Our Mission Statement

Sunday, July 12

We only Retreat so that we can Advance

             For those who may not be aware, we have retreated quite well and have also arrived safely in La Fortuna where will be staying two nights. I have a confession to make before you all…We did have access to the internet at the church camp in Sarchi where we had our retreat with the church members from Purral and Buenos Aires, but I decided that it would be nice to spend that extra hour or two in fellowship with my brothers and sisters on our last night together. I don’t regret it and you all will be well informed of our last few days!

            Let’s see, I believe we left off on Thursday night which was our last night of the gospel meeting. We awoke later on Friday morning since the buses didn’t leave until 9:30. Terry arranged for the hotel to keep a room reserved where we could store the majority of our luggage—This way our buses weren’t loaded down unnecessarily and we could travel lighter and faster. The ride to the church camp in Sarchi was only about an hour and a half, which is long enough for you to want to take a nap, but short enough to make that impossible. Soon after our arrival, we ate lunch and had an epic futbol match between the ticos and the gringos. Since the gringos out numbered the ticos for a majority of the match, our 7-3 win was to most unfair, but as it was said: Americans will do whatever it takes to win (I personally disagree with this thought and wish our rematch had not been rained out). It was a dangerous game between being hit in the face with the ball by your soccer coach and having limes thrown at you from Laura Myers. Overall, it was fun to play around for a little while. After the game, Terry went over our schedule for the afternoon. The group was split into men’s and women’s classes again on Friday and Saturday. The men’s classes were led by Todd Mikula who spoke about elders, why they are necessary and what their role is within the church. The women’s classes were led by Margaret Reeves, who spoke about whatever she had been thinking of the past few days because her husband did not inform her of this class until an hour before it was supposed to begin. After the men’s and women’s classes, we all came together for a class where Jeremy and Jon Hackett co-taught on the topic of youth ministry. Pizza was on the menu for our supper on Friday night, which I was excited for because that meant the lovely ladies that have been cooking all week finally got a break! It also taught me that I do like pineapple on pizza—that I am still shocked about. Our evening devotional was led by Thad (Tad, Dad, etc) Butts and he had us all consider perspectives. We were all on the same trip, yet most of us gave different answers when asked what our favorite part of the trip was. Our perspective of this trip has all be different because we are all different. Sometimes we need a change in perspective to get on the right path. Thad used two churches mentioned in Revelation chapter 2 to illustrate this. The church in Sardis seemed live to the worked, but really they were dead. The church in Laodicea thought they were rich, but they were lukewarm. Both of these churches had perspectives that were wrong. We may be able to fool others. We may even be able to fool ourselves. But we will never be able to fool God. It is vital for us to be able to examine our lives using God’s perspective because it is the only one that matters.           

            Jeremy Myers led our morning devotional on Saturday. His key statement throughout his lesson was: “We only retreat so that we can advance.” He referenced the book of Acts to show how those in the church were asking God for help to speak boldly and with all confidence. During our ladies class today, Margaret had us talk about what we would say to everyone on this trip if we knew we weren’t going to see them again. One of the things mentioned that stuck with me the most was the command for us all to strive our hardest to go to Heaven. I believe it was Margaret who told us that she wants most for us all to do our absolute best, above all else, to get to Heaven so that we will be reunited there with our Lord. There were a lot of tears shed today in class, but that comes with the territory when you start considering the possibility that you may never see someone you love again. After all our classes were over and we ate lunch, it was time to clean up the camp and say our not so good-byes and see you laters. A group picture brought us all together, and then it was time to give the warmest hugs we could and load the bus. This is the time when I personally desire to go to Heaven the most, because this is when I need to be comforted in knowing that even if I never get to return to Costa Rica in my lifetime, there is a Home in Heaven waiting for us all if we choose to make it our goal and strive for it without ceasing.

            We headed out for La Fortuna which was between 3-4 hours on the bus in the rain. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see the volcano, or really anything for that matter, but we all have high hopes that the rain will move out tonight so that tomorrow we can behold more of God’s beautiful creations. Let me just tell you, our dinner tonight made most of us sick because it was so good we went back for seconds. Steak and chicken and the best alfredo sauce I’ve ever tasted on bow-tie pasta and chocolate tres leches cake. (“Tres leches” is “three milks” in English, basically just think about a chocolate cake that is soaked in some milk after it comes out of the oven.) I think there were some vegetables, too, but I didn’t have much room for those.  Our devotional time tonight was primarily singing, which was phenomenal led by Tim Hines in a room that was made for acapella singing no doubt. There were even a few visitors with us tonight for devo: Luke and Sam Butler from the Bell Shoals congregation in Florida. They came up for the day since they knew we would be in the area and there are quite a few members of Bell Shoals with us on this trip.

