Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Colombian Christmas present

Our departure from Panama was sudden and a little manic. With the cars finally booked on a ship bound for Colombia, following an epic effort by some of the team to make this happen, we were ready to book our own transport.  As it was now just 6 days until Christmas we opted for flying but we had to get seats on several different flights.

So on Wednesday 21st December I and several others arrived in a hot and steamy Cartagena after overnighting in chilly Bogota. Yet again YWAM are our kind hosts. We have come here to pick up our vehicles from the port so that we can then drive on to Bogota. But with a few days to go before Christmas and no chance of picking our cars up until the 26th we had time to take up some ministry opportunities.

One group helped clean and prepare the YWAM  school for the end of year presentation to the parents while I joined a group heading out to a village. Now, if I am honest, I did not understand why we were making a two hour journey to minister to some people when surely there were people to reach out to in Cartagena. Fortunately someone else was better tuned into what God wanted us to do. This turned out to be one of those days where you find yourself walking in God’s abundant favour and following in His footsteps.

We began to realise something special was happening when an attendant at the bus station showed unusual interest in who we were and the message we were carrying. As we prayed for him we could sense the opening of his heart to the love of Jesus.

We were met in Arjona village by Argelia and David who have been interceding for and ministering to their community for several years and had been told by God that He would send to them people from Africa. Their expectation of what God was going to do coinciding with our arrival was extremely high. First they blessed us with a fabulous lunch at their family cafĂ© before taking us to the central square to pray for God’s guidance and power to be ours as we walked and ministered in the community. We had barely arrived in the square before we were pounced on by a couple of scruffy kids spotting an opportunity to wheedle an ice-cream from foreigners; they got a lot more than that. As we prayed for them the presence of God fell heavily on them both, we had to lay Christian down and Luz stood with tears streaming down her face. As we shared words of knowledge with them we all knew something significant was happening and after Christian had prayed to receive Jesus we invited them to join us as we continued.

As we walked into the poorer part of the village the houses and roads deteriorated; most of the houses were constructed with concrete block some rendered some not and most had the bars at the windows and doors that we have seen throughout this region. In the streets litter was strewn and there were pools of stagnant contaminated water; pigs and dogs wandered freely. Christian & Luz took us into the home of their aunt who was holding her feverish baby. She too was open to hear the good news of Jesus and wanted to pray to ask Him into her life.

As we continued to walk Argelia explained that this part of town had a big problem with drugs and guns and certainly it seemed that some of the stares we received were a little suspicious even hostile. Argelia stopped us at a shop cum bar and asked the people sitting there to gather others as she had something important to share. Half a dozen guys sat around a table watching us warily. But by the time she began speaking, with her passion and hunger for them to understand the message apparent to all, around 40 had gathered. And despite the initial disinterest and wariness they had shown it was clear they were soon captivated, I spotted them hushing each other to hear better. After one of our team shared his testimony of drug and alcohol addiction and how God had lifted him from that dark place into His beautiful light, offered to lead them in a prayer to ask Jesus to bring that light into their lives too. I whispered to him that I felt God wanted those who wanted to pray to show their willingness to step into this new life by standing up. I closed my eyes and prayed and heard no chairs move. So imagine my joy when I then opened my eyes again to see EVERY single person standing. We all just felt such excitement and joy for them and our Lord and that we had been privileged to share in this moment.  After Argelia told them she would return to lead them in a Bible study we went on to pray for a local bar owner and his wife and to lead them to Christ; some children watching wanted to pray to receive Him too; we prayed for a young mother who had kidney stones who experienced His presence in an extremely physical and powerful way and told us she was confident that He had healed her; and finally we prayed for a young girl whose mother had died the previous month and who God had told that foreigners would come to pray with her.

We were filled with a conviction that all the people we had spoken to had been hand picked by God for us to meet and pray with, their openness to His love and His presence was evidence in itself that He had prepared the way. To see the joy and excitement that Argelia and David clearly felt, along with the evidence they had seen that God was answering their prayers for their community, was great encouragement for all of us. It was truly a very special Christmas gift to the team and we sat in the bus on our way back to Cartagena overflowing with the knowledge of His goodness and love for us.
Posted by Susy Mayne

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Farewell Panama

We are wishing you a wonderful Christmas season and pray that Jesus’ joy and life fill your homes and families. These last couple weeks in Panama have been pretty challenging and miraculous at the same time. One of our first nights in Panama we went into the poorest slums area where there are a lot of gangs and is said to be pretty dangerous. We went into one of the buildings at night and began playing with the children and praying for people. A young woman in a wheel chair was brought out of one of the room to ask us for prayer. She had not walked in one year because of Tuberculosis. We prayed for her for a while and then police came and said we had to leave because it was too dangerous for us to stay in that area. After the police had already asked us to leave we felt the urgency to ask this young woman in the wheel chair if she would like to get up and walk. She was afraid at first but finally had the courage to try. We held her hand at first but then she started walking by herself and she continued walking by herself around the room while the family and police all witnessed it. She refused to sit in her wheel chair again and was just silently weeping with thankfulness to God. A couple days later we received a text message from one of the workers from that area saying that this girl is healed and has continued walking since that night. The text also told us that one of the gang members we had prayed for confessed that he was about to do a robbery that night but while being prayed for he saw a vision of his destiny in hell and he repented and gave his life to the Lord.

