is a gringo himself and affectionately known to the locals as either "Shaggy" or "estiff". Steve saw me, Brett, standing around not doing much and he told me we were going to get the roofing. I knew it was sheet metal but I did not know we were going to tie 4 sheets of it together and carry it down the crazy, uneven, sometimes wet, half tiled, steps to get to the work site. He also so kindly told me that every time he works with the roofing he usually cuts himself and that he had seen someone nearly cut their hand off with it. So we carefully rolled up about 4 sheets (8'x3') at a time which weighed over a hundred pounds and went down the stairs. We had taken about 3 trips with the same type of bundle, when out of nowhere, there stood Mama Brian who had come out of the laundry room to help carry sheet metal. Could he? Should he? Would he? HE DID!!!!!!

So with sheet metal added to the roof....wait wait wait, there were no injuries from the sheet metal.....until I was done and sat on top of a pile of old ceramic roofing and one of them broke and took a small chunk out of the skin on my right calf. Its fine though.

The work for the day was done around 5 and as we do every day, we take off our shoes and a few of us sit in Harry's favorite leather Costa Rican rocking chairs until it is our turn in the shower.

So as the day winds down, some of us decide to go to a Bible study in a yellow house which had been built for someone in the community by Harvest Hands. The Bible study was led by Luis, who has been helping with the construction all week and considers himself to have been called by God to be an evangelist, which he is. We sat for 2 hours reading scripture and encouraging a few of the local people who were with us. Lisa translated EVERYTHING for 2 hours into English as Luis shared the gospel and other words from God to all of us in Spanish. It was amazing how God orchestrated others in the group to share Scripture as well as just sit and listen to the stories of God working in their lives.

One small highlight of the Bible study is when I sat down next to a little girl on the couch and she pointed at my shirt seemingly trying to see what the design was on it, so I showed her and made probably what looked to her like some crazy gringo motion with my arms as if to say, "I don't know what it is either." and then she laughed and pointed again, and it was A SPIDER on my shirt and I jumped up and wiped it off and then it ended up on the little girl and she wiped it off on to the floor and we didn't see it again. I hate spiders.....ask my wife at church.

Well, I hope that was not too much about me, but I really saw how God can use such a diverse group of people who all love him to get the work of sharing the gospel accomplished AND how he can use so many different people to build a house.

Even though there are times here when we smell the aromas of food being cooked all around the local city and there are times when we cross over a bridge and smell the horrific smells of a trash and sewer filled river flowing through that same town, we can know that the body of Christ which is made up of gringos from Ohio and ticos from Los Anonos is a fragrant aroma to God as we are following him and walking in love, together

Until tomorrow's blog....hasta luego

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 4 - God is at work!

Cindy again - Brian is in the hammock out back. Okay, I am kidding, but there IS a hammock. I am sure when it is not pouring buckets of rain people use it - LOL. Monday (yes, I'm behind -we had a late dinner last night so the blogging was put on the back burner) we went over to a church in a nearby village - CCA, where several of us went to church on Sunday. You know it takes a lot to leave me speechless but ....WOW....... The pastor told us about HIS dramatic transformation from a "believer" In Jesus to a sold-out FOLLOWER of Jesus and the change this has made in his church. They run a drug rehab for men and women, a feeding center, a Christian school with 400 students, and a host of micro-enterprises designed to offer employment and income for the folks in rehab who are rebuilding their lives as well as other people in this needy community. CCA is THE leading employer in the entire town - which, by the way, is the 2nd most violent town in Costa Rica. They have soccer fields, a snack bar, a car wash, a mechanic shop, a dental clinic, a re-sale furniture shop, and a greenhouse. The greenhouse is run by 4 Chinese people who were born again at CCA and offered their skills to the community - how COOL is that??

They also developed the Yellow House project to reclaim their community by offering safe dry housing to the poor residents. The pastor said these are not programs of the church, this IS the church. He also said, which really impacted me, that if they ever run out of money to serve the poor, he will close ALL of the efforts before he will never sacrifice one. If he has to close the feeding center, he will close the church because if he can't buy food for the poor, he can't buy microphones! Wow- what a heart for God's people. We were sooo blessed by this visit. On the way out of town we stopped by the small town of Jasmine to see the community of yellow houses, including the first one built by NLG last summer. The brave and hearty ones from our team trudged up the mountain in the mud to see the village - the rains have washed out the roads and made them impassable. We saw the villagers walking up and down the rugged hill to get to work or school. And by HILL, I mean rugged mountain, slippery with mud, jagged with rocks, very steep. I marvel at their daily life - most of us rarely walk to the mailbox and even our sidewalks are paved!

