Sunday, December 30, 2007


We're half way through the transition from language school in Costa Rica to our full-time appointment in Peru. We’re currently in the states, so we can ship our belonging to Peru. I've attached a photo of our luggage in the airport. (O.K., that's not our luggage--but it's close!) I thank God that our container shipment of furniture has gone out well and will arrive in Peru 2 or 3 weeks after we do. We've visited family in Cincinnati and Cleveland, and are currently in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (spending time with Bill's sister's family from Atlanta). Getting to see your family after a year overseas is beautiful and fills you with the knowledge that you are loved and wanted, but it is always tinged with the knowledge that your departure is imminent.

We are six days away from Peru. We land at 11:40 PM on Jan 5. We're all excited to get there, but trying not to be so excited that we miss what we're experiencing right now.

Some prayer requests:
1. Safe passage for us and our stuff.
2. Saying our goodbye's all over again.
3. God's provision and wisdom regarding where to live in Lima.
4. Favor with customs.
5. Approval of our visa applications.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

¡Ya terminé!

¡Ya terminé!

That's Spanish for "I'm done!" Today, we'll go through the graduation service for our year at language school. Wow, what a year! The last two weeks, I've been in nervous breakdown mode. Preparing our final projects and taking tests, while trying to pack, has been one little nervous breakdown after another. It's good to know that, no matter how many little nervous breakdowns we have, God is still in control! We have a lot of questions yet to answer regarding where we'll live and what we'll drive when we get to Peru, but those things are all in God's hands. For now, Lena and I are rejoicing that we're graduating and that we know how to say goodbye (in Spanish) to our friends here. And when my nerves rise up within me, I keep saying (nervously, but by faith), "God has it all under his control!"

Some prayer requests that are a little urgent:

1) We haven't received our visas from Peru yet. It would be good if we received them before we leave Costa Rica on Monday, Dec 17.

2) Shipping our stuff to Peru--there are many details yet to be confirmed.

3) All the travel that will take place over the next three weeks--flying to the states, traveling in the states, flying to Peru and knowing where to go once we get there.
Those are just a few of the things for which I have to say, "Be still my soul!"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Latin America ChildCare Kids

These pictures are from one of the Latin America ChildCare (LACC) schools I've visited in Costa Rica. The teacher pictured here is an LACC grad, who returned to teach.

This is a picture of the community that the school is located in. The picture below is the inside of the school. You can see that it is a heaven for the kids within a really rough neighborhood. Those two gringo kids are pretty good looking too!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Anger Management

Here's an interesting article from Fox news:

Vince Hogg of Wormit, Scotland was arrested after tearing out the hair of his live-in girlfriend and slamming her against a wall. The Daily Record reports the two apparently have had a stormy relationship and he became incensed because a leaky shower was causing the carpet to get wet. All of this has caused Hogg problems with his job, as an anger management counselor. But Hogg is still on the payroll of the National Health Service, which runs the "zero tolerance campaign" against domestic violence, where he worked. Hogg was, however, demoted and reassigned.

The article can be found at:,2933,312006,00.html

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

I'm a fan of veteran's day, because I'm a fan of vets. It takes incredible character to put your life on the line to serve others. So, thanks all you vets out there!

My dad is my favorite vet. He served in WWII--including spending 9 months in solitary confinement in a prisoner of war prison. I'm also proud of my brother, Jan, who served in in Viet Nam. I came of age during a time when we weren't at war. I'm one of the blessed who has been able to enjoy the fruits of other people's sacrifices. So, thanks Buster, Denny, Jon, Terry, Paul, Nathan, Andy, Frank, Dawn and all the rest of my noble friends. I'd salute you, but since I was only a cub scout, it would look a little silly.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


You know how some actors are really good at playing the bad guy (i.e., James Woods). We might say something like, "They picked that actor because he likes playing the bad guy." That's the kind of conversation we had recently. Except, when you speak two languages it's easy to get your languages confused. The word "moleste" in Spanish, means "bothered" or "bugged" in English. So, even though it sounds just like "molested," it is not what it sounds like. Recently, we were all watching T.V. and there was a girl on the screen who looked bothered--a little bit angry. Consequently, Colton said something like, "Boy, they must have picked her because she likes looking molested."

There was a moment of silence, then I said, "I think you mean she likes looking bothered."

Ah, we make those kind of mistakes in Spanish every day!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Questions about a missionary's life

Our good friend Jonette McMasters leads the BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade) group at Akron-Springfield A/G. She's teaching the kids to have a heart for missions. We are grateful for Jonette's friendship, support and the legacy she's building in the kids. (Thanks Jonette!) In order to educate them about missions, the kids wrote some questions to Lena. Here are a couple of her answers:

What is Costa Rica like?

