Costa Rica may be small in size, but there’s nothing small about its culture or traditions. Costa Ricans love to celebrate, throughout the year there are various national and regional festivals, holidays, and celebrations. Whether religious, historical, or region-specific these occasions typically include parades, music, dancing, food, and traditional costumes. This day, October 12, our school was celebrating "El Día de las Culturas", or the day of the cultures and international missions (since we are a small Christian School). In the USA we call it Columbus Day. Jakin carried in the Columbian flag, and has his face painted to represent Colombia. Isaac represented Brazil.
Have you ever had to do something that you were really not very good at? Like learning to ride a bike? What moved you from wanting to ride a bike and actually riding a bike? Grit! Grit is doing what is difficult now because you desire to achieve a future goal. In Spanish class a few weeks ago my teacher asked me (in Spanish, of course) what was our purpose for being here. I said it was to learn Spanish, another girl said it was to share the love of Jesus with people in Latin America, and yet another student said that she was following God. My long term goal is to always follow God, wherever he sends me. Also, I want to always share the love of Jesus wherever I go. But at this time in my life, to do both of these two things, I need to be able to communicate in Spanish.
And let me tell you a little secret, learning Spanish is hard. Really, really hard. There are the rabbits and the tortoises in language learning, and without a doubt I'm a tortoise. I am not gifted at learning Spanish, and often I hear these little voices in my head that say, "your never going to get this", "you're way behind the other students", "it would just be easier to go back to the states where you can speak English."
Around the middle of June I was feeling pretty discouraged about learning Spanish, and we had a special speaker come during our Spiritual Emphasis week. He was saying that grit is more important than talent. Because people often take their talents for granted, but if it takes grit to learn something you are more likely to stick with it in the long run. For the first time I saw how having to struggle to learn Spanish is positive, and perhaps a different packaged "gift".
Each of us have things in our lives where our success is based on our willingness to be people who have grit. If you are struggling in your life, wishing you had talent in "that" area, that "it" came naturally, and it was easy, then take a deep breath, remember that God is bigger than "your mountain", and be encouraged that God is doing something big in your life, he is building up your grit!
Putting Down Roots.
I planted an Avocado tree a couple months ago. It hasn't produced any fruit yet...
I love this photo - partly because I think these colors are so awful together that they "work" in a weird sense. (. . . or maybe they don't. . . ?!) I also like it because I was so excited when my avocado sprouted and I wanted to show you. But mostly I like it because this photo represents elements at work in our lives right now. Promise, Potential, and Perseverance.
God's promise is that as we abide in Him, he will produce fruit in our lives.
The potential of God's kingdom is often represented by a seed -- seeds contain within them the dynamic for growth and fruitfulness.
So we respond by persevering in faith. We choose to believe that God continues to will and to do according to His good purposes in our lives!
What you can't see in this picture is that the roots of this plant are already pushing through the bottom of the pot. I transplanted it and saw rapid results. (See the picture below!)
My avocado hasn't produced fruit yet, but visible signs of growth and maturity surprise me almost every day. Similarly, I see visible signs that God is working in our family to help us with language acquisition, relationship building, and increasing ministry opportunities.
So we thank God for his mercy, grace and power that keeps us and guides us as we seek to be faithful to His call.
Thank you so much for your gracious support. We love working as part of your local ministry extended globally. We have been encouraged by cards and emails, notes and FaceBook messages as we have settled into our new routine in Costa Rica over the last few months. We have a pleasant little home in a quiet neighborhood near a city park, about a half mile from the Spanish Language Institute. The kids have enjoyed acclimating to their new school and Wendy and I are remembering what it’s like to go to school full-time. Our primary responsibility this year is language acquisition. We are happy to report all “A”s so far! (We’re even starting to watch TV in Spanish. . . there’s really nothing good on here either. . .)
While we are learning Spanish, we are also investing in relationships and beginning the work of leadership development. We have begun preaching through translators, visiting our Free Methodist Churches throughout the country, and I have been able to facilitate a course in pastoral leadership.
