Friday, December 25, 2009

Feliz Navidad

We are so excited for what lies ahead for Rancho Oasis 4 Youth in 2010,
but we want to take the time to reflect on why RO4Y even exists:

To proclaim the new life and hope that is found in the God-man,
once a babe in a manger, Jesus Christ.

December 25, 2009

His Birth and Our New Birth

’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ’God with us’ —Matthew 1:23

His Birth in History. ". . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God ( Luke 1:35 ). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you . . ." (Galatians 4:19 ). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a "Bethlehem" for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. "You must be born again" ( John 3:7 ). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that "Christ is formed" in me. And once "Christ is formed" in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

From Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest.

Prayer Requests:

  • Praise - our visit with the State-side Beards (Jon's parents) has gone wonderfully and the girls are enjoying all their new Curious George books!
  • Our visit to the States from December 28th - January 19th: We will be visiting friends, supporters, churches and attending Calvary Chapel's Missions Conference. Pray that God helps us communicate the vision for RO4Y and that He grows our prayer and financial support base.
  • Wisdom in planning RO4Y in Honduras and all the details and logistics in getting there, becoming residents and establishing a ministry/non-profit organization.
  • We would like to purchase a used church van to both transport ourselves and various possessions to Honduras, as well as use for the ministry. (If you didn't see the video in the last post, watch it then you'll know why we want this van). There is another ministry in San Ramon that is wanting to sell one of their vans, pray that we strike a fair and ministry minded deal
Finally, enjoy this video of one of our favorite Christmas songs:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

...Red Light... Green Light...

Do you remember playing that game during recess or gym class where everyone stood in a line and ran towards their teacher when he yelled "Green Light" in an effort to get there before everyone else and then slammed on the brakes when barking out "Red Light"?

Well, if this elementary game is a loose analogy for our last 19 months in Central America, we've been somewhat stuck in the middle: "Yellow Light!"

We clearly hit the ground running on a green light from the Lord when we answered the call to come to Costa Rica. However, once we arrived our vision for Rancho Oasis 4 Youth has been on the awkward yield: unable to afford property, distracted by a full-time teaching job, learning how to parent two children under three years of age and ministering just once a week to the children in our neighborhood via Club de Ninos.

All of this was to say that during our trip to Honduras, Marillyn and I received the Holy Spirit's "Green Light" for RO4Y. All of what we have prayed for in starting R04Y and more has been answered - and we are so excited!

The Beards (minus Naomi) downtown Ojojona

When we arrived on the property in Ojojona, Honduras there was this overwhelming sense of peace, excitement and notion that this was home. Our new home!

Bible Class - Campamento 2009

Helping with Capilla Calvario's youth retreat helped us to see the potential for RO4Y. About 50 youth from three different churches attended the conference. (Tegucigalpa, Honduras' capital, Valle de Angeles - a community near Tegus, and Ojojona). It was a mix of city kids and country kids. Exactly the mix that we desire to serve.

These young men are from Valle de Angeles
30 minutes outside of Tegucigalpa
They all accepted Christ at the retreat!

Ojojona is ideally located an hour from the capital. On one hand we desire to minister to the youth of the city by bringing them to a peaceful environment, away from the craziness of the city, to experience and learn more about God. Secondly, the surrounding community is teeming with need. We desire to initially start by continuing the work that our missionary friends in Tegucigalpa started by holding Bible studies Sunday afternoon. From there, because we will be living in Ojojona, the possibilities of ministering, helping and loving on the children and families are endless.

Children from Ojojona

The property itself is perfect and has a few buildings built or started. At the same time there is a lot of work to be done; which opens up the opportunities for missions teams to come and invest their time and labor into the ministry.

It is so encouraging, almost unbelievable, to see the exact answer to the prayers that we've been praying for come to pass in the development of RO4Y! God is so good.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing more details about Ojojona and Honduras, but rejoice with us in this exciting new chapter for RO4Y!

