8 Quick Facts:
- We feel like God has a purpose and plan for our family in Costa Rica and we’re moving there on Labor Day weekend.
- We close on the sale of our house in a couple weeks.
- We begin 12 weeks of language school on September 9th.
- After language school, we will spend the month of December renting the home of missionary friends who are on furlough while we look for a property in the mountains of Heredia. (Year round temps between 60º and 80º)
- We anticipate that our first year in Costa Rica will be one of pioneering and preparing, we don’t yet know what all God has for us there.
- Long term, we are seeking a large property to host leaders, worship teams, pastors, families, and friends as a significant part of our ministry there. When you bring your team down for a week, we can envision spending a few days of refueling, processing, and connecting, followed by a service project (perhaps building a house with Homes of Hope), and wrapping up by enjoying some touristing (beaches, volcanos, rain forests, white water rafting, zip lines, and taking in the warmth of the Costa Rican people.)
- I plan to continue leading my team of USA-based Ad Lib Music worship coaches, and add the option of video coaching, so I can continue sowing into the lives of worship leaders in Lancaster County. (And that certainly includes writing these Fertilizers!)
- Ad Lib will seek to form partnerships for USA churches to sponsor coaching for Costa Rican churches.
- (Bonus fact) Costa Rica is not an island, it’s an isthmus.
We want you on the journey with us. How can you get involved?
- Pray for us. And invite us to pray for you.
- Stay in touch (Skype, WhatsApp, email, snail mail, carrier pigeon). We will miss you immensely. Our lives have been shaped by each one of you and we are grateful for your friendship.
- Give financially. We plan to earn an income as we have been, but of course, there are many variables as to how that may play out, plus the added expenses of moving and language school.
- Make plans to visit starting in the summer of 2020. Our family would love to host yours!
- Consider joining us and moving down. If there’s a seed that God has planted in your heart for this, let’s talk!
It’s big news and I wanted the Fertilizer community to hear it officially. Other than not being available to guest lead at your church (personally) or come to events myself, my hope is that you won’t feel much of a difference. We’re committed to continue helping you with worship coaching and training, finding worship leaders for that upcoming Sunday that everyone seems to be gone for, audio training, and whatever other worship-related needs you have. In fact, I will be adding the option of coaching leaders via video calls, so let me know if that’s something you’d like to explore.
So that’s the update. If you’d like to learn how we got here, just keep reading.
When Heather and I were first dating in 2003, one of the questions I asked her was “Do you see yourself living in Lancaster County for the rest of your life?”
“No,” she quickly replied. She had always envisioned herself working at an orphanage in some Spanish speaking country...someday.
I asked, because at that time, I dreamt of living in a different place in the world every five years! That way I’d get to intimately experience at least a number of the many amazing cultures and geographies around the world.
A lot has changed since then. :)
There have been a few times that a brother named Dale Mast has encouraged me with perspective that I felt like was from the Lord.
He said, "The call of the nations will keep you awake at night.” I didn’t totally understand this. He added, “I don't know when this thing's going to hit you but when it hits you, you're going to know it because you're going to wake right up out of a dead sleep and it's going to be on you. Don't try to make it happen but when it gets on you that's not the time to do it. That's the time to start pressing in to it.” He went on, “I really want to encourage you to be open for this.”
Eight years later, I was on the phone with a pastor named Keith Blank. It was the beginning of December and he was telling me about his upcoming trip to Costa Rica.
“Pack me along in a suitcase, will ya?!” I half-joked. (I was always looking for opportunities to return to the place where I spent my first twelve years.)
A couple weeks later, he called back. “Dave, I know you were just kidding, but the guy I was planning to take with me can’t make it. Do you want to go?”
Costa Rica 2011
So in January of 2011, Keith and I went to teach for a week at DeLynn Hoover’s discipleship training school called Vida220. We had a blast!
A funny thing happened, though, on the return flight. I wept. I had this deep sense that I just did not want to leave. Everything felt so right there.
Now, since my parents and sisters and I left in 1983, I had been back in 1988, 1995, and 2005 yet I don’t remember feeling that way at any other time.
I felt like the call of the nations that Dale mentioned hit me then. And it hit me hard.