Costa Rica is a really lovely place to learn Spanish. We live in San Jose, which is about halfway up the mountains, and it is almost always in the 60s y 70s. We can drive 2-5 hours to the beach once in a while, but most of the time we stay here and do our homework! We live in the city, so we don’t get to see all the cool animals who live in the jungle much, but that is pretty normal for a Costa Rican, because they don’t normally have the money to travel and see their beautiful country the way we do! Most Costa Rican people don’t earn as much in a week as a poor American does in a month, and cars are way more expensive here. We take taxis everywhere, and they mostly don’t have seat belts, so that was a big thing to get used to—not being able to put my kids in car seats. I pray a lot more now when we go somewhere as a family!

They eat a LOT of rice and black beans here, and I have been perfecting my version of it. Why? It is really cheap to eat rice and beans—and many Costa Ricans eat it for every meal and only get meat once or twice a month. And Costa Rica is one of the richest Latin American countries.

Would we rather be missionaries or billionaires?

Missionaries! I think it is more fun.

What made us want to be missionaries?

When God calls someone to be a missionary, He lets them know! He speaks to your heart and is very patient. Every person’s story is different, but we felt the call in our hearts first, and had it confirmed many, many times, in ways that were little miracles in our lives. It was a very exciting time. God wanting us to be missionaries made us want to be missionaries.

Do missionaries get killed telling people about the Lord?

This is definitely something that everyone who decides to become a missionary has to think about. It is true that people sometimes give their lives for the gospel, but more of them die because of difficult or unsafe conditions in the places they live. The biggest risk for us in Peru will be the traffic. There are very many car accidents in Peru, and we will have to be very careful. The air is really dirty there, too, because the air isn’t able to go over the mountains, and the pollution stays in the city. Sometimes we will go to the jungle, and that will have other risks, but most of our time will be in the city. We will need your prayers for our protection from thieves, too, as this is another real danger.

(The picture at the top is of our family in a traditional Costa Rican cart. The picture at the bottom is one I took on a city street in Lima. You can see how compromised the air quality is. Perhaps even more dangerous, though, is the taxi. It's a 3-wheeled motorcycle with a tent on the back!)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's that smell?

I'd be the first to admit that a men's bathroom might need an air freshener, but strawberries and cream is not a fragrance I associate with the bathroom. Nonetheless, this is the fragrance that sits atop the urinal in the men's bathroom of our language school. This is an example of culture shock. Culture shock is what happens when you spend all day asking, “Why do they do it that way?” Culture shock leaves you wondering if you'll ever be able to embrace it or if, as a missionary, you’ll just endure it. I have experiences of this nature every day--experiences that seem incongruent with my north American sensibilities. This is especially the case with fragrances. Latinos love strong fragrances. They wear a lot of cologne and buy cleaning products that smell more like bubble gum or flowers than bleach. Being North American, I want my bathroom to smell sanitized. I want a bathroom that smells like harsh chemicals. Latinos want everything to smell beautiful. Neither preference has any effect on the actual cleanliness of the toilet.

Just as I was contemplating culture shock and my inability to embrace a strawberries and cream bathroom, in walked one of my professors (Alex Garro). His expression said it all—it wasn’t culture shock and Latinos don’t like strawberry scented urinals! It just happened to be the air freshener that was around when the air needed freshening. Mmmmmm, that smells sweet.

Note: Alex’s expression is a reenactment. No actual bathroom usage was taking place during the photo journalistic phase of this blog entry.

How we are

We're at an interesting place in this process, we're able to communicate (which makes life much easier), but we're also aware that another huge move is only 6 weeks away. As such, on the outside, we're happy and content; while on the inside, we're fairly anxious. I’ve observed how all of us missionaries have responded to culture shock, and I've concluded that it is a horrible experience no matter how prepared you think you are. Anger, anxiety, depression, low self esteem and negative interpretation are the daily fare here--and they're confounded by the late night hours spent doing homework. After 9 months in Costa Rica, we're beginning to feel more comfortable. But, it is a short lived comfort, since we’re moving to Peru in January. I no longer think it will be a smooth and easy transition. I suspect that we’ll have a repeat of some of the same emotional and physical responses. It's ironic to feel stress when the weather is so nice. I've learned here that being a missionary in a lovely place is still very stressful. No matter how beautiful the place, the missionaries still pay the price of being far from family and friends. You can't quickly replace friendships that were forged over 20 years. So, beautiful weather aside, being a missionary is emotionally costly. If we didn't have a personal relationship with the living God, then it wouldn't be worth it. But, since our call to Peru has been so miraculously confirmed, then we have to believe that these light and momentary troubles will produce eternal fruit!

On the bright side, I preached my first Spanish sermon for the students and staff this past week and it went so well that I was invited to preach at a church this Sunday. Just before I went up to preach this past week, I became emotionally overwhelmed. The reality of fulfilling our call felt very near. We received the call to Peru four years ago. Preaching in Spanish became a realization of the nearness of fulfilling that call. By grace, it was a great experience.
(The picture, above, was taken just after my first Spanish sermon (this week). I'm chatting with one of our professors, Rosita. Lena is behind me, chatting with our friend and fellow missionary, Sherri Mattix.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Traditional dance

September 15, 1821 was the day Costa Rica was granted independence from Spain. In honor of the day, Costa Ricans celebrate with parades, parties and traditional dance. At our language school, the staff treated us to a presentation of traditional dance and food. It was a great day! Here's a video of the staff doing a dance from the Guanacaste region. In this dance, the man is chasing the girl trying to steal a kiss. When the couples come together, the man lifts his handkerchief in order to hide his attempt for a little smooch.