Even these few months into the work, we understand better than ever that it takes a whole community to effectively reach out to the corners of our globe, and we’re so thankful to be walking this journey with you! Please find below some specific ways you can join us in prayer over the next weeks and months.
YOU GIVE!! (AND TAKE AWAY...)
God you give and take away
Oh you give and take away
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
The words of this song rang true last week as we worshiped the Lord with our friends Charlie and Camille for the last time before they left Costa Rica. Charlie and Camille had come to Costa Rica just days after we did on a study abroad program. They're Glenn's former students from Central Christian College of Kansas, and having them here for the past 3+ months helped us to feel a little more at "home". But their classes had finished, and it was time to say goodbye. At the same time Glenn and I finished our first trimester at the language school, and it was time to say goodbye to friends from the school who were graduating. And if you know me, you know how I hate saying goodbye.
During our first major ministry move, I was struggling to leave a church we loved, filled with friends we love. The superintendent's wife said to me, "Ministry is full of 'Hi's' and 'Goodbyes.' You better get used to it." And after 18 years of ministry, that has been more true than I could have imagined, and I've never gotten used to it. However, as we were gathered with our friends, singing this song for the final time together it really hit me, friends may be near or far away, but my heart will choose to say, "Lord, blessed be Your name!" What an awesome prayer!
We can put most anything into this verse such as jobs will come or jobs will go, homes will come and homes will go, it really isn't important which of life's circumstances are in focus, what matters is the cry of our heart. I always want my heart to choose to say, "Lord, blessed be Your name!"
Our new trimester will begin soon, so we will soon be saying hello to new friendships, and we know that these new friends will be moving to new countries a few months from now. But for now we focus on the "hello," on the friendship we can share, and on the mutual encouragement we can be for each other with the time we have together.
I love having friends who live all over the country and around the world. My life is better because God has given me so many amazing people in my life. So God, thank you for giving us people to be in community with. God, thank you for giving us people who want to impact the world with your love, even if it means being far away from those we love. I pray our hearts will always choose to say, "Lord, blessed be Your name!"
WE ARE DEFINED BY...
I had a big exam in my grammar class on the last Friday of March. It lasted two hours and included both perfect and imperfect past tense in Spanish. After we received our exams, our teacher, Ana, was going over the test with us. One of the students was certain he was going to fail. He asked, "Am I defined by this exam?" She said, no we are not defined by our exams but by our character all trimester. This made me think of our tests in life. Do my struggles, failures, choices, and tests in life define who I am? I truly believe the answer is the same answer that Ana gave, no. But I do believe that my tests, struggles, failures, and choices impact who I am, even if they don't define who I am. A year ago, I was struggling as a mom just thinking about moving my kids overseas. Now I struggle with living in a new country, being a full-time student, mom, wife, ect. In my past I have struggled with losing my father-n-law to ALS, experiencing miscarriages, going to seminary, moving to a new city, and the list could go on and on. All of these experiences have impacted who I am, but none of them define me. So what defines us? Our relationship to Jesus is what defines us. I am a child of God, because Jesus loved me enough to die for me and make a way for me to live a life of freedom and wholeness. I accepted that gift of grace and began this journey at camp when I was 14 years old. I am defined by my relationship to my Father, my God. I am his child. As Semana Santa (Holy Week) will begin in a few days, let's remember that we are not defined by what we cannot do, or what we've done that we shouldn't have done. But we are defined by the fact that Jesus came to earth as a little baby and grew up to die on the cross for our sins so that we could live. There is hope in this messed up world, and his name is Jesus.
It's been a busy month: A trip to see Volcán Arenal, Fun with friends in the park, and science fair projects. All four kids did great in the science fair. Both Libby and Ellie got first place in their classes.