Our team was also able to minister in the Hospital, leading Church services, upriver by boat to indigenous villages, to all the prison security guards, on radio shows and in the police academy. It was so different for me ministering in the police academy. Not the assembly I am use to speaking to. One hundred and fifty young men, many of them still in full camouflage gear packed onto the bleachers in perfect rows. When I began preaching I realize they were all still standing at attention so I gave them the liberty to sit down. They were tired from their all day training and work but at the same time very respectful and hungry for God. After sharing my testimony and the Gospel I felt to give an invitation for people to come to Jesus and be saved. About one third of the men responded and prayed committing their lives to the Lord. At the end of the service we invited people forward for prayer for healing and many were touched by God and healed of pain in their bodies as well.

Well that is part of the enjoyable part of our Panama journey working with YWAM. The not so enjoyable part was where I spend the majority of the time; trying to ship five vehicles and two tent trailers from the port in Panama into Colombia. It took over five days of running office to office, inspections, waiting in lines, in the police station, the customs office, making more copies and getting more stamps. It was so expensive, way more money than we had but God provided a generous donor at the perfect time to cover the costs. There were so money frustrating details about this process that I could write a book about but I will not get any further into them. That type of administrative detailed process is certainly not where I flourish in ministry.
Yesterday we flew into Cartagena, Colombia and will most likely be here through Christmas before we can head south where there is a lot of ministry planned for the team. We are still waiting for more of our team to come in as it was not possible to get tickets for all twenty-four of us on one plane. Our vehicles are supposed to arrive on Friday sometime. Probably on Monday we will begin our three day drive south through the mountains to Bogota. Please continue praying for us whenever you remember.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011



This is probably my craziest story yet. I’ve seen some undeniable miracles, but never anything to this degree. I will never forget Panama, because this is the country where I first saw the lame walk.
With the guidance of a YWAM leader, our team travelled to one of the ghettos within Panama City to meet with some people from the local community. We were warned that if we brought anything of value along, it would be quickly swiped from us. After my experience in Costa Rica, I felt a bit uneasy but knew I needed to go. As we drove into that neighborhood, the graffiti on the streets said it all. There were murals that read, “No more war. Change your neighborhood.” It was clear that such taggings were put there for a reason. We parked our car along a little alley, walked into a dilapidated apartment building, wound up a dark dingy staircase and entered an open area in the middle of an apartment complex. There was a local pastor preaching, but it was hard to hear a word he said over the chaos. Children were playing loudly, talking over the pastor, and bouncing from seat to seat.
We were told to begin talking to people and offer to pray for them. I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I noticed a small woman in a wheelchair and approached her with a couple other girls from my team. We asked if we could pray, and with no show of emotion, she gave a subtle nod. We asked her a few questions and tried to converse amidst the noise. It was almost impossible to hear her, and trying to understand Spanish in such a loud environment made the challenge even more difficult. Regardless, we figured God understood what was going on and decided to pray to Him for miraculous healing in her legs. We prayed for a few moments, but nothing seemed to happen. A woman from the local community grabbed us away after a bit and asked us to pray for some others.
Afterwards, Natalie felt we should return to the woman in the wheelchair. She looked so incredibly sad and discouraged, and we wanted to at least talk to her more. Healing or no healing, we figured we could at least show her some love. We went back to her wheelchair and knelt down to speak to her. We found out that she’d contracted tuberculosis a while back, and the disease had gone to her spine. It had affected her walking ability, and she’d been unable to walk without assistance for the past year. As we talked to her, children crawled in and out of her lap, then ran off to play. She explained that she had two children, but she was raising them single as her husband had died nine months ago. This poor woman was only twenty-seven years old. We are the same age, but our stories are so very different. I can’t imagine being a widow at my age, alone raising two children already. My heart broke for this woman as she shared her sad story.
I used my best broken Spanish to tell the woman how her Heavenly Father loves her dearly, that He is close to the broken-hearted and how He longs to heal her. The woman said she had once followed Christ, but turned from her faith after she was married. After we conversed for a while, she decided to turn back to God for hope. She bowed her head in prayer and accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior. After she made this declaration of faith, Natalie and I decided to pray for healing in her legs again. She’d just received healing in her heart (the most important healing), but now it was time for healing in her body. As we prayed, Natalie sensed that something had happened. I wasn’t sure. Natalie asked the woman to get out of her wheelchair and try to walk. The woman said she was scared. I was scared too. I honestly was afraid to push her, but Natalie insisted. She knew in her heart that the woman had been healed, and told her she needed to claim that healing and begin to walk. After a few moments of the woman staring at us in fear, she took the boldest step I’ve ever seen. She let Natalie and I help her out of her wheelchair and she began to move her legs. Slowly, slowly, slowly she began to walk with our help. She looked like she was in pain. I wasn’t so sure we should keep doing this. But as the woman took baby step after baby step, she eventually let go of our arms. And she continued to walk—alone. Completely unassisted, the crippled woman was seriously walking—WALKING! Amazed and overwhelmed, I followed behind her. She made a circle around the apartment complex, and as we headed back towards her wheelchair, I foolishly assumed she would be tired and would want to rest. But the moment we reached her wheelchair, she walked right past it and kept going! Ha! I’ve never seen anything like it. Moments before, this woman had been sitting in a wheelchair; this was crazy! She finally paused for a moment, and her eyes welled up with tears. Her once stone-cold face cracked with emotion, and she cried tears of joy for her healing. I began to cry as well, so overwhelmed by the miracle I’d just been a part of. The Bible says Jesus can make the lame walk, but this was the first time I saw it with my very own eyes!
Days later, our team heard a report from one of the community leaders in the apartment complex. Apparently, someone had claimed that this miraculous healing couldn’t be real. At first, she didn’t believe that the woman in the wheelchair had actually been healed. But days later, the woman was still walking on her own. The doubter was blown away, dazed and confused as to how this could be possible. The healing was the talk of the apartment. All I know is that when we prayed for healing in Jesus’ name, that crippled woman got out of her wheelchair and started walking. And the tears in her eyes told me how very real her healing was. I praise God for what He did in this woman’s life and know more than ever than we can’t put a limit on what God can do.