Lena and I liked this one so much, we tried it at home. But, since I don't have a handkerchief, I had to chase her with toilet paper.

Peruvian Coffee

The main cash crops of Peru are:
1. Coca--the leaves from which cocaine is manufactured.
2. Coffee--more than 350 million dollars worth, per year.
3. Asparagus
4. Paprika

The surprising item listed here is Coffee. People don't usually think of Peru as a great coffee producer, since the bulk of advertising regards Costa Rican and Colombian coffees. Nonetheless, Peru also produces great coffee. The irony has been that, even though the country produced great coffee, it was nearly impossible to get any of it in Peru. In the past, they exported all of the good stuff to the states. As such, in the past, our missionary friends in Peru would have friends bring coffee with them when they visited from the states. Or, in a truly ironic situation, you would have to buy Peruvian coffee at Starbucks--coffee which had been grown and roasted in Peru, shipped to the states for packaging, then shipped back to Peru for sale. As you can imagine, it's expensive. Now there is a move among coffee producers in Peru to hold back some of their produce for Peruvian consumption. That's really good news for me, since I love good coffee and my time in Costa Rica has only served to refine my tastes. I believe that God has some wonderful blessings for us in Peru and I'm believing that a good cup of coffee is one of them. (For more on Peruvian coffee, please visit:

A couple thoughts about the cash crops listed above:

1. Coca--though cocaine is produced from these leaves, they are also used for other productive purposes. In the culture of the people, they use them to make tea which is very effective for altitude sickness. Many of the tourists who visit Cuzco and Machu Pichu treat their altitude sickness with a traditional cup of coca tea.

2. Coffee--it's not really a bean. It's a fruit. On the trees, the fruit looks like cherries and produces a sweet juice. Inside the Cherri is the seed. That's the part we roast, grind and brew to make coffee. Who figured that out?

3. Asparagus--this is the first vegetable that I realized I really liked. It was a great eye opening experience which is still impacting my life today. My second favorite vegetable is broccoli.

4. Paprika--(the ground chilies at left) I know nothing about paprika, other than that it is used in baking. As such, I find it hard to think of paprika as a cash crop. When someone asks, "What do you do for a living?" Does anyone say, "Why, little darlin', I'm a Paprika farmer!" This is amazing to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Tribe found

Today, while chatting with my brother on the phone, he asked if there were still indians living in the jungles of South America. Just a few hours later, I read the following article from the BBC: In essence it states that a new tribe of nomadic indians has been spotted in the Peruvian jungle, near the border with Brazil. This is facinating to me and I'm looking forward to befriending and ministering among the indiginous people of the Amazon. (We have two Latin America ChildCare Schools in the jungle, though not among unknown tribes.) Unfortunatly, contact with outsiders can be deadly for tribes such as these, since they have no immunity to infectious diseases. I tend to think of the outsiders that they would encounter as missionaries, but the truth of the matter is that missionaries are not usually the first or only people to forge into the jungle. 100 years ago, it was industrial firms searching for rubber. Now, it is frequently oil firms, logging companies or environmentalists. (It would be a horrible irony to catch a deadly disease from an environmentalist. It's important to note that environmentalists can also catch diseases from jungle dwellers.) When Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador, returned to Peru for his second visit, 1/3 of the population had been decimated by infectious diseases contracted from the Spanard's virst visit. Unfortunately, another 1/3 died from civil war, so that contact with outsiders is not the only evil that may befall native peoples. In the end, keeping a people group alive by restricting their contact with the outside world is an impossibility. They will eventually die of something. There are infectious diseases and deadly dangers that have nothing to do with people from other communities. Jungle natives, like their city dwelling counterparts, have no immunity against sin or death--both of which they are guarenteed to experience. That's why we're going to Peru. There are a lot of people who are lost in the jungle--whether it is the Amazon Jungle or the concrete jungle of Lima (with over 8 million people). They all need to know the good news of eternal life that is the gift of Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis said that the Gospel is like a virus and that our job is to infect the world.

(The picture above is of the Yagua tribe.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How much can you do in a year?

People write and ask, "Are you still in Costa Rica or are you in Peru? We’re still in Costa Rica, learning Spanish and practicing ministry in a "latin" context. We are scheduled to leave here on December 17. We’ll be in Cincinnati and Cleveland for the Christmas holidays and to ship our belongings to Peru. We fly out on January 5. We flew here on January 3, last year. So, it’s almost exactly one year from our departure from Cincinnati, to our arrival in Peru. I’m not sure why that’s significant, but it feels somehow significant. Whether a year is a long time or a short time depends on your context. To Americans, a year sounds like a significant chunk of time. To cultures outside the states, North Americans appear to be overly aware of (some would say obsessed with) calenders and clocks. If your having fun, a year goes by really fast. If your studying for a Spanish test, a year seems like a long time. We've been hear for 9 1/2 months. Since we're eager to fulfill our call to Peru, being in Costa Rica has (at times) felt like waiting in an airport for a connecting flight. When you're eager, waiting is hard. Sometimes, like when you're waiting in an airport, it feels like nothing significant is taking place. When you're learning a language and a new culture, changes come painfully slowly. But, over time, little changes add up to a lot. Consequently, in the midst of my own feelings of frustration, I’m also aware of many changes that are taking place; e.g., the ability to speak Spanish. There are plenty of days (most of them, to be honest) when I’m exhausted by all the work and I wonder when the process of metamorphosis will end (or at least slow down).

