Monday, November 29, 2010

Costa Rican Thanksgiving!

Happy Belated Thanksgiving everyone!

Josh and I have had an awesome couple of weeks celebrating with gringos and Ticos alike. We did have classes on Thanksgiving Day (I was so bummed to have to miss the Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Dog Show!) but we got together with a group of friends that evening and had a fairly traditional Thanksgiving meal. Then on Saturday Josh and I cooked another Thanksgiving meal for our Tica family so that they could share that experience with us. It was delicious! We had chicken instead of turkey (the turkeys here cost $72 a piece!), but otherwise we had what a lot of you probably had on Thanksgiving - mashed potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, bread, salad and pumpkin pie. It was a lot of fun and our family really enjoyed and appreciated it.

Yesterday marked our being in Costa Rica for 7 months and we have 2 weeks left. It's definitely hard to believe. We took our "final exams" last Friday and found out today that we both did very well. The exam is more like a final evaluation and includes a 30 minute oral exam and a 2.5 hour written exam. It was very challenging but we are thrilled with our grades and how much we have progressed since we arrived here.

We will continue to have classes through next Thursday and then we will graduate from ILE on Friday and hop on a plane to good old NC on Sunday, December 12th. We cannot wait to see family, friends and of course pets :). We both know that the goodbyes that we say here will be incredibly difficult. The bonds formed here are so strong and I know a lot of tears will be shed, but we have the hope of seeing each other again - if not in this life then in heaven before our King!

We can't wait to see you all in a few weeks!!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

P.S. Here are some pics from the past couple of weeks:

A game of touch football with friends - and that's AMERICAN football, not soccer!

Josh and I cooking up some American traditions (doesn't Josh look cute in his apron?!)

Our Tica family after a wonderful Thanksgiving meal

Thanksgiving Day meal with friends

A friend of ours (6'10") with a Kuna Indian from Panama. God created us in all shapes and sizes!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What a busy month we've had!! Josh and I are very involved both inside and outside the school and we are so thankful for the opportunities that God has provided. As an update from our last blog, the prayer cards that we ordered came in and we are so excited to be able to mail them to everyone when we get back to the states in December!

We had our mid-term evaluations from our teachers today and both of us received A's in all of our classes. :) Knowing that we only have 7 weeks left does add some pressure to our learning though. We are so thrilled with our progress over the past 6 months - it really is amazing - but we don't want to lose a moment of the time we have left here with these great teachers and our Tica family. This week is Spiritual Emphasis week at the Institute which means that they bring in a pastor/missionary to share with the students twice a day to "refill our spiritual tanks" since language learning can definitely be draining. To encourage everyone in the institute to attend the after-school sessions, the teachers cannot assign homework or give tests this week. It is undoubtedly refreshing and I trust that it will give everyone the break that they need to push through to the end of the trimester.

The past month has provided some challenges that are par for the course when living in another country and probably foreshadow issues that Josh and I will have in Ecuador. We have made some very close friends living here, two of whom are Jessica and Tim who are a couple who will be staying in Costa Rica and starting a business in the construction industry while sharing the gospel. Since they will be living here, they have purchased a car and we have made plans on about 3 different Saturdays now to take a day-trip to the coast (about 2 hours away) and see the beach. About a month ago on a Wednesday we decided that the next Saturday we would go to the coast in their car. Well, after huge downpours at the end of the week, all three of the routes to the beach were washed out. In place of the beach, we headed into the mountains to explore and ended up having a really nice day! Well, two weeks later, the roads were all fixed and we packed up the car at 7am Saturday morning and hit the road. We made it to the gas station on the corner and the attendant accidentally put diesel in their car instead of gasoline. Needless to say that put a kink in the plans and we had to get their poor car towed to the mechanic's shop so that the engine could be flushed. Again, that day we ended up visiting the market and cooking a great dinner together and had a great time even though we weren't at the beach. Finally last weekend we were bound and determined to make it to the coast and it turns out the fuel pump on the car has to be replaced. I feel so badly for Tim and Jess as they have had to make so many repairs to their only mode of transportation, and I am trying to mentally prepare myself for issues such as these to arise in Ecuador. Just as Tim and Jessica did we will be sure to purchase our car from a reliable source, but used cars in Latin America just aren't as reliable as in the states, not to mention that cars cost about twice as much in Latin America than in the US. But, as Teo Beato one of our MMI mentors famously says, "if you aren't flexible, you will break," so you just have to keep a sense of humor about it all. God willing, we will make it to the beach before we head back to the states. ;-)

We are continuing to teach English as a Second Language and it is such a wonderful experience. We have the beginners' class so we are trying hard to balance teaching them a lot of material but not going too fast. As the leaders of this ministry remind us though, the real point is to take advantage of opportunities to share God's word. We teach for 50 minutes, have a 20 minute time of sharing and Bible study, and then teach for 50 more minutes. We are so glad to have gotten involved in this ministry and feel like a lot of times we are learning just as much or more than the students are!

As we get closer to January when we head to Ecuador, we ask for your prayers about every aspect of the upcoming transition. We are beginning the process of obtaining our missionary visas and of course thinking much more concretely about our first steps once we get on the ground. God is putting some amazing contacts in our path including the head of the board of directors of Clinica Biblica, the largest private hospital in Costa Rica. He works with Latin American Missions in addition to his work with the hospital and we were able to meet with him this week. We spoke for about 2 hours and we are very excited about the insight that he can provide about the healthcare industry in Latin America. He will definitely be a valuable resource as we move forward.

