It’s Wednesday night, 6:15. Our little Iglesia Cuadrangular (Foursquare Church) is getting started. All eight mid-week Bible study attenders stand up from their chairs which are arranged in a circle, and begin praying. Aloud. All at once. And loudly. Some kneel. Others walk the room. With hands uplifted and voices raised, they are thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness. Praising Him for His attributes. 15-20 minutes later, we are all seated. Each person takes a turn reading a verse from the book and chapter being studied. After the selection is read, each person takes a turn giving a commentary on the selection or one of the verses. I have never been to a Bible study where each participant has so much to say. And I mean 7 minutes or more, each person comments on the Scripture. And I sit and listen. I’ve never listened with my mouth shut so well my entire life. They ask for my thoughts. I quietly say that I am there to listen. IT’S HARD. Because I am reading the Spanish and English of the Bible selection, and because I’ve been in church since I was four, and have a good idea what might be being discussed, I can follow along pretty well. Some people I understand quite well and have about 50% comprehension. Others I cannot understand even one sentence. Spanish speakers are not known for clarity in pronunciation. But I plug away, every Wednesday night, developing community with other Believers and just being present. And they are so glad we are there. But I have no idea why… we just listen. We have nothing to offer at this point. Sundays, a local English teacher, translates the messages for us. The Holy Spirit ministers to my spirit during the worship service, even though many of the words are lost to me. The people are warm, gracious, kind and loving. Sometimes one of them stops to pray over us. I feel welcomed. It has got to be one of the strangest experiences of my life: showing up to church every Sunday and doing nothing but listening and receiving from Jesus and His Body. But it’s where He has me right now. So I rest.
Lilyana just completed her fourth week of public school in Costa Rica. Having never been in a public school setting, she has a lot to learn about social behaviors. The school is Very Different from American public schools. Let’s see if I can explain. The classes are more varied. For example, as a seventh grader, she is taking Hogar Industriales (something like home economics) for the first half of Monday. Her other classes are English, French, Spanish, Math, Civics, Science, Social Studies, Guidance, Technology (computers), Orientation (how to study, etc.), Sex Ed (which is a tolerance class) and Religion (Catholicism). The last two are optional. She’s done at noon on Fridays. Sometimes, if the teacher is out for some reason, there is just no class at all- no substitutes or a video- no accountability- just no class. The teachers take a roll call for each class, so there is that sort of accountability. The school building structure is similar to a motel. The covered hallways with classrooms on both sides surround an open courtyard with grass, flowers and benches. Behind that area there are more covered walkways with classroom doors that open to the outside- like motels. Sometimes between classes, or when some grades let out early, kids are playing volleyball or soccer. Her school day is 7:00 am- 3:00 pm. They do not assign homework. So. Since she only does math three days/week and I find math practice to be very important, I send her with a few math problems each day. And she is reading a lot every day, too, something she has never done much of. She’s trying to get her bearings by observing the kids to see who might make good friends- and avoiding entanglements with the nasty kids. I get up with her every morning at 5:00 and help her take care of her dog and make her a big hot breakfast, then pack her lunch while she is eating. We listen to worship songs and pray before she walks out the door at 5:40 to walk to the bus stop which picks her up at 5:50 and drops her off at school around 6:20. After school, Micah or I take her to swim Mon-Thurs with the Triathalon Team. Friday she runs and Saturday mornings she bikes. She insists she does not want to compete. And that is ok with me. It is good for her to be getting exercise and spending some time with the same kids day after day. She decided she wants to play soccer. There is not one girl from seventh grade that plays. I told her that doesn’t matter- if it’s something she wants to do, she should do it. I think what I am enjoying the most is having more quality time with her because she doesn’t see me all day. Our hearts are closer than they every have been before.
I am in paradise. The climate is steady- no highs and lows to confuse the plants. There are already so many plants, trees, bushes and flowers on our acre. I am so grateful. Every week I see something I hadn’t noticed before. “Oh! We have one of those flowers! Oh! There’s fruit on that tree, I wonder what it is? Look! Look at that plant- it’s growing in the woods! I’ve paid to buy those in a nursery in the states!” I planted some amazing trees. Rainbow Eucalyptus. I was simply stunned when I saw them. Their height reminds me of Sequoias or Redwoods. So tall. And majestic. I have ten babies in the ground now. They are supposed to grow rapidly. I look forward to seeing how tall they are next year. I also planted mandarins, mangoes, avocado and lychee trees. I found strawberries and decided to try them here. I planted a Poinsettia (la pastora), Birds of Paradise, Crown of Thorns (corona de jesus) with vivid red flowers. I even braved the idea of planting pots on my patio. I’ve never done well with pots, but I’m giving anything a go here. I feel like if I can’t grow it here….
It’s a time for Listening. I think if I were to have a Theme of the Year for 2022 it would be ‘Listen’. I haven’t the choice but to listen. I don’t have enough words to express myself. But not just that. I’m also in a Listening time with Jesus. He has made it quite clear to me, even today, that He very much wants me to Listen. Our new Pastors, Mauricio and Marjorie, came to visit us today. I served them breakfast and they spoke more slowly than usual. Micah and I talked some, but more than anything, we listened. They have been pastoring this Foursquare Church in Turrialba, Costa Rica since 2012. Four days after they received the church, he was diagnosed with cancer, so for the first year, Marjorie pastored the church. You think Americans are heavy on the male leadership? Costa Rica is much more so. It is anti-cultural and anti-religious here for a woman to be in leadership (but one ran for president this year…) It is machismo here- the Pastor said to us today. I digress… before they left, they prayed over us. And then afterward, the Pastor told me the picture he had in his mind and spent some time encouraging me as the Lord gave him to tell me. What he said was the same thing I felt before leaving to come here… like Abraham, “Go to the place I will show you,” and bit by bit, God revealed things, as Abraham obeyed. And then, the Pastor ended by telling me how we can hear the voice of God better when we are in a ‘pause’ than when we are ‘running’. LISTEN, Amy, to the voice of God!! Later this afternoon, I got on facebook, and this is what Pastor Rob from Utah posted today: “The power of prayer isn’t found in our words because sadly we so often say way to much when in reality the power is found in God’s words to us, over us and about us. The peace, the wisdom and the solution we need won’t come from speaking but from listening. Choose to develop the discipline of listening. Can you imagine what might happen if people choose to listen first before speaking.” (emphasis mine) I hear you, Lord. It’s a time for Listening.
I haven’t felt like writing much. We’ve been settling in. Settling in to the house. Settling in to the routine, the school, the neighbors, the way of life, waiting for furniture to set up my office/study space. Taking life SLOWLY. It’s weird for me, I’ll admit. But nice. I like to be exactly where the Lord has me.