Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from Costa Rica!

We attempted to have a traditional family Christmas, but that is pretty difficult. I never realized how much your traditions are tied to your culture and your location! For example, I brought all of my family recipes with me so I could make our traditional Christmas meal, but some critical ingredients are not available here (like cornmeal, or pumpkin pie filling, or Velveeta, or ham, etc.). We attempted to recreate our family Christmas dinner and substitute ingredients, but it just wasn't the same. Trust me, no one ate seconds or wanted leftovers for dinner!

We went to our church on Christmas Eve. It was a lot of fun to sing traditional Christmas carols in Spanish with a very latin beat and musical rendition to them! No one would ever dream of dimming the lights and lighting candles during a Costa Rican singing of "Silent Night"! It was rockin'!!! All of the Sunday School classes did something - sang a song or did a dance or acted out a part of the nativity story. Sarah's class sang a song and did a ribbon dance, then they led the congregation in singing Feliz Cumpleanos to Jesus (Happy Birthday) and they opened a big gift box and let helium balloons out. The whole service was very upbeat and celebratory and fun.

Last night was like living in a war zone... the fireworks in our neighborhood rivaled any war in the Middle East, I'm sure! The house actually shook during a lot of it! The most action was at midnight - the traditional "time" to celebrate Christmas here. It is traditional here to wait until midnight to eat Christmas dinner and open gifts with family. Also, the baby Jesus doesn't appear in your nativity scene until midnight on Christmas Eve. All of the nativity scenes in town have been "waiting" on their centerpiece - the baby Jesus! I love that!

So we survived our first Christmas totally away from Texas and family and friends. It was different, that's for sure. We miss everyone and we miss our traditions, but we survived. Good news... Jesus is still Jesus, no matter where we are or what culture we are learning or what language we are speaking. That will NEVER change - Hallelujah! Feliz Navidad!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The end of the Trimester... What did we learn?

We have been here for 4 months and are at the end of our first trimester. We have learned A LOT in those short months…
Vocabulary words learned: 700+
Verbs learned: 350+
Keep in mind that these are words that we were given to learn. These don't include the hundreds and hundreds of other words we have learned along the way - after the 4th time your teacher says, "por ejemplo", you figure out she is saying "for example" - this is an example of vocabulary we weren't given to learn, we learned from immersion por supuesto (of course).

Stop reading if you are already bored, or could care less…

We have learned:
  • Conjugation of verbs in present tense - both regular and irregular verbs

  • Conjugation of verbs in two forms of past tense (past perfect and imperfect)

  • We learned the intricacies of when to use “por” and “para”

  • We learned that words are either masculine or feminine, and each has an article that goes in front of it: la casa (as an example), or una casa, or unas casas, las casas (the house/es)
    Then of course your adjective has to agree with the masculine or feminine tense as well. Do you live in a red house (rojo)? Then of course it's not rojo - it's roja - because it must match casa - Yo vivo en una casa roja.
    Boring you yet?

  • We learned about Estar and Ser - both "to be" verbs - and the 20+ different reasons you have to know to determine if you use either Estar or Ser… by the way, they CHANGE in both past tenses and in future tense. I think there might be about a hundred ways to use estar and ser!

  • Then we learned about "perifrasis" - phrases linking verbs together – and the many different rules involved in using them

  • Then came direct objects - easy you may say - well, that's in English - Spanish is entirely a different thing!

  • Indirect objects, of course, came next.
    Is this starting to sound a lot like the nightmare of diagramming sentences that you remember from high school English!!!???

  • Then substitutions of both the direct and indirect objects (Ellen went to the store....changes to "she went to it"...oh so easy you may say? Even third trimester students confuse when/how to use these)

  • How to phrase a question - different format than regular sentences

  • Reflexive verbs-- used when something directly affects you - such as you look at yourself in the mirror. The sentence structure is different. A VERY different way of thinking about things.

  • Intransitives - You think you like the cookie, but in Spanish, the cookie is pleasing to you. In English, "You" is the subject of the sentence, but in these type of set-ups, the "cookie" is the subject of the sentence.

  • By the way, you can “Me gusta” pizza (I like pizza.), but you can’t “Me gusta” Francisco (I like Francisco.) because that would be a romantic advance… careful!!!

All of the above is JUST what we learned in our grammar class. We have two other classes...
In our phonetics class - we spent the whole trimester trying to sound like a Spanish speaker, not a gringo - learning diphthongs, accents, syllables, intonation, etc.
In our conversation class we try to pull it all together! Each week we have a different topic we discuss. House, family, foods, animals, occupations, money, business, etc. We learn words and verbs and common phrases about each topic, then discuss them in class. Oh, and don't forget, we are also learning to witness to people and explain the Bible in Spanish, give our testimony, tell Bibile stories, and apply all of it to daily life... IN SPANISH!

AAAHHHH!!!!! These are just the highlights of our trimester and what has been shoved into our heads. We really need this break! However, we can’t let down our guard and stop studying… We are working with Lizbeth on things that we know we are weak on. She is a tough tutor! Billy is meeting with a Costa Rican guy who wants to help him with conversation in exchange for Billy helping him with English conversation. We are lining up other language helpers for next trimester, as well as reviewing our books and flashcards and working with on-line tutorials and reviews. Pray that "the little men in the warehouses of our brains" are working overtime filing all of this stuff in the correct places so we can go back to school with organized information and can recall it all and use it in conversation.

By the way... we managed to finish the trimester with all A's and B's - Woo Hoo!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

La Carpio Christmas party

Have you ever tried to throw a party for 200 children? Complete with a carnival of games, a full dinner, and Christmas gifts for all??? Our La Carpio ministry team (15 missionaries from the language institute) did just that Saturday. Actually, I have to give God all of the credit because I was in charge and I REALLY had my doubts about being able to pull this off.

Special thanks to my Beth Moore Bible Study group back home in Texas… they collected money and sponsored all of the food for the fiesta. This alone was an awesome ministry – a group of ladies from Texas partnered with the ladies of the La Carpio community to provide a full meal for 225 children (more than we planned for)… arroz con pollo, ensalada, tostadas, hot chocolate, and ice cream. The La Carpio ladies cooked all of the food and served the 225 plates, cups, and ice cream cones.