It's hard to believe that after about a year and a half of preparation, we are almost there!!

As always, thank you so much for your love, support and prayers. We'll be sending out our quarterly update in November so keep an eye on the mailbox!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Developments

Hello again!
At this point, Joshua and I are well into the trimester and continue to see improvement on our Spanish every day. I was actually pretty sick last week with a cold/flu and am happy to say that I am starting to feel better and was able to go to school today. My teachers were very understanding about everything and thanks to information from my classmates I was able to stay caught up on my work.

Last week was a big week for a number of reasons:

First, Josh and I were able to have a conference call with a key member of MMI who gave us more information about what our first few months in Ecuador will be like! It has been decided that we will spend our first 2-3 months in Guayaquil in southern Ecuador. This is where the existing hospital is located, and starting out here will give us a chance to get to know the MMI staff currently in Ecuador and familiarize ourselves with the set up of the hospital. From there we will spend 2-3 months in Cuenca and 2-3 months in Quito (we don't know in what order yet) to investigate possible locations for the new permanent medical center. We received a lot of other helpful information on that call, but the closer we get to arriving in Ecuador the more we see that this is God's project and we are simply lucky enough to be involved in what He is doing in Ecuador. We must use the knowledge the He has given us to make logical decisions, but He will be driving this project - and has been since before we were even involved. We give thanks to God every day for giving us the opportunity to be here and also for all of you who are supporting us. Thank you!

Secondly, after our time in missions training in Colorado and spending time with all of the missionary families who are here in Costa Rica, we have realized that an indispensable item for a missionary is something called a "prayer card". This is basically a postcard with our photo, information about what we'll be doing, and our contact information that we can keep with us and give out to people. It enables us to keep in touch with people that we meet and also spreads awareness about our work in Ecuador. The more people praying for this endeavor the better! So . . . I asked a classmate of mine who is an amateur photographer (and VERY talented) if she would help us create a prayer card. We walked around our neighborhood and she took some great photos of Joshua and I and then she designed a prayer card for us. We will be ordering them soon and you should all be receiving one by the end of the year!

Thirdly, September 15th was Costa Rica's Independence Day and it was wonderful to get to see the way that they celebrate. Although July 4th revolves a lot more around yummy food, there are a lot of similarities between the two days. We saw red, white, and blue everywhere (since those are Costa Rica's flag's colors as well), and there were fireworks. Also, it is a national holiday so we did get a day off of school to watch the Independence Day parades. There are, however, some differences. For one thing, on the 14th of September at 6pm, the entire country stops what they are doing and sings the national anthem - pretty neat! Also on the night of the 14th, there are special parades of "faroles" which are elaborately decorated lanterns made by the kids and every school has a parade of faroles. The students practice for months at their schools to perform in the parades held the morning of the 15th. There is a band, baton-twirlers, cheerleaders, a drill-team, and the youngest kids are dressed up in traditional costumes and ride along with the parade. Even though I was a bit under-the-weather, I was able to see some of one of the parades on Wednesday morning. Here are some pictures:

Well, Josh and I both have tests tomorrow so we better hit the books. Hasta luego!!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back to School!

Backpacks are packed and pencils are sharpened! It's just like back-to-school time in the states - except for the fall colors :-). Classes at the Spanish Language Institute started back on Tuesday and these teachers mean business! They know we have one trimester under our belts so they are cracking down right from the start. Josh has 2 hours of conversation class followed by 2 hours of grammar. He is definitely feeling challenged, but I think he's up for it. I just hope his teachers give him more homework this trimester so I won't be the only one staying up at night working! I have 2 hours of translation class and then 2 hours of conversation class with a focus on the Bible. The translation class is very intense - from day-one we started translating passages from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish in writing and verbally. The goal is to be able to clearly interpret for someone in either direction. Everyone in the class has definitely had to get over our nervousness and stay on our toes because our teacher will put any one of us on the spot at any moment. Thank goodness it is a loving and encouraging environment! The conversation class is very similar to the one I had last trimester, just with a different emphasis and more complex sentence structures.

Josh and I have also decided to take extra classes to learn medical Spanish. One of the teachers at the school will be tutoring us for an hour two days a week so that we can be as prepared as possible for work in the medical community once we arrive in Ecuador.

We anticipate this trimester being even busier than last. On top of harder classes and extra tutoring, we are involved in volleyball one night a week at the school and I am continuing to perform traditional Costa Rican dances around the community when our group receives an invitation. Additionally I will have a women's Bible study one night a week, Josh and I will meet once a week with a pastor and his wife for mentoring, and we are praying about joining an ESL program for Ticos in our community.

Things are still going very well with our Tica family and we have made some very strong bonds with fellow missionaries at the Institute. Some of them have gone or will be going to live in Ecuador and I can't tell you how nice it is to already have a network - albeit a small network - of friends there when we arrive. A couple that we met here just left yesterday for Quito and they already told us that we can stay with them when we first get there while we are investigating locations for the hospital.

Well, time to get working on homework! We love all of you - thank you for your continued prayers and support!!

