Happy Birthday Tree of Life and Pastor Andrew! August 7, 2011

On August 7, 2011, The Tree of Life celebrated its eleventh birthday and Pastor Andrew his 5oth!  A good time was had by all.  We served a BBQ chicken lunch to about 250 members.  It was a great time of celebrating all that God has done!   Thank you Lord for your hand in the midst of The Tree! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica – Day Six – Part Two

The bus is full as we head to the airport.  Several of our Costa Rican friends are ready with us, a little more time to spend together.  It’s amazing how much we have grown to love each other, in such a short period of time.  I feel like I have known these new friends forever.  I believe that is because our spirits are the same.  We all love Jesus and His Spirit in us is the bond that has joined us. 

I’m feeling better and quite thankful.  An upset stomach on this leg of the journey would be pretty miserable, but all is well. 

As we head out of town, I take one last look at this city that has become such a part of me. 

The mood on the bus is festive, as always.  I have a great conversation with Wilmer, who is a pastor of a church in Honduras.  He shares his story with me, how he started the church about a year ago.  He has about eighty in his congregation.   He has a heart for children, with four of his own, and the need to take care of children in his city is great. They feed many children each week.  He shared with me that one hundred dollars would feed one hundred children, for a week.  He doesn’t take a salary, how can he when the children need food?  His church is starting an orphanage, and he is eager to see God’s provision for it. 

I am so touched by his heart.  He knows that God will provide all his needs, for his own family, for his church, for the children.

We stop at a roadside resort along the way; a place where we can purchase souvenirs.  We’ve been so busy all week; we’ve not had a chance to get any mementos of our trip.  I find t-shirts for the boys and Bobby, bracelets for friends, a mug for Pastor Andrew and some Costa Rican money for Bobby.  Some of the group have lunch, but I decide to hold off on any food right now.  We still have another hour of travel time and I want to be sure my stomach is okay, before I begin adding food again.

The place where we are stopped is beautiful and we wander around taking photos of the hillside of freshly planted flowers that spell out, Costa Rica, along with the view from this spot along the mountain.

As we head back onto the bus, I notice the pastor who is driving us, talking to two young men outside the bus.  As I get nearer, I realize he is praying with them; there  is always an opportunity to share God’s love.  When he finishes and they walk away, he explains he starts talking to them about smoking and ends up leading one of them to The Lord … how cool is that?

We count heads and pull out … onwards toward the airport.  Henriette leads us in song and it is such an amazing time of worship, once again.  When we come to The Lord, with obedient hearts, the offering to him is sweet and He has truly blessed our time in this special place!  John Bevere tells us, in his book, Under Cover, the purest form of worship is obedience.  We are experiencing that in this place!  Pure worship!

• I was thinking about the story of Cain and Abel.  God respected Abel’s blessing but not Cain’s.  As a result, Cain became angry and ended up killing his brother.  Many people believe that God favored the animal sacrifice more than the offering from the ground that Cain brought.  Maybe it wasn’t the offering itself, but rather the condition of the heart of the giver. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:16,17)  There has been a sacrifice in coming on this adventure, but more than anything, I believe the humbleness of this group, the gentle spirit of those on this trip, has allowed God’s favor to fall upon us.

As we pull into the airport, we realize that our time with our new friends is coming to a close.  We stand outside the bus, as the men unload it, hugging each other and promising to stay in touch.  Facebook is universal and we’ve already connected and I intend on staying connected to my new special friends.

We say our goodbyes one last time and head into the terminal.  You have to pay to get out of the country, so we all head into the exit line.  Interesting … what happens if you didn’t have the money to leave?  Guess you’d have to stay.  It was only $26, but I could image someone coming here for vacation, spending all their money and then realizing they had no money left to leave.  I wonder if all countries are like this?  I have no idea, as this was my first time out of the states.

We get through all the vital checkpoints and head to our gate.  We all grab snacks and sit along the wall, spending time reflecting on our trip, and enjoying our last few hours together.  When it’s time to board, we line up and head in.  As I approach the entrance, I am pulled over for a special search.  They look through my carryon bag, taking everything out.  They run some sort of instrument along my clothes and test the strip they remove from it.  When I ask what they are testing for, they say explosive powder.  The light on the machine flashes RED and they ask me if I’ve encountered matches or explosive powder recently.  I am becoming a bit concerned, and answer them, “ No, I have not.”

They say they will test me again and this time the machine flashes GREEN.  I am good to go.  They throw my stuff back in my carryon and I hurry into the airplane.  I do not want to be separated from my group and I do not want to be detained in Costa Rica for a weapons charge.  I would be happy to stay and minister, but I do not want to be involved with the police.  I don’t know much about the politics of this country and I don’t want to find out the hard way.  I’ve seen way to many movies … innocent  Americans arrested abroad.  I don’t want this to be part of my testimony.  And thankfully, it’s not!

I find my seat on the plane and settle in.  IPod in my ears, soaking music, time to rest.  I fall asleep before we leave the ground.  Guess I’m more tired than I realize. 

The two hour flight is smooth and before I know it, we are touching down in Miami.  It is after 10:00 pm and the airport is nearly empty, so we scurry through customs and baggage claim and head off to the parking garage.  Nancy, Henriette and I pile into Nancy’s car.  It’s a bit odd, the re-entry back to our  world.  Back to a world of concrete and billboards, sky scrapers and freeways.  The simplicity of Puntarenas is eaten up by the magnitude of Miami at night.

I know the trip must have taken a couple of hours, but it flew by as we chatted about our week and the next thing I knew we were pulling into New Hope parking lot. 

When I arrived here, six days before, I met up with a group of strangers, but as we unload our bags and say our goodbyes,  I am among friends.  God has put together this awesome team of people to carry out his plan and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.  My mind can’t stop spinning … Costa Rica is on my brain. 

I head home … I have four hours to change baggage, repack and grab some sleep.  I am meeting my pastor and friend at 6:15 am and flying to Alabama in the morning, we have a church conference to attend. 

Right now there is no time for rest or reflection, but I know it will come … and I look forward to whatever God brings forth from this amazing adventure I have been permitted to partake of.

