Thursday, August 3, 2017

June/July 2017

One of the things I will remember about the summer of 2017 is living out of a suitcase. I will also remember it as two months spent meeting new friends and catching up with old ones.  


The Thomas Family Mission was on the road for June and July as we raised support to continue in ministry for another three years in Costa Rica.  To all our friends and churches that support us, thank you so very much.  

We are back in Costa Rica and glad to be home! We enjoyed our time in the states but Costa Rica is home to us now.  As I sit in my living room, with the doors open, I feel the crisp morning stillness that is accompanied by the Costa Rican sunrise.  The stillness is only interrupted by exotic (and sometimes not so exotic) birds occasionally chirping past. I am learning to enjoy these mornings before the hustle and bustle of the day. Waking up early is tiring work though.  

An important event will be taking place in the life of the school soon. August 7-11 is a very special time at Colegio Metodista called "Spiritual Emphasis Week". This week is spent in worship at the school.  Imagine summer camp being brought to your school for a week. Students will be in class for a few hours and will then spend the rest of the school day in worship with some extraordinary folks learning more about Jesus.  The Mark Swayze Band is leading us in worship for the week and is bringing a team from The Woodlands United Methodist Church. Holy and Spirit filled conversations will be had. Please be in prayer for this short term mission team that will be serving us at the school, for our small groups, and for the students.

A personal prayer request that we have been asking God for is community. On tuesday we had the pleasure of welcoming a new family to Costa Rica who will be in ministry with us at the school! Praise God! Kyle and Tessa, with their four kids, have moved in next door to us. Please be praying for their family as they adjust to living in a foreign land and learning to speak Spanish.

Even though Costa Rica is our new home, and we've been here for two years, there is still a lot that is new and questions we still don't know the answers to. Kendra and I figured out this week that we can pay our electric bill right down the street from our house instead of driving across town! No matter what country you live in there will always be frustrating things. There will always be something to be mad about, and there will always be something not worthwhile that we can tie ourselves to and brood about until the floodwaters engulf us. The most joy filled  people I know are the way they are, not because they've somehow managed to remove themselves from frustrating things or solved them somehow, but because they personally know their Creator and seek the presence of God daily. 

We must not building upon anything other than the costly cornerstone that is Christ. We must not anchor our soul in anything other than Jesus. Worry/squabbles/frustration/gossip... these things are like an ugly piano, broken beyond repair, sitting in the middle of  the living room during Christmas morning. It is in the way and keeping us from opening presents! 


The Challenge:
Trust in someone who knows Jesus and ask them how they let go of the things keeping them from Christ. Then, with an open bible, ask Jesus to help remove the things that hinder you from him.  


-Spencer Thomas

If you have any questions about The Thomas Family Mission please email me at Spencer.Thomas@kfumc.org

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Meditation Words



-----Meditation Words-----



Meditating is only for ninjas and wizards... FALSE! Our perception of what meditation is has in part been twisted by movies. When I think of meditation, the first thought that comes to my mind is the Ninja Turtles. There is a specific scene in one of the movies where they have to meditate as a punishment. Balancing expertly while trying not to be distracted by pizza. Of course they fail, for it is common knowledge that the Ninja Turtles' greatest weakness is pizza. 

Being mystical does not make meditation. Reciting mantras does not make meditation. Mental gymnastics does not make meditation. We claim meditation to be a difficult practice although many of us already do it daily, simply on the wrong things...



We are so prone to meditate on "worry". We fill our minds with obscure realities and sometimes empower those false-realities with a voice loud enough to influence, or even overrun, day to day life. Practicing meditation is important. It is not a question of whether or not we meditate, it's a question of what do we meditate on. The meditating part, for us, is inevitable. The material on which we meditate is subject to change.

One of my biggest pet-peeves is when people say "like" over and over again for filler while speaking. Example: "It's like, a thing when like, you have to like, do that thing". Figure out what your trying to say, and like, say it... This annoys me to no end! I am not perfect, and I have a confession. When I was in high school I developed this weird habit of saying "and, a ummm" for filler while speaking. It was a terrible phase. Every sentence would contain "and, a ummm" before, after, or in the middle. It took 4 long weeks to finally break this atrocious habit. 

