On January 3rd 2018, we officially celebrated one full year of living in Costa Rica as missionaries! As you may have noticed, I fell silent on the blog reporting for our last 3 months of the year. Looking back, of course I wish I would have kept you all in the loop better, but I will do my best to catch you up now.
We began October with a visit home to California. We enjoyed our time immensely and quickly discovered that 2 weeks out of a year is NOT enough time to catch up with all the people we love and miss. In the future we hope to make our home visit a little longer so that it involves more rest and less sickness! While we were away visiting in California, tropical storm Nate hit all of Costa Rica very hard; some of you may have seen my posts for prayer on Facebook about this. Overall, Nate affected many people; entire homes and bridges were wiped away by the intense overflowing rivers, many did not have potable water, and huge landslides claimed homes and closed roads. In our area specifically, our neighbors lost their home to a major landslide which also continued down to our property, completely burying our driveway under tons of dirt, whole trees, rocks, and other debris. The bottom half of our driveway that wasn’t buried, was washed away. The storm and slide also took out our water and power. Our neighbors had to flee their home in the middle of the night to escape the slide. We are sad to say that they are now living in San Jose and don’t plan on returning as their home is considered a total loss. In addition to our direct neighbors, our mountain community was unable to leave for days due to the land slides and raging rivers. When we returned later in October, Agustin and Nela allowed us to stay with them for a couple of weeks while we began to work on a plan for restoring our water, electricity, and road access. It was an emotional time reuniting with people on the mountain and seeing in person the damage and change that had taken place. We could really sense that everyone felt closer to one another after enduring the storm and it’s after effects together. After our two week stay with Agustin and Nela, we rented a small cottage in Caragral directly neighboring our friend Carmen’s home. We stayed there for two weeks while we worked to get the power and water restored to our home. It was very fun being so near to the kids and family we minister to on a weekly basis. During the past few months we have been holding our weekly Bible studies in Carmen’s home while our building was inaccessible except by foot. We were extremely encouraged when Carmen approached us after the slide expressing her desire for the studies to continue and the important role she feels they play in her grandchildren’s lives.
In November we moved back into our home after the power, water, and phone/internet were restored. We did not have road access, so we were parking behind a nearby friend’s home and hiking down to our house through a path in the land slide. Matt Schneider came to visit us and help determine how we were going to restore our driveway and clear the land slide. The week before he came, the ladies who attend our Bible study came to help me clean the building as it had been sitting for a month! I was so grateful as the rooms had basically become mini-jungles in our absence. They also had to hike the landslide to help us clean so I was just extremely blessed by their help and sacrifice. Matt Schneider’s visit was a very encouraging time for us and we were able to contract someone to do the tractor work. After Matt Schneider left we had a couple of weeks of cutting, clearing, and burning as much wood debris as possible so that the amount of biodegradable material being packed into our road by the tractor work was minimized. We hired some workers to help with this as we had a lot of wood to clear! Our driveway was finally finished and back open the week before Christmas.
December was a hard month being away from family. We were so blessed that Albert (Carmen’s son) and his wife Julissa had been inviting us over often to spend time with them and their family. We had plans to spend Christmas with them as well as Albert Sr. and Carmen at our house; words cannot express how excited I was for this! Unfortunately, I got sick days before, very sick, and we had to cancel. I ended up with a strong bacterial infection in my intestines, which took weeks to recover from. Only a few months before this I had been treated for a urinary tract infection; we have been becoming close friends with our Dr. here.
With the new year, Matt and I traveled to Panama once again to renew our visas. We took a shuttle-van ride across the border and took a water taxi to a little Island called, “Bocas Del Toro.” I was eagerly looking forward to a break from all the hardships we had been facing, ready to relax on a beautiful Caribbean beach. Sadly, poor Matt contracted the same bacterial infection I had and started his symptoms the very first day we arrived. Thankfully, we knew what he had right away and our host was able to get us to a hospital where Matt received all the medicines he needed to get him on the track to recovery. It also rained the entire time we were there, so we were grateful we were not really missing out on anything by living in our hotel room the entire trip. We have been back in Costa Rica for about two weeks now and Matt seems to have fully recovered. We had our first Bible study back in the church building this past Wednesday and it was such an incredible blessing. We are very excited and encouraged that we can begin to resume our regular ministries at the building.