            Lots of people have some big plans for our day at the hot springs tomorrow! Right now, there is a group of 19 that is signed up to go zip-lining in the morning—We even talked Cristian and his family into joining us. We are all excited to have a day of fun and relaxation. I hope that Cristian and his family enjoy their time here as it is one of the last activities they will have together in Costa Rica before they move. I’ve already written a novel tonight, so I am waiting for our last night to explain the changes which will be taking place very soon.

I thank you all for your prayers of safety and spiritual growth! Please continue to pray as I hope you all are able to worship on the Lord’s Day and remember His sacrifice because of His faithful love for us.


Thursday, July 9

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World

     Do you want to change the world? Or at least do you aspire to change someone's life? If you do, that is awesome! Don't stop believing it's possible. But how do you intend on accomplishing that goal? These are all questions that I have asked myself before. Sometimes it's easy to say "I want to make a difference," but figuring out how to make that difference isn't always so easy. I think so often we have these dreams, but once we realize it's not that simple, we fear we will be unable to reach such a lofty goal. As we learned last night in Tim's lesson, we have no reason to fear when we allow God to control our lives. We are all capable of changing the world, but it can be a change for the better or for the worst. In order for us to be God's instruments, we must allow Him to do His work through us. Allowing Him to have control requires trust, faith, hope, and love. Jesus, the Son of God, the only example of a perfect follower of God, prayed to His Father saying, "if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). This life on earth is not about us or what we want. It is about God and His glory. Therefore, we need to use His example when we pray. Ask whatever is on our heart, but acknowledge that His will is greater than ours and allow His to be done.

      During our last day in Purral, time seemed to fly by. Manuel started our morning in devotion with some thoughts about Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 1:4-6. Next, we had our last men's and women's classes at the church. Diane had a servant day planned for our class. We worked on displaying how to be a servant by serving the ladies of the church with foot/neck/hand/head massages, manicures, and pedicures. The ladies all enjoyed themselves and had many kind words to say after we had finished. They commented how they could see our love through this whole week and they felt greatly encouraged through all of our work for God. The men finished up their class on the Christian home by delving into communication. Interestingly enough, the men decided to have their class on one of the buses outside the church building because it was cooler with the air circulation, than in the classroom with no windows. 

     We ate another delicious lunch and dinner today. I'll go ahead and tell you the best part: Blackberry Juice. I cannot tell you all how wonderful it is that we've had a different kind of juice every day we've been here. Blackberry, Pineapple, Apple, etc. If you had this growing up, you would probably spit out the juice we have in the States and ask what it is wrong with it. It amazes me the difference it makes when everything is fresh!

     The afternoon was split into our 3 groups one last time. A very large group went to the orphanage for the last day so that they could say goodbye to the kids and give away some of the things they had brought. We also did our last VBS there, which went the best it has all week! The painting group did the roof of one of the buildings ( I think ). The door knocking group did one last round around the neighborhood close by the church. We were able to obtain 11 contacts today which was a great blessing! We ended our knocking at the house of one of the members. This couple is the oldest in the congregation and they are one of two couples who started the church of Christ in Purral. We stopped by their home because Fernando had been door knocking with us and his wife Berta had been sick and unable to get out today. It was so encouraging to hear their story of starting the church here and how they had groomed so many preachers and teachers during their time in Purral. There has been so much fruit harvested from this blessed congregation and I pray they continue to flourish.

     We have all made friends on this trip, whether they be a part of the TORCH group or the church in Purral. These friends are exceptional because the Lord's work is what brought us together. It is rare that we meet friends with whom we have knocked on door's sharing the opportunity to hear the Gospel. This kind of relationship is more than just friendship, it is a family: the family of God. Our brother Tim spoke about friends tonight. He began by illustrating the story of the paralyzed man brought through the roof to Jesus in Mark 2. These friends did everything in their power to get this man to Jesus because their faith was so strong. They knew that nothing else was more important, despite whatever consequences might follow: that's how much they loved their friend and wanted the best for him. The paralyzed man had friends that changed his life. How many friends do you have that would do the same for you? I hope that you have someone in mind at this time because the truth is: You need friends to help you get to Heaven. We all need those influences in our lives to help us press on toward the goal. Reverse that thought, and consider whether you are being a friend that is helping those around you strive for Heaven. We must be willing to sacrifice everything for our friends if it will get them to Heaven. Now is the time to act without fear for what people may think or what they may say. If the worst thing someone can say about you is, "He tried to convince me that I should believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that I should obey His Word," then what are you waiting for? Tomorrow may never come. You can make all the plans in the world, but if Christ comes tonight, He's not going to recall what you said you were going to do. He will remember what you did, or possibly what you didn't do. We need friends who believe in Christ and help us reach out to others who have not made that confession yet or been baptized to save them from their sins. Our friends should not only support us, but also come to us when we have erred from His way.
The friends in Mark 2 cast out all fear because of their faith. When you are able to find those kind of people, that's when you're going to change the world.

