Saturday, August 20, 2016

Care Pt. 1 ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica

You have not lived today until you have done
something for someone who cannot repay you.
~John Bunyan

At two years old, Kenneth is severely underweight and has cerebral palsy. His mother Saida is due next month with another baby.

They are Cabecar Indians, the most isolated indigenous tribe in Costa Rica. Their home is a two hour drive and a day's walk into the jungle, far from the medical aid a child with cerebral palsy requires.

After Kenneth's birth, he and his mother stayed at the St. Francis Emmaus Center to recover. But when Kenneth's father said to come home, they did. Weeks later Kenneth was dying of malnutrition. They made the journey back to the hospital where they received needed medical care. They stayed at St. Francis and have lived there ever since.

Saida, Kenneth, and the soon-to-be-born baby's future are uncertain to say the least. I think of the challenges my own daughter faces daily with an almost two year old and an infant . . . forget a life threatening disability, mountain jungle, inaccessibility to medical care, and instability of family life. How will they ever manage?

This week the women of our team have taken turns holding Kenneth so Saida can work. 

She is excellent at jewelry making and works with incredible focus. Of course! It's a piece of jewelry to us, but Saida knows her efforts will earn her a fair wage and create life changing opportunities for her family.

Poverty is isolating and constricting (Proverbs 19:4, 7) but through The LOV Foundation's collaboration with the St. Francis Emmaus Center, and ViBella Jewelry, Saida and women like her are being given options for their future and the future of their children. 

Your purchases and support of these organizations directly impact Kenneth and Saida and mothers and children like them. 

Here are some ways you can join us in this good work!

- purchase founder Colleen Mitchell's newly released book, Who Does He Say You Are?

- get involved

purchase products and provide sustainable employment for women 

Find us on social media at #lovcostarica

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Community ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica

The language veiled her words, but tears told her broken story. I understood the words abuse, hunger, and homelessness. All foreign despite my ability to translate. But there were familiar words too. Sorrow. Depression. Fear. Her story was a world apart in many ways, yet ultimately not unlike my own and yours.

In the end, every woman's heart longs for the same love. 

Her moist eyes shined as she talked of  strength and friendship found with Colleen and the other women at the mission. Laughing, she said men don't understand women like women do. How could they? 

A community of women who break and bind, cry and laugh, and live and love in the security and truth of their Father's love is unsurpassed in its power to heal and empower.

It's so easy to complicate it. 

Is the house clean enough? Is the couch new enough? Will they like the food? Is my outfit in style? Does my hair look okay? We can consume ourselves with fears of rejection and have nothing left to share.

How do we get community so wrong? 

When they measure themselves by themselves 
and compare themselves with themselves, 
they lack wisdom and behave like fools. 
~2 Corinthians 10:12

Jesus gives us another model, as He meets us at the point of our need. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 
but in humility count others 
more significant than yourselves. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 
but also to the interests of others. 
Have this mind among yourselves, 
which is yours in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God, 
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 
being born in the likeness of men. 
And being found in human form, 
he humbled himself by becoming obedient 
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
~Philippians 2:3-8

There's a freedom hidden in humility that is as rare and precious as gold. It releases us from the tyranny of trying to control the thoughts, opinions, and judgments of others—something totally outside of our realm. 

In this freedom and relinquishing our own interests, we discover community, compassion, and genuine care.

I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles, 
And to wipe the weeping eyes; 
And a heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.
~Anna Laetitia Waring

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Collaboration ~ The LOV Foundation in Costa Rica

Find where God is working and meet Him there.
~Henry Blackaby

Sunday evening we gathered with twenty women to hear Nicol Epple, founder of The LOV Foundationshare her passion to care for at-risk and exploited women.

The women were brought together by Martha Mason, who welcomed them by reading this quote: 

If you want to make a difference with people, 
you just need to find like-minded people 
who share a common goal for doing something significant.
You just need to want to make a difference together.
~John Maxwell

Martha shared how she'd found encouragement in her own dreams and endeavors when attending Winsome two years ago. This year Martha heard Nicol speak at Winsome and contacted her soon after, expressing her desire to support The LOV Foundation. Nicol promptly invited her to “Come to Costa Rica with me!” Martha was surprised at Nicol’s invitation, but she said yes!

On Sunday, Nicol discussed the sobering statistics of sexual abuse and all its snowball effects . . . addiction, poverty, dysfunction, isolation, broken lives. The LOV Foundation will be opening a home in Pennsylvania to care for women like these in October. 

