Just a little update

IMG_7341We haven’t blogged in a while! Unfortunately for me (Melanie), the guilt gets to me and I postpone blogging even longer.  I especially feel guilty because I worry (unhealthily and sinfully so) that our supporters (prayer and financial) will feel neglected. Maybe they’ll feel  as though they aren’t important to us…

Of course this isn’t true. We pray for them daily, we talk about them in our home by name, we tell our kids that it’s because of the Body of Christ that we are here.

So what exactly have we been doing in the past few months?


Peter opening the first day of Spiritual Emphasis Week in Spanish

We are continuing with our language studies and are just two months from graduation! Each day we spend about five hours at the language school, and then have homework and studying for the remainder of the day.  

We are really grateful for the progress we’ve made so far in Spanish. A week ago, I was able to give a brief (if imperfect!) speech in Spanish at an appreciation luncheon for our children’s teachers. Peter is continuing his role as student chaplain which has included several bilingual chapel services and a daily bilingual worship time for our “Spiritual Emphasis Week.”


Melanie, Ben, and Maddy leaving school after classes

The kids are attending the elementary and preschool attached to the language school. It is going really well. They are becoming more confident in their Spanish abilities daily and we continue to be amazed at how quickly they pick things up. Although, it does mean I need to work with Sam a few hours each day to keep him at grade level in English. I’m pretty sure they love having two days of school each day: one day in Spanish at the language school then one day with me in English! We are also exploring and praying through schooling options when we complete language school.

We moved! This is a huge praise. We have been blessed with a lovely home (at significantly below market value) that will be a great base for our ministry here. The kids are most excited that they now have windows in their room! Our old apartment did not have any windows in the kids room. (Peter and I don’t have windows, but we don’t care as much) We’ve spent time getting to know our neighbors and neighborhood. We took cookies to our neighbors at Christmas time, and have been hanging out at the playgrounds to meet some friends.

Speaking of parks, we made our first trip to the ER when Benjamin walked behind a swing. The swings are wood and metal here, so he got whacked just above the eye and required stitches.

Now that our Spanish is improving, we are beginning to make friends here. We have enjoyed hosting friends for meals and playdates. We are so blessed to have a home that allows us to host people easily. We continue to plug into our local church, something that continues to get easier as our language skills improve.

Peter is now transitioning into his full-time role as City Team Leader of the San José Team. He’ll formally start that role on March 15. I am continuing to explore how best to use my gifting and experiences to minister once we finish language school.


Family pic at the “family day” Valentine’s Day celebration

We are thankful for the many, many supporters who have been praying for us faithfully throughout this journey. We thank God for you every day!


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Six Things I’ve learned (and love) about Costa Rica in 6 months

Today is a milestone for our family: we have lived in Costa Rica for six (6!) months.

Celebrating 6 months in Costa Rica.

Celebrating 6 months in Costa Rica.

The overwhelming feeling of this time is gratitude. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve here. Living in another culture has taught me even more about the richness of God. This is the God who made every tribe and tongue.

As I live here, I simultaneously appreciate the beauty of Costa Rican culture more each day and long to feel more “at home” here. It is a constant reminder that my “home” is in heaven not in any country.

So, here are six things I’ve learned in our first six months:

  1. Children are awesome. This is a culture that celebrates children (quite literally – on September 9, Costa Ricans celebrate the Dia Del Niño). Everyone (and I mean everyone teenagers, senior citizens, our teachers, other parents) stops to say hello and coo at our children. It is really a remarkable experience, and I love it!
  2. Much like a fine wine, the Spanish language is complicated and beautiful.
  3. Not every country has, needs, or wants a military. (No military here in Costa Rica – an odd thing to this army brat)
  4. Pura Vida (pure life) is a great phrase! It can be a salutation, a response to the question “ how are you,” and a general phrase for “it’s okay/no worries.” ¡Pura vida, pura vida!
  5. Hair gel is fantastic. I know it’s a common product in the US, but I never used it. In this humid climate, it has changed our life – and my daughters hair – forever! She now has sleek perfect pigtails and braids.
  6. Dulce de Leche is amazing and delicious. Seriously. Get it. Eat it and love it. It is great slathered on pancakes, stuffed inside churros, in cake, as an ice cream flavor, as a coffee flavor,  spread on a croissant…. I could go on. and on. and on.

As I look back on my first six months in Costa Rica I feel incredibly blessed by the opportunity to live here. Costa Ricans have been warm, welcoming and incredibly patient with my Spanish.

I joyfully look forward to making more friends, learning more about this wonderful country, and understanding how to love its people well. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to minister in this country and thankful for the partnership of many of you on this journey.

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An unpleasant experience and an opportunity

Today is Father’s Day in Australia. And it was this time a year ago that my family encountered a closed minded neighbor who verbally abused us while we were on a walk with a new born Benny.

