Monday, March 12, 2018

Ruined for the ordinary...Costa Rica 2.0

Fifteen years ago, I travelled to Costa Rica for the first time.

I was a wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic 20 year old. (To be fair, I still think of myself this way.)

I remember getting off the plane, the humid air catching my breath, and knowing that this experience would be special…but really having no idea what I was in for.

“This stuff ruins you for the ordinary,” DeLynn (my ministry leader for Vida Missions) would often say in the years that followed, as we witnessed God work in incredible ways.

He was right.

Year after year, I returned to this dear place. We developed relationships with local churches, welcomed summer staff who stumbled through hard days and rejoiced together in the good ones, and hosted scores of youth who returned home to try and apply what they had learned in a foreign, yet familiar, land.

I developed sisterly ties with my own Costa Rican family. I learned a ton about the way in which God speaks and reveals Himself. I learned how to speak Spanish (roughly), and lead in a new context. I had to adapt, I had to have plan B’s, and I had to ask for a lot of grace. I made incredible friends. 

Iron sharpened iron.

In 2009, I said good-bye to Costa Rica. After much soul searching and prayer, I had decided it was time to pursue my MA studies, which meant releasing my time down south…and choosing to stay in Canada.

And then, as only God can, the story changed. In 2012, a coworker and mentor approached me, about a new idea he had for a program at our beloved Columbia Bible College. He was
(and continues to be) a man of vision. A man who empowers the next generation. And so he gathered a few of us younger staff members, and we began planning.

It would be a leadership certificate.
First semester in Canada, second semester in Costa Rica.

As it launched, I felt my own story with Costa Rica was coming full circle.
I thought it had been a good-bye, but it was really just ‘hasta la proxima vez…’

The LEAD students would be working in the community of Shiroles, Talamanca, alongside students from the mission program I had volunteered with all those years. Their own ministry would coincide with that of my friends Raul and Kimi.

After a couple of very successful years with our LEAD program, the vision continued to deepen and expand (as it often does). Through many brainstorming sessions and a few kicks-at-the-can, this coworker/mentor of mine eventually revealed his longer-term dream: that us younger staff would move into the leadership positions he had held, as he lessened his involvement in his retirement. (It is important to note that this meant 100% loading instead of 200% loading; as I said, he’s a visionary…)

And so, this last year, Matt Kaminski (our Athletics Director) and myself became co-directors of our new Applied Leadership program at Columbia.

As we re-worked this program from the original LEAD design, we knew that the Costa Rica piece was still an incredibly vital experience for students who desired to learn in a new context. Glenallen, a student who had served as the Costa Rica Coordinator for the two years prior, agreed to continue to serve in this role. In the time that had passed, we had seen Raul and Kimi’s ministry grow. We knew that while our students would go and serve with them, they would learn a great deal from these friends about what we are seeking to teach our students: the authentic, transformational, servant leadership that our friends exemplified.

This leads us to today.

On April 24th, six of our Applied Leadership students along with Glenallen (who is about to be an Applied Leadership BA graduate!), are travelling to Costa Rica for 10 weeks.

They will be serving, learning, and sharing their gifts with the ministry that Raul and Kimi have been leading for the past 10 years, Esperanza.

Esperanza’s ministry involves teaching and caring for local children, meal delivery and visiting with the elderly, craft time with women (which has evolved into a sewing enterprise for the women to build an income), soccer tournaments, ongoing home builds, Bible studies, worship nights…and this ministry continues to expand into other remote locations in the local jungle. This year, the local leaders are continuing to grow their ministry as they plan a missions trip to Thailand. Many of the young adults have participated in discipleship training, and, through Esperanza, are continuing to develop their gifts of leadership.

In addition to all of these amazing things, one of the opportunities that our students have in this context will be to connect with these local young adults and share with them about what they have been learning in classes at Columbia thus far. I am beyond excited for our students to journey with these dear people. I cannot wait for them to go and learn more about leadership in this context.
The wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic team of 2018.