Father, what an amazing day.  What an amazing week. What an amazing adventure you have allowed me to be a part of.  Thank you for your hand of protection over us, during this trip.  Thank you for the friends that we have made.  Thank you for the miracles we have seen.  Thank you for showing me that your spirit is the connection between each one of us, regardless of nationality.  And Jesus, thank you for bringing me home, safe and sound, to my family, whom I love so much. 

I love you Jesus!
In your name I pray,
Amen

God’s Blessings Upon You!

Love,
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Six

It’s Monday morning, our last morning waking up in Costa Rica.  It’s hard to believe it’s time to go home.  In a way I am ready, I miss taking a hot shower.  I miss a dry towel.  But those are just minor inconveniences.  God has blessed me so greatly here; I think I could take a cold shower and use a damp towel the rest of my life.  Although I was thinking while showering this morning, that when we move here, Bobby will have to put in a hot water heater. 

I don’t feel very well this morning; my belly is giving me trouble.  I think all the different food yesterday caught up with me.  I am a little concerned, it’s a two hour trip to the airport and I didn’t see any rest areas on my way into town.  I am not looking forward to the idea of traveling all day with an upset stomach.  We won’t actually get back into Naples until after midnight tonight.  So … it may be a long day.

But … then I share with my roommate, Nancy, and Selene, our special translator friend, that I am not feeling well and we pray for my stomach.  The power of the Holy Spirit, which we have shared with so many, is available to us as well, and I am grateful for my friends and for Jesus, for healing all our hurts, inside and out.

I hang around in my room a good portion of the morning, just not feeling up to visiting, but about an hour before we are to leave, many of our new friends stop by to say goodbye, so I venture out, to see my newfound friends one more time before we leave.

It is a bittersweet time of tears and smiles.  Our entire team has fallen in love with this house, and the people who have made it home for us.  We pray for the special ladies who have cooked for us all week.  We pray that God blesses them for the blessing they have bestowed upon us.  We pray for Selene, that her Visa comes through and she can come to Naples, and teach English, to the Spanish speaking people here.  We pray for Lila, our sweet nineteen year old, help with everything friend.  We pray for the calling of God on her life.  We pray for Danilo, for his wife’s healing and for a job for him, to support his family.  It is a special time of prayer and the Spirit of the Lord is heavy in this house.  I will miss this place …

After our prayer time, it’s time to go. I am feeling better …. Imagine that?  (big grin).  As we pile on the bus, our friends are gathered around us, everyone wanting one last hug, one last smile, one last word of encouragement.  The men have spent the last 15 minutes loading our bags on top and as we pull away, Daniel, my sweet translator, runs after us, blowing us kisses.  Ahhhh … what a special young man he is.

As we pulled out of the gate, we heard an odd sound and realized that the bags were piled too high; we didn’t fit under the top of the gate.  So … we had to stop, unload, pull out and reload the baggage.  It was a workout for the men that day, but no one complained.  I’ve not heard any complaining on our trip. I think that is part of the reason why I’ve enjoyed it so much.  Everyone is so happy to be doing God’s work, there is no thought of complaining about circumstance or situations or others.  We are ONE here. Our only agenda is sharing the love of Jesus. 

We are living out Paul’s encouragement to us in Ephesians 4:1-6:  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The bags are reloaded and for the final time we pull out of Casa San Francisco.
Father, thank you for this place that you have allowed us to call home for the past six days.  Thank you for the people you have brought to us, to serve us, to love us.  Thank you for the friendships that have been forged here.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your team.  Thank you Jesus for your amazing love, which has been shared so freely here.

In Jesus Name,
Amen

God’s Blessings Upon You!

Love,
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Five – Part Three

When we got back to the house, after our full day on the mountain, everyone seemed to gravitate to the kitchen/living room area.  Michelle and Selene decided to cook more fun, we were never hungry in Costa Rica.  The hospitality we experienced was amazing!  Some members of the local churches came by to visit.  Small groups of people were scattered throughout the house and patio.

Some of the team decided a swim was in order.  Everywhere you looked, people were enjoying each other’s company.  New friends, old friends, English, Spanish; the common denominator, we all love Jesus!

Jessica, one of our translators, came to say good-bye.  She brought her two little boys.  I spent some time out by the pool with them.  One on my lap … it just felt right.  They were Carson and Chase, eight years earlier.  About the same age differences, beautiful blonde hair, blue eyed angels.

I wondered what the boys were doing?  Carson would be hanging out at home with his day.  Either reading or playing on his computer. Chase was in Ohio.  He would be heading home tomorrow as well.  He’s been visiting his grandparents for the last week and a half.  He was probably getting a little homesick and ready to be home.

I couldn’t believe this was our last night here.  Our time went by so fast.  It seemed like we had just got off the plane and tomorrow we would be getting back on, heading back home.

God’s presence was heavy in this place.  I know wherever we go, His Spirit is with us, but there was something special about this place, something special about this group of people that God joined together for this mission, and part of me isn’t ready to leave quite yet. 

After several hours, everyone went back to their homes and several members of the team were hanging out in the living room, visiting, sharing, connecting.  It was a sweet time.  Five days before, I’d never met anyone but Patricia, tonight we are all friends, sharing our thoughts and lives.  We talked till we couldn’t hold our eyes opened any longer and one by one, we say good night and head to bed.

No one really wanted the night to be over …

God’s Love and Ours

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.   (I John 4:7-21)

Father, thank you for this day.  You have shown yourself to me in so many ways, through so many people.  Over and over and over again, your love shines forth.  The love of the Father.  The glory of the Son.  The presence of The Spirit.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this amazing team.  Thank you for allowing me to share your love with these wonderful people.  Thank you for miracles and blessings and hearts being healed by you. 

In Jesus Name,
Amen

God Bless You!
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Five – Part Two

When the church service was over, we were served lunch by the ladies of the church.  One half of the structure was the sanctuary, the other half was the fellowship hall, with a large kitchen on the back of it.  We had a whole row for our group, there must have been twenty or twenty five of us.  It was just beautiful, the mountains and valleys were behind us as we were served our lunch of beans, rice, potatoes, slaw and some type of meat.  Most likely it was chicken.  But honestly, I didn’t eat much of the meat in Costa Rica. I kept myself to fruits, veggies, rice and beans.  That was safe for me.  And lots of bottled water.

