Tuesday, February 03, 2009

2008: Year in Review

It has been quite some time since we have been able to post an update, so we are going to post a review of 2008 so we can fill you in on what transpired throughout the year. As you may remember, and for those that are just "tuning in", in January we were placed in officially as Pastors over the church that was given to us in November 2007. This church is located in a very small community named Artolita. There are only about 70-80 families living in this area. As with any transition that takes place, there were some that were pleased with the change, and others that were not. We knew when we began that God was going to be the one that would have to "build the church". During the time that we started in Artolita we were living an hour and a half from the church, so we knew we had to make a change and move closer. So in February God opened up a small home near the church that we were able to live in for a couple months until we found something bigger. In April we were able to move into a bigger home that was much closer to the church. Also in April we began having monthly fellowships as a congregation. We started to have dinner together as a church family to help strengthen the bond between us. We continued with the dinners until the rains set in so hard that it made it more difficult for many of our members to be able to walk to church. The rains in our area of Costa Rica begin around mid-May and continue until about mid-November. By June it was already beginning to fill up the river that we have to cross in order to get to the church. So during the rainy season we would have to park our van near a footbridge, since there is NO bridge for vehicles in order to get to the other side! We would walk from the footbridge to the church, which is about half a mile. Since the road we walked was a dirt (MUD) road, you can only imagine what our feet would look like after walking!! During this season all I could think of was the Scripture that tells us..."how beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news"...covered in mud and all! In April we began teaching the church on a series of worship and how important it is in our lives as a believer. During this time the children learned choreography to "Shout to the Lord" and presented it for the first time in June for Father's Day at our dinner.
In July we were blessed by the church with a SURPRISE baby shower for Isabella. One of the ladies in the church, Lizbet, that has been faithful with us since we began in January planned and organized the shower for us. There were many women from the community, as well as the women in the church, that blessed us with many wonderful things for our coming baby! It was a wonderful time of fellowship and fun as we celebrated. One week after the baby shower, our Isabella Micaela arrived 3 weeks before her due date. She weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz. and was 18 in. long. Having a baby at a public hospital in a foreign country was an "experience". I would like to give you just a little idea of what it was like. In Costa Rica the doctors do not deliver the babies, the nurses do. So when you arrive at the hospital they assess you to see where you are in labor. If they feel you are progressing, you go straight to labor and delivery, if not, you go to an observation wing of the hospital. They sent me straight to labor and delivery after I was checked in through the emergency room. In the States, when they see that a woman is in labor, they usually send you on to the labor and delivery wing and take care of you there, from what I remember anyway...LOL! Here...you have to go into the hospital through the ER, sign in, and WAIT to be called back for your assessment! There really is no "priority" unless you arrive by ambulance. Once I arrived at the labor and delivery ward, Dave was told he was not allowed in until it was time for me to deliver. In the L&D ward it looked like I had stepped onto the scene of a filming of M*A*S*H 4077! There were beds lined up on each wall and they took me to the wall that was beginning to fill up. Each woman is to labor in a room with 5-10 other women! This was very interesting! There are NO epidurals offered for any of the women unless they need it for a C-section (not that I use an epideral...just giving you an idea of how different it is here)! Everyone is there laboring in their beds side by side until it is time for you to deliver the baby. That is when they let you WALK to a delivery room, but the nurses wait until the last minute to walk the women there so they can deliver quickly since there are only 2 delivery rooms! When I felt it was getting close to delivery time, I told the nurse to let Dave know so that he could get dressed in his scrubs and come in for the delivery. I also warned the nurse that I usually deliver quickly, so they should probably tell Dave ahead of time...they of course did not listen to me! LOL! I was walked to the delivery room...had two contractions and Isabella literally flew out and landed on the delivery table! Thank God she made it on the table! Dave walked in just seconds after she was born...he missed the whole thing! So in the delivery room...you have about 10-15 minutes to be prepared to go to recovery. The recovery area was another wall of beds where the women are placed to recuperate for about an hour before being moved to a hospital room. After recovery, I was taken to a room that housed 6 women, including me, and their babies! The babies do not go to a nursery at all, except for the first few minutes after delivery. In the rooms, the babies stay with the mothers the entire time. The room was joined to another with 6 other women by a bathroom equipped with showers. This one bathroom was for the 12 women staying in the rooms! I noticed as I arrived that the women had their own towels and bars of soap to be able to shower with, as well as their own toilet paper! At this point....I was ready to go home! LOL! This was not my idea of a hospital stay!! I have to say it was rather difficult that one night in the hospital listening to other babies in my room crying most of the night and having to put up with the heat since there was no air! One funny thing that happened too was when Dave was talking to the nurse after my delivery. He asked the nurse,"Do you have very many Americans deliver here at the hospital?" The nurse replied, "Not many....um....HARDLY EVER!" So we knew we were quite unique...LOL! Also, I met a woman at the hospital while I was in labor that came looking for the room I was put in after recovery. She walked around asking where the "gringa" was. Everyone she asked was able to point her down the hall to where I was...I guess it was pretty obvious! Two weeks after