Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day Three!

It´s dark out and there is a slight breeze coming from the open gates. Andrew is picking away at the guitar, there are candles lit around the room and hallways and half our group is in the kitchen cooking dinner for themselves. For me, this is a time of reflection, however surface or deep it may be.

We started off the morning with a Bible study time at the Crusade house with Carlos and Tatiana. We read from Romans 10 which is a passage about sharing faith. I think it directly correlated with what we are doing here in San Jose, Costa Rica. One verse said that the feet that bring the gospel are beautiful. However t went on to say that some will not listen.

Holly and I found this to be true during our sharing times today. Yesterday I was encouraged by conversations with Tiqos that understood what it means to have a personal relationship with God. Today it felt like the Tiqos God brought us to understood the idea of God, but not in a personal way. On the surface, I feel like not much was accomplished. However I know in my heart that God was at work and He will continue to be at work.

At the end of our sharing time today I talked with Donald for a few minutes. Hé´s from Costa Rica but has spent the last five years in Mexico working. He´s been back in this country for about three weeks. I found out that Carlos had brought him to Christ in 1999. He asked me what I liked about talking to the Tiqo´s. I replied, telling him I appreciate the openness they seem to have for deeper questions and their willingness to put up with my terrible Spanish. He said this is very different from how things were five years ago. Hmmm Is God at work on this campus? I then asked him if he had spent much time in the states. He said he had, and that it was very different. Apparantly, no one would help him when he needed directions and stuff like that. In those moments, I felt ashamed of the American culture I have grown up with. Here I am in a foreign country surrounded by people that sometimes go out of their way to help me out. But when the tables are turned, how often do I turn away from someone who needs help, foreigner or not? I sensed disappointment from Donald and I feel like his view of the American culture apart from who he knows through Crusade has been stained.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Costa Rica Day 2

This morning, showering and eating a yummy pancake and watermelon, I was able to spend some time in the Word swinging in the hammock in the back of the house. I was able to spend some time getting my heart right and prepared for the day.

Today went a lot better for me. I was feeling a little more energetic about things and was looking forward to where God would bring us. So, I was partnered with Ralph who has been involved with Crusade for a loooong time, 24 years maybe, to share our faith until we all met again at noon. We picked a group sitting opposite a large fountain and within minutes I was talking to three tiqos. That number quickly changed to two. Then back to three later. HOWEVER talking may not be the appropriate word since I know very little Spanish and they knew very little English. We all did our best and we shared many laughs together. I am pretty sure they made fun of me a little but that´s okay because I made fun of myself too. Haha. We were able to talk about God, though, and that was encouraging. For one thing, I was having my first spiritual conversation with a tiqo! Secondly, we were communicatin!!! Even if it wasn´t perfect. Haha There was one girl in this group of males and eventually she joined our conversation and then her and I were deep in conversation about faith, Heaven and Hell and more. Her English was very good and we were able to get very deep with our thoughts. It felt so nice talking to her and she was so sweet that I was sad when they had to leave.

For the second part of the day I was with Alexis, a girl on staff with Cru. We were able to get into a really good conversation with two girls who spoke excellent English. It´s interesting learning how different people in this culture relate to God and seem to be Christians without really know it. At least, they don´t know the term. Maybe.

So far I have not been anywhere with air conditioning. But I don´t mind. There is a constant breeze and windows and doors are left open everywhere to let it in. I love the constant flow of fresh air. Yet, at the same time, all the buildings are behind iron gates. At first I thought it was ugly and wondered why everyone wanted to be so private. Then I learned the gates were due to high crime rates in the area. It all made sense. My purse has been glued to my person ever since arriving in San Jose. It´s become second nature to have it hang in front of me, always with my hand laying across it.

