In light of celebrating 5 years at Casafé…here is a little video my brother made!
We were privileged to have Paige Guthrie come and serve with Casafé for just under 3 months. Paige was a huge blessing to the ministry of Casafé during her time here. She served whole heartedly and connected really well with the youth. Paige was a huge help with the regular Casafé events, from teaching English class, cleaning, caring for the dogs, to pouring into the youth. Those spur of the moment ministry opportnities when someone shows up at the gate, whether that meant a fun surf session with our beloved youthies, or making a sandwich for someone in need, Paige was always there to lend a helping had. She served with many behind the scenes things as well, and also wrote several posts for the blog. The recent advent posts are all her work!
Just before Christmas we had to say “see ya later” as Paige is now moving on to another season of her life – soon going back to university. Thank you Paige for giving of your time, energy, resources, and your heart to serve at Casafé and the community of Jacó! May God continue to bless you in this next step!
On the night before Christmas, in my family, we would light the very last candle and read the very last story before we went to bed for the night, awaiting the next morning with anticipation. This was the night. The night when the house was lit with a light unlike any other night, when we gathered together, sat, and sang Christmas carols until our eyes were droopy and our hearts overflowing. I love this night. It seems there can never be so much hope as on Christmas Eve, no more love than our family gathered around our candles all lit up, no more joy than your faces in the glow of the merry flames, and no more peace than the calmness found in the space between us. On this night there is never any doubt in my mind: this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Especially in these days of darkness, or shocking stories told on the nightly news, of people hurting, or children exploited, of entire people groups abandoned and left to search for a new home, of the death of loved ones to every illness imaginable, of lost souls seeking comfort in the very corners of sin – where they think they are invisible, in a time when suicides are all too common, a time when it feels we have never been further from our Creator until now, and we will be further away tomorrow. Christmas is our reminder. Otherwise it can feel hopeless, chaotic, restless, overwhelming, and as if peace is foreign in this world, an immigrant not allowed to enter. It can feel empty, joyless, like nothing you do will ever satisfy. It can feel devoid of love as you watch the light in your belly die out and your future turn bleak.
Children of God!
We need to take advantage of this season in our homes, in our ministries, in our jobs, in our communities, families, friendships, and acquaintances. This season is needed most in these days. When it seems all turns to black, dark, messy, and ugly; we need a reminder of our salvation more than ever before.
We need the reminder of hope in our bleakness. The promise we have been given, allowing us to look to a new world devoid of sin. The ability to bear the sickness of this world in light of the health of the next. We are able to look past the darkness here as it is lit up by the one who is preparing us a new home. We don’t have to ever wonder if that blackness will win, it has, indeed, already been defeated.
We need the reminder of peace. We need to remember its importance. We need to give it the visa into our hearts and lives, a place to live, and a job to perform. We need to share this peace. We need to tell those caught in the crossfire of this earth, there is peace for them. Tell those living with illness, with rejection, with abuse, with abandonment…tell them there is peace for them. Tell them there is a God seeing more than us, seeing the entire picture, and He loves us. Tell them he’s got control of this one. He has got all of them. Tell them it’s his Christmas gift to them. The peace of knowing we are in the hands of the one who made the entire earth.
We need to remember the choice we have been given to accept joy in our lives. To be reminded that even as all seems lost, all seems done for, as if nothing we do now could ever save our world, we can look beyond to see joy. God died so we don’t have to agonize over the bleakness of our home. We can accept the brokenness, work in His name against it, and choose to be joyful in the promise made to us in spite of the present circumstances of our temporary world.
We need to remember the characteristics of God’s love for us, the most important component involved: the unconditional-ness of this tsunami of affection. Remember, he sees everything, and STILL loves you. Even though he saw that one thing, even though you aren’t where you thought you would be today, he sees that, and he carries it for you in His heart, never allowing it to take away his love for his child.
In the final days of this season, we must think on these things, share them, and stare them dead in the eyes to see the awesomeness available there.
Here at Casafé we shared that as best we could this season. Bringing Christ to our youth through hope, peace, joy, and love. We want them to have more of Jesus, we want us to have more of Jesus, and we want you to have more of Jesus. In the fine print of this advent season we can see, as a whole of humanity, we all need more Jesus. So my prayer this year, for my youth, for the Casafé team, for everyone reading this, and for everyone not – that we all get more of Jesus, in every season of the year.
