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Once You Plant Green Spaces…

Can you imagine! Less than 2 years ago, when the little church out in La Lidia was holding 3 services/week, it was averaging 6 people. Six! Less than a month ago, they peaked at one service at 100 people. D70_5480-2 Every Sunday, a children’s program has 100-150 kids come. For many, this is their only nutritional meal of the week. More kids would come if there was available transportation!  A Bible study has been started for those parents that just used to wait around and hope they got fed too.  Now, 4 or 5 people from this community travel into Guizaros (in San Jose) to help provide leadership as the ministry there undergoes a restart. The daily feeding program is growing as well as the women’s ministry. In fact, the comedor in Guizaros has needed to hire a part time cleaner to ensure that the general cleanliess including food prep areas are promoting good health. As Linda and I have come along our leadership team members with training and direction in both communities, this has allowed our leaders to follow what God has laid on their hearts to do. This means transformationally changing the community. Through their actions of faith, their personal relationships and vision, God is working.

D70_5445-2Along with with people growth, infrastructure has to grow too. In La Lidia, a team from University Drive Alliance from Lethbridge, Alberta, built a structure where the activities in La Lidia could still happen and not depend on dry weather (difficult in this area).  One of the community transformers has had his house rebuilt by members and donations from the community. Any strong wind would have blown it over! The church has a new roof replacing one that was rotting and full of holes. In Guizaros, some landscaping has been done to assist with water drainage and a wall has been started in the classroom building  to establish a permanent room to teach sewing. New bathrooms have been added. And most noticeable, a little sod

Hisilicon K3

was laid and flowers have been planted. Most of the kids thought the grass was artificial as one day there was nothing, the next there was green grass!

I read on FB comment on day that said, once you plant green spaces, you are planting for the future. And that is what is happening.

Parties, Training and More

Time flies quickly. It’s almost Christmas time.  Stores here in Costa Rica began their displays weeks ago. In one month, we will begin celebrating Christmas in 6 different communities and serving _67over 800 children. No, it’s not the shoebox campaign but something our local leaders initiated several years ago. It is exhausting. But your exhaustion evaporates as you see most of the kids receive their only gift since last Christmas when we last hosted a fiesta. The smiles are life giving.

Recently we completed our first leadership training with “Village Savings and Loans”.  We were able to train 15 leaders from 5 different organizations including four of our own local community leaders. D70_4234Village Savings and Loans training allows individuals from poor communities to invest $0.25 to $1/week into a saving group. Through interest earned, this enable individuals to receive loans for life events like funeral, food and kid’s school supplies. Things that many in North America have learned to take for granted. This program works at the individual level of enabling issues of self-respect and self dignity to be addressed. We plan to expand this program across this region of the world.

200_3042On a personal note, we are proud to announce the engagement of Briana to Paul from Calgary. We are excited as we welcome him into our family. It is difficult to be a parent from long distance. Many life markers pass us by. But we are so grateful how God has bless our kids and gone before them. I am also extremely grateful for my Dad and how he has progressed from his major heartache that occurred last June.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with an email from a co-worker who I hope will inspire you in your thoughts.

I arrived home from the airport to a house that was buzzing with activity.  In my absence, my sister and family had moved out of their house and can’t get into their new place for another week, and had moved in. I am very thankful to have space to share, but I have to admit it caught me off guard to come into the house and feel almost like a visitor in my own home.  I was also very thankful that they were covering the preparation of dinner since I had been awake since 1:30am, but it felt odd to have someone else running my kitchen.

 The next morning in my quiet time, I was asking God to help me make our home a welcome and inviting place and also help me sort out the strange feelings from the previous evening.  He said to me, “this is good for you to see and understand.  How often do my children come into my house and just take over.  You enter, you run through, you ask for things, but when do you take time to notice me or ask about my day or let me show you the things I am working on?  Remember me, when you come in to my house and remember it’s my house.”

 This was a good rebuke and reminder.   This morning I read Col. 1:9,10 “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Linda and I continue to feel blessed by many of you with your notes, prayer and financial support. When you give to GAF (Global Advance Fund), or to the Justice and Compassion Gift Catalogue, you allow us to continue as we invest into lives.

Day of the Child

D70_4088Throughout Latin America, September is full of celebrations including celebrating children. Not only celebrating children but it is a time to stand up for children and their basic rights to life.  God’s Word is so clear on what is expected of us with the fatherless, the widow, the needy and the children. Last Saturday, we were able to celebrate with over a 100 children in Guizaros. Many of these kids were new to me even though we have spent alot time in this community over the last 4 years. I see the older kids now every once in a while, trying to make their way in life. Life in Guizaros is tough. They are just trying to survive in a life of little hope and being pulled into a life of constant survival. But there are bright lights where a couple of the teens are in process of starting D70_4094to make inroads with the kids they grew up with. They want to see lives transformed through the love of Jesus. Pray for them as they step out of their comfort zone.  We have two other celebrations this week.