In Canada, we can dangerously believe we know “the way” to do leadership, as if we have cornered the market; I long for these students to be ruined for the ordinary…as they share their learning, I am confident it will be refined. They will see Jesus at work. I believe they will return home with new understanding. Their leadership will be stronger, their impact broader, as a result.

In the next few weeks as our students prepare, would you join me in supporting them?

We need your prayers! There are many details to still finalize, Spanish lessons to work on, cultural preparedness to consider, and finances to raise. These students are full time in their classes, and doing all this work on top of their current schedules, in anticipation of what is coming. If you are willing to be added to a prayer list, comment below or message me.

We also need financial support! As a project of the college, these students are raising the costs; would you consider helping us by making a donation? You can do so online by following this link, select "other" for the designation, and note that it is for the project “Applied Leadership Costa Rica”.

I love seeing how God knits our stories…I am reminded tonight as I write this, that He uses all together for His glory, and our good, and we don’t always get to see how it comes together. I am thankful for the glimpse I get into His work in Costa Rica, and the opportunity our students have to be part of it for this season in time. You never know what the next full circle will be for them in this. 

Thanks for reading, friends.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

When God writes you a new chapter.

More than seven years ago, Carleigh called me one evening and asked me if I wanted to live with her and Gary, and their little one, Charlee.

I said yes.

It was an easy answer; I needed a place to live, they needed a boarder. I was 25. I honestly thought it would last for a year or two and then I would *ahem* get married, or move to Costa Rica.

And then it seemed like I blinked.
And seven years had passed.
And I am neither married, nor in Costa Rica.
 (My first pic with Charlee prior to me moving in with Carleigh and Gary)
 (First pic with Bodhi - still at the hospital)
(First pic with Jane - also still at the hospital!)

These years have been full of incredible moments, both heart-lifting and heart-breaking. They have been full of conversation, family dinners, babies home from the hospital, stories enough to fill a blog (or two), joy & grief, conflict & restoration, many many kitchen conversations that have included both laughter and tears...and I could go on.

So five months ago, when we found out Carleigh and Gary were expecting twins (and there was no more room in the inn), we had the conversation. It was going to be time to transition. And it was a hard fact for me to face; I knew this current situation wouldn't last forever, but this was the place where I learned what it took for a family to become a family. As an only child, I got to see what it looked like for siblings to grow up together, and for parents to raise them. Coming from a small family myself, I started to gain "new family" through their extended family. I personally learned what it meant when the Psalmist wrote that God sets the lonely in family. I learned a heck of a lot.

I came home from our supper together, and I started googling new homes. (Side note: When you are emotional, never ever google.) All I could see were condos and apartments that looked incredibly lonely, or offers for a roommate (for a college student who was 20). I shut my laptop and decided I shouldn't have googled. And so I prayed.

The next morning, I was brushing my teeth, and instantly thought of a friend who I wanted to debrief my new phase of life with. She and I had done our masters' degrees together; she was a huge supporter of me, a logical woman, and I knew she'd be able to help me process what I should do next.

But then, something funny happened (and I was still brushing my teeth); I remembered that she and her husband would be moving to Abbotsford this summer, and it dawned on me: maybe they were looking for a renter?

It is totally my strength, and my weakness, to plan.
And so, with this newfound thought, I stopped planning.
And I let it sit.
I knew this situation needed me to take my hands off, and let God guide me.

Four days later, as I got ready for work, I sensed God was urging me: "Email them tonight!"

After a couple of weeks, and a visit with my friends, the plan was in place: I would have a new home, in their new home. I could hardly believe it (in fact, I am tearing up as I write this), that God would guide my steps like that.

As we talked through what it could look like, I sensed a space opening up in my life for something new and unknown. In my new home, I will continue to enjoy the privilege of friends living together (i.e. grocery shopping dates, potluck style suppers every once in a while, and their freedom to go out in the evening while I watch the monitor)... and I will have space for my family to come for dinner (twins included!) and for the kids to sleepover. (And did I mention it's a 2 minute drive from my current place?).

It is the best of both worlds.
A continuation of the good, of the friendships that have been built; a new deepening.

There's more.
I will also have space to host others.
Family, friends, students, and yet-to-be-discovered others.
And that, honestly, makes my heart swell.