Love and God Bless,

Steph and Josh

From Josh:

If anyone would like to send us a letter we would love to hear from everyone back home. Our address is:

Joshua Tucker
Spanish Language Institute
P.O. Box 025240
Miami, FL 33102

Also, we will be back in the USA from mid-December - mid-January and we will be spending time fundraising and sharing about our ministry in Ecuador. If you know of any churches or organizations were we might be able to go and speak please let us know!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We have finished our first trimester at ILE and we are experiencing a small sense of accomplishment having passed the half-way mark. In our day-to-day life however, we encounter the reality that there is a lot left to learn! Reaching this point has also meant saying some goodbyes which is always difficult to do. It is easy to build very strong bonds very quickly here and it is a hard fact that we might not see these friends again on the earth as we know it. What a blessing to be a Christian and to have the promise that we will see each other again on the new earth!

The end of the trimester has also brought some things to be excited about! My parents, my sister and my brother came to visit for a few days and I cannot express how wonderful it was to see them. We also had the joy of introducing them to our TIca family and sharing a meal together. There was so much love in that room - it was unbelievable! They enjoyed seeing a little bit of Costa Rica and learning about what our lives have been like the last few months. Now when we Skype they have a better idea of what we're talking about.

The same day that my parents left our "little brother" family arrived and for the past few days we have been helping them get settled. It was a huge prayer answered that the repairs to the house were finished on the day that we told them it would be and they are all moved in! They have four adorable kids and it seems like everyone is adjusting very well to this new environment. We have taken them shopping, shown them around the area, and today we went to the outdoor market to buy fruits and veggies. It has been really fun to use the knowledge that we have gained to help out someone else. I definitely remember what it's like your first few days and if Josh and I can make it a little bit easier for them, that's great!

We are feeling a little bit of apprehension about our new classes because we know they will be more challenging than last trimester, but we are excited to get back into our routine after a little break. Thank you again for all of your prayers and love!

Love and God Bless,

Steph and Josh

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We've reached the 3-month mark!

2 more weeks of classes left in this trimester! Wow! We have definitely picked up speed in our classes over the past few weeks as we try to learn as much as possible before we change classes. Josh is learning past tense verbs (it's great that he can speak in more than just present tense now ;-) ) and I learned the 15th out of 15 rules of the subjunctive today. We have continued to use a lot of Spanish around the house and have gotten creative :-). Some friends of ours loaned us a fantastic board game called Settlers of Catan. We have been playing almost every night with our Tica family in Spanish and it's a ton of fun, not to mention great language practice. The currency in the game is madera (wood), ovejas (sheep), ladrillo (brick), piedra (stone), and trigo (wheat) - we will never forget those words in Spanish ever again!

I have been blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of dancing recently through the school! I have mentioned in previous blogs that we have been practicing traditional Costa Rican dances throughout the trimester and in the past two weeks we have gotten to perform them twice: once for the school's Cultural Day and once for the Costa Rican community around the school. It was an incredible rush to get to perform what we'd been working so hard on and it was super-fun to get to wear the traditional Costa Rican skirts, blouses, and shoes.

Also, for the past two weeks I have been choreographing and rehearsing a liturgical praise dance to perform at chapel and last Tuesday I got the chance to do so. Psalm 149 says "Praise his name with dancing, accompanied by tambourine and harp" and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to use a talent that God has given me to glorify him! I danced to the song "Shadowfeet" by Brooke Fraser. She is an awesome Christian contemporary artist and I'd definitely recommend checking out her music!

Josh and I have started meeting once a week with a missionary-pastor, Mike, and his wife, Tricia, to augment our scriptural knowledge. It has been an unbelievable blessing for us! We have realized that while we have a clear understanding of the importance of LIVING our faith day-to-day as a witness of Christ in our lives, we really need to focus a lot more on sharing the gospel verbally with those around us. Mike and Tricia have been talking with us about various ways of lovingly sharing our faith and answering any questions that we have. I have shared my testimony before but it feels great learning how to clearly articulate the gift of Christ Jesus and what that can mean for someone. We plan on continuing to meet with them in the weeks to come and want to specifically learn about Roman Catholicism in Latin America and ways to serve and minister to Roman Catholics in Ecuador.

There has been cause for praise as some of our best friends here at the Institute had their first baby on July 17th: a healthy, beautiful little girl named Eliana. We visited them in the hospital and have been over to visit at their apartment quite a few times and they are doing very well. :-D

We are definitely missing some people and things from home after 3 months here in Costa Rica. We've started really craving some foods from the states and Josh just tortures himself by watching the Food Network at night. Overall though, we are still incredibly happy here and blessed to be living in the will of God. Thank you for your prayers and love and enjoy the rest of your summer!!!

(We wanted to post a pic of Josh's birthday party from the last blog as well!)

Love and God Bless,

Steph and Josh

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Panama, 4th of July, and Josh's Birthday!

What a crazy month its been!!

We've been in Costa Rica for over two months now - wow! Things are going great and we are continuing to learn a ton of Spanish. We only have 5 weeks left in this trimester so the teachers are really picking up steam so that we can learn everything we need to learn before our second trimester begins. We both have grammar exams tomorrow. It's hard to believe, but we are already picking which classes we'll be taking. Josh will be continuing to focus on grammar and conversation, and I am planning to take a Spanish/English translation class and also a Spanish Bible class. The translation class will be invaluable to me when mission teams come to Ecuador - I will definitely need to know how to translate for doctors, nurses, and pastors in the hospital. The Bible class will give me a lot of the tools I need to be able to clearly share my faith with the people we come into contact with. Also, we would like to hire a tutor to learn some key medical words and phrases so that we are prepared for the communication we will need to do. We are very excited about the upcoming semester!

