Eggs, Bikes, and other Milestones…

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As I (Christine) rode Charis’ bike with Caleb along our neighborhood’s dusty, gravel road, my soul had a washing of gratitude come flooding in.  The memories of bike rides, playing ball, and blaring music with neighborhood friends came flooding back.  Thank you Jesus for this gift!  This gift of living in community, this gift of a new home in Montellano!  When our neighbor is blaring worship music and her daughter is singing along, what a gift!!  Thank you Jesus!  When you and your son see the bananas get to the stage of needing to make banana bread and you used your last eggs the night before and your son says, “Let’s go to the colmado (think very small convenience store, that has everything, and I mean just about everything).”  You take him up on the offer and ride the 2 minutes, tell the young man, “Dame seis huevos, por favor” ( Give me 6 eggs, please) and gratitude comes flooding in, Thank you Jesus for the simple things of life!  This culture has taught me to slow down, enjoy being in community, and value relationships over to-do lists.

Los Liricos (as we have been affectionately named here – meaning The Lyricals) have hit some major milestones this month and we are so grateful to all of you for allowing us the privilege to live among such sweet people in such a beautiful land!

First off, we moved!!!  We are now living in Montellano, just a few minutes walk to the Makarios school, friends on our missionary staff team, and friends we’ve met along this journey!  Because of this, the youngest kids were able to buy bikes, thanks to Grandpa and Grandma Kern and have really enjoyed them!  Last week after church, we walked to the local Pescaderia (fish restaurant) and enjoyed a very delicious meal all within a few minutes walk!  We’ve been praying for this home for a while now, and I know many of you have too!  Thank you for praying for us, you are so valuable to us!

Myah had the opportunity to play the drums during worship at the youth service last Saturday night.  She also had a solo part in a song the youth presented at a partnering church in another town.  (Sometime, you’ll have to ask her what you do when everyone else is in a skirt and you show up in pants…Let’s just say, one of her friends called her Dominican after this experience…she was thrilled at being called Dominican as that means we’re starting to adapt more and more!)

This past week, I was sitting in one of my favorite spots in this country, able to have a sweet conversation with an even sweeter lady I’ve come to love and talk to her about the difficulties of marriage and the strain money problems can have on a marriage.  This time was truly a gift from the Lord and encouraged my soul greatly!   I heard the Lord whisper to me, “Rest, be still, I’ve got this language learning thing under control for you, just rest in me!”  Aren’t you glad that we get to participate in HIS STORY!

Myah took her first moto ride with a dear friend and colleague of ours to go spend time in one of our favorite places.  This dear friend is such a godly example to all of us of what it looks like to love.  She embodies, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

The Makarios staff retreat was a few weeks ago!  We had a ton of fun on a scavenger hunt through Montellano taking pictures of someone milking a cow, doing a pyramid in front of a church, getting their hair done, one of the stops was even at our house for a photo with our kids (and so the MAK Staff could know where our new house was), and a whole bunch of other funny things.  We also had a great time of reflecting on all God continues to do in the lives of our staff and students.  We had time in the Word, time worshiping and time with each other.

Makarios was just able to purchase two pieces of property to give us another driveway/ access road to our school, and Kevin has been using his construction background to look over plans for a new school building and a new patio/rooftop at the MAK house and his Spanish is growing by leaps and bounds!!

A few miles down with lots more to go…

Los Liricos

Frank O

There are few men like Frank O!  It’s hard to know where to start!  I met Frank in 2003 when I started as the youth pastor at West Rome Baptist Church, in Manitou Beach MI.  Frank, and his wife Bev were VERY involved in the children’s  and van ministry at the church and Frank, for many years managed the maintenance on the vans at the church.  I have know idea how Frank was able to be as involved as he was, he worked a really crazy shift at a steel plant over an hour away and still was able to invest SO much time in these areas of ministry.  He LOVED life, and serving wherever there was a need.  For about a year, when Charis was maybe 4 or so, the O’s watched our kids as Christine started working at a local hospital and over and over again when I would pick the kids up Frank would be out in the yard playing with them (even in the winter he would be out sledding on the hill behind the house) or getting them a snack, which each of the kids had a special treat that Frank always made sure there was plenty of in the house!!

