Tuesday, September 2, 2014

YWAM San Jose's Birthday!

For the past 3 years, we have called this YWAM base our home! 
We are so honored to serve and grow here. This is the home of Freedom Street Ministries as well!
We hope you enjoy this little video made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Youth With A Mission, San Jose, Costa Rica!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do something

As I see so much hurt and despair all around me day and night, I have had to seek the Lord more and more. I am convinced that what this song is so true:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Where nobody knows your name

For months we have thought that he was dead. He's somewhat like a little celebrity for our street ministry team... everyone calls him 'Santa' because he ALWAYS has on his red santa hat. When we heard that he had died, our hearts were so heavy.
Where did he die? Was he alone? Did anyone cry for him? Does anyone even care? Do we even know what his last name is? If there were a funeral, would anyone even come?

So many people walk past him as if he doesn't exist.
Last Tuesday night, as we were on the streets doing ministry, we turned a corner and low and behold, he was sitting there. I was so filled with joy and relief. A second chance- a chance to love a man better that feels forgotten- a chance to learn his last name.

We could smell him from a few feet away, and that smell grew strong as I sat down beside him to hug him and tell him how thrilled I was to see him. He had on his usual Santa Claus hat and what looked like a cape tied around his neck. At closer look, the cape was an industrial type trash bag (woven of plastic and reusable), that he later took off and slept inside of to avoid the torrential downpours that occur for 6 months here in 'rainy season'.

As we began to talk, I tried to contain my excitement. We went and bought him food and gave him some toiletries. He told us his pant and shirt size so that we could bring him new clothes next week as the ones he was wearing were literally worn out.

As I listened to him tell about his time in the hospital, and the fact that they booted him out the day that his scar healed, my heart was hearing more than just what his mouth was saying.

He said that when he feels alone and that no one in the world cares about him, he remembers us. Although flattering, it broke my heart in half. I imagined this guy in a hospital bed all alone- being treated like trash by the hospital staff- looked down on as 'less than human' because he was homeless.

What is it that makes people go to the other side of the street when they see a homeless guy? They pretend like they didn't notice. Or perhaps they see him without really 'seeing' him. (I wish there were two versions of the word 'see', like the difference between to 'hear' and to 'listen'). Are they scared that he might cause them harm? Or is the weight of the reality that these people live in too heavy to enter into.

I think of the state of my heart before Jesus entered in. It's incredible that he was willing to enter in and carry the weight on my life... the brokeness, the pain, the horribly disgusting sin. But he came into the midst of the darkness to sit with me- and not just with me, but with everyone. If this same Jesus lives inside of me, inside of us, then can't we at least enter into the darkness to bring light to one person at a time? When we can't handle it, He can.

I wonder if there is anyone in the world that misses him. Is there anyone that carries him in their heart? If I were in the hospital, I'm not sure how many people would come to visit but at least many would 'know' that I was sick.

As I lay in my bed in our little apartment that night, I was beyond thankful for what the Lord has given us- while simultaneously struggling with guilt that a 74 year old man was sleeping in a trash bag in the rain- a man who should be retired and resting- instead he is hungry and cold and alone. I cried for him. But as I cried and tried to find God in the pain- I'm not sure how to describe it- but i appreciated the pain because I knew that I might be the only person crying for this man. Maybe nobody else even knows his last name. I'm not saying that out of pride, or as if I have done anything admirable.... I say that in sadness.

 Lord, please don't let us overlook others because you have never overlooked us.

p.s.- I hope this post makes sense- often when I write it is just my way to get the things that I am processing in my head out of my head. :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The birthday boy

The Birthday Boy

A few weeks ago our team went to the streets. Our usual routine. We go out, drive our usual route, visit our friends on the streets corners, and hand out coffee and cookies. 

When the van stopped at the boy’s park- the park where all of the guys are being sold- there was a new guy standing on the corner. It was his first night. 

It’s always hard to see those “fresh faces”. The young kids who still have that spark in their eyes, that shine, hope. The ones who don’t really know what they’re getting into- and some of them who didn’t even have the choice. 

This was this particular guy’s first night on the streets. He was high as he could be, trying to numb the pain, the fear, the doubts, his conscience, his soul. Drugs seem to be the only thing that can quite that voice within, the voice that I believe is the voice of God, that makes your heart pound as you hear “don’t do it”. 

We don’t know this boy’s story, but we can imagine. That night, his first time on the streets, happened to be his 14th birthday. The day in which one celebrates their lives, celebrates ‘life’, shares time with the ones that love them... A birthday is about looking back on the beautiful years you have had, and being excited about the one to come. But this boy, on a day meant to celebrate life, was handing his life over to the discretion of the enemy. No doubt, he will never forget this birthday. A day in which he did not celebrate new life, a day in which a part of him actually died. 