We've also been kept very busy helping our "Little Brother" family. We've been talking to landlords over the phone (in Spanish - what a challenge!) and setting up meetings to view different houses. Tomorrow we will be meeting with the landlord of the house that our family has selected and signing the preliminary paperwork. I can tell already that having this experience will help us a ton once we are in Ecuador looking at properties for ourselves and for the hospital we'll be building.

Since we've been in Costa Rica so long, we needed to get our visas stamped so that we could stay in the country. At the end of June, Josh and I went with about 40 other people from the Institute to Panama for a weekend to achieve that goal. It was great fun, but also served its purpose. Panama was beautiful - but VERY hot! Thankfully the hotel that we stayed at had air conditioning and we got to enjoy AC for the first time since we arrived in May. We are now legally in the country for 90 more days!

A few weeks ago we had a family get-together for Fathers Day and our Costa Rican brother's 20th birthday. Once again our "new" family included us in the cooking and celebrating. Josh cooked a buffalo chicken dip, which was another great taste of home. This was also a very good opportunity to force ourselves to practice our spanish. We will try to post a picture of this later when the internet is working.

It was very interesting celebrating July 4th in Costa Rica. The week of July 4th was also Spiritual Emphasis Week at the school and we had chapel twice a day and a lot of other activities focused on unity and families. During that week, the school threw a 4th of July party complete with games, hotdogs, chips, and cupcakes so we definitely got a taste of home, and of course I made sure to wear red, white, and blue on the actual day! The only thing we were missing was fireworks :-). Check out the photo below. We were so happy to have a hotdog.

And finally, Josh's 25th birthday was yesterday! A girl in one of his classes bought him a small cake from a bakery close by and the he and I used some of his birthday money from his grandparents to enjoy dinner together last night. It was a lot of fun and as awesome as it is living with our Tico Family, it was very special for us to have just a little time alone.

We are looking forward to the upcoming weekend and we will continue to keep you updated! As always, we can't thank you enough for your support, prayers and love - we could not do this without your encouragement behind us.

Love and God Bless,

Steph and Josh

Monday, June 14, 2010

Busy Times

Hello All!!

Things are definitely busy here and still going great! I can't believe we are half-way through June already. Josh and I are continuing to see progress in our speaking ability and owe a lot of that to the family that we live with. They have invited us to attend family birthday parties, baby showers, and church events with them and it has been so much fun to really feel like we are a part of the family.

I cleared a huge hurdle today in class and am sending up prayers of thanksgiving. Each student in my class has to prepare and present an hour-long Bible study in Spanish, and I delivered mine today. I was beyond stressed this week as I prepared - Josh can attest to that ;-) - and I spent hours researching, revising, and reviewing my notes.

My topic was the ways in which God speaks to His people. I started out speaking about the more unique ways that God made contact with his followers in Biblical times (burning bush, angels, donkeys, dreams, etc.) but then made the point that in Old Testament times, it was actually far more common for God to speak directly to his chosen people. Regardless of the means of communication however, it is obvious that God was extremely purposeful in the ways that he spoke in the past. We often feel like God doesn't try as hard to speak to us now, but in reality, he has just altered his methods. The Bible is filled with verses explaining that scripture and the Holy Spirit are more than sufficient to communicate God's will directly to us. In the Old Testament, they knew nothing of Jesus Christ, the cross, the Holy Spirit, or the Bible (as we know it) and so perhaps God was a bit stronger in the way that he reached out to his followers. Now, however, God has sent his son as our savior and redeemer and it is our responsibility to take advantage of this grace by spending time in scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit within us.

Now, my delivery today wasn't perfect - there were a few stumbles and some grammatical mistakes - but I am so happy that I was able to coherently convey a message to the class AND I was able to fill the entire hour!

Josh and I have also begun to tackle another project: being a "Big Brother" to a family coming to the school! During our preparations to come to language school here, we requested a "Big Brother" or in our case, a "Big Sister" and a woman already attending school here helped us find our Tica family to live with and answered any and ALL questions that we had about Costa Rica and the school. In requesting this help, we also agreed to BE a "Big Brother" for someone coming to start school in August. We were recently assigned our family and we have begun looking at houses for them. This is awesome Spanish practice for us and also great practice for when we look for a house in Ecuador because we have to call Costa Rican landlords and talk to them about what we are looking for and what the family needs in a house, as well as go visit the houses and take pictures to send to the family. We have seen 3 houses so far and we hope to see several more so that we can give them a few choices. We are very excited to get to meet them when they arrive in a couple of months!

Other than that, it has pretty much been business as usual for us for the past few weeks. Thank you so much for your prayers and love! We miss you!

Love and God Bless,

Steph and Josh

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Becoming a Part of the Community

We have officially been in Costa Rica for a month - and what a month it's been!

Since we've been here we have tried to take advantage of every opportunity to get involved and learn more about the language and the culture. We are really enjoying the church that we are attending with our Tica Family, and this past Sunday they held a Walk/Run to increase their presence in the community. We were hesitant to commit to running the 5k, but we eagerly signed up to walk the 2k with our Tica sister. There was a great turnout and it was a ton of fun. Once everyone arrived at the finish line, we had a church service at the local park and heard the testimony of a former professional soccer player. At the end of the event, Josh claimed the prize for the second fastest gringo in the race, but I didn't have the heart to tell him there were only two of us ;-).