However, in the words of Joseph in Genesis 50, what man meant for evil, God meant for good. The experience resulted in my oped being published in the Washington Post, urging our families and society in general to invest in equipping and supporting good dads.

Today, as I reflect on the many ways God has blessed me through my Dad, I am thankful for last year’s sad experience because it allowed me to share my heart to challenge and equip dads.

My parenting style is a learned behavior. Research shows that role models and social networks are critical to increasing the success of dads. Dads need to talk to other men about the struggles and triumphs of fatherhood. We need to take other men along with us when we’re spending time with junior. They need to see the spit up, diaper changes and tantrums, before they experience them in their own children.

Read the whole thing here.

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First day!

First day 2015Today Sam had his first day of kindergarten!

In some ways, it was not unlike the same day a year ago. He posed for We tried to get him to pose for a photo, we did special breakfast and after school celebration, we even took him to a school where Spanish was the primary language spoken and taught.

DSC_0071But in many ways it was different. We were in our new home. It was also a big day for his sister – her first day of PreK-3. All five of us were getting ready for first days back at school!

A year ago, when we thought about Sam’s first day of kindergarten, we thought about the things we would be losing by moving him to Costa Rica. Today, it’s hard to think about anything except the blessings of our family, our new home, and this great journey we’re on together.

Here are some more pictures of the special day”

First day designs 2015

First day designs – dinosaur sandwich for Sam, butterfly sandwich for Madeleine, and first-day-of-kindergarten “cake” by the kids

First Day 2015 - outtakes



Maddy takes the first day of school SERIOUSLY!

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One year of Ben!

After a LONG wait past the due date, on the evening of July 21, Benjamin Elliott Morris burst into the world with a lightning fast labor of only 75 minutes!

On July 21, 2014, we welcomed precious little Benjamin!

On July 21, 2014, we welcomed precious little Benjamin!

Since then, our family has been through many changes – Maddy’s first day of preschool, a trip to Australia, new jobs and school for everyone, and over three months in Costa Rica!

In the midst of all that, one thing has remained constant – Ben’s relaxed and happy spirit!

In early 2015 we went to four different churches on four different Sundays and the unanimous, cross-cultural, international verdict was that Ben was “the happiest baby” they’d ever met!

It has been a very memorable year. We have seen his siblings grow in their new roles and I have been blessed to see Melanie grow even more as a Mom.

So this week it was a joy to celebrate Benjamin Elliott and see the fingerprints of God’s faithfulness all over his young life.

A collection of photos from Ben's first year!

A collection of photos from Ben’s first year!

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Life Right Now…

We’ve been in Costa Rica for almost three months. It seems both so much shorter than that and so much longer.

Getting a chance to spend some time exploring beautiful creation.

Exploring the Costa Rican jungle!

We’re all starting to slowly adjust. After rolling battles with illness, we are finally all healthy. Hopefully, our immune systems are strengthened and adjusted now! The kids are adjusting to the new routines, their new school, and are making new friends (and still miss their US friends like crazy!)

To build a strong foundation for our ministry, ReachGlobal requires us to focus our first year on learning language and culture. This means that Peter and I are in language classes every day. We are incredibly blessed with kind, dedicated and patient teachers. We’re starting to feel mildly competent in Spanish. I’m able to chat with other moms at the playground, and even have made a few local friends!

While we are eager to begin serving alongside of our team, we are enjoying this special time and finding ways to minister with our church and among our new friends here.

Cookie Decorating

Cookie decorating for the 4th of July

Benjamin is growing like a weed and eager to start walking.

Benjamin is growing like a weed and eager to start walking.

The kids last day of Preschool

The kids last day of Preschool

We were able to attend a wonderful 4th of July Picnic

Attending a wonderful 4th of July Picnic hosted by the US Embassy for US citizens and Ticos (Costa Ricans). PS- even though you can’t tell from this photo the kids really did have a lot of fun at the picnic 🙂 

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I was the lion!

During our first month in Costa Rica one thing has been clear. God had been preparing me for this for a long time.

While I haven’t undergone a cross-cultural move of this magnitude before, I have moved to the United States at three different times in my life. And as I shepherd our kids through this early time of adjustment, I look back and see God’s fingerprints all over those previous moves.

New school, new market, new church. God's fingerprints have been evident as our family adjusts in Costa Rica

New school, new market, new church. God’s fingerprints have been evident as our family adjusts in Costa Rica

Our first Sunday here, our kids were having a hard time at church. I was having a hard time. As the Spanish songs washed over me, tears welled in my eyes and I thought, “What have I done?”

When they pleaded not to go to church the next week I understood. And as I urged them to return, I spoke with the words of the kid who – more than 20 years ago – walked into a youth group meeting for the first time and sat next to someone who promptly got up and moved.

I made dear friends at that church. I worked as an intern at that church for a summer (my second move to the US). But it took pushing through the newness (and the pain) to make real connections.

