Friday, December 25, 2015

Feliz Navidad 2015

Merry Christmas to all our Family and Friends!

My heart is full and overflowing with contentment this Christmas season. As I mentioned in a Facebook post, this is both my and Rob’s first Christmas ever away from our families. I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to it and it seemed that the kids weren’t looking forward to it either since they wouldn’t tell me what they wanted for Christmas. In past years, that has always been an easy question and some of them would have a list that took up a full page. Not this year, every time I asked, they would have a blank stare or just plain ignore me. Finally, one of the kids said, “Well, we really don’t NEED anything so why don’t you just tell our grandparents to make a donation to the Children’s Ranch or something.” What? Wow! Huh. Every once in a while, your kids just melt your heart.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to give a gift to a friend of ours who has been helping us build at the ranch for the last year. We wrapped it up in typical Christmas wrapping paper with a bow so that looked pretty and presented it to him. It was a small package about the size and shape of a book. When he saw the gift that we were presenting to him, he teared up. He said that he has never received a Christmas gift in 43 years. (He is 43 years old). He then said that Christmas is when they get their clothes that they need for next year and that is all. They aren’t wrapped. So, even though the gift was something as small as a book, he knew it couldn’t possibly be clothes or something ‘practical.’ I had always heard that it is better to give than to receive but this moment really made me realize the true joy in giving. It was a very impactful moments for our whole family.

Two of our neighbors came over this week and dropped off tamales. This is what everyone here eats for Christmas, it is a very special meal that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. We were honored to be included in this tradition and we enjoyed eating the tamales today for our Christmas dinner, since we had the ‘American ham dinner’ on Christmas Eve. They were delicious.

Jonathan enjoying the tamale at our 'casual attire' Christmas dinner
These gifts of tamales prompted us to give away the cinnamon swirl bread (that we made for French toast Christmas morning) as a gift to our neighbors. It was fun to wrap them up in shiny tin foil and tie them with ribbons. The neighbors seemed happy to receive these gifts as well.

It is a tradition in my Norwegian family to open all of our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve after our evening dinner. Well, as soon as the kids woke up, our youngest asked, “Are we opening presents now?”
I replied with, “No sweetie, we open gifts after dinner so not until it gets dark.”
About an hour later she asks, “How much longer until we open gifts.”
Again, “not until it gets dark.” A while later she asks what time does it get dark? And finally when she started to ask how much longer until it gets dark I lost it and told her, “If you talk about opening presents one more time today, we will not open them at all! Let’s enjoy our company while they are here!” Grrrr.  We were not looking forward to a Christmas alone so we invited a couple in our ministry to share Christmas with us. They came over for the day on Christmas Eve and we had the ham dinner with them. It was so much fun to play games and share some time with our ‘new’ family here in Costa Rica.
After our friends left and I announced that it was time to exchange gifts, my sweet little baby said, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to see everyone open the gifts that I got for them.” Stab me with a dagger right in the heart. So that’s why she couldn’t wait for us to open gifts.

As I read back over these different experiences that we have had in the last week, GIVING seems to be the theme for our family this 2015 Christmas. We don’t consider ourselves anyone special.  We are just a regular American family who happens to be living in another country as our way of serving God.  We always have food and clean water.  We have a clean, safe, comfortable place to live.  We often bicker and argue like everyone else.  In spite of us, God is working in our hearts to give us a perspective that we probably would not have found back home. Knowing that is what fills my heart this Christmas season. 

Thank you God for giving us the greatest gift of all. Jesus. I now have a glimpse of the joy you must feel whenever a person humbly and gratefully accepts that gift. I love you. Amen.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pictures at the Living Waters Children's Ranch

Here are a bunch of pictures that represent our past year.  God has been very good.

Baptisms in the river are awesome!

The garage.

Happy 19th!

Doing nails is serious business.
We love when young people come down so our kids can make friends.
Jonathan playing with friends  in Verbena
Mara and Jonathan working hard for lolly pop money.
The cone of shame.
Fun day at La Paz waterfalls (no waterfalls were harmed in the taking of this picture)
Our new greenhouse.
Abby and Jonathan enjoying the river.
Typical Costa Rican clothing.
The first large family house is under construction.
Jonathan got the perfect can from one of his sisters.
Snorkeling fun in Panama.
Sisters having fun at starfish beach.
Hola amigo.
The first step to making chocolate.

