¡Feliz Cumple Años Santiago!

Brody's (James/Santiago's) Birthday breakfast included a chocolate cupcake.

Eve just learned to pucker. All you have to say is "Kiss?" and she assumes the position.
Brody and Brie up in a tree... K. I. S. S. I. N. G
Brody and his best buddy, Elijah Gornik hugging goodbye.

James Brodick Dennett (Santiago in español) is now 3 years old! We love you Brody!

Biggest Darn Peapod We've Ever Seen!

Every trip to the Feria (open vegetable/fruit market) exposes us to a new strange fruit or vegetable. This weekend's test-food was the Guaba. Guaba fruit is a long green pod-type shell - about a foot and a half in length- which may be split lengthwise to show a series of small puffy white pulpy flesh coated black seeds. This white puffy pulpy flesh is sweet and easy to eat and comes easily off the seeds. The seeds remind us of smooth beach rocks and are super slippery...kinda nice to slide around in your mouth! They are very interesting and taste really good!

House Pets

This is Wiggy one of our many gekos that live here and there on our walls around the house. He was recently featured in a popular tv commercial promoting insurance. The kids love to hold Wiggy and his friends. They are wonderful to have around and eat lots of other small bugs.

New Sojourn Academy Photos

The school just updated the photo gallery for the kid's school. There are some pictures that have our kids in them if you're interested in seeing their school.


32 Years in Guatemala

AMG's website has a nice article about the ministry in Guatemala. I thought some of you might be interested in reading it. AMG has also updated it's site... enjoy!

Pictured at the right is Robin Hastings (Betty, one of nearly 500 national workers in the ministry) and Bob Hastings, Director of AMG Guatemala.
Click the link to read the article:

A Busy Afternoon ~ Varios Cosas

We had a crazy day today running around completing tasks for our student visas in order to stay in Costa Rica for the rest of the year. We have had several problems getting things validated with the Costa Rican consulate and are now racing to beat our "Tourist Visa" expiration date of April 1. We took taxis today in two phases to a photoshop in order to get our "Mug Shots" (shown above) for our police records here and for our visas. We don't all fit in a normal taxi! We then had to go to the police department for complete fingerprinting (we felt a bit like criminals) and registering everything about each of us with the Police. They were very thorough. They now know everything about us...our height and weight in meters/kilometers, our scars, our shoe sizes (just kidding) and all of our other vital statistics. Tomorrow I will present our validated birth certificates, marriage license, police records, passports, photos and complete bio sheet to our representative at the institute and they will attempt to get our visas processed. Please pray for everything to go through quickly and without any more hitches. Thank you Dad and Mom, again, for all your help in getting things back and forth from the Secretary of State and the CR consulate in D.C!!!

After all that, Eve needed all of her vaccinations in order to be current here in Costa Rica. She had 6 in 2 shots...all at the same time. (pray that she takes well to them) Here in Costa Rica, doctors, hospitals and/or offices do not administer shots. Pharmicists do. Eve had her shots in the dark back room of a small local pharmacy... I felt like we were doing something illegal! It was actually a great experience with a wonderful pharmacist that we were happy to get to know. Leaving the pharmacy we met up with Debra and walked her home, picked up some groceries and then walked back to the house. Phew! Now Mary and I both have to study for exams that we have tomorrow and then will look forward to plopping into bed.

Where's the Easter Bunny?

We are enjoying our first Easter season without any sign of the Easter Bunny! There are no colorful eggs, no baskets, no "peeps" and no Peter Cottontail! Here in Central America, this very catholic culture takes Semana Santa (Holy Week) very seriously. Unfortunately much of their celebrating and formalities are in vain without Jesus in their lives.

The picture above is of the main intersection near our house... what's missing? Cars are missing! This calle principal (main road) is normally jammed with cars going to and from San Jose...buses, taxis, cars, motorcycles...all missing! They are missing because everything here has been closed since Thursday...everything, that is, except Hiper Mas (WalMart) who evidently thinks they can come to Central America and buck all of the cultural norms here and stay open. We have really enjoyed the complete lack of commercialism of Easter week and it has been a wonderful time of relaxation and rest for our family. Most Costa Ricans are part of a mass-exodus throughout the week (starting last Friday) to the beaches on both coasts of Costa Rica. We were fortunate to be able to exodus right along with them last Friday and visit the Carribean Coast in a small town called Punta Uva.

We travelled with other students, the Penner Family from Kansas, to a motel on a beautiful and very secluded section of beach that was miles long. We felt like we were on Gilligan's Island for a few days! This was a much-needed break from Spanish and from the city. We are back now and asking ourselves why the Spanish Language Institute could not have chosen Punta Uva to establish their facilities.

The children enjoyed snorkeling the reef in front of our motel. We saw an octopus, many beautiful fish, a sea turtle (just like in Nemo) and many interesting other ocean creatures. The kids also learned all about coconuts and picked their own and with the help of a Costa Rican boy were able to hack into them and enjoy them. Jay Jay helped them with the coconuts and became their friend for the time we were here...he was a really intelligent boy that could speak English, German and Spanish!