Frank was a really simple guy, gentle natured, fun, hard working, and was genuine in faith.  I had the chance to work along side of Frank as he worked on the vans, loved our “van kids” really well, and as he quietly and gently mentored me through car rides late night Wednesday conversations as we waited for the other vans to come in from their routes.  He didn’t know it, I’m sure he didn’t plan it but over all those years Frank modeled for me a Christlike faith that was so natural and real that it was hard for me to miss.  He loved the Lord, evangelism, and serving at the local church.  Frank also loved to fish and wanted to be able to spend time with my boys and on a couple of occasions he took us out, big hat, cane pole, and a cooler full of snacks and pop enough for way more people but it was just for us, we never really caught much my boys still remember those fishing outings with Mister Frank!

In May of 2014 we stepped out of our position at the church and began preparations to bring our family to the Dominican and Frank and Bev were right there encouraging us and reminding us that some day they would come on a short term team and serve with us here.  Just before we left the states for our language training we were shocked and sad to hear the news on January 8th, 2015 the Lord decided it was time to call Frank home!  The news still seems a little surreal to me even today as I write.  Frank you would be so proud, we made it to the DR…AND West Rome is coming to serve, including your sweet Bev.   Recently, we visited the church and were reunited with Bev and her big hug and infectious smile could not have been more comforting, the news that she would be coming on the short term team SO encouraging!  Frank, we will miss having you here in the DR but you have left your mark on my life, the life of my kids and so many more that have ridden those van for all of those years.  It’s hard to believe it has been two years!  Frank you are missed, you and your family are loved, thank you for a life well lived!!

Giving up a dream…

As a parent we sometimes dream dreams for our kids. Maybe the kind of work they will do, or to see them accomplish some other goal or milestone. Sometimes the dreams we have for our kids are really pretty selfish…but, at least we believe, or try to convince ourselves that it is what is best for them. Recently, God’s been doing a little “work” in my life over one of these “dreams” for one of my kids.

I remember as a child having different milestones that I REALLY looked forward too, one the BIGGIES was getting my drivers license when I turned 16. As it turned out I had to wait a few months after my birthday, I’m not bitter about it, but I “vowed” that for my kids I would make sure they got their license on their 16th birthday. Myah turned 16 on May 10th and needless to say we weren’t able to run her over to the Secretary of State office to get her license…as little as this might seem it was really hard for me. It was one of my dreams for my kids! Learning to let go of my dreams with the hope of letting God continue to develop in me His dreams, His vision for our future is all part of this journey we are on.  There is certainly nothing wrong with being excited about different milestones in your life or the lives of your children, but I also realize that sometimes those milestones and dreams for our lives or our childrens can keep up for taking bold steps of faith and living out God’s dream has for our lives…which IS far beyond what I could ever imagine, even in the moments when it feels like I have given up more than I gained.  We are convinced this journey IS worth it, and in times like these it draws me towards the Psalms and my earnest prayer to be undivided in my pursuit of Him and His ways, even when it might mean giving up a dream…

Psalms 86:11-12

“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.”

Psalms 25:4-5

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

On the Journey,
~Kevin

The things we take for granted…

EvansThe other day our neighbor Evans came by our house to help me work on one of the many projects I’ve been working on recently. We worked hard all day and we made quite a pile of wood scraps (especially since we were working with a bunch of old pallet wood that needed all the ends cut off so we could work with square ends).  As we started to clean up we gathered up the cut ends and randomly I asked Evan’s if he could use any of this wood.  Without hesitation and excitement he responded, “Yes!”  And so out of curiosity I asked, “What will you do with them?”  I should have expected his answer, but it still took me a little off guard.  “I will take them to my house and use it for a fire to cook with”. I’m thankful I asked because I likely would have either put them out to the garbage or burned them up myself…for no other purpose other than to get rid of them, because I did not see any other real value.  Then, just before he left he asked if he could have some water to take to his house.  I went inside to try to find a container, which I couldn’t “find” one, I went outside to see Evans pulling a 2 liter bottle out of our trash that was waiting to be taken to the dumpster and he asked if I could put the water in that.  I’m not writing this to point out Evan’s hardship, or to have you start saving up 2 liter bottles and scrap wood to send to us. I believe Evan is a Christ follower, he is content, happy, kind, works a consistent job, and is able provide what he needs.  I am writing this because I’m learning about a lot of things during our time in Costa Rica and now the DR, one of those things is to be more thoughtful about so many of the things I truly take for granted like scrap wood and empty 2 liter bottles.  I have plenty more to learn but experiences like this help me look and pray more intently about how to meet peoples needs even when some of those practical needs could be met by things I may not recognize as valuable or useful.  It reminds me again of the tag line of our blog, “Our 5 loaves and 2 fish in the hands of an extraordinary God!”  Too often we have what is needed to bless others and see God do extraordinary things, but we feel it is inadequate or we just don’t recognize what we “do” have.