Crushing the cocoa beans.
Grinding the cocoa beans.

Jonathan doing the final mashing with a rock.

Tasting the final product.
Elise holding Mauricio's grand daughter.

Amazing moon rise.
Abby and Jonathan teaching Miriam a new game.
Halloween fun.
Abby just might follow in Aunt Katie's footsteps.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 2015 update

Hello friends. 
Wow.  It has been a very busy summer between hosting teams, travelling home to CT for visit and of course, building, building, building.

The family is doing very well.  The kids are enjoying school and are all actually doing amazingly well, considering that most of the teaching is in Spanish.  Elise has made a lot of friends and loves going to learn and socialize.  Mara, Jonathan & Abby are a little less excited about school and would much rather be huddling together on the couch playing mine craft.  Yvonne has hit a good routine of taking care of all of us, spending time in her bible and with Rosetta Stone.  She enjoys helping to host teams when they come out to the Ranch and has started to garden and make the place look great.  And best of all, we are all blessed to have Miriam living out here.  She is so patient and loving to all of us and a great example of trusting in and living to serve Jesus.  I am having a great time as we are into full blown construction mode on our house.
This first house is about 200 square meters (2,000 square feet) and will be the model home for the rest of the construction we will be doing here at the Children’s Ranch.  Each house will have the capacity for 8 children and one ‘Mom & Dad’ set of foster parents.  If we can quickly raise the necessary funds to continue construction, I hope to be able to move into the house by the end of this October.  We still need about $40,000 to finish this first house.  As of this writing, I do not have any more funds to order the next batch of materials.  

I am certain that this project is part of God’s plan for some of His most special children here in Costa Rica.  I am also certain that God’s timing is far superior to my plans.  Either He is telling me to take some time off from construction to focus on my family and making more relationships in the local community, or He is looking for me to completely trust in His provision.  I have about 2 weeks worth of work that I can do on the house without spending much more money, at the end of which I will have to determine how to proceed.

Our family has been extremely blessed by the generosity of our family and friends and churches and we have had enough money every months to pay our bills and continue with our ministry.  We hope that everyone knows how appreciative we are for that support and how much we recognize the sacrifice that this is for each of our donors.
I would like to issue a challenge to everyone that reads this blog.  Please consider how you might be able to help support this very worthy project.  Perhaps you have the resources to personally send our ministry a tax-deductible donation to continue construction.  Perhaps you feel compelled to band together with a group of folks and try to raise some money to help.  Every bit helps and every bit is needed.  I have a page on the ministry website that breaks down the cost of building one of these houses.  Please visit to see this detail and much more information about the Ranch.

The leaders of our ministry have met and we have decided that we should have at least two families, preferably three, living in homes at the Ranch before we start taking in children.  We can build a house in 4 months if we have the funds.  How amazing would it be for us to raise the $160,000 that we will need to get to that point to start radically blessing these children?

If you have any questions or comments please send me an email to  I would love to hear from you and perhaps discuss how you can come down and check out what we are going first hand.

Happily Serving,

Rob Wutka

Saturday, June 13, 2015

We are coming home for a visit!!