Monday, December 19, 2011

In a Wheel Chair no More

The policemen scurried up the dark, graffiti splattered stairway to the second story of a run down, lower income apartment complex. The sun had gone down and this wasn't the neighborhood to be in after hours. This was Curundu; one of the most dangerous ghettos of the city.

The policemen heard some commotion up above but it wasn't a domestic disturbance, but rather what sounded like singing and praying. When they made it to the top of the stairs they saw something that they hadn't been expecting. In the central atrium of the building, lined with doors leading into one room apartments stood a group of 20 or so white people spread throughout the entire complex. They were praying over the residents and worshipping God.

Three young women from Russia, England and South Africa were praying for a young Kuna indigenous girl sitting in a wheelchair. "Would you like to accept Christ into your heart." The girl nodded. I was asked to lead her in the sinner's prayer and she repeated after me. This girl hadn't walked without assistance for close to a year. She contracted tuberculosis and in time had lost the ability to walk. The women began to pray for her with great faith. They asked the girl if she would be willing to get out of the wheelchair. The young girl shyly nodded her head. She stood up with wobbly knees and breathed in. "Would you be willing to walk with me?" asked one of the women. She was, and they began to guide the girl little by little throughout the atrium floor. Soon they let go of her hands and she began to walk without assistance all around the hall. As she walked tears began to flow down her face. She seemed to be getting stronger and stronger the more she walked.

I approached her brother and asked if he had seen her walk like this since she first took to the wheelchair. He told me it had been one year.

A few days later we heard a report from Shirley Miranda from a local ministry called "Juntos Podemos" (or "Together We Can") who had taken us to this building to minister. She told me that the young woman's mother was so excited to report that her daughter had not returned to the wheelchair and that she has continued to walk in healing!

That same night, other members of the team had been praying against strongholds in a man's life. Though we didn't know the effect of their prayers, we later heard from Shirley that the young man reported that that very night he had been planning to commit a robbery. While the team prayed for him he had a vision of where he would go if he continued with his plan. He saw himself in hell. In conviction he gave his life to Jesus that very night in repentance!

The team who ministered that night with us was from Iris Ministries. Iris Ministries was founded in 1980 by Rolland and Heidi Baker whom operate from Mozambique, Africa, one of the poorest countries in the world. (http://www.irismin.org/about. I highly recommend that you read the info in their link).

This particular team was sent out from Mozambique for a period of 2 years to visit every single country in Latin America by land (visit their blog http://irislatinamerica.blogspot.com/ ). They literally drive from place to place as the Lord leads and guides, seeking Him for what do and obeying His voice. They have seen so many people healed, delivered and saved on their travels. They began in Northwestern USA and made their way down through Mexico, all of Central America, then with us in Panama and later shipped their vehicles to Colombia to continue their journey throughout South America. Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM Intl., has encouraged collaboration between YWAM and Iris Ministries. We were more than thrilled to work along side of them and found ourselves very blessed as individuals and as a ministry.

written by: David Tracy/YWAM director panama

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Expectors vs. Servers..................the expector always wins. (in Costa Rica)

A child.

A child is sitting in the house, holding onto his favorite toy.
His face is pressed into a window pane. One blond curl is caught between the
pane and his forehead. His blue-green eyes, wide with innocence, are squinted
with boyish intensity. A dinted brass clock, sitting on the counter, reads 5:30
p.m. "Daddy's about to be home". Those weird, funny little nervous
feelings rush through the little child's hands and feet. "I want
Daddy." The child shifts around and shuffles his feet while fidgeting with
his toy, which has lost its appeal. "I want Daddy to hold me!" The
little boy runs, pulls up the window-curtain and looks onto the drive-way....a blue
car passes. "Humph". Where is he? Its almost time to eat and he isn't
here! Where is the old green work-truck?"

"Come eat your food. Dad will be here shortly and have his
own.", says Mom as she walks into and out-of the kitchen.
He waits. One minute passes......a red car passes....a grey truck
passes....a black van passes. "Oh! he is supposed to be here! Mom! Where
is Daddy!? I want him to be with us when we eat supper", little boy says
with a slight whine. Vrrroooooom!