We returned home on Wednesday and have been studying, relaxing and preparing for Brody's third birthday this Saturday. We have several of his classmates coming over today to enjoy a piñata, cupcakes and maybe a run through the sprinkler in our back yard. Brody is very excited and we will post some pictures later today of his party. His passion is matchbox cars and he especially wanted some "racecars"! Thank you Nana, Grampa and Noni for your gifts... he will love them!

Happy Easter to you all and we hope you can make Jesus the center of all your celebrating this weekend! Apart from Him, all you'd have are a bunch of bunnies, colorful eggs and Peter Cottontail. Our prayers are with all those who have yet to count on Jesus as their Savior and enjoy life in His service.

God is so Creative in His Blessings

Our landlord's daughter Joanna came over tonight and asked us, " Can I watch your kids, whenever YOU want, for 200 hours over the coming months? Oh by the way...it needs to be for free. " She is a sweet, smart Christian 17 year-old and has applied with an Au Pair program in the U.S. They require that she have 200 hours of caring for someone's children prior to arriving in the states. She thought this would be great for her where we have five kids and need a break occasionally through the week! We couldn't agree with her more! What a blessing to have this kind of offer in the midst of everything that's going on in our lives! Joanna also just happens to play violin and has been learning english throughout her schooling, so she wants to practice language with Abbie (spanish and english) and also practice the violin together! God is indeed creative in his blessings.

Laying Down our Lives

The message of the Gospel, salvation and laying down our lives for Christ, was brought closer to us tonight by a wonderful missionary couple from Ireland. They shared the deep suffering they have experienced while serving God on the mission field and the many things they have learned as they left their family & friends, attempted to adapt to a strange culture, endured the painful results of sin within their missions team and experienced great fatigue. They have not been thwarted by any of this and feel very confirmed in knowing how obviously displeased Satan is with their work.

They shared God's promise to come to us with comfort "...the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows" - 2 Corinthians 1:3 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" - 2 Corinthians 5:16

We are experiencing some trials right now... this year has been a tough one with the loss of Earland, HUGE changes for our family and now concerns for family back at home. We can have joy in the midst of this, knowing that God will indeed be our comforter and our provider. God is preparing THIS family to serve Him. We need to ABIDE in Him.

An Especially Difficult Couple of Weeks

Please pray for our family on a number of fronts. Mary found out last week that her mother was diagnosed with cancer and will be going in for surgery soon. She would obviously like to be right by her Mom's side during this time but that will not be possible. Her aunt is planning to come from California. Mary hopes to go home to Maine in April with Eve to be with her Mom post-surgery. Please pray that we are able to get her there.

My cousin Patrick McCourtney, 47 years old, took his life this week after struggling with depression for some time. We had not experienced anything like this in our family and it is incredibly disturbing. Please pray for my Mother and for Patrick's family as they wrestle with digesting this.

School was also more difficult this week. Both Mary and I had the feeling that our minds were "at capacity" and if we had to take in much more it may spill out our ears! This was complicated by the fact that we both had exams. Fortunately, next week is "Spiritual Emphasis Week" and the teachers are not allowed to give exams or homework. Throughout the week we will be hearing from special speakers on a variety of different biblical topics designed to bring us deeper in our walk. We are looking forward to this and will be anxious to share what we learn with you all.

The children all received their first-quarter report cards yesterday and I am happy to report that they are all doing great...alot of A's and a few B's. Their teachers reported that they have adjusted nicely to their new culture and are learning alot. Praise God!

Cultural Day

We had cultural day last Friday, during which we explored the music, food and dance of Central America. OK, I admit I look a bit foolish dancing around with a bandana, my Moxie teeshirt (thank you Reeses!) and a cowboy hat... but this was a serious dance! In Costa Rica this is a traditional courtship dance, where the woman sort-of flirts around with the man as you all dance around in a circle. It was actually alot of fun and we learned alot about the Central American culture.

Week after next is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Costa Rica (and throughout Central America) and everything pretty much closes down for the week in remembrance of Easter. Last night we heard this loud singing booming from our street out front. We went out to the garage and in front of our house their was a van with a huge speaker on top and a man inside singing into a microphone. Following the van was a crowd of people singing backup to him (walking parade-like). The song was reverent and obviously Christian (not sure yet if they were catholic or not) ...we were able to pick up on much of the words which included "We're grateful for you Jesus". It was a bit strange with this man's BOOMING voice from the huge speaker but interesting to see their dedication as Holy Week approaches.

We have gotten a bit used to people booming out of speakers around the neighborhood. We have a man that sells eggs each week from his car. He drives around the neighborhood hollaring through a loudspeaker, from his car, "Huevos Fresco, Huevos Fresco... muy barato!!!!!" "Fresh eggs cheap!!" We also have an over-zealous ice-cream man that walks around with a little ice-cream cart selling popsicles and icecream bars.

AMG Guatemala Challenges

Bob Hastings informed me this week of some big challenges currently facing our ministry in Guatemala. We recently lost two key individuals in our accounting department. This loss has placed Bob in a tough situation with much work that needs to be done and the need for qualified, Godly personnel to take on the challenge of learning the finances of a large, far-reaching ministry.

A wonderful lady in the office came forward and explained that she was just a year from acheiving her CPA and that she would like to take on part of the responsibility. God has blessed her with a promotion and provided Bob with some of the help he needs at the same time. Please pray for Bob and his staff. Pray that God will send all the help they need.