Sunday, July 25, 2010

A week in Costa Rica

The past week has been very busy, and very fun! Mark and I spent the week hanging out with another Community of Faith team in Costa Rica. We spent several days in La Carpio hosting a free medical clinic for the neighborhood, and several days painting and finishing the fence at the children's home in Coronado. By the end of the week we were all exhausted and enjoyed a day at the Arenal Volcano before the group headed back to Houston.

One of the most rewarding things for me all week was to be able to talk with the people we treated in the clinic. Many of the mothers and children are friends that we have watched grow up and seen their families expand over the years. It is encouraging to see them and to know that they are doing well.

Two women in particular stood out for me and I have committed to pray for them daily until I see them again:

One mother, my same age, came to the clinic for the first time. She was obviously distressed by the expression on her face. Her symptoms were typical of someone who is experiencing anxiety and depression. We didn't have any medication to treat her symptoms, but I really wanted to be able to help her in some way. She asked me if her physical symptoms could be a result of the troubles she was going through in her life. I responded that could certainly be the case, and at that point she began to talk about her personal life. She poured her heart out to me, tears streaming down her face.  She told me about her three sons who were convicted of drug dealing and sent to prison. She worries about them constantly and is unable to sleep.  She told me about her 22 year old daughter who was diagnosed with AIDS and the fear she has that one day she will lose her. I listened to her and cried with her. I held her as we prayed together.  She smiled, squeezed my hands, and thanked me.  She told me to come find her when I come back.  My heart bled as I watched her walk out of the clinic and I prayed that somehow God would use our encounter to encourage and strengthen her for the journey.

The second woman who stood out to me was an elderly woman who has lived in La Carpio for sixteen years. She was a beautiful, strong woman. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that she must have seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood over the past sixteen years. She looked directly at me and said, "Yes, I have seen a lot of changes, and they are all because of you." Her response surprised me. She went on to tell me how the work that we have done in La Carpio has changed everything. By caring for the people, providing a safe place for their children to play, providing the medical clinic, and not giving up on them, we have changed La Carpio. I was humbled by her response and full of joy to know that somehow God has used me and Community of Faith to make a difference in the life of these sweet people. That's what the Gospel is all about. 

Here are a few pictures from the week:

Medical Team: Lindsay, Lisa, Claudia, Dr. Keller, me

Mono, Maykol, me, Roberto, and Freddy

Family time!  Sarah, Sydneyann, Ashley, Callie, me

Fun with friends! Gretchen, Teri, me

Me and my sweetie!

The Arenal Volcano - amazing!

We are headed to a week of vacation at the beach at Manuel Antonio. I'm not sure if we'll have internet access or not. If you don't hear from me, just know that we are relaxing and celebrating God's goodness toward us over the past year and a half!  

As they say in Costa Rica, "Pura Vida!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 17, 2010

Many of you have been praying for a young mother named Maria from Oaxaca, Mexico. Maria and I have been united in the battle against cancer. She first heard of my cancer battle through Mauri Johnson, one of COF's missionaries in Mexico. Mauri shared my story with her because she, too, was battling cancer. We became long distance prayer partners as we fought for our lives. Maria was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer several months before I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Saturday morning around 6:00 a.m., Maria lost her battle with cancer and went home to be with her Savior. She left behind a loving husband and several young children. The day before she died, Mauri held her close as Maria told her that she was ready to go. Maria told her that she would build their houses side by side in Heaven, because in Heaven the color of her skin wouldn't matter anymore. What a sweet picture of the reality of Heaven.

I can't wait for the day Mauri, Maria, and I will worship together as sisters at the feet of Jesus.

Thank you for praying for Maria. Please continue to pray for her family and friends as they grieve her loss.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"It's so beautiful!"

One of my frequent requests of God is that He allow me to see things with His eyes, to hear things with His ears, and to understand things with His insight. One day this week He gave me a glimpse of things through His eyes...

