Category Archives: missions

Nothing gets left out

IPan integralf you’re shopping for bread made from whole-grain flour in Latin America, what you’re looking for will be labeled “pan integral.” “Whole” bread. My favorite is French labeling: “pain complet”, which is like “complete” bread, but looks more like complete pain. If you’re content with just bleached, spongy white-bread and haven’t ever bothered to try the rich wholeness of pan integral, no need to read further. If you’re not interested of taking a taste of life to the full, stay content with where you’re at. Continue reading

No matter where I live it’s the blood of Christ that gives me value


La Carpio is a place you will fall in love with at first sight. Well, maybe not everyone does, but I did. I thought it would be a brief flash of interest, like a short-lived crush. But I still love the place. I continue to see things that stick with me, images and stories that pierce deep into my heart and refuse to fade away. I believe La Carpio, and places like it, set God’s heart on fire with excitement and passion; at the same time they break it with pain and longing for reconciliation. And maybe that’s why He feels closer there.

A lot of the photographs and videos I post try to show images of the people, the places, and the interesting things that make La Carpio unique and special. There is so much beauty in the people and the culture of La Carpio: hard-working families, smiling, laughing kids, creative poets and acrobatic dancers, graffiti artists, and entrepreneurs. There is so much beauty, so much passion and excitement and love, so much hectic social activity that seems chaotic but when you look closer you realize people are organically bonding and growing in such a dynamic way.

So here’s my most recent video about La Carpio, once again highlighting the beauty, the color, the smiles, the familiar sights, the hard-working families, and the warmth that you feel if you take the time to get past all the negative stereotypes, and the very real fear and danger that exists there as well. The violence and instability are real, and frightening; but I choose to hope that the good is stronger and will win out.

Even as I write this entry now, it seems like the violence and exploitation is winning. It’s taken on dimensions too dark to speak about, too evil to name. But there’s a tiny chance. A small voice that’s spoken out, a small hope for healing and restoration has been spoken into the darkest crannies of the slum. And that’s the voice I’m listening to, and believing will win out in the end.

And as far as the video is concerned, these are the images, the celebrations, and the social coherence that I hope wins out. Set to another lyrical psalm by local rapper Douglas “Transformer” Contreras, this one asks a question: where are YOU going? And I punctuated it with a phrase from one of his other songs:

Viva donde viva la sangre de cristo es lo que valgo / No matter where I live it’s the blood of Christ that gives me value.

On the occasion of the death of someone killed in the neighborhood: a visual psalm

Lagrimas de Sangre / Tears of Blood

A few weeks ago I helped produce a video that I feel gives rich voice to the tragic violence that rips apart the lives in our barrio. Look for my name there in the credits.

Douglas, former-thug-now-set-on-fire-for-Jesus rapper, put to song a requiem for the youth killed in our barrio, and a plea for a more peaceful future. It’s titled “Tears of Blood,” a chronicle of people gunned down on the streets of La Carpio. It’s not an objective report; it’s personal. These are the images of the young guys killed, their friends and family, and those who remember them. At least four of them were familiar smiles on our street. One was a grandson of the family I lived with, like a second cousin to me.

Visually, there is a lot of anger and grief in the video. Lyrically, there is a testimony in honor of the lives lost. There is a plea for those who remain alive to think twice before picking up guns and using violence to solve problems.

This song is not for you to enjoy. I happen to like the beat and the lyrics, but it might not be your style. It’s to give voice to the pain. To plea for peace. To generate strength and resilience to steel oneself to the pain of the past and move on.

You don’t have to like it. But respect it.

Visitors from Colombia

Earlier this month four youth from a church in Armenia, Colombia, completed their visit to Costa Rica as missionaries-in-training. During their time here they served in various ministries through the church I’m a part of (Amistad Internacional in San Francisco de Dos Ríos). They plugged right into the church and helped out tirelessly for about two weeks at our church VBS activities and different ministries members of our church are involved in (Funda Vida, YWAM, Latin Link in Los Guidos, Edutecnología, and a young church in Paraíso, Cartago). Each visiting missionary was placed with a family from the church while they were here. Continue reading

Strike 3

Last week I joined some La Carpio neighbors in a protest against a water treatment plant that’s being installed right at the entrance to their community, less than a kilometer away from their homes.

  • Watch a video with images and sounds from the protest

Two computer technicians were scheduled to come into the office to help last Thursday, but they called the day before saying it would be difficult to get in because of a strike the next morning that would block the only entrance (for vehicles) in and out of La Carpio. I called my host family to see what they knew about the strike, and they gave me a few more details they’d gotten from a community meeting organizing the strike. Because I sympathize with La Carpio’s struggle against the high level of environmental contaminants that are dumped into their community, and because I was glad to participate in a protest against something that seems such a clear disregard for people’s health and dignity, I joined them Thursday morning to support the community in their protest.

The “waste treatment plant”, more accurately described by residents as a “craphole” and other similar terms, is only one of the many forms of environmental violence implemented against the La Carpio community. The most infamous is the garbage dump that was built in 2000 by EBI, a Canadian-owned company, which boasts the sanitary treatment of 1200 tons of garbage per day. The “sanitary treatment” of the material waste is disputed not just by La Carpio residents less than a kilometer from its dumping grounds, but by neighboring elite in expensive homes on properties across the valley. Strike one is the garbage dump, causing high incidences of hepatitis and diarrhea. Strike two are the quarries in the valleys on either side of the community, which pump dust into the air causing any number of respiratory problems. Strike three would be the waste plant, but not if La Carpio can strike first.

