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Experiencing The Love Of God In Costa Rica

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FamilyWhen I was asked to write this blog, about experiencing God’s love on this outreach, I just laughed. I would consider myself the least suitable to write about that topic. God’s love has been a challenge for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve been waiting, praying and crying, frustrated for an experience. You know, The One Experience that forever will convince you that you know, that you know, that you know in your heart that God loves you. (If you’ve never heard about this love, you probably have not done a DTS. You should! Apply today!)

What if God’s love was never meant to be a “Once In A Lifetime Experience”? What if it is an everlasting fact, a gift you can choose to receive? The idea of choosing was the most profound thing I learned in the lecture phase of my DTS. Faith, love, hope, worship… All the sweet Jesus things – it’s a choice! You choose to believe. You choose to love and be loved. You choose to see the future as bright. You choose to live a worshiping lifestyle. It’s a choice.

But this was not supposed to be a summary of lecture phase. How have I experienced God’s love on our outreach to Costa Rica? If it’s only about feelings, I’ll say barely at all. If it’s about facts, I can tell you stories for a week or two.

# The fact that we eventually could write the “WE’RE IN COSTA RICA!” post on facebook – is just because of God’s love. Our outreach leaders did an amazing job bringing us safely here, we just hit some road bumps (or muertos (=corpses) as they call it in Costa Rica) on our way. And a motorcycle.

Coffeefield

# The fact that God loves me so much that He gave me the best outreach team (or, outreach FAMILY as it really is..!) and outreach leaders I could ever ask for. Being surrounded by their personalities, good (and bad) senses of humor, chirpin’ and encouraging, prayers, and all our good Jesus-talks… I’m so blessed! I know that they have my back. I know that, if necessary, they’ll pray for me until their legs cramp so bad they can’t stand for a few minutes after….

# All the small things: Realizing that it’s French toast for breakfast tomorrow. A good friend sending an awesome Queen-video to me on facebook, because she knows that I appreciate good music. Having six puppies here (I’m no dog fan, but they’re stinkin’ cute. And I might stop caring that I’m allergic). Seeing the dog lovers at the team cry because they love the puppies so much. Writing this blog, and learning a lot from it. And all of this happened within the last fifteen minutes. If I just shift my focus, I’ll see so much love! It says in the Bible that all good comes from God. (James 1,17) So – to be logical here… – french toast, puppies, good music… It’s all from God!

# All the love <3 The love the team has for me and the love we have for each other and the love we have for the people we meet…. It’s all God! We can only love because God loved us first.

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# When we got to pick coffee beans as ministry! Ok, when I got over the shock and excitement it got a little boring. And we also didn’t realize that we’d be doing that for many, many days. Or that poisonous snakes were chilling in the coffee trees. But it felt like such a huge blessing! I love coffee! And I got to pick coffee beans! Wow! When the coffee beans were gone, I got to chop down trees with machetes. If you know me, you might see me have a lot of fun with that. You might also – without problems – pictures the dangers that come with giving me a machete… I never hit the same spot twice, and I nearly chopped off a leg, my left hand, and countless fingers. BUT because of God’s love I didn’t. And because God loves me and knows me, he let me have fun with that machete for days!

Love is a choice. You choose to love. You choose to receive love. You choose to see the love around you. And yes, sometimes that sweet feeling is a part of it. The convincing feeling. But most days it’s all about the convincing fact. I read in a book today, that the Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked to sum up the essence of theology in one sentence. Let me quote his answer; “Jesus loves me, this I know! For the Bible tells me so!”

What if it is actually that simple…?

 

Ingeborg Dyrøy Lotsberg

Ingeborg

A community of love

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Here’s a week with Team Ecuador
Things we did, food we ate, and more
God’s moving a lot
Just like we thought
He’s the victor of spiritual war

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Tuesday began with a frown
The fast pace and high altitude bringing us down
We ate comfort grilled cheese
Fruit for vitamin C
Then encouraged each person to turn the mood ‘round

On Wednesday we shoveled some rocks
For the new church addition, we broke concrete wall blocks
We also served lunch
Compassion feeds kids a bunch
Then we topped it all off with Fantastic Mr. Fox

British Jack’s birthday was fun
More meal distribution, labour under the sun
Mad and Sofie, they baked
Double chocolate cake
Filled with dulche de leche! Yum.