Also, special thanks to our supporters – this is one of the ways in which your support money is being used. You helped to provide gift bags for 200 children in the La Carpio community. You partnered with missionaries from other organizations who also provided goodies for the gift bags.

It is apparent to me that THIS is the church at work – supporters and missionaries and people of all walks of life, all denominations, coming together to provide for the children of this community. Thank you! Thank you for answering God’s call and giving from you heart so that we can go forth and share the love of Christ with these precious children!

To learn / see more of La Carpio, please check out our latest video at

Love to you all!!! Feliz Navidad!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Just Another Crazy Week...

Our week has been crazy, but what else is new? It seems like LIFE is crazy since we hit the mission field!
  • We decided to venture out and attempt to take Costa Rican buses to another town in the country. We had to catch the bus to downtown (.60 cents), then change buses to another town (.50 cents), then change buses to get to our final destination town ($1)... so for a little more than $2 each, we rode the bus out to the country to visit a town that is famous for the artisans who paint the famous coffee ox carts of Costa Rica. The town was nice and seeing all of the painted ox carts was great, but perhaps the best part was the adventure of taking all those buses and figuring out that we could spend the whole day speaking spanish and actually get to where we were going! Hallelujah! Small victories every day...

  • On Sunday, we attended the annual Ox Cart Parade in downtown San Jose. There were over 350+ carts and almost 1000 oxen in the parade. Ox carts were originally used to transport coffee from the plantations to the ports. The oxen and the carts were the only feasible way to move heavy coffee crops over the mountains and the soft ground. During the parade, Sarah was asked by several oxen drivers to pose with them and their animals. One cart asked her to ride with them in the parade... she rode for a good half mile or so before Billy got her back out of the cart!

  • We have been able to tune in a Denver network channel this week, so we have been able to see a couple of holiday children's shows (Grinch, Shrek Holiday special, Charlie Brown Christmas, Polar Express). It's nice to have a little piece of USA Christmas culture in our week. We are missing our house and our Christmas decorations, family & friends right now. We used to have to juggle our schedules and make decisions about which Christmas parties and holiday events we were going to attend - now we don't have ANY parties or invitations to juggle. It's a different holiday this year...

  • We are nearing the end of this trimester of language school. This fact brings with it the stresses of exams and wrapping up loose ends. We have several big tests (oral and written) next week and our brains are past full. All of the information is in there, it just isn't organized properly and we can't seem to recall it at will - yet.

  • I cried in class again today... go figure! I've about decided that I'm not ever going to speak using pronombres, complimento directos o indirectos. I'm just going to say everything the "long way" because it is easier and doesn't make my head hurt or force me to break down into tears.

  • Thank goodness we have nothing to do this weekend (well, except homework and studying). We all need a break. Sarah is nursing a bad cold and needs to have some down time. I think we all need to sleep in for once. I'm personally looking forward to drinking coffee on the back porch tomorrow morning!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

We did it! A Thanksgiving Success

We did it! We managed to cook our turkey in our half-sized oven and it was fabulous! Billy did a really good job. The Ticos (Costa Ricans) all said that they don’t like turkey because it is always tough and doesn’t have a good flavor, but they loved Billy’s turkey. Several came to the table and asked how to cook it… what is in it, what spices, etc. One Tico lady at our table asked him to teach her how to make one for Christmas! And one of the professors at school came into the kitchen at the end and asked to take some home to share, because she had never had good turkey before. Yea, Billy!!! And special thanks to Emeril for posting a great recipe on the internet that had relatively easy-to-find ingredients.

As for the rest of the dinner… the students from Mount Vernon College did a great job. They were each responsible for bringing a dish to the dinner. Mind you, this was EVERYONE’S first time cooking alone – this is usually Mom’s job (I heard that a lot today). We had scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, dressing (Ohio style, not cornbread dressing), corn, green beans, turkey, gravy, yeast rolls, and three kinds of pie – pumpkin, pecan, and apple. All of the kids invited their Costa Rican host families and their professors from the institute, so it was a big sharing of culture and food.

It was a big day for Lizbeth, too… we invited her to attend with our family and she hadn’t ever had turkey before – hadn’t even seen one. She spent the morning being amazed at the cooking process in our kitchen and saying, “Huele rico!” (Smells good!). She made a huge plate of food, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen her eat at lunch with us – she eats like a bird – and she ate all of it! She was stuffed and tired when she left. We explained to her that in The United States, you have to take a nap after eating Thanksgiving dinner… it’s a tradition. She laughed and said that sounded good to her!

I have to admit, I did miss my mom’s cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and pink pineapple salad. But it was a very nice Thanksgiving, even without those traditional foods. We even managed to come home with leftover turkey and mashed potatoes and Ohio bread stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home in the USA! Know that you are loved and missed and we are so thankful for you. Much love!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Thanksgiving...

Well, we were able to buy a turkey. To the tune of $32 dollars, we bought a turkey and it is in the refridgerator attempting to slowly thaw. It takes up the ENTIRE oven, so anything else that we cook will be made Wednesday night or Thursday in the microwave. Literally, my oven is tiny and this turkey takes up the whole thing. The next trick is going to be finding a pan to put the bird in! I own a small cake pan and a pyrex lasagna dish. We will be treking out Monday and Tuesday to try to find a bigger pan or one of those foil pans. We'll see...

Billy and Sarah spent quite a while on the internet trying to find out exactly how to cook a turkey. Remember, turkey cooking has always been Billy's job since we always had a cajun fried turkey. But this year, without the turkey frier and the peanut oil and the injection spices, we will have to be "traditional" and attempt to do this the old-fashioned way. All Sarah seemed to learn from this research project was that for some very strange reason (to a 4 year old) meat needs to "rest" after you cook it. She is wondering why meat needs a nap... she even asked about the chicken we ate last night... "shouldn't it take a rest first?"