With this 14 year old boy, I only imagine where he should be on his 14th birthday. I felt just a small glimpse of the pain that must overwhelm the Lord’s heart as he stands with that boy on the street corner night after night. The pain of having been madly in love with this boy for 14 years, and to see him standing on a corner waiting to be raped. I can’t image the pain that the Lord feels, and I completely understand why he commands us to do something about it. As the Lord’s ‘plan A’, his representation on Earth, we have no choice but to respond... and to do so with urgency. 

While not all of the people we work with are forced into prostitution, they are all victims... victims of slavery to the enemy, in chains so real that they can not run away. We have heard them describe these chains that hold them to that street corner... that drag them back each time they try to run like a dog who gets yanked backwards when the slack in his leash runs out. 

These are the ones that you want to wrap in your arms like a child, snatch them off the streets and take them to your home, the ones that you pour out your soul trying to convince them that they are loved and that God has a plan for their lives..... and a street corner is not it. 

After their first night in the streets, that ‘sparkle’ in their eyes starts to fade. After a while it just faintly flickers.
The only thing that we have found that can bring that light back in an encounter with the Lord. 

Backwards & tied

Backwards and Tied

Oh the lies, they never end.

Last Sunday, I sat beside a friend of mine whom I have now known for 2 years. As he sat beside me with his head down, tears brimming his eyes, I felt my heart burning as I long for his freedom- spiritually, psychologically, and physically (if those aren’t one in the same).
The fact that he was even sitting in the seat beside me at church for the 3rd Sunday in a row was a miracle. The fact that he was able to push his shame aside to walk through those doors with my husband and I into our church- that he didn’t change his mind as he rode the bus there- that his past experience didn’t give him every excuse imaginable to turn back around- that is a miracle.

As I sit beside this guy, all I can see is a little boy. A scared little boy. My heart breaks to think of him walking back home from school alone each day as a kindergartener. To think that his mom wasn’t there when he went to sleep each night, and that he never even met his father. To think of this little boy who dropped out of school because he couldn’t manage to focus on school while his mind was consumed with the thoughts of the horror of his “home life”. And now I look at this boy sitting beside me who was brought to this country outside of his will, and found himself being sold on a street corner. This boy who pretends to be so tough- who is always talking to me about fighting (and unsuccessfully trying to teach me some techniques)- a boy who has had to learn to be tough enough to withstand the hell he was living through. I could never forget the time when there was a stabbing on the street corner, and this “tough boy” stood in front of me to protect me. I know that his big heart is still in there- hidden behind the fragmented wall built out of necessity to survive. 

The pat 3 Sundays, I was certain that at the end of the service he was going to accept Christ. He is at the end of his rope, and he has no more hope. He is in desperate need of help but he cannot completely understand that that help alone can come from Jesus. Although we can try and design a restoration program for him, without Jesus there is no restoration, no healing, and definitely no future.

After the service, he confesses to me that he wants to know Jesus- he wants to have what the people in that building have- he desperately wants to have a life with hope…… and then he says, that lie that has somehow been planted in him… “I know that I have to change my life before I can accept Jesus”…….
No, no, no.  There is no hope in ever successfully changing your life apart from Jesus. Jesus IS the change in your life.

So many people that we work with on the streets struggle with that lie- they are slaves to that lie- believing that they can never come close to the King of Kings until they are worthy. Little do they know, none of us are. Jesus is my credentials. HE is the only reason that I can come to Him. Jesus came for the ragamuffins, for the sick, for the broken, for those guys on a street corner who look way to scary and lost to even bother speaking to. Jesus’ heart is for the broken, for the outcast, for the oppressed. The only reason that you, or I, the pastor, or a "prostitute" can approach Jesus is because of who Jesus is.

Do you know him? What lies are holding you back from the embrace and healing, transformational power of Jesus? 

Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17 

We are thankful to see this guy taking steps towards the Lord- seeking after him- and are filled with joy to see how the Lord is transforming his life and his heart. Please pray for him. 

the story of Joe

We first met this young guy on a street corner, selling his body. He was thin, dressed as a woman, and desperate for love. He was one of the guys that was hiding behind make-up, wanting to be someone he is not. Hopeless. 

His dream is to one day save enough money to buy a little metal shipping container and make his house our of it. Making just $12 a day for working 12-16 hours cleaning a soccer stadium- he is forced to sell himself on the corner to make ends meet- what he makes on the streets is what he uses to buy food. 

He told us how he had spent Christmas alone in the tiny ‘room’ that he rents which is just big enough for a bed and a few feet of standing room. He spent New Years alone on a corner- he figured it was better than sitting alone. One of the young girls from the bible study asked him why he didn’t go visit family. It broke our hearts to hear him say that, “I haven’t seen them for years- I have no idea where they are- they could have moved countries and I wouldn’t know.”

We aren’t sure of his entire story- but it is evident that it is filled with abandonment, trying to survive, rape, abuse, and fear.