Prayer Requests
  • Praise for the opportunity to visit Ojojona and participate in the youth retreat. We had a wonderful time with our friends, Jason and Patty.
  • Pray for all the logistics in our move to Honduras. Timing (we are thinking February of 2010), selling our possession in Costa Rica (from desks to our vehicles), how to get our "prized" possessions from CR to Honduras, and obtaining legal residency.
  • Jon's parents are visiting for Christmas; pray for safe and blessed time traveling. We are also planning on handing out a bunch of clothes to children in our neighborhood; pray that we have opportunity to share Christ as well.
  • We will be visiting the States from December 28th to January 19th. Our plan is to share in a few churches in Southern California, attend the Missions Conference, then visit friends and members of our support team in Seattle, WA.
  • Pray for us as we plan and prioritize the work and ministry of RO4Y!
  • Continue to pray for Jon's healing from the bike accident. The once dislocated finger is difficult to bend, he still has a lot of soreness on his shoulder and rib-cage and because of the weak condition of his right arm he tweaked his right wrist and is experiencing pain in his hand. The road rash is healing great, but the rest of the injuries have a way to go!
This video was filmed while driving the Ojojonan children back to their homes after the Sunday afternoon service. Can you say BUS?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Asphalt!

Most of you are aware of my biking accident this last Saturday morning because of the amazing e-mail-prayer chain that we have. (If you don't get our e-mail updates send us a line at

Thanks for your prayers - I'm walking (limping) in the promise of God's healing power!

No way is Satan going to rip us off and prevent us from experiencing His plan for us in Honduras! What's a little road rash for the kingdom of God, right?

Okay - here's the low down. It was around 8 AM and I was on one of my short routes - maybe 30 - 40 minutes. I just completed the strenuous uphill push, turned around and started to coast down the street. I decided to apply a little rear break because the turns are a little tight and cars are not a bikers best friend in Costa Rica.

As I applied the brake, I hit an unforeseen dip/hole in the road and hit both brakes thereby flipping myself off of the bike. I only remember launching from the bike then waking up in the ditch facing the opposite direction I was traveling. I looked at my left hand and saw that the index finger was pointing in a direction that was not by design. I panicked a little thinking I broke my finger - not good for a guitar/percussion player. My right shoulder was throbbing terribly and my head wasn't too hot either.

My moans of pain drew out several Ticos who came to my assistance. They called an ambulance, calmed me, sat next to me and supported me. I could barely sit I was in so much pain. I couldn't reach into my hip sack, so I asked one of the Ticos to pull out my phone, dial the home number then hold the phone to my ear. I spoke to Brooke and Wayne was soon on his way to get the bike. We lived about 10 minutes from the accident.

Wayne and our friend Miguel arrived shortly before the ambulance and prayed for me. I was pretty dizzy and don't remember much of the ride in the ambulance. We arrived at the hospital where they gave me some pain killers intravenously and sent me off to get x-rays of my hand, head and shoulder. Once discovering that nothing was broken, the doctor reset my finger and a few of my larger road rashes were cleaned up.

Thank you Jesus for Miguel. I was dizzy and drugged up at the hospital. I was lost and pretty scared, I felt like I was in a dream, only half understanding my surroundings and the people talking to me. It was very strange. (I even saw one of my former students. "Teacher!" she shouted. "Pray for me," I replied as I hurried by in the wheelchair.)

Now I've been home recovering and planning for Honduras! This next week is pretty important as we seek the Lord's direction for RO4Y.

Pray for our time with Jason & Patricia Mulla. (They've got a newborn).

Pray for the youth conference in Ojojona Thursday 10 - Sunday 13th - we'll be roughing it. Roughly 60 city kids from the capital Tegucigalpa will be attending.

Pray for the Lord's confirmation - we will be spying out the land to see if God is drawing us to start RO4Y in Honduras.

Though my helmet wasn't cracked it was damaged (ripples in the plastic);
imagine what the road would have done to my head without it!

Some bruising on my forehead from the impact of the helmet; notice the red line above my ear.