So we began to talk and dream as a family, and at that point, it was more me talking and dreaming and my family listening. But we began to talk, think and pray about living in Costa Rica as something that may happen down the road.
Costa Rica 2014
In 2014, we took a two-week exploratory trip, with our (then) four little ones and the kind companionship of my mom, to experience the country together and to look for possible connections with folks there. We visited two of the YWAM bases (whose culture we love!) and met with the leaders of a worship school called CanZion.
We came back and entertained the option of going into YWAM in Chico, California where Heather had completed a Discipleship Training School in 2000. At that point, Heather made a savings barometer poster to help us pull together the funds that would be required to send our family through a Crossroads Discipleship Training School (CDTS). We thought it would be a mission-birthing and sending place for us. As we pursued saving that money to meet that goal, it seemed the Lord must have other plans for us.
Indeed, there was a key training opportunity hand-crafted for us right here in Lancaster County. With the leading of the Lord and the affirmation of the family, Dave accepted a 3-year position at a local church.
In the summer of 2016, as we continued to wonder, pray and dream, a pivotal conversation with our friend, Todd MacCartney, directed us away from doing “part-time YWAM staff and part-time Ad Lib”. He suggested sticking full time with leading Ad Lib Music, the worship coaching organization I started in 2002. It made sense to think that we’d likely teach at and partner with these Costa Rican organizations rather than being on staff with them.
In the fall of 2017, I completed the church staff assignment and we started talking like “We’ve been talking about going to Costa Rica for an embarrassingly long time. Why don’t we just do it?!?”
So we started making plans.
Within days, Heather had another pivotal conversation with her friend, Angie Earl. By this point, as a mother of five, with our sixth on the way, the idea of moving our young brood to a whole other country felt understandably overwhelming. More than having a vision of her own, she was simply attempting to embrace mine.
And that wasn’t good enough for me.
“Has Dave ever laid down the dream of going to Costa Rica?” Angie insightfully asked.
I’d never really thought of it.
So I did. Wholeheartedly. I realized that you’re not really free to do something until you’re free not to do it. And though I felt pain in doing so, it was a super necessary step toward freedom.
- And in the next week, some remarkable things happened.
- I was in a conversation with a pastor I’d just met, and he said “I am leaving for a 7-day mission trip tomorrow to Costa Rica.” What?! I investigated the mission organization, called Praying Pelican Missions, that his church was partnering with and it really impressed me.
- I spoke at a worship team appreciation dinner at Cross Roads BIC, where I had guest led occasionally, and one of the team members just randomly asked me, “Thought you were going to Costa Rica?” He said it almost as though he was calling me to account.
- Heather and the kids went shopping at Ollies and some random man began talking to them before they went into the store. He seemed to think that Aspen would be a preacher. Noting his accent, she asked him where he was from. “Costa Rica,” he said.
- Heather felt that while the Lord wasn’t saying “go” just then, He still had plans for us in Costa Rica - that we shouldn’t give up on that dream - but patiently and actively wait on Him. Seek him.
- My prayers shifted from “When, oh Lord, will You take us to Costa Rica...how long must we wait??” to “God, we just want Your will. Please show us Your heart for our lives.”
- In a single day, I received two requests to minister in Costa Rica - one was to teach worship leaders (via video calls) at the same Vida220 school (which I did) and the other was to be a speaker at a conference for the worship teams of all the Mennonite churches in Costa Rica (which is now scheduled for October 2019!). An added bonus is that the guy that asked me to speak at the conference is the worship leader at the church my parents started, where I grew up. I had met him in 2011 at the Vida220 school.
In October 2018, we were at a meeting where Dale Mast was once again ministering.
Not knowing anything of our thoughts or dreams related to Costa Rica, he said he felt like he “saw me literally shooting this CANNON and felt that this is going to be a time, it’s going to be a big noise, a big goal, a big shot, and other people are watching. He felt like the Lord is giving me the FAITH to pull it off! Dale continued, “Now, sometimes we do things in secret, but it’s sort of like Babe Ruth, when he took his bat and he pointed it and then he hit the ball over, I felt like this: You’re going to have to declare it before you do it.” He had this sense that God is going to get me past the fear of failure, where things felt like it didn’t happen before. He affirmed God’s anointing over me. He ended by declaring that God’s not done with me and that He’s going to show me His goodness and authority, and that “a dream is going to live!”