     At this time, I am unsure of our access to internet over the next few days. I will be surprised if there is internet at the Camp we are staying at tomorrow (Friday) night, so you should not expect a blog post tomorrow. However, I believe we should have access when we get to La Fortuna Saturday night and stay through Monday morning. Stay tuned for more information and most importantly, please, keep all of us traveling this weekend in your prayers! You never know when a bus may break down going up a mountain...(not that that has ever happened before). Ha!

Adios mis amigos,

Leah -- email leahcwright17@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 8

Torch Against the World

I interrupt this blog to bring to you a guest speaker: Miss Sarah Whitley

Hola to all you loyal readers, I hope you are doing better than fantastic. Thank you for your time and patience spent on waiting for this. This morning many Torch members found themselves arriving to breakfast about ten minutes before the buses left in the name of sleep. Our late start was only the beginning of a very strange and uncooperative day.

We arrived at the church mostly on time and listened to a short presentation from Ricky Butts about the mind of Christ. He talked about how in the book of Philippians, it addresses how there are four parts to the mind of Christ: a gospel mind, a lowly mind, a progressive mind, and a happy mind. Then he left us with one final thought, and that was to trust God.

Shortly after Ricky's talk, we broke into our men's and women's groups for our devotionals. In the women's group, we discussed the topic of women's role in the church. Diane was smart and had everyone coloring "stress relieving coloring pages" during this discussion for the sake of keeping peace. We looked over many passages that explained why women should leave leadership roles in the church to men, and it was really nice hearing biblical reasons instead of the worldly ones that are so popular these days. To wrap up our talk Diane revealed that the coloring sheets were actually symbolic: Men are the black lines creating the image, and women are the colors that make it beautiful, and God is the frame that surrounds the image. How sneaky! Well played Diane, well played.

Lunch was absolutely amazing. The ham sandwich and fresh fruit was just what the missionary ordered. Everybody ate quickly and helped clean. Then we went our separate ways to the orphanage for the painters and the VBS crew, and into the city for the door knockers. Something was definitely working against the Torch members today. The painters didn't end up painting the last two buildings because the boys who lived in them were very opposed to the Pepto-Bismal pink. So the few, the proud, the painters trudged back to the office to put all the painting supplies back and make their way into the gym where VBS was being held. Also known as chaos. Most of the kids were on a field trip today and those left behind were the "problem children" apparently. They gave the VBS-ers a run for their money and were very difficult, inattentive, and rude. Eventually the kids settled down and listened for the most part, but it was still a very exhausting extravaganza. The door walkers had to stop early because there was too much rain. No one felt like they had a successful day when it came to our plans for the afternoon, but sometimes things don't always go as planned.

It was Torch against the world today, but we made it through a-okay. After a dinner of chicken, veggies, rice, and avocado we all worked together to get the chairs in place for Chapel led by Tim Hines and translated by Chase Turner. Tonight was about fear. Tim entertained us all by recollecting a story from his childhood. He was left alone in a big cabin in the jungle while his father went fishing, and he heard the growling of a tiger. He sprinted through the jungle terrified for his life, singing Blue Skies and Rainbows, all while desperately trying to find his father who would bring indubitable safety. He found his father, and was brought back to the cabin, where they discovered the tiger was in fact just a man snoring. Fear prevents us from seeing things the way they are. It gets in the way of doors opening for new opportunities because we're too afraid to look. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, it talks about the punishments and beatings Paul endured, and how he faith prevailed and he continued worshipping God all the same. God asks us to put our trust in Him and not to be afraid. In Acts 2:37, when people realize they had killed the Son of God, they were afraid of the wrath of God. But that was not what God had in mind. He wanted them to repent, come to Him, and live their lives for Him. God is a god of love, who can overcome any evil so there is no reason to be afraid. However, there are people in this world who don't fear anything, when they should be fearing God. Although He is still a god of love, He is also a god of justice. He created two places: one for the saved, and one for the lost. God wants us to not be afraid. Another word for afraid is ashamed. We have to be fearless when proclaiming the word of God, and proud of what we believe. God knows everything we do and everything we think, so what should we fear? God or earthly problems? God wants us to struggle so we appreciate His blessings instead of deceiving ourselves into thinking we can save ourselves.

