Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tico Tuesday, August 15th

Greetings to you on this Costa Rican Mother's Day!
Here's what Ale and I will be working on together!
Do you ever feel like you hit a jackpot? Getting to have my mom as my mom is a jackpot, but in terms of work this past week or so, I feel like I hit a jackpot too. Since I went to the small group strategic planning conference, I've been more motivated to find someone to help Small Groups in the area of social media. Social media is not my strength, and it is something I knew would be really good for me to delegate to a volunteer. When I went to Fraijanes a couple weeks ago, I noticed my friend Alejandra showing great ease and domination of technology and social media and mentioned to her the idea that she help me. Ale said she'd be happy to help. I mentioned it to her again a few days later, making sure our conversation had been serious and not just a joke, and she affirmed that she had been serious too. So we've now met a couple times to talk things over and start developing a plan, and Ale is amazing! It wasn't until our last meeting when she was blowing me away with her wonderful ideas that I found out: she has a degree in marketing! No wonder she has so many great ideas and such a good hold on what we need to do! Jackpot! But really, I know it is God's provision. Ale is a mature, hilarious friend that I know will be committed and dependable. If you feel like working on your Spanish or just admiring Ale's genius, check out the Grupos Pequeños VAH page on facebook.
Thank you to all of you again for being God's provision to me. I wouldn't be here were it not for you!
Carrie

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tico Thursday, August 10th

Thursday greetings to you! Just checking to see if you were paying attention! It's been another full week on the mountainside of San Rafael, Heredia. A lot of big exciting changes are coming for my church with the implementation of the strategic plan and things I learned from the conference I went to in California, so my church and I are in need of your prayers even more than ever!
But today I want to tell you about the training retreat we had for the small group facilitators on Saturday. Wow, what a wonderful day! God's presence was with us from the moment it began to the very end (and he held off the rain until everyone left too!). I know God is always with us, but his presence was palpable. We started with a time of worship, then I sent everyone outside to spend some time in Psalm 139. After a coffee break, we divided everyone into 3 groups and had them create presentations about the vision, mission, and philosophy of small groups. This helped me get an idea of how much they all understand these things, and I was quite pleased with the results. The group that did the mission did such an amazing job I want them to do the skit in front of the whole church next time Rudy preaches on small groups! After the presentations, I explained how to do the spiritual health assessment and plan and sent everyone outside again to do them. After lunch I shared about some of the things I learned at the conference in California, as well as some of the plans we have for the future. Then we gave everyone some time to share together. We closed the day having people share briefly what impacted them or what God spoke to them during the day. It was beautiful to hear how God moved throughout the day and how people were challenged and encouraged. My team and I received a lot of positive feedback afterward, and I can only give all credit and glory to God. I felt so relaxed all day (unlike most other training events I've led). God's hand was definitely in charge of it all and I'm full of gratitude for all he is doing in me, in Small Groups, and in my church.
Thank you for your role in this. God is doing great things! May he continue to do great things in you too!
Love,
Carrie

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tico Tuesday, July 25th

Happy Annexation of Guanacaste Day!
Today is a national holiday celebrating the annexation of the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Much of the cultural richness of Costa Rica comes from Guanacaste, so the whole country celebrates with enthusiasm, wearing white shirts and a blue or red handkerchief around the neck or the traditional flowing skirts and boat neck white blouses. Four line poems known as bombas (the word also for bomb and balloon) and other poems are commonly invented or recited on this day as well.
To celebrate, I joined a small group many of my friends are in on an excursion into the mountains. We visited a restaurant that does business for local missions. It is run by a church located further back on the property that does a number of things to bless the members of its community. This church and restaurant (and mini grocery store, center for the elderly, vegetable garden, etc.) is located very close to the Poás volcano, which has been so active lately the national park that contains it has been closed indefinitely. Poás is the most accessible active volcano to the Central Valley, making it a huge tourist destination. And with it being closed, a number of nearby businesses have been suffering or forced to close. So, since Rudy has been good friends with the pastor of that church since before my church was born, he has been encouraging everyone from our church to go and support this restaurant. I look forward to returning with my small group!
May we use the blessings God has given us to be a blessing to others this week and always! Thank you for being a blessing to me!
Carrie

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tico Tuesday, July 18th

Tuesday greetings from Costa Rica once again!

It is good to be back in Costa Rica, but I did have such an amazing time in the States it wasn't as easy as usual to switch back and forth between cultures. I shared at a Sunday School class at my church in Maine, and answering all the questions the kids asked me about Costa Rica really helped me realize just what a different world it is here. It is a joy to serve here, even though it's definitely challenging. Yet I know that every place has its own challenges.
One thing that made it really good to be back here was to see one of my small groups take over Jholy, the evangelistic theater my church runs, for the week. There is a new show at Jholy every week, and this past week they did it all, and they did a great job! I had to be at church Saturday night, but I arrived just in time to catch the second act. I am so proud of this group! Usually it is a challenge to get groups to do some kind of evangelistic activity-- and this group hit it out of the park! Those who didn't act helped with the set, lights, selling snacks, photography, etc. Everyone got involved! And yes, as you can see in the picture, this is a not-so-small group. Conversations are happening about that... :-)
I praise God for all he is doing in the small groups at my church here and thank him for his presence with me everywhere I go. Thank you so much for keeping me in your prayers. They really do make a difference! I am so grateful to have you journeying along beside me.
May you sense God's presence with you this week!
Carrie