I wish I could share the experience of being out on the water surfing with our youth, the sheer joy they exude when they get the perfect wave, or some tube action, or a glimpse of the next set. I wish I could share the sounds of their laughter drifting in and out of the waves as they tease each other, compete with each other, and share tails of their surfing victories. There’s no way to properly video the post-surf-rinse-time when everyone gathers around the shower to rinse themselves and their boards of the salty water sticking to their skin. The rapid fire Spanish bouncing off each others damp towels and wet feet as they pass around bananas and pour each other some coffee. It is impossible to capture the beauty of their laughter bubbling out of their gut as they joke over smoothies; the evening sunset lighting the room with a pink glow. It is impossible to capture with pictures and even words, the community we have built here. With Christmas here it is even more bright and happy than usual as gifts are passed around and we all remember the birth of our Jesus.
How easy it is to see the love they all have for each other and for us during these times we get to spend together; it fills the house and the atmosphere around it. It extends onto the beach and can be seen by passers-by as they watch the massive group of youth run towards to water every week and their shrieks of joy as they catch the “biggest wave ever”! It is enough to bring anyone a warm feeling to their heart. Not that it’s cold, because it is impossible to be cold here, but you get the gist.
One thing I always ponder when I think on the topic of love, in light of our youth, is the fine line they must draw for themselves. Here at Casafé we teach the youth not to be friends with the world. We teach them not to indulge in the Jaco party culture and desperate attempts to escape their struggles.
We teach them to love their neighbours as themselves. Yes. Even their enemies.
How confusing it must be to be told to love your enemies, but also told not to be friends with the world.
Love is such a widely discussed phenomenon that we have an entire day set up to celebrate it, we have millions of books written about it, every song (it seems) on the planet is influenced by it, and every person has a story about it. Love can, they say, conquer evil. It is said to be the best thing there is, worth living for. People say love can achieve anything and with love all things are possible.
But, why don’t we have songs about loving those you’d rather hate? Those who you wish you could live without. The enemies of your life.
Why don’t we write books about following the greatest commandment we were given? We are told plainly in Leviticus 19:18 to “not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.” How much clearer can it get?
How are we supped to walk the line between loving our enemies, and not being friends with the world (James 4:4)? Does one contradict the other?
How do we teach this to our youth? Our youth, faced with their culture, and the culture of their Church. Two cultures contradicting each other, teaching opposite things to these impressionable youth. How do we tell them to balance on that tightrope?
How about the boy who attends Church, youth group, and Casafé, has a budding relationship with God, and whose mom is a prostitute? How do we walk that line with him? How do we teach him to approach his relationship with his loving, caring mom? How do we bridge these worlds for him in his mind? In his world? How do we allow the message of a life following Christ, and a life loving his mother? When both messages are so important, but could easily be seen as contradictory.
How do we demonstrate to them that to love like Jesus is to love people even when things are unfair. A big theme with our youth is fairness, if one of them gets cookies, they all want cookies and will make their voice heard on the matter. In that light, Jesus loves even if it isn’t fair. Jesus took on all the sins of the world, one who was completely sinless died for all our sins, I wouldn’t exactly call that fair.
A gift we want to give this season is the gift of freedom though love. There is no need to hold those grudges or make those enemies. We don’t have to keep track of everything and keep things fair all the time. We are free to love people just for being people. We can approach anyone and everyone and love them like the brothers and sisters they are. How amazing! We don’t have to keep tabs anymore, we don’t have to hold onto this angst.
I can one-up this.
We don’t have to worry about JESUS keeping tabs and remembering all our mistakes. We don’t have to worry that God knows everything we have ever done or hold onto the lie that he loves us according to what we deserve.
No, God loves us unconditionally.
Even that one thing you hold against yourself. What a gift to share with our youth fighting the battles they fight. Involved in the war they are caught in just by living where they do. Yes, they are called to fight against the temptations to be friends with the world and seek Jesus with their entire beings; but when they fail and make mistakes, Jesus still loves them. He still loves all of us after countless lifetimes of mess-ups, pain, and disappointment. Our father sees only his children, who he loves more than anything.
