Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rough Around the Edges

Kel said the other day... "If I were writing a blog about Costa Rica I would title it: When I was called Cal, the Man, Cow, Kyel, and sometimes Kel for three weeks".

"Poling" Across the River
Apparently "Kel" is a really hard name to say in the Spanish language. And sometimes even in the English language. 

It's been a week. 
A week where I can be perfectly content and at peace with my surroundings and circumstances and then ten minutes later be looking up what it would cost to change our flight to come home earlier. I'm ashamed by my lack of patience and the amount of pride I can have (sometimes over the smallest things). I'm ashamed by how selfish I can be. 

We came here to know if moving here was our calling. But we also came to serve. And we have definitely done that, but perhaps not in the ways I would have imagined. Our interaction with locals has been limited and our service has been primarily in farm work. We have also helped organize and assemble Bible lessons for children in schools along the river. And, after "poling" across the river on Thursday, we were able to go to a school and be a part of one of these hour-long programs.

At the School
I am convinced that the work being done here matters. The woman (who is close to 80) we are working with has been sharing the Gospel with the people who live along the river for the last 27 years. Churches exist because of her willingness to go. And these schools invite her to come and share. To sing songs that might stick with them for a lifetime. To teach them about the Bible through story and craft. It's actually really incredible. I wish that we were more geared toward young children or farming, but our strengths and passions are not the things that are needed here. 

And, as with probably many mission opportunities, this life is hard. It is without the comforts of running water, or air condition, or any kind of food you want whenever you want it. It is without recliners and televisions and a certain standard of cleanliness. It is without mirrors and bug spray (although those could easily be remedied). 

The Toucans we see daily
But- it's mostly hard because people can be hard to work with. They can be hard to understand. They can be hard to see eye-to-eye with. They can be hard to respect. They can be hard to talk to or listen to. They can be hard to not get frustrated with. They can be hard to trust. Granted, this is the challenge that is universal. It happens no matter where we go or what ministry we might find ourselves working in. People are different from us and they do things differently than us and, in that, we often find ourselves in conflict. 

These are the moments where I believe the Lord is refining us. The moments where I have to beg that the Lord would give me patience...and that I would be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. But there are also moments where I have to discern when (and how) to speak up. Moments where I have an opportunity, as the Spirit leads, to say something to someone that maybe no one else has been willing to. Moments that refine us because none of us are perfect and we all have blind spots. We need each other to grow in our weaknesses. But sometimes we're too quiet. Sometimes we're too scared. Sometimes we don't think it's our place. 

I'm learning to appreciate being rough around the edges. Because, even though I can spot the flaws easily, there's something continually beautiful to me about being a work in progress. A work that has to point to God working through us because we are too imperfect for us to have done any of it without Him. It's a life that points to Jesus... because there's really no other explanation for the work that gets done. 

I get to experience that in Costa Rica. But I also get to experience that in America. We need Jesus. No matter where we are. 

I hate that I forget that sometimes. 

Someday I'll write about the supposed murderer we were living next to, or the time our boat almost flipped, or all the other moments of crazy we have encountered. Someday, but not today. 

Sunrise on the River!
Today I'm thankful for new mercies every morning.
For a grace that covers me, even when I am the ugliest of humans in my heart. 
For a bed to sleep in and plenty of food to eat.
For the hospitality and generosity of a woman who loves the Lord and is doing her best to give her life to Him. 
For a husband who continually amazes me and is willing to count my 100 bug bites for me. 
For new friends who patiently help me learn Spanish so we can communicate. 
For all the new knowledge we have gained about life on the farm and along the river. 
For internet that allows me to connect to family, friends, work, and school. 
For funny little animals that we have gotten to take care of. 

It's a good life.
A hard life. 
But a life where God is moving and working. 

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Wish You Were Here

I wish you all could be here.

I wish you all could experience the cockroach that's underneath our bed. Or the giant frog that comes out at night in the kitchen...but you only catch sight of him moving out of the corner of your eye and you're sure, instead of a frog, that there are snakes or roaches or alligators that are going to eat you. Or the thousands of chigger bites that you try to soothe with Vicks vapor rub or some homemade substance that smells of sulfur but you'll try just about anything at this point.

I wish you could experience the dogs barking in the middle of the night, alerting you to a newly captured raccoon, or a wandering heifer that you'll have to herd back to its pasture while rubbing the sleepies out of your eyes.

I wish you could experience Eduardo, the duck (who we forgot to lock up last night...but he survived). Or taking the baby chicks to and fro every morning and every night as they molt and grow-- looking sweaty and ugly. I wish you could meet Judith, the new calf who wobbles around with gangly knees. I wish you could collect the eggs each afternoon with us, getting as excited as we do when we find one more day than the day before. Or, when we count the hens and discover one missing. See ya, lady hen...(we never found her).

I wish you could experience making cheese. We're basically professionals now...every day trying to perfect our craft to make more cheese with the same amount of milk. We've increased by almost 3 kilos since our first attempt (that's like 6.5 lbs!).  I wish you could cut down banana trees with us. Or feed Wheela (the baby pig) and listen to the disgusting sounds of pigs eating slop.

I wish you all could wash your hair in the sink (we're up to one wash since we got here...), or attempt to shave some portion of your legs. Or try to remember to put your toilet paper in the trash every time you pee, instead of the toilet.  Or let throwing some water on yourself at night be sufficient enough for being "clean".