I am thrilled to say that I have been able to combine my love of dance with my language learning! In July, the school celebrates Costa Rican Culture Day and every Monday a group of girls meets with one of the Spanish professors to learn traditional Costa Rican dances to perform for the school. It has been so much fun getting to merge my passions and I can't wait to perform!

On Thursday, Josh and I visited a local Nicaraguan community called La Carpio. This is an extremely poor area and the Spanish Language Institute has set up a ministry providing computer classes for the men, jewelry-making classes for the women, and childcare for the kids. It was a very moving experience taking part in this ministry and is one of the poorest areas I've ever seen. Our host family has explained to us that the government tries to help this area continually but there are huge problems with alcoholism and crime so it hasn't done much good. They told us that ambulances can't even go into the area because while the paramedics are helping the victim, people steal things from the vehicle. We are praying that God will show us if and how we can help with this ministry.

We are looking forward to jumping into June with enthusiasm and continuing to learn more of the language. We will keep you updated!

Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Costa Rica Update

School is really ramping up and we are working hard! The professors are very encouraging and do a great job teaching, but it can definitely get overwhelming. We are so blessed to have each other and also to have such a great Tica family that is willing to help us any time we have questions.

This past weekend was crazy, but very fun. Early Saturday morning, we went with Flor (our Tica mom) to la feria (outdoor market) to buy fruits and veggies. It was fascinating and a great learning experience. Our family thought that we needed a little break from school so after la feria they took us on a surprise trip to Irazu Volcano about 30 minutes from San Jose. Since we arrived here I have been talking about how much I wanted to see a volcano, and I was so excited to have the opportunity! Here are some pictures of our trip:

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to go to a real tica baby shower for one of the teachers at the school where Flor works. What an experience! There was food, games, more food, presents, and more food. I got a LOT of practice on my Spanish talking to all of the wonderful women there.

This week has been going well so far. Each Monday, I have to give a 20 minute devotion in Spanish for my language class and this week I focused on the parallel that exists between the homesickness that I feel being away from my family, and the homesickness that Christians experience being here on earth. 2 Corinthians 5 talks about our heavenly dwelling and says:

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. . . Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

It is comforting to know that just as I have the very real hope of seeing my family and friends again here on earth, we also have the very real hope of the return of Jesus Christ to take us to our permanent home with God the Father. What a comfort!

Joshua and I would ask that you would pray for us as we continue to work hard to learn this language. We are so grateful for your continued encouragement and love.

Love and God Bless

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

School Days

We have officially been in classes for a week today! And what a week . . .

Josh and I are in different classes (which is probably a good thing!) and we are both learning a ton. The classes typically only have 4-6 people in them which means we get a lot of one-on-one attention, and with our Tica family at home, we are getting plenty of practice speaking. In the morning, we each have a language (conversation) class mixed with some phonetics. Then, we have two hours of grammar class. We come home and eat lunch and then do our homework and practice with our Tica family. The school does a great job of encouraging us to get out into the community to learn. For example, each week I have to come up with at least 4 questions on a topic of my choice and then find 2-4 people out the community and ask them the questions. Today Josh and I went to a local park and talked to a woman watching her grandchild for about 30 minutes. It's definitely nerve-wracking to just walk up to some one and start asking questions in a foreign language, but it is really good practice and she was SO nice! She even gave me two mangos to take home :). We are treating this as our full-time job right now and so we tend to spend about 8 hours per day working on our Spanish. We can already tell a difference - even if it's a small difference - in the way we communicate!

We are eager to learn more about the Latin culture as this will be very important when we get to Ecuador. Our Tica mom was nice enough to volunteer to take us to see the inauguration (or "la toma de posecion") of the new Costa Rican president who also happens to be the first female president of Costa Rica. It was an inspiring experience and a real celebration of Costa Rican culture. The heads of state from countries all over the world were there - Georgia, Colombia, Honduras, Spain, Panama, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and lots more. Plus, there were performances of traditional dances and songs and every one was more than willing to help the "gringos" understand what was going on. It was another great opportunity to practice our Spanish. Here are a few pictures:

The new president

Josh and I taking it all in

It was great to see the national pride

A true patriot

Once again, we are so grateful for all of your prayers and support - please pass our website on to anyone who might be interested in our ministry. Feel free to email us at We will keep you updated!

Love and God Bless!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stephanie does not let me write much on the blog so while she is in the bathroom I decided to post this picture. This is me and our wonderful Tica mom (Tica is what most Costa Ricans call themselves). While we were sitting around the dinner table talking, in spanish of course, we noticed that she is either really short or I am really tall. Thank you all for your support. Please keep in touch. If you want to, you can also send us mail at:

Joshua and Stephanie Tucker
Spanish Language Institute
P.O. Box 025240
Miami, FL 33102

This is a forwarding address to our school in Costa Rica.

I have to go Stephanie is back in the room!!! :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Settling in

I can't believe 6 days have passed!

We are starting to get into a rhythm here as we understand more about the culture and how things work. For instance, you never leave a room where people are talking without excusing yourself, you have huge lunches and small dinners, and you take your umbrella with you every time you leave the house. Plus, each day we are able to speak Spanish with our family for at least a couple of hours, and we've had the chance to label almost everything in our room with its Spanish name. As eager as we are to start classes on Wednesday, it is probably good to have this time to adjust and prepare.