I was so thankful that I hadn’t gotten any type of traveling bug, nor had my stomach given me any problems.  In the past, I have dealt with stomach aches a lot, not exactly sure if the problem was caused by stress or diet, but I’ve felt great since my arrival in Costa Rica and for that I was thankful.

Another lesson in trusting God.  I could have made up a hundred excuses why I couldn’t go on this trip.  And the first couple days of planning, I had thought about it.  But I knew God wanted me to be in Costa Rica, I obeyed his directive (GO), and he was blessing me for my obedience.

Do you realize that the purest form of worship is obedience to God?  I know sometimes we get all caught up in a worship service and we think that’s the end all.  And yes, God does love when we sing praises to him.  But praises to God when we have a heart of disobedience to His Word, mean nothing. 

It was such a peaceful lunch, at the top of the mountain.  We were served lunch, then dessert and then we were taken on a tour of the grounds, while the women were preparing coffee for us.   Afternoon coffee in Costa Rica seems to be a special treat.  There is always more to see and do, and a cup of coffee always seems to give us just a bit more energy to keep moving forward. 

The grounds are beautiful, the buildings well kept.   There is a children’s ministry area below the main building with many classrooms and an area towards the back that they use for retreats.  We came upon a stone wall, and were told that it was used during special healing weekends.  Each person was given a stone that represented there ‘issues’ and they placed the stone on the altar, giving their stuff to God.  From the looks of the wall, many issues were laid to rest here. 

As we drank our coffee, we shared stories with each other, this team of people, put together by God for his purpose.  Some of the group were very familiar with each other, some had never met before Wednesday, but this afternoon, all were in one accord.  All were connected by one spirit.  All were one mind for the glory of God.

I loved this group of people that God had placed me in the middle of.  Cal and Patricia, the leaders.  Wilmer, Dr. Karla and Andy, the team from Honduras.  Reese and Catherine, the married couple on our team who have such a heart to serve their Lord.  Sandy, Patricia’s assistant and Tammy her sister who came on the trip to cook for us, but was blessed when that chore was provided for us by the members of the church.  Eddie, who took care of everyone.  Henriette, who’s voice was like an angel and Miss Stephanie, the baby of our group at nineteen or twenty, a senior in college, who was everyone’s little sister and who we all loved dearly for her sweet spirit and childlike faith.  My roommate, Nancy, who I fell in love with the first night, when we laughed and giggled like kids for no reason and it was perfectly okay. And our sweet young Costa Rica friends, Michelle, who was with us every minute of our waking days and kept us laughing and singing and enjoying life and Selene, our beautiful translator who we all fell in love with upon meeting such a sweet spirit.  There was Lila, a beautiful young girl of about nineteen, who was with us constantly, always helping wherever she was needed.  She didn’t speak any English, but we all loved her gentle, quiet spirit and her heart to serve Jesus.  And then there was Mel, our photographer.  He always had a couple of cameras around his neck, always with us, always documenting our trip.  He didn’t speak much English either, but his lively spirit was infectious, he was the brother we may or may not have ever had. 

There were so many more that made up the specialness of our adventure, but this was the group that was with us on the mountain as we sat and reflected on our day, our week and some, our lives.  It was a special time, and no one was in a hurry to leave.

At some point, we loaded back onto the bus, and headed down the mountain, wondering what our next adventure would be.  We didn’t have to wait long, instead of heading home, we pulled off the main road and wound up at a local corn festival that one of the churches was sponsoring.  More food … more music … more fun.  These people love life and it shows!  They may not have a lot, but what they have, they truly appreciate.

The pastor of the church gave us a tour of his cornfield, and shared the story how God blessed him with his home, church and even this field where the corn was growing high.  It was so sweet.  Standing on the edge of that field, listening to him thank his God for provision.  I wonder how many pastors in the states are thankful for the corn?  Not judging, just a reflection.

There was corn on the cob and some sort of corn dessert.  They ground the corn into meal, flattened it onto a hot grill and then spread the cooked shell with a sour cream / dairy type of product.  We all shared a bite or two, but no one was really hungry after the lunch we had just eaten.  There was some sort of ice cream being served and several tried that as well.

The church was on one side of the parking lot and the building hosting the party was on the other.  A DJ in the church was spinning tunes and making everyone laugh,  kids were playing leap frog in the front lawn, and dogs were wandering about looking for scraps.  It was really an amazing time.  Seeing how another culture celebrates always amazes me.  Fun and laughter are universal languages, and everyone enjoyed the festivities.

Our friend, Wilmer, sang for us and had some fun with the members of our team, inviting them all to dance and everyone was laughing and dancing and enjoying the day.  Nowhere to go.  Nothing pressing us.  Just enjoying the company of newfound friends. 

It rained lightly on and off that afternoon, but we were undercover and no one seemed to mind.  A good time was had by all.

After a couple of hours, back into the bus we loaded, and back down the mountain we went.  We were headed home.  It seemed it had been forever since we had left that morning, I think it was probably five o’clock or so when we ended up back at the house.  It had been a full day, and we still had the evening left.

I will stop here … more to come.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
– John 14:15-21

Father, thank you for this amazing day.  Thank you for allowing me to spend it with such a diverse group of people, with one common bond, you.  Thank you that your love is universal, it breaks all barriers.  I came to Costa Rica because you said, “Go”.  That simple step of obedience has brought blessings beyond measure, thank you.

I love you Jesus.
  In your name I pray,
  Amen

God’s blessings to you!
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Five – Part One

Sunday morning we headed to church.  We were going to the church on the mountain.  Apparently, Patricia had been there before and wanted the entire team to experience this worship service.  The ride was probably 30-45 minutes, we bounced around for quite a while heading up the mountain to the church service that morning, but we were all in high spirits. It had been an amazing few days and Saturday night’s Gran Fiesta was the icing on the cake.  We all were amazed at the incredible miracles and experiences we had shared.  We were all looking forward to a time of worship on the mountain. 

When we arrived, the worship was going on and we took our places at the front of the church.  The view was amazing; we truly were at the top of the mountain.  We could see for miles.  The church was an open air structure with a roof and a wall in the front, but the rest of the building was open.  The breeze was gentle and the music was amazing and soon we were all enjoying the festivities of morning worship.