We packed for our move the same night
Left big bags as collateral, for a change travelled light
Peaced from the hostel at dawn
Post scrambled eggs and a yawn
Journeying to Puyo jungle delight

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Upon arrival we drank mora juice, had chicken and rice
A dish that’s repeated a few times more than twice
Next came children’s ministry
With song and dance creating sweat-city
Working alongside local programs was refreshing, ’twas nice

A favorite of our team meals so far
Was dinner on Friday: taco salad bar
No morsel went to waste
Though we ate in haste
As the girls left the church with their homestays via car

The boys went for ice cream and crashed in the chapel quite late
So waking up for the 5 am prayer meeting was great
All prayed up a storm
With the atmosphere warm
Then we went on to Saint’s house, learned of missionary Nate

A somber tale of 5 men washing ashore
And wives left behind, hearts sunk to kitchen floor

It’s not just life or death, He is more

Onto the army base with wildlife sanctuary
We walked to cheetahs and pumas devouring meat
Toucans and macaws yelled
Old turtles were held
And only a handful of us were sprinkled by monkey pee

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To an indigenous tribe we drove
Expected to just visit but no
Get on your feet!
Two hour children’s program, lead!
Then booked it to baptisms at the pastor’s home

Eat empanadas that make your lips smack
Exhausted from the day, hope to nap
Spontaneous worship session
Deep Bible lesson
Hangout with youth group, play hacky sack

Finish Sunday 18 hours later
With fries, burgers so still smiling at our Saviour
Chicas rise early
Swing on ropes from trees burly
Living on the edge with no fear of haters

Traverse onwards to Banos post church
Cross waterfall-ful valleys on zip lines, stomach lurch
Swan dive off of bridges
Check boxes of wishes
Successful fulfillment of adrenaline search

Today closes the week
Back in Quito with breakfast pastries
We spent hours planning
For ministry spanning
The remainder of this South America streak

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The highlight for me
Was being blessed to see
A community of love
Influenced from above
Demonstrated by immeasurable hospitality

Michelle Chan

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The Greatest of These is Love

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A recent theme that has kept coming up in our team is how to love one another well, no matter the circumstances. Although it’s been challenging at times, God has been using both ministry opportunities and our daily time as a team to continue teaching us this valuable lesson. In our weekly Bible studies, we have been going through the book of James, and the Lord has been teaching us all a lot. Something that really stood out to me personally was James 2:13 which says,

 

“…Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

 

Living in tight spaces/community with others can be very trying at times; outreach has taught me this lesson faster than anything ever before. This verse has really impacted how I treat others, showing me that in order to live in community, I need to give others mercy and grace even when it’s difficult. Jesus didn’t show me mercy because I deserved it, so I need to do the same for others.

 

This week has been very focused on building relationships with all the wonderful people we have connected with in Tokyo. Monday evening, our team organized and hosted a game night for the staff of YWAM Tokyo. It was an awesome evening of fellowship with the staff and leaders and an opportunity to give back to the people who have been supporting us since we arrived in Japan. We were also joined by an outreach team from YWAM Kona’s School of Worship. Tuesday night we were able to attend The Living Room worship night with YWAM Tokyo. The worship night is open to everyone, and many Japanese Christians attend, so it’s an awesome experience to pray and worship with Christians from the opposite side of the world.

 

Friday we traveled to Ichikawa to hand out flyers promoting the children’s ministry we would be hosting Saturday. The church we were partnering with were beyond excited to have us there, cooked us an amazing Japanese dinner. Saturday morning we were off to Yoyogi Park where we are involved with a weekly homeless ministry. There we helped the other volunteers to conduct a mini church service, and hand out bread and hot coffee to the homeless. I was very honored to be asked to share a message as part of the service. God put it on my heart to share my personal testimony of battling drugs and alcohol with these people. I shared how God has used the darkest moments in my life to pull me closer to him, and how if God can love me through the things I have done He can love anyone. And the best part is that we don’t have to do anything to make God love us more, He loves us unconditionally and He longs for a relationship with us.