So, what does 9 1/2 months of language and missions training produce? Well, if you're Lena, you come out sounding like a native. If you're a 46 year old white guy, people say things like, "Don't worry--lots of guys your age struggle!" I’m able to have long conversations in Spanish, go to the store without problems and even have a "firm discussion" with the manager of a store over why he's not allowed to charge me twice for the same purchase. So, I can do a lot, but I can't function as well in Spanish as I can in English--or even Pig Latin. I’m not yet able to understand the evening news in Spanish or to read a book any more difficult than First Grade.

One of the greatest strains of being here is leaving a vocation where you were confident and appreciated, to come to a place where you are incompetent and unknown. But I am well aware of the fact that no one is unknown to God, nor incompetent; and, as Paul said, these light and momentary troubles are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us. (2 Corinthians 4:17) For us, that means both heaven and a glorious work in Peru “which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) All in all, I feel like one of the most blessed people alive. I get the chance to go on an adventure with Jesus, wait in the airport for a year, learn a new language, feel like a nobody and carry the Gospel to a whole new people group. Que Bueno!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hannah is a teenager

Our daughter, Hannah, turned 13 this week. A lot of parents dread the teenage years, but for us, the last few days have been just as fabulous as the 4383 that preceded them. Hannah is beautiful, funny and very charismatic. I'm so glad that I get to be her dad. Here are a few shots of her through the years.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chess & Purpose

Colton and I play a lot of chess. At only ten years old, he frequently beats me. That makes me mighty proud!

In chess, the object is to capture your opponent's King. It's easy to forget this and think that the object is to take out your opponent's players. Capturing your opponents players feels like progress. Whenever someone asks, "Who's winning?" It's easy to point to the pile of captured players and say, "Well Bob has captured more men." It sounds great, but it could be meaningless. Often, taking out your opponent's players can actually hurt you. It may be better to have the King blocked in by his own army. The worst scenario is when you could "checkmate" your opponent's King, but you miss the opportunity because you're so focused on capturing his/her Queen. Capturing your opponent's players feels great and looks like success, but it's not the purpose of the game.

One of the great challenges in life is keeping your purpose, priorities and/or focus on your strategic target and not on the periphery--no matter how much the latter looks like success.

“Therefore … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,…” Heb 12:1-2

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Family Vacation

My sister and brother-in-law (Leisa & Tim Johnson) joined us for a week of vacation. We visited the Poas Volcano (with the 2nd largest crater in the world), the La Paz waterfalls and the Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw monkeys, sloths and Lizards. The sights were wonderful, but nothing compares to having those you love near enough to hug!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

“Knowledge tells us that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom prevents us from putting it into a fruit salad.”

Miles Kington, British humorist

Saturday, September 08, 2007

You know you're a missionary kid when...

Yesterday, I was playing an educational computer game with Willy (age 4). The game showed three drawings: a triangle, a square and a circle. The game required that Willy identify the circle without using the word "circle." So I said, "it's kind of like the shape of an apple." Willy wasn't sure what an apple was (even though he eats them, cut up, every day). So I said, "Well, then, kind of like the shape of an orange." Willy had no idea. Finally, I said, "It's like a mango." Willy said, "Oh!" and immediately chose the circle.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Mother Teresa - Doubt, Devout & Depressed

Mother Teresa is in the news again. This time, it's her doubt. Mother Teresa's journey to fame and depression started with a prophetic call from Jesus. Shortly after following God's calling to serve the poor of Calcutta, she entered into depression and ceased to hear God's voice for nearly 50 years. She wrote letters to friends about her pain and her difficulty hearing God's voice. She wrote to her friend Michael Van Der Peet, "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

I want to share 3 thoughts:

1) People who hear God's voice often go through periods of difficulty where they can't hear. This is normal and should be expected. People in the world act like Christians shouldn't struggle. The truth is that everyone struggles. In fact, the more powerful your vision, the more significant your challenge, the more you will struggle.

2) Don't judge a Christian by the things they confess to their closest friends. We all need a friend to whom we can confess our feelings and perceptions--especially those that are ugly, difficult or seemingly contradictory. That's a part of who we are, but it's not the whole story. I once read a blog article about a guy who visited a German spa where everyone was naked. His assessment was that most people look better with their clothes on. Reading someone's journal entries, or their letters to a prayer partner, is like looking at a person who is naked. It may be true, but it isn't a complete picture of a person's life. The clothes a person wears tells you more about their personality, thoughts and values. Jesus said that you can tell a tree by it's fruit. Mother Teresa was mighty fruitful! To discredit her fruit because she had times of difficult honesty is unrealistically immature. Her struggles, though true, are merely one tree in the vast landscape of her life.