"There! Its the old green truck! He's here, Mommy! Daddy's
here!! Yes!"

The little boy runs to the door and twists the knob with exaggerated,
imaginary Ninja-style ferocity. The curls are free-flying. The lighted
tennis-shoes are flaming those little batteries out as the boy pounds down the
steps with jumps that have to be at least twenty feet high!....at least.

Theboys plate of food lies untouched back at the table.
The toy lies on the floor.

When the little feet have doggedly run the twenty-feet to the
truck sitting in the drive-way, the big door is swung open and one big boot is
firmly planted on the concrete. "Dadddyyyyy!!" The boy runs around
and propels himself onto Daddy's dusty leg, trying with all his little strength
to squeaze Dadd's leg so Daddy will laugh with joy and commence with tickles
and kisses.

"What did you do today, Daddy? Did you find any bugs? Or a
lizard? Or did you see a gunfight?! Daaaaaaddy, you didn't go to the pet-store,
did you? Or the toy-store? Did you buy me something?"

Daddy has already
clasped his rough and worn hands around his little boy's head and face. All that
can be seen is squished cheeks, a little nose and closed eyes. Yet, Little Boy
still manages to speak. Daddy laughs one of his happy, deeper laughs.
"Ahhh! Stop. StooooOOop, Daddy. You face is poking me!" Daddy continues
a short second longer, brushing his scruffy cheek against the small, rosy
cheeks of Little Boy. Daddy engulfs Little Boy's hand in a gentle, firm grip
and yanks him into the air; catching him with into the other strong arm.

"Lets go eat. You get to see what I got after we eat
and talk to Mommy, okay?"

*gasp!* "You DID get me something, didn't you?? I knew it!
Haha! I knew you would, Daddy. Thank you, Daddy. I love you."

Little boy rests his head against Daddy as Daddy bears him solely
in his right arm, while clutching work papers, construction plans and a
scratched up briefcase in the other..........................Safe. Safe in
Daddy's love. No expectations denied. Daddy; full of happiness in being a good
Daddy. Little Boy; happy in being Daddy's little boy.

Nice story, huh? Haha. Well, the little story is just my little
preface to the translation of the reality of what truly pleases Daddy.....our
Daddy......The Best Daddy in the whole world....God.

When God comes to see
me, He isn't desiring me to come dragging my face in the dirt, moaning and
asking what I can do for Him. He
isn't even wanting me to approach Him wearing a joyful countenance while also
holding my own lengthy "to do" list. He wants me.
He wants His child.
And He wants my heart to be full of the Expectation of HIS
goodness...............you see...........because that expectation allows His
good love and good gifts and good surprises to be enjoyed in the fullness of
what He desires.

If you come in obligated
servant hood, your downcast eyes will never see what glory stands before you;
the glory that is standing before you to the full-forming of your own pleasure.

Take note: I am not
saying that you should throw out a holy servant's heart. But Martha's heart of
obligated servant-hood did NOT aligned with Christ's heart filled with a
servant's spirit.......A child desires to "help Daddy".
---"Helping Daddy
is the best! I want to be like Daddy! I want to do what He does."----

There is not a child
raised in love, however, that bears the identity of obligated servant-hood.
Yes! That's what I said. A child should NEVER have to say, "well, I need
to take out the garbage or Daddy won't love me..... I need to be real diligent
or Daddy might be disappointed in me and then spank me.....I better look real
happy, or Daddy might say I am whining and then lock me in my room in punishment".

Look at those imaginary

Just look at them. How many times have I come to God in that
spirit....................all the while, God had a cool collection of bugs to
show me. He had a Popsicle to give me. He, fully overjoyed, in love with me,
had a bag of toys to give me. He, wanting to spend time with me, had prepared a
day exploring the zoo together!!!!!

is the Good Daddy that we love. That is also the Good Daddy whom we often treat
as a bad daddy.

I want to be for God a
little who treats Him just as He is..................that is all.

I want to run out to
meet Him at the end of the day, FULLY EXPECTING Him to be as GOOD as HE SAYS HE
IS. He is the Good Father.

There is nothing in Him that leaves me with a reason to doubt Him, and so
succumb to the deceiving feelings of inadequacy,
obligation and
slave mentality.

He is my Best Dad. I
will be His Best Child. And together, we will love in freedom and adventure. We
will conquer the bad guys every time. And we will save the poor guys every day.
We will make cool plans for tree-forts, and we will build cities of
awesomeness! I will rest in the safety of His love. And He will delight in my b.e.l.i.e.f. in Him.

Because I believe in
Him, He will try to surprise me every time. And He will accomplish His goal.
Cause He is that good.

So, guys. What I am saying is that I feel like
(just maybe), there is a call for us to put our hearts back into Daddy's lap.
We neeeeeeeed to be surprised by
Daddy. We need to believe He will do something, and then get blown out of our
minds when He takes it a step further.
Get up and dance or

Surrender your heart to
the Best Daddy, our Father.............and then................

.............. receive
the heart of a child.

I am doing it too. We
all need to. We need to be the children. Cause He wants to be the Daddy.

