We missionaries live this really weird life.
There is always this tension, this pull. Between wanting to serve and live and embrace every single aspect of our host country, vs. days where every single thing about this country has you questioning your call and if there is an exclusion or a part (b) for missionaries on that tee-tiny statement Jesus makes about “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.
It is not easy to communicate. If we complain, it can offend our national friends. If we whine, it sounds like we are being petty. If we have a hard day it is hard to share why.
I recently put a picture of a pint of ice cream, and a Dr Pepper on my story at 8:30 am, and said “It is 5:00 somewhere.”
There was no context, because if I would have simply said, “As I was trying to merge on to the highway the oncoming car sped up, instead of moving into the empty lane and letting me merge, and that sent me to the store to buy comfort items at airport or Walt Disney World prices,” you all would roll your eyes. Then wondered, well how much of my missions dollars goes toward ice cream? Some of my missionary friends, would have thought 1) at least you have a paved road with an on-ramp 2) You can get Dr. Pepper? 3) If you can get Häagan Dazs in your country, can you really call yourself a missionary?
So then we are back to how real do we as missionaries get to be?
How do we articulate our everyday lives when we aren’t evangelizing, building, preaching, teaching. . . just the ordinary day where driving home from dropping your child off at school makes you want to pack up everything and come home.
So I am going to give you context.
We as a family felt called to Costa Rica to work with the indigenous people groups. Our missiology was simple, help develop Christian leaders who can reach their own people groups. We tried to do that through many different ways. We didn’t raise a big work budget, because we don’t believe in just handing out resources, instead we believe in equipping the local church to find the resources within their communities.
Well, three weeks ago, we opened up a residential Bible school in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Everyone said “You won’t end up doing what you think you are going to be doing”. . . Ya’ Think? We for sure did not see that coming at all. But we felt God’s call and redirected, our mission changed to raising up Costa Rican’s who will be equipped and trained to go into these hard areas. It is an ambitious and intensive training program that will hopefully result in new church plants in the indigenous areas, unserved areas, and will send out missionaries.
We are not teachers. We are not trained in organizational leadership. We don’t have training on opening a Bible school, or how to navigate everything that is needed throwing students from all over the country into one building where they will eat, learn, pray, grow, cry, and whoever knows what together.
We just didn’t see that coming.
Nor did we prepare ourselves for any of that.
But here we are.
What our next newsletter talking all about ALCANCE will not say is: “When the students showed up at camp (we held a camp before they moved in) there was a student that showed up that we didn’t even know was coming. Seriously. (ummm I was as stunned as you are). When the students moved into the dorms there were no running toilets, working showers, or washing machines that wash things. No joke. We did not have a functioning kitchen. For real. We didn’t have handrails on the steps leading up to their rooms (which is quite unsettling when you see the girl’s steps). There is A LOT that newsletter won’t tell you.
So since we were not planning on starting a Bible school, let alone a residential Bible school, how did we get here? Where and how did we find the resources you might ask? Good question.
We don’t really have an answer, all we know is that resources follow the call. And that God’s economy doesn’t know anything about Dave Ramsey’s path to finical peace.
How, where, and all those details are for another blog post if you want to know about the school, called ALCANCE, the Spanish word for reach, I will write one for you. It is a pretty cool story. And I will show you how beautiful it turned out.
All that to say, the last ever-how-many months have been weird, and hard, and stretching, and draining, and scary (Not to mention the changes at home: moving out of one house into another in a different providence, Emma changing high schools, Maggi going to college) and good… but mostly terrifying for a planner.
Oh, and another tiny detail, we live 2 hours and 20 minutes (on a perfect drive) away from where the school is. (Emma’s school started the day after move in day, and the drive home that night was 5 hours-that is real life).
Our ministry and family life is messy and complicated and so far out of the lines. In a good God way, and in an against OSHA policy, there-is-no-safety-net kind of way.
So since we didn’t come with a budget to build or start a residential Bible School, we have been doing things the best we can, in the cheapest way we can. This has been my part-time job. I have searched the city for the cheapest grout, toilet, toilet paper holder, bed frames, mattresses, desks, chairs, galvanized pipes, air extractors, and one of my personal favorites, fart fans. . . . ) This is not like the states. Prices here are inflated, and the quality is not what you pay for. You have to go to multiple stores to get all the supplies needed for one project. My instructions were “Just find what we need.” So that is exactly what I have been doing.
That doesn’t sound so complicated, but it was, it still is. In fact, it is maddening. (BTW something else that won’t be in the newsletter: I spent 17 hours of my life scouring Costa Rica for fart fans-I don’t even like to say that word) In case you were like me and didn’t know what that was, it is that fan that is in the bathroom to magically take the not so great smell out of the bathroom.
I would shop, find the best price on the best item, and the go back to get it after I was confident that it was indeed the right product at the right price (sometimes the next day) and it would be gone. Or there would be one of them and I needed 12. Or it wouldn’t even be in this country. (I personally bought the remaining 4 fart fans in the 20 stores I went to with some of the chain stores checking all locations- they don’t use them here).
I am an organizer, a planner, a pintrest-er lets make it happen kind of girl.