3) God speaks, but he doesn't always speak when or how we want him to. For our part, we often create obstacles to our own ability to hear. There have been times when I was overworked and horribly depressed. I've found in those times that it is very hard (nearly impossible) to hear God's voice. There is an irony to those times. The truth is that God speaks during those times--but not necessarily on the topics that I'm most interested in. Sometimes it's because God has already spoken on the topics and I just didn't hear what I wanted. Other times it was because I was too exhausted. Mother Teresa was an exhausted person. She didn't leave a lot of time to relax. In fact, in spite of the grace she showed the poor of Calcutta, she didn't have very much grace for herself or for her co-laborers. She was so purpose driven to serve God selflessly that she missed a big part of the Gospel--Grace! Mother Teresa needed a long vacation and, probably, an antidepressant. But, she couldn't allow these liberties in her life. I saw a documentary on her life, where her charity was given a building in New York City. The building had new industrial carpet in it (which works well in chilly New York), but Mother Teresa tore it out and declared it to be an unnecessary luxury. She also ran into trouble with New York state officials because the law required an elevator in the building. Mother Teresa wouldn't have the building, if it contained an elevator. To Mother Teresa an unnecessary luxury was viewed as an EVIL luxury. She valued simplicity so highly that normal comforts were viewed as sinful. For that reason, she wore sandals in the snow. Like many devout Catholics throughout history, the concept of personally inflicting suffering on oneself was seen as being spiritual. Unfortunately, it also gets in the way of us receiving God's affection--which includes hearing his voice in prayer. There is an irony in the fact that when Mother Teresa heard God's call to the poor of Calcutta, she was on a vacation that had been forced on her by her superiors. The vacation (a Sabbath) provided the space she needed to hear the voice of God. But when Mother Teresa was in charge of her own order, she wouldn't force herself to take a vacation. Sabbath is an act of faith that God values highly. Mother Teresa became a victim of her "purpose driven" life.

I'd like sum all of this up by saying that I think Mother Teresa is one of the greatest examples of leadership from the 20th century. She knew where she wanted to go, she went there with painful dedication, and her vision and purpose inspired others to follow her. I also do not think that her struggles with depression mean anything with regard to her faith. Her fruit speaks far more. Nonetheless, she failed her followers and disobeyed the Lord by not allowing more sabbath rest in her life. We get saved by grace, we have to live by grace and without grace, it's impossible to hear the voice of God.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Earthquake update

Here is information from AG Relief, the division of the Assemblies of God that assists relief efforts. This was written by my friend Rich Ferguson, missionary to Peru:

Greetings from Lima,

First of all we would like to thank you for your prayers and also for the overwhelming support Peru is receiving from the missionaries in our region.

I met with the Superintendent of Peru, Rodrigo Espinoza, and have the following information to share with you:

15 Assemblies of God churches were completely destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the affected zone.

9 Pastoral homes were completely destroyed.
Only 2 Assemblies of God members are confirmed dead.

According to the Peruvian TV, 70% of the city of Pisco is destroyed (population 110,000), 40% of the city of Ica is destroyed (population 260,000), 30% of Chincha is destroyed (population 160,000) and 30% of Canete is destroyed (population 160,000).
At this time the official death toll is 510, the injured are 1,150 and those left homeless are 80,000.

The desperate needs are water, non perishable food, blankets, warm clothes, tents, medicine (

pain relief and antibiotics), generators, batteries, flashlights.

Making the relief aid more difficult is that the Panamerican Highway that runs south of Lima is severely damaged as well. Many bridges have collapsed and there are multiple places where the road has been damaged. Several areas were also affected by landslides. A trip that normally takes 2 hours is taking longer than 8, and trucks have been looted on their way.

Please pray for strength and wisdom for those bringing aid. Pray for safety and miracles for those searching for the missing. Pray for peace that passes understanding and hope that only comes from knowing the Lord for the millions that are on their knees tonight.
For our brothers and sisters in the central coast of Peru,
Rich and Wanda Ferguson

An update from AGRelief can be found at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Poverty is in more places than Peru

Today, this story came from the Associated Press:

By Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland was ranked as the nation's fourth poorest big city Tuesday after spending two of the last three years at the top of the U.S. Census Bureau's list. Cleveland was behind Detroit, Buffalo, N.Y., and Cincinnati, which jumped from No. 8 on last year's list, according to data from the American Community Survey. The rankings reflect the number of people living below the poverty level in 2006. The survey indicates that 27 percent of Cleveland's population was below the poverty level last year, compared with 32.4 percent in 2005.

Cincinnati, which had 27.8 percent of its residents living in poverty in 2006, has seen increases in each of the last three years. The Ohio River city was No. 22 in 2004 with 19.6 percent and last year entered the top 10 with 25 percent living in poverty. Although Cincinnati ranked one spot ahead of Cleveland, when accounting for the margin of error, the estimates for the two cities were not significantly different.

