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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Medical update - Rob & the car

Many of you have heard that we brought Rob into the Emergency room on Sunday evening due to some severe headaches that he had been having. Since we thought it was sinus related, he self-medicated with antibiotics. Since that did nothing to relieve the pressure, we brought him to the hospital. The doctor was very concerned with the vomiting and this being “the worst headache of his life.” She took a cat scan that came back completely normal but his blood tests showed unusually high white blood cell count which indicated meningitis which is swelling of the brain and spinal fluid. They took a spinal tap to confirm this but admitted him to the hospital until they could confirm if it was viral or bacterial. Because of taking antibiotics, the doctors were concerned that it was skewing the test results to show it as a viral infection instead of bacterial. After three days the doctor was confident that it was only a viral infection and released him Wednesday morning. Rob is feeling a lot better and the rest of the family is well. The doctor indicated that this was likely caused by the stomach bug that the family has been passing around the last couple of weeks. He said it manifests itself differently in everyone and it just happened to make its way to Rob’s brain. He had no concerns about the health of the rest of the family.
We are so thankful for your prayers and notes of encouragement. We would like continued prayer as we deal with getting reimbursed by our international insurance company for Rob’s 3 day “spa getaway.”

Once again, God’s amazing grace and provision has been evident. On Friday, we set out for our 2 hour drive back to the city through the winding roads of the rain-forest where there are no gas stations for over 50 kilometers. The 24 year old SUV started acting up and stalling out whenever we shifted gears. We nursed it along praying that we could make it home to our mechanic but it stalled out and wouldn't restart when we were very close to home. Rob was able to let it coast onto a side road where it died. The oil gauge indicated no oil. Fortunately, there was a man selling trinkets at that corner who happened to speak some English. He was very helpful in directing Rob to a location where he could get oil. While he ran the 2 miles to get oil, I sat in the car with the kids and dog and a couple of nice men offered to push the car to a location out of the way of traffic and took a look at the engine. The man didn't see how oil was the issue but unable to communicate with me, he went on his way. Rob came back with the oil, filled her up, she started and we made it back to the condo with plans on bringing it to the mechanic in the morning. Come morning, she would not start so some Tico friends gave him a tow to the mechanic. That means a strap tied from their truck hitch to our SUV. Hmmmmm. Terrifying. The mechanic fixed a $24 part in the electrical system. Nothing to do with the oil. It should have never started up for us after Rob added oil but God was helping us out.

After all was settled with the Vehicle, Rob’s headache started ramping up. We were supposed to start back to the Ranch on Sunday afternoon around 3pm but decided to let Rob try to sleep it off and leave at 5am Monday to get the kids to school on time. God gave us that wisdom so that we were able to get him to the near bye hospital which happened to be the best in the country. God made sure that we had a functioning vehicle to bring him there and he provided us with a built in babysitter with Jaylyn staying with us for the weekend at our condo. It gave us peace of mind to know that there was an adult home with the kids and there was no rush for me to leave Rob at the hospital.

Through it all, Rob’s workers were able to continue to get work done at the ranch while he was laid up and we now have the ranch houses wired with enough power to install the oven and dryer. We have decided to stay at the ranch this weekend to prepare for the team that is arriving on Monday, and hopefully have some relaxing family time. Please pray for Rob to continue to build his strength and not to overdo it.

In His grip.

Monday, March 2, 2015

God's abundant Love

This afternoon I brought the kids up the river a little ways to a spot where there is small alcove where the water pools up and it is very calm and safe for swimming.
As I sat on the edge of the river I thought of how many thousands of gallons of water rush past Living Waters Children’s Ranch each day and how there seems to be no end to the water supply. It reminded me of a song that I learned as a child from the musical “I am God’s Project”. The Lyrics to the song go like this…
Give your candy bar to me
That’s the last of it you’ll see
Love is just the opposite
You can’t give too much of it.
G.L.Y.S.D.I God Loves You And So Do I
Pass it around it will come back to you.