It´s only day 2 and I feel like I have already shared my faith more than I have in my entire life. However I do´nt think that´s true. I¨m just doing it in a different, more direct way. And you know what, Í´m enjoying it. I¨m looking forward to getting back home and using my new skills on fellow students.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Costa Rica: Day 1

I couldn't help but wear a grin covering my exhaustion from the red eye flight that had just landed. The yellow lights were on and I slid towards the middle aisle as Jake, my flight companion for this last leg, stood up in preparation to leave. However maybe he just wanted to stretch his legs. We sat in the very last row of a very full air craft but I didn't mind. We had three seats between the two of us. :) The back door opened.

"Buenos dias," I heard. I turned my head and caught a wiff of sweet humid air that held the faintest scent of cinnamon.

"It smells so good," I said. "What is that?"

"It's Costa Rica," Jake said matter of factly. What a wonderful aroma that snaked up my back, through my frizzy hair and into my face. I breathed in deep and couldn't wait to step into this Wonderland. Finally we were walking through the stuffy tunnel that lead to a rather large cinnabon stand right outside our gate. As I joined our group of seven other tired looking individuals I couldn't help but feel the tiniest hint of disappointment that Costa Rica wasn't the Wonderland I had in my head just moments ago.

We rode a large bus headed towards the hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica. It was slightly humid with a soft breeze, a perfect combination after having spent all day in an airport and a stuffy plane. I watched everything whizzing past wishing there was time to take it in. The signs that read in Spanish were fun to try to decipher and I was impressed by the rich vegetation that seemed to engulf this city. We drove through what seemed to be some down town areas. I was astonished at the amount of people walking in the streets in the midst of heavy traffic. I was definitely not in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho anymore.

Every one of us spent the day walking in smelly, sweaty clothes around the city and campus. It was exhausting, equally exhilerating and I found challenges immediately. First of all, I found that I was in need of a serious attitude check. Ummm complain much? Yes, in fact I do. Even though I realized this early on, my outlook didn't get much better. I found myself going from complaining about being tired and not knowing enough Spanish to being uber excited about running across busy intersections with Jodi by my side. Crazy much? Yes, I am indeed.

We came on this trip to be a servant to those around us and learn about a new culture that would take us out of our comfort zone. I didn't know this three days ago, but this is going to be quite the challenge for me. I may be outgoing at home, but here, in a new country full of new smells, sounds and people, I am not comfortable. To top it off, we were sent out to share our faith on campus. Our first day. Our eyes were bloodshot. We hadn't showered in two days. Whose idea was this again?

I felt pretty insecure which I often try to cover up with silly chitter chatter which usually backfires and makes me sound dumb. Today was no exception. Thus, I learned a lot and am equipped for a new day tomorrow to do it all over again. Jodi and I paired up for sharing today and I'm glad for that. She showed me some sights on campus including the TV studio on campus. I had a bit of fiasco when it came to ordering lunch - quite simply I froze and looked to Jodi to talk for me in the lunch line. Yeah, lame-O (me). Jodi was great trying to get me a little more comfortable in this new world.

I sometimes think I should be in the amazon what with being covered in light humidity and hearing strange squawking sounds in the unfamiliar trees towering over my head. I think that's one of my favorite aspects about Costa Rica so far. The sounds. I've heard them on the movies, but here I am in real life. I wish I knew how to describe it. As for right now I'm not even going to try because I don't even know how to begin. But it's rich, deep, melodic to the rhythm of this place.

The day is not over and I'm sitting in the backyard of the hostel listening to Jodi have a conversation with another guy that is staying here. I love it out here. There's a cool breeze, grass, cactus trees, a tiled table and benches, even a hammock in back corner half surrounded by plants and a large tree (Jodi is swinging in it now). It's relaxing and a perfect way to spend an evening or morning - before or after the sun has been high in the sky.

Until next time, thank you for joining me on this journey. Please pray that we are bold in our faith, speaking only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Theft is a huge issue in this area as well so please pray that we remember to be careful and that nothing gets stole. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Are We High Or On the Edge Of Burnout?