I believe God gave me a home with Carleigh and Gary (and their kids) all those years ago, because He knew I needed them and needed to learn so much through them, and from that place, I am able to now continue forward, with their love and support, into a new chapter.

And as Bodhi (all 6 years old of him) said to me tonight, "so, like, I can call you and you can come over and have talks with me...right?" When I assured him yes, he asked me to write down my number. I have a feeling I'll be getting a few calls.

I moved in with friends.

And as I pack, I am thankful that they became my family.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

a moustache and a beard...

It's 9:50pm on a Sunday night, and I have a number of papers I'm supposed to have marked by tomorrow morning. And the number left is still big. So I have tea. And some chocolate. And I figured it's time to blog...right? (Those of you who read my blog while I was doing my Masters' degree know that my prime blogging time is exactly when I'm nearing a deadline for something else. aka. I procrastinate. Big time. And I've accepted it as a strength.)

This last week has been full of epic kid stories. I've had more time to take the kids on dates, and they've been hanging out in my room more, so undoubtedly that leads to awesome stuff. Enjoy.

One night last week, I took Bodhi (6) and Jane (4) to the library. The car ride there was hilarious.

Bo: Um, Kathleen, do I have the right cards for the library?
Me: Yup, Bo, mom put your library card in your wallet, so you're good to go.
Bo: Kathleen, how much money do I have for the books?
Me: Oh, Bo, you don't need money for the library. You just borrow the books, but you need a card to show the lady at the desk. 
Bo: Huh?
Jane: Yup, you just go and she goes "beep" and then you get to take the books home.
Me: Yeah, and then she will tell you, "you can have these books for two weeks!" or something like that, and then after two weeks, you have to bring them back.
Bo: What if I forget, and bring them back late?
Me: Well, then you'll have to pay money for being late. It's called a fine.
Bo: What!?! I don't have any money!

Hearing the panic in his voice, I assured him his mom would take care of it.
Once we arrived at the library, Bodhi had a plan.

Bo: I'm going to find all the science books! I want books on science.
Jane: Well that's a great idea, because you are a scientist Bo!

We walked in, and a young man working in the children's area asked me if we needed any help. I told Bodhi to ask him what he was looking for, and Bo enthusiastically asked for the science books.

Library guy: So what kind of science are you interested in?
Bo: Well, like, zoology. But not like fossils and stuff.
Library guy: Wow. Well, I'm not quite sure where the zoology books kid has exactly ever asked me for that. I'll look it up.

(He comes back and directs Bo to the animal section, which Bo decides isn't really what he wants. So library guy patiently starts going through one book after another in the science section and asking Bo if that's what he's interested in. This guy deserves whatever pay he's getting. In fact, I should have tipped him...what's the going percentage for library tips? Anyways, Bo hits the jackpot with the "crystals", "minerals", "electricity", and "rock formation" books. As you can tell, he's totally into zoology.)
Here's a photo intermission: I took Jane to the car wash yesterday. There was a long line, and so I distracted her with apple juice and taking pictures in her 3d glasses with the lenses popped out. I told her, "pretend we're in line for Disneyland!"
And then there was the glorious moment today where Charlee (7) and Jane popped into my room for a visit. I had put up a new display of pictures on my wall, and Charlee upon entering and see this declared,

"You are just living the life."

I laughed and tried to dig for more info.

Charlee: If you didn't live with us, Kathleen, I would have your room. 
Jane: And I would share it with you!
Charlee: No Jane. No you wouldn't. (Someone already shares a room...and someone who's name rhymes with Lane, snores. She's actually confessed it to me herself). 
Me: Oh, but Charlee, I really do love living with you. 
Jane interjects, insisting that I just can't die. Please don't die! I assure her I have no plans to...
Charlee: Kathleen, we really do love living with you. Please don't get a boyfriend.
Me: Why?
Charlee: Because then you'll get married, and you'll move away, and he'll be your husband, and I might hate him!
Me: (admittedly chuckling) Woah, why might you hate him?
Charlee: Because he might not have a moustache and a beard. 

