Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Promises Fulfilled

On this last day of 2013, I am reminded of the Scripture verse, “Not one of all of the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” (Joshua 21:45, NIV) I can only bring thanks to the Lord for the many promises he has fulfilled in our lives this year. We, like you, experienced many peaks and valleys throughout 2013. However, the Lord was with us at every step and we have continued to trust Him in all circumstances.

As we look to 2014, we are confident that our Heavenly Father knows the future and will be faithful as He has been in the past to bring about His purposes.

May the Lord continue to shape us and mold us as we look to Him to fulfill all His promises in the New Year.

Greetings from San Jose, Costa Rica

Friday, November 15, 2013

Random Photo Album-Year 1 in Costa Rica

It's hard to believe it's been 12 months since we begin serving overseas with MAF in San Jose, Costa Rica. In order to celebrate this special occasion, we wanted to share this light-hearted video with our friends and loved ones. 

Thank you so much for making this first year such a blessed one.

Tony and Laura

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Notable Surprise

The second half of year one serving overseas has brought about many wonderful surprises. One of those surprises has come in the form of training nationals to expand the work of Bible storytelling among those in our region that have little or no access to the Word of God.

The Lord has brought to our ministry, three talented people with different backgrounds and expertise. These new members are from Colombia, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.  One member is single and the other two are a married couple. Two of the three teach Sunday school and the third is a nondenominational pastor. Each of them has been a blessing in my life as they have given me new filters in which to teach in Latin America.  They have impressed upon me the need to make our oral inductive Bible study training as fun and interactive as possible.  “As Latinos, we learn best when we are laughing and participating together,” said my colleague, Tatiana. “We also don’t like to be rushed or hurried when gaining new understanding; going fast in life is just not our thing “ added Rita to the discussion on contextualized learning styles. Pastor Elgin has been a pillar of strength to our team as he leads us in prayer for those we will minister to through the inspired Word of God.

Our expanding team will travel to a remote area of Costa Rica in mid-October to teach 30 indigenous church leaders from 3 different Central American countries how to disciple their church communities through Bible stories. Please pray that the presence of the Holy Spirit will manifest itself  with power and might during our time together.

My desire is that the four of us will not only grow in our service to the Lord but in our service to each other.

Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.      2 Thessalonians 1:3
Pastor Elgin Estrada, Rita Estrada, Laura Macias, and Tatiana Noriega
The Estradas in front of our MAF-Learning Technologies office
Our youngest but most talented member, Tatiana.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When getting directions, it may help to know where the cemetery is located

When you live in Costa Rica, one of the first things that strike you as odd is the fact that there is no standardized system of address. What does exist is what locals affectionately call, “Tico directions” aka “Costa Rican directions”. In other words, directions that will involve an oriented distance (e.g. 200 meters west, 100 meters south) from a local landmark (cemetery) or business (gasoline station) rather than your typical 123 N. Main St. Unfortunately, a recent study pointed out that almost a quarter of all mail in Costa Rica is returned undeliverable. According to one mail carrier, a typical envelope addressed to a family could read something like: From the west side of (city name) cemetery, 100 meters north, 50 meters east, cross the train tracks, yellow two-story house with a guard house in the front. As one can imagine, being a mail carrier in Costa Rica can be an exhausting and frustrating job.

I should not have been amused when a funeral service clogged up traffic near our home a few weeks ago. Just as I was returning home after a long walk with our dog, a taxi pulled over to the side of the road and asked me if I knew where the neighborhood Catholic Church was located. I told him he needed to go 400 meters south and then head left at the stop sign. A few minutes passed and another car also pulled to the side of the road and asked me the same question. Each driver was kind and courteous in their questioning but I was beginning to sense an important event was taking place at the local parish. Low and behold, less than five minutes passed and a third driver rolled down his window and before he could ask me the proverbial question, I told the driver how to locate the church. The passengers in the vehicle laughed and suggested I should charge for helping the family and friends of the deceased with finding the funeral site. But what happened next really made me chuckle and understand I had come far along in accepting a culture where streets aren’t named and buildings don’t have numbers. What did I do? Well, I stood at the corner of the street and pointed south while yelling 400 meters and head left at the stop sign. The response of the drivers that followed was hilarious.  Passengers yelled, “Gracias” and I waved as I smiled back.  My walk with Pierre was longer than usual but in the end, I was relieved most folks that passed by the neighborhood that day where able to attend a special ceremony even when street signs don’t exist and Google Maps can’t help you.

Pierre and I on our routine walk around the park
Taxis waiting to make their right turn onto the neighborhood

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Unity of the Spirit

When I first shared Bible stories in the indigenous community of Alto Rio Peje near Turrialba, Costa Rica a few months ago, I sensed Kenneth and his bride, Maye, would be taking Bible storytelling to a whole new level. The Cabécar couple did not only learn Old and New Testament stories easily but they also framed sets of questions flawlessly, drawing rich and poignant answers from the audience.

The pair naturally came to my mind when the Director of Missions for the Assemblies of God in San Jose, Costa Rica asked us to train their denominational leaders with the skill of Bible storytelling for the purpose of discipleship among indigenous people groups.

Although Kenneth and Maye could not recall the last time they were in the “big city” of San Jose, they were awestruck by the sight of tall buildings and loud traffic horns. Once the training began, they swiftly presented a story from the Gospel of Matthew to the pastors, missionaries and seminary professors in attendance. Maye told the story of the calling of Matthew from Matthew 9 and Kenneth solicited questions from the listeners as it related to the Gospel story.

When the first day of training ended, many of the leaders came and congratulated them for their ability to concisely and convincingly tell the story. “You never once used note cards nor reference notes while sharing your story tonight; thank you for teaching us this incredible tool,” said the head of the missions department to the Cabécar couple.

What many leaders also learned that night was that Kenneth and Maye had been leading other Cabécars to Christ through Bible stories in nearby villages in Turrialba.  A six-member group led by Kenneth and Maye, under the supervision of their church pastor, diligently practiced telling Bible stories for weeks before sharing them in other remote villages. Even though the group speaks Spanish and Cabécar, the stories are told in Cabécar because it draws a bigger audience. According to Kenneth and Maye, not only do the Cabécar listen more attentively when they hear a story in their own language, but they also participate more freely when they are invited to give their insights and spiritual observations in a large group.

By the end of the training, I stepped to the side and allowed Kenneth and Maye to teach directly to the group. To have the couple instruct on the how-to skill of Bible storytelling with the men and women was very rewarding. What a marvelous sight it was to see the unity of the Spirit displayed for all to see.

- Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. - Colossians 3:16

Kenneth and Maye at Instituto Biblico de las Asambleas de Dios (IBAD)
Kenneth instructing the leaders on how to present Bible stories 
Kenneth and Maye coaching the participants
More than two dozen leaders came to the training