X-Ray of my dislocated finger; the large orb is my wedding ring.
(The slide is technically backwards).

Road Rash - Ouch!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our plans, His steps

A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure. - Proverbs 16:9 (Amplified Bible)

Throughout our 19 month stay in Costa Rica we have prayed for God's will and direction for Rancho Oasis for Youth. (See Proverbs 16:9).

After waiting and waiting for some property to begin the groundwork for RO4Y, we have a breakthrough!

We have been offered a piece of property that consists of the following:

  • 6 acres with 4 water wells & electricity; 4 acres immediately next door for sale

  • Two houses (one with a complete house water filter)

  • Church building is under construction (10 m x 30m or 32’ x 98’)

  • Another building that is planned to be reconstructed as a rancho/shelter and kitchen

  • About an hour from the capital city (five minutes from local town)

  • Large outdoor fire pit with seating

  • The community is very rural and the church reaches out primarily to the children and a few mothers. 40 kids come regularly, twice as many attend for special events.

  • We would NOT need to pay rent, only utilities.

  • The cost of living is half of what we are paying now!

  • If the Lord would lead us to buy the property, they would sell it to us for the original price $18,500.

Sounds ideal for RO4Y, right?

Here’s the catch – the property is in Honduras.

A missionary couple, Jason and Patricia Mulla, befriended us several months ago. They have served in Honduras for 7 years. They have been ministering in the area of the property (called Ojojona) for 3 years only once a week because they have two other church plants in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa.

Marillyn's parents, Wayne and Brooke Goranson, were in Tegucigalpa doing an IBS seminar in September. They visited the property twice, heard Jason and Patricia’s vision and saw an abundant amount of opportunity with the kids and community. Their vision is very similar to our vision for RO4Y. The Mullas have also been receiving our RO4Y updates and have been hearing our heart for the Ranch.

Before we make a decision we felt it important to see the property for ourselves and spend some time with Jason and Patricia. Therefore, we will be flying to Honduras early December to participate in a youth retreat in Ojojona, the 10th - 13th. I have been asked to teach two small group studies and one large group session; the theme of the retreat comes from 1 John 2:15

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

It feels strange to consider leaving Costa Rica, but this could be an open door and we want to follow the Lord’s direction.

We are so excited about this opportunity. Please keep us in prayer!

Marillyn, Tabitha and I depart Costa Rica on December 8th and return on the 15th. (Naomi will stay with the grandparents).

Love you all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Schools Out for the Summer!!!

8th Graders at Colegio Bilingue San Ramon

I know most of you reading this post are thinking SUMMER??? (It is currently 38 degrees in Des Moines, Iowa as I type this).

Yep, school is officially out for the summer here in Costa Rica!!! Though the public schools will continue for a few more weeks, I'm done.

Thursday, November 26 is our last day of class and appropriately it is titled "Fiesta de la Alegria" (translated: Party of Happiness).

No, it definitely isn't coincidence that our last day of school falls on the North American holiday of Thanksgiving. I'm so thankful for the Lord's provision of this job... and its conclusion.

I've learned so much during the last nine months of school, but one of the most important ones is that I know I'm not supposed to be a teacher. (At least in the traditional sense of the word).

Let me explain:

While Marillyn and I served in Mexico at Rancho Sordo Mudo as missionaries/teachers, I fell in love with the classroom. Sometimes athletes use the phrase "in the zone" when they are performing at their highest level - this is how I felt about teaching in the classroom. God has blessed me with a special gift to direct a group of young people and teach them. (Not many of you out there can honestly say you love to hang out with junior high kids, right!?!?)

Teaching has been a strong part of my background and family. My parents were both educators and while growing up when we sat down at the dinner - we all talked about school. (In fact, it wasn't until late elementary school that I understood that ONLY MY parents had the summer off! Kinda' like the white edge around all stop signs.)

A few years after graduating the university with a degree in English, I pursued a teaching certification. However, I stopped this process and entered into ministry as a youth pastor, then husband, then missionary in Mexico. After returning to the US for the birth of Naomi, I entered the classroom again as a substitute teacher, but had to move on because of the inconsistent hours.

