Phil Penner 1979 - 2008

Our good friend Matt Penner's brother, Phil went home to be with the Lord last week following complications from Dengue fever. He was 29 years old. Phil was a "m" in a country we cannot mention (for the safety of his family and other "m's" serving there) with his wife, Esther and their 2 1/2 year-old daughter. Esther found the following writing of Phil's in their home:

His concern is not that I am popular or likable.
Noah was the laughingstock of the community when he was building the ark.
His concern is not with my health.
He took away Job’s and gave it back when he saw fit.
His concern is not to keep me at home.
He asked Abraham to leave for the unknown.
His concern is not that I understand his plan.
Against all logic, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, the long awaited fulfillment of God’s promise.
His concern is not that my life be "fair."
Joseph was thrown in a well, sold to slavery, and then imprisoned for a false accusation.
His concern is not with my abilities and talents.
He used a scared man with a speech impediment to be His spokesman to Egypt.
His concern is not that I feel good about myself or see the fruit of my labor.
Moses never saw the promise land.
His concern is not with my interests.
Jonah was sent to do what he didn’t want to do in a place he didn’t want to go.
His concern is not that I have friends.
David felt as though all his friends had betrayed him.
His concern is not my dignity.
Jeremiah had to run around naked.
His concern is not first for my family.
Ezekiel’s wife was taken from him.
His concern is not for my comfort.
He had Jeremiah lie on his side for over a year.
His concern is not that I become wealthy.
Jesus asked the rich man to give it all up.
His concern is not with my plans and schedule.
Lazarus was not healed when his family asked, but Jesus let him die to raise him later.
His concern is not for me to have a restful retirement.
Paul spent his last years in prison.
His concern is not for my safety.
Stephen, among others, was killed.
His concern is not that I have an easy life.
Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, sleepless, beaten and imprisoned.
God loves us and really does care about every aspect of our lives. But He has one main concern.
His concern is that we glorify Him as God give him his rightful place in our lives. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!

Please pray for his wife Esther and for our friends Matt and Angie Penner and their family. This has been exceptionally difficult and yet they can see God at work through it all. Phil was an incredible man of God who impacted many lives in his short 29 years.

Just to be Fair

Just to be fair, after my last post, I thought I would share my pharmacy experience and how much easier it was than in the states. Here is my dialogue with the lady at the counter (not the pharmacist). "I was wondering about the drug Singulair, for much does it cost?" Her: "$10,000 for 30 days supply ($20)... it would cost $100 in the states" Me: "my Dr. mentioned that it would be good for me" Her: "yes, many people like it". Me: "O.K. I would like some then" Her: "OK". The pharmacist (overhearing the conversation): "Ventilair is the same thing for less money" So, I ended up saving money and getting my "prescription drug" without any of the hassles of getting a prescription. A bit nicer than getting a drivers license!!! :)

I must say that medicine and dentistry has been a refreshing surprise for us here. San Jose has a simply fantastic hospital... Clinica Biblica. Imagine Maine Medical Center, only it is Evangelical Christian! Missionaries here, many years ago, began a small clinic and today it is a state of the art hospital. (with the most beautiful stained glass window...seen in picture left) For example, I had a 2 hour consultation with the best ENT in Costa Rica during which I had both a sinus scope and a throat scope...cost: $30. (I wish you could see the area that this beautiful hospital is in... the only nice looking thing in it is the hospital! I would not dare roam 1 block from it!) 2 weeks ago Mary, Myself, Abbie, Jordan, Aaron & Brody (yes 6 of us) went to the dentist to have our teeth checked, cleaned, 2 cavities filled and flouride. Cost for the 6 of us: $150. I need a crown. (in Gray at my dentist a crown was $1150) A crown here is $180. In fact, if any of you are lacking dental insurance and need expensive dentistry done, you could buy a $500 airline ticket to fly here, get your dentistry done and still save...any takers?

Drivers License

Yesterday morning at 10 a.m. I headed off with 2 friends Bob and Joey in order to get a drivers license. It's been 6 months since I have operated a car and I decided that it's time to do it! Bob has an old Nissan and has offered to let me borrow it in order to go on a date with Mary. (the car is missing windows and has been broken into 3 times in the last 2 weeks. Last night they busted another window and stole a bottle of lysol cleaner!) Nonetheless I am anxious to drive ANYTHING! With that said, we began by going to the place everyone told us to go about 3 miles from the school. This place was a fenced-in parking lot with an attendant booth for paying. We had been told that we would need to see a doctor nearby the DMV-like place in order to get a certificate of "good health". We asked the attendant where the doctors office was and he said to go into a small room behind his booth and wait. The small dimly-lit room had 2 chairs and an old desk. On the desk was an old stethescope and a blood pressure band. We looked at each other and said "is THIS the medical clinic"???? About 5 minutes later we could see a man running across the main road and then up the parking lot. He was the doctor. He sat me down, asked me my weight, height and if I was sick. He then "touched me" with the stethescope and took my bloodpressure. (I say he took it, however I do not believe that he ever even looked at the gauge.) He then had me pull on his arm and he pushed on my leg (evidently to see if I could handle any physical pressure) and gave me a certificate of good health. The cost was "$10,000 colones if you want a receipt or $8,000 without."

