Celebrations

They happen every day.  Sometimes I miss them, my eyes focused on the road ahead of me, the to-do list on my shoulders.  But when I catch a glimpse, and stop my busyness, my spirit looks up to share a smiling gaze with the Almighty.  A butterfly outside my window, a sweet moment with the children, a miracle unmerited.  I am leaning into the Lord’s heart in the celebrations He gives our family, both large and small.

  • Snowmen painted on my toes Tica-style in honor of the winter white stuff we miss on the prairie.
  • The little dear who eyed Matt with caution and shied away from his hand while we prayed over her entry into the Hogar de Vida family, running to give him a hug a week later.  Hearing the kids call out, “(Ma)Teo!” when he goes by.
  •  Flowering BeautyRealizing the soft blues and greens of the quilt I pieced before we launched to the mission field coordinate perfectly with the view of trees, mountains, and sky out our balcony.
  • The verification that our second language is taking root.  Yelling, “¿Qué está haciendo? / What are you doing?” without thinking when awakened from a dead sleep at 3:30 a.m. by someone’s loud footsteps on the neighbor’s tin roof next to our bedroom windows.
  • Sharing hospitality and life with friends around our table.  Cracking jokes and being real in Spanish and English.
  • Discovering the High School Musicals with my kids and savoring this season when singing the songs with their mom is still cool.
  • Laughing nonstop with House Tias on a 3-hour bus ride.  Hearing my name called out in the verbal melee, “Krease!”
  • Seeing Ezekiel charm team members, Eliana in her element helping out in the houses, and Elijah playing alongside boys his own age.
  • Feeling the Holy Spirit show up in a unique way each time I share my testimony with a team.
  • God’s mercy and my husband’s ingenuity saving my laptop after a baptism by pumpkin spice tea.
  • Celebrating our Elijah’s arrival into double digits and his growth into a tender warrior.
  • Sips of coffee and birdsong in the presence of the Lord each morning.  A basket ready on my dresser with bible, journal, candle, and everything else I might be tempted to leave my chair for.
  • The tiny infant who fussed night and day against some unknown anxiety, calming into peaceful smiles and trusting cuddles through Hogar’s united intercession before the throne of our good Father.
  • Standing here, humbled on holy ground, filled with gratitude for the provision, prayer, and affection poured out on us.  

River Running Rainmaker TrailWe would not be here without all of you.  It is an incredible privilege to be your hands and feet, serving in this land.  Often I ask, like David, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” 2 Samuel 7:18.

Thank you for every way that you have joined with us in this journey.  May the Lord of the harvest multiply each seed sown and return to you a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, poured into your lap this holiday season.  Merry Christmas from the Gnuses in Costa Rica.  A savior has been born.  May His light illuminate your 2015.

May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.  Colossians 1:11b-12 NLT

 

 

Hello Goodbye

I felt her almost before I saw her—a little girl blur running to wrap her 4-year-old arms around my legs and snuggle her cheek against my skirt. Taking in her bright pigtails and Sunday best, I greeted her softly, grateful for her warm welcome and the fact that I knew her name.  With Hogar de Vida’s fluid population of 35 children, I am always learning names.  Always messing them up, too.

My hands hugged her close as my heart came a little undone.  People milled around me, exchanging good mornings with tico flair.  They kissed to the side of one another’s cheek and asked about family members while I tried to freeze time.

We were freshly returned to Costa Rica, our new home.  For the 3 weeks prior, we had whirled through our first visit back to the states.  The dust of the Heartland was still clinging to my sandals.  Driving the smooth, well-marked roads had made it feel like our year of language learning and cultural adjustment never happened.  I found myself stepping lightly, holding on to the glow of seeing friends and family, of being fluent in the words on the street.  I was feeling strange again in the place we were called to.

Then this little butterfly of a child launched herself into my lap.  She stayed with me as worship cascaded around us, amusing herself with the buttons on my watch, the freckles on my arms.  The presence of the Lord was richer that morning.  I leaned with my whole spirit into prayers for her heart, her life.  Her giggle sang sweeter praise in the heavens than my voice lifted up.  She wasn’t the first at-risk child to warm my heart, but she was the first to reach so deep that I didn’t want to let go.

In the handful of weeks since, she often greeted me with light in her eyes and a leap into my arms.  I was her cradle as she drifted to sleep while Matt and I prayed over her.  We asked the Lord to break off the trauma of the past and lay a foundation of blessing in her life to grow on.  I assumed we’d have months if not years.

Looking AheadYesterday we said goodbye.

She was sweetly excited to go live with another family member.  Her little feet flounced her dress as she gave hugs and climbed into the cab.  And just like that, the butterfly took flight beyond my reach.  I probably won’t ever know if the bad dreams keep coming or if she feels safe in those new arms.

So this is what it feels like to put your love in a basket and send it downstream.  This is our calling:  to open our hearts and do what we can in the time we are given, then to trust the rest in prayer to the one who sees the bigger picture.   To embrace the hello, and live so that we can grieve the goodbye.