The ranking includes all U.S. cities with 250,000 or more people.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Magnitude-8 earthquake hits Peru

As I write, the death toll of the magnitude-8 earthquake in Peru has surpassed 450. There are many more still covered in the southern cities of Ica and Pisco. Many have written asking if we’re safe. We’re very safe. We’re currently in San Jose, Costa Rica. We’ll be moving to Peru in January. As such, the earthquake has not affected us. We have friends in Peru, all of whom are also safe. Nonetheless, we ask that you pray for the many families who have been devastated by this. May God heal the sick and use this to reveal the love and power of Jesus.

This photo, as well as a slide show of the devastation, can be found on the NPR web site here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toucan Sam 2

Here's the still shot of my interview with Toucan Sam. See the video and story of our interview below.

My interview with Toucan Sam

I met Toucan Sam--the toucan from the Fruit Loops commercials. He's retired now, except for a few publicity shots and ribbon cutting ceremonies at strip malls. He lives in a retirement jungle here in Costa Rica, along with Tony the Tiger, the Twix Rabit and the Frog from Super Golden Suger Crips. Sam has been divorced and remarried 10 times. His current marriage appears to be rocky. I tried to interview him, but he kept arguing with his wife. Here's the footage from our time together.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

La Negrita

August 2 is a national holiday in Costa Rica. It's the day of the Costa Rican patron saint: La Negrita (the little black one). Each year, as many as a million people walk hundreds of miles to beg for the statue's blessing. Wednesday night, I went to the main street of town and watched as thousands walked by. When the crowds reach the front of the cathedral that houses the statue, the crawl on their knees before the statue. The story is interesting and is repeated in other parts of Latin America.

On August 2, 1635, a woman found a small, black stone carving of Mary holding the baby Jesus on top of another stone. She took it home and hid it in a basket. The next day she found a black carving of a snake in the same spot. She took it home and, when she went to put it in the basket with the statue of Mary, found the original statue missing. The next day she found the statue of Mary back on the rock. She took it home and found the statue of the snake missing. After this happened a few more times, it was concluded that Mary wanted a Cathedral built on the spot. So, the cathedral of "the Virgin of the Angels," was built and now houses the statue. There is a small stream nearby which is believed to have healing powers. In 1824, the Costa Rican government declared the statue to be the patron saint of Costa Rica.

It's important to note that the idol is in the center front of the church. The church, even though Catholic, does not revolve around the image or story of Jesus. The church revolves around the adoration of a small stone statue. When I ask Costa Ricans if the statue is Mary or what the meaning of the statue is, they don't know. Latin culture is far less interested in making things make sense than North American culture. They don't care that their patron saint was never actually a person, since Mary is not the patron saint. Rather, the little black statue "La Nagrita" is the patron saint.

The fact that over a million people endure difficulty to beg a stone statue for a blessing is evidence of spiritual hunger. It is continued evidence of the need to bring a message of power and hope to this hungry people.

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. 2Co 6:16-18

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thank you!

The picture here is of Pastor Buster Gilliam of Willow Bend Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. The kids in vacation Bible school raised $200 for missons in a contest between the boys and the girls. Pastor Buster promised that whichever team won could hit him in the face with a pie! As you can see, the boys won. Buster wrote, "I started to tell you that I 'took a bullet for you...' but in truth, it was only a cream pie!

The Spanish phrase "me cuesta" or "le cuesta" is used when something is difficult or costly. We have a similar idea when we say, "It's costly to serve the Lord." This phrase is on my mind today, because I'm aware of the sacrifice of others in order to enable us to serve the Lord as missionaries. Going to the mission field, leaving our family and friends, has been really costly. But it's also costly for those who are on our team paying the price financially and in prayer--taking a pie for us! I want to say thanks to all those who have made this possible.

As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:18-19, your partnership with the Lord in this mission is "a fragrant j offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs k according to his glorious riches l in Christ Jesus."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Who's in charge?

Abi and I like to sit on our hammock and talk about life. Recently, I asked her if she had names for her toes. She said no, so I suggested some names for her toes--Bob, Frita, Leonard, etc.

She said, "No Daddy, they're our family!"

"Oh, so am I the big toe?"

"No, that's Mommy!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007


When I was a kid, we had a boat on the Ohio River. Because rivers have bends and curves, it's easy to run aground. When my dad let me drive, he advised me to keep my eyes on a point in the distance and aim for that point. That's been great advise for my life. I want to share some thoughts about the importance of purpose--living a "purpose driven life," and living toward a target. If you don't pick a target, you'll run aground. Your life will be, literally, "pointless." If you state that you have a target, but you're not making decisions to actually get there, you're like an arrow without feathers--flying fast through the air, but not any closer to the target. Living purposefully is one of the most important traits of a successful life and is, undoubtedly, the primary character trait of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

Matthew 16:21-24 is just one example of Jesus knowing and living toward his purpose. In this passage, he defines part of our purpose; i.e., to follow him.