I was just reviewing our blog to see how much we need to fill you all in on with our work here in Costa Rica. Have we really not blogged in over 2 months?? We are so sorry. I usually blog on things of a more personal nature and Rob usually blogs about the Ranch so this time you are going to get a mixture of both of us blogging.
First off, we would like to let everyone know that we have generously been gifted with plane tickets to come home to CT on June 25th. We need to do yet another visa reset trip and since the kids have a few weeks off from school at that time we decided that this would be a great opportunity to travel to the States. This is, however, a very busy time for the ministry since many people are on summer vacation and willing to do some mission work. We have several building teams coming down to help out at the Children’s Ranch so Rob will only be in the States for one week. The rest of us have the blessing of being able to stay until July 23rd. We are hoping to have the opportunity to meet with all of our supporting churches and individuals while we are here so PLEASE CONTACT US via email or this blog to let us know when you’d like to get together.
Soon after we booked our plane tickets, we were taking yet another one and a half hour trip from our apartment in the city to the ranch and the kids started talking about the things that they miss from the United States. Here are some of the things that were mentioned: our cousins, my friends, bestamore’s strawberry jam, ice cream at Nana’s every hour, Pop pop’s French toast, Norwegian foods, ice cream (it’s just not the same here), our house, our front porch, having my own room, my stuffed animals, my games that we didn’t bring, TV in English, School in English, gymnastics, horseback riding, basketball, baseball, getting to walk down the street without an adult, shopping at the mall with friends and no adult, riding my bike/scooter, cold weather, hot showers, reliable internet, a reliable car that doesn’t break down every 2 weeks, being able to order food and have the waitress understand us, good service at restaurants, being able to pay the bills on line or through the mail…then it got quiet. We were all lost in what we had before we moved to Costa Rica. Then one of the kids said, “Wow! We were really spoiled in the United States weren’t we?” Then someone else said, “Yeah, but we’re doing fine without all that stuff.”
Music to a parent’s ears. The realization that we really had much more than we needed and that material things aren’t really as important as we thought they were in the moment. The conversation then changed to all the stories we will have to tell like…the tucans that ate from the papaya tree outside the team house, scarlet macaws flying over at school, the sloth that hung out at school, the gigantic frogs, giant iguanas, snake eggs that look like jelly beans, swimming in the river, our dog Sadie that just showed up at our house and never left, playing with the kids at the feeding center, learning Spanish in a Spanish speaking school, the herd of horses that grazed in our yard and tried to get into our house, living in one room has helped us to do more stuff together, all the different people that we’ve met from mission teams that come down, being encouraged by those teams, prayer walks through town, stopping at a stranger’s house to pray for them and being invited in to have fresco y arroz con leche (fresh squeezed fruit juice and rice pudding), discovering that my problems are nothing in comparison, the smile on Miriam’s face when she moved into the cabin we built for her, playing games on Miriam’s front porch, Miriam’s homemade popsicles!  You get the point. We all love that Miriam has moved onto the ranch with us.

As much as we miss Connecticut, we have really had a very enriching experience here in Costa Rica. We have been so busy at the Ranch. We finished the temporary shed that we mentioned in our “God’s Abundant Love” blog. Then we started on a cabin for Miriam. She is a Costa Rican woman who has been cooking and cleaning with our ministry since it was founded and another mission organization before that. She retired about a year ago, but because of her amazing servant heart, she continues to help us out when teams come down. We promised her that we would take care of her in her retirement so we built her a cabin to live in at the Ranch. She will be the Ranch ‘Abuela’ for all the children that we have living here. She has already made quite an impact on our kids in the 3 weeks she has been living here.

We are in the process of building a barn/shed for the tractor that the ministry recently raised all the funds for.
We are so excited to soon have this machine that will help us greatly in construction and also in taming the jungle. We hope to break ground on the first family house (Our House!) in about 2 weeks. There has been a lot of red tape with getting approvals with the town and raising funds from the States. We are stepping out in faith that God will provide all that we need for the next project. This has certainly been a year of discovering that God’s timing truly is perfect and that he really does provide exactly what we need not a moment sooner than we need it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Semana Santa, Holy Week

Semana Santa, Holy Week
Who knew that a morning of exploring Panama’s coast and waterways for wildlife, turtles, and manatees would be a perfect reminder of why we celebrate Semana Santa.

Our residency was supposed to go through by the end of last week so that we would no longer have to leave the country for a 3 day visa reset trip. It didn’t go through so we found ourselves planning a last minute trip to Panama. The trip down to Panama was uneventful and amazingly beautiful as we had not been to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica yet.  The road to Panama traveled along the Caribbean Ocean and the thousands of acres of banana plantations.  It was beautiful. Crossing the border was much easier since we had done a border crossing before and know a bit more Spanish this time. We have also gotten used to scary, rickety bridges in Costa Rica, so walking over a bridge that had holes in it big enough for Abby to fall through wasn’t quite as concerning.