Meet Yay Duck and Yuck Duck
When our family had the privilege of attending MTI (Missionary Training Institute) last August, we were introduced to Yay and Yuck Duck. They are a "pair-of-ducks" that represent the paradox of the good parts and difficult parts of life. A paradox is a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality it expresses two truths. Much of life, whether living overseas or in Anywhere, USA, is a paradox. For example I love snow, but hate the cold. Both statements are true, but they seem to contradict each other. Finishing our second month here of language school in Costa Rica we took time to check in with our kids during our family devotions to see how they are doing. We asked them to give us a Yay Duck and Yuck Duck from their first two months. I so was pleased by their responses that I wanted to share them. Ellie said, "Our house is small, but I like learning Spanish as a family." Jakin answered, "The Ticos always get my name wrong, but I got a new drum." Isaac responded, "Learning Spanish is hard, but I'm glad that I am learning Spanish." Libby said, "My Yuck duck is loosing my freedom, (since she has to be escorted everywhere she goes), but other than that everything else is a Yay Duck." Glenn and I had the same Yay Duck, spending more time with our family. We all walk to school together and are more consistent about worshipping together as a family at home. Glenn's Yuck duck was that our furniture isn't very comfortable, while mine is learning Spanish is very difficult.
Many of you know that I've been concerned for our kids moving to a new culture, language, and school. But I want you to know that God has answered so many prayers. Thank you for praying for us and our kids. Thank you for your thoughtful notes of encouragement and personal expressions of kindness. I was also thankful for the things that were not Yuck Ducks for the kids. No one mentioned all of the walking we have to do, or that they hate it here and want to go back home, or that they miss the things of home. I understand we have not finished going through culture shock as a family, but I wanted to celebrate with you that God is good and we are doing well.
If I had one word to describe our first month in Costa Rica it would be WOW! Wow, we had no idea how hospitable Ticos (Costa Ricans) are. Wow, we had no idea much walking we were going to do just to buy food, get to school many times a day, and run errands. Wow, we had no idea that we were going to learn so much about language, culture, Ubers, buses, and what it takes to learn a new language. Wow, we didn't know God had so many blessings planned for our family here in Costa Rica including new friends, new experiences, and His constant reminder that He is with us and He has a plan for us here. We are so grateful to be a part of Latin American missions where together we desire to fuel and sustain a biblical movement to reach Latin America for Christ by coaching indigenous leaders, catalyzing clusters of church planting, and creating appropriate structures to facilitate and support the growth of the church.
We have seen the Love of God so clearly this past week, in both large and small ways. First, as God places people in our path to love on our kids, like when Ellie´s teacher sought her out during orientation and welcomed her. Or when a family from the school came over minutes after we arrived to meet our kids and take them to the park to play with them. Second, as God shows us his heart for the Ticos (Costa Ricans). God has led us here, and many others to share his love with a hurting world. We´ve been encouraged to remember every encounter with another person is an opportunity to share the love of Jesus, even without language. And third, we have felt and experienced the love from you, our supporters, family, and friends. We felt loved through your hugs, prayers, encouaging texts, and thoughtful gifts. We really don´t feel like we are doing this alone, but with a great cloud of witnesses. Thank you for being a part of our journey, and a part of God´s great story.
Here We Go
Thank you so much for praying for us and supporting us as we transition from the known to the unknown and then to our new known. The kids did great flying down here. The flight was uneventful, with amazing views out the windows. Everything went smoothly, and we even ended up with all our baggage when we arrived here in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, we overpacked, so we have 5 suitcases waiting to make their way south in the future.
This week has been a bit of a blur. We arrived in Costa Rica on Monday afternoon. We were met with much love and hospitality from the District Superintendent Victor with gifts (see top picture), as well as our ´¨Big Brother¨ from the Spanish Language Institute. A large tour van and two small SUV´s transported us to our house. After we unloaded our luggage, Victor took us to eat at a Chinese restaurant near our house. On Tuesday our orientation began, and Wednesday was the kids´ first day of school. The kids seem to be doing great. They are enjoying making new friends and are trying to learn new systems, rules, and expectations. They felt a little overwhelmed in their Spanish class where the teacher only speaks Spanish (except for Ellie´s class). Glenn and I will begin classes on Monday.
What an amazing year 2016 has been!