I couldn't find cornmeal at the store. I'm hoping that Maiz Masa is close enough. I'm going to try to make cornbread dressing with it. Again, we'll see... I still have to go to another market to get celery. The one stalk that they had at the market yesterday was as limp as spaghetti and I just couldn't make myself buy it. Hopefully, we'll find some tomorrow when we are looking for a foil pan.

Are you pronouncing "doomsday" over this Thanksgiving yet? I'm getting concerned...

We officially have classes all week... we don't get Thanksgiving off. I have made an executive decision though- I'm going to skip. I'm staying home and cooking and watching the parades on TV (if I can get the Denver television channel to come in on Thursday). I know that isn't very responsible of me, the veteran teacher and mother of 3, deciding to skip school. But I think I need an American mental health day. And I'm trying to figure out how to foster my "Martha Stewart" side while living in my "National Geographic" lifestyle. Thursday should be a big adventure... I'll let you know.

By the way, we watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on YouTube. It just wouldn't be right to miss out on Charlie Brown!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thanksgiving traditions, food, etc...

A secondary school student from the USA wrote and asked us about the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions in this country. Her Spanish class is learning about traditions in other spanish-speaking countries.

Well, Thanksgiving is totally a USA holiday, so there aren't any traditions here for that. They are aware that we have a holiday for Thanksgiving, but they don't really understand what it is all about. In fact, we have school on Thanksgiving. No holiday for us, even though 98% of the students in our language institute are Americans. Today in my Conversation class, we talked about foods and traditions... I can tell you some things I learned about that.
1. They aren't big on eating turkey here. The main reason is because there just aren't many turkeys! In the States, we actually have turkey farms and grow turkeys for eating, but they just don't do that here. Any turkeys that happen to be in the stores are imported from the USA and they are only bought by "gringos".
2. Pumpkin is a vegetable and is not cooked in pie (in Costa Rica). They make soup with it, if they eat it at all. Most people cannot afford a pumpkin... they are about $10 each for one the size of a small soccer ball!!! They don't have canned pumpkin here, so you can't buy it in a can to make pie. We did hear of a store that specializes in American import foods and you can get canned pumpkin there, but it is expensive. Guess we won't be having pumpkin pie this year! They certainly don’t carve pumpkins here (Halloween). In fact, one of my teachers thought that we were crazy even talking about carving a pumpkin… “why would you waste a perfectly good vegetable like that? Don’t you know it makes a luxurious soup that is only enjoyed by the rich?!” Our friend, Lizbeth, saw the pictures of my sister and her kids in the pumpkin patch and just didn’t understand why you would pose your children for a photo with food and hay?!
3. Can't buy cranberry sauce, either. They don't even know what a cranberry is.
4. I asked about where I could buy a duck (to eat, not as a pet)since they aren't big on eating turkey here. My teacher acted like I had just said, "I would like to eat your kitten, since you won't give me a turkey." She was appalled that anyone would eat a duck. Evidently, ducks are only for swimming in the pond at the park, not ever for eating. Sorry... guess we'll stick to chicken.
5. No one here has ever seen or heard of cornbread, so dressing/stuffing is not normal here. I think I can get cornmeal at the store and make my cornbread from scratch and actually make dressing/stuffing.
6. Another note on the turkey... my teacher asked me to explain to her how you would cook a turkey. I told her that you can bake it in the oven (which is impossible here because ovens are tiny) or you can fry them (Cajun-style). This was intriguing to her, in a bizarre way, and she asked to know more. That is where the conversation got out of hand and became something out of a horror movie... trying to explain in Spanish about injecting the turkey with spices using a giant syringe (her eyes got big and frightened), then dropping the turkey in boiling oil in a giant pot over a flame/burner in the backyard... if you think about it, this sounds much like a really bad scarey movie!

As for Christmas, I don't know a whole lot about the customs and traditions here for Christmas yet. I know that most people already have their houses decorated and their trees up... it is kind-of a November 1st thing to put up your Christmas decorations. Santa has been in the mall for a couple of weeks already (by the way, Santa speaks Spanish... go figure!). The Costa Ricans are BIG on decorating for Christmas. I know that they give gifts and they eat a big Christmas dinner, but you can't do gifts or dinner until midnight on Christmas Eve. Other than that, I don't know much yet. I'll fill you in when I know more.

Just a side note on food... a missionary friend received a package of sunflower seeds in the mail from home. This is one of his favorite snack foods and he was very excited to receive them. He was eating them in class and our teacher saw him and asked to see what he was eating. Upon looking at the package and the contents, our teacher looked at our friend (with a very disturbed look on his face) and said, "These are for birds. Why are you eating these?" Makes me wonder about the foods we eat and take for granted... I wonder how other cultures see us and our eating habits? Hmmmm.......???????

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mission trip to San Carlos / Quesada

We have just returned from a mission trip. Isn’t that a hoot?! Missionaries in the field go on mission trips – go figure! What was really different and really neat about this particular mission team is that we are all full-time missionaries to Latin American countries, all with different callings and talents but with the same heart for missions. It was great! Where we are usually the leaders of separate short term teams, we were now a team of leaders all coming together as one short term team. It was really wonderful to watch everyone mesh their callings and their gifts, their talents and trainings into one team effort.

We worked in Quesada / San Carlos, Costa Rica. We held a children’s ministry for 50+ children (age 2-9), a youth ministry for 40+ youth (age 10-18), and a women’s ministry. We had a team of nine missionaries who went out into the community for door-to-door evangelism. And we spent some time in a local boy’s home, cleaning up their grounds, teaching a bible lesson, and just hanging out with them in fellowship. It was a great short term mission effort.

Billy and I were amazed again at how God has divine appointments in our life that we know nothing about. The camp we stayed in is heavily affiliated with The Mission Society (we had no idea) and the camp director, 89 year old Rev. Marion Woods, is a huge cheerleader for missions and The Mission Society. We are so blessed to have met him and even more blessed to be asked to lead the next mission effort in this area in the Spring of 2008. The current leaders are graduating from the Language Institute and have asked us to step into their shoes. We are honored to take on this charge.