When Sam didn’t want to go to school, I was able to speak with the authority of one who had laid awake on a folding bed at the Ramada Inn in Davis, California, not wanting to go to a new school. I could speak with the words God gave me that night in 1994 – “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:28, 37).

And when the kids had a hard time during their first visit to the feria (open air fruit market), I could comfort from the experience of the graduate student who had spent an hour trying to figure out a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona back in 2001. Even though I spoke the language and had been exposed to the culture before, I left that supermarket on the brink of tears because different can be scary and disorienting.

In each of those individual experiences, it would be understandable for me to feel abandoned, alone, and afraid. But looking back, I see clearly that those experiences were not wasted pain, they were preparation.

The title of this post alludes to C.S. Lewis’ beautiful metaphor for this reality of life. In The Horse and His Boy, the protagonist (Shasta) and his companions are chased by lion(s) more than once.

"I was the lion!" Aslan explains he was working through the pains of life to guide (and even bless) Shasta's journey.

“I was the lion!” Aslan explains he was working through the pains of life to guide (and even bless) Shasta’s journey. Photo credit: Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar

Toward the end of the book, Shasta meets Aslan (the Lion) and complains he is unfortunate to have encountered so many lions during his journey. Aslan’s disagrees and responds simply, “I was the lion.” He tells Shasta that it was he who brought the companions together, comforted Shasta and protected him, gave the horses new strength, and even protected Shasta as a little baby.

In the pains and pleasures of life, a lion – the lion of Judah – is at work. Pain is not wasted. All things are worked together for good. And for those who love God – nothing can separate us from his love that is in Christ Jesus.

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What a difference a year makes!

May 18 will always be a special date on our missions journey. It was the date last year that we invited our church family to join us for a dinner at Roger & Caroline Lee’s to hear our plans for our ministry here in Costa Rica.

Speaking at the May 18 dinner (left) and earlier this month before a day at language school in San Jose (right).

Peter, Melanie and Madeleine at the May 18 dinner and earlier this month before a day at language school in San Jose.

On that beautiful Sunday afternoon, we dreamed that God might supply the necessary funds to be ready to leave in April 2015. He did just that. We shared our prayer that 100 families and individuals would join our team of prayer and financial partners. Today, we are joined by more than three times that number.

We were also very clear – we can not do this alone. It must be a true partnership. Over the past year, many of you have answered that call. This journey is a true partnership and we are deeply thankful for the many who were there on May 18, 2014 and the many more who have joined us since.

As we said at the time, we are delighted to be striving “side by side” in the cause of the gospel with you all.

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Surprised by my first year on Facebook

A year ago today, I joined Facebook!

When I came to the United States in 2001 there was no Gmail or any kind of permanent email or social network. So much easier to lose contact with people God had used to bless me on the journey.

From letters to email to a social network, joining Facebook - for me - was about maintaining contact!

From letters to email to a social network, joining Facebook – for me – was about maintaining contact!

I held out for a long time. I’d heard it all: they don’t respect your privacy, you’ll get your feelings hurt, you’ll get mad at people who post stupid things, it’s addictive, etc etc

That last one was most compelling for me.

But then I increasingly became convinced that Facebook was an important way to love people better. If I’m going to pray for friends or family and they post on Facebook, I need to be on too. Whether it’s the joys – or, especially, sadnesses – of life, I need to be present to love people. And I’ve definitely seen that, opportunities abound to pray for brothers and sisters near and far.

What’s surprised me most is the way Facebook has enabled me to reconnect with people who loved me well. People God used to shape me, from mentors to old school friends, youth group leaders to extended family, Facebook has helped me give thanks for how God blesses us through so many along the way.

My formative years were spent in a country 10,000 miles from where I spent the last 14 years. And today, as I write this post, I live 2,000 miles from Washington and 8,500 miles from Sydney. Facebook helps to bridge that gap.

Facebook helped me reconnect across the globe as I lived 10,000 miles from where I grew up.

Facebook helped me reconnect across the globe as I lived 10,000 miles from where I grew up.

I understand the criticism. But one year in, I am loving the way in which the Lord is using Facebook to help me once again hold old friends in my heart (Philippians 1) and give thanks for leaders that spoke the word of truth to me (Hebrews 13).

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Our Commissioning Service

A little over Morris Commissioning Service Program - Final-page-001three weeks ago, our church family, representatives of our partner churches, and friends and family from the DC area gathered for our commissioning service. It was a beautiful service celebrating God’s faithfulness and looking forward to our ongoing ministry partnership in the years to come.

We are still going through some of the photos, but we have created a highlight reel of photos taken by the very talented Betty Fine on our Flickr stream.

You can watch highlights of the commissioning service video at these direct links:

One item that didn’t make the video was the beautiful rendition of “Wake Up” by Amanda Hu and Won Kim. They reprised that song on Easter Sunday at Ambassador, here’s an excerpt of it I caught on my phone – well worth a watch/listen:

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