When I was informed about the opportunity to have my own classroom here in Costa Rica, I jumped on it because I felt that the Lord brought it to my lap, it would help make ends meet, and provide an important tent-making opportunity before starting Rancho Oasis for Youth.

However, I was not prepared for the overwhelming amount of work and preparation that is involved with teaching. In the beginning, every hour in the classroom, was an hour of preparation at home. I trimmed my schedule from 8 to 5 classes after mid-terms, but it was just manageable.

The job was fun, but English isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, of course, I had opportunities to share my faith and even use verses in the classroom, but it just isn't the same.

I'm grateful for the last nine months because it has shown me that teaching youth the Word of God and engaging in their lives (not correcting their punctuation and spelling mistakes) is where I will truly be in the zone!!!

You know, Rancho Oasis for Youth is like an experimental classroom. We won't have textbooks, pencils and papers, but the Bible, horses and the day-to-day life experience.

Now that school has come to a conclusion, I'm excited to give my energy (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) towards our goal to complete God's vision of RO4Y.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement over the last nine months and beyond.

Please continue to pray for my former students at Colegio Bilingue San Ramon. Most are groomed for the university with parents as professionals, much like myself growing up in suburban Chicago. These rich kids need Jesus just as much as the down 'n out ones.

Quitting this job is also a big step of faith financially because it has covered roughly a third of our living expenses. Pray that God moves on the hearts of our supporters to become monthly givers and that we wouldn't doubt His provision.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and stay tuned for some exciting new developments with Rancho Oasis for Youth!!!

6th Graders reading to Naomi on the last day of classes

Parting Shots: "Fiesta de Alegria"

7th Graders: Left to Right, Top Row Tryve, Andrea, Paula, Susi, Sophia, Johan, Fio, Marisol, Pamela, Raquel, Nazaret, Elizabeth Left to Right, Bottom Row Joseph, Jonathan, Me, Andres

8th Graders: August, Alexis, Me and Samantha / 6th Graders watching their homemade in-class movie

10th Graders: Left to Right Cristian, Diego, Zenen, Zou, Me, Edgar (kneeling), Glori, Karina, Marcos, Paulina, Fermin, Natalia (Spanish-native Science teacher)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Warriors

We've had three weekends of successful Club de Niños.
We've felt the presence and power of your prayers.

Mare, Tabi, Marjori, Brooke, Dayana, Tabi & Rebeca

Victor & Jon / Naomi Erica & Katarin

Today's Club was rained-out,
but we are still grateful because it was a first in three months.
(Pretty good, especially because we are in the rainy season).

Prayer Needs:
  • California or Bust!!! The Lord has provided the finances for us to participate in the 2010 Calvary Chapel Missions Conference. We are excited to participate, grow and share with some of our supporters on the West Coast.

    "At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:18-19

    Pray for the Lord's provision for plane tickets to LA (~$1,200)

  • No news about involvement with a youth outreach with our friend Shirley. Continue to pray for the Lord's direction with our involvement in the community.

  • Continue to pray for our homes Bible studies in English: Wednesdays we are studying through Ephesians and Sundays through Hebrews.

  • Thank you for your prayers for Naomi and Tabi. Mare and I are growing as parents and the girls are maturing poco a poco (little by little)! Continue to pray for their salvation.

  • Continue to pray for the missions team from Wisconsin; wisdom with timing of the trip and spiritual preparation.

  • 9 days and counting of English Classes at Colegio Bilingue San Ramon! Jon is thankful for the run at the school and asks for prayers for writing his final exam (4/5 written), grading all five, reviewing student's projects and putting together final grades. Pray for final opportunities to share the gospel!

    8th Grade Students with The Giver Projects
    Henry & Luis Carlos / Maria Fernanda & Paula

  • Unity is strong in the home; continue to pray for oneness in marriage and relationships with the in-laws and the kids.