So we return from our mission for the weekend, tired and rejuvenated at the same time. We had a great time with great people. We stayed up LATE into the night, talking about missions and visions and our passions for service (an adult slumber party for missionaries :). We ate too many snacks, we played jokes on each other, we practiced our spanish, we vied for our place in the shower line-up… it was a great time!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What to post this week???

Sometimes, I don't know what to say. I know that is a shock to many of you!!! But when under stress, sometimes you just can't think. So I will post random joys and concerns for the week...

  • Sarah celebrated her 4th birthday on Friday. Actually, she thinks her birthday was Wednesday because that was the day of her party. We had several children, several parents, and several college kids come to the fiesta. I really think the college kids had the most fun! PS - pinatas are deadly!!! Whoever decided to blindfold uncoordinated children and hand them a giant stick and give them several chances to smash something???

  • When you are fully engrossed in another culture and language, you suddenly find that you can no longer think or write or speak in your native tongue, nor have you mastered the new language... therefore, you are a complete idiot in two languages and cultures now. Well, yippie for that! We frequently find ourselves struggling to think of a word IN ENGLISH now, or not being able to spell anymore because we are spelling using spanish phonetics, etc.

  • We have found that people who have only known us for two months will come through with flying colors when you are in need! Just when we thought that our support network of friends was no longer available to us and we were all alone, in swooped the troops and our new classmates came charging in! God is AWESOME to put us in a situation with such great people to learn with.

  • You cannot imagine how frustrating and violating it can feel to have your umbrellas stolen! We left our umbrellas on our front porch to dry - mind you, our front porch is surrounded by bars... a mini prison of sorts. Upon waking up the next day, our umbrellas had been stolen! We were told that this happens often... theives use a long, stiff wire to weave through the bars and grab whatever they want, then pull it to the bars and use their hands to get it out... shoes, water hoses, umbrellas, whatever! So, here we are in the rainy season in a rainforest country with no umbrellas - go figure!

  • "Woo Hoo!" for friends back home who remember that we exist!!! We received a giant box yesterday full of magazines IN ENGLISH, bubble gum, chocolate mints, birthday gifts for Sarah, books, you name it! It was like early Christmas!

  • By the way, Santa speaks Spanish!!! In Costa Rica, the Christmas season is in full swing (I kid you not!) and Santa was walking around the store on Sunday. He stopped to speak to Sarah, and much to her surprise, he speaks Spanish!!! Who would have thunk it? :)

  • We are very excited to find out that some missionary friends that we spent many weeks of training with are coming to language school in late December - Hallelujah!!! We are so excited! Jim and Ginnie Street will be here to learn Spanish and prepare for service in (get this) PERU!!! Their sending organization has just told them that they will most likely be serving in Peru!

  • It is FANTASTIC to hear Beth Moore speak, watch her, and study with her each day as I do my online bible study! Finally, a Texas woman with a Texas accent! Feels like going to bible study back home. You will never understand how much it means to hear someone say "y'all"!

  • Never underestimate the beauty of being able to speak to your doctor in the same language... there are some things that just don't translate well, nor do you have words for them, nor are you sure whether or not it is appropriate to say them! And as much as you are struggling to understand them, they are struggling to understand you... it used to all be so easy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top Ten Things to Make Your Day... True Stories from The Drum Household

1. When you are so tired that you mix up the bottles on your dresser and cover your entire body in hairspray instead of perfume. It was a sticky morning!
2. When Billy mistakenly tells a friend that “the children are ugly” instead of “the children are sick”. Guess we should study our vocabulary more!
3. When you attempt to order a pizza on the phone (delivery) and your directions to your house aren’t correct (because your spanish is so bad)… two hours later, he called to ask for clarification! We managed to get him to the top of the street and flag him down to the house. Yummm—cold pizza!
4. When you realize that the liquid shower gel that you have been using for a week is really shampoo and not body soap. Silky smooth skin with extra body! Lather, rinse, repeat...
5. When you are at the grocery store and your 3 year old needs a bathroom… “Donde esta el baño?” you ask to 4 different people, each time being led to the aisle that sells towels. What??? Clear pronunciation is important!!! “Baño” and “Paño” sure sound a lot alike!
6. When you are so excited because the roses in your yard are finally full and bushy and ready to do their thing, only to wake up the next day to naked sticks! I’m here to tell you that leaf cutter ants can strip you clean in no time! No roses, no geraniums, no nothing!
7. On a similar note, when you and your daughter have been anxiously awaiting the emersion of a butterfly from it’s chrysalis (in the kitchen), only to come home and find the cocoon empty. “Oh no! Where did it go?”, we ask our helper, Lizbeth. Waving frantically she tell us in spanish that it emerged and was flying around the kitchen (frightening her, I think) and she shooed it out the back door (very proud of herself).
8. When your teacher admires your bag/purse and says she wants to try to make/sew one for herself. So, you empty the bag and take it to class the next day so she can use it for a pattern. Somehow, again in bad spanish, the loan of my bag became a “gift” for the teacher. She was very proud of it and carried on and on about how nice it was that I gave it to her… oh well, I hope she enjoys it…
9. When your example sentence in class (“Tonight I will bake a chocolate cake.”) somehow is mistaken for a statement of intent and you are now somehow obligated to make chocolate cake and bring it to class tomorrow to share.
10. When someone says “you smell like an American”… What does that mean? Is that good or bad? I don’t know. Maybe it’s my special blend of hairspray / perfume / body shampoo…

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Blessings of email and an mp3

If you ever wondered how far-reaching an mp3 sermon is going, I’m here to tell you that we are listening in Costa Rica! If you ever wondered how fast word travels, I’m here to tell you that within hours of a sermon given on Sunday, we received an email from a member telling us that we were mentioned in the sermon!

Click below to hear a sermon from Rev. Jay Jackson in Houston… we don’t know him personally, have not ever met him, etc. Yet, somehow, he knows of us and our mission and talked about us in his sermon yesterday… go figure! One of his congregation members sent us an email (we don’t know her, either) saying that she heard about us in the sermon yesterday and she wants to put together a mission team for Costa Rica or Peru. She is 66 years old! God is SO COOL!!!! This church also sent in a support check for us. WOW! We are amazed and humbled.

