Generous. It just doesn’t seem like a big enough word to describe you all. And yet, I can’t think of any other adjective that describes you so well. You have been so generous with your money and your prayers and we are overwhelmed and grateful. We have been crunching the numbers and getting some official documentation over the past few weeks and we want to let you all know that from this point forward, we no longer need any further funds during what remains of our time in Costa Rica. You have given so abundantly that we have enough money in our account to live here and return home without any additional donations. Thank you! We don’t have an official leave date yet, but we will be returning to the United States sometime between May and July. We will keep you posted. What will happen to any extra funds in our account, you may ask? Our plan is to make a one time donation to Palabra de Vida that will serve as a scholarship fund for Kim and Older throughout high school. So, if you would like to continue giving in order to contribute to that scholarship fund, please feel free to do so. Your generosity is allowing us to leave behind a gift that will change Older and Kim’s lives. Again, thank you! And for those of you who are wondering how Baby Amos is…he’s great! His favorite things are rolling around, smiling, looking out windows, hand puppets, cereal, and being outside. He’s not a big fan of sleeping at night or carrots. We think he’s pretty awesome.
As many of you know, Savanna and I have 3 ministries with which we work here in Costa Rica: the orphanage Hogar de Vida, the private school La Palabra de Vida, and the public school La California. We have been doing weekends and afternoon tutoring at La California for over two years, and now we have our first two students from La California starting at La Palabra de Vida in February.
Older and Kim have been coming to English tutoring with us since the end of 4th grade. They came to all the weekend events in 5th grade, and after a year of after school tutoring during 6th grade they are finally starting 7th grade at a truly bilingual school. I’m extremely proud of them, and I would like to take a moment here to show them off to you all.
OLDER – THE LITTLE GUY WITH A BIG HEART
Older is a cutie. He’s dramatic and fearless. Yes, his name is “older”. No, he’s not the older brother in his family. In fact, he’s the younger brother! Older lives with his older brother and his grandma in a slum by the airport. His mother left his family so long ago that he doesn’t remember her. His father, who works as a janitor in a near by shopping plaza, got remarried but to a woman who lives on the other side of San Jose. So he only spends 3 nights a week with Older and his brother, and then goes to live with his other family for the rest of the week.
When I met Older’s grandmother, I was holding a meeting for all the parents of La California students who were interested in after school English tutoring. I wrote up a handout with dates and details for each family. As I handed it to Older’s grandmother, she refused it and said, “No leo.” (I don’t read.) Living in a house where his care-taker can’t read and his father is gone most nights, Older has become an incredibly independent and tough little guy – with all the self confidence you could squeeze into 4’3″ boy.
Older’s a sweetheart; he makes friends easily, and his playful nature makes the friendship last. I have confidence that he will be able to rise to any challenges socially or academically that the school would put to him.
KIMBERLY – THE WORKER BEE
Kimberly is a shy thin girl from the same slum as older. Her front door looks out onto the runway of the airport. I’m pretty sure that through all the years of tutoring she’s never failed to turn in a homework assignment. School isn’t easy for Kim. When she doesn’t know the answer immediately, she often freezes up and silently considers the question until she has formulated the whole answer in her head. In similar way, math is difficult for her, because she doesn’t like starting a solution if she’s not sure what the answer will be down the line. But, oh boy, her memory for vocabulary is astounding. It’s become a bit of a joke during tutoring that if I ask what a word means, everyone turns to Kim.
Kim comes from a mixed family, both her parents had kids already and then had Kimberly and her younger brother. Every time I see Kim’s little brother, we thumb war. When he wins, his smile shows his teeth rotting out of his mouth. Her mother, Glenda, likes to send me Christian chain emails that always end in “pass this along to 10 people and remind them of God’s grace.” Her father works construction, but the work isn’t steady.
Kimberly is an extremely hard worker. Honestly, she needs to be. Like I said, school is hard for her, and it’s about to get harder. I pray that she is able to keep up. She’s done everything that I’ve asked her to do, she just needs to keep on chuggin’.