These gentle people love worship and no one sits still during this time; there was a large area in the front of the auditorium and many were dancing and laughing and enjoying this celebration to King Jesus!  A few from our team joined in with the dancing and I did as well for a time, but then I felt led to head back to my seat.  As I was standing there, my arms raised, my mind grateful, I experienced the most incredible move of the Spirit. 

As I was thanking God for allowing me to be a part of this incredible adventure, I began weeping, uncontrollably.  I could not stop. I was not weeping for anything or anyone that I was aware of, but the sobs escaping were uncontrollable and the tears flowed without end.

I needed to get on my face, immediately; I knelt down at my seat.  I continued to weep uncontrollably and then the Spirit of God touched me and took me down, for the count.

I was out.  I don’t know how long I laid there; I could not move.  I could not speak.

I kept trying to get up, but it was impossible!  I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, here I was, the missionary there to bless the people and I am on the floor and I can’t get up!  But God didn’t care how uncomfortable I was, he wasn’t finished with me and I wasn’t going anywhere till he was ready for me to.

After a bit, I finally was able to get helped into my seat.  But as soon as I sat down, back out I went.  It was like I was drunk.  I could not keep my eyes open; I could not speak a word. I could not move my body.   And each time I tried to opened my eyes, it was like was God was saying to me, “Look at me!”  and I had to shut them again and back out I went.   I could somewhat hear things going on around me, but I could not respond, nor could I participate.

This lasted the entire service so I’m imagining about 2 hours or so.

I kept seeing colors, purple and red and felt revelations from God.  I really can’t remember now what He was saying, except that a couple of days before, Patricia Hilliard introduced me to a pastor’s wife and said, “I want her to pray for you while you’re here. She has a strong anointing of the Spirit.”   And I was like, sure, I am always willing to receive something from God, but the opportunity to pray with her never arose.

While I was out, I felt like God revealed this to me, “You don’t need anyone to give you anything.  I will provide all for you.  You don’t need anyone’s touch but mine.”  That part I do remember, very clearly. 

WOW … That blew my mind!

Cal was preaching the message that day on the mountain, and at one point, he called me up to share the testimony of the healing at the hospital. I couldn’t even open my eyes to look at him.  I knew he was talking to me, but there was no way I could respond to him. 

He just laughed and shared the story … he knew that God was doing a work in me. 

I really am not sure what God did in me, I may never know but whatever He gave me, I know it was special.

But what I do know is this.  So many times, we look to others for a special touch or a word.  Whenever a prophet comes to town, people come out of the woodwork for a word.  And if they don’t get one, if they are not singled out, they are disappointed and discouraged and they walk away.  Or they follow these prophets around, so ‘high’ on the spirit and the words they share, going from one ‘experience to another’, but never really digging in and finding out what God’s Word has to say for themselves, about their given circumstance. 

I’ve realized that God’s Spirit brings truth.  It may come from another or it may come from God himself.  If God wants you to know something, and you are willing to receive, you will.  We don’t need to put stipulations on how it may occur.  God will do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, using whomever he wants. 

A little note for those of you who may not believe God’s spirit is for us today.  I would encourage you to not judge my story.  I don’t judge you for not believing.  :o)  Why not ask God to reveal to you His Truth?  The Word tells us that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His Word tells us:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’” 
– Acts 2:1-17

Father, thank you for this amazing experience.  I did not need a word or a touch from anyone, you have always given me anything I needed, and so much more!  You took me to the top of the mountain and you blessed my socks off.  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you for your spirit that flows in and through and around me, each and every day.  And Lord, thank you that the fruit of your spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, grows within me.  Father, I know where I would be without your spirit in me.  But because of your great love, I am now a child of The King!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In Jesus Name,
Amen

God’s blessings upon you!

Love,
Joyce

Costa Rica Trip – Day Four – Part Two

Since our trip to the boys’ orphanage was cancelled, we spent the afternoon hanging out with our Costa Rica friends.  There were guys playing the guitar and worshipping in one room, ladies cooking in the kitchen and several of us just gathered in various spots, sharing our lives with each other.  The camaraderie in this house was awesome!  Only Jesus could put people together from all over the world, literally, and have them feeling like they had been best friends forever in such a short period of time.

I set up my laptop in the desk area off the kitchen and spent some time updating my facebook and checking emails.  Michelle, Selene and I made a video, asking for prayer for the Gran Fiesta, for hearts to be turned towards Jesus.  I was eager to see what God was going to do at this event.  The people of Puntarenas had been preparing for this event for several weeks and I was sure it was going to be something to behold!

The event was to start about 5:00 pm, and we were all excited when the bus arrived to pick us up.  We piled in, all dressed up and ready to go.  Cal and Wilmer were both dressed in white and they looked dashing as we pulled out of the driveway.  The excitement in the bus was contagious and we all started singing our favorite song, Yo Quiero Mas, I want you more!

As we neared the grounds where the Gran Fiesta was being held, you could see people everywhere.  This was a big deal and the entire town was coming to this event.  There were four popular music groups on the schedule for that night and they were definitely drawing a crowd. It was going to be a great night; I could feel it in my spirit!

At the entrance of the event, five little boys were in orange parking vests, directing traffic.  The road was narrow and as a car went by us, I was sure one of the boys was going to get his toes run over.  And although they were only inches from the other car, they were safe; God was protecting all his children for this event.  I was thinking how an event like this in Naples would be covered, pretty sure the parking attendants wouldn’t be seven to ten year old children, but in Puntarenas, everyone took part in the event!  All were put to work and the excitement in these boys’ faces filled me with joy! 

We piled out of the bus and headed to the center stage to our seats.  As we walked across the narrow, rickety bridge to get to the field, again my mind registered how different this place was, yet, what was lacking in affluence was made up in excitement, the atmosphere was electrifying.  We were flanked by men in black as we walked through the crowd.  It was so sweet how well we were treated by our Costa Rican friends.  The mayor was talking when we arrived and then he prayed for the event and the first musicians began to sing.  We were given front row seats as we watched the members of the local churches perform their flag and veil presentations.  It was breath defying seeing the hundreds of performers, all in Unisom with their colorful outfits and flags.  I have truly never seen anything like it.  And everywhere you looked, were people piling into be a part of this event.