After chapel we drove back to the hotel and we had a brief group devo where Jon Hackett spoke more on fear and focused on how we focus on little fears when something bigger and more terrifying is lurking right behind us. Terry Reeves then made a few announcements about the next few days and some ladies met to discuss plans for a spa day for the women at the church. Then it was off to bed for the tired Torchers.

Thank you for your prayers and dedication to reading this lovely blog, and God bless you all.
Sarah Whitley

PS- I've been forgetting to include this on the blog the past few days, but if anyone needs to contact anyone for any reason, you can email me at leahcwright17@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 7

Trailer Hitch

      Have you ever seen a hearse with a trailer hitch? If you have, I for one would love to see it. But honestly, does it make any sense for a vehicle which transports the bodies of people who have died to carry anything else with it? In case you didn't already know this, you can't take anything when you go! Not your house, your car, your dog, your job, or even your family. (For those of you who remember me mentioning my mind is 80% song lyrics, this comes from the song "Trailer Hitch"). That is why things of this earth do not matter, and they will never matter. Our brother Bryon made an excellent point this morning in his devotional: "The only thing thing we can take with us is our actions for God here on Earth." Let that soak in a minute as I tell you about another beautiful day in the community of Purral in Costa Rica.

      This day ran nearly identical to yesterday's, so I'm going to make it a little bit shorter, and as sweet as I can type. We had a lot more stranglers this morning to get to breakfast on time and catch the bus before it left. Shane Blackburn was our example for the day. Since he was running late, Terry had him make a spectacle of himself for everyone once we arrived at the church building. He promised he would not be late again...TODAY. Ha. Let's hope we all wake up refreshed enough tomorrow that we jump out of bed, ready to serve. After the short devo, we split up into our men's and women's classes. The women looked specifically at raising children in the church. Diane stated we should not just raise up our children in the church, we must give them a hunger for God. Chase's class continued with the topic of a Christian family. The only difference today was that there was a coffee break in order so that we could break up the 2 1/2 hours. That's a very long time to sit still for anyone! We had another yummy lunch, which was assembled by Margaret Reeves, Leah Myers, Tabitha Glenn, and myself. Our chicken sandwiches with tomatoes and cucumbers hit the spot. As Tabitha wisely exclaimed when speaking about the pineapple she had for breakfast: "It was like eating sunshine." Let me tell you, the picky eaters on this trip are missing out. I, for one, am so glad my taste buds have changed. After filling our stomaches with sandwiches, sweet apples and fresh pineapple juice, we set off to our respective jobs for the afternoon. Our three groups continued, one teaching another VBS lesson at the orphanage, one painting at the orphanage, and one door knocking. Since I did not attend VBS today either, I am asking Joanna Fussell to give us some details about how it went.

      The kids sat down listened and wanted to hear another story. Lots of different games played and they interacted very well with us as visitors.  Compared to yesterday, the kids behaved very well.  Before going we were told we couldn't interact with the kids unless they interacted first and no pictures could be taken.  I think a lot of people were apprehensive about this, but the kids were very loving and wanted to play with us as much as possible.  I spent most of the time being chased by the kids with their VBS craft.  They loved getting so much attention and it was easy to play with them even though we were warned they may not be receptive to anything.  We sang songs in Spanish and English then had a skit about Joshua fighting and praying to God to let the day last longer.  After the skit was over, the kids wanted us to do another skit and we had to tell them to wait til tomorrow.  We had a snack and the rest of the time we just played basketball, ninja, and all sorts of other games.  I think tomorrow will be even better.

      Most importantly, tonight we had another lesson from the Word of God. This is the reason for all of our hard work: To get as many people into this small church so they can hear for themselves the Gospel and choose to obey it. Tonight, Tim and Chase did a fantastic job of answering a question so many of us ask ourselves: Why were we created? or For what purpose were we created? But what really made this lesson one of the best I have ever heard, was how they presented it. Since both Tim and Chase are such talented preachers AND translators, they used their talents to the fullest and went back and forth from preaching to translating for the other, bouncing off the others ideas. Tim started us out with another story to peak our interest, and then he began to delve into the tough questions like When God creates something do you believe it is divine? That God created it all with a purpose that we may not know? He used Psalms 139:13-18, emphasizing verse 14 where David states: "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." The design of God is perfect and God doesn't make anything that isn't perfect. We are created for perfection. Christ said in Matthew 5:48, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." God has a plan for every single thing that happens in our lives, even the most disappointing situations serve a purpose. God is in control, even if we don't understand. The truth is we don't have to understand, but we have to obey. According to Ephesians 2:4-10, we were made to do good works for God and His glory. That is our purpose. Then in Ephesians 4:11, Paul lists 3 jobs in the church for which some have been created: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. In verse 12, he explains the purpose of those jobs, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." Why are we designed perfectly by God? Because he has a plan for our life. If He's got your heart, He's got your life, your family, and your church.