Our perception of reality is subject to the contents of our meditations. When we meditate on worry it obscures our vision of God's promises. It causes doubt and frustration towards God. Jeremiah 29:11 is a fact. Our perception of reality is twisted by meditating on worry and God's promises will appear far away. It is our choice to practice meditating on other things... better things... the best things.

It took 4 weeks for me to break the silly habit of saying "and, a ummm". I challenge you to spend the next 4 weeks being intentional about the things with which you fill your mind. The purpose is twofold:
-First, to break the habit of letting worry obscure the reality of God's promises.
-Second, to develop the daily practice of giving your thoughts to something worthy.



"Spencer's Guide to Practicing Christian Meditation 101"

1- Scripture. Have it with you. From a book into your heart. 

2- Catch yourself meditating on the wrong thing? Start thinking about the verse you decided to memorize.

3- Ponder scripture while you drive, bike, or walk to work. 

4- Daily repetition. Practice, practice, practice.  



Let's meditate. 

Here is content to meditate on:

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

"The soul is dyed by the color of your thoughts."





Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prayer Words

-------Prayer Words-------


"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." Matthew 6:7

More words does not mean better. I sometimes find myself trying to imitate the cadence of people who I think to be "good" at praying. It's silly. What usually ends up happening is that I'm so focused on trying to sound a certain way on the outside, that the inside becomes babble. 

I enjoy a multitude of hobbies! Kayaking, fishing, frisbee, skateboarding, video games, playing guitar, and on and on and on. Kendra, my wife, will sometimes have to make me pause and evaluate the priority of my hobbies. Since moving to Costa Rica, these are the priorities of my current hobbies: 

1- Coffee drinking. 
2- Reading
3- Guitar/music
4- Games (Basketball and video)

To be the best at any of these hobbies a person has to practice. I'm so horrible at basketball, but I'm better than I was 3 months ago because of practice. Playing guitar takes a TON of practice. There has to be enough time spent learning and developing muscle memory so that holding a guitar and navigating the strings becomes second nature. We must practice praying. 

Everything we find important, we practice. What are some of the things you purposefully practice? What are some things you unintentionally practice? I realized, a few weeks ago, that I unintentionally practice having a bad attitude every morning when I first wake up. I don't like it. I'm not a morning person. I had practiced having a bad attitude every morning. Having a bad attitude in the morning had become second nature! I'm still not good at waking up in the morning. It's exhausting. But mornings have gotten easier with practice. Practicing getting up, and drinking coffee.

Practice praying so that it becomes second nature. Spend enough time in prayer daily developing "muscle memory" so that holding a prayer and navigating a conversation with Jesus becomes part of your nature. Drinking coffee has made my morning practice of having a good attitude easier. Opening the bible makes the practice of prayer easier. 

"Spencer's Guide to Practicing Prayer 101"

1- Use simple words. "God, I want to know you. I need you. Help me practice being in your presence."

2- Be honest. With yourself, and with God. 

3- Pray with an open bible. 

4- Daily repetition. 



Let's pray.

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1John 3:1

Dear Jesus, I want to know this love. Amen.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2+3

It's time to stay in Costa Rica for another three years and chew bubblegum, and I'm all out of gum!


   The Thomas Family is very excited to tell you all that we are going to be in Costa Rica for a little while longer. Originally our commitment to being in Costa Rica was for two years. As we have gotten closer to the end of those two years, a decision had to be made. This decision has taken over 6 months to make. We feel with every fiber of our being that we are to be a part of this ministry in Costa Rica for 3 more years. Jesus Christ is moving our hearts in ways we never thought possible. 

   Our hearts are overjoyed to continue in this calling. Our response to Jesus moving our hearts to stay longer in Costa Rica has brought new energy and vision to this ministry at Colegio Metodista. 

   We have a few goals to pursue throughout our time in Costa Rica, one of them is blogging more often. Sharing multiple times a month with you about what we are doing in small groups and how you can continue to pray for us and our students. Another goal is that we must raise more monetary support.  To the churches, individuals, friends, and family who support us, we are extremely grateful for your offerings. We want to share, in person, the workings of Jesus we have witnessed during our time here thus far. We also want to extend the same invitation as when we first discerned to go on mission in Costa Rica, and invite you to be a part of it. 

   Here two ways you can be a part of this ministry, and we ask that you prayerfully consider each one. 
- Pray for us. Follow this blog and speak to God about what He's doing in Costa Rica, at Colegio Metodista, and in our hearts. 
- Monthly monetary support. This mission is made possible because men and women responded to God's calling to be a part of this ministry in Costa Rica.  