At one point, I wondered over to the edge of the crowd to take a couple of pictures of some children playing.  As I headed back to our group, Daniel, my translator friend, scolded me for walking away from the group without telling him.  Apparently that was a no-no.  We were to be with our group at all times, unless one of the guys was with us. I apologized, explaining the children had caught my eye and back to the team I went.

When one of the most popular singers, Alex Rodriguez, began singing people crowded in to get close to him.  We had been a bit sheltered from the crowd, but at this point, we were in the midst of everyone.  Our ‘bodyguards’ got some crowd control tape and taped off an area for us, moving the crowds back a bit.  It was really sweet to be treated with such respect.  We came to this country to be a blessing, in the process we continued to be blessed.

At one point during Alex’s performance, our group was encouraged to go up on stage, to be introduced to the crowd.  Part of our team’s mission of this trip was to put on this party and the local pastors wanted to thank us for our part in allowing this event to occur.  It seemed a bit surreal to be on stage in front of several thousand (probably around seven thousand) people while this local celebrity gave an invitation to receive Jesus.  When he finished, hundreds of people swarmed towards the front of the stage.  It was amazing to watch and to be a part of.

Cal asked me to stay up on stage, the rest of the group filed down to pray for the people who had come forward.  Others from the local churches were a part of this, and contact information was being taken for follow-up.  The purpose of the event was to bring people to Jesus and the spirit was moving heavily in this place.  It was so cool to be a part of such a special movement for His Kingdom.

I was off to the side, watching the activities and marveling at what God was doing when I heard Cal say something in English about a man in a hospital room.  Then he came over and asked me to share the testimony of the fellow who had been healed at the hospital with the crowd.  I didn’t have time to be nervous, I simply stepped up and shared with Jesus had done.

But I was so excited to be sharing this story, I forgot where I was for a minute, and I was talking very quickly in English.  This was great if I would have been at home, but in this place, very few understood English and I forgot to let Cal translate for me.  After a couple of minutes, I realized I needed to let Cal catch up with me, and together we shared the story of the healing in the hospital.  The crowd cheered as we declared all that Jesus had done and it was so sweet.  My heart soared as they gave glory to our King!

After I shared this story, I went back to the side of the stage to watch the rest of the festivities, but soon there was a group of people on my side of the stage, asking me to pray for them.  And for the rest of the evening, I did just that: praying for God to heal hearts, bodies and minds.  One young mother brought her baby over for me to pray for, such a sweet little thing, only a few months old.  She had two older children and the three of us ended up playing and jumping and singing while the mother went off with another child for a trip to the bathrooms.

Then there were more people to pray for … more petitions for healing, more hugs, and more smiles.  It seemed like the night lasted a very long time.  I didn’t get a chance to sit and listen to the music, but it was okay.  I wasn’t there to soak in; I was there to give out.  I was there to be a blessing and in the process I was being blessed. 

I think the party ended about 10:00 pm … and we headed back to our bus.  We were all soaked; the night was hot and humid.  But inside our hearts were soaring.  What a wonderful time of sharing the love of Jesus, with so many!  A lot of work went into making this night a reality, but I believe God was well pleased with the results.  There had been music and testimonies and all of it pointing to the ONE!  It was all because of Jesus!

We were all wired up when we got home, and several of us stood in the kitchen and shared stories. After our pow-wow in the kitchen, Henriette and Stephanie came into Nancy’s and I’s room and we shared more stories until none of us could keep our eyes open another minute.  We said our good nights and all fell asleep with God’ love flowing mightily! It was a great ending to an amazing day and I loved my teammates and my newfound friends even more. 

Cal had prayed that we share the AGAPE love of Jesus with this city, a week before at our prayer time before we left Naples, and that prayer was being fulfilled right before my very eyes.  I was seeing unconditional love in action and it felt good; it was good and I was so grateful to be a part of the flow of God’s spirit in this place.

When we start to understand the depth of God’s love for us, we can then begin to share that love with others.  In a world that is lost and hurting, love is the universal language.  Words may not express love … but our actions can resonate God’s love. 

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:4-10

Yes, God’s great love for us has saved us, when we didn’t deserve to be saved, not through anything we did, but through His grace towards us.  I love this portion of scripture.  Nothing we did caused God to have mercy on us; we can never be good enough, on our own.  Yet, because of Jesus, God has a plan and a purpose for us, and we can walk in that plan.  He knew this group of people would be coming to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, for this particular mission beforehand.  And he knew it would be good.  And it is!

Thank you Jesus for allowing me to be a part of your good works.  I am in awe that you would choose me, but I am so very thankful.  To be a part of this trip has been the most amazing thing.  I was in awe at the movement of your spirit in this place.  You are so big and mighty and awesome, and I am humbled by your power.  I love you Jesus. 

In your name I pray,
Amen

God’s Blessings Upon You!
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Four – Part One

Our chef friends were at the house bright and early on Saturday morning.  They wanted to cook breakfast for us, before our big day.  The Women’s Conference was to start at 10:00 am and the Gran Fiesta at 5:00 pm and hopefully the boys orphanage in between; a big day ahead.

I woke up around 6:00 am and took my shower, ready to start my day.  It was easy to wake early here, Costa Rica is two hours behind Naples time, so I can sleep in and still be up early!

When I headed out to the kitchen area, Michelle introduced me to her friend, Selene.  Selene was going to be Patricia’s translator for the conference.  Selene had been at work all week, this was our first meeting, but immediately we all fell in love with her.  As Patricia explained the focus of her talk, you could see Selene’s heart to help these hurting woman.  Living in Puntarenas her entire life, she understood the culture and the situations these women face on a daily basis.  She knew how to reach them with Patricia’s message.

We spent a few minutes hanging out, going over the message a bit, helping Patricia tweet her message so that just the right point was brought forth, a message of hope to hurting woman.  She was going to speak of Gideon from Judges 6.  An angel of the Lord had come to Gideon, telling him that the Lord was with him. But Gideon was a little confused.  He wanted to know, if the Lord was with him, why had so many bad things happened to his people?

I think that is a universal question?  Why do bad things happen to good people? 

