Seven years in missions

A couple weekends ago, when we were having welcome night for our new September quarter students, I realized that it was our seven year anniversary of being here in Costa Rica, and starting this crazy life in missions.

I thought it would be cool to reflect on the last seven years and everything that God has done in our lives since we both came here for our Discipleship Training School in September of 2010. Man, I feel so old!

Below there are more details, but here are some of the highlights from these past 7 years, celebrating God’s faithfulness:

2010 – God totally transformed each of us and gave us a heart for the Nations in our DTS.

On September 24, 2010 we both stepped foot on Costa Rican soil for the first time. It’s crazy to think that we both thought we were just coming for a 5-month school, and now this place has become our home!

September-December we were in the lecture phase of our school, preparing for the outreach, getting to know Costa Rica, and allowing God to transform us. During this time, we were each approached by Pablo, who has become one of our best friends, who invited us to film a documentary with him about child prostitution and human trafficking in Central America. We were still in our DTS, though, and wouldn’t be graduating until February, so it was something we started praying about.

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2011 
DTS outreach, graduated DTS, staffed a DTS in the Honduran jungle, bought a monkey, and filmed a documentary in all of Central America

On New Year’s Eve we were in Germany for our outreach, in which we saw God do some seriously miraculous things. We worked with refugee children, people on the streets, worked with some German churches to serve the homeless, and spoke to kids in schools. We had an incredible outreach and got to really love the country and people of Germany.
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While we were there, one of our school leaders told us about a base in the jungle of Honduras who had students lined up for a DTS starting in March, but they needed more staff. He invited us to pray about going to serve there, sent out from our base in San José. Individually, both Ryan and I felt like we were supposed to go.

In the second week of February, we returned to Costa Rica and graduated from our DTS. We each went to visit our families for three weeks, sell all our stuff, and return to Costa Rica. A couple days after landing in Costa Rica, we got on a bus that took us from San Jose to the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. From there we took another bus to a town called La Ceiba and then got picked up in a bi-plane by the base director who is also a pilot, and flew into Ahuas, La Mosquitia, where we would live for the next 5 months while staffing the DTS. We had the opportunity to lead 6 indigenous students in a DTS in the jungles of Honduras, and see God transform their lives.

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When the DTS ended, we returned to Costa Rica where we prepared for our documentary. We got to be part of an amazing documentary team, filming and traveling in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica. We met women and children who are trafficked, in prostitution, others who had been rescued, and most of whom shared their stories so that others can learn and bring change in all of Central America.

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2012 
Finished our documentary project, took an intensive Bible course, started a relationship together, helped film another documentary, worked full-time with Freedom Street ministries

We continued to film in Panama, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We met incredible teams of people who are bringing restoration to those who have been enslaved by the sex trafficking industry, and were able to film their stories to encourage our documentary viewers that change is possible. During this time, we both started to take interest in each other as more than friends. We finished the documentary in March, and from April-June we studied in an intensive Bible course in which we learned the inductive method of studying God’s word. Right after our Bible school ended, we traveled around Costa Rica helping another ministry team film a documentary focused on prostitution and human trafficking within Costa Rica. Oh, we also started dating each other in April, when we were doing our Bible school. For the rest of the year, we worked with Freedom Street ministries holding programs for women and young people (both male and female) to get out of prostitution. We had Bible studies and different workshops for them, and we really started to see the fruits of our labor when one of the young guys completely left the streets and gave his life to God.

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2013 We finished editing our documentary and started sharing it in universities, churches, high schools, and youth groups. The feedback was great, and many many people were educated and motivated to do something about child prostitution and trafficking in their countries. We got engaged, hosted several short term mission teams, and staffed a DTS. Nicole also started working on her Master’s in the middle of 2013.

We continued working in Freedom Street, and God continued doing amazing transformational things in the lives of the people we met on the streets. In September, we worked with a DTS and were able to disciple a group of 15 students as God transformed them. During this time we were also preparing our wedding!

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2014 
Got married, received a heart for the unreached, ran missions seminar in our local church, celebrated the Costa Rica National soccer team in the World Cup, started serving on the leadership teams.

We got married in the Redwood Forest at the beginning of the year and went on a honeymoon to Ireland, then straight to one of our best friend’s weddings in Colorado. We came back to Costa Rica and took on more logistical roles, while continuing to work in the media department. Nicole graduated with her Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy in May! In June, we had one of the most amazing experiences of our lives being able to join on with the country celebrating the Costa Rica National Futbol team making further than ever before in the World Cup. The whole Nation comes together all unified around the team, and it’s truly an indescribable, beautiful thing. We love this country! God spoke to us about going to the unreached and being peace in places where there is no peace, for the first time in August of that year. We ran some missions trainings for our local Costa Rican church which were very fruitful! We also started serving on the leadership teams in 2014. At the end of the year, Nicole’s parents, uncle and aunts visited us!