 

Haiti – When is a Christian & Missionary (C&MA) church not a C&MA church but is called a C&MA church? In Haiti. Over the last several years, church planters (with a C&MA) background started several churches in Haiti. These churches needed a name to identify with so they called themselves C&MA. Well, Canada C&MA stepped up and were leaders in bringing these churches official status within the the C&MA churches world wide last September. Remember theD70_3927.NEF._recovered_from_preview_ earthquake and how C&MA churches across Canada rose to the challenge and raised over a million $$$ in relief?  The last of this money is being used in the continued rebuilding of the country and focusing on these “brand new” C&MA churches that were badly damaged or destroyed in the earthquake. Pray for this on-going work. There are so many details to be overcome and so many decisions to be made by the C&MA Haiti leaders that it can be overwhelming.

UntitledThis fall (end of October), we will be hosting a 3 day workshop on Village Savings and Loans (VSL)  for the church leaders in Costa Rica.  The purpose is to “Train the Trainer“. There are nearly a billion of the World’s poor who make less than $1.25 a day. Most are illiterate or marginally literate. Traditional microfinance and regular banking practices and loans are often inaccessible to them. VSL is just one way to help them save and borrow against their own money to achieve their own goals. I am looking forward with extreme interest to see how God is going to use and multiply this workshop and many more in the future. Pray for the preparations  as we confirm location, a translator and a myriad of other details.

That Time of Year

Every May and June is the time we review our past year and the objectives we set and begin to formulate our 3-5 main objectives for the upcoming year. We follow the maxim that goals/objectives need to be  S.M.A.R.T. –S (Specific); M (Measurable); A (Achievable); R (Results-orien1780843_10152302577483674_1264624661_nted); and T (Time bound).  It is a period of thinking back to evidence of God’s goodness and thinking forward and planning based on being still to hear God giving direction.  A continued lesson that I have to face is putting the saying of this picture into perspective.  It’s amazing how the pressure of “doing things for the sake of doing things” lessens and and then disappears when one understand this.

I look at what has been accomplished, the lives that have been eternally changed and the positive shift that has occurred in several leaders as they are adjusting to “sustainability”  in their planning and decision-making abilities.  I compare this to those negative thoughts that we all have when we are evaluating past actions and I soon realise how God continues to work despite what we think, and even what we do!

Working in areas of compassion and justice and mercy does not work well with being time oriented. But if one values relationship building and time spent with people, God does some really  cool things.

And we are living proof that it’s not God using us but using people and partners that He directed  to build amazing capacity to do more than we thought could be done.  We are losing control. What a good feeling!

Slowly but surely, we are learning the cultural intricacies and the leadership principles that need to be presented and and the timing in which they are being presented.

Old CentreFor example, comparing the ministry center of Guizaros to 3 years ago, is like comparing apples to oranges. The physical changes has allowed a greater reach into the local community. And if you talk people and leaders and relationships, this is where the real change has occurred. Leaders are now taking the leadership role and are D70_3785incorporating sustainable programming principles ,  initiating great outreach activities. The  forward momentum has encouraged local groups to be part of what is happening. This is a life-giving sign for us to see.

There is so much we could share.  Our rural project in La Lidia has 22 Car accidentpeople in line to be baptised at the local church. I am not even referring to the agricultural initiatives or the results of the car accident that almost claimed several lives.  So many God stories.

Sketchup1The Canadian National Women’s project of building a medical clinic and women’s shelter in the Copper Canyon is progressing. Funds are coming in. Once we have $30,000 in hand, we will start. Our goal is a minimum of $150,000.

There are many Alliance international workers in difficult places all over the world. They all have God stories. Please support all of us by giving to the GAF fund or Global Advance Fund. We also have separate accounts for the various projects we are part of and details can be found in our Compassion Catalogue.

 

 

 

Before and After

D70_3353Have you ever asked yourself  “What have I done in the last year? two years? three years?” It is a tough question. One that floats through my mind quite regularly. How about you?

I am adding a short time  lapse video on the physical changes happening in Guizaros with the community centre.  Seeing the Before and comparing it with the After gives a great feeling.