Within less than 24 hours of this pastor giving this sermon, we were listening to it in Central America! And, boy was it ever a blessing!!!! We are STARVED for The Word in our native tongue right now. Listening to a sermon in Spanish is so hard for us and we probably miss ¾ of the content. An English sermon was such a welcome blessing today! This really drives home the point to us that it is VITAL that we continue to learn this language and learn it flawlessly so that we can bring The Word to others IN THEIR NATIVE TONGUE!!! ¡Este es muy importante!!! No whining… we have to learn it and we have to do it well. We have to be accurate with The Word. Keep praying for our insecurities to melt away so that we can boldly learn to speak the language and proclaim what we know as The Truth!

Thank you, Pastor Jay, for your sermon and for putting it out there on the web in mp3 format… those of us who are out here in the “rest of the world” are listening! Right now, we are truly starved to hear The Word in our own language and we regularly seek out devotionals and sermons on the Web to keep ourselves spiritually fed. Thank you for feeding us this week. It was an added bonus that our family and our mission was mentioned in the sermon.

Thank you again for supporting us as we seek to serve Christ by serving others in Latin America. Right now, our call is a pretty rough job. We are tired and stressed and our brains are overflowing with a new language and a new culture… but we know it is all worth it and we truly love the people we serve. They deserve to hear the Word in their own language, just as we are starving to hear it in our native tongue right now! We have spent a lifetime hearing and learning the lessons that others in this world have never heard once. Therefore, we press on every day. Is it any wonder that all of Paul’s writings that talk about perseverance are our favorites!?

Love to you all! Give the above sermon a listen and send your prayers and blessings to this church and this pastor!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Veggietales - Dance of the cucumber

Really Important Phrases to know...

I'm so excited to share with you some of the very important phrases that we have learned to say in the last 6 weeks. By the way, this blog site does not allow for me to put in Spanish accents, tildes, etc., so if you speak spanish and notice that I'm missing these vital punctuation marks, sorry.

Really Important Phrases that Everyone Should Know:

  • Habia un choque en el bosque. (There was a collision in the forest.)

  • Averigue si la ciguena tiene verguenza. (Find out if the stork is bashful.)

  • El austero bautista bautiza al gaucho. (The austere Baptist baptizes the Argentine horseman.)

  • Los cautivos en las jaulas aplauden. (The captives in the cages applaud.)

  • Hay cuarenta guantes iguales del Ecuador. (There are forty identical gloves from Ecuador.)

  • Hay fuego en la escuela. (There is a fire in the school. This one might actually be useful...)

  • Luis se cuida de los buitres. (Louis is careful of the buzzards.)

  • Ponen clorox en la cloaca. (They put clorox in the sewer.)

  • Los acrobatas comen croquetas. (The acrobats eat croquettes.)

  • Yo cumplo anos el mismo dia que mi plomero. (My birthday is the same day as my plumber's. This is my personal favorite! I'm sure that I could not have survived another day without knowing how to say this phrase!)

In all fairness, I have to explain that we learned these phrases in our phonetics class... they are designed to have as many similar phonetic principals in one sentence as possible. Kind of like English tongue-twisters, sort of. We are suppossed to practice saying these phrases out loud in class so our teacher can check our pronunciation of key sounds. I have to laugh when I read them, though and realize what I'm saying!

Have fun with these... learn one really well and impress your friends and neighbors with your amazing Spanish!!! Who knows - maybe your birthday really is on the same day as your plumber's!

Monday, October 1, 2007

La Carpio Video

Just finished! We put together some video footage and still photos of the ministry in La Carpio... just an introduction to what we are doing in the field right now. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blisters, Backpacks, and Baby Traps

Our daily treks around town are an adventure in themselves. Walking everywhere presents special challenges every day...

Our walk from home to school is usually a 20 minute walk at a pretty brisk pace. Hallelujah that Sarah is a morning person and happily faces her daily walk!!! I can't imagine what our mornings would be like if she hated the walk... So anyway, we don our backpacks each morning (weighing in at about 15-20 lbs a piece) and start our day. We are sure to speak to every neighborhood dog as we pass - Sarah has them all named... "Skipper" is the dog with the hurt leg, "Stinky Dog" has obvious reasons for his name, "Baby" is the rat terrier next door, "Happy Dog with Crazy Teeth", etc. We walk with determination, keeping a brisk pace in order to get to school before the bell. I can't believe that at this point in our lives we are worried about being tardy to our Phonics Class!!!

The sidewalks are slick - VERY SLICK! Due to the constant rain, nothing ever dries out and algae grows extremely well. Billy has named this "Green Ice" due to the fact that he frequently, yet unintentionally, does an olympic figure skating performance for us while walking on the sidewalk. He hasn't fallen YET. We're waiting for the fateful day...

The sidewalks are in terrible condition. They have lots of cracks and places where they are uneven, if there is a sidewalk at all. The roads are not much better. If the cracks and bumps aren't enough, there are "Baby Traps" everywhere... places where manholes, utility holes, storm drains etc. are totally uncovered and open to the world. An adult could easily break an ankle or a leg if you weren't careful and fell in. A child would completely disappear!!! Someone told us the other day about a man that fell into a hole and broke both legs! Luckily, we haven't made this mistake yet. Sarah trips often on the broken sidewalks, though. Yesterday she arrived at school with scraped up hands and legs from a spill she took on the way.

Today, I walked so much (lots of grocery shopping and things that we had to do downtown) that I have a giant blister on the BOTTOM of my foot. How on earth do you get a blister under your foot?! Somehow I have managed... Miles fought blisters on his heels for the first week or two. Guess this is another example of just how "soft" Americans are! We aren't used to all of this walking and staying on our feet!

