December 2016 - January 2017

Update #1 - Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Well, we’re off.  I could not have asked for a better start to our trip to Costa Rica.  All 10 students arrived ON TIME!!  Our group consists of 10 students and 4 adult leaders.  We checked in and made sure we our luggage was the proper weight.  I can honestly say this is the lightest-packing team I can remember.  Dawn, an adult leader, was asking students if they forgot anything.

Once we got all our stuff checked and loaded we headed for O’Hare Int’l Airport. Jay Butterfield more than graciously volunteered to drive us to the airport.  What a true testament to showing Jesus’s love.  Thanks, Jay.  We made it to the airport ingreat time.  Traffic was not bad at all. Upon arrival, we unloaded the Vineyard trailer, again in record time and before you know it we are checking in for our flights.

We breezed through security and were able to have some down time prior to boarding our first flight to San Salvador, El Salvador for our connecting flight.  We were able to eat a little and just relax before the 4+ hour flight.  It was good to get to know the team just through some informal conversation.  Once we boarded we were all able to sit together on the plane as well.  That was such a comfort, especially for those who were a little anxious about flying.

Our flight to El Salvador was pretty calm with little turbulence and we arrived on time and caught our next flight to San Jose, Costa Rica.  Once again it was a great flight.  We did run into a delay at customs in Costa Rica.  We had to wait for an hour and
half before we finally made our way through.  That was our first test of the trip.  We were tired (it was after midnight our time), frustrated, and maybe a little agitated.  But we made it through our first test.  The team did great!

After a short night’s sleep were ready for our orientation and first outreach for the trip.  This is a great group we have with us this year.  Continue to pray for our trip!
Matt LaFree
Director of Student Ministries

Update #2 - Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Today was our first full day of work in beautiful Costa Rica.  Our team started the day with a small message and some amazing breakfast before we drove to Pastor Pablo’s church.  Once we arrived at the church, we watched a video depicting the church’s growth throughout the years.  It was so encouraging to see where the church started, where it is now, and all the plans God has for it in the future. 

After the video ended and we received some more instructions, we split into three groups and began our day.  One group started working on some projects in the church.  Another group went out and evangelized in the community and focused on building relationships with people.  The last group worked on some prep work for the kid’s club like writing out verses and planning crafts.  It was amazing to see how everyone willingly jumped right into the groups they were placed in and started working.  I can already sense the amazing things our team is going to accomplish this week solely based on everyone’s willing attitude to serve in any way possible. 

The outreach team had several life-changing experiences.  They got to pray for a man named David and Dawn was able to share her testimony with him.  They also got to pray with some other families as they were all playing in the park.  The work team, who focused on Pablo’s church, worked diligently and accomplished many things.  The kid’s club group was a little disappointed because only one kid showed up.  However, it was very cool to see how God flipped that small bump in our day and turned it into an opportunity for our team.  The kid was able to hang out with our team all day and some people on our team were able to build a relationship with him. 

I would like to share some of the highlights of my day.  At several points of the day, little kids on the street and some other girls recognized me from my trip last year.  I was able to reconnect with several people which
was amazing.  At dinner, I sat with two young girls and continued building our friendship from last year.  As I was observing everyone else at dinner, I was reminded how God’s implausible power breaks language barriers, cultural differences, and so much more. As part of our message this morning, DeLynn, one of the leaders in Pura Vida Missions, asked us why God created us.  We are placed on this earth to do everything we possibly can to glorify God.  Sitting around, sharing a meal, building relationships with one another, and pushing each other closer to God is exactly what He desires. 

I could write about so much more and share so many more stories but I want to leave you with a small challenge.  Intentionally build relationships.  Deliberately take time out of your day to encourage a friend or just simply check up on them.  But most importantly, chase God with purpose and build a relationship with Him.  Do everything in your power to glorify Him. 