"Come on Daddy. Come
home. Come show me what you did today. And show me what you want to do now. I
want to do it with you. And I want to show you the pictures I drew today. And
the mud-fort I made. And the glass window I accidently broke. And I want you to
see how I tried to do things like you do them. I did like you because you are
the best. And I want to be like you. Teach me Daddy. And.......can we go get
ice cream and buy a dog before mom gets home??? I love you, Daddy."

Love is an Experience.......

Teaching doesn't build a fire; nor does it light the
wood with any flame of boldness.

To sit under teaching in order to gain increased nearness
to the desire of your heart is 2-dimensional, at best. At worst....which often
is what manifests in daily life.....the brightness of glory-light, the
butterflies of excitement, those pure and undefiled yearnings for intimacy and
the boldness to gain the presence of the desired thing are all lost within a multitude
of self-made assignments, schedules and the gray-fading effect of un-experienced-knowledge.

Millions of people could testify of this endemic, striving-plague to a Christian's identity. Jesus calls us in purity; raw, to His very
core, Jesus shows us His love and mysteries with abandonment and un-flinching
boldness. That is why He died for us.....so we could be with Him and He
could woo us into His love.

That is what it is about.....His wooing and our accepting.

Many scholars have written books, bigger than the
bible, on the doctrines and theories that might be held with sacred pages of
paper. But.....they never met the Man who called them to His side, as His
Bride. They never saw His love, tasted His kiss or gazed into His eyes as He
sang a special and unique song over that specific heart. Often, the pursuit of
knowledge makes us distant to the object of our admiration.

A husband doesn't study his wife, with gloves and
goggles and a white safety-suit!! Ridiculous!

He doesn't sit behind glass walls and theorize about
what his wife might be thinking; what she might be feeling and desiring. The
only way for the husband to know his wife is to be with her. He
must experience her heart and desires; and receive
them in his own being. That is what it means to know someone.
A husband kneels down to cry with his wife, to know
her heart and to feel her feelings; to be one, by the experience of pure love
in fellowship. That is what Jesus does with us. He sings unique songs over each
person....each person that He calls "My
All day long, he speaks to the heart. He caresses it in His
grace and in His un-divided attention.

................it is time for us to realize,
however...............Jesus wants our response to His love.

And, He wants it to be a face to face encounter with Him.
He is worth it all, He deserves nothing less.

Many of those hearts, which Jesus spends all day
wooing, however, never look to see His face. They never listen to hear His
song. They never sit, to hear the poems of love that the Bridegroom has written
in the night seasons for His beloved. They never even stop to consider that the
Bridegroom might actually desire to love His Bride through REAL fellowship;
real communion.
Instead...the heart busies itself with study and
Like a bride who feels in-adequate for her husband,
the heart strives to do things for its love. It seeks to give itself a small
chance of hope for affection by striving itself to blisters and weariness. As many
women know, once you strive and suffer for affection, you never get it because
your heart is actually keeping you from receiving it. It isn't the amount of
work. It is the door that needs to be opened.
To receive love requires vulnerability. To partake
in love requires rest. And for us to give love to Christ, we must first become
baptized in the reality of His burning-love, jealousy and ravishing desire
He has for us.

He calls us to experience Him.

..............He has long awaited to EXPERIENCE love with His
Bride. He wants us to come into Him; He takes away the veil. He wants us to step in.

"Come closer. Draw nearer. Dip your lips to the water of
my love, and do not hold yourself back, for you were made to drink deeply. You were made to be with me.
That is why I will have you sit with me on my throne.....because I am in utter
love with you, and I long to always have you at my side. Come away. Know me,
for I am your Beloved. And my desire is toward you

I want to K.N.O.W. Him. And I want Him to know me,
utterly and entirely. I want to be that vulnerable Bride, who rests in His
shade and surrenders myself to letting Him love me.

The Spirit and the Bride
say "Come." I want to desire my Bridegroom, and long for Him and His return. I have tasted of His love and I know His love.

......I want to know and be known.

It is our call. It is our invitation. It is the song
of wooing that groans into our hearts and awakens our love for His love.

"Let it be done in us. Let it be done in me.
Know me."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

costa rica: My Crazy Story of God's Redemption

Costa Rica: My Crazy Story of God’s Redemption

Let’s be honest. Border crossing day is generally disgusting, noisy, dusty, and long. I expected nothing less from the Costa Rican border and was pleasantly surprised to find the complete opposite of what I’d imagined. As I left Nicaragua behind, I gladly embraced the luxury of a border station equipped with a coffee shop, flushing toilets, and tiendas that sell real chocolate. Pure bliss. I noticed busloads of tourists passing through, and as I caught a glimpse of a white boy carrying a shortboard, I realized I had just reached Latin America’s surfing paradise. The team excitedly drove to a quiet fishing village called Playa de Coco and decided to camp out on the beach for the next few nights. After a long day of travel and border paperwork, I fell asleep to the sound of the waves, thankful for this taste of heaven.