Little victories... While we were downtown today, I had to ask directions to several different places (of course, they were all on opposite ends of the downtown area!). I was so excited to be able to ask for directions in Spanish and understand everything that was said to me and find the places!!! And when I asked for directions today, the other person didn't laugh at my poor pronunciation or terrible grammar and vocabulary. Woo Hoo!!! Four weeks ago, we came downtown and couldn't find anything, couldn't ask where anything was, and had no idea what we were doing. We paid big bucks for a taxi because we didn't know how to take the bus or how to get home... WOW! We have really come a long way in one month! That is very exciting! Billy was able to pay the water bill today, in Spanish, and buy fish at the pescaderia. We ARE getting somewhere! Thank Heaven for small victories!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What's the food like???

We are greatly enjoying the food in Costa Rica, especially the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the weekends, we go to la feria (farmer's market) and visit the various farm vendor tables to choose fruits and vegetables for the week. There is a small feria about 2 miles from our house that is open on Saturday mornings, or a HUGE feria on Sunday mornings that requires us to take a taxi about 5 miles or so from home. At the large feria, you can rent a cart to push while you shop (it's a trick to try to push a cart over the rocky, muddy area). You must bring your own bags for taking your purchases home. This weekend's purchases included guava, potatoes, mangoes, watermelon, onions, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, apples, pineapples, oranges, starfruit, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots... We were loaded down by the time we left!

Most fruits and vegetables are relatively cheap because they are grown here. Somethings are imported and are expensive (grapes are about $8 per kilo!). We are enjoying the fruits that we never buy at home in the USA because of cost... for example, pineapples are 50 cents or $1 at the most, and they are ten times sweeter than any I have ever had!

Lizbeth, our tutor and househelper, makes us fresh juices every day. We have a lemon tree in the backyard, so we frequently have fresh lemonade. My favorite is the fresh pineapple juice and the starfruit juice. Today, Billy was so happy to come home to a pitcher of fresh raspberry juice on the table.

Lizbeth makes our lunch each day. In Costa Rica, the traditional "big meal" each day is lunch. She has been with us for 15 days now and she hasn't made anything we don't love! She is a great cook. We specifically asked that she make only Tico food (no American dishes). She was very happy with this idea! Typical foods... arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), gallo pinto (a rice and black bean dish), pollo frito con papas (fried chicken and potatoes), sopas (soups), verduras y pollo con arroz (vegetables and chicken over rice), etc. One day, we had this awesome dish that looked like chile rellenos, but was actually fresh green beans that were battered with egg and cooked.

Typical breakfast here is fresh fruit and bread, maybe cheese. Typical dinner is the same as breakfast. Lunch is really the big meal. Since the boys are in school for lunch, we have been having lunch leftovers for dinner.

Weight Watchers wouldn't be in business here, I don't think. The portion sizes are pretty small, and there is a big emphasis on fruits and vegetables. At lunch, when Lizbeth makes the side dishes, it is a tiny amount. For example, today we had a meat and pasta dish with camote (white sweet potatoes) and broccoli on the side. For four people, she made one camote cut into four pieces and a section of broccoli about the size of my fist. No chance you might over eat!!!

Dessert is not big here. We just eat fruit.

With all of this good, healthy eating and all of the walking we have to do, you would think that we will lose some weight!!! Gloria a Dios!!!

Things we are missing from home... spicy foods of any sort - there just isn't hot, spicy food here; cheese dip and chips - they don't have Velveeta here and corn tortilla chips are hard to come by; Blue Bell - enough said!; cake mixes are $3-4 per box - we'll splurge for birthdays; things from the grill in the backyard - Billy is hoping to make a grill out of a car wheel rim (?); tacos from Mexico, or any Mexican food for that matter!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

La Carpio ministry

NOW we feel like we are at home! We ventured out from our daily grind of school work and hooked up with a missionary from Houston who has a ministry in La Carpio. La Carpio is a barrio area in San Jose, comprised mostly of Nicaraguan refugee families. The area looks very much like the colonias of Reynosa, Mexico that we have spent the last eight years ministering to. The only difference is that La Carpio is on the edge of a rapidly flowing rainforest river (highly polluted) and there is vegetation here... banana trees and tropical plants, mostly. The streets are mostly unpaved, dirt roads with one or two paved roads on the edges. The houses are mostly built like the colonia houses - pallets, corregated tin, plastic, whatever can be found and nailed up as a wall.

We are working here every week, running a children's ministry program that we are modeling after Pascual's approach in Mexico. We play games with the kids, then come together for bible songs and a bible lesson. We hope to incorporate a craft time soon, depending upon funding. There are about 6 or 7 other missionaries from the language school who travel here with us each week, but none have experience with children's ministries in the field. Therefore, Billy and I were immediately given the responsibility of putting together the plan. That's fine with us... we really felt at home as soon as we set foot on this soil. The children seem so familiar to us, which is a welcome feeling right now when NOTHING seems familiar or normal to us! La Carpio is a welcome diversion to homework and school. And it is actually an extension of our language learning, in that we are forced to use our newly acquired language skills in working with these kids! Please click on any La Carpio link in this blog to see a video sample of our work in this community.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Manana has arrived!

Hallelujah! Evidently manana has arrived - the internet man finally appeared and hooked us up, so we are now on-line and don't have to pay at the internet cafe (which became a process of paying to download a new virus and bring it home to our laptop - Thank God for Norton Antivirus!).

So, we have access to the rest of the world now. Until last night, we had no idea what was going on in the USA or anywhere else. Even the one English newspaper here is only local news and nothing about the rest of the world.

We continue to be overwhelmed with homework and studying. In some instances, we feel like pre-school children... we have a class where all we have done so far is learn the spanish alphabet and sounds, play alphabet bingo in spanish, and practice phonetic rules - reminds me a lot of when I taught kindergarten! Then I switch classes and go to Conversational Language where my brain gets completely blasted with new vocabulary and conversational situations every day! It's like going from Pre-K to college when the bell rings! However, I'm really learning a lot in that class! Three weeks ago, I couldn't even find my house. Now, I can give and take directions in spanish, meet and greet new people and carry on polite conversations, purchase anything in the market I might need, hold a lengthy conversation about the weather (I think I might even be able to become a weatherman on the news!), visit the bank and carry on general banking business, and catch a bus to anywhere! I have to keep looking at the little things that I'm learning and remember that three weeks ago I wasn't even close to where I am now.