      "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:4
      "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
Hebrews 6:1-2

Please continue to pray for all of those working with the church of Christ in Purral. We have only two more days in this community as we try to bring as many souls to God as possible! We have not had anyone respond yet, but the Lord has the power to turn hearts toward Him. Remember much can be accomplished with a fervent prayer.

Buenos noches,
(Good night)


Monday, July 6

Hold to God's Unchanging Hand

        Good Evening to all our loyal viewers tonight! I know you may be few and far between, but you are mighty warriors if you are up this late anxiously awaiting an update on your loved ones. We started bright and early this morning leaving the hotel about 7:45, which meant there were a lot of people in Denny's at 7:30 hoping they could scarf down their food in time to jump on the bus. We were worried that since it was a Monday morning that the traffic would be much worse than yesterday. Thankfully, it wasn't too bad so we were early for our morning devotional by Cristian. We sang together and Cristian helped us get our minds ready to serve today. He reminded us of Colossians 3:23-24 and how we must do everything with our heart. We are working for God and He will never forget it because our reward is not of this earth, it is in Heaven. The next few days (Today-Thursday to be exact) are going to be a lot of the same things over and over again. With this gospel meeting, we have men's and women's bible classes in the morning from 9-11:30. Next, from 1-4:30, we split up into 3 groups: Painting, VBS, and Door Knocking. Last, we will have a sermon every night at 6:30.

        We have two intelligent workers for the Lord leading our Bible Studies this week: Diane Adams from Florida and Chase Turner from Louisiana. Since I obviously attended the ladies class, I have a lot more information about what was discussed there than in the men's class. The ladies began class with a fun get-to-know-you game where we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, while also remembering the names of all the women who were before you. It really helped us learn all the names! Diane focused on 1 Corinthians 13 and how it pertains to all our relationships, but especially the marriage relationship. We broke down every part of verses 4-7 and dug deep to discuss what it means and how we can put it into practice in our lives. From what I understand, Chase spoke on the Christian family and how a Christian home can be established. Also, we had a group assembling hygiene packs for the orphanage while the classes were in session. Many of the group from Arkansas aided in assembling packs like Sherry McCoy, the Myers family, Meredith Blackburn, Philip and Tabitha Glenn, as well as, some others like Caleb Beggs, and Catherine Hackett -- Just to name a few! They were by no means the only ones, just trying to drop the names I remember for their families.

        After the classes and packs were completed, we had lunch, enjoyed some free time with our brethren, and then loaded the buses at 12:45. The painting and VBS groups all took the same bus to the orphanage, which is only about 10 minutes from the church building. From the stories I heard, it was one of the wildest VBS groups we may have ever had for VBS in Central America. The kids did not sit still, from climbing the walls to playing on skateboards. They were very loud which made it hard to do just about anything, but especially for them to hear the lesson. When there are 90 kids boucing off the walls, it will certainly make things interesting. The team taught the children the story of Joseph and then related it to the Life of Jesus, which is the VBS theme for this week, and it also ties in with our TORCH theme for the summer which is His Life--that is Christ's Life. They also did a really cool activity where the kids made a snack which was the coat of many colors. Since they were not allowed to take pictures of any of the kids, I am not sure if I can find a picture of the final product, but I'll do my best to find one! Also, I was not given any specifics on what was painted; however, I do know something was painted at the orphanage and no news is good news, right?
Around 20 of us went door knocking this afternoon. Being such a small group, we split into pairs with one Spanish speaker to one non-Spanish, and it did not necessarily mean you were with someone who spoke both English and Spanish. Personally, I enjoy experiences like that because it forces you to pay attention. You must listen carefully and do your best to interpret based off of context clues, or just flat out guess. I'm not saying I knew everything that was said by my awesome partners, Daniela and Karla, but I do know I learned a least 5 or 6 new words, and enjoyed all our verbal and non-verbal interactions. They are my friends even if I can't tell you their favorite movie or their last names (trust me, I'm just glad I know one of their 3 or 4 names haha). They also forced Joanna Fussell to step up and use her Spanish skills to door knock with Brandy. She knows a lot more than she lets on and Brandy has her script she can follow for the rest of the week.

