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

Making Angels

After a small saga of delays, our new carpet is finally installed, and the house is one giant step closer to being ready for the market.  Considering their future on unyielding tile, the kids took some time to enjoy soft poly fibers on the floor.  In the absence of snow, they made carpet angels.

All that exuberant appreciation got me thinking.  I’ve been spending time clearing away the old (thank you Craigslist, Goodwill, sanitation engineers, etc.) and working to lay the new (contact lists full of amazing people who want to keep in touch, applications for language school, gatherings and letters to share the vision) of our ministry in Costa Rica.  But it was high time to pause for a moment and count the blessings of our calling.  So I swirled my thoughts over the goodness of God’s plans for us, and made an angel of gratitude.  The wings and wisps are formed by:

  • The opportunity to make friends from around the world and to share the Lord’s work in their lives as they serve at the Home of Life.
  • The richness of becoming a bilingual family–although Matt and I will have to come up with a new way to talk “over the kids’ heads.”
  • The adventure of learning Costa Rican culture and a new way of doing life.  Rainy seasons, rambutan fruit, pace of life redefined.
  • Getting to care for at-risk children and speak blessing over them.  I love Matt’s brown eyes, but all our children got my blues.  Now I’ll have a host of bright dark eyes to love.
  • The tremendous gift it is that the Lord wants to use us in this way.  Here we are, Lord.  Send us.
  • The support of so many awesome people joining with us in this kingdom work.  Kisses to the side of the cheek for all of you.
  • The chance to trust God for what seems impossible and to see Him provide.  He is doing it.
  • Seeing the talents that He gave us fit like puzzle pieces into a whole new future of walking with Him.

Costa Rica by way of Guatemala–Part 2

Our first taste of Guatemala stretched my comfort zone beyond North American norms.  Global missions were no longer just something for other people to do, they were our hands getting dirty, our arms around precious children.  We saw God move in teams and through them, and we could not get enough of it.  Holding onto 1 Samuel 30:24’s promise that the rewards of victory are shared between the ones who go out and the ones who stay to guard the camp, we supported others as they served in the nations and took more trips ourselves whenever the Lord led us.  Over the course of two 10-day men’s teams (one where I went along to help save the guys from their own cooking) and a 4-week family stay, we saw that the Spirit had our compass pointed steadily toward the Home of Life in Costa Rica.  We connected with the children and grown-up people there in a way that made us family.  Although always excited to go and give my all, I still appreciated being able to come back again afterwards for things like paychecks and doctor appointments.

God spoke to Matt again in the fall of 2008, calling our family to pursue full-time ministry there in the land of rainforests, to host teams and do life with the people we loved.  Matt had his arms wide open, waiting for the fulfillment of the promise.  Expecting the third wonderful addition to our family in the coming spring, I was again in a “no reception zone.”  As Ezekiel learned how to sleep through the night and tottered his first steps, the Lord Himself took up the “can you hear me now?” process, gradually bringing up my volume level.  There was a lot of change to acclimate to, where I had been content with the status quo.  Over the months He reminded me of all the ways I had been prepared for this calling, of the hope to fully go and serve that I didn’t even admit to myself.  But still it was hard to release the life I already knew to take our family into the unknown.

We thought it was a celestial joke when Matt and I were asked to lead a team to Guatemala in the summer of 2011, and friends who had served for months at a time in Guatemala took their team to Costa Rica.  A divine episode of trading spaces?  Ministry swap?  Definitely humorous, but profoundly powerful.  Our first impression upon returning to Guatemala after five years away was a longing for the tiny cabina and the other brown eyes on our hearts.  Sharing new experiences with our team, God’s work surrounding us, and the dear people of Guatemala were all a delight.  We coiffed hair with sparkly barrettes and shared a nonverbal gospel skit in two mountain villages, jumped off of cliffs into the river pool with the children, blew bubbles across hillsides, played soccer (badly), and hemmed pajama pants.  We roared with laughter at one person’s mistaken purchase of a beer rather than the soda she wanted from a gas station, the transformation of another person from reserved to gregarious at 8:00 p.m. each evening, and the daylong comedic stylings of our team humorist.  We rallied around one team member as she stepped into her gift of prophetic insight and another as she became comfortable with praying aloud in a group.  But we knew with certainty that Costa Rica was the focal point of God’s plan for us.

Spending time with Norm and Vickie Sutton, the missionaries who host teams at the Home of Life in Guatemala, was the pinnacle of the trip for me.  We knew them affectionately from that first trip back in 2006, and wanted to hear more about their recent launch to serve full-time. It wasn’t hard to spot the divine setup.  Their testimony with its difficulties and encouragement harmonized with the Lord’s persistent whisper in my heart.  I was undone by the clarity of the 5-bar signal.  If the Lord was so faithful to them as they walked this path, He would be faithful to us.  Tears flowed.  I surrendered my “no”–the desire to stay in the predictable security of our life in the States–and gave the Lord my “I will.”  Change my heart again, Lord, to want what You want.  The trust fall began.