The following day, a group of us went to grab some food at a local restaurant before heading out to do ministry for the afternoon. The restaurant where we ended up was started by two drunk guys who visited Costa Rica and never left, and you could sense that their moral compass wasn’t exactly pointing north. It was clear that the owner had way more respect for a bottle of liquor than for any of the women working at his restaurant. The waitress who helped my friends and I was in a terrible mood and was very short with us while taking our order. I was tempted to boycott this restaurant and leave a bad tip to show her how I felt about her attitude. Yet, my kind-hearted teammates (who never cease to amaze me) approached the situation with the opposite spirit and said we needed to minister to this woman. Ministry isn’t a special time set aside to show people we love them; it’s just living normal life intentionally. The men on my team sensed the disrespect of women in the restaurant and felt we needed to show our waitress that she was valued. Sweet Liz prayed about what to do and said God told her to give the waitress a bar of chocolate. Seriously? I thought. Not only is that culturally bizarre, that woman has been rude to us for the past hour. But Liz stuck to her conviction and boldly ran down the street to a local supermarket and purchased a bar of chocolate. When she returned to the restaurant she approached our waitress and said, “My friends and I thought you looked a bit down, and we just wanted you to know that God loves you so much.” She handed the woman the chocolate along with a note that said, “Dios te ama” (God loves you). The waitress’s face completely lit up, and she looked like a different woman for the rest of our time in the restaurant. In that moment, I remembered that often the people who seem like they deserve our love the least are those who actually need it most. And opportunities to show that kind of love don’t require big mission trips or elaborate plans. It can be as simple as eating lunch in a random restaurant with a cranky waitress who looks like she might need a little affirmation.

Later that day, a group of us decided to travel to a nearby beach village to do a ministry called “treasure hunting.” I had never done this before, but was willing to try. The idea is basically to search for the Lord’s “treasure”, which are simply His precious people. You choose a location and ask God for clues to bring you to the people He wants you to bless. As you pray, if God lays anything on your heart, you have to step out and take the risk of following what you’ve received. As we drove to the beach village, the five of us in my car asked the Lord to show us visions and images in our minds of those we would soon encounter. Some of the pictures seemed really random, but God was faithful and did weave them together.

We visited two different beach villages, and I’ll never forget the second. This particular beach looked pretty barren, but Natalie and I decided to walk along the water and see who we could find. We walked for quite a while, and no one stood out to me. We passed by one man who was just standing alone looking at the water. He said hello, but we kept walking. I wondered if we should speak to him, but it felt awkward and forced. We continued on a bit more and saw no one, so we decided to turn back.
“There’s no one around, but I guess we could go pray for that one guy,” I said to Natalie. To be totally honest, I didn’t really want to but figured it couldn’t hurt.

As we walked back towards him, Astrid approached us. Earlier, she’d said God had shown her a picture of a pineapple. When we reached Astrid, she explained that as she had been walking along the beach, she saw a top of a pineapple floating in the water, directly in front of the man that Natalie and I were headed towards. I had kind of chosen him by default, but Astrid recognized the pineapple from her vision and felt we needed to approach that man. I still felt pretty hesitant, but Natalie insisted that we go.

“Wait,” I pleaded. “We need to think of a question or something so this is not totally awkward.”
The girls laughed but agreed that that was a good plan.
I swallowed my pride, approached the man, and asked him if he spoke English.
“A little bit,” he responded in a thick accent.
“Um, well we were wondering where a good place to surf is,” I asked, trying not to look or sound like a total creep. “The waves here seem pretty small; do you know of a better spot?”

The man didn’t know of a good surf spot but began to engage in small talk nonetheless. We found out his name was Aynid, and he lived in the area. Natalie noticed the cross necklace he was wearing and asked Aynid why he’d chosen the cross symbol. He said he wasn’t a Christian but that he liked crosses. That seemed kind of weird, so we asked him why. He told us that was a good question; he wasn’t really sure himself. As we continued talking, Aynid revealed that his family had separated when he was young. It had really affected and hurt him. I could see the pain in his eyes as he opened up his heart to us. We asked him about the tattoos covering his body—gruesome skulls and other angry symbols. He explained that he had been very angry when he got them but didn’t feel the tattoos had significance in his life any longer. Aynid declared that he was currently at a point in his life where he needed to make a big decision. He wasn’t exactly sure what the decision was, but he knew he was facing a turning point. He went on to explain that he knew that when we walked by something special was about to happen. He said that he could just sense that this moment was going to be a significant one but he didn’t know what to do, so he merely said hello. We told him we also believed this was a divine appointment, that we’d prayed for people to connect with, and God had led us to him. We spoke about our faith and let him know that we believed God could set him free from the anger and hurt he’d experienced in his past. He agreed to let us pray for him, breaking off chains from his past and praying truth and love over him. We explained that God’s love is so lavish that he would send three girls from Germany, Russia, and the U.S. just to let him know how loved he is. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he asked himself, Is this really true? Is there really a God who loves me this much?

Aynid asked us our names, and when I said “Caitlin” he looked confused; so I reintroduced myself as Catalina, the Hispanic version of my name. He smiled and told me I had a beautiful name. Aynid then explained that his ex-girlfriend was also named Catalina. He told us that Catalina had been a really significant person in his life, and he said that he now counted us three as special people in his life. He promised that he would never forget one of our faces. He believed this had been a divine appointment, and we were part of the turning point in his life. Natalie asked him if he would like to make the decision to accept Jesus, but he seemed a bit hesitant. I suggested that Aynid spend some time doing some soul searching on his own. He agreed that he needed some time alone, just him and God, to reflect and pray. He knew he was on the brink of big decision and realized the weight of making a decision to follow Christ. Though I will probably never see Aynid again, I am confident that something changed inside of him. I could see it. God was undoubtedly doing something in his heart, and I know that he will find the truth he’s been searching for.