But we got there. The dorms turned out great. The classroom looks great. I think the bathrooms look great (I will go up tomorrow to see). We still don’t have countertops on anything yet but that is coming. (I hope). There is now running water, flushing toilets, and showers.
Oh and the kitchen. It got there. Women’s department from Northern California and the national Women’s department from the Assemblies of God, GENEROUSLY gave. So it is a shining jewel.
The school is connected and part of a national church. So we have planned hand in hand with the pastors, always keenly aware of the church. The original plan was to build a house for the pastor on one side, and classrooms on the other. So that was what we did, but for now the pastor’s house is the girl’s dorm and the classrooms are the boy’s dorms. The next dream phase is to build dorms, and then convert things back to how it was originally planned. God keeps calling and keeps providing. . .
So the only room really left is the dinning room. This is the space that will be used by the school and the church on a regular basis.
So the idea is to make the dinning room serve as a fellowship hall, dinning room, and coffee shop. I want a space that creates an environment for fellowship, game nights, church pot lucks, one-on-one mentorship, a space that Costa Rican’s are none for: neighbors sharing coffee.
So how do I do that on zero budget?
I don’t know either.
But I have been scouring the classifieds, fb marketplace, stores, etc. And prices are just high. I have to realize that I can not create the coffee shop vibe that I see in my Pinterest-y mind. And I have come to terms with that.
OPk, now you are all up to date.
I have no real budget, no cheap finds, but big dreams. blah blah blah…
So now here we are, the night before the Häagan Dazs incident. I was cruising FB Marketplace like a stalker, and there it was. The one I have been looking for. The perfect couch. And while the price will seem high to you, it was like they were giving it away. It was too good to be true. AND it was literally the same exit as Emma’s school. It had only been on line for 5 hours. It was 10:30 at night. I sent a message asking if I could come see it tomorrow. I felt like finally Costa Rica was giving me a break. THE STARS WERE ALINING.
So immediately they wrote back. . . and you know fb has those little dots moving when the other person is typing. . . I am holding my breath I am so excited. . .
Yes!. . . . This is really going to happen!. . . Look how the Lord is providing!. . .
Finally the message came.
And I will translate for you:
“Someone is coming at 6:00 in the morning, if they don’t buy it, I will let you know.”
What? are you kidding me? This can’t be how it ends. This couch was meant to be.
I wanted to offer them more than the price right there.
Dave asked if I was crazy, I had not even seen it.
He could tell that was not the response I was looking for. (I mean come on)
Dave being ever intuitive and reading my body language. . . wrote them and said “We can come right now with cash” (it was now almost 11 at night). (I laugh as I just reread that, like I would let someone in my house at 11 pm at night who is offering to bring cash).
I woke up every hour looking at my phone.
I prayed that those people would get stuck in traffic. (And that their car would fall through a hole) ( I didn’t wish them harm of course, don’t be ridiculous, I only pictured them jumping out of the car before the hole swallowed the car, I am not a monster people, I am just a missionary, confessing). And what kind of people go buy a couch at 6:00 am? Weirdos.
At 3:00 a.m. I knocked over my cup of water, which then went all over my phone, and iPad, so I am crying and turning all the lights on trying to save my devices. (Bless Dave’s heart, I know that is what you are thinking, but to be fair, if I would have offered more money I know they would have taken it and this could have all been avoided.)
At 6:01, no fb message. 6:07 no fb message. 6:48 no fb message. 7:00 no fb message. 7:36 as I am leaving to take Emma to school, no fb message.
So I was a little . . . disappointed. Devastated is too strong of a word. Heartbroken sounds like I am weak. Angry at the entire country for once again making my job as complicated as possible and crushing my dreams sounds like I am complaining.
So Emma shares my grief on the way to school and is trying to be encouraging.
So I drop her off and as I was trying to merge on to the highway the oncoming car sped up, instead of moving into the empty lane and letting me merge on safely. -back story, the on ramps here are like 2 inches long, and I swear that there must be a Costa Rican unwritten rule that if you see a car trying to merge on to the highway try to stop it at all cost, they are the enemy and must be destroyed. I may or may not mention this every single time my life is put in jeopardy, I don’t yell, I sing song polite commentary because out of the heart and all (ok you know, of course I yell at them!). . . I “mention” it, so often in fact, just the other day, as I was being forced off the road to our near destruction, I told Emma, “If I die trying to merge into traffic, can you put *I TOLD YOU SO* on my tombstone?” She agreed as long as she cut put in small letters underneath, Emma was my favorite. (That girl, I don’t know where she gets it. . . it is always about her)
That was the tipping point.
The couch. The on-ramp.
That drove me to the Dr. Pepper and Häagan Dazs.
So when I got home, I snapped a picture of them both, with my BIBLE, and said it is 5:00 somewhere. . . but if I would have said, “I missed a deal on a great couch, and no one would let me merge onto the freeway, so I went and got ice cream for breakfast,” would you have understood?
See? How exactly do we communicate all of that?
But the FB world was kind, a mission’s pastor offered to throw in $10 for another pint, and a kind missionary wrote and said, “some days you save souls, some days you’re giddy at the grocery store.”
And that about sums it up.