We then proceeded to the DMV which was not there anymore as they have built a new building, which we discovered absolutely nobody knew the location of. After following 3 different people's incorrect directions we sat in the center of Costa Rica in bumper-to-bumper smoggy traffic for over an hour. We hollered out the window in spanish to a nearby car and finally got correct directions. We were still in terrible traffic and couldn't see anywhere to park, so we sent Joey out of the car and across the street to a business (on the highway) that looked like they had space to park. We offerred the security guard $4,000 colones if we could park in front of their building and he begrudgingly accepted. We arrived with ALL the necessary papers (so we thought) and had to walk 1/2 a mile once inside the compound that the DMV occupies. We waited for 1/2 hour while the lady who reviews new applications finished eating lunch and then patiently waited in that line, only to find that we needed a photocopy of our U.S. license. I asked if we could kindly use the photocopy machine (right there in front of us) and she kindly responded in spanish, "absolutely not." We asked where we could get copies and she kindly explained that it was "our problem". I guess that DMV people go to some special worldwide school of how to be inconsiderate and grumpy while working.

We walked back the 1/2 mile to exit the compound and up the street until we saw an office that had a small sign that said "copias". We went inside and were charged .50 each for copies on a home copier that took approximately 10 minutes each to copy our licenses front and back. We walked back to the compound and back to the line and then finally saw the "reviewer" lady. She looked everything over and then stamped it with her approval. We then had to wait in another line. We were numbers 34,35 and 36. When it was our turn a large light-bulb would turn on in front of the desk that was available...kind-of funny. A man at a desk entered all my information into the computer and then printed off a receipt. He explained that I now needed to take the receipt, exit the compound and go to Banco Costa Rica and pay the $8 fee for a license. ($4,000 colones) I thought at that point that maybe they should hire some North American process-review guru in order to help them with their processes. After paying our bill at the bank we returned, had our pictures taken and were FINALLY issued drivers licenses... a process that only took 5 hours! I should start a column on my blog called "Things that take an incredible amount of time longer because you live in Central America". I could write daily! Oh well, I do have a drivers license now and can hopefully end my "driving-free-days" tally.

20 Years Together

Today is our 20th wedding anniversary! We started our morning with breakfast together at 6 a.m. reflecting on our last 20 years together. Who would have thought all these years later that we would be here in Costa Rica with 5 beautiful children preparing to serve God in Guatemala?? If you had ever told me so 20 years ago, I would have thought you were crazy! We have lived in many different places, travelled the globe, have so many close friends, survived a failed business, had 5 kids, enjoyed the fruits of some success, learned much, grieved deeply and now are entering the most adventurous phase of our lives yet. God is sooooo good.

God has truly blessed us. We are closer today than ever and have a life rich with challenges and blessings from God. We thank the Lord for our marriage and to have experienced "true love" from the very beginning.

Aaron's Graduation from Kindergarten!

Dad, Mom and the Graduate.
Aaron and "Teacher Victoria" his spanish teacher.
Aaron and his teacher, Miss Lauren, a bilingual missionary teacher.
Aaron accepting his diploma with a kiss.
Singing for us.Happy Graduation Aaron! We love you!

Isaiah 58:10-11

"And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." What a beautiful verse.

In the midst of all the craziness of learning this new language and adapting to life in Central America, Isaiah 58 was so refreshing to read. We need to constantly remind ourselves why we are here... to work with the hungry and oppressed! Please pray for the ministry in Guatemala and that the children there will be fed... most importantly the saving truth of our Lord! Pray that our schools will be safe places for these children to learn, grow and become the future Godly men and women of Guatemala. Pray that our administrators, teachers, doctors and every other worker there will have a fresh outlook each day and be prepared to meet the needs of these precious children.

Today's "Utmost for his Highest"

Varias Cosas

We've had plenty going on this week and thought we would send along some recent pictures. The children have been wanting a pet since we got here and we wound up with 2. The first, Max is a cute little hamster that I found in my shoe in the garage. He is now rescued from his tough life in the streets of San Jose and has a home with our kids! Then yesterday Mary was having a baby shower for our good friends, Tim and Amy Dawson, when a very young cat followed one of the ladies into our house. She explained that he had followed her all the way from her house and he appeared to be stray. Our kids played with him all day and after trying my darndest to resist their pleas to keep him, I gave in and went out and bought cat food. He has cuddled with our kids all day and is the sweetest little guy! They have named him Toby and are just loving having him around.

Brody holding "Toby" the cat.
Aaron and Toby


Eve and Toby


Jordan and Aaron

Safety in San Jose

I hate to even discuss this topic for fear of scaring anyone, however, one thing we have had to learn to contend with here in the city is that we are minorities and that we are viewed by some as opportunities. In an entirely latino city we stand out like sore thumbs and for the wrong people we become targets for money. This past week we have experienced increased crime against our student body and need your prayers for safety. Several students were robbed at gunpoint this week, another had a break-in/robbery (while the wife and child were frightening!) and several others were robbed or attempted to be robbed in the street or park. It has sent a wave of fear through the school. We are very fortunate that we live close to the school and do not have to walk far. We also have a neighborhood armed guard all night in front of our home. When we go out running or to the store we carry just enough cash to satisfy a would-be bandit and no more and we are very careful to watch who is around, who may have seen us leave and any suspicious activity in our midst. We know that we need to be prudent but that we do not have to live in fear! God is greater than that and His purpose for us right now is to be here, learning spanish and preparing to head to Guatemala to serve him.

My topic this past week for FARO was "Seguridad en Costa Rica" or security. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the topic with Ticos and get there reaction to crime here. Almost universally, Ticos are afraid as well and have experienced some form of crime in their lives. Many attribute the increase in violence to other nationalities that have moved here for opportunity (Colombians came up often) and turn to crime in order to survive. Costa Ricans are extrememly peaceful by nature/culture. We have been incredibly blessed by our relationships with Ticos and find them to be the most open, friendly and trustworthy people we have ever known. Please pray for the people of Costa Rica... for their safety, well-being and above all, SALVATION.

Our neighbors came to church again this morning and we had a wonderful service/communion. Their children have been at our home all afternoon and our kids just love them. Jordan is even beginning to sound Tico, testing out every possible expression he can think of with his friends!