After an afternoon of meetings with the church partners, we met with everyone involved in the work here in Los Anonos - the muchachos, the mamas, the church workers, the adults involved in the Bible studies and other projects and talked openly and passionately about the needs of this little village. From church planting to micro-enterprise and everything in between, we heard story after story of God's transforming power. One boy and his mom used to sell crack together from their home. Another boy's father roams the street, a homeless drug addict.One woman is a single mom, another a wealthy real estate agent. Another boy is learning the guitar so he can lead worship. A room full of HOPE - that is what we found last night. God is obviously doing a work here, led and advanced through a pack of young boys, most barely 17, 18 years old - teachable, passionate boys who love God with all they have and want to serve Him. We ended a lively evening by standing on the balcony - 25 or so people, from all over the US and right across the river in CR, poor, not-so-poor, Gringos, Ticos, men, women, teenagers, one totally cute baby and some 30-50-somethings,. - stretching out our arms toward the city lights and praying for God's work in this town. Powerful. BIG STUFF. Pray for the folks of Los Anonos, that God will send just what they need to make his name Glorious from the quebrada to the barrio and back again, from the river banks to the mountains, from the shacks with tin roofs to the high rises in the distance. Pray for wisdom that the Americans involved will be wise and effective, not tossing money around and going home after a week but investing in the community as GOD chooses. Off to more meetings - have a great day! Love from Costa Rica!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day Three - Sabbath

OK, so in all honesty, this was nearly a true Sabbath day for us. It is intersting as leaders that we rarely take the time to rest physically and spiritually. There are 14 of us here and we went two different directions this morning for worship. My group attended CCA (Center for Christian Adoration). This is the church that "invented" the yellow house project and I love going there at least one time when ever I am in Costa Rica. Their worship is very exciting and has a distinct Latin flavor to it. Pastor Alberto is a great guy who is very "holisitic" in his approach to ministry. What I mean by this is that the church seks to minister to the whole person -- if someone is an addict, they need Jesus and at the same time need help in breaking the addiction, help in finding a job and working hard and discipleship as they grow.

After worship, the teams meet back at the ministry house and spend the day in smaller discussions, spend time reading, even taking some naps. We gather for a wonderful late dinner and then 2 hours or so of discussions about the ministry here and how the 5 churches represented can strategically work together building on the individual strengths of our churches. It is a wonderful time that I believe God has put together to make a Kingdom impact on this community.

Tomorrow will be a full day of meetings, planning and strategizing! More then.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Surprise- Pastor Brian's blog has been hijacked by Cindy! Be warned - this is a spanish keyboard and some of the keys don't do what I expect. WOW- today was a great day. It didn't rain until after dinner (yay!) so we had a beautiful breezy sunny day to visit the town of Los Anonos. Our buddy Luis walked us down the giant hill (NO REALLY, like.... a 90 degree incline. not kidding) and across the bridge where we then walked back into the jungle overlooking a rushing river. We walked single file on a path made of mud, rocks, boards, plastic, mud, moss and leaves to a WONDERFUL yellow house in the jungle. A yellow house donated through the generous hearts of the people of New Life Church and constructed by our team this summer. Remember Marvin, the dad with the autistic adult son - he met us at the door wearing a big smile! He was so thankful and told us to make sure to thank the church. His bird cages line the walls, he has made a hammock in the front room for his son - best of all, the night before in the torrential storms, this family stayed warm and dry in his new home. I was just overcome with joy when I saw that glimpse of yellow peeking through the green leaves. This was the Body of Christ reaching out in love to the "least of these" and it was an awesome sight!

We then walked back down the hill, across the concrete bridge and wound our way back into the town of Los Anonos. Rows and rows of small homes made of tin and concrete packed in rows just beyond the river banks. In many areas the raging river had come perilously close to flooding their homes the night before. It is in this little neighborhood that the Weds night small group meets- they put 18 or so people in a room about the size of your bathroom at home and CHURCH breaks out! Fires were going, cooking rice and all manner of foods, chickens wandered the streets, music blared from houses while boys played pool or hung out on the streets - wild dogs roamed around, chasing the kids on the riverbank. Two little boys rolled their plastic car waaaaay too close to the river bank for this mama while two others shouted ' gringo!" and pointed our way. Everywhere we went, people waved, hugged, or flagged down Pastor Brian - this is his 4th trip to this little village and he has made a name for himself. He has invested his heart in this community and it is obvious. The "muchachos" - the young men who have been meeting in what looks an awful lot like revival to me - adore him and the feeling is mutual. By preaching the treasure of the Gospel faithfully and regularly into the lives of these boys, he has earned their respect. But enough about that - I'll already be banned from his blog for that last paragraph.

