Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thankful to God

I only have two weeks left of my wonderful experience here in Costa Rica. I am very very sad to leave but God has indeed prepared me for this next step. I no longer think as I did two months ago that life would end may 14 when my plane lifted off from SJO.

I've said this a few times now in conversation and I wanted to put it here too: I can honestly say that every single day of my time here, I have thanked God for my life and my work. I've never been this happy or felt so fulfilled. When I walk to the project every day and look west to the mountains, I marvel at what an awesome and powerful God we have. If God can make those gorgeous mountains, and the green plants growing down the sides of them, and the blue sky above, how much more can He take care of the things in my life, both big and little.

This goes along with an anecdote that one of my math students shared in church a few months ago. It goes like this:

God told a certain man to push a large boulder. The man obeyed God and started to push on the boulder but it wouldn't budge. The man remained obedient and kept pushing, even though his arms and legs grew weary in the struggle and sweat ran down his brow. After a time, the devil came to confront the man and asked what he was doing. The devil asked why he would continue to push on the boulder when it was clear he was too weak to accomplish the task. The man continued to push on the boulder but began to doubt God's instruction. Finally after a long struggle the man cried out to God, "Why do you have me here pushing this boulder? Can't you see that I'm took weak to move it? Why are you asking me to do things I can't even do?" God replied to the man, "Look at your arms and legs. Haven't they become strong from the work of pushing on the boulder? Look at how your self-discipline and determination have developed from the task I set you to." The man replied "But Lord, I haven't accomplished anything at all! I still can't move the boulder!" And at last God told the man, "It has never been your job to move the boulder. I am the one who will move the boulder. I am the one who provides the victory in this task and the reward to your work. It never asked you to move the boulder - I asked you to dedicate yourself to pushing against it with all your might and trust in me. I asked for your obedience."

I have felt like that a lot this year. In teaching my math classes I have had to fight for my students' education against all odds, against a culture that doesn't always emphasize hard work, discipline, punctuality, and high achievement in school. Against my students' own fears of math and lack of self-confidence. Against some horrible teaching and test administration on the part of the education system here. And even against history and low expectations. If Victor had already tried for 6 years to pass his exam and had failed the exam 6 times, why should things be any different during the 7th year and his 7th attempt? But as we found out last week, God was faithful and rewarded our work, Victor's work, and our faith in Him. God rewarded Brian and I for our obedience in coming here for the year to dedicate ourselves to the impossible task of teaching math and making a difference. It was never my job or my efforts that were going to get Victor to pass the exam. It was our all-powerful God who ultimately moved that giant boulder aside in his life.

It is this same God who will be going with me back home for the summer, to Stanford in the fall, and wherever life takes me after that. If that isn't something to be thankful for, I don't know what is.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Dear faithful readers,

I've written about 6 half-posts but I wasn't satisfied with any of them enough to post them. Apologies aside though, I have big news. Huge huge news....

Victor, who has been my student here since September, finally passed his math exam to get his high school diploma! This is incredible. He has taken the exam and failed upwards of 7 times, enough that people stopped counting. He was the main person Brian and I both had in mind when we decided to come down for this year to teach math. He is our "project" if you will.

Some background: Not having your GED here is a huge roadblock on life. A person can't get a decent-paying job, can't go on to college, and usually can't get a visa to visit other countries, namely the U.S. Without a U.S. visa it's really difficult even to travel to places like Europe, Asia, or Africa because so many flights pass through the U.S. Basically people are stuck between high school and the rest of life, already having finished high school classes but having failed the government exams needed to officially get their diploma.

A bit about the exam: This is a comprehensive exam covering high school math, much of which is not "life-skills math". Algebra, Functions, Logarithms, Geometry, and Trigonometry are covered. How many of you remember how to find the volume of a sphere? How many of you know the domain of the tangent function? How many can find the equation of a line given one point and the equation of a perpendicular line? These are all test questions and things which are not easy to teach yourself at home from a book. People here aren't unintelligent, but they are in desperate need of instruction if they're going to pass this exam.