         Tonight, we were filled with one of the best meals I believe I have had in Costa Rica EVER: Spaghetti. If my mom is reading this, she's probably thinking something along the lines of "You're kidding, right?" because this girl is not a spaghetti fan. Here's the thing momma: It wasn't made with tomato sauce! Instead these ladies after my own heart made a delicious white sauce with ground beef and topped it with fresh cheese. Now I couldn't tell you what else was in that spaghetti, but I can tell you that if I had as many stomaches as a cow (which is 4 for those of you who are wondering), I would have eaten it 4 times to fill each one.

      Lastly, let's wrap up our day with another lesson from our brother Tim Hines. I really hate trying to give you all a summary of it because I could never be able to do it justice, but I can't end this blog without it because you need to hear it! Tonight Tim preached about The Connection to God we have today. In order for us to be the branches in our congregation that produces fruit, we must be connected to the vine and the vine is life. This comes from the text in John 15:1-16 when Jesus describes Himself as the vine. Christ also introduces to us a condition with the word "IF" in verses 7 and 10. He is not saying that His love is not unconditional, but He is saying that IF we want the reward, there is a condition we must follow: Abide in Him and His words abide in you, and keep His commandments. There may be times when we leave worship services and bible studies and we let go of the hand of God. When we have the hand of God, we cannot think of other things. Just like when you held the hand of that crush you'll never forget the first time. You couldn't think of anything else but that person and your desire to be with them. As soon as holding the hand of God was mentioned, I called to mind the hymns "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand" and "Jesus, Hold My Hand" because my mind is 80% song lyrics. The first is a song about holding to God's hand when all around us is changing because nothing here on earth is permanent. The second is a song which is asking Jesus to hold to our hands because we need Him every hour so He can protect us and hear our pleas.

      I encourage you all to hold to God's unchanging hand, and I can't say it better than the hymn itself:

 "1 Time is filled with swift transition, naught of earth unmoved can stand, build your hopes on things eternal, Hold to God's unchanging hand.
  2 Trust in Him who will not leave you, whatsoever years may bring. If by earthly friends forsaken, still more closely to Him cling.
  3 Covet not this world's vain riches, that so rapidly decay. Seek to gain the heavenly treasures. They will never pass away.
Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God's Unchanging Hand."

Dios te bendiga  ---- DEE-OOS TE BEEN-DEGA
(God bless you) ----- My best guess at the pronunciation spelling


Sunday, July 5

The Mind of Christ

        Your mind controls everything. It controls how you think, what you say, how you act. Since our mind is the dominating force in our lives, it holds a lot of responsibility in our lives as Christians. The root of all our temptations in life is how we think. If you were to consider any of the sins you have committed in your life, they either began or took place in your mind. When you lie, you have to think about something other than the truth. If you steal, you consider what and how you might steal before you act upon it. Now, how important is it for we as Christians to live our lives like Christ? He came to earth to be the ultimate example for us and He called for us to be like Him. However, being like Him does not commence by acting like Him, it all begins by thinking like Him. Jeremy Myers presented these thoughts in our time in bible study this morning. He walked us through a great example of how we can learn to have the mind of Christ through an analogy of growing a tree and using Philippians 2:1-9. We must start by digging a hole, next planting a seed, and then caring for it so it will continue to grow. In the end, we should produce fruit.

         To those of you who may not know me, I feel like I need to introduce myself since you'll be hearing quite a bit from me over the next few days. My name is Leah Wright. I am a math teacher in Hendersonville, TN and this is my 6th trip with TORCH. I'm a little rusty with this blog posting thing so please bear with me as I try to compile coherent thoughts late at night about an entire day. I will do my best to paint you all a vivid picture of our lives from day to day and try to do it in a way that is enjoyable to read. At this time, I would also like to give you some information about the church we are working with. The building where they meet is located about 30 minutes from downtown San Jose, or at least our hotel. The preacher here at this time is Cristian Vargas and he is married to the lovely Yendry Chaves. For those who have kept up with previous trips to Costa Rica, you will remember Daniel and Meribel Chaves, well, Yendry is their daughter, which is how we met Cristian and began working with his congregation here.