I am walking (and learning) through the concept of “how I measure up”.  It seems that as I walk through life, living through my relationship with Jesus, I continually have to re-learn that it is not the result or end goal that matters. It is the fact and miracle that God loves me for who I am and who I am growing to be. My focus is not on the goal but what happens “in process” as I invest my heart and soul in an on-going, living relationship with a living God that already loves me for who I am. To often what happens (it’s human nature)  is that we  measure our relationships with goals and measuring sticks.  We compare. God wants us to just be …… getting to know Him more, relying on Him more, believing in Him more through what He has done and loving Him more because of it all. All the important things of having a growing, intimate relationship.

God has, is doing, and will be doing some amazing things in the community of Guizaros. Take a look at some of the physical changes that many of you have been part of. God is using you too.

Guizaros Time Lapse

Back in the Saddle

What can happen in 4 months? More than we can pass on to you in one blog in any detail.  In a nutshell, we began the framework for a quasi agricultural cooperative in La Lidia, Costa Rica using the concept of small greenhouses that will couple with small group Bible training in basic growing and business initiatives. The development of the community centre in Guizaros, Costa Rica continued with the laying of cement for a back patio (terraza) including a  20m retention wall and the building was painted. Also, almost 850 children from 4 poor communities were part of the Christmas celebration receiving a present, food and enjoying games. In Mexico, the medical clinic/women’s shelter was chosen as the National Women’s project for the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) of Canada. An engineer has drawn up preliminary plans with building to start in 2014, God-willing.

And we spent 3 months in cold, snowy Canada (High River, Alberta) for our home assignment that occurs every 2 years. Not only did we spend time building and strengthening our relationships with several southern Alberta C&MA churches, we were able to come alongside High River Alliance church and help with the process of church and community  renewal after the June flood; the flood that was the 3rd highest damaging disaster in North America after hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. I can’t forget that we lived only 15 minutes from our kids and we were able to spend alot of quality time with them. Oh ya, and I turned 50 and we had our 26th wedding anniversary. Great milestones to see how God has worked in us and through us.

What’s happening in the next 4 months? Well, you will be better informed with monthly updates now that we are getting back in rhythm. There is a work teams from Brooks, Alberta coming in a week to construct a bathroom and classrooms for the community centre in Guizaros. Then a several weeks later, Lethbridge Alliance is sending 6 leaders to see what is happening and how they can fit into our community development ministry. More news to come!

Check out the new catalogue that not only details our development projects and how you can support us but the many projects that are occurring world-wide with the C&MA. Thanks to all for your financial support of Global Advance giving, the support that keeps all international workers in the field doing what God has directed us to do.

 

Floods, Greenhouses and 550 Bolsitos

At the bottom of this Canyon is the C&MA National Women’s Ministry 2014 project. It will be a medical clinic and women’s shelter serving the Tarahumara people. This is where 50% of children do not reach the age of 10 due to medical and nutritional issues. This is where almost 100% of girls are abused in one form or another by the men in their life (fathers, brothers, neighbors). This is where a woman gives birth by clutching a tree limb and pushing. Recently, we partnered with eMi Latin America to design a culturally-relevant building to address these needs. Your giving to the Tarahumara Project will partner your attitude of serving with this project.Flooding..15 minutes earlier, this road was passable. We were traveling through northern Mexico to the CopperCanyon and the road to Rio Chico, our bed for the night, was flooded. After waiting an hour for the water to recede, we put our truck in 4×4 and went for it. Thankfully, the truck had a higher clearance and so we had a bed for the night, not a truck seat.

Flooding seems to be a theme lately.

In this last month, a trip to Calgary and High River was part of the 25k kilometres of travel I did. The Western Canadian District invited me up to come alongside the High River Alliance Church leadership. It was a privilege to spend time with Pastor Chris and Owen and share their journey with them. What a path of frustration and grieving the people of High River walking. Many are working towards a semblance of normality as they are able to get back into their house but for many, this is an ongoing struggle. Psalms 29 says “The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And all in his temple all cry “Glory”. The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to this people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Did you know that for every 2 stacked tires, 5 kilos of potatoes can be harvested! Not only does this work in small growing spaces, it is used towards recycling. This is only one of many “green” approaches to agriculture that Gerson, our agricultural cooperative leader is learning about. Recently, our two communities of ministry, La Lidia and Guizaros, went through a tough time of putting food on the table for the children’s feeding programs. As a result, our prayers have been answered as our leaders are now thinking “sustainably” in their problem-solving. This has evolved into a project of building a greenhouse for each community that will work towards nutrition and the food supply situation. Each greenhouse will also provide life skills training. This cooperative will establish strong community ties and involve the sharing of God’s blessings and Biblical truths in every-day activities. One lady from Edmonton came with family and friends to Costa Rica for a wedding and used this opportunity to encourage the group to give towards supplying seed and greenhouse construction supplies. This turned out to be a substantial amount. What a blessing knowing we can move forward with this project!