Now a little bit about Victor. He makes an impression on everyone who meets him. I bet almost every volunteer who has come down to the project to serve even for just a few days remembers him. He is one of the most talented people I've ever met and has an unforgettable personality and passion for Christ. He wants to study theatre and possibly business in college and one day hopes to have his own theatre company. He has huge dreams to do theatre, dance, and other arts performances worldwide to share Jesus' love with peope wherever he goes. He's had invitations to attend theatre academies in other countries and been invited to do internships with different ministries in the United States. Before this week, all of those opportunities were blocked off by one thing - the high school math exam that he had yet to pass.

Now I want to tell you all how victory on this exam was a miracle from God. The test is like any other standardized test, with a test booklet and a separate scantron answer sheet - you know, use a #2 pencil to fill in the bubbles. Anyways, for the government exam they let the test-takers leave with their test booklet, containing all of the questions, answer choices, and scratch work. Victor worked through the test booklet, indicating his answers, and at the end he filled in the corresponding bubbles on the answer sheet to turn in. After the exam he brought his test booklet to Brian and me to see how he'd done. We corrected his exam and gave him at best a score in the high 50's when a 70 is needed to pass. We were disappointed, but I remained optimistic, refusing to tell anyone that he'd failed. I just said I'm still optimistic and waiting for God to do a miracle. I said "Maybe God confused him between his question sheet and his answer sheet and he accidentally filled in some correct answers." After all, we're at the Abraham Project, where God has provided everything from the beginning and continues to take care of everyone on a daily basis. Why should we doubt him in something as small as a math test when he's provided construction materials and money, and even miraculous healing at all the right times?

As it turns out, God did do the miracle in helping Victor pass his exam. And the best part about it is, God didn't leave any room for doubt that He was the one who accomplished this feat. If we had concluded from Victor's question sheet that he had passed, we could feel good about ourselves as teachers and Victor could feel proud as a student. As it is though, we can boast in nothing but Christ who gave all of us great victory over death and Hell and who answered our prayers to give us this small earthly victory over a math test.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Incline

Kevin and I are about to hike the Mt. Manitou Scenic Incline. It used to be a cog railway but now only the railroad ties remain, forming a set of stairs straight up the mountain. I just looked it up and the average grade is 41%! Yikes. It's supposed to be "like walking up stairs for a mile." You know what this means? I can eat jelly beans AND cheesecake tomorrow at Patty's.

The trail is also on private property, so we will be trespassing... but it's also been called "the most trespassed trail in Colorado." It's not wrong if all of the other kids are doing it too, right mom?

It snowed this morning so I'm going to go bundle up and meet this challenge :)
Here's a picture of the trail (the straight cleared path through the trees) :

Monday, April 6, 2009

Renewing my Visa

Every 3 months I have to leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours in order to renew my visa in Costa Rica. If I don't, I become an illegal alien - not something I want. I don't think other governments are as friendly to illegal immigrants as the U.S. government is.

I was originally thinking about taking the bus to Nicaragua or Honduras, which would be kind of scary to do alone and involve long hours on buses. Then for fun I checked flights to places where my family is located. I checked Atlanta first... way too expensive, sorry Dresdows. Then Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and finally, Denver. Who would've thought that flights from San Jose to Denver for Easter would start at $67 each way? That's as much as my bus to Honduras would cost.

Well there ya go folks. After many online server errors and then spending an hour on the phone to straighten everything out, I have a super cheap trip to Denver from April 8-15 and I get to spend Easter with family - Larry, Kathy, Kevin, Anna, Tim, Patty, Noah, Kyle! Ha! I can't even believe I'll be stateside in two days, looking at snow-covered mountains instead of palm trees.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Briefest of updates...

Happy Palm Sunday everyone! Hosanna in the highest.

To summarize I'm working on a long post to cover the last two weeks of activities, teams, and visitors. In the meantime, since my friend Lauren is here for the month, her blog ( is a much better-written account of what I've been doing than anything I could come up with. She is also a professional photographer so there are some amazing pictures there as well.

Here is a teaser of what I've been up to, in photos:

Surfing in Jaco:

Tortuga Island:

Sunset on the roof:


Take care, I hope everyone has a blessed Holy Week. Special note to family: I miss you even more than usual during holiday times like this! Love you guys.