As we start another day tomorrow, I ask for your continued prayers and support. 
With love,
Sydney Stevens

Update #3 Thursday, December 29, 2016

 Well I shouldn’t be writing another update, but the person tabbed to write today’s update was Matt Earl.  He did not have time because he stayed behind tonight after our dinner to practice playing the drums.  Matt will be playing drums tomorrow during worship at the church service we will be attending, but you’ll hear more of that tomorrow.

As for today, wow, what a great day.  We just finished our nightly debrief and I can see, hear, and feel God’s movement in our team.  We started the day with a message about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  This was followed by about ½ hour of quiet time where, God really spoke to a lot of our team.  What a great way to start a morning!!

We then traveled together to the church for the day’s outreach.  Again, we split into several groups.  One group continued to paint the church interior.  With the two tones of blue that went on the walls today, it really makes the church look great. 

Another group started the morning
canvasing the area for the kid’s club that would take place in the afternoon.  This was a great sign that God is with us because yesterday they did not have any kids for kid’s club, but today 19 showed up!  And of those 19, most of them were new and the pastor’s wife, Jessica, said she did not know many of them.  I know a lot of our team was happy to not only see that many kids. 

Finally, the third team went to the park to make relationships with the kids of the community by playing volleyball and
futball (soccer).  We also brought several three liter bottles of soda pop to pass out to the people.  The unique part of this is was the fact we were not drinking out of cups.  We poured the soda into plastic bags and drank out of them.  I still didn’t mind because I was dying for a drink of pop.

A little later in the day the rest of the group joined us at the park.  They played a big game of soccer and just mingled with the students and made some relationships.  A lot of the same kids we were playing soccer with joined us for dinner (spaghetti) at the church.  And this is how our outreach ended, with another dinner with the community.  Watching our students mingle with and communicate with these kids was really great to witness.  The only downer for the day was that Michael got sick during dinner.  He was feeling a little better as we left and went to bed early this evening.  Please pray for Michael’s health, as well as continued health for the rest of the team.

It has been a great start to our trip.  These students are pressing in and doing a great job.  As I was writing this update I was interrupted by Pastor Pablo with a hug to tell me good the church looked, and how appreciative he is of our team being down here.  I was also interrupted by a staff member from PVM who wanted to tell me that our students were doing a tremendous job.  He said we have a great group of students, and I couldn’t agree more.  I can’t wait to see how else God uses us down here over the next few days. 

Your partner in Christ,
Matt LaFree

Update #4 - Friday, December 30, 2016

Hola Todos!  (Hello All!) This is Matt Earl writing to you from Costa Rica! I was planning on writing yesterday’s letter, but I was asked to practice drums for Pastor Pablo church last night!  So, I am writing today's!

Today was a great day (not to say the other days weren’t great).  Every day for me has been better than the last. Each day presents new opportunities to learn about God; to serve the Ticos and each 
other; and to grow our relationships with each other.  We began the day with a message brought to us by the leader of Vida220, Dylan!  He challenged us to look at our lives and examine how pride causes us to sin.  This was immediately followed by a half hour of devotions and prayer.  This time gave me a chance to set the tone for how I wanted to act throughout the day: with humility and in accordance with God’s will for me.

After we had our breakfast of very American pancakes, we left for La Vina at La Monte de Cristo.  There we split into groups. One group continued to paint the interior of the church and construct support for the ceiling. By dinner time, they had finished the entire interior!  The other two groups walked around the city picking up trash on the sides of the road and inviting people to come to our events at the church and the park.

Later that day, the two groups that weren’t painting helped us with kid’s club!  We got in a circle and worshiped with the kids and then helped them make crafts.  Despues,
nosotros fuimos a la plaza a jugar futbol y boleibal.  (After that we all went to the park to play soccer and volleyball with the Ticos!)  We also handed out the bags of soda and mingled with the Ticos.  Over the past few days we all have picked up a lot of Spanish!