This season we want to love freely. We want to let the love God has for us overflow to everyone we meet, especially to our beautiful youth. We want to pour into this community with everything we have and more, we want God to use us in ways we could never have imagined.
This is the life we have been called to. One of giving and giving and giving without ever expecting anything in return. This is the blessing of being a disciple, to give until we have nothing left and to let God make up the difference.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if God regrets his promise not to flood the world again; if he looks upon his earth and shakes his head at himself for telling Noah all those years ago he’d spare His people. These days can sometimes feel like a perfect time to start over; as if there might be no other solution to the oppression this world is under. We live surrounded by sin, by the darkness summoned by sin, and in the consequences of sin. In an attempt to sound lighthearted, it’s a desperate time. We are all searching for comfort in different ways. We want to be happy.
One thing about happiness: it is a feeling, and it goes away. Every time we find it, it eventually disappears. It is a repetitive need, unforgiving in its demands, insatiable, a cruel master to its desperate slave. Looking around at our societies, one can easily glimpse seekers of the high granted by short-lived happiness. They will get it, and on second glance, they will lose it. Before long all one can see is desperation, panic, anxiety, and fear. Frantic to escape the reality of the world, we have become a people willing to let go of our morals to please ourselves. Upon arrival of the darkest places in their lives, people will say they never thought they would go that far. To the ugly places. You know them. They are in the news, they are what the justice agencies fight against, they are the reasons places like Casafé exist. Child pornography, prostitution, drunks just aiming to blackout and forget their pain, drugs, criminals, bullies. Do not look away from these things and pretend they do not exist. Let yourself feel the discomfort, the victims of these abuses are begging to be noticed, for someone to look their situation in the eyes, feel the discomfort, and DO something about it.
Christmas can easily be a season of happiness. It’s the easy option to use this holiday as a reason to indulge in the happy. Easy to fall into the cozy comforts, settle into our brightly lit homes, and forget the dark places. Forget the pain inflicted by the beasts lurking there. Preying on the powerless and innocent, never thinking twice, never showing mercy.
Our youth are victims of the ugly. They were brought up in the ugly, they have not been guided through the ugly, they are doing their best crawling through it, on their own, uphill, both ways. It is the world they know. It screams bloody murder in the midst of discussions during bible study when, as young teenagers, they almost always bring up drugs, prostitution, alcohol, tattoos, and murder. When their prayer requests include the starving homeless man they saw on the street last week, and they say they hope he is still alive. When, upon being asked, the youth tell you once again, no, their mom isn’t around tonight to make them dinner. When teen pregnancy is blatant.
The darkness permeates everything, until the light intrudes in a company of hope, peace, joy, and love. There is a war between our God and the devil, and we see it every day in our own lives. The Christian community is small and mighty in Jaco, and we have so much work ahead of us.
The original sin threw the world into this chaotic whirlwind war. One we will be caught in as long as this world exists. We have no choice but to fight in it, for to give in would be a donation to the darkness. This much we know to be true, we fight this war with God.
But (and here is the part where this post actually gets joyful) we have reason to rejoice.
The great I Am has already sent his son to die for us. It is done. It is finished. And it will never change.
There is something we have a choice in.
The difference between happiness and joy, while happiness is a feeling, joy is a choice. And what an incredible choice there is to make. What an amazing message to bring to our youth, to all those who have been touched by the murky black shadows of this earth, to everyone. At the end of all this, we have a perfect life, with our perfect creator, our Father. This is our joy, the coin burning a hole in our pocket, the secret we let light up our whole lives, the best news ever, and greatest story ever written, and the best present from our Dad. Brothers and sisters we have news to share with those hurting from the ugly.
We are here to share that news, to help the hurt heal, and to light up the room for those trying to feel their way in the darkness. We want to illuminate their path with the light of God, and give them the choice of joy.
Such a simple word for such a huge decision. God gave us this decision. Immanuel: God with us, means there is nothing that could happen to us that could ruin our joy.