 

    . . .He will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and for evermore.  Psalm 121:7-8

 

Making a Difference

Sometimes we forget that we haven’t been able to sit down with each of you over Costa Rican coffee and Kris’s cinnamon rolls to flesh out the details of what the Lord is doing with our family.  In the absence of a cozy setting and some homemade deliciousness, we would still love to take a moment to share the impact of our ministry here in Costa Rica.

In this country where the average person earns $12,800 a year—compared to $50,700 in the U.S.— poverty, substance abuse, broken relationships, and harmful behavior patterns can separate children from their families of origin.  Hogar de Vida (the Home of Life) is there to receive them.  

Laughing KissesLittle hearts learn to feel safe again as they are cared for in family settings with the love of Jesus.  Mission teams come from the States to serve there and experience the Lord in life-changing ways.  Our calling is two-fold: to lighten some of the substantial burden of 24/7 care for 35 children and to host the teams that bless the Home of Life physically and spiritually.

Everyone knows that raising children costs money.  The funding to provide for this family of 35 little ones comes from three sources.  The government of Costa Rica pays for approximately 1/3 of the expenses incurred for the level of care that they require Hogar de Vida to provide.  This leaves a considerable gap that must be bridged by charitable contributions. It also explains the shortage in places of refuge for at-risk children.  1/2 of this gap is met through child sponsorships administrated through Children of Promise International.

Water Balloon FightThe other 1/2 is met through receiving mission teams from the States.  Teams spend their days doing much-needed work around the campus and investing into the lives of the children through bible teaching, hands-on activities, and playtime together.  The funds for team room and board also help to feed and care for the bright-eyed youngsters who love to give hugs and share laps during morning devotions.  Everyone has a lot of fun in the process.

From September 2013 to June 2014 we are flooring the accelerator in language school.  To serve at the home fully and host teams well, we have to be able to communicate in the heart language of Hogar de Vida.  Pray for us as we take on all 14 verb tenses and the tapestry of connections that weave new vocabulary together.  We enjoy the challenge and the hard work, but can use all the divine grace that we can get.  There is a big difference between grammar worksheets and fluid conversation.   We want to excel at both.

Come June, our responsibilities will include scheduling incoming teams, pre-trip communication and groundwork, coordinating the team’s work projects–getting dirty alongside them, too,  translating for teaching and prayer ministry, culture shock smoothing, meal planning and preparation, as well as stepping into the flow of what the Lord wants to do with each team in a spiritual capacity.

Kid Piling

Receiving teams is hard work as well as hard play. Hogar de Vida has only had the manpower to host a limited number each year. Our family’s help will make a huge difference as we take on much of the effort involved with hosting teams. We will serve the entire Hogar de Vida family in this capacity, and sow into new connections with the awesome folks who come down to serve with us. When people experience for themselves what the Lord is doing in the lives of children and grownups at the Home of Life, they are more likely to become a part of supporting it in a long-term way.

We hope to grow the number of teams that can visit each year. God uses short-term trips to change lives on both sides of the border. We are living proof.

When we aren’t busy with teams, we will be serving in a multitude of other ways.  Matt will be able to use his Physical Therapy background to help with the developmental delays of incoming children and to assist in the medical care and charting required for each child.  Frequently, the lifting and physical demands of the job leave the house-moms in need of therapy also.  Kris has a heart to improve the communication sent to child sponsors so that they feel connected with the impact of their giving and sustain a long-term relationship with their special little one.  And with 35 little ones, the laundry alone is a full-time job.

Barrel RidingWe will do life there, pitching in and working shoulder to shoulder as part of the Home of Life family.  And, of course, the 3-E’s will be by our sides, loving, playing, and serving along with us.  One of the best parts about this calling is that we all get to do it together.

This the work that the Lord has called our family to do.  But we cannot do it alone.

We are the hands and feet of a large team of incredible people who want to invest in the “least of these” in Costa Rica and to pour into divine intersections with North Americans.  We would love for you to be a part of it.  We are currently 75% funded for our ongoing monthly expenses.  That means that we are trusting the Lord for another $1,250 of partnership each month.  Your friendship and prayer support are an amazing blessing to our ministry.  If you aren’t already on-board, would you please pray about joining our journey through your financial support?  You can help us change lives in two nations.

Financial support can be made out to Shelter of Light and mailed to:

Shelter of Light

15555 West Dodge Road

 Omaha, NE  68154

Please write “Gnuse Family” on the memo line to designate the funds.

You can also make one-time or ongoing contributions online by creating an account with MyLifegate and entering your gift next to our names “Gnuse – Matthew & Kristine” under the General Giving > Global Workers drop down list.  Click  <here> to get started.

All support is tax deductible and gratefully received.

Thank you so much for helping us to make a difference to so many of God’s children, little and grown!

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  1 Peter 4:10