Caskey Costa Rica Mission Trip Day 4 Conference Starts

The end of our 4th full day in Costa Rica has come to a close. This was the absolute busiest day, so far, from beginning to the end. Though it was busy, it was a wonderful day. The 3 day Pastor’s conference began today.

It wasn’t too early of a start as the Pastors and their spouses weren’t actually to arrive at the conference until around 12:00 PM, but we knew that some would probably arrive early, so we did get there between 9:30 AM and 10:00 AM. We got everything setup for the conference pretty quickly and then were ready for everyone to arrive. They all arrived over the next couple of hours. All of us had our assigned duties of either welcoming them, helping with registration, taking pictures or getting the audio/video equipment setup, and everyone jumped right in. It was a good start to the day.

The Pastors and their spouses were all very nice, friendly, a bit quiet and a bit uncertain about what to expect the next 3 days to be like. Many of them have never been to a retreat or conference like this. For many of them, this may be the first time they’ve been on anything like a vacation, away from home or the family for any extended period of time, or even to a hotel. One of the goals of The Brook Ministries is to provide the opportunity for these Pastors and their spouses to be refreshed, renewed, have a chance to get away and be ministered to, instead of them being the ones doing all the ministering. If you think about it, being a Pastor can be emotionally, physically and spiritually draining, and they need to have times to relax, to be supported and encouraged by others, which includes the support of other Pastors. They also need to be fed, and that’s where The Brook’s goal of teaching and equipping these Pastors and their spouses to help them deal with relevant issues in their ministries, church congregations and their lives in general comes into play.

During today’s sessions I had the privilege of spending the time praying for their specific needs and praying for them in general, for their time at the conference. I’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow and Saturday as well. They’re provided with cards to submit prayer requests on, and we pray for them during the sessions, along with, I’ll call them “prayer partners” around the globe, around the clock. Going before our God in prayer for these Pastors and their spouses is a powerful thing and I’m glad to be a part of it. As I was praying during the first session, God put on my heart to pray about how these Pastors and their spouses needed to be ministered to and I thought about the story of Jesus when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11). After the temptations were over verse 11 says “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”. So, Jesus after all that was over needed to be attended to, refreshed and renewed. I pray that these Pastors and their spouses will feel that renewal and refreshment, that they will feel ministered to, and cared for, and that their passions for teaching the Gospel, caring for their congregations, their communities, and their families will be burning hot when they leave on Saturday.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

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Best Christmas Present Ever!

I’m sure you all saw the TV commercials leading up to Christmas this year, where there was a kid thinking back on a Christmas past, where they had received the best Christmas present imaginable at that time, like the Big Wheel, or the Christmas present that made their cousin so jealous. And, then they fast foward to the present, where the kid is now in their 30s or so, and they’re looking at their brand new Lexus, with a red bow on top, as they say the words “the best Christmas gift ever”.

I’m sure you’ve all had those Christmases over the years where you thought, this was it! This was absolutely the best Christmas, where I received the best Christmas gift ever! Nothing can ever top this! Come on, think about it. What Christmas gifts conjure up those memories of a Christmas so unforgettable? I know I have mine from the past. Mine was a bike I received as a kid, then a motorcycle at age 12, or the great watch that I received last year that I’ve worn just about every day since. There have been others as time has moved on.

But, yesterday, Christmas of 2008, all other Christmases, all other Christmas gifts will forever pail in comparison. For yesterday, I received the ABSOLUTE best Christmas gift ever.

It was Christmas morning and we had just finished opening the presents under the tree. At that time, my oldest son said that he had something else for everyone and he ran upstairs to his bedroom. In a minute he came back downstairs with 5 hand-written letters in his hand. One for each of his sisters, his little brother, his Mom, and me. I was already surprised and touched that he actually took the time to write 5 letters to us all. We asked him if he wanted us to read them out loud or to ourselves, but he didn’t care. So, we gave each other the option to read it out loud or not. My youngest daughter chose to read hers out loud and so she began. I was so pleased and moved by the love and care for his little sister that poured from the words that she read. I know that that had to really touch her heart knowing that she had a big brother like that. To be honest after that, I can’t remember who read theirs next or what it said because my wife and I had already begun to get choked up. Each letter to his siblings expressed, love, appreciation for them and him asking them for forgiveness for things he had done against them. Wow!

Then, I decided to read mine out loud. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I couldn’t control my emotions and the tears began to flow. I’m not one that’s easily moved to tears and it has to be something that really hits me and hits me deep. It’s such a rare occasion that I had to endure the chorus from other members of the family saying “Oh my gosh, he does have emotions”. I actually had to laugh when that was said. Do you know how weird if feels to be laughing and crying at the same time? I actually had to have my youngest son finish reading the last couple of sentences because I couldn’t continue. Anyway, I was so moved and blessed by the things he had written. His words are and will be an encouragement to me. As a Dad, I often wonder am I doing things right, am I teaching them correctly, am I raising them right, am I spending enough time with them, am I making a difference in their lives? Well, by God’s grace, and by God putting it on his heart to write these letters this year, I have received an affirming answer. I never really expected to read anything like what I read in that letter yesterday.

Too many times in life and especially at Christmas time, we’re too focused on the material gifts that we get. We don’t see the great gifts that are right there all the time in front of us. Our relationships with our family members (kids, spouse, brothers, sisters, Mom, Dad, etc.) are more important than any material gift could ever be. Fortunately, I was awaken to that fact this Christmas. And, in the same fashion as the Lexus commercials, I think back to Christmases past and the times I have said “this is the best Christmas gift ever” and then I fast forward to Christmas present, and as I hold the letter from my oldest son in my hand, I can truly say with tears in my eyes and without a doubt, “this is the ABSOLUTE best Christmas gift EVER”!

I will be finding a frame to put it in.