unsplash-logoGenie Austin

Will You Take the Challenge With Us?

Child abuse among Costa Rica’s children is a growing problem.  Studies show that 1 in 4 children lives below the poverty line.  Despite a relatively low poverty rate in our country, 16% of the population is affected by this problem, with children being the primary victims. On December 11, 2014, an article in the Tico Times reported that between 2006-2014 more than 20,000 minors were treated for some type of suspected abuse.  This information came from statistics obtained from the National Children’s Hospital in C.R.  With this in mind, we would like to take a moment to share what God is doing with Phase II and our reason for being here.

With the completion of Phase I, we now have our sights set on developing Phase II.  This includes the construction of 4 additional children’s homes.  Our goal is to provide hope for children who are hurting, abused, and afraid.  Since opening our doors in 2004, we have received 91 children.  Of these, roughly half have left in adoption.  The others have returned to their biological families, while 14 are currently living at the A.P.  These 4 homes will allow us to impact more lives.  Our aim is to share Christ with every child that walks through our doors.

We are nearing completion of the permit phase.  It has been a long, arduous task.  Once permits are secured, we will begin with construction of a bridge.  The bridge is needed to span a creek, giving us full access to the main portion of the property.

Several months ago, a team from the U.S. was visiting the A.P.  During the tour, we approached a friend that had the capacity to help us with the task of building the bridge about funding that project.  He thoughtfully told us that he did not feel led to donate for the bridge, but that he would give funds to build a house ($285K)!  He also informed us that this was not an open ended offer.  He would give us until the end of this November to raise the money.  If we are not able to, he would withdraw his offer.  Obviously, this has been a HUGE motivating factor for us.

We have been in negotiations with an outside company to construct the bridge.  After several meetings, we were able to negotiate a final price of $88,000, which is much less than the original estimated cost of $120,000.  Good news…at this point, we have already raised over $60,000!  We only need $28,000 to meet our goal.

If you feel led to contribute, please contact us at sgthomas@ice.co.cr or call 956.287.3131.

"Arrivederci Dominic!”

On September 5th, Marco and Catherine arrived from Italy to meet their adopted son for the very first time!  After communicating via SKYPE for a couple of months, they were thrilled to finally get to know Dominic up close and in person.  He arrived at the A.P. two years ago, after having faced two failed national adoptions.  Dominic’s international adoption was finalized on September 21st.  Our prayer is that God would bless this sweet family as they begin their new journey together.

Ministry News

In our last newsletter, we shared about a couple of cases from the Province of Limón that are literally at a standstill.  In May of last year, we received two children, Derik and Susana, who are waiting for their cases to be resolved.  During the month of May, we had been communicating with the Limón office.  Unfortunately, the  attorney had been lax in moving the kids cases.  On July 14th, we wrote a letter to the Director of the Regional PANI Office in Limón soliciting her intervention.  Since that time, we have received no answer from her.  So, we are moving up the hierarchical ladder in order to have our voice heard.  We have now written another letter expressing our concerns to Management at the main PANI hub in San José.  If they do not respond, we will continue up the chain of command until we have an audience with the President of the organization, if need be!  Please pray for grace and favor as we fight on behalf of Derik and Susana.  God knows their situations and his timing is perfect.  We really do believe that! We continue to stand in the gap for Guadalupe.  She was not accepted at the special education school, so the Ministry of Education is referring her to a public school that has Special Ed. services .  There is also a teacher who is trained in behavioral disorders.  Typically here in Costa Rica, the child is seen on a weekly basis.  However, in Guadalupe’s case, we recommend she be seen every day.  The lady at the Ministry of Education told us that they didn’t have the resources to do that, but that she would call the school we are looking at to see what they can do.  She has not yet gotten back to us.  This has been a long, harrowing experience.  Pray for wisdom on how to help our girl and do what’s best for her.

We received good news a couple of weeks ago; siblings Daniel and Brithany have been placed with a family from Spain.  Right now, we are waiting for the family to send a letter of intent before it is official.  The children do not know yet, as it usually takes a couple of weeks to receive the letter from the parents.  The siblings have  been with us a little over a year.  Please pray for them as they will soon begin a new chapter in their lives.