  We are looking forward to visiting with you. Stay tuned and buckle up! It's going to be a wild ride!

- Spencer and Kendra Thomas

Saturday, September 24, 2016

ONE YEAR IN COSTA RICA: An Interview

Cowboy, PHD in barking and play.
Loves Spencer and Kendra.






Hello and welcome! Thank you for being here with me, I am Professor Cowboy_Yeehaw and today I will be interviewing two of my favorite people.  Spencer and Kendra Thomas will answer my questions, together and individually, about their first year as full time missionaries in Costa Rica. Let's get started!



Let's bark! ... I mean, go!

Question-
How long have you been married, and when/why did you move to Costa Rica?

Answer- 
Married January 3, 2015.  We started praying about Costa Rica in February of 2015.  We knew, just by looking at each other, that Costa Rica was where we needed to be.  Why did we move? Because we were invited.  Seeking God's will is the only way a person can find peace.  



Question-
What is your mission field? 

Answer-
Our mission field is Colegio Metodista.  It is a private school with students from pre-k to high school graduation.  We primarily spend time with grades 7-11 (there is no 12th, they graduate at 11th).  We have spent the last year starting bible study small groups.  The purpose of these groups is for students to become Disciples of Jesus through meaningful Christ-centered relationships.  



Question-
What are some things you didn't expect to encounter after moving to Costa Rica?

Answer-
     Kendra: "I didn't expect a lot of things.  Principally, communication is difficult. Not just a language barrier, but a way of thinking that was different than mine. When I prepare for a meeting or event I am obnoxiously early. My coach always said '10 minutes early is on time.' As we learn Spanish one thing sticks out to me. 'I am early/late' does not translate. A person may say 'it is early.' However, that is quite different. Perhaps it is not the largest hurdle we have had, but this has proved to be the greatest learning experience. Although living with the Turrialba Volcano has also made life more interesting. With it's most active year in a long time, we now know the varied pleasures of regular ash fall."
     Spencer: "This is going to sound really dumb... but the food.  There's no tex-mex.  I was really excited when someone told me Costa Ricans do tamales.  Costa Rican tamales are not Mexican tamales, not even close.  In my mind I associated Latin America with Mexico and Mexican food.  So when we got here and I asked 'Where can a gringo get some tacos?' and they told me Taco Bell, I wasn't expecting that."




Question-
Looking back over your year, what has been the most difficult part of moving to another country"

Answer-
     Kendra: "Being away from family.  Our family is particularly close. We were so fortunate to be together for the Christmas Season, but missing my grandparent's Memorial Day BBQ and Mother's Day or the crazy annual Pumpkin Patch my mom's youth do every year is hard on the heart. Those times when the family comes together to celebrate and sometimes even argue, but then everyone takes a nap and feels better... those are the times you miss."
     Spencer: "Family, also.  On Kendra's side we have 6 nephews/nieces and on my side we have 3 boys.  So only getting to see them a few times is hard.  It's strange but true, I miss not being able to see how much they've grown.  Every time I see my nephews, they are noticeably bigger/stronger and harder to wrestle.




Question-
What gives you the most joy?

Answer-
     Kendra:  "Seeing the spark in a student's eye as they become excited to talk about the Lord and their faith. Being friends with these students, mentoring them, walking beside them as they discover what it means for Jesus to be Lord of their life, is the greatest joys.
     Spencer: "Seeing our students start to seek the Lord and take personal responsibility for their faith.  The absolute biggest blessing has been getting to share the gospel with someone who has never heard or opened the bible before."




Question-
What things do you miss most?

Answer-
     Kendra:   "The food! I miss sausage gravy, Whataburger, and Tex-Mex. Good Texas food with family and friends."
     Spencer: "Whataburger. Fishing.  Kayak.  The river.  But family most of all.  My mom and dad and my sisters family.  QUESO cheese dip!"




Question-
What is something you'd like to share that you've learned over the last year?