It seemed crazy that God had used a vision of a pineapple to bring us to Aynid. God is weird like that sometimes. I also felt honored that God had used my name as a part of this crazy encounter. I suppose part of Aynid’s hurt had stemmed from breaking up with Catalina, and I knew it was no coincidence that God had sent Aynid a new Catalina to tell him about God’s love. Inspired by God’s bizarre and beautiful redemption, I went back to our little beach camp feeling encouraged and full of faith. However, my joy was quickly dashed when I found out that Rose had been robbed while I was gone. Thieves had broken into our camp and stolen her phone, iPod, wallet, and bag of valuables. Over one thousand dollars worth of cash and goods had been taken. I was told to check where I’d been sleeping to see if any of my stuff had been stolen, and immediately my heart sunk. I’d carried my wallet with me to the beach village, but I’d left my laptop back at the camp. I slept next to Rose and knew that if her things had been stolen, there was no way my laptop was still there. Sure enough, I went to check and confirmed that my computer, the only thing of real value that I own, had been robbed. Natalie checked her things and found out that her valuables had also been stolen. I felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. The reason why losing my laptop was particularly upsetting is because I am in the middle of writing a novel. I’ve been documenting our journey on my laptop since September, and my dream is to publish the novel when the year is over. I’d written a lot so far and couldn’t remember the last time I’d backed the document up. My first reaction to being robbed was panic that I’d lost my writing. “My novel! My novel!” I cried, not even thinking about the monetary value of the laptop, all my music, pictures, and other documents I’d lost. Before leaving for Latin America, I’d known being robbed on this trip was a distinct possibility, and I was scared that I would lose my laptop since it’s the most valuable thing I own. I couldn’t believe my worst fear had just been realized. My teammates heard what happened and immediately came to comfort me. They hugged me as I cried, mourning the loss of my hours upon hours of hard work.

After I calmed down a bit, Liz told me I needed to go to the police station and file a report of the robbery. The police officer who wrote the report used old-fashioned pen and paper and took hours to record a few simple things. As she documented the robbery at snail’s pace, other officers came in and out of the office. When they heard what was stolen, they all replied, “Oh yeah, that’s a bad neighborhood. You shouldn’t leave your stuff there.” Annoyed I was receiving that advice now, I simply glared at the officers and said nothing. I impatiently watched the woman continue to attempt to file the report, writing as if she had learned to use a pen the day before. Everything in me wanted to grab her pen, write the report for her, and run somewhere--anywhere. But instead, I stood there waiting, watching the officers chat amongst themselves, knowing they didn’t give a rip about what had just happened to me. To them this was just a missing laptop; to me this was a huge roadblock for my dream.

After I got back to our camp, I tried to go to sleep but couldn’t. My head was spinning. I finally caught a couple hours of sleep but soon woke up to the morning heat, feeling groggy and sad. A group of people from my team reminded me that we were heading out to a beach called Playa Avenilla and asked if I were still coming. I decided to put my thoughts of being robbed on hold and go with the team, because this was important. In order to understand the significance of our visit, you need a little bit of background. Let me back up for a second:

While our team was in Guatemala, Dianne received tragic news from her son. His wife, Rhiannon (Dianne’s daughter-in-law), had been in Costa Rica with her youngest son, Julian (Dianne’s grandson), and went swimming with him at a beach where there are pretty bad rip currents. Rhiannon and Julian began to struggle in the water, but there were no lifeguards in the area. A group of local teens saw them struggling, and a kid named Johan grabbed his surfboard and paddled out to make a rescue. Rhiannon and Julian got separated, and Johan was able to save Julian, but could no longer see Rhiannon. When news reached Dianne in Guatemala, Rhiannon’s body still hadn’t been found. Dianne flew to Costa Rica immediately to be with her son and grandson. Liz, one of our other team members, accompanied Dianne to Costa Rica to be a support to her. By the time they got to Costa Rica, Rhiannon’s body had been found and, sadly, it was confirmed that she’d drowned. Dianne was obviously devastated by her tragic loss. Liz did her best to serve as a comfort to Dianne and the family, and she tried to remain strong while the family grieved. After the memorial service, Dianne flew back to the states to be with her family for a while. Liz flew back to Guatemala and met back up with the team. She shared with us about the events she’d witnessed in Costa Rica and the trauma she’d seen among Dianne’s son, grandson, and the teen surfer who carried the guilt of not being able to save Rhiannon. As she debriefed, Liz realized how much the tragedy had affected her personally. She felt little sense of closure from her time in Costa Rica but was forced to carry on as we travelled through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Yet, the moment we hit Costa Rica, old feelings came rushing back. When Liz found out that the beach of Rhiannon’s death was just two hours from where we were camping, she asked if some people from the team were willing to return to the beach with her. She wanted to pray for Dianne’s family, seek some closure, and possibly find Johan, the teen surfer who had rescued Julian.