So why in the world are we in Costa Rica? You can read this post for more details, but the short answer is . . . collaboration.

Nicol and I met via the internet years ago. Two years ago, I met Amy Breitmann who works for ViBella and has partnered with Winsome the last two years. Last year, I introduced Nicol to Amy, and Amy introduced Nicol to Colleen Mitchell. Colleen invited Nicol to come to Costa Rica and work with the women she and her family serve at the St. Francis Emmaus Center.

That's the short version. The connections form a beautiful tapestry that is almost too complicated to follow. It’s amazing how likes, friends, and posts on social media outlets can grow into kingdom work! <<< tweet this

We arrived in Costa Rica Monday afternoon and were greeted by Colleen and her son. 

As we made the two hour journey from the capital city to their mountain home, Colleen shared the story of how her family came to this mission. The windy, two-lane mountain roads, twisted and turned and went up and down as if in synchrony.

Colleen's beautiful story is unique, but like most God-sized dreams, it contains some common threads . . . a dream born of struggle and pain, unexpected paths, and a mission way bigger than a single person. Collaboration isn’t a nice idea; it's a necessity! <<< tweet this

Today, we gathered with another group of women. While many of the women we met Sunday evening were strangers, the diversity amongst this group is more significant—a different culture, different lifestyles, and most challenging, a different language.

Seated around tables, Nicol explained in broken Spanish what we'd be doing as we began our collaboration. It was a slow start, but the women caught on quickly. And quickly surpassed us with their skills!

After lunch, Nicol shared how despite our different backgrounds, we are sisters in Christ and that is more than enough for friendship and collaboration.

It's said when you put two draft horses side by side, they can actually pull not double but more than three times what each could pull individually. Even so, the exponential effect of collaboration goes beyond production.

To collaborate is to co-labor. Every woman brings unique strengths as well as weaknesses. Together each individual is strengthened and stretched as our hearts and minds are enlarged.

Are you wondering where God might be leading you? Find where He is working and meet Him there.

Chances are you'll find some sisters too.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why I'm Going to Costa Rica

I'm driving through the countryside near our home. The curvy back roads hug the base of the mountain ridge like a summer skirt. Centuries-old stone farmhouses stand framed by broad, green fields, lazy cattle, blue sky, and billowy clouds. 

My pulse slows. Shallow breaths find the fullness that has evaded them for days. My heart and mind settle in the peaceful rest only such beauty offers. I talk to God and sing, and I'm overwhelmed by His great love and faithfulness.

My trip takes me through a small town. As I approach, my heart begins to sink. The surrounding beauty grows dim in my mind. I remember the strip clubs I'll pass in a few minutes. Two of them, separated by hardly a block. 

The first one I pass says they're hiring dancers. I think about the woman who will "apply" and what brings her so low that she'd suffer such indignity. 

The next one I pass is fancier than the first. They have billboards along the highway. They call it a gentlemen's club. Is this a joke? Gentleman means a noble man. The kind that protects not exploits a woman's inherent worth. It's what we've taught our sons to be, encouraging them to aspire to the ideal of a man who treats every woman as they would their own mother or sister. 

The sign says, "Come on in. Your wife said it's OK." 

I'm stunned. 

In less than ten seconds, I've witnessed two damning evidences of our culture's deep depravation. To think people could openly hire women to strip and suggest that the sacred bond of marriage can tolerate, even endorse, infidelity. 

The countless victims left in the wake of such deceit is mind-boggling. 

Men enslaved. 

Marriages destroyed. 

Children left vulnerable without the protection of family and conjugal (from con- togetherjugum a yoke’) love. 

And women. Countless women. Used up and discarded.


In two days I will travel to the mountains of central Costa Rica. 

I'm going with my friend Nicol and five other women. Nicol and I met via the Internet five years ago when we both were hesitatingly stepping out in our dreams to encourage women. She has since spoken at Winsome twice, educating women about human sex trafficking, and she has founded The LOV Foundation, which will be opening a home for rescued women in Pennsylvania this fall. Nicole has also lectured on women's issues at Oxford, is finishing her doctorate, and has become an international advocate for at risk and exploited women.

I met another woman at a conference briefly four years ago. It was a quick introduction, but I remember exactly where I was standing and how I thought I'd like to get to know her better. Colleen and her family founded St. Bryce Missions and the St. Francis Emmaus Center in the mountains of Costa Rica, where they have worked with indigenous people to lower the infant mortality rate. They do this primarily by opening their home to women pre- and postpartum. Their success has garnered the attention of local government leaders:

Nicol and Colleen connected, and we will be serving local women in Costa Rica by teaching them to make jewelry. The jewelry will be sold through ViBella, another hardworking group of women fighting to help disadvantaged women in Mexico, Haiti, and the midwest.