Around 5 o’clock, we all went to the church for a dinner of hamburgers.  The meal was followed by Spanish worship led by Pastor Pablo and then English worship led by our own team!  After that, Matt LaFree gave a message with Pablo translating.  He shared the gospel with us and offered a prayer of salvation.  During this prayer, several people raised their hands to accept Christ.  It was so beautiful to see how God worked through us all! 

We have learned a lot about our purpose this week.  Our purpose is to glorify God.  We have been able to glorify God by serving, befriending the Ticos, and worshiping God.  We have seen a group of several homeless people over the past few days and have given them food.  Tonight, all of them came to the church and even raised their hands to accept Christ!  God has done so much cool stuff so far; I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us!

-Matt Earl 

Update #5, Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hi all and Happy New Year’s Eve! Today was our last day to work with Pablo’s church. Since it was our last day, we split up into two groups; one group worked with kids club and the other group finished the work at the church. The kids club group got the opportunity to do something a little different; they preformed a skit about the love of Jesus. The team that worked on the church successfully finished painting and putting up the new supports for the roof. 

In the afternoon we all headed to the plaza to play volleyball, soccer, and basketball. At the
plaza many of the same kids from the past couple days came to play. It was amazing to see how the relationships between us and the kids grew over such a sort time. Even with a language barrier we were able to share the love of Christ with them. I was amazed at the volleyball skills of the tico’s , this one team was unbeatable. It was great to see and experience the joy the tico’s have from playing in the plaza. On our way back to Pablo’s church we got to enjoy ice cream. I personally tried a flavor only available in Costa Rica called Cas, Cas is a citrus fruit. 

To end the work week we all gathered around and prayed 
tico style for Pablo, his family, and the future of the church. God was there, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all around us. I think I can say for myself and everyone else that it has been a huge blessing to be a part of the work that has and is happening with Pablo’s church. I can’t wait to see what more God has planned. 

Today’s update is a little different because the day isn’t quite over, we are currently waiting to eat a special dinner for New Year’s Eve here at the base. After 
dinner we will have a time of debrief and go deeper into what God has been doing in each of our lives during this past week. Worship and a message from Delynn will follow our time of debrief. I am really looking forward to worship! Lastly to end the night we will ride about an hour to see the New Year’s fireworks on top of the mountain. 

Some praises from this week: Michael’s restored health, the many opportunities take to pray for the community, the continual grow of our team, and greatest of all God’s powerful hand guiding our each move during this trip. I want to thank everyone who helped get our team here to Costa Rica. Sharing the love we all desire, the love only Jesus canfulfil is one unforgettable experience . I ask for continued prayers as we bring our trip a close. 
With love,
Grace Arndt


Update #6, Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hello everyone! 
After working at Pablo’s church the last five days, we took a vacation day to white water raft and visit the market in San Jose. We woke up at 7:
30am sharp and piled into the bus. We traveled through the mountains, and for the first time we saw all the beautiful sights of Costa Rica. When we arrived at the place for rafting, we split up into three groups and began the journey. Not only was it an amazing, thrilling adventure, but we also were able to have quality team time and connect more and more with one another. The staff there also prepared us a great meal that renewed our energy for the day.

Next, we hopped on the bus to shop at the market in San Jose. For me personally, this part of the day was the best. We saw the unique items that only Costa Rica could offer. All the objects the vendors were selling showed a different side of Costa Rican culture. We all had a fun time buying souvenirs for ourselves and our families. We also visited two grocery stores just across the street. There, we bought our favorite foods that are only found in Costa Rica.