Two days before our Panama trip, our truck died, like really just completely stopped working while Matt was driving home. He had to walk into to town to find a phone to use to get help. He was able to arrange to get the truck towed to a repair shop. Upon returning home, Matt explained to me the “tow” involved himself and the mechanic’s wife sitting on the hood of the mechanic’s Jeep as he pulled our truck to town because it was too heavy for the “tow truck,” a.k.a. the mechanics Jeep. I couldn’t stop laughing as I pictured this scene and truly wish we had a picture of it to show you all. We finally received the call that our truck was ready to be picked up yesterday, sadly it was still having some issues on the drive home. We will be taking it back to the shop tomorrow. We are hoping and praying that this time the fix will be done and we can take our truck the same day as mountain life with no vehicle is a little difficult.
Our water has been another challenge for us. Our water comes from a river far, far, far up the mountain via a hose and gravity. Over the years this hose has been repaired and connected in many places and in many creative ways. We often have had to hike along our entire hose line through the jungle to find which connection has come apart or been clogged by debris or crabs. (Yes crabs!) Tired of this practice, in December we bought a bunch of connectors made for our hose and replaced all the make shift repairs with them. The water flow hasn’t stopped since! Our second water issue has been water cleanliness. As our water comes from the river and is untreated, we rely on a water filter to make it safe for us to drink. With both Matt and I getting bacterial infections this year, we’ve discovered that our filter isn’t as great as we thought it was. We have been using bottled water and boiling our water since then. Thankfully, Calvary Placerville is sending down a higher quality filter that is supposed to take care of those nasty bacterias.
An update on our residency: for the time being we are no longer pursuing our residency and will continue to make trips every 3 months to renew our visas. There was a miscommunication about the kind of notorizations we needed for our documents which we acquired during our visit to the States. We don’t have plans to visit the States again until September so we are at an impasse for now.
These past few months have been some of the most trying for me; I think it has been the cause of the silent months on our blog. It seemed all our news was “bad news,” and I have been unsure of how to share without presenting a “poor us” attitude. Kudos to those of you have endured through this update! There have been many days recently that I have been ready give up; thankfully, Matt is stronger than me and keeps encouraging me to give it another try tomorrow. I feel God has been teaching me mostly about faith, worship, and joy. While our days have been filled with many trials, inconveniences, and disappointments it has been a constant challenge and reminder to us to evaluate where our hope and expectations are actually being placed; am I placing my hope on things going well to my expectations, or am I placing them on God to be working good as He sees fit? Of course we desire the second but it often requires faith and trust; faith and trust in God that He is indeed working good and He has a much better perspective than I do. In response to my prayers to increase in my faith and trust, I have felt the Lord nudging me more towards a heart and attitude of worship. Just like Peter was able to walk on the water as long as his eyes were fixed on Jesus so will we be able to rise above our trials if our eyes are likewise fixed on Jesus. Worship is a practical way of setting our gaze upon the one who is faithful. The words in our worship songs, in scripture, and in our speech are all reminders of what is true about God, us, and our circumstances when it is difficult to see from our perspective. Not that this has been easy! It amazes me how easily words can flow as we talk about an idea, but the truth is that every time it comes to practicing this, I have to choose to worship when I don’t necessarily feel like it or even believe that God is working good. The change comes after the decision to worship has been made; he refreshes my thoughts, attitude, and faith.
We hope that you are encouraged from our post. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support. We look forward to seeing many of you who plan to come and visit and serve this year! Hebrews 11:6, “and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”