2015 Took the Islamic Studies Seminar, went to a conference in Mazatlan, got pregnant, went to Egypt and Jordan, helped host teams to build homes, prepared to lead the Islamic studies seminar.

We took the Islamic studies seminar in January, and continued serving in logistical areas as well as media and staff development, and leadership. We received training in Inner Healing prayer, which was awesome and very applicable! We got pregnant with Olivia in July, and flew to Egypt to visit some missionary friends in August. Nicole was 7 weeks pregnant when we got there and threw up 8-10 times a day, which continued for nearly the entire pregnancy! She had to get an IV in a Cairo hospital, too! We met a lot of amazing people in Egypt and Jordan, and our heart for this part of the world really grew. We got to help with a big Homes of Hope build for families in a slum community about 20 minutes from our campus.

2016 Led the Islamic Studies Seminar, Olivia was born, prepared for the first Groundbreakers DTS, went to Kansas City for an international conference, coordinated another big home build.

We led the Islamic Studies Seminar in January with two awesome staff and 7 amazing students who became equipped to share their faith and grew a love for people from the religion of Islam. Olivia was born soon after the seminar ended! We spent time adjusting to having a baby, while continuing to work in different areas of base, serving on the leadership, doing more study, and preparing for the first ever Groundbreakers DTS. We also had the opportunity to teach in a DTS in Wollongong, Australia. We also got to help coordinate a Homes of Hope build of 7 houses for families who really got to experience God’s love and provision in a practical way. One of the best parts was seeing how it impacted the families who came from the States to build with us.

2017  Led the first ever Groundbreakers DTS, hosted two international conferences, and now are preparing for what’s next!

At the beginning of the year, the Groundbreakers DTS started, and we had a team of 5 staff serving with us to disciple 12 students. Olivia turned 1 year old on April 17. We had an incredible outreach in Germany with refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan, and sent teams who had fruitful times in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Turkey. Our students graduated in June with hearts to reach the people in the furthest corners of the globe. We hosted two major international conferences and grew in our knowledge about how to lead successful, fruitful discipleship schools. We are helping coordinate an 8 house build with Homes of Hope this November, and preparing for the next Groundbreakers DTS that starts in January!

In all these years we have met thousands of people who have been changed and transformed by God’s love, we’ve served in the Nations of Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Germany, Australia, and the US, and sent teams to many more Nations! God has been so faithful to lead us and guide us over these past seven years of saying yes to partnering with Him to reach the Nations with His truth and love, and faithful to provide our every need.

We also want to thank every person who has partnered with us financially and prayerfully. We hope that you celebrate all of this with us knowing that you are just as key in bringing transformation to people’s lives around the world. Thank you!

Life sure has changed since first stepping foot here in 2010! We are so grateful for all we have learned and how God has shaped and molded us to be more like Jesus. Here’s to the next seven 60 years of life on a mission!

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Dear __________ mom, this is for you.

Dear ______________ mom,

You can fill in the blank that applies to you – stay at home, working, partial custody, divorced, separated, married, happy, sad, struggling, thriving, frustrated, exhausted, sleep-deprived, black, white, oppressed, privileged, rich, poor, minority, understood, misunderstood, passionate, depressed… fill in that blank with all that you are and all that you feel.

You matter.
You are loved.
You are highly valued.

This morning Continue reading “Dear __________ mom, this is for you.”

The Desire of the Human Race.

We returned to Costa Rica two days ago after nearly two months in the States, and as I’ve been reflecting on this last season and looking forward to the next one… I’m filled with gratitude. I’m blown away by the abundant love, grace, patience, and provision of God. I’ve had so many days where I feel like I’m failing – as a wife, a mom, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a follower of Jesus, etc. – yet, God keeps showing me that I’m worth everything. He shows us that we’re worth the blood of Jesus, we’re worth another chance. Worth all His love, all His grace, all His hope, time, and unlimited resources.

All for relationship.

All so you can know Him, and know that you are deeply known.

And in that knowing, of every part of you, there is nothing but the purest love for you.

He knows me, and He is love. I know Him, but I fail at it every day, or fall short, at least. I could never love perfectly as He does, yet He chooses to walk with me. He’ll never get an equal return, yet says I’m worth the investment.

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The Gospel is so counter-cultural. Continue reading “The Desire of the Human Race.”

Ten Tips to Help your Baby Sleep.

Before Olivia was born, I did all kinds of research about how to properly care for a baby. I had no idea how much sleep babies needed, how often they needed to be fed, etc. so I read several books, blogs, and did online research to prepare myself.

A year and 3 months into it, I feel really confident about some great ways that have helped me -and many other parents- teach their babies good sleep habits. So, in no special order…

Oh, and I guess I should include that all of these are based upon not just my own personal experience, but scientific reasons that are backed by research studies (which I encourage you to look into) that are valid. If you want the details on where I found the sources, feel free to message me or leave a comment below!