You know the biggest thing I saw today was this - people are messed up all over the world. Haiti, Uganda, Gahanna, Costa Rica - families are broken, people are scarred, drugs and alcohol steal lives, poverty is universal. BUT, God's people are there, praying, working, giving- offering a safe place, a warm home, a hot meal, a prayer, the truth of the Gospel, the reality of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in Los Anonos - He looks a lot like Rodney and Cindy who organize prayer meetings and Bible studies and host teams and spend every day tirelessly reaching out to this community in love. Like Luis, born and bred in this village and spending every day working with addicts and kids and spreading the Gospel all over Costa Rica. And the "Muchachos" - young boys - one whose dad just died, one who keeps falling back into drugs, one who feels rejected because he doesn't have the right clothes- who meet every week and vow to serve Jesus and reach out to their families and neighbors despite hard circumstances.

Enough of Saturday - headed to church on Sunday and then our meetings continue with the other 4 churches involved in the work here in Los Anonos. We have already been blessed to be in their company and learn from them and their passion for this humble town. More to come - we wish you were all here with us! Cindy

Day 1 - Great to Be Back

It is great to be back in San Jose' again! The past three months have flown by and I have anticipated coming back every day. Once relationships are developed, it is hard to be away from these developing friendships. Cindy Schmidt, New Life's Mission Director has joined me on this trip. It is intended to focus on meetings with other US pastors whose churches send teams here and local ministry leaders including Rodney and Cindy LaFrance, the missionaries her on a full-time basis.

After arriving at mid-day (no major flight problems at all), I go into Los Anonos with Taylor, a great 20-something gal who has been ministering here this past year. She goes once a week to a local family's home and does physical therapy with an 11 year old girl who has ceribal paulsy. It is an excellent way to integrate into a family and reach them through this practical expression of Christ's love. It begins to rain while we are there -- it it RAINY season here in Costa Rica. This rain continues throughout the evening! I take a few minutes and visit Marvin, whose home we built this past July. Though it is raining, his home is dr
y and homey. I am so pleased the the Yellow Houses do what they are intended to do! Marvin is very happy with his new place and proudly shows off his now furnished home.

After dinner, we head to the casita for the Friday evening youth meeting. Because of the heavy rain, we start late, but eventually about 30 people brave the weather to worship together. Mike, a pastor from the Vineyard Church in Grand Rapids speaks on what it means to faithfully follow Christ. He uses the parable of the servants to show how important using the resources and gifts God has given to you is to the Kingdom. Several raise their hands, openly indicating that they have not been faithful in their Christian walk. We pray for these and the Holy Spirit shows up and shows deeper issues that must be dealt with, heals broken hearts and draws these nearer to Himself.

If you have read this blog for awhile, you will remember my friend Jason. He had been doing very well in staying away fro
m Crack when our team was here in July, but in late August was drawn back into this very dark world. He has separated himself from other Christ-followers until tonight when he showed up and sat with me at the meeting. Thought he asked for prayer and seems to realize his spiritual situation, drugs are a strong pull temptation used by the enemy to pull men and women far away from their relationship with Christ. It is hard to see him struggling, but I know that God will continue to draw him home -- just good decisions on his part are needed.

And this is JUST day 1!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Off to Costa Rica Again!

I (Pastor Brian) will be traveling to Costa Rica again this month - October 23-29. I will be going down to meet with a group of US and Costa Rican pastors and missionaries who partner together with Harvest Hands to minister in the community of Los Anonos (in San Jose'). We will be discussing the next steps moving forward in ministry there.

As you have read in past entries, God is at work among the people, especially the young men, of thsi small and greatly needy community. As God has begun to transform lives, there is a need to now establish a church there in a more formal manner -- THE Church is there, but a building is needed so that there is room for growth at meetings and a central location from which to minister in a more affective manner. We will also be discussing future efforts in the "Yellow House Project" in that community. The very first yellow house was built there with a New Life team this past July.

Cindy Schmidt, New Life's Missions Director will also be traveling to Costa Rica so that she can get a first hand look at the ministries there. This will continue the Mission Team's effort to have a team Rep see every ministry that New Life supports.

Follow us on our short journey beginning on Friday, October 23! We leave at 6:30 AM!!! Who books these things?