Liz has been an amazing friend to me, so despite my own frustrations, I knew I needed to go support her and visit Playa Avenilla. About ten people total made the trip. When we reached the beach, everyone took some time to walk along the sand alone and pray for Dianne and her family. We re-congregated a while later and did a footwashing ceremony for Liz in the ocean, a symbol of service and cleansing. We prayed for closure and healing for her. Liz felt strongly that she needed to find Johan and see if he was okay. While she prayed about finding Johan, she felt God saying that He would bring Johan to her. Sure enough, after asking just a couple locals if they knew Johan, he appeared on the beach. Ah, the beauty of a small surfer town and “coconut wireless.” Liz greeted Johan with a big hug and asked me to translate between him and the team. I used my broken Spanish to explain that we were friends of Dianne and wanted to thank him for what he’d done. I told him he was a hero, and our team is so proud of him. I also asked him to share the details of his heroic rescue, and he explained how he was able to save Julian but unable to find Rhiannon in the water. Johan let us know that he wasn’t able to sleep for weeks after the incident and took sleeping pills for a while. I asked him how he is doing now, and he assured us that he is good. We asked if we could pray for him, and he agreed. We prayed for blessing and healing over him, as well as release from all guilt. We assured him that both we and God are so incredibly proud of him and so very thankful for what he did for Dianne. After praying, Liz treated him to a cool drink at the restaurant by the beach. We asked him a bit about his family, and he informed us that his mother had died when he was seven years old. Interestingly, Dianne’s grandson was around the same age. I found it remarkable that God had chosen Johan to be the one to save Dianne’s grandson, someone who understood exactly what it felt like to lose your mom as a little boy. God redeems things in such unexpected ways.

After praying with Liz and seeing her reunited with Johan, I could see a burden lifted off of both of them. The reunion was such a beautiful time of redemption. And as I walked along the ocean, reflecting on what Dianne had lost, suddenly losing my laptop didn’t seem so bad. Dianne had lost someone precious to her, someone she can never replace. And all I lost was a computer. That certainly put things in perspective. The most important thing in my life is God, and I am so thankful that no matter what, I cannot lose Him.

The next day, we made our way towards the Panama border and stopped in a town overnight to cut the journey in half. Before our second long day of driving, Jesse agreed to leave a little later than normal so that a few of us could go surfing. One of my selfish dreams for this trip was to surf in Costa Rica, but I didn’t think we would find the time to do it. After feeling like my dreams of writing had been put on hold, it was amazing to have a totally different dream come to pass. As I paddled through gorgeous waves, a familiar peace rushed over me. I felt safe and at home. And although I’m not a very experienced surfer, that day I miraculously caught wave after wave after wave, riding long perfect sets to shore, watching my board rip through the current. It was like God’s gift to me. That morning was the redemptive refreshment I needed. That perfect surf is my last memory of Costa Rica and is what I will carry with me rather than bitterness about being robbed.

Costa Rica was a crazy experience, but I’m thankful for it all—the good and the bad. I saw God’s power to restore what had been lost in Aynid, Liz and Johan, and myself. Our stories are very different, but they all sing of redemption. Though it’s always sad to lose, I am grateful to have experienced the restoration that follows loss first-hand. I am more determined than ever to push forward, run this race well, chase after my dreams, and watch God continue to give back what has been lost.

by Caitlin Scudder

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nicaragua....after a few days into it.

In Nicaragua....Climbed a volcanoe the first day here; they are everywhere here. Its been great, love it here. Nicaragua is different than the other Central American countries; in the same way that every country has its own flavor and atmosphere, so Nicaragua carries a rather isolated, independant, colorful and proudly unique smell of life.
In the next few days, several of the team members are leaving, which has brought alot of sadness to my heart.....but several new members have joined, which produces excitment for the next steps.

I bused and hitch-hiked over 2 hours away to the city of Leon, yesterday, with 5 of my teamates. In that city, there is a cathedral, which is suppososedly the largest in Central America. We traveled there to pray over the city and to declare the prophetic words God would give us to speak. I have to say, intercession is one of the most fun ways to partner with God for His work to be done in a city or country. It stokes my heart and sets my bones on fire! Heaven truly is brought down and the violent sons of God enter into it and bring it down by God's grace and direction. Yeah, funstuff.

I just bought my plane-ticket for the 2-weeks I will spend at home, for Christmas. I am excited, so excited to travel home and see my family. To my loving family....."I'm comin hoooome!!!!"

I am sad though, also, to leave the family God has fashioned my heart into here. I am thankful for the pain I feel in my heart to leave. It shows me that God is enjoying His success in making this church into His body; into an actual family that rejoices and hurts alongside each other, with full hearts of love. I feel like God is fashioning this team, pounding us into the head of His spear, or fireing us into His sword....and I am honored to be a strand of the steel in His blade.....

I believe we will spend at least two more days here (but maybe more, because we are having car trouble). Then, we head off to Costa Rica for a few days, then Panama for another few days. We are trying to get to Colombia as soon as possible! What God has planned for South America, who can guess???..........but this is sure, every son og glory feels fire in their heart for the glory of His presence bearing down to meet the earth in thunder and lightening.! ROoooooooaaar!

Jesus, we want you. Jesus, feel us yearn for you. Feel the fire we feel, and stoke our love for you into the deepening roar of a volcanoe of love.....for you. I want your love. I want you.