Finding the Floor

We are winning the battle.  The 8 days since our move to Atenas have been filled with sortie after sortie on boxes, dirt,  and clutter.  In a climate with windows open most of the day, even the stuff we are regularly using gets coated with grime.  So, of course the things we had in storage all needed a good scrub.  Add to that the “conquering instinct” within me that wants to clean each nook, corner, and shelf before any of our stuff touches down, and you have an idea of our busy week.  The opposition’s one last stronghold is the office/school room.  Today I will launch an offensive to neutralize the area.  Every day, we take more ground, and liberate more of the floor in our house.  Freedom feels good.  Our nest is becoming cozy.

We’ve stormed some beaches in the ministry arena, too.  Matt has led (and driven) his first two teams on their beach outing, and gotten up to speed on the children’s therapy needs in the Home this week.  With three heaping carts between the two of us, we bought the groceries for the team arriving today, and packed out the car with farmer’s market produce.  We laughed about me practicing yoga in the car because the sack of pineapples filled up the passenger foot room.  I spent some quality time sorting the pantry in the team cabin, and got all sorts of inspiration for shopping lists organized by store aisle and price comparison expeditions.  Things are going well and we are making a difference here.

HijinksWe still have bumps, though.  While we’ve been living in Costa Rica for over 10 months now, changing houses, cities, and assignments —all at the same time—is its own brand of culture shock.  This morning, when my glasses got bent out of shape, I did, too.  What was a 5 minute drive and a 5 minute fix in Omaha, is an unknown undertaking here in our new home.  We got a lead on a place to try and scouted it out, but they were closed.  Without a schedule posted on the door, or a phone number to call, we’ll try again next week.  Hopefully, my gaze can get straightened out before our visit home in August.

We’ve come a long way.  We are settling into a rhythm of where things go around the house, and how to pitch in around Hogar de Vida.  The smell of baking bread has christened our kitchen.   Seeing the curtains from our Nebraska house flutter in the Costa Rican breezes does something sweet in my heart.   Our footsteps are beating some paths to familiar ground, but our toes are still nudging around in many areas.  We treasure your friendship and prayers as we walk through this transition.  There is still more floor to find.

 

 

 

 

Change in the Air

We can all feel it.  A desire to put away the grammar books and draw out conversation instead.  A focus on the new home to be settled into, and release of that forever-ambition to clean the light fixture in this one.  Heartstrings tug as we do life alongside language school friends, knowing there are only a few more runs to catch together, only a few more cups of tea shared face to face.  We have four weeks left of walking the same sidewalks, shopping the same Saturday morning farmer’s market.  Being newbies together in a foreign language/culture/country has forged some beautiful connections.

And yet, this was never the end goal.  The common thread of learning Spanish has woven us together for a time, but different expressions of Christ’s love in different countries form the ultimate tapestry.  As Aragorn said to Arwen in the movie version of The Two Towers, “This is a dream.”   “Then it is a good dream,” she answered.  That is just what this time has been.

2014-04-18 Atenas House 009 colorIt’s hard to leave.  All of the questions we set aside to embrace Spanish have risen in a new tide.  Will we like our new home?  How long will it take to learn the ropes there?  Will we be good at our area of ministry?  How will our kids adjust?  All of the now-familiar paths and places will make way for another round of breaking trails—marking out the way to the grocery store, orienting to new unmarked streets, learning how to pay bills, finding the bank/doctor/dentist/hospital/pharmacy.  The structure of our days will change again.  For our family, school will move back home as most of Matt’s work transfers out of it.  This season of having my best friend by my side all day as study partner, navigator, and negotiator will come to a close.

I have felt the stress, had it nudge me out of bed to be prayed over and sorted through.  And to be honest, I have it easy.  I have a house already rented and most of its furnishings gathered.  We’re heading to a town I’m familiar with, where we already have relationships and a working knowledge of our ministry home.  My heart goes out to braver friends leaving for new countries and ministries that they’ve barely met.  If my transition is difficult, theirs is heroic.

Being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at change, it means you keep taking steps forward until the Lord brings you out on the other side.

Breaking break for the first time in our rental house.

First lunch in our rental house.  With PB&J, who needs furniture?

Each change has a price tag, some easy, some dearly bought.  But this path of following Jesus is also blessed with celebrations along the way.  Friendships made that will last a lifetime.  Our sweet little kitchen, waiting to be filled with the smell of baking bread and meals for mission teams.  The 12 gallons of paint in our laundry room, ready to color a house into home.  Fun Spanish conversations like we had with the paint reps, explaining the English names of the colors–“What is bisque anyway?”   Little fingers and toes to hold during morning devotions.  Smiles to charm out of shy faces, laughter to share with outgoing ones.  Connecting with people from around the world with a common heart to live for the Lord.

This transition is both tender and exciting.  We are about to step into the dream that the Lord gave us at the very beginning of this journey.  Language school has been a challenging, yet beautiful time of preparation.  May the Lord bless us all as we go forward to serve, wherever He may lead us.

 

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