I will never forget the sight of watching him cross the street after we took him out to dinner one night after church. He walked across the road to the bus stop. It was freezing that night and he was just wearing a t-shirt. He was on his way to sell his body to try to make enough money to pay for one night in a hotel. If he didn’t make enough money that night, it would be sleeping on the streets in the cold. My heart broke as I saw him cross the street.

“Joe” is a regular now at our ministry gatherings. He comes to English class weekly, and even attends church with us. He shows up early, calls to confirm, and makes every effort possible to be with us.

It’s people like him that keep us going. It’s people like him that touch our heart. To hear him at weekly bible study, as he shares what he believes the bible passage means, is enough to warm any heart. The Lord is slowly chipping away his shell that protects his shattered little heart.

And we are honored to have him as a friend. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Is anybody out there?

Driving down the road with my husband, I reach over from the passenger seat to turn up the radio. I heard something that immediately grabbed my attention- (not just because it was a song in English which we don’t hear very much, but because of the question that was being cried out) and I just had to figure out what they were talking about.

I heard this voice on a song singing, “Is anybody out there?”
As they went through the different verses each giving different scenarios, I could recall myself crying out the same thing. The song sings about a guy who grew up with an absent father, angry he ran to drugs because it was the only thing there for him. It sings about how desperate these different people feel- how they all feel so lonely- the chorus is people crying out, “I don’t wanna be left alone, in this war tonight. Am I alone in this fight? Is anybody out there?" 

This song just struck something so deep within me. I listened to it hanging onto every word hoping that it would end with the only true hope that anyone could offer- not one of those “artificial sweeteners” type of hope that the world so often throws at us- you know what I’m talking about; the things that look like they are going to satisfy and may even do so temporarily, but at the end of the day- they aren’t the real thing- they are just artificial sweeteners.

I could not help but remember the day when my dear friend Izzy, who had shortly before that left the life of prostitution, told me that he grew up with something in his heart- that entered the day that he prayed and asking if anyone was out there. But, no one came. I know how the rest of his story went- he grew up alone- starting at 7 years old…. No one ever came. The only people who came to take; they came to abuse and to use. When he first told me about that prayer that he had prayed, or perhaps it was more like a thought, my heart broke…. I can not even imagine how deeply it hurt God’s heart. I can’t image how many people’s hearts he spoke to and asked to go out and share the good news with the broken, with the captive, with the orphans, with the “least of these”.  Maybe those people that God was speaking to just didn’t hear, or maybe it felt uncomfortable, or even weird….. Maybe they were too busy to listen.
Whether we like it or understand it, we are God’s plan. We are God’s plan A and there is no plan B. We are called to literally be the dwelling place of the God of the entire universe. We are commanded to make Him known- to be the physical representation of Jesus here on Earth. Where was the church when this little boy was crying out wondering if anybody was out there? We are the ones who have the privilege to run to these people with the answer- we have been entrusted with the answer!!!! How amazing is it that we get to go and embrace these people and give them the only true hope. It is an HONOR to be that message bearer!

I met another man just last week who had a very difficult life, and was desperate… he was lost in drugs, sex, loneliness, etc. He walked for the first time into a church at the age of 34- never before that point had he heard the gospel. He had spent 34 years crying out in his heart “Is anybody out there? ANYBODY?”

I  can not even begin to count how many people I have encountered on the streets of San Jose being prostituted, or in the trash dump in Guatemala city, or in the church bench beside me I have heard crying out that say cry, "Is anybody out there"?! 

But the song didn’t end the way I had hoped. I was waiting anxiously throughout the entire thing hoping that it would share the truth! But instead, it ended with a question… and unanswered question. I wanted to scream outloud, “YES! YES! A most definite YES! There IS somebody out there- there is! And HE HEARS you! And He wants YOU! He is the creator of the entire universe and He desire to encounter you and fill every last inch of emptiness within your heart!”

For the church: Whose heart cry can you answer today?  Is it a student in your class, is it your neighbor, the homeless community who live on that street that you always avoid, the guy that may seem a little difficult to get along with, the little boy playing outside who has no father influence in his life, or maybe even someone on the other side of the world. It could be sharing a meal, giving encouragement, or donating towards a ministry that devotes itself to this very thing, or being bold enough to make the commitment to invest in others. Ask the Lord whose heart cry you can answer! Embark on this amazing journey of partnering with Him! It is our call; it is our PRIVLEDGE to be the ones who deliver the message to broken and desperate hearts. What a beautiful thing the Lord allows us to do!  Let’s do it together! Let’s make the Lord known and truly change the world! It’s an honor, a privilege, and so very fun!

(As with Izzy, most of you may know that God did answer that cry-He sent people- and Izzy’s life was radically transformed, redeemed, restored, healed.) (As for the man who heard the gospel at the age of 34, he is now an amazing missionary who is madly in love with the Lord).

Here is a link to the song: