Friday, January 15, 2010

Oral Hygiene

Periodically medical and dental teams will come to the town of Barra (1.5 hours by boat) and provide free medical care to the Costa Ricans living on the river. My neighbors came by a few days ago and told me about a group of Christian gringos that were holding a free dental clinic in Barra. The neighboring pastor told me to be ready to go at 6, and he would pick me up in his boat.

At 7:30 we got underway, and by nine we were in Barra. I felt so awkward, standing in line with my Costa Rican neighbors, trying to figure out how I was going to ask the gringos to give me free dental care. I figured they would probably think I was a tourist, or would not have time for me because I could pay a hefty sum of money and get my teeth cleaned in the states. Man was I wrong.

The group was incredibly friendly. They were a team sent out by Christian Dental Fellowship, an organization that sends teams of dental students all over Latin America and Africa, with the goal of inspiring them to find ways to use their dentistry as a ministry to build the kingdom.

They made me feel like a prince, everyone coming by to introduce themselves and hear my story. They even invited me to eat lunch with them. When it was all said and done, I had a set of clean teeth, a bunch of new missionary connections, and a bit of perspective on what these missionary groups look like to my friends and neighbors here on the river.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Feelin Good

I have been more at peace ever since I wrote that letter to Ana. I have been sick for a while, but after I wrote that letter, my stomach started to feel a lot better. I think I was stressed out, and my stress was causing a lot of my sickness.

It is so much more peaceful at the farm alone.

Juan is in San Jose visiting his grandfather who has a broken hip, cancer, and some other ailments that I cannot remember. His grandfather said that he did not want to see anyone except for Juan. Juan is a strong spiritual influence within his family, and I am praying that his grandfather will come to know Christ during this visit, and also for his health.

Joshua left for San Juan twice yesterday. He forgot his passport on his first attempt and had to return to the farm and then find someone to carry him back to the Nicaraguan guard post where he can catch the public boat.

Since they have been gone, I have accomplished a lot. I have scrubbed the soot from all of our pots, cleaned the kitchen, bought a new cylinder of gas, washed my sheets, played soccer, started building a new set of stairs for the dock, ate dinner with the neighbors, went spear fishing for Sabalo in the river with no success, and had some very good spiritual conversations with one of the neighbors named Joel. Joel is very smart, and knows a lot of theology, but does not consider himself to be a Christian.

I have been rereading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller for the last couple of days. I love to reread books. I have read The Lord of the Rings three times, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn five times, and The Hobbit 17 times. Of all of Donald Miller’s books, I think that this one ties with Blue Like Jazz as his best. It is impossible for me to read this without wanting to change my life and make it more meaningful.

I was thinking about some of the different themes that he talks about in his quest to make his life into a better story. One of the things that he talks about is a failed relationship. He talks about his one most serious attempt at a relationship, and how it fell apart even as they were considering marriage. I started thinking about the things that make a relationship good and the things that make a relationship fail. I thought about what Donald Miller learned from his failed relationship.

He had always placed romantic love on a pedestal, secretly believing that it was a magic key to fulfillment and a good life. He believed that a wife could take away your loneliness and replace it with contentment. He believed that a wife equaled a good life story.

Donald Miller no longer believes this, and neither do I. As I sat here on the porch, thinking about what makes a relationship good, and what a marriage should be, I began to think that what I want in a marriage is like Miller says in his book, “Neither needed the other to make everything okay. They were simply content to have good company through life’s conflicts.” I don’t want my wife to complete me, because she is just a person and cannot possibly complete me. What I want is someone who wants to share a life story with me. I want someone who appreciates the things that I care about, and who cares about things that I appreciate. I want someone who feels a compatible desire in their life to Love and serve G-d in the way that he is calling us. I want someone who is peaceful, not quarrelsome, and who is content with any station in life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dear Ana

I was feeling discouraged before I came home from Costa Rica for Christmas. While discouraged, I wrote this letter to the lady in charge of the mission. I wanted to share it with all of you because I thought it would help you see some of the challenges of ministry.