Monday morning we took the COF group down into La Carpio. La Carpio is one of the poorest areas of San Jose. The section of La Carpio where our community center is located is known as the "cueva del sapo" or "cave of the toad." It has a reputation here in San Jose as being very dangerous. Most people who live in San Jose have never been to La Carpio and don't plan to ever go there. Local gangs are active in this area. 

The first thing we did was take the group on a walking tour of the area to give them a feel for what life is like in La Carpio. We walked past small homes with dirt floors, built of tin and wood. We saw a couple of recent mudslides that had left some homes in precarious positions. We carefully tiptoed across sewage in the road. Laundry was hanging out on fence posts and bare bushes. Trash littered the sides of the road and tumbled into the toxic river passing through the neighborhood. Stray dogs, with their ribs prominently displayed through their skin, sniffed at our heels as we passed by. Electric cables criss-crossed the area as local residents rigged up access to have light at night. 

As I brought up the rear of the group, I heard one of the girls in the group exclaim, "It's so beautiful!" 

Her words stopped me in my tracks. I had never thought of mud or sewage or trash as beautiful. I had never thought of poverty as beautiful.  And yet that is what God saw that day - the beauty of La Carpio - and He showed it to this young woman who inadvertently showed it to me. 

As we made our way back to the community center God opened my eyes to the truth of her words. I stopped by to visit a family I have come to know over the years. The grandmother is the oldest person living in La Carpio, having lived to be over 100 years old. We reconnected with Devlin, a young girl who fell in love with Mark two years ago. I have her picture in my home office. Her smile upon seeing Mark was priceless! I stopped to visit with another young mother who introduced me to her newest son, David, who is two months old. He was perfect and gorgeous! We spent the afternoon hanging out with the precious people who make La Carpio their home. It really WAS beautiful!

  (photo courtesy of Ellen Olive)

Thank you, God, for letting me see with YOUR eyes!

"This is the message you have heard from the beginning: 
We should love one another." 1 John 3:11

Monday, July 12, 2010

Seeing the face of Jesus

Wow! The past five days have gone by in a blur, and I am finding it hard to put into words...

Last Thursday afternoon, Mark, Ashley, Callie, and I left San Jose and headed to camp with 60 kids from La Carpio and 11 kids from the children's home in Coronado. The camp is set in the mountains about two hours outside of the city. It is an absolutely gorgeous place; and an amazing place for the kids to be able to escape. They all had a great time being kids while at the same time learning about the love of Christ. The beds were horribly uncomfortable, there were drenching rain storms every day, and we ate rice and beans, literally, for every single meal for four days - but none of us would have missed it for the world! As I sat in the chapel Saturday night, singing praises in Spanish with my sweet Costa Rican kids, I was overwhelmed, again, with gratitude and love for my God. Thank you for letting me have some small part of their lives!

The internet is too slow for me to upload pictures here, but you can see a few on my Facebook page, as well as on our missionary, Steve's, blog at

Another incredible moment happened last week. Ashley and I went to go watch one of the La Carpio soccer teams play in a tournament (which they won!). The tournament took place on the soccer fields of an organization known as Christ for the City. As we were there, we met several of the people who work there. One woman's eyes opened in surprise as Steve introduced me to her. She broke into a huge smile and exclaimed, "I read your blog! I've been praying for you! I feel like I know you!" My heart was so full of wonder as I was reminded of how God put together an amazing worldwide team of people who have prayed for me and my healing on a regular basis for over a year. It was such an honor and a pleasure to meet one of these sweet friends face-to face and to be able to thank her for loving me through prayer. I am so humbled to be the recipient of so much love! Thank you! 

Sunday night a small team of people from Community of Faith arrived in San Jose to join in our work in La Carpio and in Coronado. Today, we spent the day in La Carpio strengthening friendships, making new friends, and hanging out with the kids. We spent time praying with them and praying for them; as well as praying for our missionaries here. We also celebrated the birthdays of two of the young men who we've been able to watch grow up over the last several years, Maykol and Manuelito. 

I haven't been to La Carpio in two years. Changes and improvements in the community are evident. Progress is being made. But the most amazing changes have taken place in the lives of the children who live there. Many times today I was brought to tears as I saw glimpses of what God is doing here - young men and women with a heart to serve others, faces bright with hope and confidence, families growing and persevering in the face of difficult circumstances. God is at work in La Carpio. 