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tico Tuesday, July 11th

California Greetings to you all!
I am currently at a small group strategic planning conference called Accelerate! that is put on by Saddleback Church. I am learning a lot and really enjoying the planning sessions they give us, as well as getting to know the other people here and how small groups are done at their churches. I'm also getting a lot of the questions I had about small groups answered, which is really, really great. This is a wonderfully productive time, and I'm excited to go back to Costa Rica and start implementing new ideas and action steps.  Thank you so much for all of you who are praying for me specifically while I'm here. Please keep it up!
Quintessential Maine
As I mentioned in my Chronicle, this trip to the States has been one of the best ever. I ended up having a mini reunion with several of my good friends from InterVarsity in college. I hadn't seen some of them in about 10 years! But it was SO GOOD to be together again and share a little bit of what's happened in our lives. It was so special and I am in awe of God's faithfulness and so grateful for all he's done. Not to say life has been easy for any of us, but God is faithful and with us through it all. I can't describe how much it meant to me nor how good for my soul it was to see these friends. What a wonderful gift!
And then I had a week of glorious summer in Maine. It was rich. I saw a few different people and loved getting to share and catch up with people at my church there. But the best part was getting to do life with my parents (including biking, hiking, going to the beach, etc. with my mom) and having some time to just slow down and watch the boats in the harbor, listen to live music on a wharf, play games, and just talk and be together. This trip has been a much needed time of refreshment, rest, and fun (and getting a boost with small groups and all sorts of ideas about church life!). I am very thankful for it. I will be diving in head first when I return to Costa Rica, so please be praying for me as I do so. There are some big things coming up quite soon: including the ministry fair, the next small group training retreat, the next series, etc.
Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, and support! May God bless you and refresh you with rich times with him and with others!
Carrie

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tico Tuesday, June 27th

Hello!
Thank you so much for praying for me this past Friday as I had my retreat day to pray for and focus on strengthening the vision and philosophy for small groups. It was a wonderful day and I came away feeling a greater sense of focus and clarity with small groups and some ideas of what needs to happen next. I am now even more excited for the Small Group Strategic Planning conference I'll be going to in 2 weeks! There is much work to be done. I think my greatest prayer request now is two-fold: For God to raise up people to help carry this ministry forward (because it is completely impossible for me to do on my own), and for me to be able to let go and trust the people God raises up (I have some pretty obnoxious control issues that God and I are still working through). I'm excited to see what God will do in the future!
Today we had a staff work retreat day. We needed to update our organizational chart in order to prepare for making our first ever 5 year strategic plan. It was not an easy task, but God gave us grace, and a really helpful engineer took the day off work to help us. Some restructuring happened, and now our chart makes a lot more sense. However, we are also more aware now of some glaring personnel needs, and the budget has been painfully tight lately. We have seen God's hand as we've made our way through the God Provides series, but as we discussed today, long lasting change starts in the heart and makes its way to our pocket. Ok, so we didn't say it quite so poetically, but life experience shows that real, lasting transformation happens from the inside out. Please pray for us as we continue to move towards making our 5 year strategic plan and being a better organized, more effective church. We have a lot of churches asking us for training and mentoring, and having our ducks in a row will also allow us to help others better. I'm excited for what God has in store for us and the churches we mentor in the future!
Funny note about today: I think it was the day in which we ate the most together. We started with a big breakfast and fruit, then someone brought us a traditional dish called chifrijo at 11, then we had lunch at 1 (though no one was hungry), and we celebrated a coworker's birthday, so we had the dirt cake I made him too! Needless to say, I had a very light supper tonight! As you can see, food is a very important part of our church's culture!
May God continue to transform us all from the inside out and use us more effectively for his glory,
Carrie

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tico Tuesday, June 20th

Last Thursday, my small group did a prayer walk around our town, San Rafael de Heredia. I drive through it often, but, I have not been able to get to know it as well as I'd like since moving here in October. I usually get to know my town by running and bicycling around it, but with my knee surgery last year and a nasty sprained ankle a couple months ago, I haven't been running much lately, and it has been hard finding time to get in a good bike ride. So, our prayer walk was a wonderful adventure. I loved being so intentional about praying as we walked along. We also stopped to pray in a couple strategic places, including the corner of the park that is right in the center of town between the school and Catholic church and across the street from the municipality. As we walked and prayed, I felt my love growing for my town, and a desire to get out into it more.
Aerial view of the center of San Rafael, Heredia
And, I discovered we have a full size track! I'd heard there was one, but thought people were talking about a different one I'd seen that isn't full size and not so nice looking. While I prefer to not run on a track all the time, I like having it as an option, and love that it is so close to my apartment! I can't wait to use it!
Anyway, the prayer walk. You never know what you'll discover or what God will do in you, but it sure gave me different eyes and deeper love for my pueblo. The prayer walk was actually one of our assignments for the God Provides series we're doing right now. Only a few of us in my group were able to go, but it was a really special time. If you haven't done one before, I encourage you to do so. All you have to do is walk and pray: blessing and interceding for the town, praying for the people around you, praying for the properties for sale or rent to be bought or rented, etc., etc., etc. I don't think I'd done a prayer walk since college, but I sure don't plan on letting almost another decade go by without doing another one!
Thank you for your continued prayers for me. I have been coming up with some ideas and strategies for small groups, and have set aside this Friday as a retreat day to pray and do some strategic thinking and dreaming. I'm excited for what's to come!
May God bless you and use you to be a blessing to your town!
Carrie