Dear Ana,

I Love you and I am proud of you. You work harder than almost anyone that I know, and you do it out of a true heart to serve the L-rd. Your dedication and self sacrifice is an inspiration to me and many other people. I consider you to be family and it is a joy to me whenever I get to see you. I admire the hard work that you have poured into the missions here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The missions work of Ramon, Gonzalos, and Leesa all stand as a legacy of the work that the Lord is doing through you. I pray that your spiritual family will continue to grow and fill with children and grandchildren. I know that you have had a huge impact on how I view ministry. Your example has helped to teach me that ministry should be done by faith, believing that the L-rd will work out the impossible things because it is more to his glory to work out the impossible. Your example has also taught me that there are true followers of Christ in the world, not motivated by selfish desire or conceit. I have met many other ministers and missionaries that I did not feel where pure in their motivation, but I have never had to wonder about that with you.

I want to speak with you because Delta is not what I was expecting, and I am having a very hard time here. I am used to expecting the unexpected, but this is a different type of thing. For most of the last month I have been depressed to be here. I have become accustomed to a rapid pace of ministry, spending time almost daily with my students in Alabama, becoming deeply involved in their lives, acting as a spiritual and life mentor for them as well as for several of my friends. It is a hard change for me to go from that to doing very little in the Delta. Yes there are work projects, and I participate in them, but that is neither my gifting nor why I came to Costa Rica. Opportunities for ministry here seem few and far between. I don’t feel like I have been doing much discipleship with Juan (he really does not seem to need very much), and the only church services and Bible studies that we have done are on Sundays in Jobo. These are good, but because of the cultural and language differences as well as the distance, I cannot reach and impact these people the way I want to. As far as the other schools, they are for the most part without teachers.

It is not that I do not see that there are opportunities to minister here, clearly there are, but the ministry is different than what I feel called to, and the opportunities are fewer than I expected based off of our previous conversations. I believe that people like Joshua who have a passion for preaching and evangelism are much better suited for this mission field, whereas my gifts are more aligned with mercy, compassion, and love, which is better suited to the reconciliation and discipleship ministries that I naturally gravitate toward. I just don’t feel like I am accomplishing much out here, which is frustrating because I know what I could be doing back home.

I feel like, when you offered me the opportunity to come work out here last January, I got excited about the idea of international missions and the glamour associated with this lifestyle among the church community and made a commitment without truly waiting to hear from G-d whether it was his will or not for me to come. Ever since I made that commitment I have not felt peace about it, and I have definitely not found peace here. I think this lack of peace may be manifesting itself in the stomach problems I have had for the last couple of weeks.

I am willing (but not excited) to complete my commitment as a Christian should, but I wanted to communicate all of this to you so you would know how I felt. I do not think I will be here for more than my commitment, although I am glad to serve the mission whenever I can on a more short term basis. I am praying to the L-rd for guidance over whether I should be here or not because just as I did not hear a clear yes before I agreed to come, I have also not heard a clear no, I just have a lack of peace. I am having a hard time hearing from the L-rd here, which may be a sign of some spiritual warfare taking place.

On a side note, for the last couple of weeks I have felt sick to my stomach. The sickness is not nausea, and only rarely do I have diarrhea. My most common symptoms are mild stomach cramps and general stomach discomfort that comes and goes throughout the day and night, but which is especially bad after eating, while sleeping, while sitting on benches, and while laying down or standing up. I occasionally get stronger cramps and have to run to the bathroom. Like I said, I have no nausea. I have tried to cut out fried foods, and coffee with no change. I also took Albendazol thinking that it was worms, but the Albendazol had no effect.

The only thing I could think of would be an ulcer from stress, or a very mild case of amoebic dysentery. Please let me know what you think the problem is and possible treatments.

Thank you for reading this long letter. I love you and hope to see you before I fly out on the 17th, or when I return on the 5th (I think my return flight is on the 5th but I am not positive). I hope you enjoyed your time in the states! I am excited to see my family and close friends and students (it is very hard for me to be away from them). Take care of yourself and Merry Christmas!

Andrew Bishop