This weekend was great! On Saturday a group of students from the school got together to learn the bus system and go into downtown San Jose. We were planning on going to the National Museum to learn some Costa Rican history, but Saturday was Labor Day for them and so it was closed. We did get to see some performers and the major park in the area. I bought a small map of Costa Rica to put in our room to learn a bit about the geography of the country. It was a great time!

On Sunday, we got to attend church with our Tico Family and it was such an awesome experience. The church was very contemporary and had a praise band - the worship music was a great way to practice our Spanish! I can definitely see us going to this church regularly.

Today during orientation we had a program about security that was very eye-opening. The leader had been a SWAT team member in the states and has been in Costa Rica for 4 years training the police force here and evangelizing. He explained that since 1) we are obviously foreigners 2) most of us don't know the language and 3) we aren't familiar with the city, we are big targets for crimes. He said that just by doing a few things (i.e. don't go out after dark, travel with other people, lock your windows and doors, etc.) you can significantly reduce the likelihood of a crime being committed against you. We feel very safe in our home and we feel that the more we can get to know the neighborhood (during the day!) the better off we'll be.

Our pictures will be posted on our facebook page since I am unable to post them here - I'll keep trying.

Love and God Bless!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Estamos en Costa Rica!!!

We are in Costa Rica!!

We arrived on Wednesday, April 28th around noon and our "Big Sister" from the school, Nina, was there to pick us up with our Tica (Costa Rican) Mom. It was definitely a little bit hectic finding them in the crowd as we left the airport, but soon we were in our Tico family's pick-up and headed to their house.

They live right across the street from the school in San Jose, and we are thrilled with the location as it is the rainy season and, like clock-work, around 1 or 2pm it begins to rain and continues for most of the evening. Our family includes three kids (ages 15, 17, and 20), their parents, and the maternal grandmother. We were incredibly hungry when we arrived and we realized immediately that we are in for a treat when it comes to our food! The grandmother, "Mayu", is an amazing chef and we are getting to sample fantastic Costa Rican cuisine at each meal. Most students are not living with a Tico family, but we are extremely happy with our decision. This is one of the fastest ways to jump right into the culture and the language.

During our meal, we heard screaming outside and at first, we thought it was just some kids being let out of school, but it turned out that a bus was on fire right outside our house! Our Tica mom called 911 and the bomberos (firefighters) came quickly and put out the fire. Luckily, everyone had gotten off the bus and no one was hurt. What an introduction to the public transportation system!

After we finished lunch, we got settled in our room and bathroom:

and then we headed to check out the school with our Big Sister. Nina showed us where we would have chapel, take classes, and study. It was great to get an idea of everything before orientation began yesterday.

The orientation has been great and is helping to introduce us to the school and to the Costa Rican culture. We are finding out how vital our time in Colorado was as we put into practice the language-learning techniques that we learned in PILAT. Josh and I are having a great time using the Spanish that we know with our family here and we can't wait to get into classes next week to learn more.

Yesterday after orientation, we went with Nina to Costa Rica's Wal-Mart - what an experience! Most things are more expensive there, but it is nice to know that if there is something from the states that we need, there is a way to get it.

We have warm water for showers, consistent electricity, and pretty reliable internet, but we have been having trouble posting on blogspot since we've been here. We have more pictures that we would like to post, but for some reason it won't allow us to post them right now. If you would like to see them, we are also posting all of our pictures on Facebook on the profile of our group: Support Josh and Stephanie in Ecuador. They are in the photo album "Costa Rica".

Thank you all for all of your prayers and we will keep you updated on our progress in school!!!

Love and God Bless!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time with Family

I'm sorry that it's been so long since I've written!  Josh and I have been in Wilmington since returning from Colorado and it has been so nice to spend time with family.  We have made sure to have all of our favorite meals, visit our favorite places and meet with every friend we can think of!

It hasn't been all fun and games though :).   We have been getting down to business by speaking at churches and church groups about our coming work, focusing heavily on our fundraising, and volunteering our time to help prepare for the next project to Haiti.

Itemizing medical supplies that were donated for Haiti

Admiring our work after a long day in the warehouse.

There is another team leaving for Haiti from Wilmington on April 21st and we are sad not to be able to go with them, but they asked us if we would help them to organize supplies for the project.  We are very happy to be able to help them do this great work!

We will be in Wilmington until Friday when we head to Pinehurst to celebrate Josh's mom's birthday and spend some time with his side of the family.  We are so grateful to have the opportunity to speak at churches Josh's church on April 14th.  

Please pray for us in these last few weeks as we begin to say a heartfelt and complete goodbye to our families.  It is definitely one of the most difficult parts of the process, but we will rely on the Lord to give us the strength that we need.  We will write more when we get to Pinehurst!

Love and God Bless,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Goodbyes . . .

We are packing up our room and preparing to leave MTI tomorrow around lunchtime.  I can't believe our time here is almost over.  This time in Colorado has been so many things to us . . . a time of personal and spiritual reflection . . . a time to grow closer as a couple . . . a time to increase our faith and confidence in the Lord . . . a time to truly prepare our hearts and minds for our ministry in Ecuador and for the weeks and months to come.  We have learned and discovered more than we can process right now and I know that our PILAT and SPLICE binders full of information will be invaluable to us as we continue to move forward.