Our first full day in Panama, we decided to do something that we would never be able to do in Connecticut. We went on a tour to see manatees and turtles. We took a boat ride out to the manatee ‘blind’ but before we got there we stopped by to say hello to the sloths. They were difficult to get a good picture of but that was very cool to see. We have a picture of the ‘blind’ or like one of the kids said, “Cool! A tree fort,” where we observed the manatees. When we arrived, we unloaded our cooler with lunches packed and watched below as a man tied up banana leaves and a hand of bananas which hung just at the surface of the water.
Hanging the bananas and leaves.

Then we waited… and waited..and waited. The kids wondered how long it would take. “Well, the brochure said the tour is about 5 hours and since it took us 30 minutes to get to the tree fort, my guess is about 4 hours.”


“Oh, did we forget to tell you that part?”

Laying around waiting.
Watching the Manatees.

The ground when Rob got up. It was very hot.
So, the kids sat and watched the water for a while. Then they went to the back side and watched the trees for interesting birds, then started scrolling through pictures on ipod touches and phones. Anything to pass the time quietly. Finally, after about 1 hour and 15 minutes, everyone seemed to succumb to the waiting. The restlessness dissolved and everyone became very quiet, laying on the platform, and listening to the beautiful sounds of nature. I enjoyed about 15 minutes of this silence until we heard the crunch of a manatee nibbling on a banana leaf. Coolest thing ever to watch these huge mammals gracefully move around underwater cautiously poking their noses out of the water before eating the snack we left out for them. The smallest noise would startle them and cause a big splash. Mara and I even saw a turtle swim by but didn’t have our cameras ready to get a picture.

The experience of waiting for manatees reminded me of our relationship with God. We want to hear Him speak to us. And we think that we are “waiting” to hear from God and in the process we are keeping ourselves busy or distracted to help the time go by more bearably and yet nothing happens.  He is silent. It isn’t until we succumb to the waiting and become totally quiet and still before Him that we get what we are waiting for, a sense of His presence and to hear Him speak to us.

Cool kids.
Right now we are celebrating Semana Santa, Holy Week, a time to remember. In Costa Rica, the children are off from school and many businesses are closed. This is a full week of celebrating and partying. My understanding is that it is mostly a week of partying and the true reason for the holiday has been lost. Remembering the last week of Christ’s life. The week where he was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and praises as he entered riding a donkey and it ended with his betrayal and crucifixion. He went to temple and drove out the money changers and began teaching every day.Each day the Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests tried to trap Jesus with their questions and each day Jesus outwitted them with his answers. Jesus was very bold in his preaching knowing that it would lead to his torture and crucifixion by the end of the week. Yet He still did it because of his obedience to God and His great love for us. What an amazing Gift He has given us.The chance at a personal relationship with him. The least we can do is take some time this week to remember all that He has done for us. I would love to challenge each of you to take some time this week to remember exactly what it is we are celebrating this Easter.Maybe read the last 6 chapters of Luke, or watch one of the many movies about the Passion of Christ, attending many of your church’s services or activities that have been planned, or maybe taking time in your “manatee blind” to get quiet and still before the Lord and listen to Him speak to you. Whatever you decide to do, our prayer for you this Easter season is that you experience a closeness to our Savior like you have never experienced before.
Turtle egg huts.
Playing in the ocean near the turtle tracks.
After our unexpected time of tranquility with the manatees, we headed out to the beach and we saw where the turtles had laid some eggs. The conservationists put protective netting around the eggs to keep wild animals away. They had another lookout spot there where you could camp out all night and hope that some turtles showed up to lay eggs but we felt that we pushed our luck with the kids already once today and wouldn’t try an all-nighter, waiting for turtles. We got to see turtle tracks and the spots where they laid the eggs.  Good enough. They will be hatching in 2 months. Maybe we’ll try it then.
On the way back we saw many types of birds, some crabs, as well as some very cool vegetation and beautiful flowers. I’ve had a lot of fun walking around and taking pictures of all the beautiful flowers. One more full day in Panama, and then we head back to celebrate Easter with our 6:8 Family.
Have a Happy Easter everyone!
God Bless,


Cool Trees...

Pretty Flowers:
Passion flower: named after the passion of Christ.