This past week, we received an email from the attorney handling the case of brothers, Stuard and Josua.  If you remember, in our April newsletter we mentioned that they had been declared abandoned, but that their mother had appealed the decision.  Their case was remitted to a higher court where 3 judges would review it.  Well, they decided to uphold the decision of the lower court, so the boys are now officially declared abandoned, no more appeals!  All this means that their file will be sent to the Office of Adoptions where they will begin promoting them for adoption.  We ask that you pray because Stuard already turned 10 this year and it can be difficult to place a “pre adolescent,” but we know that nothing is impossible for God!

The Psalm on the front of this page declares God’s goodness to each of us.  The reason we share these stories is because we believe that “Prayer moves the hand of God” and we encourage you to pray for the children.  Learning about them isn’t by chance, it’s a call to action to stand in the gap for these little ones who can’t stand alone.

Bowling Fun!

Today the team took our kids on a field trip ... to the bowling alley.  Our kids had never been before, so this was a totally new experience for all of them!


Even the smallest kids enjoyed themselves.


... and the big kids too! (There's big Steve doing his thing)


  Afterwards, we had lunch and headed home.  Our house parents and the kids had such a good time we'll have to go back soon!

VBS Camp with Team GCC!

During our mid-year break from school, the Abraham Project and Grace Community Chapel hosted a 4 day VBS Camp.  We invited all of the children in the daycare plus kids from our "barrio" (neighborhood) to attend this event.  On the first day, we received 400 children!  Needless to say, all hands were on deck!  The kids learned worship songs (in English and in Spanish), enjoyed some Hip-hop, crafts, sports, and more!  Thanks to our friends in New Jersey that come prepared and willing to serve our community of Villas de Ayarco!


Rincón de Osa

We're back!  It's been a couple of years, but with Southside Christian Church's team we went back to Rincón de Osa in the southern pacific area of the country (a six hour drive from San José).  We returned to help Pastor Porfidio finish out their new bathrooms, wire the electrical, and finish up the roof.  In the 3 days we were there we got a lot accomplished! We worked ....


We played ...IMG_0991

We rested ...


Overall, we had a great time helping out our friends down south and it was a big blessing to all of us who participated.

“ The Bridge Challenge...Phase II”


One of the first orders of business in developing Phase II is the need to build a bridge to span a creek in order to have full access to the property.  Recently, we were presenting the project to a friend with the hopes he would fund part of the bridge construction.  To our surprise, he instead opted to fund one of the children’s homes, which is valued at $285K.  There is one little caveat, the money ($123K) to build the bridge has to be raised before the end of November to receive the funds.  Our goal is to have all the needed funds in the next few months so we can start immediately after receiving our final building permit.

This is where you come in...we need you to pray and consider how you could help us to achieve this goal and then take immediate action.

Will you take the challenge with us?

If you would like more information please contact us at sgthomas@ice.co.cr

Thank you!

Ministry News

We find ourselves at a standstill with a couple of our cases.  In May of last year, we received two children from the local PANI office in Limón.  Derik is an 11 year old boy who has been waiting for 2 years for his case to be resolved.  That branch is the only office that works on behalf of the children in that jurisdiction; and as such, they have only one attorney fighting for children's rights.  Susana is a 1-1/2 year old baby girl whose mother is an addict, and she has been apprehended for selling her other children for sex.  During the month of May, we have been communicating with the Limón office and it appears that the  attorney has been lax in moving the kids cases.  We have expressed our concern that Derik will be 12 in September and he still hasn’t been declared abandoned.  The older he gets the slimmer his chances become for being adopted. Susana is dark skinned and precious.  She can be placed with a family as an “adoption at risk.”  This is when the adoptive family assumes her even though she has yet to be declared abandoned.  In these cases, the judge has to be very sure that the child will not return to any member of the biological family.  Because of her family history, it’s very probable that she will never go back to them.  So we are asking that she go ahead and be placed so as not to negate her right to have a family.  We have had to get our PANI supervisor involved now, since the local office is not moving forward with the cases.  Please pray for favor and for God’s timing for Derik and Susan’s cases to be resolved, and for them to be placed with loving families.