Our class time today was spent reflecting on goodbyes and healthy ways to say goodbye.  This is a part of the journey that Josh and I know is coming, but we are often hesitant to face.  Our families play such an important role in our lives and saying goodbye to them will probably be the most difficult thing we have to do.  We are understanding how important it is to allow ourselves to feel this loss and not to avoid or ignore it.  God's strength will carry us through.

As soon as we get home we will be working hard to continue to fundraise.  We are currently at about 52% of our goal for monthly commitments and we hope to make some real progress before we leave for language school on April 29th.  Please pray that we will find donors to join us in our ministry.  We are praying and trusting that the Lord will provide.

Here are some pictures from our day of goodbyes:

This is our SPLICE leader.  He has helped us soooooo much!

The kids memorized Psalm 139.  It was amazing!

This is the whole SPLICE group.  I'm going to miss them all so much!

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us during this process.  It has meant so much to us and we are so looking forward to putting everything that we have learned into action.

Love and God Bless,


Sunday, March 7, 2010

"March"ing Right Along!

It's been a great and insightful week with lots of class participation!

We started the week continuing to focus on our conflict style and then moved into a study on adversity.  We worked with Mark 4:35-41 about Jesus calming the storm and considered who we would be in the story and what we would be doing in the boat (Are we shouting at the storm all by ourselves? Are we trying to swim away from our storm? Are we actually turning to Jesus for help? etc.).  It is so important to really consider our thoughts about adversity because we know that it won't always be smooth-sailing in missions and we want to know where we stand and that we should always turn to our Lord!

Wednesday was INTENSE!  We had a simulated hostage situation that was intended to put us in an extremely stressful situation so that we could really analyze our gut-level reactions.  It was unbelievably emotional, but so enlightening.  We now know what our natural tendencies are and we know whether or not there are things that we need to "check" when stress comes along.  They emphasized the fact that the simulation was NOT intended to teach us what to do in a hostage situation, but rather to help us learn more about ourselves under stress.  They suggested some videos that teach you how to handle crisis situations which Josh and I are looking into.  Best to be prepared!

Thursday was largely about learning to keep the Sabbath and embrace rest.  We learned that one of the biggest enemies to missionaries is burnout and that if you don't make a focused effort to take time away, you won't last long.  It is really interesting that keeping the Sabbath is a commandment just like the others, but we often don't give it quite as much weight.

Friday was all about transitions and transitioning to a different culture in particular.  As you can see below, Josh and I were both involved in exercises that demonstrate the difficulty involved in crossing from one culture to another and that you need "spotters" or supporters with you to help you cross safely.

Also, on Friday morning during our worship time, the kids performed a worship routine that I had choreographed for them.  It was very special and I was so proud of them!

The kids here have truly amazed me!  They are unbelievably mature, respectful, and well-rounded and I am so glad to have gotten to know them.

This weekend we returned to the Air Force Academy Chapel for their traditional service, and we are now working on a homework assignment due later in the week.  I can't believe that we only have one more week of classes left.  It is going to be so difficult to leave all of these wonderful friends, but I know we'll stay in touch.  Can't wait to see what we all learn tomorrow!!!

Love and God Bless,

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Wonderful Opportunity!

Hi Everyone!

I can't believe today is the last day of February!

Josh and I were able to attend a contemporary church service at the United States Air Force Academy Chapel today.  Wow . . . .  It is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen!  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!

See what I mean?!  :)

Needless to say, it was a very moving service and we are hoping to be able to get a ride back next Sunday as well.

Besides that, we've been working on a lot of homework regarding conflict resolution styles in different situations with different people.  We had to talk to each other, to a member of our family of origin, and a co-worker or other close friend about the way that we handle conflict.  The purpose was to realize that it is inevitable that we will encounter conflict with our team once we get to Ecuador, and there are a lot of different ways to handle it.  Each situation demands prayerful consideration.  This has required some very intense and sometimes difficult introspection, but we have learned a lot about ourselves.

The tendency is to think that there is only one appropriate way to handle every conflict and that we are, by nature, utilizing the wrong method.  We realized, however, that Jesus himself valued many different styles of conflict resolution in different situations: sometimes he withdrew from the conflict (Luke 5:16), but sometimes - for example in the temple - he was far more assertive and took charge of the conflict (Matthew 21:12).  Just realizing this fact, however, is not enough.  It will take a great deal of time, focus, and prayer to put this into practice.

Josh and I are very excited to jump into this next week!  On a lighter note, we learned that when a road sign says 4-wheel drive vehicles only, they aren't kidding:

Thank goodness for a kind man with an SUV!

Love and God Bless,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What's SPLICE anyway?

What an introspective week!

We've discovered that SPLICE requires a lot of self-examination and self-discovery and it is exhausting!  We are both ready for the weekend and a little down-time for our brains.  Josh says that he feels like he's back in Chem 101 with all the brain-power this takes. ;)

Our instructors are fantastic and they really know how to dig in deep.  The philosophy behind SPLICE lies in the fact that in order to REALLY get into another culture, you have to know yourself and how you relate to your spouse, family, and friends first.  That way you will be prepared when you are faced with something truly different (like Ecuador!).

Today we focused on "expectations" and the different ways that our expectations (especially expectations of our new life in a new country) shape our feelings and emotions.  Josh was chosen to help illustrate this point:

He got extra credit for this one!