The angel told Gideon to go forward and deliver the Israelites out of the hand of the Midianites.  But Gideon was believing the lie that his clan was the weakest and he was the least of his family.  In other words, he wasn’t big enough or strong enough to fight anyone.  But the angel promised him that God would be with him and when Gideon believed God’s Word, amazing things started to happen.

And that was the message that Patricia wanted to deliver to the women of Puntarenas that morning.  That bad things do happen, but that with belief in God and the willingness to receive His truth and His healing, miracles can happen; faulty belief systems become transformed by the Power of the Holy Spirit. 

I would be giving a short testimony that morning, sharing my story of believing the lies of my past and allowing shame and guilt to fill my soul, to ruin my thoughts, to destroy who I truly was inside.  An abortion twenty-five years ago, had left me with unforgiveness for myself and self loathing for what I had done.  As much as I tried to cover up my pain with drugs and alcohol, nothing could remove the hurt from my heart.  Even when I stopped my life of partying, married Bobby and gave birth to  Carson and Chase, the void inside never went away.  But one day, I let Jesus shine his light of truth inside me and everything changed. 

He took away my shame and guilt, showed me that my sins were truly forgiven and I was finally able to receive his forgiveness and love.  And everything in my life changed.  I no longer hid from life, but embraced it, head on! 

This was a message I looked forward to sharing with these beautiful ladies.  It is truly wonderful to be able to say, I was once covered with chains and now I am free.   And from nothing I could do … only through the peace that comes from Jesus.  Only from his truth removing the lies of the enemy that I let fill me for so long.

John 10:10 says:  The enemy comes but to kill, steal and destroy.  But I (Jesus) have come to bring you life to the full (in abundance). 

I love this verse … the enemy wants nothing but to destroy you.  Jesus wants you to have a full life, in the here and now, not just after you die.  We don’t have to live half lives.  We don’t have to be less than anything because He is more than able!  Hallelujah!

We loaded into the van and headed to Pastor Octavia’s Church for the conference.  As we stepped out, the first person I saw was the young girl from last night, Rachel.  The one I had encouraged to come to the conference.  And here she was!  YEAH!  Thank you Jesus.  She gave me a shy hug and I introduced her to Michelle, and asked Michelle to please find her a seat with someone, as we were sitting in the front, and the place was already full.  Michelle hugged her and off they went; I was smiling inside, the day was going to be special, I could sense it already!

Worship music was permeating throughout the church.  It was beautiful listening to 300 some women praising their Lord.  I may not have known the words, but I surely received the message.   Again, in just a short time, the spirit was heavy and many were already on their knees at the altar.  I so love the heart of worship here. 

When Patricia arose to give her message, the woman were ready to receive.  Selene did a wonderful job translating.  Patricia would share a point and it seemed like Selene was connected to her and she’d use the same expressions and movements.  You could see that the women were understanding and receiving.   Patricia asked me to share my story and I so enjoyed doing so.  I loved hearing their cries of amen when victory in Jesus was declared!  This was the first time I had spoken without Daniel translating, but you would have thought Selene and I had been doing this for years … it flowed smoothly from my spirit to her spirit to their spirits.

After I spoke, Patricia asked Sandy to share her story.  She gave a heartfelt message on the lies of insecurity; I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, no one will ever want me.  These are universal lies and the women received her warmly.  Again, the lies of the enemy were past and the victory of Jesus was the focal point of her story.  I love love love seeing woman overcome the lies and listen to the one who loves them so. 

Patricia finished her message, there was a prayer by one of the local pastorettes and then came the call for prayer and healing and the altar was immediately filled with woman.  Women were everywhere, wanting to receive a touch from our one true comforter, The Holy Spirit.  And The Spirit was in that place and woman were being filled by his presence and it was a good thing.

There was worship and prayer and crying and rejoicing and it was just the most amazing time.  I bet we prayed with those women for over an hour.  Maybe even closer to two hours.  I really have no clue how long it was, just that it was a very long time.  This church had air conditioning and I felt it when we first arrived, but honestly, after a few hours of worship and prayer, I was soaked to the bone.  And tired, but it was a good tired. 

When the last woman had been prayed for, we gathered our things and headed back to the house.  We were going to pick up some chicken at the restaurant across the street, but they sold the last pieces to the folks just ahead of us, so off to the homestead we headed, knowing that our sweet little cooks would have some lunch for us, and of course, they did.

We all ate and then gathered around the living area, either listening to Jose singing and playing his guitar, or sharing our thoughts from the morning.  It was an amazing event that we had just been at and everyone had a story to share. 

This was what made our trip so special, I think.  Always being able to come back to the house and debrief with others.  If we had been in a hotel, that would not have been the story, everyone would have gone to their own rooms, but in the house, with the big living area, we were all one big family and we all hung out together, sharing our experiences and enjoying each other’s company.  Yes, that was a special part of the trip, for sure.

We were to go to the boys orphanage after lunch, but unfortunately the trip was cancelled, so we spent a couple hours visiting with our new friends at the house, there was never wasted time.  There was always someone around to share a story of hope through Jesus with. 

I spent a good part of this time visiting with Selene, and I found her to be such a joy and inspiration.  She is twenty-four, never married and works in or near San Jose, the capital.  She came home every weekend to see her family.  She teaches high school English and has a dream to come to the US and teach English to the Spanish speaking people here.   I encouraged her that Naples had many Spanish speaking people and she really became excited.  She shared that she had a passport, but not a VISA to work in the states.  I told her we would pray with her for her dream to become a reality and the smile on her face made my heart sing.

I love this country and these people who love Jesus so much … They have taken to heart this message from Paul in Philippians:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Yes, God is meeting their needs.

Father, thank you for your amazing grace that covers all our sins.  Thank you for your amazing peace that changes everything.  And thank you for your love, that brings it all together.  And thank you for bringing me to Costa Rica.  That is such an amazing story in itself.  You spoke, I listened and obeyed and you have blessed me beyond measure.  Thank you … Thank you … Thank you.

I love you JESUS,
In your name I pray,
Amen

God Bless You!