Mt 16:21-24: From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

We received our call to Peru in December of 2003. It's been a long haul since then. I knew when we received the call, that it would be about 4 years before we actually made it to the field. It became a target in the distance and we've been living "toward" it ever since. There are a lot of opportunities to "run aground" in four years. But, thankfully, the Holy Spirit's job is to keep us afloat. I'm grateful that we're now able to see the light at the end of this long tunnel. Lord willing, we'll be in Peru shortly. Purpose, in life, is like the rings of a target. There's often more than one ring--though they all circle around or point to the center point. For us, the center point is Jesus and the advancement of the kingdom by preaching the Gospel. For us, the rings around this center will be working with Latin America Childcare, teaching, preaching, evangelizing, hosting teams and falling in love with the people of Peru.
(The pictures: 1) My beloved Ohio River, taken from Eden Park. 2) Colton shooting an arrow at a Royal Ranger camp-out here in Costa Rica. Shooting an arrow gives you a great idea of how important it is to keep your eye on the target and how easy it is to lose your arrows in the weeds.)


Abi is by far the cutest missionary on the Shrader team. She'll turn 3 in a few weeks. Three is one of my favorite ages because kids say ridiculous and cute things. Since she's not three yet, she's just now starting to say funny things. Before now, she's made up for her tiny vocabulary with a mighty attitude. It's clear that Abi and Will have an edge on the rest of us with regard to learning Spanish. Tonight, Abi said to me (in Spanish), "You're Daddy! Papa and Daddy. And, Mommy is Mama and Mommy!" Lena laughed and said, "I wondered how long it would take her to figure out that she's speaking two languages."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Covetousness is like an itchy welt

Covetousness is like the type of mosquito bite that leaves a huge welt and itches for days. We don't have a car in Costa Rica. We walk or take taxis, which makes our experience much closer to that of the average Costa Rican. Most of the time it's no problem, but it does require one to think and plan ahead. I've always loved cars and have owned one or more for the past 30 years--until we arrived in Costa Rica. So, for the fun of it, we rented a car this past weekend. Since there are 6 in our family, we needed something more than a small sedan. The nice minivans were all rented, so we ended up in a 2002 Kia Joice. It's the size of a Toyota Corolla with seating for 7. It was an old, run-down, undependable rental car--and I loved it! When it was time to turn it in, it hurt. Having the car for two days gave me a taste for car freedom. It whet my appetite for more. Now I'm left with the nasty, itchy welt that I mentioned before. In a few days, the welt will disappear and the itch will fade away. There's a reason why the Lord forbids covetousness in his list of the big 10--it robs one of joy and clouds your vision from seeing all the wonderful gifts you already have.

Journey to Granada Nicaragua

Every 90 days, we have to cross the border in order to renew our visas for Costa Rica. This month, we visited Granada Nicaragua. It was my favorite town, so far, in Central America. It had the rustic charm of a Spanish outpost from 200 years ago. It also had a discotech playing Mexican polka music late into the night. Charm and polka--it doesn't get any better than that! There's a huge lake near Granada, with 2 Volcanoes in the lake. For a much better view of the pictures, along with my comments about each, please visit:

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Machu Pichu--7 Wonders of the World

The New 7 Wonders of the World have been voted on by people all over the world and Machu Pichu is on the list.

Here is a link to an lovely MSN slide show of the 7 wonders. All are amazing. The statue of "Christ the Redeemer" in Brazil is really inspiring. There is a copy of it in Peru, though it isn't as impressively situated over a major city.

Machu Pichu from MSN Travel: "Rediscovered in 1911 and believed to be the legendary "lost city of the Incas", the dramatic ruins of Machu Picchu, set high in Peru's Andes Mountains, are the only significant Incan site to remain unharmed by the 16th-century Spanish conquistadors. Theories about the site's role in the Inca Empire continue to inspire intellectual curiosity, but its stunning landscape—the way the limestone temples, steep terraces, and aqueducts complement the land, in keeping with the Incan veneration of nature, and the way daybreak slowly creeps over the majestic peaks, unveiling the ruins stone by stone—is what makes Machu Picchu one of the most spectacular sights in South America—and the world over."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Peru--Stark & Beautiful Slideshow

This is a slideshow I put together a while back about the geography, economy and people of Peru. I'm posting it here as a little reminder of where and why we're going. Now that we've hit the half-way point of our language school studies, we're getting mighty eager to be in the land of God's calling. To control the slide show, just click on the pictures. To see a larger & slower version, so you can actually read the slides, click on this link:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Cool facts about Peru

Some cool trivia tidbits about Peru: (adapted from

The Lima bean is Peruvian.

The tomato, taken to Europe by the Spaniards, is Peruvian.

The potato: More than 5.000 varieties of potatoes originated in Peru, some of which were taken to Europe by the Spaniards around 1560 and by the English around 1580.

Quinua, a high-protein grain with more than 25 varieties, is Peruvian.

The Paso horse—it has a very funky gate, whereby it throws its feet out to the side, rather than in front.

Alpaca (a type of llama) are Peruvian.