Later on this fall, every Alliance church in Canada will receive a packet of information in a red, white and blue cloth bag (bolsito). I don’t know what information will be sent but I do know it will be sent in a bag with the colors of the Costa Rican flag and made by the ladies in our sewing cooperative in Guizaros. 550 bags…Can you imagine? It’s exciting knowing the ladies are gaining new skills and receiving financial renumeration for their work that will help put food on their tables and clothes on their families. These ladies are part of a women’s Bible Study that through the efforts of a Canadian Alliance church, we bought sewing machines and started a cooperative that joins these ladies together in many ways. It is a light in their community.

For those who are giving to GAF, the national C&MA fund that supports the living expenses of international workers… Thank you.

 

 

Transitions can be So Difficult

photo Lorraine Hjalte
photo Lorraine Hjalte

I have been reading every update I can on the disaster situation (from floods) in southern Alberta but more specifically in our town of High River. The whole town has been evacuated and thousands have been displaced creating refugees. It has affected my parents, my sister and her family and many, many friends. As an ex-firefighter for the community, I just want to return and help. This situation is so much bigger than the “big” floods that have occurred in the past. It is amazing the different ways that people are responding. Many are looking outside themselves and looking to help and assure the person in need. Others just don’t have the coping abilities to understand what to do next. While others are forming to bring a court ruling to allow them back into the middle of a fluid disaster zone. Talk about a sense of entitlement!

Slave Lake
Slave Lake

There are so many parallels with the Slave Lake fire situation where Linda and I were able to respond and be in the thick of things. Being there when town was opened up for  people to return and seeing the desperation and frailty on the faces. Being a listening ear because people needed to talk their most innermost feeling out. Hauling fridges and freezers filled with rotted food that created an unbelievable stench. People trying to find out what insurance covered and what it didn’t. There were so many affected, who lost houses and belongings; and yet they were the ones to turn and help the next person in their time of need. So many people deeply affected and hurt.  In our work of community development where this type of crisis lives itself out every day, we have learned that no matter how rich you are or how poor you are, a disaster of this type in High River puts everyone on the same footing. How a person chooses how they will respond respond to a crisis directly reflects on their character and values. Life is a daily race. How you compete and finish this race of life is vitally important. Don’t let the daily distractions (ie. on “things” you have lost) affect how you compete. I want to leave you with an excerpt of a blog of a friend of mine.

photo Lorraine Hjalte
photo Lorraine Hjalte

At the finish line on this dramatic day were the announcers and many, many people. Some friends, some family, but mostly people from the city gathered to cheer the athletes on and home. This made me think of Hebrews 12:1 and the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! Jesus himself said: “I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.” (Matthew 28:20, NCV) and Zephaniah 3:17: “He will take great delight in you; in his love… will rejoice over you with singing” (NIV). What a song! Can you hear it?

10 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1; ESV)

Encouragement from the Scriptures:

29He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31; ESV)

Think about the encouragement given to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:11: “Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown” (The Message).

Not only were they encouraged to keep a tight grip, but also not to be distracted. Why? I do not think they were meant to just keep a tight grip or hold of things for the sake of keeping a tight grip on things. I do not think they were instructed to remain in the same place or position but rather, as they are encouraged, not to become distracted. They were encouraged to press on or continue growing and going about their purpose.

Trust me, I know, there are times in our lives when all we can do or feel we can do is hold on and not even sure how tightly at that!

There are things that happen in our lives that can cause us to stumble, perhaps lead us into thinking about giving up, but at these times, possibly more than ever, we need to endure and “press on toward the prize” (Philippians 3:14; ESV). When we feel there is absolutely no strength left in us, we must look to Jesus and draw on His strength to sustain us. He is able to keep us from tripping, stumbling or falling (Jude 1:24)… but if we do fall, may we have the strength, courage and obedience to get back up again and start afresh: “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again” (Proverbs 24:16; NLT).

Friends I want to encourage you, no matter what and I mean no matter what has happened in your life, perhaps happening in your life right now or anything that might happen in the future. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2; NASB) and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:14; ESV). May our desire increase, our preparation be more specific and focused and may the fruit of our discipline and obedience equip and empower us to endure until the very end! Let us not give up but live the abundant life Christ has in store for us!