Last month, we shared a little bit about our girl Guadalupe.  We told you that she was being evaluated from head to toe at the children’s hospital.  After undergoing CAT scans, heart exams, blood work, and more, her tests came out perfectly!  There is nothing organically wrong with her!

As for the evaluation at the special education school, we have heard “unofficially” that they did not accept her.  Please, please pray for wisdom on how to educate her here in a system that isn’t set up for kids like her.  We can’t help but think that God has a plan for this lil’ girl.


Ministry News

Recently, while working through a delightful devotional on the women of Genesis, the study’s focus was on Isaac and Rebekah’s courtship and marriage.  In Genesis 24, Eliezer (Abraham’s servant) begged brother Laban and Bethuel (her father) to let him go away to his master because God had prospered his journey.  They in turn, asked Rebekah what she thought and she answered, “I will go.”  So they blessed her and sent her on her way.  This story is a portrait of Jesus and His bride, the church.  At the end of the devotional there was a wedding vow written out.  The directions asked you to write your name in the space and repeat the vows as if you were saying them to Christ: Will you ___, take Jesus to be your God-given husband in this covenant of marriage?  Will you love Him?  Will you honor Him?  And forsaking all others live only unto Him for all of eternity?  

After attending Stephen, Jr. & Kendra’s wedding last month, these words really hit home.  They speak of covenant, love, honor, and faithfulness.  Take a minute and ponder whether or not you are fulfilling your promise to the Lord.  If not, renew your vows to Him and choose to live “head over heals” in love with the lover of your soul!

In our last newsletter, we shared about Brayner, a 1 year old we received back in November.  His mother is serving a 5 year 4 month prison sentence and is seeking visitation with the toddler.  Fortunately, PANI told her that they would not be able to grant those visits.  However, his mother has offered a family resource (his grandmother) as a possible option to take custody of the boy.  The judge ordered that a psychologist and social worker in the court system do an evaluation on this person.  We heard that she was interviewed and is now awaiting a visit from the social worker in order to complete her home study.  After talking to the case worker in PANI, she says that the grandmother does not have the resources to care for the baby adequately.  Plus, she is the guardian to 2 of Brayner’s older brothers.  Pray that God would intervene so that his case can be resolved soon.

Another important prayer request is for siblings Stuard and Josua.  These brothers have been declared abandoned by the government, however; their mother has appealed the decision and the case has gone to a higher court.  We are waiting to see if the 3 judges that review the case will uphold the ruling of the lower court.  If so, the boys file will go directly to adoptions and they will await new parents.  Please pray that God’s will be done!

We continue working diligently with Guadalupe, a 6 year old we received last August.  We had mentioned before her sketchy background where physical aggression was a “normal” part of her life.  This little girl has been the most difficult case we have ever received in all of our history!  She came in biting, hitting, kicking, and scratching everyone from kids to adults.  She was thrown out of the daycare and not allowed to return without an assistant.  Thankfully, Angie Crawford, one of our long term missionaries, stepped up to the plate.  She committed to assist Guadalupe until the end of the year.  During this time, we saw vast improvement in her behavior.  In December, we sought out the help of an occupational therapist and a behavioral therapist.  She goes to therapy once a week for two hours.  In February, Lupe started first grade and it has been a disaster!  Our house parents began receiving notes from the teacher about her conduct in class.  Guadalupe had regressed and began hitting her classmates and the teacher.  She even had an episode where she turned over the desks in the classroom!  Inevitably, the school would call our house parents and they would have to pick her up an hour or so after school started.  We finally called a meeting with the Director of the school, her teacher, and our local PANI office.  We needed some kind of intervention on her behalf.  The school didn’t want her anymore and she has a right to get an education.  We had a dilemma on our hands.  What to do?  We decided to get some medical exams administered at the children’s hospital to determine whether or not she has some kind of condition that we were unaware of.  The exams are still in progress.  Her school file was sent to the Ministry of Education and she has been approved to be evaluated for a special education school in Cartago.  The evaluation will be done over 4 sessions.  We pray that the Lord will open the doors for Lupe to get a quality education and hopefully be integrated into a “normal” school next year.  Guadalupe has been a challenge for us, but we have learned so much from her.  The Lord is teaching us to love unconditionally, serve wholeheartedly, and give passionately even when we are stretched beyond our limit or comfort zone.