THE PROMISE OF ENGLISH
If these two get through La Palabra de Vida and graduate, they are all but guarenteed a job working in call center, speaking English. These jobs pay really well. For example, the son of a janitor at La Palabra de Vida recently graduated high school and began working at a call center. In just two years, he’s making more money than his father and paying his own way through university. So for Older and Kim, graduating from a place like La Palabra de Vida means lifting their family out of poverty.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT THEM?
These two have been awarded a 100% scholarship to come to the school this year. However, the funds have not yet been raised for school supplies, uniforms, transportation, and their tuition beyond this year. Would you considering partnering with us to open new doors for Older and Kim? If you would like to make a donation to help these kids, please contact me at email@example.com.
So it’s been almost 3 months since our last blogpost. That’s just embarrassing. So sorry. Something, or really someone, has been occupying quite a bit of our time. How about an overview of the past 3 months in bullet points?
– All of James’s seniors passed their government exit exams in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. We are so proud of them and him!
– After doing an elimination diet, we discovered that Amos has a dairy intolerance. I was hoping that it wasn’t so severe that I couldn’t eat chocolate, but no such luck.
– Older and Kimberly, two students from the La California School who have been doing after school tutoring with James were accepted to Palabra de Vida on scholarship! So pumped about this! Be praying for them as they face many academic and social transitions ahead. You’ll be hearing more about their stories soon.
– Amos started to smile and say “goo.” Cue heart melting here.
– So far James’s sister (Sarah) and brother-in-law (Ryan), and my sister (Jennifer) and parents have been able to visit us for the holidays. One of James’s other sisters (Susan) and his parents are coming down in just a week for round three of holiday celebrations. We have had so much fun sharing Amos with our families!
– Amos turned 4 months old last week and is now rolling over in both directions and squealing. He is a joy.
– I had what we think is the flu and was in bed for 5 days this last week. We are grateful James was on break to watch the little guy and keep him away from the germs. So thankful that they both seem to have escaped without catching it!
– James has begun course work online for a Master’s in Education. He’s loved teaching so much and we are excited for him to be able to pursue that passion further.
– Older and Kim started “summer school” led by James this week in order to better prepare them to make the academic leap in February. 5 days a week on their summer vacation…these kids are dedicated. So is their teacher.
– Amos and I are back to days at home alone. Truth be told it’s been a little lonely to not have people to socialize with during the week. I am looking into a mommy and me swim class in our community to try to help with that (I’m sure I’ll have some funny stories to share from Spanish swim class if it works out 🙂 ) and we’ve been spending more time with our neighbors…who are all women between the ages of 60 and 80. I’m grateful for their friendship no matter the age gap.
– We are still in the process of trying to get Amos U.S. citizenship. We’ve hit a few bumps in the process, but hope to have all of the paperwork done and his passport in hand at the end of this month. You can keep that process in your prayers!
And now to inundate you with more pictures of our adorable offspring:
Every once in a while, I realize that Sav and I haven’t updated the old blog in a while. Invariably, the next thought is, “So what should we write about?” Sometimes I want to write about ideas, fun facts, or philosophy. But is that why people read our blog? to hear me ‘wax poetic’ as an amateur thinker? I don’t think so, because this isn’t an op-ed or a magazine article. It’s a blog or to put it 90’s style: a web-log. So let me make a log for you then.
Amos is six weeks old. Our baby book says that this is peak crying time for most babies. I believe it. He’s getting bigger and stronger all the time. Sav takes care of him during the day while I’m at school. On days when I have after-school tutoring at La California, Savanna might have him from 6:00 am to 4:00 pm all by herself. Some of these days are tough and remind us that we live so very far from family.
Speaking of La California, we had 3 students from La California come to school to interview and and do admissions testing. They were so nervous that the admissions tester asked them to come back a second time when they had worked some of the jitters out. We haven’t heard yet from the admissions committee if they have been accepted. Please pray that they will be given the opportunity to start 7th grade at La Palabra de Vida next year.