The people who spend the most amount of time in La Carpio, that being the women and kids who often spend the entire day there, are the ones who suffer the most. The family I lived with suffered from all the above problems, as I described in this blog post and others.

It recently came to light (through government correspondence made public through Wikileaks) that in contrast to Costa Rica’s “green” image it promotes, less than 5% of its blackwater is treated before reaching the ocean. The river that dumps the contaminated water from the central valley (Río Tárcoles) is the most polluted in Central America. The beaches in this area are favorites for foreign tourists because they are the closest en route from the capital city. There is a HUGE need, then, for water treatment of the polluted rivers (both for environmental protection and for tourist money). It is interesting to me, then, that the waste treatment plant is being placed where it is, on a river branch before the union of three different rivers. A water treatment plant is essential; it’s a just a clear case of environmental injustice to place it in an impoverished community that has already unwillingly received the full brunt of metropolitan contamination – it’s garbage, its symbolic rejection, and now its wastewater. To quote Costa Rican sociologist Carlos Sandoval Garcia:  “both in the material domain – garbage and residual water – as well as in the human domain – Nicaraguans and poverty – La Carpio is a site and signifier of abjection” (Narrating Lived Experience in a Binational Community in Costa Rica, 2009:156).

The above video shows some photographs and audio clips from the protest. If you don’t follow the Spanish, most of what is said, or written on the signs, is mentioned above. The main demands are: no water treatment plant [so close to where we live], and instead, build a high school for the community.

Learn more:

My life at <= 145 lbs and 275 linear inches... on leaving

One way to simplify your life if you find yourself buried in an onslaught of senseless clutter is to move often, and as cheaply as possible, limiting yourself to the ever-reducing baggage restrictions that airlines have. Every time you make an overseas move, you have to prune off the useless junk you’ve accumulated over time.

It’s no different for me, I find, even though I tried to keep myself from collecting clutter from creeping over my shelves and into my closets. I was unable to resist the temptation to accumulate more junk than I can use, but my sins catch up to me once departure date arrives. Departure date is the cutoff for when I have to whittle my excess down to the bare necessities, and make careful decisions about what’s worth taking and what stays behind.

What finally makes the cut tells me something about who I am, and is a somewhat sobering reminder about what the U.S. is known for in other parts of the world. Continue reading

Photography Ethics

Korda and his iconic photograph

Alberto Korda, the photographer made famous by his iconic image of Che Guevara gazing resolutely into the distance, considered the photograph a stroke of luck. Korda covered the Cuban revolution and became Fidel Castro’s personal photographer for ten years. Yet the image that changed him, that impacted his thinking and caused him to dedicate his life career to covering the revolution, is the transfixing photograph he took of a young girl cuddling a piece of wood as a doll.


 “The photo I took that has been published throughout the world and is considered the most famous photograph in the history of photography is the photo of Che Guevara. But for me, in my heart and in my feelings, the most important photo is that of Paulita.”

~Alberto Korda

This American Life: Scenes from life back in the USofA


I apologize for the miserably long lapse of time since I’ve published some updated news. I hope that in the past several months, you’ve gotten some insight into what I’ve been up to via prayer letters, church presentations, or personal conversations. I’ve been back in the United States since May, so I’ve taken advantage of these past several months to try and meet personally with people (since I’m around to do it!), and also to share publicly at churches about the ministry work I’ve gotten to be a part of for the past several years in Costa Rica.

My prayer letters for this year are available on my MAF profile website:, in case you missed one of the exciting installments 🙂

A huge thanks to those of you who I’ve gotten to have conversations with. Many of these are a real encouragement to my soul. It is good to hear some of the things I’m processing reflected back for me. Of course, I come back a very different person than when I left four years ago. But it is a real encouragement to see and hear about the life I’ve been distant from for four years as well. That is, I am fascinated to hear about the interesting things going on in the lives of others that I’ve only been privy to via facebook updates and occasional notes.

While back in the U.S., home base has been the basement of home… that is, I’ve been living downstairs in my family’s home here in Nampa. I was able to visit a few other locations to spend time with family and share about ministry news: Oregon, California, Kansas City, Florida, and Oklahoma.

I’m working on a more detailed collection of thoughts and experiences that have impacted me since I’ve been back in the U.S. Until I get that done, take a look through the following photo albums and we’ll call it good:

Please know I am VERY grateful for the hospitality, kindness, and encouragement that so many have showed me since I’ve been back. It is very appreciated. Thank you also to those who have begun giving (or have been faithfully giving for many years) to help me be a part of this ministry.

Ghetto Superstar

Greetings! I recently added a few interesting articles in my separate blog about living in La Carpio. There’s a lot of writing on there, so if you’re behind or even if you are checking it out for the first time, here are some articles you might want to start with:

If you comment on anything there, I’m the only one that can read it. I’ll continue to add articles as I find time but I won’t always update with a separate announcement on this blog.


Yielo Fieldwork

Please read. Please comment:

Perhaps you’re curious about what life is like in an entire community built on land than no one has legal title to, a stone’s throw away from the largest garbage dump in the country (and a line drive away from the country club’s golf course across the valley). Perhaps you never noticed that in places without paved roads people toss water on the dusty road outside their doorways too keep it from unsettling and coating the insides of their homes and from clogging up their lungs. How are places organized and coordinated where resources are scarce and government can’t keep up with population growth? Or ever wondered how people who don’t get 24-hour running water store up water for the day when they can’t afford sophisticated backup water systems? How many buckets of water does it take to bathe oneself in the morning from a 55-gallon drum?

Continue reading