By making jewelry, the women we work with will be given sustainable employment and, thereby, be significantly less at risk for being trafficked or otherwise taken advantage of. 

That's what I will do in Costa Rica. 

In the last week, two people have asked me why I'm going. And I've struggled to answer. 

I'm hyperaware of the White Savior Barbie complex and the dangers of voluntourismand I don't want to be guilty of either. I know the money I spend on this trip could be donated directly to a charitable organization. It's a sobering thought.


Not five minutes later, I come out the other side of the small town and reenter the peaceful countryside, and I think I have a better idea why I'm going to Costa Rica. 

I'm a woman who knows she is "fearfully and wonderfully made" and deeply loved by her maker. 


My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
~Psalm 139:13-18

I want to do whatever I can to bring that truth to women everywhere. 

I would love to share our trip with you! I'll be blogging my way through it and invite you to follow along and witness the wonderful work of these organizations and the beauty of the women they serve.

Please pray for us.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tried By Fire

I've loved it as long as I can remember—the woodsy smell, the crackling, popping sound. Fire.

Maybe it's my memories of camping with my family in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. My Brooklyn-bred dad always seemed happiest there. Whatever it is, the red glow and heat have always mesmerized me.

But fire and its glowing cousins haven't always provided happy memories. We've had our mishaps. Of all my fuzzy recollections of childhood, some of the most distinct involve fire.

I must have been five years old, sitting by my muse and watching her colorful dance . . . blue, white, red, and orange. The glowing spark flew out of the fireplace and landed on the carpet. I touched it with my finger, and it burned me. 

The lamp on my dad's nightstand, white hot and glowing. I grabbed it, and it burned.

My mom told the story of the bright red rings across my little hands when I couldn't resist the glow of the electric stove.

Maybe I'm dense. Or maybe there is some mysterious siren call.

Not all my fire foibles were self-inflicted. If you ever find me standing around a fire making s'mores with small children, you will hear my flaming marshmallow story. Ask any of my kids.

"Yes, Mom, we know. You were roasting marshmallows, your friend's caught on fire, and she waved it around, and it flew and landed still on fire on your knee, and you had to put it out with your bare hands, and the marshmallow goo burnt your fingers and knee which blistered, and you have the scars to prove it. Can I please have another marshmallow? I promise I'll blow it out, if it catches on fire."

Jeff and the boys built me a fire pit last year for Mother's Day. It was a cool summer, so we used it often. But this fall and spring I was working and going to bed by nine, so our evenings by the fire didn't happen.

Now it's July, and I watch the weather almost daily to see if it will be cool enough for a fire in the evening. With temperatures reaching the nineties and beyond, it rarely is. Who wants to sit beside a fire when it's eighty-something degrees outside?

This morning I woke with Jeff at five. I've been trying to beat the heat on the front porch for my reading and writing. I check the weather. Only sixty-three degrees!

After ten minutes in the cool morning air, I need a sweater. But a few minutes later I'm still not warm enough. A blanket? No.

A fire! Can you do that in the morning?

I grab my books, some newspaper, and a box of matches and head around back. Within minutes it's roaring. And I sit, once again under its familiar, comforting spell.

I take the deepest breath I have in weeks.

It's heat warms my cold feet even as it focuses and sharpens my mind.

It is at once a comfort and a warning. Come too close, and my inner five year old knows the consequence well. 

The phrase tried by fire comes to mind. Seems that's what's happening in our world. And we can all feel the furious heat.

I glanced a headline as I was crumpling up the newspaper. Fifty minutes. That's how long the New York Times says the average person spends on Facebook everyday. 

Guilty, and probably then some. Fifty minutes. Almost an hour every day. In one month, an entire twenty-four hour revolution spent mindlessly clicking and liking and blowing what ever direction my newsfeed takes me.

I consider the things I could accomplish in fifty minutes a day. Notes of encouragement sent, prayers prayed, books read, games played, disorganized closets and drawers organized.

Tried by fire. In light of all that's burning up around me, am I spending my freedom and days well? When my hours and days and weeks and months and years and the choices I've made are tried by fire, how much will burn? 

How much will be proven gold and eternal?

The scent of wood smoke wafts over me. The heat feels good on my toes. I consider my day, as I take another deep breath.