Palabra de Vida is nearing the end of the school year. ‘Summer’ break begins in December and runs ’till early February. The seniors have just 3 weeks left until their national exit exams. I’m sure they’ll all be fine, but a few have yet to definitively prove that on a practice exam…
As you may remember, Savanna and I (and Amos) are planning to return to the states in June of 2015. That gives us just enough time to finish up with the ministry goals we’ve set for ourselves. Recently that has included finding more science teachers to come down and carry the torch. I’ve been doing a lot of online ads and interviews. Already a few candidates seem promising! It’s a little awkward to be a 24 year-old on this side of the interview table… I guess I should say: If you know anyone who would want to come to Costa Rica, teach science, and build the Costa Rican church, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
As many of you know, life changed for us in a big way on August 30th when we welcomed our son into the world. So many of you have been amazing to pray for us through the ups and downs since his arrival and offer words of encouragement. We are blessed to be part of such an amazing community both near and far. Thank you!
I decided it would be fun to share the story of Amos’s entry into the world, especially some of the unique aspects of giving birth overseas. So here is Amos’s story:
The afternoon of August 29th we headed to the doctor for my 36 week check up. Everything looked good! The doctor informed us that I was already dilated to 3 cm and did a non-stress test which showed I was having very strong Braxton Hicks contractions. A part of my pregnancy that we didn’t openly share was that since 28 weeks my placenta had started to calcify. My doctor was closely monitoring the situation and I felt a sense of peace that I don’t know I could’ve had if (very well meaning) people had constantly been asking about this unforeseen complication. There were no signs that it was affecting the baby, but the doctor told us that if I should go into labor early, they would not stop it. She felt like that would be my body saying he needed to go ahead and come out. As an additional precaution she decided it would be best to induce at 38 weeks instead of waiting for my placenta to cause a problem. So we set the date. September 9th. Fitting since it would be the national holiday Children’s Day here in Costa Rica. She warned that I may have contractions later that night from my exam earlier in the day and we joked about seeing each other soon when I went into labor. Little did we know.
On our way home from the doctor, James and I comically decided we should go out to eat “just in case” it was our last meal out before the baby. We drove over to Outback Steakhouse, a huge splurge for us, and went on our last pre-baby date. That night we decided we really should go ahead and get the car seat in the car, because you never know. Irony of ironies, the next day we were supposed to attend birthing class. We had been scheduled to do it several weeks earlier and it kept getting bumped back and bumped back. We laughed again about how funny it would be if I went into labor during the birthing class.
We went to sleep that night around 9:00. I slept pretty restlessly until 2:00 am when I started having contractions. Since my doctor had said that might happen, I decided not to wake James until I was sure I was in labor. So, I did laundry, I cleaned out the fridge, I did dishes, and paced our apartment through each contraction with confused little Moose following me around the whole time. I started timing my contractions and realized they were lasting for quite a while and coming pretty close together and I was pretty sure this was the real deal. I woke James at 5:00 and called the doctor who said we should go ahead and come in. James packed a bag and we left a note asking our landlady to take care of Moose and we headed to the hospital around 6:00.
We got to the hospital where I was hooked up to a monitor to check the baby’s heartbeat and time my contractions. They admitted me. Our little guy was coming. About an hour later, the lights went out in my hospital room. We didn’t tell our families until Amos was safely here, but I labored and delivered in a hospital that only had emergency power due to an outage. No lights other than those on the emergency generator and no A/C. One of those unique aspects I mentioned. Honestly my labor experience was pretty peaceful. The nurses only came in to check on his heartbeat and check my progress every few hours unless we asked for them and James and I slow danced (literally, that was how I was most comfortable) our way to 9 cm. Around 1:45 the doctor broke my water to speed things up and then had me practice pushing. They then took me in a wheel chair to the delivery room (which had A/C!). My whole labor experience had been in Spanish, but as James encouraged me in English for those last few minutes several of the nurses tried to start instructing me in English too. It was sweet of them to try to make things easier for me, but unfortunately my Spanish was much better than their English and it made for some confusing moments until we convinced everyone to stick to Spanish. 45 minutes later, Amos Phillip entered the world at 2:29 pm, 5 lbs. 6 oz. and 18 inches long. Our amazing little boy.