No darkness, in the light of the cross, can triumph.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
He has made himself the rock in our lives, he has shouldered the battles we fight against the ugly of today, he has taken on the risk and traded it for our freedom, he has promised us a perfect life with Him, and he has already given us the best gift we could ever imagine receiving.
It is already done.
God has allowed us to make the decision of joy. Pure joy. In the presence of the darkness of the world we have the cross banishing the ugly, creating the option of joy, true joy. We have received the best gift.
This brings light into our lives. With reckless abandon we can let go of the ugly tying us to the world and live within the light of the gift we have been given.
What a light for our youth. In the darkness of the world, the darkness of Jaco, the light of the cross continues to banish the temptations, light a path, and lend strength those battling the long nights. There is joy for those who cannot maintain the happy. There is joy for those who have gone down every path looking for their next high. There is joy for those who have been to their lowest lows and survived. There is joy for those touched by the light.
This season when you think of joy, think of the light banishing darkness, causing sin to cower, and freeing the slaves bound to the pursuit of happiness.
Think of it as it reaches towards the youth of Casafé, telling them of the gift promising more than happiness ever could.
I was blessed to grow up in a peaceful home. I had the love and affection of two amazing parents and an understanding brother. I had the counsel of both my close and extended family, and I learned these people in my life were trustworthy. This was a firm foundation for me. Sometimes I ask myself who I would be without that stable home. I wonder if I would be as strong as these youth are. I wonder if I would have been as brave as they are. I wonder if I would have been as lighthearted. As happy. As welcoming.
These youth are my superheroes.
You see, on the one hand they have the streets of Jaco and her influences. Their backyards are essentially the streets. This would be fine if say, the town was positively influencing and raising these children and youth, however, to put it simply: it is not. There is nothing family friendly, it seems, about these streets. The openness of prostitution is glaringly blatant, the use of alcohol and drugs is impossible to ignore, and the clubbing scene is a popular nightly pastime. For many of these youth, their families live this lifestyle. They are influenced into trying these things and getting involved in these habits. At a young age they have big choices to make. Things they need advice on, but for many, their parents are not around enough to give that advice. Many are single parents and work full time to provide for their kids, many leave their kids to themselves while they work. Many of these youth come home from school to an empty house.
On the other hand they have the Church, Casafé, and the ever growing christian community. The Church is offering something good. The Church is offering an escape. It’s offering the life that Jesus died to give us, an easy yoke with the Father. These are all good things. However, the Church and culture of Jacó clash. Man, do they clash. These two cultures are constantly fighting. One shames the other. One judges the other.
Imagine knowing no matter what you do, someone will look down on your decision. Someone you respect.
Now imagine doing all this without a stable family to help. No one to answer all the questions raging around your brain.
Why are drugs bad, when everyone I know is on them? Is swearing ok or not? Why do some people say I can drink and others don’t? Why do some people say tattoos are bad and yet their friends have them? Why is everyone telling me something different?
There’s no family at home to answer the hard questions. Mom isn’t around to tell you not to swear, or to say it’s fine. Dad isn’t there to tell you about dating girls, so you go and ask your pastor at Church, but also your buddy on the street. Your parents aren’t home enough to notice you aren’t doing your homework at all, or that you’ve been sleeping all the time. That you slept through your last exam. That you’re failing you class. That the missionary at Casafé is the only person pushing you to go to school and work hard. They don’t notice you’re sick.
They balance two worlds at war, on their own. They walk the tightropes of uncertainty and no right answers, they make decisions well beyond their years, they grow up earlier than they should have to; and yet, they are gracious at their core.
These youth are warriors.
They get caught in the crossfire.
All. The. Time.
A war, a spiritual war, is being waged around them.
It is uncomfortable to think about the Church contributing to this war, to the crossfire these youth get caught in. Trust me, I know.
To fight the war they fight. To make the decisions they make. To accept the scrutiny of their peers no matter what decisions they make. This is brave. This would be hard even with a strong family supporting you. Without it? Impossible, at first glance. And yet, here they are, making those decisions every day.
Jesus has peace for them.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
A calm. A for sure. A stable. He isn’t ever gonna be too busy for them, he won’t ever not be there when they get home and he will always take a second, or a thousand, to listen to them. Casafé is a place of peace. We want to remind them of the gift waiting for them to receive. No matter what stage of life they are in, they can rest and enjoy the peace God has given them.