Praying today that God might give you eyes to see beyond the things you might take for granted and see how God might use what you have to bless others and reveal His power and character to those around us, for HIS Glory and renown!!

On the Journey!

There was this guy…

Bread Store

It is VERY common for people to come to our gate, some are selling things like suckers, kitchen pans, bootlegged movies, and my favorite was fingernail clippers. Some come to ask for money or food and Christine and I have some food set aside in our cupboards that we can quickly get to when people do ask…but there was this one guy that came by the other night that I just can’t get out of my mind. He’s an older man with hair, skin, and clothes that show the wear of a difficult life. His breath reeked of alcohol and his eyes were hazy and tired. I had crossed paths with him a couple of days before while walking to pick up the kids, I passed by him apparently a little too close and he made it clear with some Spanish words I did not understand, but by the tone I knew he was less than pleased with me. So when he showed up at my gate that scene flashed through my mind. “Hola, buenas noches” I called out. “¿Tiene pan (do you have bread)? por favor” he replied in a quiet muffled voice. Our supplies were low this week, and the only bread we had was sandwich bread which is a little unusual here where there is a bread store on just about every other corner. I went to the kitchen pulled out a couple of slices so we could make a couple of lunches for the kids, but I took the rest and brought it to him. He wasn’t excited to see the loaf of sandwich bread but he received it graciously, then grunted, “¿tiene bebida?” (do you have a drink?). By the time I had walked from the kitchen to the gate again…what I saw I am still wrestling with…he was standing at the gate devouring the bread, by the handfuls, not even stopping for a breath with pieces hanging off of his scruffy beard, but he didn’t waste a morsel. He was desperately hungry. I felt bad when I interrupted him to give him the drink. There was no conversation, our eyes barely met but I could sense his embarrassment and gratitude over some sandwich bread and a bottle of tea. This moment for me was far more then giving a guy some food, please don’t confuse this situation with the weight of the other question God was pressing on my heart. Since then the thought that won’t leave my mind is, “Am I that desperate for God?” John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'” How hungry am I for His Word? Since coming to Costa Rica I have been able to develop a real consistency in His Word, and that time for me is rich and I am learning to enjoy that time and look forward to that time more and more each morning, but that nagging feeling in my heart and mind as I saw that man just inhaling that bread.  Am I that desperate for Him, for His Word, for His presence, even when it seems like sandwich bread to me, not the bread of life?  I’m sure I will see that man again, I’m sure in his hazy stupor he will have no recollection of this night…but for me he gave me an unbelievable gift…the vivid picture of what it looks like to be desperate for Him, to “need” Him, and to be nourished by His Word.

How hungry are you for Him?  For His Word?

On the Journey…

An informal relationship with God…

I hope this makes sense! Spanish has a “formal” and “informal” use of the pronoun “you”.  This is a difficult concept to think through for a non-native Spanish speaker, this informal tense is quite intriguing and challenging to me.  So as we started learning Spanish this formal vs. informal really messed with me.  When do you use the “informal – you”?  At least in Costa Rica it is fairly uncommon, so practically speaking I just tried to forget about it and focus on the parts of the language I needed to learn to function here.  Then Sunday after Sunday during the singing portion and teaching of our Spanish church service I kept seeing this odd form of “you” in the songs and scripture passages.  I’m still in the stage of my Spanish learning where I have to look up a lot of words and fumble through putting the pieces together to make sense of things.  So when I looked up this unfamiliar form I realized that many songs and passages refer to God and our relationship with God in the informal form.  I was confused, our God is holy and we seemed to be worshiping our Holy God with sloppy seemingly irreverent words.  Why would the songwriters and translators choose the informal?  Then one day it hit me, with a flood of emotion…it’s all about the relationship!!  The informal form of “you” is used within the context of relationship, but not just any relationship, but a close, deep, enduring relationship.  Since Spanish has a way to express this closeness in a word, or a form, it does in a beautiful and refreshing way.  Take for example one of the most familiar Psalms you know, Psalms 23 and think in terms of relationship — i.e. valued, loved, and personal relationship in mind.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalms 23 ESV)

Even if I’m not explaining this well, and if I’ve come to the wrong linguistic conclusion about the use and translation of the informal form in Spanish…I’m still a novice at this, and have A LOT to learn; however, our time in Costa Rica and in language development has helped me to enjoy my relationship with God even more, I am discovering a greater trust and joy in the deep, abiding love and Word of God, in whom I have come into relationship (family) with through the shed blood of Jesus…and that is a beautiful, refreshing thing!

