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! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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