Once per week each person/couple meets with one of the trainers for a "personal coaching" session.  We had our first one today and it was truly one of the most helpful things we've done here.  We got to ask specific questions we have about the nitty-gritty of missions and we received straight-forward and faith-based answers.  We talked a lot about our financial situation and we have realized how much work we have left to do when it comes to raising support.  We're really looking forward to our next session.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-8pm a fun little group has formed in our recreation room downstairs!  One night after dinner I decided I was missing my dancing and I needed to do some stretching so I went downstairs to find some room.  Well a few of the little girls were interested and asked if I'd teach them.  I agreed and soon it turned into a class of about 7 or 8 kids!  It is wonderful to get some exercise and to teach them some really fun moves in the process.  I am hoping that it is something that they can keep up even after the program.  The surprise blessings we are receiving here are amazing and we are so grateful to have this opportunity!

Love and God Bless,

Monday, February 22, 2010

SPLICE Begins!

Hello All!

After experiencing (and playing in) some beautiful snow over the weekend, Josh and I are rested and ready to begin a new program called SPLICE!  SPLICE stands for Spiritual, Personal, Lifestyle, Interpersonal, Cultural, Endurance/Enjoyment.  From what we understand, we will be learning more about ourselves in all of these areas in hopes that we will be better prepared to enter and acclimate ourselves to our new cultures.  We have heard WONDERFUL things about this program and can't wait to get started.

There are 23 people in the SPLICE program and 11 of those are people who have stayed over from PILAT.  It's great to be among familiar faces, but I know we will grow extremely close to the new-comers over the next three weeks.  I will definitely update everyone as I find out more about what's to come!

On a side note - Josh and I attended a church this past Sunday called North Springs Alliance Church in Colorado Springs.  We were invited by one of the PILAT participants who lives in the area and it was wonderful.  The message was about "Viral Faith" - having a faith that is infectious and spreading it - and the pastor focused on 1 Thessalonians 1:3, "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.".  He gave the analogy of a sailing vessel and said that the "faith" in this verse would be the sails catching the wind and moving the boat, the "love" would be the hull holding everyone together, and the "hope" would be the anchor keeping the boat steady in rough waters.  It touched my heart to hear the cross-reference to Hebrews 6:19 which inspired the title of our blog!  We will certainly need to hold strong to that anchor of hope in order to endure the challenges that lie ahead.  

We are so happy to be a part of this program as we know the Lord has placed us here for His purpose and the tools we learn here will be invaluable to us on this journey.

Love and God Bless,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Week 2 of PILAT

Hello All!

We are nearing the end of the PILAT program and boy has this week been busy!

Josh and I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful church on Sunday.  One of the families here, to whom we have grown extremely close, offered to let us go to church with them since they have their van here.  It's called the Little Log Church and it was an awesome experience!  Here are some pictures:

The pastor spoke  on Malachi 1:1-5 and our tendency to ask God "How have you loved me lately", when in fact He shows us all the time simply by giving us the opportunity to be his children!  For its size, this church has an amazing number of overseas missionaries which was great to see.  We are definitely planning on returning to this church for services during the remainder of our time in Colorado - as long as we can get a ride!

We had more classes, phonetics drills, and quite a few assignments that were due this week in class. Most of the assignments had to do with ways to put the PILAT techniques that we have learned into practice once we get to Costa Rica for language school.  They have taught us that it is easier to change a plan once you get to language school than it is to make it up on the spot.  Josh and I have a meeting tomorrow with one of the instructors to discuss the best ways to utilize these techniques practically in our situation.

I took a couple of pictures of our classroom so you can see where we spend most of our time:

We have REALLY bonded with the people in our PILAT group and we are so sad to see some of them leave at the end of PILAT!  We are very excited about the beginning of SPLICE, however, and can't wait to get into the cross-cultural ministry portion of our training.

We now have a facebook page called "Support Joshua and Stephanie Tucker in Ecuador" and we are so grateful for all of the fans that we have.  We want to truly thank everyone for your prayers and support - both financially and otherwise!  It means so much to us!

We will keep you posted as we move into the next part of our training!

Love and God Bless,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Value of PILAT

We are nearing the end of our first week of class, and things have definitely gotten intense!

We have at least 2 drills per day of practicing sounds for our languages, and then other classes throughout the rest of the day.  We have been given several assignments to truly gauge our learning and also allow us to reflect on our language goals for the long-term.  Josh and I had no idea, but today we found out why it is so hard to get rid of an American accent in Spanish.  We have COMPLETELY different tongue positions for a lot of sounds, so we spent some time today with one of our professors trying to fix this.

As one of our mentors told us, "The effectiveness of a missionary is directly proportional to their ability to speak the language and speak the language CORRECTLY!"  Communication will be vital to us as we build relationships in Ecuador.  Starting a hospital is quite an endeavor and we will need to clearly express our goals and our needs to the local population, the government, local churches, and craftsmen in order to get the job done.  Just mumbling and fumbling our way through Spanish will not be sufficient.

We are so grateful for the support we have received and we know that this training will be invaluable to us moving forward.  As much as we would love to move straight to Ecuador tomorrow and begin our work, this is s a very important step and we have had to realize that.  We'll see what tomorrow brings!

On a side-note, I cannot believe that North Carolina has gotten more snow in the last week than Colorado.  Who would have thought???

Love and God Bless,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Pics from our First Day

Josh enjoying some rest after lunch.

The View from our Room

Josh and I on our Hike