Love,
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Three – Part Three

We came home from the orphanage, a little different than when we left.  There were a couple of fellows playing guitars and singing in the living room and I sat down and let the joy in their voices lift me up.  It is so special, being in a place where God is being glorified, 24/7 in words, deeds and singing.  I love that people walk around with guitars on their backs and whenever the opportunity arises, they sing praises to The Lord.  I know we could do this at home, why don’t we?  I remember the words Kathryn spoke to me the morning before, when I was denying my ability to sing and she said, “This isn’t a talent contest.”  How very true.  As we sat lifting our voices to the Lord, no one cared what key we were in or if we knew all the words to the song.  What was so special was the love that was rising up from our hearts.  I know God wasn’t judging us; why do we judge ourselves and each other?

Our leader, Cal, came over and was asking me about our afternoon.  I shared with him how the children had impacted us, how much fun we had playing with them, how special our time was there.  He asked me to give the message that evening at another of the local churches.  To share my day, my thoughts on Costa Rica with them. 

By this point, I wasn’t even surprised to be giving a message with an hour notice.  I smiled and said, “I’d love to!”  And I meant it.  Again, I was learning that it wasn’t a three point sermon these people needed, but rather a message of love and hope.  And for me, that comes naturally.  I have been sharing the love and hope of Jesus since the day God broke the chains that had been holding me in bondage for so many years. 

Tonight our team was Reece, Kathryn, Tammy, Daniel and myself.  Nancy’s feet were giving her problems, so she had to spend the night in bed, with her feet propped up, so that the swelling would go down.  She was sad she could not come with us and we were sad she was going to miss the fun. 

Two or three other teams headed to other churches.  The love of Jesus was going to be shared throughout the city.

Pastor Ricardo came and picked us up and we headed through the dark streets of Puntarenas.  It was interesting that the Pastor’s always drove us, they didn’t have something come pick us up, they came themselves.

When we arrived at his church, the worship was just beginning.  There were three women on the platform, their faces raised in worship to their King.  We made our way in to some seats in the front, put down our things and joined in the celebration.  Within minutes, the spirit of the Lord was felt around us.  As I looked around the room, I saw the radiance of the Lord on the faces of his people.  We couldn’t understand the words, but the language was once more, Love!

After singing several songs, there was a dance performance.  Half a dozen young girls performed a flag and veil dance, it was so beautiful; worship in its purest form.  The faces of the young girls concentrating on their movements, yet definitely in tune with his Spirit within.  They were dressed in pink and white, with yellow veils and white flags.  As they danced and twirled, my heart sang with joy with them.  They drew us into worship; the spirit was thick in that place.

Then Reece went up to give his message.  God had given him a message and he delivered it with sincerity and love.  It was his first sermon .. but it surely won’t be his last.  He did a wonderful job of delivering the words of encouragement and love that God had placed on his heart.  Daniel translated for him, and several times, the words from Reece brought an amen from Daniel.  That was cute.  Then he’d share with his fellow Costa Ricans what Reece had said.

After Reece delivered his message, it was my turn.  As I looked around the room, I saw many children.  This was a good message for this group.  Mark 10:13-16:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

I shared some stories from the orphanage and then explained that Jesus took time for the children. Jesus loved the children,  he actually laid hands on them and blessed them.  That we have a responsibility to the children, all the children.  The children in our homes and the children in the orphanages.   I also shared the story of Domingo, the man who received the healing of Jesus in the hospital, when he was dying.  How he received Jesus into his heart as his savior first and then the healing came. 

It was a sweet message and Daniel did a wonderful job of translating it to these special people … from my heart to his heart to their hearts.  When we gave an altar call for prayer, the church surged forward.  I prayed for several people for healing, then two young boys caught my eye.  They were probably eight and ten and I couldn’t help but think of Carson and Chase, just a few years back.  As I laid my hands on their heads, blessings from The Lord poured upon them.  I felt like God wanted me to bless all the children, give them all a word of encouragement, so I asked Daniel to relay this message and soon we had a line of children in front of us, waiting for their blessing. 

It was so sweet, their innocent little faces, just wanting a word from the Lord. As I knelt down and looked into their eyes, my heart was encouraged.  These children had hope. Daniel translated as I gave them words of encouragement.  Words stick in our souls, so many times words hurt and destroy.  But tonight, I wanted my words to lift up, encourage and bring hope to these sweet children.  I wanted Daniel to translate for them, because I wanted them to know what a good plan God had for them.

At the end of the line was a young girl who once I started hugging, would not let go.  I found out her name, Rachel, but it was hard for her to share with us what was causing her so much pain, as her body heaved with sobs.  Finally, she could talk a bit and she shared that she had diabetes, she had to take four insulin shots each day.  There were some other issues, but they were unspoken,  God knew her needs as we prayed together.

I encouraged her to come to the Woman’s Conference the next morning … I knew I needed to see her again.  That she needed something more.  She agreed to come and reluctantly left us that evening.  Her tender smile kept replaying in my heart.  What was going on inside that beautiful young girl’s mind?  What was the pain that she was afraid to share?

Pastor Ricardo had prepared a special treat for us.  Ice Cream Sundae’s with fresh peaches and chocolate sauce.  This was the first ice cream we had seen in Costa Rica.  Apparently sweets are not a big deal to them.  Their diet is quite healthy.  And we know that moderation is important, in all areas, but I have to confess, that ice cream sundae tasted wonderful!

The six of us sat at a table covered with a lace tablecloth, eating our sundaes and listening to Pastor Ricardo’s story.  He had lived in the states for a time, in Texas.  He was part of a large ministry and doing well.  But his heart was for his homeland, his people in Costa Rica.  So he gave up The American Dream, and came back to his homeland to share the gospel of Jesus with the hurting hearts of Puntarenas.  Interesting … he had the opportunity to not be here, but this was the place he chose to serve God. 

We piled back into his van and off through the streets we drove. Several of the pastors were holding a prayer vigil that evening, for the big FIESTA coming up the next night.  A huge evangelistic event to win souls for Jesus.  It was the event that we had been building up to all week, there would be many famous groups singing and a large turnout was expected.  A good portion of the town would be at this event.  And these mighty men of God knew that without the Power of the Holy Spirit, it would be for naught.  So they were going to march down the streets of Puntarenas, to the stadium, covering each step with the power of His Spirit, the blood of Jesus.