This is what we want this season to bring them. More than the trivial decorations and songs. We want our youth to come to Casafé and feel peace. We want to share that incredible gift with these who need it most. We cannot take this war away from them, but we can offer them the same gift offered to us, offered to all believers, peace. Pure, unadulterated, peace.
I can’t think of a single gift better for our youth at war with the dark side of this world.
Christmas has descended upon Casafé in a flurry of lights, candles, trees, crafts, and lovely scents that make us think of pine trees in a soft breeze. Parties are being planned, food is being cooked, greetings are now turning to Merry Christmases, and it continues to get hotter and hotter as the days go by. This is a time for traditions, for gifts, for celebrations, and the perfect time to remember the sacrifice made by our creator so long ago, the same sacrifice that made all this possible, and yes, the one made by a God who is able to withstand all our silly traditions and meaningless symbols. While these symbols, the tree, the snowflakes, the decorations, and the wreaths don’t really make a whole lot of sense as far as the real reason for Christmas, some do.
Growing up I always used to celebrate Christmas with advent. My family tried to do a Bible reading every night, and then every Sunday we would gather around and light the next candle for that week: Hope, Peace, Love, Joy, and then finally the Christ Candle at the very end. This was always a journey we took as a family at the end of the year. A tradition calling us deeper into one another as a unit, and deeper into the one who made us as our Father. Once we got to the last day, the day before Christmas, we would light them all, and then some more. We turned off all the lights in the house and filled it with candle light, placing the Christ candle somewhere central. A symbol of the light of the world, the gift that saved us from darkness. This was always a beautiful time in our family home, gathered around a collection of candles. As we got closer to Christmas it got brighter and brighter until on that very last night we were bathed in this light, illuminating every inch of our home.
This tradition is in my blood, in my heart, and in my mind; I will be shaping the month of December posts around advent. One post for every candle. Every post will take that candle’s word and use it as a lens with which to see Casafé and its going-ons.
That being said, it’s the first week of December, its the first week of advent, and if you didn’t guess by the title, that means it’s Hope week!
There is so much to be hopeful for in this season! I think we can easily get caught up being hopeful for little things: the trees, the lights, the snow (if you have such a thing where you live), the baking, the meals, the gifts, and the shopping. While I do not speak down on these things, as I am very, very, well known to enjoy all of them; they are simple hopes, they are not heavy in weight, nor hard to bear. It’s easier that way. Being hopeful for the big things is hard, it’s heavy, it isn’t joyful and bright and happy and sweet and it doesn’t always make you feel good. To be hopeful for something, something better, means accepting that what we have, where we live, who we are, are ultimately broken, and we have to embrace that, in order to be properly hopeful for something better.
I was recently reminded of the weight these youth carry on their shoulders. This week’s Bible study started off with a review of the previous week. We are studying James every Wednesday with the youth; we discussed James 4:4 last week, discussing what it means to be friends with the world. When asked for examples of things of this world, these youth, aged 12-15, named off drugs, prostitution, and parties as their first three examples. These are heavy examples of worldly things. At a young age these youth were exposed to the dirty side of this world, the imperfections, the sins, and all the consequences of the first mess-up back in Eden.
This week we talked to them about submitting to God, resisting the devil, and coming nearer to God as we wash our hands of the sins around us and in our lives (verses 7 and 8). The closer we draw to God, the further we pull away from these things of the world seeking to draw us as far away from our creator as spiritually possible. The more we resist the devil and the hand tailored temptations he throws at us, the more hope we have of being close to Jesus. But what an incredible hope that is. Hope for a pure environment, hope for peace, hope for Jesus’ love, hope for unending grace. We hope because we believe, because we have faith, because God has proven himself faithful. God has promised all these things to his believers. The youth hear that message and they have so much hope. They are more than aware of the circumstances they live in and the things trying daily to get their attention. They have that much more hope, because of their fight day after day after day, that things will get better; there is a future where they can rest.