Sophia, the cat, comes to every meal.
I wish you could all throw your chicken bones into the river after lunch, or feed the begging cat your scraps. I wish you all could drink maracuya juice with us, or cut down fresh papaya, or pluck a fresh pineapple from the plant between where you sleep and where you eat. 

But most of all, I wish you could be here and meet the people... because without that, there's no real picture of what our time here has been like.

It's been unpredictable. But predictable. Chicks, cheese, hens, cheese, chicks, chicks, cheese, hens, chicks. It's all the hours in-between that leave you wondering: what will today bring?

And while we've actually really enjoyed our time here and know that we COULD be here long-term, we made a decision. Neither of us feel like we SHOULD be here or that we have been called to move here. We still think we can help this ministry though, and we aim to do so.

Finding quality people who can handle the adventure and lack of comfort, but desire to share the Gospel with this part of the world? We want to help do that. We want to help find someone to manage the farm, and another person to go to the local schools and teach young kids about Jesus and, simultaneously, a little English. We want to find people who are willing to learn new things (or new languages), and bring their skills to a little ministry in Costa Rica that desperately needs it.

19 baby chicks (this is only half of them)
There's a little part of me that's sad about that. Mostly because, when someone is in need, I want to fix it. But, I'm realizing over and over again that I can't be the person who fixes any of it (nor do I always need to feel like I'm the one who has to).

It's where faith comes in. Trusting the Lord that He'll take care of His people and His ministries...and we get to be faithful where we are, excited about what opportunities are before us.

And tonight?
Tonight there's a rifle outside the door so when the dogs bark and the raccoons come... Kel has a job to do.

It's been a crazy day.
I'll tell you more about it sometime.

But, really.
I wish you could all be here.
(and maybe, someday, some of you will actually come!)

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Friday, February 1, 2019


I told Kel today that I don't have words to describe our experience in Costa Rica so far...other than just literally telling you what our life is currently like.

But even that is hard to describe.

In Costa Rica, plans are mostly impossible to make. A car breaks down, an appointment was never made, the car's tags are expired, the boat's motor gets flooded, it doesn't rain so you have no water (and therefore don't take showers for days and days), things take longer than anticipated, 17 people you're growing accustomed to living alongside leave within minutes. But somehow, through all of that, the internet has been reliable. Technology is amazing, friends.

Today we made cheese.
It wasn't supposed to happen that way.
I was going to feed the chickens and meet up with Nelson, the farmhand, so he could walk me through the process. I had sort of helped two young women two days ago make it...fumbling through Spanish to ask questions and understand what was happening, and mostly considering how to make the process more efficient.

The thing about a language barrier is that when you show up to make the cheese and Nelson never shows up (except to show you how much Caujo to add and that the cheese will be ready to make in treinta minutos) is that eventually you realize that maybe he's thinking you're making the cheese. By now it's been an hour, because you fed the chickens and the pigs and tried to knock some coconuts down (for the chickens) and walked around looking for Nelson...and so it's time to just try to mimic what I saw my new friends do a few days ago. And I wouldn't normally care about messing something like this up, but the fact that it gives the farm much-needed dollars feels a little like pressure.
our first attempt at cheese!

So, we made cheese.
And it doesn't taste half bad.

We wake up around 6:00AM.
Today Kel immediately was asked down to the river with a bucket so there would be water to flush the toilets with.  And then he went to help milk the cows, but got there in time to see one of the pigs slaughtered and taken away. I recently got assigned chicken duty-- so I put the baby chicks out each morning and make sure they have food and water all day long. They have to get fat. Fat, so they can be eaten.

There were 17 refugees here when we arrived. A family from El Salvador who had gone through some really tragic things and needed a place to stay. We became friends through pointing at objects, asking questions by using the wrong conjugations, trying out Google translate (which is actually hard because if I ask a question I didn't know how to ask, they'll usually answer the question in a way that I'll never be able to understand). They cooked El Salvadorian food for us...blended beans that you dip your fried banana into. I didn't love it. But I was thankful for their generosity and kindness. One day, the police showed up asking for passports. A few hours later, they were packing their bags, praying for us, and walking down the dirt road with rolling suitcases. I still don't really know what happened or why it happened. But, I'm thankful for them and our time together with them.

Kel getting coconuts for las gallinas (hens)
It's a little lonelier on the farm now.
(And part of why we made cheese).

But, the really pressing question is the one I don't have words for.

There's a part of my soul that could be quite content with barefeet, hairy armpits, fresh-grown fruit at my fingertips, being in the middle-of-nowhere, learning a language fluently, interacting with the local community in the various ways that this mission does--through schools, churches, business on the farm. Basically, the farm sustains the ministry.

We talk a lot about the dreams and ideas we have. Starting up a discipleship program, bringing people out to learn about hard, manual labor through farm work while also learning what it means to follow Jesus more wholeheartedly.  Continuing the sharing the Gospel in local schools, helping out local church plants, being a resource, building relationships with people internationally. So much has already happened here for the sake of the Gospel...and there's so much more that could be done.

But there are a lot of dreams we would be leaving behind. A lot of ideas that haven't come to fruition. A lot of relationships we are in the midst of. A lot of people we get to walk through life with and learn more about the Lord alongside. Foster Care. Camp ministry. Family. Community. Church. Things (and people) we are passionate about and things we believe in.

So we're here.
We made it.
We're learning about life on a farm.
We laugh a lot and sweat a lot.

Keep praying for discernment.
(and for it to rain!)
(and for us to make better cheese tomorrow!)

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