And again, I was overwhelmed with the kindness and love of the people. They have prayed for me over the past year, and they were happy to see me. I got so many smiles and hugs today, and many asking me how I am doing now. I even got an hour long neck and shoulder massage at the hands of two of the kids! It was such a sweet expression of love to me and it left me almost speechless - to know that God would love me this much!  I have seen the face of Jesus today and I have experienced his love through some of the most beautiful children in the world! Thank you, God, for one more chance to hang out in La Carpio!

For a quick glimpse of our day in La Carpio check out Ellen Olive's blog at

"It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Romans 9:16-17

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not Forgotten

The house I am staying in opens up to a big back porch. This is my favorite spot to sit and read my Bible and spend time talking to the Lord. The porch looks out onto a small grassy yard with two overgrown rose bushes and a orange painted wall topped with barbed wire. There is a big mango tree on the other side of the wall that is the home to some very fat birds as well as a small green hummingbird. 

As I sat outside yesterday morning I was thanking the Lord for the peace and quiet of this place. And then I had to laugh - quiet?? It is anything but quiet here! In that moment I could hear the wind in the trees, the birds and dogs, doors and gates opening and shutting, the neighbors talking, trucks in the street, the sound of sweeping, the song of the wind chime, and hymns being sung by the congregation down the street. All beautiful sounds to me!

This trip is somewhat of a celebration for me. Although we are working while we are here, I am personally celebrating the fact that I no longer have cancer - the incredible blessing of my restored health!  But it seems that all along the way I am reminded of so many friends who never got to have that celebration. I am here for them today. And as I sit on the porch enjoying the sounds of life, I bring each face to mind and I remember the things they taught me along the way, the hope and courage they imparted to me. And I pray for the families and friends of those who never had the chance to celebrate.  You won't be forgotten. 

God, please show us the cure for cancer. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dreams do come true!

Flying in to San Jose I look down and see the lush green hillsides dotted with red rooftops. I am overcome with emotion to be back in this country - one of my favorite places in the world. The tears come easily.

A year ago, when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I wondered if I would ever have the chance to go back to Costa Rica. I wondered if I would ever see the friends I have come to love and the children I have watched grow up over the years. I am so grateful that God has given me this opportunity!

I am met at the airport by some of my sweet friends, Antonio, Lapiz, and Roberto. They shower me with flowers, cameras are flashing, I feel like a movie star!

Today I wake up to the sound of birds singing, the sound of dogs barking, the smell of coffee roasting, and the the sounds of the street. I immediately open the windows and doors and welcome the cool morning breezes. I spend the day watching soccer, riding buses, worshiping in Spanish, and eating with friends. After a full day, I drop in bed exhausted and fall asleep to the incredible sound of heavy rain on a tin roof. 

Lord, I'm at a loss for words to thank you for this trip, for what it represents to me - I am alive. I am still alive. Thanks to you.

Antonio, Lapiz, Movie Star, Roberto

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dear COF

Dear Community of Faith,

I want you to know how very special each of you are to me. I feel so blessed to call you my friends, and to call COF my home.  It is such an amazing privilege to be a part of what God is doing here!

Thank you for standing with me over the past year. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we muddled our way through while hanging on for dear life! Thank you for persevering in prayer. Thank you for believing God for miracles and trusting in His goodness even when we were too weary to do so. Thank you for your hugs and your encouraging words. Thank you for sharing your strength with me. Thank you for telling me how good I looked as my hair was falling out and my belly was swelling. Thank you for letting me wear slippers to church, and letting me put my feet up on the chairs. Thank you for not laughing when I wore gloves inside. Thank you for laughing with me and crying with me. Thank you for celebrating God's victory with me! Thank you for "doing life together" with me! Thank you for truly being my family - for being my brothers and sisters. 

I have been blessed "exceeding abundantly beyond" all I could ask or think.

I love you all.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" Ephesians 3:20-21