Being refined on the Journey,

The Lehr’s (Kevin)

 

Un dia en Costa Rica…

Since Kevin has done most of the blog writing, I figured I would try my hand at it. God has gifted Kevin with a beautiful way of writing with many analogies. That unfortunately isn’t my gift, so you’ll have to bear with just the bare bones factual writing that is characteristic of me:)

So, what does a day of living in Costa Rica look like? We have to be out of our gate by 7:00 to get to school on time.  (Interesting fact; we have 4 locks to get out onto the street and 3 locks to get out to our back patio).  We have about a 15-20 minute walk to school depending on the traffic light to a major street, Calle Principal (Main St).  Our walk consists of talking to a guard at the local veterinarian clinic/store and parking attendant at a fitness center and the many barking dogs along the way.  It is a very peaceful and pretty walk once we get off the main street, which is very loud and busy.  All of our classes start at 7:30.  The kids get dropped off and then Kevin and I head to “Fonetica”, where we spend an hour pronouncing words, syllables, and starting to read in Spanish. Our next class is “Lenguaje”, where we talk about culture, describe our house, the climate, families, learn vocabulary and just “try” to talk a lot.  We sound like toddlers learning how to say the simplest of things in Spanish.  We then have a short break.  Tuesdays and Thursdays there is chapel during this time.  The other days, we have free time to practice vocabulary, catch up with other students or finish homework that hasn’t been completed.  Then we head to our last class, “Gramatica”.  This is a two hour class and by far the hardest.  We do a lot of conjugating verbs, which is muy dificil.  Our teachers for the most part only speak in Spanish.  We catch most of what they say, but do have to think pretty hard and a lot of the times we are about a sentence or two behind.  Kevin and I finish our classes around noon.  The kids don’t get done until 2:30. So, we walk home and have lunch and try to get in an hour or two of studying before walking back to get the kids.  The kids come home with a pretty hefty load of homework most days, which means we are working on homework up until dinner and sometimes much later.  Then we cram in as much studying as the day allows and head to bed fairly early, generally by 9 o’clock.

I’m so proud of how the kids have adjusted to school here.  They have jumped into a new country, a new language, new foods, and a totally new schedule of how they do school.  They have all been homeschooled with the exception of Myah and she hasn’t been in a school setting since Kindergarten.  The kids have taught science lessons, written research papers, made presentations, learned verses and sang songs in Spanish, and even learned a Spanish dance.  Myah jumped right into a drama production of the Wizard of Oz, Algebra, and debating current political hot topics.  My biggest concern was, “Will they be at grade level” and “How will they do academically.”  After recently meeting with the academic director of Sojourn Academy, I can say the report is great.  The main thing they struggle with is the pace.  In our homeschool, they were allowed to work on assignments as they needed until they got done.  So, this is a big change for them.

Some of our highlights here are the Saturday Feria, a farmer’s market.  Caleb and Charis enjoy the watermelon and small plum-like fruit.  Ethan enjoys buying the fruit and trying all sorts of new things that we don’t have in the States.  He really enjoys the man who has a chicken stand and makes delicious skewers of chicken served with tortillas.  Myah has enjoyed the pineapple and avocados here amongst other healthy eating habits we have all enjoyed.

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TBread Storehe Panaderia (bakery), is also a favorite spot for us to visit.  Ethan really enjoys going there.  They have tried many of their treats.  The lady there is a sweetie and helps with our Spanish and continually gives little treats to the younger ones for free.

We have many funny stories already, like thinking “Joe” was the name of one of the guards we have met.  He was really saying “Yo”, which is the word for “I”, but pronounced much like we say the name Joe.  Or, trying to find cream to make cool whip for Myah’s birthday cake, which ended up being sour cream.  Finding anything at the grocery store has proven to be quite comical.  Things here are packaged so different then what we are used to. Most cleaners are in bags, not bottles.

Here’s an interesting fact: Saying you are from America is quite offensive here, as they are also from “America”.  Somehow we think we are the only ones in North America.  So, it is better to say you are from the States, not America.  Soy de Estados Unidos.
We walk, ride a bus, or take a taxi wherever we need to go.  You’d think it would be easy to tell the taxi how to get to your house, except they don’t have “addresses” here.  Well, they do have addresses, but it goes like this:

San Francisco de Dos Rios, de la iglesia Catolica, 100 metros este y 25 metros norte, casa color crema, rejas color café, mano izquierda.  In English this is San Francisco of two rivers, 100 meters east and 25 meters north of the Catholic Church.  The house is cream with brown bars on the left hand side.