I can’t help but think, and, indeed, hope, this is what it means when we light the hope candle; that these youth who gather around on a patio lit with Christmas lights, in front of a beach during sunset, with wet swimsuits and towels, chatting about these truths; this is what hope is brought for. Jesus died for this group of preteens and teens who are trying their very best in a place working against them. I think, I daresay I believe, this is what it means to hope. In a time when drugs, prostitution, parties, alcohol, slavery, abortion, murder, and an entire world full of other crushing topics seem to control the attention span of humanity…this is our light. Our hope candle. We light it in the presence of despair, and the light wins every time.
These youth got it this week. I think they’ve gotten it for a while now too. This world is against them, they’ve grown up in a system designed for those in better positions than them and their families. They’ve seen the ugly sides of this world, and yet they still hope.
While many of you have already lit the Hope candle, I pray this still makes the Christmas season a little heavier, and a little brighter at the same time. I hope this season is uncomfortable for many, that things often tucked away during the celebrations would never be far from your thoughts, because these things are real and people are hurting. I also pray, however, that you can see, and bring, the hope originally brought to us by Jesus, and that those who ARE hurting can receive the gift of hope this season.
This is our commission, to bring the light of Jesus and to share the hope he gave us; as reminded to me by my brave, generous, gracious, and strong group of youth here in Jaco, Costa Rica. Be aware of the darkness, and share the light of hope this season.
The youth are full of energy! When I say full, I really do mean full! Surfing for two hours straight will not tire them out! Playing soccer for an hour on the beach will not tire them out! Throwing a frisbee will not tire them out! Doing all of the above in rapid succession will not tire them out!
This could have been an untapped resource. But not for us. We decided to harness that energy for good; especially since a lot of the youth like to arrive early. What better way to do it than to put them to work doing chores (thanks to all moms ever for that idea)! For certain chores they win a certain amount of points, once they earn enough points they can cash them in for a little item, some cookies, or a trip to the local ice cream store with us!
Every Tuesday our two regular students show up a half an hour early to rake and sweep the yard. The brothers work together as a team and have the routine down pat at this point. You can hear them talking, laughing, and teasing each other from anywhere in the yard; incessant chatter makes the work easier I guess! They never complain about how many leaves there, as there are always more than you would think possible for the short amount of time since it has last been raked. Instead they joyfully start without direction every week, stopping only when the yard looks good and they are satisfied with its appearance. As it is usually almost time for class at that point, they know to come in and find the snack that have already been set out for them.
One of the youth is fascinated by cars, and of course Pixie, the bull-mastif we are caring for at the moment. Every month or so, or as needed, he will come over to wash the car and make it look brand-spanking new all over again! He does not ask for anything in return for this, he has a heart for helping out where he is needed. Not to mention he makes the job fun not just for himself but for anyone in the vicinity! He will also come over at least once a week to walk Pixie; they get along smashingly.
Every Wednesday and Thursday the youth love to use the surf and boogie boards out on the water. We love this! We almost love it more when the boards get put away without us needing to ask! As an attempt to teach them to take care of things that are not theirs we always ask that they clean up after themselves, but every once and a while (when this is not done on its own) one of the youth will step up and get the job done, often cleaning up after their peers. This is so refreshing and is always rewarded when it’s seen.
Sometimes the youth want smoothies. In acts of service they will make them for each other and serve everyone first before making one for themselves. This is such a beautiful thing: to see them come together in community serving one another, and with food none-the-less! One of my personal favourite ways to bond! This is what Casafé is all about, growing a Christian community and empowering these youth to develop their spiritual walk; service is a huge part of that walk.
We love to learn about community from our youth and to see them thriving in the atmosphere Casafé has provided for them! These are all things to be thankful for, to reward, and to encourage.
Relationships are beautiful, hard, time consuming, transient, and worth every, single, moment. True relationships, the deepening and strengthening of relationships, happen in the unplanned moments. We plan Casafé weekly as a way to be intentional with our youth, to provide structure to their and our weeks, and to allow for consistency in their chances to meet with us and grow with God. Recently God has been showing us how good this is, but also how His ways are even better. His unexpected blessings are what life is made of, what ministry is made of. This applies to everyone. Whether your ministry is in Jaco meeting with kids every week and teaching them day in and day out, or is with your coworkers at work where you consistently have to remind yourself to share Jesus’ love through your words and actions, or it is in a school with tons of crazy kids whose only good role model is you. Whatever it is, wherever you are, whoever you are with, we are all in ministry.