On April 1, 2004 (April Fool’s Day), we opened the doors to the homes.  We didn’t fully realize what we were getting into.  During the past 12 years, we have rescued and served 91 children, who would have otherwise been institutionalized in public homes or ended up God only knows where.  Charles Stanley once said: “The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor.”   We encourage you to continue praying for the children.  We do not think that it is by chance that they end up here.  We believe that God has brought each one to our doorstep and that He is their Father, protector, and provider.  Thanks to all of you who support this ministry through your love, prayers, and gifts.  You are helping make a difference in each little life!

Mininstry News

Jesus declares in John chapter 15 that He is the true vine, we are his branches, and Father God is the vinedresser who prunes us so that we can bear more fruit.  In this segment, Jesus is challenging his followers on how to get the most out of their lives in order to impact His Kingdom in an even greater way.  God is always looking to get the best results out of us that He can.  Sometimes, however; because of sin in our lives, we hinder the work God wants to do.  It’s important to repent, submit to His will, and produce a good harvest.  Thoughtfully and prayerfully we should examine in detail whether or not we are producing “No fruit,” “some fruit,” or “much fruit” for His glory! We have breaking news with regards to Anthony and his little sister Aislinn.  In December, they were given the surprising news that they had been paired with a family.  Their adoptive parents are from South Carolina.  Their father is an Assistant Pastor and mother stays home to care for the kids.  They have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister (both biological children of their parents).  Over the Christmas break, the siblings began communicating via SKYPE with their new family.  At the end of January, the big day finally arrived … they met Mom, Dad, Luke, and Evie.  It was a sweet reunion to be sure.   Once a bond began forming, the social worker gave the green light to leave the project for good.  They will be in Costa Rica for the next month or so until they have their hearing with the judge, get their paperwork processed, and passports ready for their return home.

We are convinced that “Prayer moves the hand of God” and that there is nothing more important than sowing time on your knees!  Thanks for being a part of these lil’ lives!

Team Season Begins!

Delayed by a HUGE snowstorm, our friends from Love & Truth Church in Jackson, TN finally made it here!  During their time here, they ministered to the children in the homes by taking them on a field trip to La Paz Waterfall Gardens.  It was such a special treat for the kids!  Each child was paired up with a team member and enjoyed the day seeing the sights, enjoying good food and fellowship.  Thanks Love & Truth for blessing our kids in such a loving, tangible way! In the butterfly conservatory

Christmas Cheer!

Today we celebrated Christmas with both our tico/gringo staff.  It was super fun!  We all pitched in for the “eats, ” which included chicken wings, mashed potatoes, baked beans, cole slaw, topped off with coconut cream pie!  Delicious!  Afterwards we all participated in the “Amigo Secreto” (secret friend).  We had all previously drawn names and had to buy a gift for that person.  In order to give the gift, you had to describe the person you had purchased it for, which made for a fun and interesting afternoon!  We are so thankful for the amazing personnel God has given us to work with!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Inauguration Day for our Multipurpose Building!

It’s been a long time coming!  The roof is finally on our building and the inauguration day is here!  There is a sense of closure and excitement to see phase I complete!  Many guests arrived for this special night, approximately 950 people!  We even had friends from the U.S. come celebrate this huge miracle with us!

 Psalms 105:1-3

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!

Call upon His name;

Make known His deeds among the peoples!

Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;

Talk of all His wondrous works!