And to Heather, who has longed to settle down, to find and make a homestead for our family, he said, “There’s going to be a joy, and I don’t know why, but I saw a picture of a big farmhouse and the word INHERITANCE.”
We wait on you, Lord.
So, why are we moving to Costa Rica?
Because we feel that God is calling us there. Most days, we really wish we had more defined clarity about what the specific call is. Admittedly, because it's significantly out of the box to not have a concrete plan, which makes it difficult for folks to understand. We feel kinda silly sometimes, irresponsible at others. Mostly, though, we are longing to follow the Lord and are confident in God’s leading.
I began asking the Lord, “What are we supposed to do together, as a family?” While Heather has been a huge support to Ad Lib, it’s not really something we do daily together. Surely there is a mission that the Lord will instill in each of us a family - one that changes us, shapes us into Christ and brings healing and hope to others.
I feel like God has an international call on our lives.
After a year of processing, waiting and timely, healing counsel from a dear spiritual father, Barry Frey, it seemed the Lord was beginning to open doors, both around us and in us. By the summer of 2018, Heather and I were the most on the same page about Costa Rica than we’d ever been. By that fall, Heather’s own vision for Costa Rica was growing.
“You believe the Lord is leading you? Try it! Faith is by its very nature is ‘risky’ in our terms - and the Lord is good, He will open and shut doors and direct your steps.” Thank you, Bruce and Ruthie Lengeman for this insight.
Our community as well has encouraged us to simply follow the Lord! And we are grateful for that.
The children have all embraced this idea, some with more trepidation than others… some with an ecstatic, “Yes! Finally!!” - namely our oldest children, Aspen, Clementine and Louis. When asked directly how he was feeling about all the changes, Louis expressed how much better he likes our clean house (a must to maintain with the regular showings). So there you have it. Four year old Huxley, on the other hand, was concerned that the new house may not have the right kinds of food in the refrigerator. And Juliana, our seven year old, also feels the loss of the known and familiar. Certainly, the uncertainty leaves ALL of us with questions and the need to press into the Lord. It is our prayer that as parents that we will be able to walk WITH them in the questions, the excitement, the losses, the newness - and strengthen each other in our journeys with Jesus.
The Dream . . . a p l a c e . . .
We believe there will be a place. To host, to minister, to restore and renew. We’ve been looking for large property (5+ acres) with multiple houses to facilitate this. It’s all above our own ability to accomplish this, but we believe God will provide as He continues to guide us.
So many people have remarked about the peaceful spirit in our home. (That said, they are not usually here when we JUST WANT THE KIDS TO GO TO BED(!), or when we’re desperately trying to get out of the house to go somewhere, but...) Throughout any given normal day, one might note a considerable order, calm and joy among the children and in us - especially when we are settled in our roles, operating in our giftings and surrendered to Christ. Truly, His Presence marks us.
More, Lord Jesus!
And we all LOVE hosting! Over the years, we’ve had a number of international students stay with us. We’ve considered living in community with other families. Even with newborns in the home, we have sincerely enjoyed shared fellowship over meals with those who were there to bless us. We truly enjoy doing life with others and feel this sense of fruitfulness and goodness when we open up our home.
Way back in 2003, Dale also shared with me feeling that there's a healing mantle that God is releasing on my life. And that when it comes, it will not leave. And he had this sense that God will wake me up in the middle of the night crying for the nations and He will not let me go until I go and do that which has been spoken.
Three years earlier, while in YWAM, Kris Vallotton had a similar encouragement for Heather saying “There’s a very strong mantle of healing on you.”
Perhaps, we are being ruined for the ordinary. We know that we’re called to love and train our young family, and in that we sense a push to get outside of ourselves and give ourselves together in ministry to the people around us! We feel that getting out of our familiar environment here in the USA and into Costa Rica is one catalyst that God is using to fulfill that desire.
So, without knowing all the details, we have clarity for the next steps: sell the house, move our family, complete language school, let the vision unfold, build a team, look for property.
It’s scary. And God is inviting us into a season of increased trust, intimacy, and ultimately fruitfulness!
Dave, Heather, Aspen, Clementine, Louis, Juliana, Huxley, and Caspian Helmuth