1) Learn the proper waketime for your baby. This is mostly dependent on age, but also about simply getting to know your baby and watching closely for sleep cues such as yawning and rubbing eyes. When Olivia was in her early months, the difference between putting her down after 30 minutes or 40 minutes of waketime made a huge difference. Those extra ten minutes of being awake could throw into complete overtiredness, making it very difficult to fall asleep, and more likely for her to wake early from her nap. Which of course would lead to more overtiredness, and then it can become a vicious cycle! Don’t worry, if you pay close attention now, it will get easier and easier and soon enough you’ll be able to read your baby like the back of your hand! These charts are really helpful: http://www.mybabysleepguide.com/2013/02/average-sleep-charts-by-age.html

2) Implement a simple nap and bedtime routine. Babies thrive on consistency, routines, and rhythms. You may not think they notice when they’re only a month or two old, but your consistency is something they catch onto very early on. Consistency helps them feel safe, and able to trust. Our routine is this: go into bedroom, change diaper, put on sleep sack (or swaddle if baby is under 3 months/unable to roll over), turn on sound machine, place in crib and say goodnight and I love you. *At bedtime we also do bath time right beforehand.

3) Do not create habits that you don’t want to keep. If you want to be able to put your baby down to sleep in a crib, don’t let them sleep on you or in your bed every day. If you want your baby to sleep without needing to nurse or suck on a bottle to fall asleep, don’t do it. It’s okay to do these things every once in awhile when you absolutely need to, but don’t let it become a habit! Your baby will get confused and it will be extremely difficult to get away from whatever habit you start, especially the longer you go on with it. Begin with the end in mind.

4) Use a swaddle or sleep sack. When babies are in their first 3 months or so, they startle themselves often in their sleep, and it can easily jolt them awake. Swaddling is a simple way to keep them sleeping! When your baby starts to roll over, it’s unsafe to keep them in a swaddle, but you can transition them to a sleep sack with armholes so they’re still bundled up. Not only does it make your baby feel cozy and give them that womblike feeling, but having a sleep sack as part of the routine before nap or bedtime helps indicate to your baby that it’s time to sleep! My favorite swaddles and sacks are here: www.ergopouch.com

5) Use white noise and black-out blinds. This helps drown out other noises, voices, and creaks of the house, and makes it easier for your baby to sleep soundly. We all sleep better when it’s dark! You can get black-out blinds on Amazon and it will make a huge difference in your baby’s sleep quality – it’s worth the investment. We use this simple sound machine that can either be plugged into a power outlet or run on batteries, which has been a lifesaver when traveling! http://www.homedics.com/sound-machines/soundspa.html

6) Get your baby on an eat, wake, sleep cycle. This is so key. This order may not seem important but it absolutely is. After sleeping, your baby should eat right away, when they are most awake, so that they can take a full feeding. After eating, they have waketime – which means play time! They’ll get the most out of waketime if they’ve had a full-feeding and are able to be present physically and mentally. After a proper waketime, they can go to sleep! It’s important that eating never comes right before sleep, so that your baby doesn’t associate it or start to depend on that to fall asleep.

7) Don’t give in to the 45 minute intruder. Did you know that we humans all go through sleep cycles during sleep? As adults, our cycles last about 90 minutes, and baby’s sleep cycles are about 30-45 minutes. We adults toss and turn and go back to sleep, and baby’s often have to be taught how to transition into their next sleep cycle. Olivia struggled after being asleep for 45 minutes until she was around 4 months old (the age when babies are able to self-soothe), but I’ve heard of other babies struggle with this for much longer. Up until Olivia started transitioning on her own and taking long naps, we tried a few different things that helped. We would go into her room right before the 45 minute mark, and we’d put our hand on her chest to soothe her, or turn her to the side and pat her back, and she’d often go back to sleep. Sometimes, we’d pick her up and hold her for 5-15 minutes until she dozed off again, and lay her back down.If your baby takes a pacifier, that might be all they need to make it through the transition. It didn’t always work, but most of the time it did, and she’d go back to sleep and make it a 2 hour nap like she needed. When she got a little older, around 4 months, we’d progressively do less to help her back to sleep, and she would sometimes even stay awake babbling anywhere between 5-20 minutes, and then go back to sleep! This is how babies learn to self-soothe and put themselves to sleep on their own! Now Olivia consistently takes 2-3 hour naps without waking at all, and she’s been doing that since 5 or 6 months. I know somedays feel hopeless, but you can do this if you just stay consistent!