We were going back to our house, a full day of ministry had worn us out and we had two big events the next day.  The Women’s Conference at 10:00 am and the Gran Fiesta at 5:00 pm and if we had a chance, the boys orphanage in between.   So … it was time for rest.

But once we got back to the house, four of us ended up back in our room, sharing stories to the wee hours.  It seemed like all we wanted to talk about was JESUS, and how special he was in our lives.  And it was good to get connected to our other team members.  Stephanie was our youngest team member at twenty and she was such a joy to be with.  Her love for Jesus, teamed with her youthful innocence was a breath of fresh air.  Henriette sang like an angel and listening to her tell her story of how she ended up on this team touched my heart.   Miss Nancy, was still in bed with her legs propped up, but we shared our nights with her and she shared parts of her life with us.  Finally it was time to sleep …. Morning would come quickly and with it … new adventures, new opportunities to see God’s hand at work; through us and in us.

I believe when you expect to see God work, He will.  I think sometimes we don’t truly trust that God is going to work on our behalf, and I’m not sure that some faith is what God is looking for. 
 
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

It’s only been three days ago that I left Naples, yet I’ve experienced a lifetime of blessings, seeing God at work here in this beautiful country of Costa Rica.  I am in awe as I fade off to sleep.

Father, thank you for allowing me to see the children as you see them.  Thank you for the blessings you gave to them.  I pray your words sink into their souls and they remember them and live them out.  Father, thank you for the amazing opportunity to serve you in this place, through these people.  Thank you for your agape love, which is spoken in every language.

I love you Jesus!
In Your Name I Pray,
Amen

God Bless You!
Joyce

Costa Rica – Day Three – Part Two

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

After lunch on Friday, several of us headed to the local girls orphanage.  We had prepared for this event with stickers and candy and Stephanie had made bracelets for the kids.  As our bus pulled into the yard, little girls came running from every direction.  It was some sort of break time for them; I think the kids are still in school here.  And these kids were ready for a break and for some love.

I’m not sure what gift was the most receptive; it was like Christmas morning for these sweet little girls.  They pounced on the candy, stickers were stuck on anything that would stick, and they all proudly displayed new bracelets on their arms.  The smiles on the faces gave evidence that this was a welcome visit.  And each team member had a smile on their face, knowing that they were making a difference in these little lives, although our hearts were breaking, knowing that we could only be there for a short period of time, that in a few hours we would be gone and these beautiful children would be back to life as usual, however that played out for them?

You could see that some of them were tight … they stuck together like peas in a pod. Four or five hanging together.  Or two about the same age, arms intertwined their own special bond.  Or the one little boy, who never was out of his sister’s arms.  But there were the loners, the ones that were too shy to actually come up to us, but you could see it in their eyes; all they wanted was someone to notice them, to give them so attention, some love.

One of the little girls had to use a walker to get around.  Her body was crumpled but her smile was wide.  I was so grateful that her spirit was alive and well … she wasn’t letting her environment dictate her disposition.  Many of us could take away a lesson from this little one.

There were tomboys and girly girls … would be soccer stars and pop singers.   It was amazing how open these young ladies became with us, after a couple of hours.  We were treated to songs and dances and lots and lots of hugs.

One little girl got her hair braided by our team member, Tammy, and an instant connection occurred.  This little girl wanted a mommy and Tammy’s heart was broken when she had to leave her at the end of the day.  I actually had a beautiful twelve year old decide that I was to be her special connection and she wrapped her arms around me and we spent a good part of the afternoon, hand in hand.

We taught the girls to play Ring around the Rosey and they loved it when it was time for all to fall!  They laughed and laughed as they tumbled to the ground, time and time again.

They taught me a game where they stepped on each other’s feet.  I really couldn’t grasp that one, so then we decided to teach them the Hokey Pokey!  They loved that one!  It was so much fun to watch them shake it all about!

And then we played soccer.  Back and forth the ball went and these girls were serious about their soccer.  I got in the middle of some flying feet and ended up with a bruised shin, they meant business!  Our team won, 5-3 and we cheered and celebrated our win! 

It was then time for some songs, and we all lined up on benches, and Henriette sang them a couple of songs.  Their little faces were so pure and innocent, but I couldn’t help but wonder what they would be like in a few years … where would they go from here?  What would their lives be like, without families to support and encourage them?

I thought of Carson and Chase, how fortunate they are, and yet they have no idea.  I wondered what they would say if I were to bring home my little twelve year old friend.  A sister would be good for them.

We played and visited a bit longer.  One tough little girl kept pulling me up to spin me in circles.  She was one tough little nut, and I ended up dizzy each time she spun me.  I wished I could have let her do it all day, but knew I’d end up sick if I did too many circles.  Something about spinning in a circle after fifty loses its appeal … not sure why?

And then it was time to go …

My little friend handed me a note as I got on the bus.  It had her full day, telephone number and the word, Love, written on it.  Tears welled in my eyes as I read it.  Ahhhh …

We all tried to hold our tears till we were on the bus and driving away; when the girls couldn’t see us.  Then the dams broke and we all sobbed.  Sobbed for those beautiful little girls who were missing out on families.  Who lived in dorms, ate in dorms, went to school in dorms.  Who had each other, but not the gentle touch of a loving parent?  

Why is life so unfair?  Why were these girls here?  Who would love them? 

I don’t know the why, but I do know the Who.  Jesus is the answer to their questions and I prayed that the love we showed them, the love that Jesus gave to us for them, would shine through.  That somehow, they would understand that we were there because of Him.  That He sent us to love them.

It was quiet on the ride back to the house.  None of us really felt like chattering.   Our minds were still filled with the images of these beautiful little girls. 

Father, thank you for the opportunity to spend the day with these children.  Thank you for allowing me to be your hands, your feet to them, to share your love with them.  Father I pray your hedge of protection over these girls … I pray that no one harms them.  I pray that they come to the realization that you love them so very much, that you are there for them and Lord, I pray for people in their community to rise up and adopt them.  For churches to connect with them and families found for them.  I pray that their little hearts are filled with love; from others, from you.  And Lord, anything that I can do to help them, show me your way.

In Jesus Name,
Amen

God Bless You!

Love,
Joyce
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