Isabella was born we were blessed to have my mother, one of my aunts, and an uncle of mine come for a two week visit. This was their first trip to Costa Rica and it was such a wonderful time with them. Here in Costa Rica Mother's Day is always on August 15, so I was able to celebrate it with my mother! Dave, my uncle, and one of the men in the church cooked Arroz con Pollo (a chicken and rice dish) for all the mothers in the church. The youth served the mothers their meal. It was a great time of good food and fellowship. The following week we were blessed once again by a visit from our wonderful Pastors and two of their grandchildren, Kyle and Moriah! They were able to bring many baby gifts from the women of our home church, Spirit of Life. Thank you so much ladies for the wonderful clothes and items that you sent! They have been such a blessing to us. During their visit with us, Pastor Craig shared the Word on Sunday morning and we had Isabella dedicated to the Lord. Afterwards we had a meal full of typical foods from Costa Rica prepared by the women and men in the church. This was the first time our Pastors had been able to enjoy some of these typical foods. It was a great experience. During their visit with us our Pastors were able to see where we were living for the first time and they noticed how secluded we were from all forms of communication. The only way we were able to check emails or keep in touch with any contacts in the States was by driving at least 8 miles or so to do internet, and that was usually only once a week. So while they were here they suggested the possibility of us looking into being in another town equipped with more of what we were needing. They mentioned that we pray about it and see what God does. We had always been interested in a town that was nearby, Filadelfia, but we had never been able to find a house available there. Not long after our Pastors left, Dave was visiting a friend of ours in Filadelfia and mentioned to him that we were interested in a home there. He told Dave that a home had just opened up next door to him so we checked into and it was exactly what we were needing: grocery stores close by, internet available either in the home with a phone line or an internet cafe just around from the house, the medical clinic is just a few blocks away and the post office is close as well. Our new snail mail address is posted to the right of the blog. Also in September, not long after finding the house, the rainy season set in full force! We had 12 days of straight rain which brought some major flooding of the river near our home by the church. It so much and so hard that the road leading into our town of Artola, close to where the church is, was completely covered in water and there was no way in or out for several days! There were 3-4 days where all public buses were cancelled as well! After seeing this...we felt it was time for us to move to a town! By mid September we were in our new home and very thankful to be away from so much of the flooding! We are still close to the church and we are able to enjoy the conveniences of living in a town now for the first time since being in Costa Rica. Living in town has given us more opportunites to experience alot more of the cultural aspects of Costa Rica as well. This has been a great experience for our family to learn more about the country we are in. One of the things we learned about Filadelfia is every year on Christmas Eve all of the children go out into the streets and go from house to house looking for manger scenes (portales). All of the manger scenes are put out on this day and the homeowners usually have candy, chips, fruit, drinks, etc. to give to the children. We thought this was very interesting and we were talking to our neighbor about it. She told us it was similar to what the States does for Halloween. We explained to her how evil Halloween is and that the significance behind doing it on Christmas Eve makes so much more sense to us as believers! The children go out "seeking" manger scenes and they are given "gifts". What better way to celebrate the one true GIFT that was given to us at this time of year! The children really enjoyed this and look forward to it again next year! In December we had our annual children's Christmas party for the children of the church. We have about 12 children that come regularly, so this was a fun time to be able to celebrate with them. Our children have grown so much over the year, not only physically, but in their Spanish as well. They have become completely fluent and have no problems at all...well...I should say they have trouble deciding what language to speak in! Usually we hear alot of "Spanglish". There are many times that they try to explain something to us and cannot even remember their words in English! So I would say they have grown by leaps and bounds! Here is a fun example of how Levi has picked up on the language! Mariachi music is VERY popular here and it is not hard for them to pick up on some of the songs. One day Levi was playing around with one of the songs he heard and we were able to get him on video imitating the mariachi singer...he sounds just like one of them! EL GRINGO MARIACHI!!

So thoughout the last year we have had many things going on, but the best thing is we know that God is in control of everything. We have gained some people in the church...and we have lost some...but not one has come or gone without the eyes of God watching. We pray that God will complete his purpose in each one that he calls to be a part of our body.

We ask that you keep us in prayer as we are in the process of obtaining our permanent residency here in Costa Rica. Through the birth of Isabella, we are able to request to become residents and we are in the midst of that now. It is a process of mostly paperwork and TIME! Please pray that everything goes through smoothly and that we have no complications. Getting our residency here will free us up from having to leave the country every 90 days to get a new visa to allow us to stay in the country. This is costly and takes alot of our time. We prefer to plan a vacation to leave the country when the time is right for us...not when the visa runs out on paper! So please hold that up in prayer for us, we need all of our paperwork to come in that we have requested without any problems so that we can present it and receive our residency papers. Then we will only be required to renew that each year which will be so much better!!

We thank each of you for your prayers and we ask that you continue to hold us up in prayer as we seek Him for His will to be done! We appreciate you and your support for this ministry. We pray for you and ask God to pour out His richest blessings upon you!

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