Answer-
     Kendra:   "Aside from some new cooking skills, I've learned to communicate better. As I said earlier, it is a struggle. I always took advantage of the whole English language to tell people about my faith, but when English is someone's second language, or if you are speaking in a new language, it is of the utmost importance you be clear with that message. The one thing we cannot afford to get wrong is sharing the Truth.
     Spencer: "Throw away all your pride.  It won't help you.  It will only hurt you and the people around you.  Having to be right or heard, because of pride, will not lead anyone to the Cross of Christ.  There is nothing I can do to change a persons heart.  Get rid of pride and make more room for the Holy Spirit."




Question-
Being your dog, I see you leave me at home every day... Where are some of the cool adventures you've been on?

Answer-
     Kendra:   "White water rafting and hiking through the rainforest have been my favorites! Beautiful views and fast paced fun!"
     Spencer: "Beaches, volcanos, and Panama.  But my favorite place in Costa Rica is Rio Tarcoles. It's know as 'The Crocodile Bridge' and it does not disappoint.   It was something I watched on the Discovery Channel as a kid and dreamed about seeing in person."
Crocodile Bridge


Manuel Antonio National Park














"I'm ready... take me with you" -Cowboy





Thank you for your prayers and support.  We are grateful for you. 


- Spencer, Kendra, and Cowboy Thomas



Monday, September 19, 2016

Ketchup, Mustard, and Catching Up






"Consider the lilies"

We find ourselves considering the lilies and laugh at our attempts to fashion the world around us. Consider the lilies and know that you are loved.  Kendra and I are completely incompetent at sustaining flowers, but living in Costa Rica has advantages.  We have beautiful flowers along our drive way that grow because it rains, a lot.  Praise God that Kendra hasn't touched them because they would surely die (her words, not mine)!

Toilets breaking, house leaking, vehicle needing new brakes, tired, busy, bored, lonely, content, homesick, frustrated, rainy, dry, and sometimes just out of coffee.... But it's worth it and we don't regret a single day that goes by.  Jesus is moving in our hearts the same as in the ministry He has invited us to be a part of.  Ministry with God starts with God ministering to the minister.   The closer we get to Jesus the closer we get to the cross.  God is surely ministering to us.  We are learning not only how to be missionaries in a foreign country and in a foreign language, but how to be married and love each other more than we did the day before.  We are learning how to argue better and how to disagree and how to compliment each other and how to love each other better.  I love my wife best when I love Jesus first.  Kendra loves me best when she loves Jesus first.  Jesus be the focal point of this person.  

Kendra... loves... running.  Spencer no like running very mucho.  But when I go running I never regret it.  For me running is a hassle, I don't like it, but I never regret doing it.  For me it's running.  What is "it" for you?  Maybe it's cleaning your room, or washing the car, or vacuuming.  We all have certain things that we don't like doing, but always feel good after doing them.  I want to challenge you...
       If you are married, I want you to share your testimony (story of how you came to know Jesus) with your spouse.  If you're not married, share your testimony with a person who has helped you know Jesus. Here are some things you are saying to yourself right now:
- My wife/husband/person already knows my story
- Sure, I'll do it later (just like you said you'd do that one thing that you haven't done yet)
- Keep reading...keep reading... oh, he's like, really wanting me to do this
- What's the point?
        I promise you won't regret it.  
It doesn't have to be complicated.  It doesn't have to be long.  It doesn't have to sound polished like a preachers sermon on Sunday morning at 11:00 traditional service.  

Do it simply.
Do it honestly.
Do it. 

 To make the title relevant, Kendra likes ketchup and I like mustard. Thank you for reading our blog and catching up with us!  Stay tuned for more. 

- Spencer and Kendra Thomas. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

May: "I feel like I just got off a roller coaster"

"I will send down the showers in their season; they will be showers of blessing." Ezekiel 34:26



