Tag Archives: missions trip

Rescuing People from the Trash

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An amazing “Book of Acts” type thing happened today (Monday) here in Costa Rica.  I just want to share it with you all.

A little background about what is happening right now in Costa Rica

We have 3 teams here with us right now.  One is from North Central University in Minneapolis.  One is a ChiAlpha group from Colorado State University, and they’ve worked with us for several years now both here and in Mexico.  The third is from our university ministry in Mexico City, Jovenes con Decision, and they’ve worked with the ChiAlpha team for years too.  This is the second year that both Mexico and Colorado have joined us in Costa Rica all together.  Students from Colorado, Minnesota and Mexico all working together in Costa Rica!

Students from Colorado, Minnesota, Mexico and Costa Rica worked together to clean this street in front of the school by the city dump.

So today we added a fourth group of kids to the mix.  Here in Costa Rica our ministry is to University students as well.  We have built a connection with a group of students at the main University.  They are all non-Christian kids.  All the Costa Rican students are required to complete 300 hours of community service for graduation.  So these students are in various environmental studies majors and together they come up with recycling and clean up and education projects to fulfill their graduation requirements.  This group is called TCU Esperanza Verde (Green Hope).  They are not Christians, but many of them were part of our ChiAlpha/Mexico outreach last year.  Our goal is to work together with them on a project in order to build relationships with them and to connect them with Christian students from Mexico and Colorado.  It’s been a successful partnership so far.

So here’s the cool thing that happened today. 

Picking up trash in the street.

Today we all joined the TCU kids in a clean up project.  We went to Tirrases, which is a neighborhood built on the side of the city dump.  This community is poor and despised by the rest of society.  Today the plan was to clean up the street in front of the school where we worked last year.  The school principal has worked hard to make the inside of the school fairly nice, by third world standards, but they have no soap or paper towels or toilet paper let alone books or papers.  They have 1,500 students each day in two shifts, over 40 kids per class room.  It’s madness.  And the street out front of the school is a dangerous disaster.

So the team all brought work gloves and garbage bags to clean up the street.  No big fan fare, no big sound system, no mention of  Jesus… yet.  They were just University students cleaning the street… and I can’t tell you how gross it was!  Suddenly their work was interrupted by people coming out of their houses and coming up to our students to talk to them.  (Thankfully the Mexican students were there so someone spoke Spanish.)  People started coming up to them and just telling them their life story and saying, “My life is a mess!  I need God!  Can you pray for me?”  It was just the Holy Spirit drawing them out to the street!!  

Of course our group surrounded the people, one by one, and laid hands on them right there on the street, right in front of our secular University students!  One poor man dropped to his knees right there in the street and accepted Jesus right there on the spot!  I have no idea what the TCU students thought of it all, but a few of them continued to hang out with us for the rest of the day as we moved on to other things.  They just wanted to BE with our Christian students!  It was just so amazing and so like the Book of Acts were people were just coming up to the Apostles on the street and asking “How can I be saved?”

Wow!

I know I’m a missionary, but that doesn’t happen every day… not even in MY world!  God just never ceases to amaze me.

We are so excited and praising Jesus for an amazing day of ministry!  Praise God with us!!  

If you are like those folks that we met today, your life is a mess and you just need Jesus, all you have to do is ask him for help.  Ask him to forgive your sins and to give you a fresh start on life.  Jesus can take the mess you’ve made of your life and turn it into something beautiful when you turn your life over to him.  He loves you and is waiting to hear from you.

Dear God, What did I get myself into?

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This is the tale of a wanna-be missionary and a sudden case of cold feet… or actually hot feet, in this story.  Back in 2004 we took our first family missions trip to Mexico.  It was awful.  We had just resigned our position as youth pastors to become missionaries, and we were preparing to travel to Springfield, Missouri for 5 weeks of School of Missions where we would be living in college dorms with our 2 children.

As if a 5 week stay in college dorms with a family of 4 wasn’t enough of a packing challenge, we decided to tack on a week in Mexico for a family missions trip, sort of as an introduction to missions for our children.  This was the dumbest idea we’ve ever had.  

First of all, it was about as hot as Hades that summer and we drove the whole way from Minnesota to Mexico.  Of course the air conditioning broke on the way down.  Then my 2-year old daughter cried day and night for a week solid because she was so hot.  I thanked God for not calling us to the Philippines.

Second of all, the dynamics of the trip were really off kilter for us. We were used to being in charge.  But this was a group trip organized by someone else in our church.  No one was very clear about our role on that trip- least of all us.

Thirdly, we didn’t know the independent missionary that we were working with.  When it was all said and done we were less than impressed with this wacko.  The whole orphanage/ministry compound had a Branch Davidian sort of feel.  The kids were strangely aggressive and conditioned to leech off of teams that came to work there every summer.  I felt used.

They used the teams to improve their property and boost their income, but they didn’t take very good care of their teams.  Part of the compound included housing for teams, two cinder block bunk houses.  These houses were incomplete. There were no doors, no screens nor glass in the windows, just cinderblock walls and a tin roof.  I felt really exposed- especially since I could see that there was no closing gate at the front of the compound.  Anyone could just walk right in off the street!  My husband and son were sleeping in the boys’ bunk house and my 2-year-old daughter and I were sleeping in the girls’ bunk house.  I thought, “what did we get ourselves into?”  I felt unprotected and nervous.  I learned to sleep with one eye opened.

But what really pushed me to my breaking point were the bugs.  I had never seen cockroaches that big before.  They were everywhere.  I… HATE… COCKROACHES.  There was no way I was going to be able to sleep without fearing that cockroaches would crawl on me in the night.  I pushed our two bunk beds away from the walls in case a cockroach came up the wall.  Every night I laid on top of my sleeping bag (it was about a million degrees inside the bunk house) and I would pray, “God, please put your angels around us while we sleep so no one comes in the front gate to kidnap anyone.  And while the angels are standing guard, please have them kill any cockroaches they see so they don’t get on me.”  And I kid you not, EVERY morning I would wake up to see a ring of dead cockroaches around my bed!!  I would sweep up a pile of them every morning.  Then I would pray again the next night.

I think God understood that if I had a bad cockroach experience this early on in the game that I might throw in the towel and move back home to Minnesota where the bugs are smaller and stay mostly outside.  I also took the dead roaches as a sign that God was listening to ALL of my prayers.  I couldn’t physically see how he kept us safe from bad guys at the gate, but I could see the evidence of his protection around me while I slept.  So I knew that God was listening to my prayers.  My level of trust in God’s care for me was hugely boosted on that miserable missions trip.