Today was a rewarding day. We treated ourselves to adventures and shopping after all the hard work we had done the previous days. The only thing on the agenda was to enjoy the beauty and gifts that God has given us this week. I am so thankful for my team, Vida Missions, and the work that God is doing down here in Costa Rica. All in all, today was a day of connecting with one another and experiencing all different sides of Costa Rica.
With love,
Anna Pope


Update #7, Monday, January 2, 2017

 As the day went on, I was asked to go help this lady move rocks and

After breakfast, we headed out to La Cuenca. The trip there was very interesting because of the unexpected stop we had at the gas station. The bus would not start so half of our team got out to push to start the bus. That defiantly got us up and awake. Once we got to La Cuenca, we split into four teams. One team stayed down in the plaza where the kids club was at for the day. The other three teams went through the village asking and inviting kids to come join us. We had balloon animals, bubbles, and even face paint.

Our final day here in the lovely country of Costa Rica was very eye opening. We woke up with a normal morning ahead of us with DeLynn’s message, quiet time, and breakfast. Our message this morning was about how getting out of our comfort zone is growing. Something that Delynn said this morning really hit me. “If you are not growing, then you are dead.” Getting out of your comfort zone is exactly what we did today.dirtfor

her new floor. The task wasn’t easy but our team powered through it. Scooping rocks and dirt into bags and a wheel burrow and carrying them down a jagged and uneven stairway was no walk in the park. But doing this made me realize that the tools we have at home may seem like a need but they are more like a luxury. No backhoe or bobcat was needed to move the dirt and rocks. Doing this made me realize that we have more than enough.

we ate lunch and hung out with the kids some more. Face painting, balloon making, and chalk drawing made their day.  Seeing the kids run around and laugh was touching and made me smile as well. Later in the day, the Vida220 students came and joined in on the fun. That was when the soccer games started happening. We got a few teams together and played a few rounds of soccer with the kids. Occasionally, the ball would go into the ditch next to the court so someone would have to fish it out. But that didn’t stop us from having a great time. 
waseye opening and a good lesson for the end of our trip. Getting out of your comfort zone and grow more. Leaving the week with this message was inspiring. It showed me that staying in your comfort zone will only take you so far. But once you learn to grow out of the boundaries you set yourself, life will not only be more fun but following God will be easier and your journey with him will soar. Seeing the kids today and how happy they were with what little they have let me realize that I don’t need the latest technology to be happy. I don’t need the coolest car or the latest iPhone to be happy.

This week was a blast and I have never got so out of my comfort zone than this week. We got to experience the coolest and most amazing things that God has and will continue to do in our lives. We were here for one reason and that was to glorify God. To take that home and teach others to do the same is going to be awesome. I am sad we must leave but happy to go back and teach others to live in Gods ways.
Thank you all for the prayers and pray that we have a safe travel home.
Pura Vida,
Kyle Kirkpatrick

Update #8, Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Well, we are currently in the air traveling back to the USA after a great week in Costa Rica. The team is in good spirits considering we have been up since 2:00am. There is not much to update other than travel, but I just wanted to praise God for our time here in Costa Rica. Not only did we learn to serve God, but we also learned how to more effectively communicate with God. Last night in our last debrief we all shared at least one thing that we will change about going back to the States. After hearing these things I am encouraged by how God is working in them and also excited to see how God will use them to not only shape our student ministries,  our church, but also our community. There is a high calling on all these students lives, and I am confident this trip helped them catch a glimpse of what God is calling them to do.

I want to give a special shout out to Dawn Morehouse, Mark Stevens, and Leah Pope for going on this trip as adult leaders.  They all have a strong connection with God helped significantly in the growth of our students.  I am incredibly grateful for them taking time away from their busy lives to pour into our students.  I could not do this trip without them. Thank you to those who supported us through prayer this week, and thank you to those who financially helped the team to participate in this trip.  You are helping move God’s kingdom forward, and for 
that I ask for God’s blessings on you as well. 

As we get closer to home, I am excited to see my wife and kids when I get home, but there is a large piece of me that will miss spending all of my time with these students and leaders.  This is truly a GREAT group.  There will always be a place in my heart for this team of 10 students and 3 leaders.  I have been more than blessed to be their leader this week!

May God bless you all,
Matt LaFree – Director of Student Ministries