The river is an excellent reminder of God’s abundant love for us and how through Him we too have an abundance of love to share with others.  This is what we strive to do here at 6:8 Ministries and what we have begun doing here at the Children’s Ranch. We moved onto the Ranch almost full time the first week of February.  We live there on weekdays and travel back to the city on weekends to help with the Saturday feeding center and anything else they need our help with. The children started school at Green Valley Bi-Lingual School on February 9th, the first day of the school year in Costa Rica.
It was a rough first couple of weeks since Spanish is spoken 80 percent of the time.  They have begun to make some friends and are getting used to the rapid Spanish that is spoken all day long. The kids are learning new words and phrases every day and I am a little jealous that they will be fluent in Spanish before long. I have to say that we are quite proud of the kids for sticking with it and really trying their best to follow along and achieve. Thank you all for your prayers. We feel them and are encouraged by them.

Last week was a very exciting week for us with 4 visitors from Connecticut. Jaylyn, from our home church Valley Brook Community Church began interning for us here at 6:8 Ministries. 

She just finished up a 6 month training in Costa Rica with YWAM and decided to spend 2 months serving with us before going back to CT and preparing for College. We are so excited and blessed to have her. Our friend Ellie, from our home town has been serving with YWAM in Costa Rica for the last 18 months, came to visit us with her father, Kevin.
It was so great to see old friends and reminisce. Abby’s grandmother, Judy, also visited with us for the week.
We have been looking forward to this visit since she booked the tickets last Summer. It looks like she picked the perfect time with record low temperatures and record high snowfalls in Connecticut this winter. While it was a vacation for her relaxing in the river and soaking up the sun, she also spent a lot of time helping us out with staining trim boards, cooking meals, and spending time with her granddaughter. We really appreciated her visit and Abby especially enjoyed the special time she got to spend with her Grandma.

Two weeks ago we began laying the foundation for a building that we will first use as a much needed shed since all of our tools, and supplies were stored in the kitchen. This building will eventually serve as a guard house for security once the Ranch is up and running. Thanks to our Tico workers and our CT friends, we are amazed to say that we completed the building last Thursday and moved all of the tools, lawnmower, weed wackers, wood, etc. out of the kitchen and into the shed.  Yay God! The kitchen staff will be so excited when they see it!

God has been so good! We continue to be amazed and blessed to see how God provides exactly what we need in the moment that we need it. Our latest little God moment happened last Monday morning when we woke up to yelping outside.
We went out to find a puppy on our porch. Nobody knows where it came from and none of our neighbors admit to dropping her off. The puppy appears to be a mix of German Shepherd and an unknown other breed. The God thing is that Rob and I have been promising the kids a dog for years and said once we move onto the Ranch we will get one. Well, last weekend we decided to seriously start looking for a large dog that would serve as a guard dog and we specifically mentioned a German Shepherd. It looks like this puppy made our search easy. She found us and she seems to be a perfect fit. She has shown her protective characteristics, by barking and letting us know when people come onto the property but is very patient and gentle with the kids. She stuck around all week so we decided to take her home to the city with us over the weekend and bring her to a Vet. Sadie is now on a vaccination schedule and we are claiming her as our own.

Prayer requests:
  • Please continue to pray for the kids and their adjustment to a mainly Spanish speaking school. Pray that God would give them a supernatural understanding of the language. Rob and I could use a little of that prayer tooJ
  • Please also pray for us as we move forward with construction on the Ranch.  Much prayer is needed as we continue to work with the municipality and try to get through the red tape in order to get the permits necessary for building the family houses that will eventually house the foster/orphan children and their host families.

  • God’s abundant love.
  • That the kids are adjusting remarkably well to their new school.
  • For our visitors from Connecticut.
  • For the completion of our much needed shed!!!
  • For all the stars in the sky that are now appearing at the ranch (see post from September 29, 2014)
Serving Him.