Recently, God’s unexpected blessings have been coming in the form of disorder, altered plans, falling behind in work, and exhaustion. In the very best way possible. I write these with a smile on my face.
One of the things especially important in this ministry is the intentional relationships with our youth. This often means going out of our way to spend time with them when maybe we had other things planned. It means making ourselves available to surf when all we wanted to do was take a quick nap. It means going out of our way to give someone a ride, even though they’re going in the opposite direction. It means instead of writing about the ministry, like we had planned, we accompany some of the youth to a talent show so they aren’t alone. It means we let go of the bible study we had planned, because today, today God has brought along someone else who’s words need to be heard by our youth (read more about this in the update titled: “Guest Speaker”).
This is true for all intentional relationships. We must be willing to sacrifice to form these relationships and always trust that God’s plan is better. No matter what ministry you are in, making these intentional sacrifices to better the kingdom of God will never be wasted.
Every week the same two boys who always attend English class want to surf multiple times. We obliged, as they do not have very structured weeks (it’s better to be surfing than doing other things available to them in Jaco). In place of this we could have been working on ministry budgets, updates, websites, newsletters, Bible studies, class prep, or any of the other numerous things that occupy our days, but building realtionships with these boys is also very important. We are here to be in these relationships. Our plans will be thrown off for the week because we just spent a lot of productive hours surfing, but we don’t see it that way. We look at it as this: those hours were just spent in relationship with two souls who belong to Christ. Souls who are pursuing relationships with Him. Us simply being with them, surfing with them, talking to them weekly, and teaching them consistently are crucial moments; those things are providing a space where they are comfortable enough to take steps with God. If we did not sacrifice those hours, that space would not exist; it takes work to be in relationship.
Another member of the youth spent a lot of time around Casafé a few weeks back. His mom was out of town and he didn’t want to spend all his time alone at home. He would often came over to walk the dogs and partake in meals with us. We, again, took time we could have been using for all the “things” we had planned for the day. Instead we took the time to be there for him and make sure he felt welcome. This was a sacrifice, one we are called to make by our heavenly father. Love others as yourself. Oh how worthy a sacrifice it is.
We seek to see these things as pure blessings from the One who sees everything. While we may not always know the circumstances of those who walk through our doors every week, He does, and He will point us in their direction when we are needed. All we must do is listen and follow.
This Wednesday at Casafé we were blessed by the unexpected words from Pastor Luvin, a friend of Lisa’s. Pastor Luvin and his family had decided to make their own unexpected trip to see us just the night before; he and his family were camping in our backyard for the night. It looks like God had his fingers in all this. Shocking, I know.
This week we had not planned for any guest to come and speak, but Pastor Luvin and his family showed up just as we were about to start the bible study. Lisa was talking with them before we settled down and ended up asking if he wanted to share a few words. This was very on the spot as he had not prepared anything, we were not expecting him to say yes, but in true Costa Rica fashion he did! He took a couple minutes to jot down a few thoughts, and then got to it. What followed was beautiful. He captured their attention and had them engaged, he shared with them words they seemed to need to hear. The youth were involved, listening, and asking questions; not once did we ask them to be quiet. He was animated, he had them laughing, clapping, eyes attentive as he looked at all of them individually and brought the words to them personally. He was connecting with them. A stranger telling a story to a group of youth, captivating them.
This Wednesday our youth heard important messages. They heard to look towards good examples. They were told to run from sin. They were told to keep their eyes on the Lord. God wanted to speak to someone, or maybe many people that night and he swept aside any plan we had in order to do that.
Lisa and I often pray that God will do this. Every week, at the beginning of the week, we sit down and talk about the plan for the week, the things that need to get done. Every week, at the end of the meeting, we pray that God ruins any plans He wants to. That he messes things up and makes them so much better. This Wednesday we saw that in action. How beautiful to see these youth hearing these words with such enthusiasm. While this is not abnormal, it has so much more magic when it’s orchestrated so obviously by God’s hands. This was worship through flexibility and through storytelling.