The creativity of the one who made the flowers and the heavens still amazes me.  Only He would use a trip to Guatemala to spark the pilot light on our calling to Costa Rica, and then 5 years later, ignite the burner in those same mountains.  “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” Proverbs 16:9.   What a privilege to see what He will use that fire to refine in us and inspire in others over the next 5 years.

Costa Rica by way of Guatemala–Part 1

Learning the Windows 8 operating system has reminded me of some of my as-yet-unredeemed character traits.  When things don’t work the way I expect them to–or don’t work at all–I can get my grumble on.   It’s easy to assume that if something isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, it’s a Windows 8 glitch (of which there are many).  I spent days irritated at the lack of sound on my laptop’s video application before Matt discovered that the volume default was set to mute.

Similarly, back in 2006, my spiritual ear was set on mute with regard to global missions.  Matt went a gentle nine rounds with my “no” when the Lord spoke to him about the two of us serving in Guatemala that summer.  Who would take care of our kids for 10 days?  How would it feel to leave them for so long?  Where would the funds come from?  Would we need shots?  It was all just too messy to pursue.  Grumble.  Exasperated with the direction I couldn’t hear, I eventually went to the source and huffed out a “Lord!”  His still, small voice asked me, “Do you want My way or your way?”  My heart squinched up it’s little face, balled it’s fists, and proclaimed, “I want MY way!”  Then, knowing where that rebellion would lead in the end, my self-righteousness deflated.  I repented.  That moment I became close friends with a prayer that has changed my life over the years since, and will surely serve me well the rest of my days: “Lord, help me to want what You want.  Help me to want Your way.

We signed on for the trip and I emotionally muscled my way through the first meeting.  Over nachos with the leaders after the second gathering, I enjoyed a revelation with my queso:  this was going to be a lot of fun.  So I put my shoulder to the yoke, and we got busy.  Letters written, Psalm 91 prayed, skirts scored via Goodwill, vaccinations updated, culture-adjustment book read, and a lot of laughter shared.  The Lord overwhelmed us with encouragement and provision–enough to pay all of our expenses and another team member’s as well.  As we lingered over goodbyes at their grandparents’ house, our children were eager to begin the special time with people they loved.  Our then 4-year old daughter gently took my hand and interrupted the conversation with a loving, “I want you to go now.”  All cleared for takeoff.

We set off on the trip that opened our lives to serve beyond the box of our language,  culture, and comfort.  Many lessons were learned: how to brush your teeth with bottled water, how to pace yourself during days filled with activity, how to tailor four formal dresses with a few needles and a lot of God-inspired creativity, how to look around for the hot water knob in the shower <shiver>, how to be content with your assignment and not covet your husband’s, how to NEVER AGAIN drink a large shake before a 3-hour restroom-less drive up the mountain.

We could see the impact of our love and effort.  Four young ladies were celebrated at a beautiful coming of age quinceañera (fifteenth birthday fiesta).  A developmentally delayed baby girl made so much progress than Matt had to credit the Lord’s goodness rather than his own physical therapy skills.  The local women were treated to an afternoon tea complete with spa treatments, gifts, and a time of worship where the Lord spoke to them about uniting in spirit despite their different congregations.  The courtyard wall shared with the town’s prosperous witch doctor was fortified with prayer.

And perhaps most important of all, my heart grew.  It occurred to me for the first time that English might not be God’s favorite language.  I fell in love with the brilliant colors and stoic expressions of people who lived in a simplicity I had never considered before, with the beauty of mountains and cultures that I had yet to ascend.

Introducing “1000 Words” Posts

I’m usually pretty capable of cranking out 1,000 words at any given moment. My husband will verify this, especially at bedtime when he’s drifting off. Whether those slurries of words are of interest to people outside of marriage vows (and sometimes even in them) is another story.  I would like to start a new feature here on TheGoodNewsFamily to make it easier for me to share my heart for our global launch to serve at the Home of Life in Costa Rica.  A picture is said to be worth that much in verbiage, sometimes even more.  Please enjoy a few of my favorites and the (brief) reasons why.

Coming Home to Cabin 5

Our home for 5 weeks this summer.  There is a beauty to doing life in a small house when you are surrounded by glorious weather (I even love the rain) and warm people.  Itty bitty living space, phenomenal cosmic life.

Every morning of our stay, the skyline above was the breathtaking view from the rocking chairs on our front porch.  Cue the symphony of birdsong, crickets, and gecko chirps, pour the coffee, and breathe in the presence of the Lord.  Blessings!