        For those in our group who decided to get up early enough for breakfast, we had our choice of 5 different menu options at the adjoining Denny's with our voucher through the hotel. Yes, that is the same Denny's we have in the States, and I'd say the menu is very similar to the ones you all may be used to. At my table with Brandy and Joanna, we had fruit and yogurt, gallo pinto (rice and beans), and oatmeal and fruit. We were all set to load the buses at 8:15, we left on time, and we arrived early. Since it is Sunday, we began our first morning with the church of Christ in Purral with a Bible Study by Jeremy Meyers, the leader of the group from Arkansas. Following the study, we had a worship service and heard a sermon by Thad Butts, the leader of the group from Alabama. Thad spoke to us about one of the strangest stories in the Bible from 2 Kings 6:24 - 7:20. Many of you may not be familiar with this, I for one was not. This was during the time of the prophet Elisha. The people of Israel were going through a terrible famine and buying food like donkey's heads and dove dung at expensive prices to eat! Their lives were a mess! Thad pointed out that they valued the wrong things in life and their lives were a mess because they had left God out of the equation. My favorite point he made at the end was this: We have a choice in life like the two lepers in the story did. We can choose to live the abundant life with Christ alone, or we can choose to share that life with everyone around us.

        It was a blessing for us to hear such thought-provoking lessons, but even more so because these lessons, as well as our singing and praying for the Lord, were done in both Spanish and English. We may speak two different languages, but our praises to God will always be One. Following our morning services, we had a delicious lunch made by the lovely ladies of the congregation. As we let our food settle, the group and the church had an opportunity to fellowship and see how much Spanish/English we all knew with or without a translator. Some of us even got to play a quick game of Basic Spanish BINGO. I guess you could say the exciting part of our day was our afternoon of door knocking. We are blessed to have 10 translators working with us at this time, so we split up into groups with a 4:1 American: Translator ratio. We literally walked up and down many of the streets near the building knocking on doors and yelling "Buenas" or "Upe", which is the Spanish version of "Hello, is anybody home?" Along the way there were lots of children watching us, and twice as many dogs barking at us. We were able to hand out many of the invitations to the meeting; however, we had very few contacts established--our goal was to have 5 contacts from each group. A contact means that the person we spoke to was receptive enough to our invitation that they wanted to hear from us again and let us write down their phone number or address. We may not have reached our goal, but we are not discouraged. Tonight at the gospel meeting we had one man who came because we reached out to him through the door knocking. We may have knocked on 100 doors, with only one man to show for it, but how great is our Father's joy for that one man!

        Our evening was closed out with the first of 5 lessons from the gospel meeting with Tim Hines. Not only is he a great preacher, but he is also fluent in Spanish since he spent about 6 years growing up in Costa Rica. He presented a lesson from John 6, and about our love of food. Some things will never change no matter how many thousands of years pass by: All of our lives center around food. How often do you think about your next meal? How long it will be until you eat again? How distracting is it to do or hear anything when you are overcome with hunger? Jesus knew all of this! That is why He fed the multitudes because He was well aware that few would hear His message if they could not focus past their desire to eat. He used our desire for food to create an analogy for Himself. He is the Bread of Life and His Bread will fill us for all eternity. Our desire for Him should surpass any thing else we want or think we need in this life, like maybe our phones, or Facebook.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from his sermon:

"Only Jesus can change you in such a way that you can change the world. He is the most important part of your life."

I hope that we all allow Jesus to be our greatest desire so that we may be changed in order to best serve Him. May you all be praying for the church down here. That is be strengthened in faith, and in number through this campaign.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, July 4

I Belong to Jesus!!

Ok just stay with me on this post.  I have a lot to cover!!

July 2
We started like all other days with breakfast, then devo.  After devo we divided into a medical team, VBS/Daughters of the King team, painting team and a construction team.  This was our last full day of work so we were BUSY BUSY BUSY!!!

Everyone but the construction team went to Diamante.  The construction went to build a home for a family in the La Tigra Rainforest.  The Diamante group pulled out as early as possible so we could get as much completed as possible.  When we arrived, we unloaded as quickly as possible so we could begin the medical clinic.  Our medical staff along with Dr. Ponce from Honduras worked for hours ensuring that as many people could be seen as possible.  By the end of the day the team was able to see about 223 patients!

During the medical clinic there were other projects/activities happening.  The team conducted a VBS and provided snacks to the children.  We had about 100ish to participate.  After VBS, the team set up for Daughter's of the King.  This a time where we wash, comb, and fix hair.  We also wash feet and paint toe nails.  We do not paint finger nails as much due to the schools not allowing them to be painted.  I'm not sure how many girls were served, but it was a large number.  We also had a team working to complete as much of the classrooms as possible.  I know we completed one building and a good deal of the others.  Other teams will make sure the buildings are completed!!