After Conversation, Billy and I are in our Grammar class together. We spend 2 hours (all in spanish, of course) learning about the rules of language (nouns, adjectives, articles, verbs, etc.). So, again, when the bell sounds we go from using our "college level brains" to using our 3rd or 4th grade brains. Today, we are conjugating verbs (AHHHHH!!!). We have already finished the unit on nouns, articles, and adjectives (all 5 kinds of adjectives) and we are being tested at the end of the week. This is not a vocabulary class... this is all actual usage. Remember diagraming sentences in high school??? That's exactly the memory that keeps flashing through my mind while in this class.

Pray for our continued learning, and for our ability to actually use what we learn in conversation and ministry. We begin ministering in La Carpio tomorrow to Nicaraguan refugee children, so we will have lots of time to practice!!!

Love to you all!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

We're Still Alive!!!

I know that it appears that we dropped off the face of the earth... Actually, we have been without any "outside communication" for WAY TOO LONG!!! Costa Rica is definitely a manana culture - we called to sign up for our internet service (which also runs our telephone, television, etc.) on the first day we were here. We were told, "Someone will call you back to set an appointment manana". Well, after two or three mananas passed, we began the squeaky wheel tactic and called often. The answer continued to be the same - someone will call you manana. Finally, the internet contract man came and we signed the contract and paid the deposit, etc. Then he says, "Someone will call you manana to set an appointment for installation." Well, you guessed it... he still hasn't called or come by. So we began the squeaky wheel tactic again yesterday. Hopefully, we will have internet soon! Maybe manana - HA!
So now you're asking yourself, "if they don't have internet, how are they posting this?" Simple, we found the one 2 ft. square spot in our house where we can pick up someone's wireless signal from the neighborhood! So we fight each other over who gets to stand in the 2 ft. spot each evening and check their email!!!
So anyway - we are alive and well and beginning to adapt to Costa Rican life. We went through a minor slump of culture shock/transitional chaos at the end of our first week. We were so thankful for the training we have had in that area, as we were able to recognize the symptoms and roll with it... this, too, shall pass. This has been a MUCH better week and we are getting in the groove at the Instituto de Lengua Espanola. And the CONSTANT RAIN is becoming just another part of life - so much so that we hardly notice, really. However, Sarah did tell me today that we should play Noah's Ark with her toys because it is still raining.
The kids are transitioning well.
  • Ryan is in classes with 18 kids from Mount Vernon College in Ohio. They are all Spanish majors and this time at the Instituto is a part of their degree plan. He is also meeting with Young Life in San Jose to become a volunteer student leader here, as well as volunteering at an orphanage - helping to care for children and translate their sponsor letters.

  • Miles is liking school (amazing!). He has joined the school's indoor soccer team, an international youth group, and a bible study group. He is making many friends, both American and Tico. Miles is in love with Costa Rican food!

  • Sarah is in an all-spanish preschool and is picking up spanish way faster than we are! She comes home and holds long conversations with Lizbeth (our tutor/househelper/Tica friend). She enjoys the fact that we don't have a vehicle, as she gets to walk everywhere with us. She especially loves jumping in puddles, which are EVERYWHERE due to the rainy season.
Billy and I are working hard at school. We have class for 4 hours everyday - one hour of phonics/vocabulary, one hour of conversational language, and two hours of grammar. None of our teachers speak/teach in English. Our grammar teacher understands some english, but does not speak any to us. When we come home, we eat lunch and begin our homework. Lizbeth spends time in conversation with us and helps us with our verbal skills. She finds us very entertaining and seems to enjoy her time as "teacher" each day. She keeps telling us that we are muy inteligente, which we know is a flat lie! HA! Yesterday, we worked on homework from 1-4 p.m., then we took a break and walked to the grocery store. After dinner, we did another 2 hours of homework before I literally fell asleep at the table and had to get up and go to bed! Tonight, I have a presentation to memorize (en espanol) and two pages of grammar homework. During our orientation, someone described language school as "trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant". NO KIDDING!!! That is a great description! I think I actually sprained something in my brain during the first day of classes!!!

We will begin working with a mission next week. La Carpia is a refugee community of Nicaraguans. We have met some missionaries that work with a children's ministry to this community and we have volunteered to be in ministry with them while we are here. Also, it will be great incentive to work even harder on our spanish - we will have to work with these children and understand their language, as well as speak with them and share the love of Christ with them. We anxiously look forward to beginning this ministry next week.

Okay - sorry to talk your ear off, but I'm communication starved! Speaking in english doesn't require half as much effort as carrying on a conversation in spanish! See above for photos of the school, our house, Sarah's first day of school, and Miles & Sarah overlooking the city (at a park down the street from us). Look for new postings soon... maybe manana! :)

Friday, August 10, 2007


We have had a great week. The training has been exceptional here at Mission Training International. We have so many new friends and mission peers who have wonderful stories and great callings to all over the globe. God is doing fantastic things through ordinary people - people who are answering his call and fully committing to sharing Jesus with the world. We are also so very blessed that we chose The Mission Society as our sending agency! They have done an excellent job preparing us to this point and they have so many steps and policies in place for us... we feel so safe and so secure in knowing that they have carefully paved the way for us and laid a groundwork that is second to none!

We had an interesting experience the other night... Laurie's mom came to Colorado to spend some "grandmother time" with the kids this week. She took Sarah to her hotel one night to spend the night, which gave us a much-needed evening alone. However, we found ourselves sitting in complete silence. Here we had the whole evening to do whatever we wanted to without a 3 year old in tow and we had no idea what to do! Maybe it was the calm after the storm... we have been so focused and so busy for the past year, with training and fundraising, travel, jobs, home, etc. We are finally coming down from our rush and busy-ness and we are able to focus totally on the mission. So our big evening alone was spent in silence... awkward at first, but we later settled in to the peace of drinking coffee and reading and enjoying the quiet of the evening and each other.

Peace be with all of you during this week. Please keep our family in your prayers as we continue in training for two more weeks, then leave for language school.

