It is hard to believe that our time in Costa Rica is coming to a close. Last night, we went to the home of some friends to enjoy a time of food and games. We had lots of fun, but it was a realization that I (Maria) would be saying good-bye to these friends soon. Soon, like in two weeks and two days. We are moving. Again. It seems to me that we went around and around just to get to where we first thought we were going to go.
You see, when I first met Cody, he was getting ready to go to Spain as a missionary. He was in the beginning stages of learning Spanish. He already owned a stack of index cards filled with Spanish words. Maybe he thought that I would be of great help in his missionary journey to Spain. But, shortly after we got married, his dreams were killed by his new wife who didn’t think moving across the world to Spain was such a great idea. I wanted to go to Africa. Isn’t that where all missionaries go anyway? So, we let the missionary idea go for a time knowing that one day the Lord would show us where He would want us to go.
It was in 2004, after Isabela was born, that we told the Lord that we were willing and eager to go. We were living in Florida at the time. We remember telling Him in prayer one day that if He wanted us to go to Spain, to please open the door for us to go. That was the beginning of our missionary journey. It was shortly after this that we went to visit a friend who had moved to Asheville, NC and after spending a few days with her in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and falling in love with the place, we decided to load our car and move there. This lead us to our church, Biltmore Baptist Church.
We didn’t end up going to that church right away, but soon enough, in God’s timing, we happened to go to visit there for a Wednesday night service. But this was no ordinary Wednesday. No. This also happened to be the first day of Global Focus, a week long missions conference that the church has each year. The Lord used this event to stir our hearts back to the idea of missions. And so we joined Biltmore Baptist Church soon after that night and began praying about missions. By this time we were both willing to go. Anywhere.
After months serving in the church, we met with the missions pastor and because of our family structure then we all agreed that it would be best for our family to serve first in the United States. So we went through the lengthy process of applying, interviewing, being accepted, and serving with the North American Mission Board in the wonderful state of Delaware.
It was during our time in Delaware that the Lord began to stir my heart towards working with the poor, especially the orphans, especially in another country. So through a providential series of events we ended up meeting a pastor in Delaware who had an orphanage in Haiti and we decided to venture out on a vision trip to Haiti. Shortly after this trip, and after four years had passed since our prayer in 2004, we began praying about another move. This time to a place totally different than our own home—to Haiti.
God’s providence was at work and we ended up, once again, in the process of interviewing, training, and being accepted with Global Outreach International. This time, however, we were faced with the challenge of raising our own support. The Lord provided in miraculous ways and we were off to Haiti on October 27th, 2009, just less than five months from when we were first approved by the missions board.
Most of you know the rest of the story. So I will not go over all the details here. But for those of you who don’t know, we went through an earthquake, childhood cancer, the loss of a child, and a terrible assault in Haiti all in a matter of less than two years.
It was just shortly before we were assaulted in Haiti, last year, when Cody and I had, once again, begun praying about revisiting the idea of doing work in a Spanish speaking country. We began to sense that our time in Haiti was coming to a close. So, we began talking and praying about the possibilities of leaving Haiti some time in the upcoming years. We thought that maybe we could stay a year, then come back to the states, then figure out where to go from there, and then go for it. Maybe Spain. Maybe somewhere else.
Then, on October 11th, the robbery/assault happened. And we knew we couldn’t put ourselves and, especially our then seven year-old daughter, Isabela, through any more trauma. It was just too much to bear, especially happening less than a year from when the Lord called our four year old princess Susana home to Him. So with the approval of our home church and our mission board Global Outreach International, we left Haiti and came back to the states for three weeks of trauma counseling. We told our mission agency and our church that we had been praying about leaving Haiti even before the assault and were praying about moving to a Spanish speaking country. Our agency told us that it is an agency requirement that missionaries serving in Latin America or Spain attend language school in Costa Rica before moving to their final field of service. So, with their approval, we decided we would go. In January.
So, here we are in Costa Rica. It has been almost a year since we have been here. It has been the hardest year and, at the same time, the most fruitful year. Costa Rica has been a roller coaster of adjustments and a classroom for our souls. Although many things happened during our time serving in Delaware and during our time serving in Haiti, it has been here where we have seen the hand of God work in our hearts more powerfully than ever. Costa Rica will forever have a special place in my heart.
I didn’t get a chance to feed the masses and I didn’t rescue many from their poverty. I wasn’t playing with orphans. Nor preaching the gospel on the street corners. There weren’t many people coming to our gate asking for bread. Not that there is anything bad with feeding the masses or playing with orphans, but the Lord used me in a much different way—I got to share the gospel of Jesus with the people around me. But first, I became a student of the gospel. God began to show me the amazing power of the gospel of Christ, not just for salvation, but for sanctification. A gospel-centered life. And as I began to learn it, God began to use me to share what I was learning from His word with those around me. It has been a powerful thing!
So, it is sad to have to leave Costa Rica. It is sad because part of me wants to stay and learn more. But on the other hand, part of me wants to go because I trust that God who began a good, great, awesome work in me, and in Cody, will carry it through to completion even in Nicaragua. I only wish that I could take the sweet ladies with me that I have met here. But I must trust that God knows what they need and He can meet their spiritual needs. I am merely a tool. And so is Suzy, my ministry partner in our Bible studies. He has already appointed two sweet ladies to continue on with the work. And Suzy and I will move on to serve Him in other ways. I in Nicaragua and Suzy in Ecuador.
I can’t believe that our time here is slipping away. In gracious love, God gave us this year, not to make it easier on us, but because He intended to use the pain we had endured in the previous two as a beautiful backdrop for the hard lessons we would learn during our time here. It was all part of His preparatory plan for what is to come. I don’t know what awaits us in Nicaragua. All that we know is that we have a plan, partners, a place to live, and His daily grace to carry us through. We are not going to Spain after all, but instead we are going to a little piece of it in Nicaragua. The city of Leon reminds me of old century Spain. It is a city filled with history and culture and much Spanish tradition. And most of all, a city in need to hear the gospel of Jesus.
Please keep our family in prayers as we make this transition. Pray for His grace to continue to teach us and use us. And pray that we adjust to the new changes and that we serve Christ in all humility. We love you all!