Sorry it has been so long between blog posts. It is not for lack of exciting things to talk about. Let me do my best to catch you all up on the last 2 months.
Christmas – We were not planning on going back to the states for Christmas this year. Between the cost of flights and all the preparations we needed to do down here to get ready or the first mission teams in January, it did not seem possible. It turns out that most of the Costa Rica shuts down for much of December and airfare dropped significantly at the last minute. We also confirmed that our application for residency is going slower than promised so we would need to reset our visas in the first week of January anyway. Taking all that into consideration, and a 2x4 upside the head by the Holy Spirit saying that I needed to give the kids and Yvonne some much needed time with family, I booked tickets and we made a ‘surprise’ trip home on December 18th. We were home for 10 days and it was wonderful. Relaxing, full of family and friends, and most importantly - completely unplugged from home schooling!! The kids got to surprise many of their cousins when they got off the school bus on Friday the 19th. Hartland school is also awesome. Yvonne contacted the principle prior to our arrival and they invited all the kids in to spend a day with their friends at school just before the Christmas break. We stayed with Yvonne’s parents and got to attend Valley Brook for both Sundays that we were home. We also were able to hit some of the Christmas parties and events from church which allowed us to catch up with many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I have to give a huge thanks to my folks who helped significantly with our airfare. To sum it all up, it was a perfect trip to end our first 6 months on the mission field.
Residency – We have officially started the process but it is a very slow one indeed. We are applying as officers of a corporation. Our mission organization does business under two different names down here. Everything is done correctly, but we need to go through the process of combining both entities under one name. Once that happens, it should be smooth sailing for our residency. It was necessary to reset our visas again in early January so that was one of the factors that had us take a Christmas trip to Connecticut.
Ranch Progress & Move – The two team houses at the ranch are now complete!! We have enough room to comfortable host groups of 30 people at one time. We have also been creative in the layout and have found a way for my family to move into one of the three ‘bunk rooms’, and still have room to host our scheduled teams this spring. We are planning to move out to the ranch by the end of January. We will stay there during the week and come back to Alajuelita on most weekends to help with ministry. We have also finally had success in finding an architect that sees our vision and is working well with us. Over the next few weeks we hope to have the blueprints on the family houses and to get permits to start construction. We decided that I needed to be out there full time in order to keep things moving smoothly and to also provide security. Most theft and crime is down here is one of opportunity. Just having activity and my family onsite should be a huge deterrent to anyone thinking of breaking in and stealing stuff from the team houses.
Teams – After several months off from teams we have hosted our first 2 in January already. And they have been awesome! Copiague Christian Church from Long Island NY brought a team of 14 down for their inaugural visit to Costa Rica and 6:8 Ministries. This church is led by Paul Vaccaro, who happens to be Yvonne’s uncle. This church is also one of our family’s supporting churches and we were so honored to have them come and check out the ministry. It was an absolutely amazing and Spirit filled week of playing with kids and working hard at the ranch. This team was exactly what we needed, not only for their help with the ministry but also for their encouragement of the staff and our family. (And remember, although there is an ‘i’ in Copiague, there is no ‘I’ in them). We are also about to say goodbye to an 8 person team from Mandarin Presbyterian Church from Jacksonville FL. This has been another awesome team full of encouragement and complete dedication to serving the kids and the building process.
School – After 6 often trying months of home schooling we have decided to enroll the kids in a local school at by the ranch. This has been a difficult subject because the local schools are 100% Spanish speaking and we know that would have been very difficult and scary for the kids. Through God’s provision, we found a bi-lingual school about 15 minutes away from the ranch that all 4 kids can attend. I say God’s provision because we had heard a rumor of such a school but could not find it. Last week when we were about to leave for the ranch there was a large land slide that closed our normal route over the mountain. We decided to go anyway and took the 3 hour trip north around the mountain. It turns out that this alternate route brought us right past the very secluded entrance to this school! I stopped in and met with a teacher and the director and they were excited to have a missionary family join their small school. We also discussed if there were any projects in the community that mission teams would help out with in order to bless the people. There are several!! (this was another task on our list after moving out to ranch). I am bringing the whole family in on Thursday 1/29 to meet with the principle and officially sign up. School starts on Feb 9th.
Birthday – we are in the middle of preparing for Mara’s 11th Birthday party which will happen on Tuesday this week. Instead of the usual sledding party that she likes to have we are having a pool party;-) We have been blessed with making friends with several families down here so they are all invited, along with the great staff we work with. It should be a fun day.
In closing let me say again. We love you all and appreciate all your prayers and support more than you can know. Please continue to pray for each of the topics in this post. It is such an honor and blessing to be able to serve the Lord in this way.
Rob, Yvonne, Elise, Mara, Jonathan & Abby