Please look for the August newsletter this week! It will be released within the next day or so.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


We survived PILAT training! Actually, it was a wonderful program and we are very happy that we were required to attend. We feel confident about learning Spanish when we arrive in Costa Rica at the end of the month, we have new tools in our language learning tool box, new strategies to help us... it was really an excellent program. Confidence was a HUGE thing! We are motivated and ready to build on the limited knowledge that we have from our service in Mexico.
We now begin the second program at MTI - SPLICE. From what we hear, we will spend the next 3 weeks learning about relationships... team relationships, ministry relationships, family relationships, etc. We have mixed feelings about this program - we have friends who have finished SPLICE and they tell us that is is a difficult time of self-reflection, with LOTS of tears involved. One missionary told us last week, "Get ready. The next three weeks are devoted to ripping you apart." That was so motivating!!! Can't wait... We'll let you know as we progress through the program.
Survival on another note -- we decided to use our weekend off to go backpacking and camping in the mountains. On Saturday morning, we set out on a hike up into the mountains. We quickly decided that we were incredibly out of shape and didn't make matters any better by overloading our packs! As our children literally ran up the mountain, we huffed and puffed and took lots of breaks to "take in the view" - code for BREATHE! Seriously, the views were breathtaking and it was a fabulous hike past two lakes and through a meadow, complete with a beaver dam and pools. We decided to make camp about a half mile past the second lake, mostly because the clouds were threatening and we needed to set up tents quick! We made camp just in time for the downpour... 5 full hours of downpour, complete with lightning and thunder and leaking tents. At 7 p.m., Billy donned his raingear and went to ask the boy's opinion on cooking dinner. Their tent was literally standing in water! And the fatal blow came when we discovered that the matches were wet. That's it... we abandoned our gear and hiked out of the mountains. Wet, cold, and hungry is not a good way to begin a two-night backpack trip!
Back at the car, we decided to take our wet selves straight to the first Mexican restaurant available. The rain had stopped and we choose to sit outside on the patio. The restaurant had a firepit outside with a roaring fire... we salvaged the campfire experience! Sarah was happy, we were all in good spirits, and we weren't in leaky tents and wet sleeping bags! We returned up the mountain today to retreive our gear, ate lunch by the lake, Sarah fished for awhile, and we hiked back down again. All in all, it was a great weekend!
We survived PILAT. We survived our own foolish packing and hiking plans. We survived an unusual Colorado thunderstorm and ill-fated camping trip. And we are ready to begin a new training program.

Love to you all!!! Please keep our family in your prayers as we quickly approach our departure for Costa Rica at the end of the month. Pray for peace and focus and God's guidance as we move through our final training. Pray for our children as they continue to adjust to leaving Texas and beginning a new chapter in their lives. Pray that we do more than just "survive"... pray that we THRIVE!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hills and Valleys

We have had a great few days of training. It is very difficult and challenging, but encouraging at the same time - Lots of Hills & Valleys. Hills: I think we might actually be able to conquer this language learning issue when we get on the field! The strategies we are learning here are awesome! I wish I had known how to use some of them when I was teaching my class of ESL children last year... it would have made their language learning so much easier.
By the way, I guess I finally learned how to breathe (see last post). Whew! That's a relief! I would hate to go through the rest of my life without accomplishing that feat!
Yesterday, we worked with language helpers in small groups and tried to put some of our new strategies in to practice. Laurie was in a German learning group, Billy in French, Ryan in Mandarin Chinese, and Miles in Hindi... we all went in to this activity with much fear and trepidation. However, much to our surprise, we were all able to accomplish the day's assignments and learn the small bit of the language that we were given. Amazing!!! What a "top of the mountain" feeling! If we can learn THOSE languages, we can certainly learn Spanish! Another "hill" - we closed on the house today! Woo Hoo! Actually, that is both a hill and a valley... exciting that we actually sold the house and the process is over, but sad that we no longer have our home of 14 years.
Valleys: On the valley end of things, Laurie has a cold and isn't feeling excellent. It's hard to sit in class and listen to another language and try to learn when your head is full of "runny nose" and your ears are stopped up. The boys are getting tired and are looking forward to sleeping in this weekend. We have HOMEWORK over the weekend! We already had to turn in an assignment today. We have a paper/essay due Monday.
We also just received news of an issue at home that requires prayer. Ron & Amanda Phillips just emailed to say that their baby granddaughter was born last night - 3 months premature. They need prayers and support as they go to Temple to neonatal intensive care to be with their daughter and new granddaughter.
Hills and Valleys require both praise and trust, and a whole lot of faith that God's plan is always excellent, no matter what comes - Hills or Valleys.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Long Road to Peru

We are finally off on the road to Peru! Actually, it has been a year since this endeavor began. It's hard to believe that it was just a year ago that we were in Georgia at The Mission Society offices hoping to be accepted as career missionaries. This summer has been a whirlwind of training and travel... 2 weeks of training in Brazil in June, then 2 weeks at home in Texas to pack up our things and move out of our home, then several days of traveling to visit family on our way to Colorado. We are now at Mission Training International in Colorado for 5 weeks of training (see photo at left). Then we will RAPIDLY drive home to catch our flight in Houston for language school in Costa Rica. AAAAHHHHH!!!! It has been a wild ride this summer! We are tired, stressed, and our heads are about to explode with new information. The kids are hanging in there, but they are just as stressed and tired as we are.

We began our PILAT course today. PILAT is a 2 week intensive training in language acquisition techniques. Really, intensive isn't a strong enough word for it. After about 1 hour of liguistics and pronounciation practice this morning, I was ready to cry. Evidently, I don't know how to breathe... funny, I've managed to stay alive for 41 years, but one of the teachers this morning says that there isn't any air coming out of my mouth. Billy would disagree - he says there is PLENTY of air coming out of my mouth! HA! Anyway, this is a tough course already and this is just the first day!

We had a good time getting up here over the last few days, visiting relatives and sightseeing along the way. See photos of time spent with Drum family (3 pics), Miles with Memaw Maxwell and dessert, and Drum kids in New Mexico...