So, future husband, here's hoping you can grow some facial hair. I've got a 7 year old who's love for you depends on it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Highlights of last night's date...

...with the kids. (I knew that title would draw you in.)

In the six plus years I have lived with this family, my heart home, there are moments where I am stopped in my tracks and simply thankful for the opportunity to be here. There's so much in life I spend time hoping for, my future dreams, but I am also keenly aware of the gift I have been given in my current situation. I am thankful God puts nights like these in my heart to remind me of what He has given me. 

Last night's highlight for me was Bo. The newest 6 year old in the family. All three of the kids were exceptionally great: listening, helping, lots of hugs, kisses, and thankful hearts. (Charlee also let me know that I'm welcome to live with them for as long as I want, and that maybe if I get married, my husband would move in with us. I told her we'd have to ask him, but thanked her for the offer.)

There were some especially great moments last night where Bo showed his heart. 
So I share them here that those reading might be encouraged.
And so that I can read it at his wedding one day.

My housemates were out for the night, so I packed up the three kiddos (well, honestly, they packed themselves up), and we headed out for some adventure.



Target's toy and Christmas aisles. (It was dark and raining...)

In the car on the way there, I was explaining to the kids that I wanted them to pick out some gifts for our Guatemalan friends for Christmas, when Bodhi piped up: "Kathleen! You can use my money. Or my cards." 

Bo proceeded to show me his dad's old wallet, covered in duct tape, filled with points cards. His cards.

I explained that they probably wouldn't work at Target, and thanked him for his willingness to share. 

"Well, mom says that I should use my money to give to people when they need it. So I thought you might need it."

Once in Target, we found ourselves in the toy aisles pretty quickly. But then, the Christmas aisles were just a stone's throw away...and they beckoned. The kids were in awe. We compared Christmas ornaments and looked at all the beautiful, small, and breakable items. I had mentioned repeatedly that they needed to be so careful, and not to grab everything they saw. And then I heard an ornament fall. I turned to see Bo's big eyes staring at me, ornament in hand. He had caught it just after it bounced off the shelf...still in one piece. He carefully put it back, and while the girls were still enamoured, the magic had faded for Bo: "Can we leave this area? It's concerning me."

We headed back to the toys, found some items for our friends, and headed to the check out. 

As soon as I was pulling out my credit card to pay for the items, Bodhi stopped me: "Wait, Kathleen, I might have that card!" I showed him mine and explained that it was probably a little different than the ones he had. He just wanted to share. To pay his part.

I had promised the kids cheeseburgers and chicken and fries after Target; their main concern was to find the best play place, and so we tracked it down (it might not have been, but don't tell them that). 

We had eaten and the kids were racing around the play place. It was one of those chaotic nights: approximately 15 kids racing through the play place in their socks (I get the sock rule, but mixing those socks with slippery plastic is like a lawsuit waiting to happen...). 

Anyways, the girls had found another girl to play with, and Bo had found two boys; they were all playing a racing/hiding game (girls vs. boys of course). The two other boys started to get quite rowdy, and I was about to ask Bo to come join me for a couple minutes just to get some space, when I suddenly saw him stop them:

"Okay, guys. See those two girls? (arm extended, finger pointing to Charlee and Jane) They are my sisters. You don't do any ninja moves on them, okay? Cause they're my sisters. We're on the same team. No ninja moves!"

The two little boys agreed, and raced off with Bodhi, and my heart just burst. 

After the kids had gotten sufficiently sweaty, we came home. 

Once everyone was in pjs and clean, and after some America's Funniest Home Videos (because what date night is complete without it, really), it was bed time. 

Making the rounds for back scratches and prayers, I told Bo how proud I was of the way he protected his sisters at the play place. "But Kathleen, they were just little kids. They were like, 4 years old." I told him it didn't matter, he had made it his job to protect his sisters, and I was proud. His grin stretched from ear to ear. Then he tried to tell me a fart joke (because he IS a 6 year old boy after all). And then he fell asleep. 

I was blessed. 

Bo demonstrated a heart filled. Wanting to be generous. Caring for his sisters. 

I felt like I got a glimpse last night of the man Bodhi will be. 

And it was great.