Greetings to everyone from Daisy, John Paul, James and myself. We returned to the United States on August 30th after 7 months in Costa Rica. As usual, I was glad to get back to the States to have an opportunity to visit with family, friends and supporters, not to mention catching up on the administrative work of the ministry that always awaits my return. At the same time, I hated leaving the work there in Talamanca. In addition to the work in the jungle, almost daily, there is someone at our house to whom we can minister.
This year, more than any other I can remember, we were looking forward to the return home. If you read our previous newsletter, you may recall the various challenges we faced in the early months of this year. Unfortunately, those challenges did not abate as the year progressed. Over the past twenty years of working in Bribri, we have continued to purchase tools, appliances and vehicles that have allowed us to work more efficiently and to extend the range of our ministry. Because we have always tried to stretch our funds as far as possible, the majority of the items we have purchased were previously owned. This of course limits their useful life for us. For what ever reason, this year seemed to be the year when everything decided to quit working. As soon as I would get one thing repaired, something else would break. The old adage, when it rains it pours, is really true in Talamanca.
On three occasions, our car left us stranded in the middle of nowhere between Bribri and San Jose. For a while, neither the truck nor the car was functioning. Clothes dryer quit, hot water heater explodes, computer quits, refrigerator shuts down while we are in San Jose and we lose everything in the freezer, air conditioner in the medicine room ceases to function, power surge fries the telephone and internet router, just to name a few of the problems. It was not just the seemingly endless inconveniences and impediments to ministry that created our immense frustration. It was the cost of rectifying the problems that intensified the discouragement and all of this on the heels of our engine failure in the airplane and all the expense that it entailed.
Our regular donations have been in a decline. A reflection I suppose of the economic situation in the United States. Before the year began, we were already operating on the thinnest of margins. At the end of most of the fall months, we would find ourselves with 10 or 20 dollars in the bank after having only paid our basic fixed cost. With all the unanticipated cost of this year and the continued jungle outreach, we find ourselves in a critical situation. I do not use the term “critical” lightly because our ability to minister in the place to which we have been called has been and currently is adversely affected to a great degree. Ministry in Talamanca is expensive, as well as difficult.
It is not the first time in the past twenty years that I have found myself in the midst of a crisis. I discovered there is always two possible ways of dealing with the crisis. The first way is to look for some solution within the parameters under which I have some control. In the current economic crisis, I might sell some of the tools and equipment needed for ministry in the jungle and confine myself to ministry in Bribri or San Jose. Or, I could concluded that since there is not adequate funds to operate the ministry, maybe I should look for a job that will provide a secure salary for my family and make ministry something less than the priority of my life. Both of these solutions confine themselves to the natural realm, to cost / benefit analysis and to my own ability, in which I do not have much confidence.
My preference is the second of the two methods of crisis management. I prefer to put my hope and confidence in the supernatural. I can not dismiss from my mind the solution told us in the Scriptures for the paying of the Temple tax owed by Peter and Jesus. When Peter asked Jesus if He had the money to pay the tax, Jesus told Peter to go fishing. That may seem like a perfectly logical and natural thing to say remembering that Peter was a fisherman. Peter had nets. He had a boat. And he had a brother and friends likewise familiar with fishing if he needed help. Why not go fishing? Catch a few fish, sell them and pay the tax. Makes sense, that’s how we solve problems. You know, take responsibility, pick yourself up by the bootstraps. And, after all, Jesus always knows which side of the boat to throw the net from to make the biggest haul. The problem with that analysis is, Jesus said nothing about nets and boats. Jesus told him to take a string and catch one fish, but said nothing of selling it. Peter has got to be thinking, “But how are we going to pay the tax?” The Lord of the Universe instructed one of His creatures, Peter; get a string, go to the shore, catch one fish and look in its mouth. Presto! One coin, sufficient to pay the required tax, supernaturally acquired from the hand of God by strict obedience.
The situation has become dire when you can not pay the power bill or the phone bill. In the light of that fact, is it stupidity, or a lack of ability to grasp reality, or faith that urges one to speak of purchasing and operating helicopters. Here are the facts that keep me advocating for a helicopter. The Indians of Talamanca are without Christ, lost and on the way to eternal damnation. There has been a sixty year effort to evangelize in Talamanca without the benefit of the one tool that could make the effort successful. Evangelism and discipleship are only possible when constant contact can be maintained with the individuals. Years often pass before I can return to some villages, discipleship and a Christian witness is therefore nearly impossible. With the helicopter, we can be in every village every month. For such an operation, we need 3 to 4 times our current amount of funding. That level of funding is only going to happen when called people become convinced in their own souls that the salvation of the people in Talamanca is worthy of their effort, commitment and sacrifice. I am grateful that Christ did not consider His own comfort more important that my salvation. Should I do less?
I do not know how or when our current funding struggle will be resolved, but God surely does. My intention with this letter was not to make a desperate plea for money from our supporters. My pleas of desperation I reserve for our Heavenly Father. This letter is meant simply to keep you informed of the challenges and I have full confidence that God will make application of the information as He sees fit. You know that the work in Talamanca depends as much upon your obedience, if you’ve been called to help, as it does upon mine. I can not so much as even buy an ice cream cone for my boys without your help, so evangelizing Talamanca would be for the most part out of the question. All I can really do funding wise is, wait at the shore, with a line in the water, trusting that the one fish obviously prepared and sent by The Lord will appear. Supernatural acquisition.
We would appreciate your prayers very much. There is a sense of frustration that I can not escape every time someone from one of the remote villages makes their way to my house and asks when I’m going to visit them again. Especially when I know full well what would allow me to have a constant presence in their village. I wish to have the ability to communicate with sufficient clarity just how life changing for the people of Talamanca a helicopter dedicated to the cause of Christ would be. May God help me in this matter. You see, it is not about helicopters or flying. It is about taking salvation, a life-line, to a lost tribe of people who are drowning in there sin. They live in darkness and a darker place awaits them unless someone intervenes. How is it, in the same country, where we shudder with trepidation at the thought of a few hundred thousand dollars to carry the mercy and grace of Christ to the lost, birdseed is nearly a billion dollar industry? May God forgive us.
Thank you for your help and your support. God is on His Throne and He still rules in the affairs of men.