I was taken back to my room and we were given our son. My parents arrived in Costa Rica just a few hours later and we snuck them up after visiting hours to meet Amos. (My mom somehow knew that Amos would be coming that Saturday and they had already packed and everything.) Our first night was both good and exhausting. We had an earthquake, of course, but luckily didn’t have to evacuate 🙂 Everything was very relaxed through the whole experience and just 24 hours after he was born, we were sent home.
The next few days were extremely tough. Amos was really struggling to eat, to the point that he was not having any wet diapers and had so little energy that we couldn’t get him awake to eat. My parents were an amazing help to us as we worked to dropper feed him milk every hour and a half to get him hydrated. It was exhausting and terrifying. Then he started to turn yellow. We took him in for a blood test, which was absolutely excruciating as a brand new parent. I came home and cried for half an hour. The test results came back and after talking with the doctor and unsuccessfully trying our hardest to find a phototherapy light we could use at home, the pediatrician decided he needed to be re-admitted to the hospital. So he spent 48 hours under the lights with a mask over his eyes and it was the pits. Saturday night, on his one week birthday, we took off his mask and he was the most alert little guy. James and I kept grinning and saying we felt like we just got our son back. From that night on, he’s been nursing like a champ and been so much more alert. He’s even starting to fill out…just a little 🙂 Now we are just trying to enjoy every minute. Adjusting to less sleep and being pooped and peed on and loving our little miracle.
Thank you for praying for us and for Amos as we figure out being a family of three!
Here we are in ‘winter vacations’ for the next two weeks. Savanna and I are thankful for the time to prepare for the baby coming in September. We’ve been painting, shopping, cleaning, and just a little bit of custom carpentry. The baby books that are sitting on our shelf call this ‘Nesting.’ We’ve also really appreciated this time to get some other tasks out of the way before life changes pretty drastically–our car has new tires, we got Costa Rican driver’s licenses. We’ve even snuck in a few fun things that we may not be able to do for a while once our little boy is here–seeing movies, taking naps, being spontaneous. It has been a busy, but great few days.
Savanna officially reached third trimester this week. Her doctor is still saying both she and the baby look healthy. We are excited to meet this little guy, who will hopefully have a name come September 🙂
A little tidbit about getting our driver’s licenses. We had to collect six different documents, get double copies of each, and go to four different locations. A personal favorite was doing the eye exam in Spanish…remembering the alphabet in your second language under stressful circumstances is never fun haha. Over all the process took about one day of preparation and five hours at the DMV equivalent. Thankful to have that out of the way!
We are excited for what is ahead and look forward to seeing some of you in Tennessee in just a few days!
June 15th officially marked two years of living in Costa Rica. It is both fun and hard to look back over our time here and reflect on the trials and blessings we have lived. I would without a doubt summarize year one as the hardest year of my life. It brought me tears, frustration, depression, heartache…and ultimately growth. Year two, however, can be summed up for me as the year that Costa Rica became home. We have found joy in the ministries we are involved in, soaked up the simplicity of our life here, and formed deep and meaningful connections with some amazing friends. This year has not been without its challenges, but it has seen some huge blessings as well. Adopted little guys, maturing students, beautiful places, news of our son on the way. We are blessed!
I think that reaching this milestone has also made us look to the future and our last year in Costa Rica. We feel confident that God is taking us somewhere else for now, and are already excited about the dreams He has started to cultivate in us for this next season of life, but I am the last person to say that I ever thought I would also be heartbroken when I consider leaving. In some ways this begins a year of difficult transition. Maintaining connections here while anticipating having to break them (not fully, but in many ways) so soon. Having to turn off all of the Spanglish that has our minds completely tangled about which language is which. Learning to be parents in this culture and community, only to have our norms flipped upside down upon our return. Balancing excitement of returning to the States with sadness of leaving a place that has become a wonderful home. Transition is tough. So pray with us–give thanks for the huge blessings and pray for peace in the transition! And hopefully give us some grace as we navigate this path.
A little look back at this year in photos: