Follow along as the Choir and Orchestra from Houston's First go on a mission tour in Costa Rica the week of July 20-29, 2018. We'll post updates from the team here as they are provided. Read the post from Wed, July 18, to discover what the team will be doing and how the mission tour came to be!
By the way — while there, the Choir and Orchestra will sing many of the songs featured on their latest album, That's When Worship Begins. The CD is available from CornerBooks, or you can buy the album on iTunes.
The team heads back to San Jose for a concert at the National Auditorium, partnering once again with World Alive. This time, World Alive is hosting a graduation celebration for their school and we get to be a part of it, ministering to the students, teachers and families the school impacts. This will give us a chance to minister to those who may not attend a church in the area, please pray for hearts to be ministered to today.Tomorrow July 29th, the team will lead two worship services for International Baptist Church and head out back to Houston that afternoon.
This trip would not have been complete without some of our Spanish speaking teammates. Ana Cowpersmith used her gift for worship in Spanish, gave a time of testimony at each concert, and has impacted so many around us at each venue. She particularly ministered to the area female worship leaders at the churches and was so encouraging for them.Christian Galindo has done an excellent job leading as a liaison for our Production team working with the production company we hired to work alongside us in the area by interpreting for some of our key leadership, establishing long-term relationships with the Costa Rica production team along the way. Christian has encouraged the other production company team members with his knowledge and his servant’s heart. Alfredo Salmeron helped translate and coordinate our team with the directors of Escuela San Pablo de Brava to help paint and spruce up the school.
This trip wouldn’t have been possible without Jorge Jiménez, a long-time friend of Houston’s First and missionary with Youth With a Mission, a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups and traditions dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world. Jorge helped John Bolin with the vision of the trip and, being a Costa Rica native, connected the group with area leaders. Jorge spent the last 10 days with us, translating for Pastor Gregg Matte and Gabriel Ianculovici during ministry times along with John at workshops, teaching us about Costa Rican culture, advancing the trip with production prepping for concerts, ministering at each site, and keeping us straight at every hotel stop. He was a vital addition to our team and we are so appreciative of his friendship and partnership.
Please pray for our team as we finish up our time in Costa Rica and head back to the States. We ask for continued health, endurance, patience and safe travels. God has been so good to us!
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
Salvation belongs to our God,
who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!
The team had a needed day of rest and fun. Many enjoyed excursions such as zip lining through the volcano, walking tours of the rainforest and a chocolate tour. The group headed into the city later that evening for dinner and some shopping. Both resorts offered hot and cold springs for swimming and relaxation. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
The Choir and Orchestra headed out to Iglesia Mana in La Fortuna De San Carlos. This area home to the Arenal volcano. Our team stayed at Arenal Kioro and Tabacon, area resorts for a fun day planned for Friday.
Ministry time at Iglesia Mana was a sweet time of encouraging other believers who attend this church regularly. We had a wonderful time of worship and praise. The people of Costa Rica, and Iglesia Mana specifically, were so hospitable to us and appreciative of our willingness to come to Costa Rica to minister. We have had such a wonderful time and feel so welcome, it’s going to be hard for our team to leave.
The Choir and Orchestra had a much-deserved break after two full days of labor-intensive work ministering at the local parks and San Pablo de Brava school today. They had the morning off while the Band, Front Line, and Production team headed out to World Alive, the accredited school and organization that helped our team get to Costa Rica.
This group of fifteen lead workshops for the teachers of World Alive and area worship leaders in the morning. After lunch, John Bolin and the group offered the attendees a Q&A time where they discussed all aspects of leading a group similar to the Choir and Orchestra in their own vocations. Topics such as vocal strength, sound check practices, choosing music, production team cohesiveness, relevant music, and introducing new music to congregations were at the top of the list. As the Q&A time ended, the Choir and Orchestra arrived and many from the morning group remained through sound check to absorb even more from our team’s leadership.
There may not be enough words to express the worship time we had tonight at World Alive. We sang and played on holy ground. The Lord anointed our time, it was reverent, unifying and awe-inspiring. World Alive is a smaller venue than we have been at through the trip so far. It holds a special place in the heart of our team for how much work the World Alive administration put into bringing our group to Costa Rica. We anticipated tonight’s concert to feel more intimate, but it was even more, it was CHURCH!
The audience was on fire for the Lord and took such delight in the moment of the songs, the worship, the music. The Holy Spirit was present and active throughout the room and the people in it tonight! The authentic worship experience was contagious. The Choir and Orchestra sang and played their hearts out offering all they had to give to the Lord and the people in attendance. This night was a sacred moment, one the Choir and Orchestra will never forget, a glimpse of what Heaven will be like one day singing praises all together in every tongue in reverence to our Heavenly Father.
Gabriel Ianculovici, Missions Associate at Houston's First, began the night with an open time of prayer. The room rumbled with spoken offerings to the Lord, asking Him to meet us in the moment, offering our hearts to Him, crying out to Jesus. The room broke out in song singing How Great is Our God. The rafters were filled with the verses, in two languages, speaking the same words, singing praises to the same God. Every hand and voice was raised and we encountered a rehearsal for Heaven.
In 1 Corinthians 2, Gabe shared that we didn’t come tonight to entertain, but we came to worship Jesus. It’s crazy to believe in a cross that symbolizes death, but the cross we proclaim today is the cross that can save your life. Tonight, we proclaimed the cross, the blood of Jesus, as the only thing that saves. Then, Gabe called the Choir and Orchestra down to the floor to pray over people in the room. Not one person left without being anointed in prayer – attendees and our own team members. As the prayer time ended, John began a chorus and the whole room sang:
Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God almighty reigns
Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God almighty reigns
Are you Lord God almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are holy, holy
Are You Lord God almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
Then, the body of Christ, united together, sang How Great Thou Art and the different languages in the room overwhelmed each other until you could hear no difference between them, but knew we were singing the same words. Tonight, we encountered the Lord. Our Father who went before us, prepared the venue, anointed the moment, answered prayers we have prayed for a year to move mightily in our midst — and we leave forever changed.
John shared with the group before we left World Alive that a young woman approached him tonight thanking him for his obedience in this place this evening. She said she didn’t want to attend the concert and her mother made her go. She informed John that she had been living her faith through her parent’s faith and hadn’t really had her own desire to seek the Lord. But tonight, that changed. She said she experienced the Lord in her own way tonight and received Christ as her Savior and she left with a desire to be different. She said her first act of obedience was to apologize to her parents. Now, that’s not the work of the Choir and Orchestra, we were only the vessel. That’s the Lord’s work.
Thursday morning, the team heads out early to La Fortuna de San Carlos to minister at Iglesia Mana church. It doesn’t seem much could top today’s ministry, but we know the Lord is among us and can do so much more. We are expectant as we come to the end of our trip in a few days. Lord God, you are sovereign, we ask that You hear our prayers to reach the people of Costa Rica for You.
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
This morning, the Choir and Orchestra continued their trip to Costa Rica with ministry in La Merced Park. We learned yesterday that this area houses many Nicaraguan refugees, fleeing their own country and government. When we arrived at the park this morning, Chepe se Baña was on site again serving the area homeless and refugees with mobile showers, clothing closet, barber services and food truck. The park was packed with families, little children and elderly, sitting on park benches and sleeping on the grass with suitcases nearby. Never would we have even considered this to be the scenario we would roll up on when the trip was planned over a year ago.
Today, the Choir and Orchestra poured out an offering singing and playing to bless the refugees present at the park. It was a wonderful time of ministry and praising the Lord. Gabriel Ianculovici from the Missions department at Houston's First spoke to the crowd. He could connect with the refugees on a personal level, being born in Romania, moving to the USA in 1996, and learning a new culture and language, and starting over in his life. He shared an encouraging word about faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ. The Choir and Orchestra had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with people in the park to pray over and encourage.
We learned that three individuals received Christ yesterday during our time at Central Park. Yesterday, Julia Wright, a beloved Choir and Orchestra volunteer, met a man named William at Central Park who is from Baltimore but residing in Costa Rica for 12 years. He shared his story with Julia and his heart for ministry even while being unemployed. Julia and William encountered each other again today at our second park concert and he shared with Julia that he needed a pair of shoes. Julia and Gabriel worked together to get William a pair of shoes, and happened upon another individual at the park who was asking about salvation. William helped translate for Gabe and William ended up leading the gentleman to Christ!
The team ended the ministry time at the park and headed over to San Pablo de Brava school to continue our work there from yesterday. Teams headed outside painting and landscaping the school. Other teams held another carnival today for older elementary aged children. When we wrapped up, we left the school better than we found it, served over 150 hot lunches, and gave each child a full bag of school supplies and a Bible. The children did a special Costa Rican traditional dance for us – in full costume! One of the best moments of our trip so far was working at this school, hearing the joy in the children’s laughter. What a blessing to be a blessing!
The weather has been gorgeous here in Costa Rica, it’s really the grace and mercy of the Lord. As we were headed out at the end of last week, the forecast called for 80-100% chance of rain on every day we planned to be here. We have encountered rain only one time so far, and that was during our ministry time at Iglesia Oasis church – indoors! We have had such favor with the weather, particularly while we ministered outdoors and worked at the school allowing us to accomplish all we had hoped. We are grateful!
Tomorrow, we depart for World Alive, the organization that helped bring our team to Costa Rica and supported our production team. This organization is an accredited music school and our team will have a time of workshops with various team members, John Bolin will host a seminar and a dedicated Q&A time for over 400 area musicians. Later that afternoon, the Choir and Orchestra will sing and play for the group. Please be in prayer for our team. We are half way through the trip and we are tired, but a good kind of tired. Pray for health, endurance, and stamina that we finish this trip well in the next few days.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
Day Two of the Choir and Orchestra mission tour to Costa Rica was memory-making. The team led two worship services at Iglesia Oasis this morning – one at 7a! – the same church we spent the day yesterday leading ministry time and breakout sessions.
Between both services there were over 6,000 people joining in worship and singing praises to the Lord. Pastor Gregg Matte spoke at both services out of Psalm 47:6-7, sharing why we need to become good worshippers and the importance of having the right heart before the Lord. He told a story about the time he shrunk his wife Kelly’s favorite sweater attempting to have a husband’s heart in doing the laundry — only to discover he made a mistake and ruined her sweater. Pastor Gregg explained to the congregation that if our hearts are in the wrong place with God, it will shrink from the things of God.
The congregation had a good chuckle as Pastor showed them the tiny sweater, but when Pastor Gregg opened the altar for prayer and salvation, so many walked forward to allow the team to pray over them. Men and women approached the response time with tear-stained faces and a longing to meet with the Lord. Although we do have some language barrier, God knows and sees the need of His people and hears the cries as we minister to each other. We pray to God, not to man. We can only trust that we offered up prayers that will bless those in attendance today.
The church staff at Iglesia Oasis were so kind and generous to allow us to come in and support their ministry and sing with them this Sunday. We are forever grateful to be a part as we also leave changed today from the experience.
Once the two services were finished, the team was tired from a good day’s hard work. We headed to the local area mall and grabbed a bite to eat. We had some down time at the hotel and then headed off to a special surprise dinner at Mirador Tiquicia located at the top of the city! What a view we had looking over the span of the city of San Jose!
As dusk approached, John Bolin gathered the team and spent some time celebrating what happened today and looking ahead to what is to come next week. The team split up and spent some dedicated time praying for the people of San Jose and Costa Rica. John asked everyone to look to the horizon to see a long span of clouds rolling in engulfing the mountain tops and likened it to his desire to see the Holy Spirit move out as vast as the clouds over the city of San Jose, praying revival for the city, expanding the Kingdom of God. As the prayer time ended, the team began a low chorus of Come Ever Reign as the city lights expanded out behind them.
God, we’re ready, bring back this city,
til all people cry out Your name;
We are desp’rate for Your revival,
God we’re ready, come ever reign,
come ever reign.
Lord, hear our desire, hear our prayers – reach the people of Costa Rica for you.
Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments
and untraceable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been His counselor?
Or who has ever first given to Him,
and has to be repaid?
For from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
On Fri, July 20, 120 Choir and Orchestra members head out to San Jose, Costa Rica — the third international mission trip of its kind for this group. Previous trips took them to the Philippines (2012) and Kenya (2014). A domestic trip to New York City took place in 2015.
The team will minister to thousands of people as they share song and scripture all over the city of San Jose. The Choir and Orchestra will have the privilege of hosting ten concerts in nine days starting with two Worship Ministry workshops to benefit and lead other worship ministry teams and leaders from area churches.
While there, the Choir and Orchestra team members will lead worship in two large public parks, where the Costa Rican government will be joining and partnering with us to host these two concerts. What an honor and opportunity! After the concerts, the team will work with an area orphanage and school as they provide school supplies, do some heavy labor, and host a fun afternoon to bless kids in need. To finish off the trip, the Choir and Orchestra will open for an area concert at a public auditorium and lead worship on Sunday morning for two church services.
But, before all this could happen, John Bolin, Minister of Worship and Arts, had a vision and a desire to take the team again on another international mission trip, spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. After working directly with the Missions Office at Houston's First and spending time in prayer, Costa Rica was the clear choice. As soon as the trip was set into motion, the Lord made a pathway through friendships and connections in the Costa Rica area creating open doors to meet with area churches and political leaders.
Bolin stated, “Not only did the country desire for us to come, but it was a “more than we could ask for or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20) scenario. We truly believe God has called us to Costa Rica for such a time as this and we look forward to all that He will do in and through us.”
Here are some ways you can pray while the Choir and Orchestra are in Costa Rica:
We head to Costa Rica expectant!
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my job complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.