When we were finished we loaded the buses to head back to the mission house for dinner.  We were served PUPUSAS!!  I do not expect all of you to know what I am talking about, but it is a personal favorite of mine!!  After dinner we met for devo.  It was the last night for Jeremy Crump to lead devo.  He, once again, delivered a great lesson.  It has been awesome having Jeremy speak to us and teach us over the past few days.  After devo we were given instruction for the following day.  Then we headed to bed for so much needed sleep!!

July 3
We woke up and had breakfast at around 8.  We were able to sleep in on Friday!!  After breakfast we had a devo then, as quickly as possible, loaded the buses to go to Diamante to put the sign on the school and do a group photo!!  We arrived at Diamante at about 10:30ish. We posted the sign, got our group picture then loaded the bus to go to the Jesus statue for reflection.  This year we decided to break up into small groups to work on processing the trip.  For any of you that have done work in missions, I'm sure you understand that it can be difficult to return home and over come the processing.  I loved it!!  The small groups allowed us to really break the trip down and discuss things that we will always keep with us.  We laughed and cried during this time.  I'm so thankful that Terry, Tyler and Brian decided to do this for us.  It really put some things into perspective.

After we had some refection, we loaded the bus to head back to the mission house to begin packing and cleaning up.  We also had four baptisms in our group!!  GOD IS SOOOO GOOD!!!!  I can not even begin to express the joy I have seen and felt during this trip.  I will forever be thankful!!

At around 8 we had devo.  Last night we sang songs and Terry gave us a wrap up for the trip.  I completely agree with him when he made the comment about how we took an ugly stick to Satan this week.  We belong to Jesus and if we stick with Him we WILL defeat Satan!!!  Satan will always be there but God is so much BIGGER!!!!!

July 4th
Today we got up early to load luggage and make sure all rooms were clean. The teams departed and are probably almost home now.  We have now arrived in Costa Rica, where we will be conducting VBS, Door knocking and a Gospel meeting at the Purral Church of Christ!  Our group has arrived safely in San Jose.  Leah Wright will be taking over the blog for the most part. I will be trying to post pictures from both trips as well.  Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for the team and the work daily.  We love you all!!

In Him

Brandy B

Wednesday, July 1

So I want to apologize for slacking on the post.  Last night, June 30, we got back really late because we went out to Baxter for some people to play soccer.  So this will cover the past two days.

Yesterday we had French toast, cereal and fruit for breakfast.  After breakfast we met for devo, led by Colby.  After devo we loaded the buses for the day.  We had a construction crew, hospital/food delivery to special needs orphanage/medical team/Gatorade blitz crew, and a crew that went to Didasko to work on the play ground and paint some rooms.

The construction crew had an awesome build.  We had to climb a mountain to get to it, but the view was well worth it.  We were a bit nervous at first because we thought we were going to hit a lot of rock, but thankfully that did not happen.  The house went up with no problem and the Lord blessed us with some amazing views.

While the construction team was building the Didasko team worked hard to complete some much needed work at the orphanage.  They were also able to play with the kids once they had finished school.  While they were painting there was a team at the mission house that was breaking down medicines to prepare the next two days of medical clinics.  This team also delivered food and other supplies to the special needs orphanage.  Once they had completed the work they made their way down the mountain to do a Gatorade blitz.  Once they had purchased as many Gatorade as possible, they drove around the city delivering them to the street workers.  Afterward, they came to the construction sight to pick that team up to take them back to the mission house.

At the mission house we had dinner and man was it good.  After we ate, many of us loaded the bus to go to baxter for soccer.  We had a lot of fun watching/playing soccer.  After a couple hours, we loaded the busses to return to the mission house and go straight to bed.

July 1

Today started like all others with breakfast.  We had beans, eggs, and toast this morning.  After breakfast we met for devo led by Bod.  After devo, we got our things together and headed out.  Today we had a construction team, paint crew, medical team, and Didasko repair team.  The construction team built a home out in Mololoa today.  They had a nice walk to get to the sight, but once their the house went up quickly.  The paint team went to Diamante to begin painting the classrooms that have built.  The medical team conducted a clinic at DIdasko.  While there were having their clinic, there was team doing some repairs on the playground.  When the work was complete we made our way back to the mission house for dinner.  Tonight we had chicken and rice with a roll.  Of course it was delicious!!!!  After dinner, we had devo and announcements.

It is very hard to believe our trip is coming to an end.  It has gone by way too fast!! We had two arrive today and we have one leave tomorrow.  Then most of the team will leave to go back to the States, while some of us will be headed to Costa Rica for 10 days.  So please continue to pray for the work and for safe travels.  We love you and miss you all!!

In Him
Brandy B