 

Later that afternoon we headed back to Ichikawa to begin our children’s ministry. We were super excited to see the little church we were in packed with kids. Over the course of several hours we sang songs, performed skits and few members of our team shared stories and testimonies about Gods love for them. After the program finished, we took all of the kids to a local park to play and love on them. Our team felt super refreshed to experience child like faith in action. All in all it was a day full of love, laughter, and a whole lot of Jesus.

 

We have now arrived safely in Osaka after many travelling adventures, and have been so blessed to be able to stay at the YWAM base here. These next two weeks are packing a full ministry schedule; our team is anticipating the Lord to continue moving in big ways. Please continue praying for our team that we would finish strong and keep stepping out in boldness as we have hit the halfway point in our outreach.

 

Thanks to all of our supporters, we would be here without you. Much love, Craig Zylstra on behalf of Team Japan.

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The Big Picture

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Since leaving Belize and arriving in Costa Rica, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the words, “so there’s been a change of plans.” Travel here was filled with many ups and downs causing us to quickly swtich from Plan A to Plan H. In preparation for this outreach, our team was greatly encouraged to “hold things with open hands,” and let me tell you, that got out into practice faster than any of us expected. The first day of ministry began with a one mile walk to a coffee tree farm. There we spend 7 hours daily, clearly the land by cutting down and digging up the tree roots. This property is owned by an organization called Strong Ministries. They are immersed and well involved in the community around it. The farm, once no longer covered in trees, will be used as extra space for Strong Ministries to host missionary groups and events.

 

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During the past couple weeks, it’s been difficult to see the big picture in clearing that tree farm. Being there in the moment I was struggling with God. Telling Him that I was wanting to be touching people’s lives first hand, sharing with them the love He has shown me and not digging up stumps. As I was chopping down a rotten tree with Shahnee, God responded to me by telling me that if I was off somewhere else sharing with people, than the people that are going to find God through the development of that land would not find Him. I am apart of the stepping stones for God’s kingdom to come in Costa Rica. If I decide I don’t want to develop that land, than how will those coming here, ever come. My expectations were different than what God had planned for our ministry, but that’s the beauty of Plan H. God’s kingdom will come to Costa Rica and if I want to be apart of that than all I have to do is say “okay God, use me.” Even if God using me means spending 3 hours hitting one tree with a machete. The irony in all of this is that Audrey (a.k.a. Mom) was wearing a t-shirt that reads, “The Big Picture.” God sees the big picture and I get to be in it, all I have to say is “okay God.”

 

Stephanie Braaksma

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Jesus Be The Center

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“Jesus, be the center” has been the plea of my heart. Things feel off, ministries are exhausting, and people get snappy really quickly when He is not the center. That was the theme of the team as a whole and me as an individual. Jesus wasn’t the strength. He wasn’t the core. He took second place to ministry and then food and then sleep. And it showed- in my heart, in my actions, in my ministry. And the team’s as well.

 

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After a team meeting the other night, all the girls felt off, and we went in the room and starting fighting a major spiritual battle. We all knew something in the team was weird, and after prayer and talking, we realized it was the team unity, which was affecting ministry and free time.  And the team unity was off because we, as a group, had been so busy and exhausted after a full day’s work, that we didn’t make time for God-both as a group and by ourselves.
Picture a cup. You want it 100% full of Jesus so that it can be poured out in all of it’s glory onto others. Our cup wasn’t full of Him. It was only about 30%. Which was not good.
And the enemy wants to smash that cup into smithereens, making us think all is hopeless and broken and done. He wanted us to believe that’s how we were. We weren’t.

God doesn’t just fix things.  He doesn’t just glue it back together so the cracks show, He makes them completely new and restored. And then you’re wonderful and whole and new again. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “…if anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Christ Jesus” I need to rely on HIS strength for HIS work, not my own.

image2It was a lesson worth being up until 1:30 AM learning. Because if Jesus isn’t at the center, then nothing functions right.
And since  the revelation? Things have been great. Morning quiet times have been more frequent. Unity has been improved. Ministry has gone more smooth. It’s amazing how Christ will work in us when we fix our eyes on Him above all else.

 

Maddy Ackermann

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