  • One of my 8th grade students is looking at spending a month with one of our supporting families in Southern California. Pray that Alexis would receive a visa from the US - they are tough to get as a Tico.

Elbow Tag @ Club de Niños

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Man Your Battle Stations"

San Ramon

mountain view from Berlin

a little bit closer...

Look closely for San Ramon's central Catholic church

Club de Niños

Elbow Tag Portraits

Geovany, ???, Juan Diego - Tatiana and Indira

Daniel, Erica Naomi & Devin - Luis Alonso & Kaybel

Mare & teenager Marjori - Josh, Linda & Naomi - Dayana & Rebeca

After two months of meeting with the children on Saturday mornings, we had one of our first memorable battles in the Spirit. Despite our preparation of song, games, Bible story and crafts, the morning seemed to be extremely chaotic. The children weren't interested in the games or the Bible story, my Spanish felt like it was submerged and my daughter Naomi was all over the board emotionally.

Why do we give Satan all the credit for this confusion?
Jon's message to the children was about repentance.

Why would Satan steal this particular seed from the gospel sowing at Club de
Niños? I believe he could turn the children's hearts to Christ for the wrong reason and they would "accept Jesus into their hearts" without recognizing their sin and turning from it. (a.k.a. - they would be commonly referred to as false converts. Listen or read Ray Comfort's message about false conversions).

Therefore, my beloved support team, let us resolve to pray fervently for Club de Niños. Here are some suggestions:
  • Take time out of your Saturday morning to pray for Club de Niños - we are on Central Standard Time, but an hour behind because we don't use daylight savings time. We meet with the kids from roughly 10 AM to Noon.
  • Pray through the children by name as they are listed in several pictures on the blog.
  • Pray for Jon to preach effectively to the children in Spanish and for the leaders to be bold in reaching out to the kids regardless of their level of Spanish.
  • Pray that God would cleanse and prepare the leader's hearts before they go into "battle" and that they would have a keen eye out for the warfare.
  • We are praying about attending the Calvary Chapel Missions Conference 2010. The cost of the conference would be $580 for the entire family (this includes room and board for four for four days). Rough idea on tickets for four to the Los Angeles are around $300 a piece.

  • A good Christian friend asked us to help coordinate a child/youth outreach with their church. Jon is planning to meet with the pastors soon, but our friend Shirley thought we could help after what she has seen at Club de Niños. Financially the church is just getting by and doesn't have the money to arrange an outreach. Would you consider sending support specifically for this event?

  • Please pray for our friend Shirley's family. We know her because her husband and brother-in-law raise the sheep on the property we live on and she is an English teacher. Her youngest, Indira, attends Club de Niños, and has an interest in the Lord, but her teenage daughter Valeria and her husband show little interest. Pray for her family's salvation.

  • With Wayne & Brooke out of town for the IBS seminars, Jon has had a lot of opportunites to teach and lead worship. Pray for our English studies through Ephesians and Hebrews. (A few other families regularly attend, including some non-Christians). We've also started to have a Sunday School time with the classic curriculum from our home church.

  • Mare and I are excited about our daughters, but they are quite the handful. Pray for the girls discipline and spiritual growth.

  • Pray for the Wisconsin Missions team coming in January. Ask the Lord to bless the preparation and logistics in WI and CR and to call individuals to go and to provide for the short-term missions team to come.

  • Today marks the one month left marker for Jon's classes at Colegio Bilingue San Ramon. Contine to pray for endurance and boldness to proclaim the gospel. Jon has been asking some good/ provocative questions for discussion, such as: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "If you were to die today, what do you think would happen to you?". Leave a comment if you have any other good questions.

  • As always Satan wants to destroy the home front before we even leave the house to enter the battle field. Continue to pray for our marriage and harmony in our relationship with our in-laws.

  • Need any help directing your prayers? Here is a link to a great "How to Pray for Missionaries" resource.
As always: your prayers and support are deeply appreciated. Bless You!


"Jumping Land" - local amusement warehouse

Best Buddies - Naomi and Dylan