What an amazing year 2016 has been! If you follow us on Facebook, you most likely know that we have moved, sold our house in Kansas, traveled 10,000 miles across the USA in our van over the summer, moved to Michigan and into my (Wendy) parents’ home, started the kids in a new school, and are moving to Costa Rica on January 2, 2017 to begin language school. Since you already know that, I want to use this opportunity to focus on what God had done and what he is continuing to do.
Story #1. Community, good goodbyes, and love. Churches and individuals alike talk about what it means to live in community, to have community, and to be a community. As we were preparing to leave our home in McPherson, Kansas we saw the true meaning of community lived out in the lives of our friends (which includes family, church family, school families, neighbors, etc.) People provided meals, lawn care, taking kids to orthodontist appointments, prepping the house for sale, packing, cleaning, moving, painting, taking trips to help our stuff find new homes, and the list could go on and on. Over 30 people showed up to help us move out of our house, and two families stayed to see us off. To say we felt loved would be an understatement! Reflecting on this time in our lives, I see how community really is another word for the body of Christ. In some ways, it made it harder to leave, and in other ways it was a reminder of why we are leaving. The body of Christ (community) strengthened us so now in turn they could send us out to strengthen the body of Christ in Central America. Thank you, friends!
Story #2. Hellos, nice to meet you, and new friends! Our family had the privilege of attending a missionary training in August called MTI. This was like a pressure cooker for language learning, cultural training, and developing friendships. We were together for four weeks. We lived, ate, played and learned together. MTI provided training for our whole family and it was an amazing experience for each of us. A few of our takeaways include a common vocabulary that we can use to communicate with our children about transition, paradoxes, culture and languages. Other highlights include connections with other families doing this crazy thing called missions and cross-cultural living, interactions with former missionaries and third culture kids, and learning tools to help learn language and make connections in our new culture. But the best gift was the community. We made friends that will be life-long friends. Besides making new friendship at MTI we were also blessed to visit friends along our partnership building route this summer. It was encouraging to see the body of Christ as we traveled. And it is the body of Christ that is supporting, encouraging, and loving us as we continue to trust God on this journey.
Story #3. Transition. The definition of transition is the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. It has been difficult as a parent to watch our kids move from one transition to another. First, they left their schools and friends in Kansas. We traveled all summer ending up in Colorado at MTI. At MTI, they made new friends only to leave them 4 weeks later. They started a new school a week after the other students started and they will say goodbye to their new friends in Michigan and say hello to even newer friends in Costa Rica in January. To say it’s been difficult would be an understatement. My heart has broken for our kids’ loss of friends and normalcy during each transition. And yet (I love the word yet!), like a caterpillar must transition from a familiar state to an unfamiliar state to become a beautiful butterfly, I also see God at work in our family, and we too must trust him as we move from the know to the unknown. Our transformation has not been as dramatic or as quick, but God is doing something amazing in our family and the lives of our children. God is using these transitions to create the experiences each of our children needs to become the godly man or woman He has created them to be. And it has been exciting (and a little scary) to be on the front row watching.
We are excited about the year ahead. We are looking forward to what God will teach us and how he will guide us. We are thankful that God has been leading and guiding our every step. We realize that we are participating in just one aspect of the Great Commission, and that you are also learning and growing in faith and service. We would love to partner in prayer with you on your journey. Please let us know what God is doing in and through you and your community. Use our contact information below to share with us how we can participate with you and your ministry through prayer, partnerships, and opportunities. Likewise, if you would like to keep up with our stories of what God is doing in Central America, email us and let us know.
May the Peace of Christ be renewed in your soul this Christmas,
Wendy (for the Lorenzes)
Wendy and I attended a Costa Rican leaders gathering in early November for resourcing and celebration. We also visited the school we will attend beginning in January!
Some of the pastors and spouses pictured above were newly received as ministerial candidates. Wendy and I will be privileged to participate in their pastoral formation and leadership development plans as they continue to work toward ordination in the Free Methodist Church.
The green rooftops in the foreground are part of the Instituto de Lengua Espanola, the school that we will be attending. The clouds roll in over the mountains just about every afternoon during rainy season!