The finest cotton in the world is Peruvian: Pima and Tanguis.

Peru has some of the best waves to surf in the world. (Seen somewhat in the photo of Lima, above).

Peru has 468 different dishes, which according to The Guinness Book of World Records is the largest variety in the world.

The weeping willow tree, which contains a component that is the base for aspirin, is Peruvian.

The University of San Marcos (in Lima), established in 1551, is the oldest University in the Americas.

In Peru there are more than 50 mountains over 6,000 m.a.s.l. (19,685 >ft.)

84 of the 103 ecosystems that exist in the world are in Peru.

4 of the ten cereals that exist in the world are native to Peru. The quinoa, maize, cañihua, and kiwicha. The latter has been considered by NASA as an important element in an astronauts diet.

ANTAMINA, the largest mine in the world, is located in Peru's central highlands.

Lake Titicaca, shared by Peru and Bolivia, is the highest navigable lake in the world.

The official government gazette, El Peruano, is the oldest daily in South America. It was founded in 1825 by Simón Bolívar.

28 different types of climates develop in Perú, placing it among the 5 most biologically diversified countries in the world.

In the Oriental Andes region one can find more than 2,800 varieties of orchids, of which 2,000 have been classified to date.

The Peruvian ocean offers 700 different varieties of fish and 400 varieties of shellfish.

It’s the oldest habitat for humans in the western hemisphere; i.e., the oldest mummies and archaeological finds are Peruvian. The oldest mummy in the Americas is called “Señor of Sipán.” It is only comparable to that of Tutankamon in Egypt.

The Nazca lines located app. 460 km south of Lima.

And without any doubt "MACHU PICCHU."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Some Rough Days

Last Sunday was Father's Day. It was the anniversary of the last conversation I had with my dad. I couldn't be with him on that Father's Day, because we were preaching in a town on the western border of Kentucky. We took the camper with us, which was our final camping trip. I remember only snippets of that final conversation with my father. Mostly, we talked about camping and the importance of problem solving in life. Dad was alert and in a good mood. I cried at the end of the conversation, because it was so sweet and so uncommon given his failing health. I told him that we'd be back home on Tuesday night and that I'd be over on Wednesday morning to give him his Father's Day gift. My father died that Wednesday morning before I made it to their house.

Father's Day, one year later, I find myself in a mall in Costa Rica. Colton's birthday was on Monday and we were desperately trying to find him a pair of "Heelys"--those shoes with the wheels in the heals. All the stores in Costa Rica are sold out of his size. I found myself getting more and more upset. We reached the end of our search and I sat down on a bench in despair. Lena asked me what I wanted and I burst into tears. I wanted my dad. The following 24 hours (i.e., Colton's birthday) were pretty rough. I couldn't stop crying. It's very hard to sit in a grammar class conjugating verbs when you're fighting back tears. People would ask how my Father's Day was and I responded by crying. It was a rough day. And, to make matters worse, I felt the need to be chipper and enthusiastic for my son.
We spent the rest of that afternoon looking for Heelys, which we never found. We ended up eating a very late dinner at Tony Romas (the rib joint). The food was great, but our entire meal was absconded by Mormon missionaries who were trying to witness to us. As such, Colton's 10th birthday is not one that will be remembered fondly, but may afford us a few laughs in the future. Colton will be able to say, "That was the day dad drove around the city crying, looking for shoes that I never got, capped off by a Mormon who ignored all our social cues."

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my Dad's passing. I feel sad about it, but at the same time, I suspect that there's a strong chance it'll be an improvement.

Please pray for my mom, myself, Lena and the kids, and my siblings. We all feel the loss of my father deeply.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gestational Homesickness

We're at the half-way point of our time here and I have to admit that we're experiencing a lot of longing. One one hand we're definitely homesick--longing for familiar friends and flavors. On the other hand, we're Peru-sick--longing for the next step in God's awesome adventure. I recently e-mailed a friend in Peru about these emotions, saying that it feels like being stuck in an airport for a year, waiting for a connecting flight. I try to keep in mind that it’s like being a baby in gestation. As much as the mother wants the baby to pop out early, it is far better if the gestation time is completed. Please pray for us, for the grace to enjoy where the Lord has us for today, while looking forward to the promises and mission that lies ahead.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Family Update & learning Spanish

To my blog-reading buddies and buddettes, my apology for the delay in updates. I've decided that it's easy to see where I am with Spanish, based upon my blog posts. Since the last update was three weeks ago, it's safe to say that I'm in the thick of it.

Good news: Hannah and Colton passed onto their respective grades (7th & 4th) and are now on summer break. The really good news is that they still go to school! They do get home an hour earlier and their classes don't give homework. It's like attending an academic summer camp. Their classes include science (mostly fun experiments), drama and (of course) Spanish. Recently, Colton confessed that Spanish is his favorite subject. That's a big jump from his previous favorites: Gym and recess. Today I was very proud when one of our Spanish teachers said that Colton asked her a question yesterday (in Spanish) and understood her answer. The irony is that this professor speaks perfect English. Don't tell Colton.