You now understand that sometimes, the taxi drivers don’t know where we live and how challenging it can be to try with our limited Spanish to get them to your house.  We’ve always made it home, we just haven’t always taken the shortest route.

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What are we eating here?  Well, we are not eating cereal, or any other pre-packaged quick meal type things.  Although they have a lot of these things available, they are typically very expensive.  Food in general, we find to be more expensive.  Also, our crew is getting bigger; hence, their appetites are bigger as well 🙂 We typically have homemade granola and yogurt, smoothies, eggs, or toast for breakfast.  Lunch is something easy that can be packed for school or leftovers.  Rice and beans, chicken and tortillas are common dinner meals.  We still splurge on cheese and make pizza and have spaghetti and tacos too.

We have been going to a Costa Rican church on Sunday mornings.  It is a two hour service.  The first hour is all singing and prayer, and they DO worship.  One week, they spent about 5-10 minutes just declaring the names of God.  It truly was a beautiful thing!  The next hour is for preaching.  The people feel free to come, go, sit or stand.  We still struggle to understand, but it is a beautiful thing to be amongst brothers and sisters in Christ.  Their love for the Lord is seen and heard and has left an impact on this heart.

Costa Rica is a beautiful place, filled with beautiful people.  We have much to learn from them and are trying to soak it all in.  They are a very friendly people.  Although we have moments of missing home and the people we love, we are learning to love a new place and new people.

Thank you for your emails, texts, and letters.  They truly are appreciated and more encouraging than we can put to words!!

Thanks for being apart of our Journey…
Christine

Zip-Lining and a little grain of rice…

This past weekend we had the opportunity to celebrate our 18th anniversary and Myah’s 15th birthday by going Zip-lining in the mountains northeast of San Jose.  Little did I know the “other” lesson God wanted to challenge me with through this experience.

Here are a couple of pictures from our time at “Fossil Land”.

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In order to get up to the zip-lines we had to do quite a bit of hiking!

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Some day we will put together the video footage and so show you the “real” fun.

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After about 3 hours of hiking and zip-lining we suited up for their water slide.

As we finished our last zip-line they rushed us to the staging area of the water slide, there was such a blur of activity, and when I looked at the amount of water and this crazy suit they dressed up in I thought…”this should be interesting”.  Somewhere between flying down the slide about 45 mph and then finding myself sitting in waist deep water at the bottom I realized…”Oh, NO, my phone!”  Sure enough, it was soaked, there was nothing I could do, so, after giving my phone to Christine…the kids and I went down the water slide again….  We got back to our house I immediately got a Ziploc bag, filled it with rice (which we have A LOT of these days 🙂 ) and stuck my phone in it.  Next day, I took it out, turned it on…and…it worked perfectly, YES!!  …Till later, when the battery needed charging.  When I went to plug it in, the plug only went in about half way.  That’s weird, I tried a couple of different ways, and still it would not go in…what is going on?!  I grabbed a flashlight and looked in the charging slot and sure enough, there was a grain of rice in the charging slot, seriously!!  Ugghhhh!!  A tiny grain of rice had become a HUGE problem.  It was preventing me from charging my phone, and without charging my phone it was useless.  Strange as this might sound, it really made me think about my spiritual life.  It made me think about how sometimes the smallest things, maybe even helpful things can get in the way of our relationship with God and how damaging that can be.  The rice started out, or was intended to be a helpful thing, it helped to draw out the moisture in my phone…but somehow it had also worked its way into the most important port in my phone.  How could that have happened?  I don’t know, but it did.  And too many times things that were intended to be “good” or helpful, become things that can block our times with God and keep us from abiding in Christ.  It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching in John chapter 15, here’s a glimpse of verses 4-6.

…”Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.…

Some of the good things in our lives can often become some of the most distracting, or even damaging to our relationship with God.  Sometimes, we may not even know when something is getting in the way, or has gotten in the way…like a little grain of rice.  Is there something keeping you from being fully plugged in to your relationship with God?  This has certainly been a good reminder and soul searching question for me over the past few days…Like David who inquired of the Lord in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”  Or as the devotional I enjoy, The New Rebellion, puts it, “The challenge and the opportunity of every Christ follower is to be single-minded in pursuit of God not distracted by lesser things.”  That we might be pure in our pursuit of God and that we may not, knowingly or unknowingly put distractions in the way of that pursuit.

On the Journey

OH, btw, as it turns out, trying to get the rice out of the port damaged the port so that meant the whole power port assembly had to be replaced.  Thankfully with the help of another language school student, I was able to have the power port replaced at a local repair store and my phone is functioning just fine…for now 🙂  All of that because of tiny grain of rice, yikes!!