Rest... Sweet rest...   The adventure started with an over night retreat into the mountains with our 9th grade generation.  Everyone arrived at the school at 5:15 A.M.  After brief instruction and loading onto five buses, we were shuttled up into the mountains of Costa Rica!   We arrived at the camp around 8, and first things first, we had breakfast.  Once everyone had consumed the most important meal of the day we started the fun.  Large group games, followed by small group games, followed by high ropes activities, followed by getting rained on, followed by more activities involving high ropes course action and running around.  Our over night trip was packed full of endless activity.  It was great.  We gathered in the evening and worshiped God.  A word was shared, talking about Daniel.  How Daniel stood out among his peers and how not even a pack of lions could turn him from pursuing the will of God.  It was the best part of the camp.  After worship we played a MASSIVE game of hide-and-seek.  Each staff member was worth a certain number of points (Kendra and I were worth the most).  The game ended when either all the people were found or time ran out.  Off we go! Into the dark, rainy, and cold jungle of Costa Rica to hide from 120 students.  After 30 minutes of very uncomfortable hiding, I heard the siren announcing the game was finished. "Awesome", I thought, "They didn't find me, I win!"  I hike out of the forest towards the camp fire, excited to see if Kendra was found.  Every couple of minutes a new leader would appear from the cloak of darkness, smiling because they were not found.  Every time someone new appeared I would rush over thinking it was Kendra.  Kendra never showed up.  I would be lying if I told you I wasn't worried.  I knew she had a flash light, but not a sense of direction.  We put together a scouting crew.  We scoured the woods looking for any sign of a beautiful gringa, my beautiful gringa.  Eventually she was found.  She was less than 50 yards from the fire, hiding behind a rock near the river.  She couldn't hear anyone yelling or the siren because the river was too loud.  #HideAndSeekChampion2016 goes to my beautiful wife.  Sharing of testimonies and smore's around a fire is what finished off the night... or so I thought.  After multiple attempts to get all the guys in my cabin to lay down and go to bed, they finally relented and there was peace.  Less than 5 minutes later everyone was awake, running and yelling, as 70 girls sang high school musical songs at the top of their lungs right outside our door.  There was no hope to getting my guys back into "sleep mode".  We stayed up all night....

The next day was still great! More activities and even more laughs.  After lunch we packed everyone back into the buses and made our way home.  We hugged and said goodbye to our students as their parents picked them up.  All were ready to be home, but our adventure had just begun!

We went home, unpacked, and then repacked our things, and went straight to bed.

The alarm went off at 4:15.... We awoke finished repacking our things. At 5:00AM we got into a taxi that took us to the airport.  After an entire day of travel we were back in Texas.  We spent the weekend in Kerrville preparing.

Tuesday morning we head out to Camp Eagle and prepare for the senior class from Costa Rica to arrive that afternoon.  We wait... And wait.... And wait some more.  The students and teachers finally arrived, after many delays, around 1:00AM.  They were exhausted but excited.  Tuesday night, I had no trouble getting the guys in my cabin to go to sleep.

Camp Eagle (located near Rocksprings, TX) is an adventurer's paradise spanning thousands of acres of wilderness, including rivers and cliffs.  Incorporated into the cliffs along the river there is rock climbing, rappelling, and an assortment of challenging "heights based" adventures.  All of which our students were able to enjoy!

Every morning, before our activities, we gathered together for worship. And every evening, after activities, we would worship together.  Throughout the week we went through the book of Ephesians.
Something crazy happens when we open God's word.  God speaks to us.  The best part of the trip was the last night of worship.  We spent the night at Kerrville First United Methodist Church.  Before worship we ate BBQ and learned how to line dance.

Once we had gathered for worship, we prayed and sang a song.  We put a microphone in front of the student body and gave them an invitation.  "We invite you to share how you encountered your Creator during this trip to Texas."

Listening to the testimonies of student after student share how God spoke to them was the best part of the entire trip.
"I never really realized that God wanted to know me like this"
"I want to follow Jesus and learn about the bible"
"For the first time in my life, I heard the voice of my Creator telling me I was loved"
"I never thought that I had to travel thousands of miles away from home to learn that God is Jealous for me"

These are just a few of the things spoken that made our hearts explode into a million tender pieces.  Jesus is so good.  E. Stanley Jones says that even evangelical movement starts with the evangelical being moved.  Oh how our hearts have been tilled, made ready for growth.  Kendra and I have never been more aware of God's love for us than we are right now.  And we find ourselves saying some of the same things our students said about going to Texas.  Moving to Costa Rica has produced revelation after revelation of how much God cares for us.

It makes me think of Heaven.  How Heaven is outside of time.  It's not measured in years or millennia, there is only eternity.  And every moment of eternity in Heaven will be filled with revelation after revelation of God's goodness.  Praise Jesus!

Kendra, myself, and Colegio Metodista are extremely grateful for all of the people and churches involved in making a dream become reality.  100 Costa Ricans on a senior class trip to Texas, spent in the hill country learning of and encountering our creator.

With much love,
    Spencer and Kendra Thomas