I suppose getting sick was inevitable. I was up late every night, up early the next morning, running around like a crazy woman during the day. Then this morning I decided to make it all stop. I cancelled everything I had to do for the next two days and postponed it (except for a mid-term that I'm still working on). It's been nice. I watched TV and napped all day - much like a cat, except for the TV part. I'm feeling relatively better now and started to kick myself for cancelling my shoot tomorrow. Then I figured, It's just as well. Now I can use that time to finish my mid-term, spend time with Evan and prepare for my trip to Costa Rica. I kind of think this was God's way of getting me to slow the heck down and remember what really matters.

Which brings me to what has been on my heart these last weeks since I've posted. First of all, I have been learning to be content with where I am right now. Learning may not be the best word because I'm not sure I've "learned" at all. It's more of a mindset I think. God knew I would be here, in Moscow, single and sharing my two-year old with his dad. Because God knew that, He planned for it. I just don't know what the plan is. For a while I nursed dreams of doing something great and exotic with my life so that I could not be tied down in Moscow or even in Coeur d'Alene. However the truth of the matter is I can serve God wherever I am at, and that's what matters. Now that's not to say I've given up on life. I've simply begun the process of giving God my dreams and desires. This sort of brings me to my text topic of conversation.

I've been struggling with my ideas of who Jesus is, how I can life my life to glorify Him, and why I want to spend my life searching for truths that I may never fully understand. Phew! That felt like a lot to say in one sentence. Let's take it apart piece by piece.

Who is Jesus? A friend gave me some support money for my trip to Costa Rica not because she supports the organization I am going under, but because she supports me. (For those of you who don't know I am leaving on Saturday with other students and staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for a trip to San Jose, Costa Rica.) I found this very interesting and tried to probe more out of her. I didn't understand how she could support me, a Christian, but not the Christian organization itself? What she said was she doesn't like how Campus Crusade goes about their mission work. This made me even more curious but we didn't talk much past that. She said faith is a journey and she wants to support me in my journey. I really appreciated her support and faith in me, but I went home deep in thought. I had to re-work my faith, the basis of who I am. The conclusion I came back to was that Jesus did indeed come from Heaven to become the perfect human. This happened a long time ago, but He's alive in the hearts of His people. Jesus did die on the cross for my sins, all of them. And that is why I worship Him.

So now how do I live my day to day life to the Glory of Christ? It sounds simple to me in theory, but in actuality it's so much harder. I feel like I know every "do" and "don't" which causes me to have very high expectations out of myself. When I feel like I stumble, I turn into a failure and don't feel like I can go on in faith. I have struggled with the same sins for years and to this day they won't go away. Every day I have to wake up in the morning and say, "Lord, I give this day to you." However it's rare for me to actually do that. Therefore, I fail. Then as I go throughout my day I find myself very frustrated and lash out on those I love. Well, once again I'm a failure because I'm not giving my frustrations to God like I'm supposed to. Oh, yes, then there are those bad words that aren't supposed to be said in church right? Well sometimes it feels really good to swear really loudly (when no one is around of course). But then I have to deal with the guilt because I said a "bad word." It's all the nitty gritty stuff that gets me down.

I know a relationship with God is about the state of the heart, and if I had a pure heart, it would come through in my actions. Sometimes I think I just get tired of trying. And here is the last statement I made earlier: Why do I want to spend my life searching for truths I may never find the answers to?
I think this sums up my struggles as a whole. It correlates directly with my friend who supports me but not Campus Crusade. It relates to my idea of how to have a relationship with Jesus. There are some aspects of life and humanity that I will never completely understand until I get to Heaven. That's okay. But what about the day to day stuff I just finished talking about? I don't like feeling "high on God" or "high on religion" because I know that when things get tough again, I'll lose that "high." It's almost like it's superficial religion on the edge of burn out. So once again I find myself questioning the truths I have grown up with. A friend described my view of Christianity and the world as very closed off and boxed in. Maybe he's right. Maybe he's not. I don't freaking know. I'm just trying to life my life the best I can. Every time I get this way, though, I come back to the basic truths I hold in my heart. Jesus did come and die on the cross, that is why I choose to serve Him. I wish I didn't forget so easily. I wish I could understand God's love more so that I wouldn't feel so ashamed to come to Him in times of trouble and sin.