8) Choose a wake-for-the-day and bed time, and stick to it! This is EXTREMELY important, especially in the early days. Like I said before, babies thrive on consistency. Like any human, babies do best when they go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, but they need your help! Newborns have to be taught what is night and what is day time, and they will quickly learn what you teach them. For us, 6:30AM wake up was what we needed to nurse, get dressed, and be on time for work each day. Now that Olivia is older and eats faster, waking up between 7 and 7:30AM is perfect. So you can change to a different time later if you want to, but just pick something that works and stick to it for now. Your baby’s natural clock will catch on quickly and naps and bedtime will become easy. As our baby grows, they’ll drop naps and drop feedings, so just remember to keep checking the recommendations on the chart linked in Tip 1.

9) Put your baby to bed “wide awake.” Many people don’t put their babies to bed until they “act tired,” for example, crying, becoming easily upset, throwing tantrums, or even falling asleep while playing. What many people don’t realize is that by this point, your baby is already overtired, which causes difficulty falling asleep, and makes it likely that baby will wake early from their nap. Putting your baby down when their fully awake, not even looking drowsy, is the best way to help them learn how to fall asleep on their own. This doesn’t mean putting baby down too early, but being aware of how much waketime they need and not letting them stay awake longer than that. It takes practice and consistency, but it will more than pay off later. Plus, as baby gets older, it becomes easier and easier to identify their necessary waketime, and easier and easier for them to put themselves to sleep.

10) When it’s time, give your baby a “lovey” or security object.  Once your baby has mastered rolling both ways and removing things from their face, you can safely give them a lovey or security object. Make sure it doesn’t have any sewed on buttons or anything they could choke on, and use it only for sleep times. Olivia uses this cute little lion lovey, and it always stays in her crib, with the exception of times when she has to sleep in the car or on an airplane – then we give it to her just as we would if she were in her crib – and it’s accompanied by her white noise sound and sleep sack. A lovey is something that helps teach baby it’s time for sleep, and more importantly, helps baby feel safe and secure when going through phases of separation anxiety.  https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Dear-Baby-Blanket-Lion/dp/B0035X6VG6/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1502255671&sr=8-2&keywords=lion+lovey

I hope these tips help your little one get some deep, peaceful sleep!

Photo Update July 2017

In the middle of June, the students in our first ever Groundbreakers Discipleship Training School graduated, and moved on into the next step – taking with them a transformational experience and a fresh perspective on life and their purpose. Our teams gathered together in Germany for a week of debrief after spending two months in Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia, and we had a great time processing and celebrating everything that God did in the lives of the people we served, and in each of our own lives. We received great feedback from our students and staff, talked about how we’ve all grown, and how we can take what we’ve learned into what God has next for each of us. On June 23rd, our students graduated, and over the next couple days, they each went on into their next step.

We’re sad to not spend every day with them anymore, but so proud of each of them for allowing God to work so deeply in their lives in the past six months, and whole-heartedly step into what He has for them in the next season.

We spent the last two weeks of June closing out the school and now we are in the States for our annual visit, seeing friends and family, sharing with churches and small groups, and raising funds.

We just wanted to share a quick photo update of our last few months!

Debrief in Germany:

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Debrief & Re-entry in Costa Rica:IMG_2498IMG_2501IMG_2503IMG_2504IMG_2515

Graduation:IMG_2597IMG_2650IMG_2656IMG_2754IMG_2996IMG_3020

Visit in Washington:
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Next up: We’re heading south to Nevada for a week with Nicole’s family friends from childhood, then onto Southern California for a visit with Ryan’s brother Sean, his mom Leasa, and other friends and supporters, and lastly a visit in the Bay Area with more friends and family. After we wrap up our time in the States, we head back home to Costa Rica where we, along with our YWAM location in San Jose, will be hosting a week-long UofN conference, followed by another week-long workshop for YWAMers who work with Discipleship Training Schools. The rest of the year will be spent with the Frontier Missions team, as well as coordinating a 150-person team, 7-house build with Homes of Hope, and preparation for the next Groundbreakers DTS which begins in January.

Thanks to everyone who has made time for us during this visit so far (both pictured and not pictured!), for inviting us into your homes, driving to see us, taking us out for meals, etc. We are grateful to have so many amazing people in our lives, who love our family, and who make it worth all the traveling! We love you all.

If you haven’t seen us yet and you’d like to, please connect with us! You can send us an email by using the contact form here: https://feetofpeace.com/contact/ and if you’d simply like to stay up to date with what we’re doing, you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/5iURf

Love, the Mackles

The best job in the world

One of my favorite parts of working with Discipleship Training Schools is being able to walk closely with a couple of the students, hearing about how God is challenging them and transforming them through the teachings and outside-of-class activities in one-on-one conversations and in reading their weekly journal assignments. One of the greatest challenges for me is not being able to have this opportunity with every single one of the students, because I love what comes from those one-on-one times – the quiet pauses, the bursts of laughter, the uncontrollable tears, and even the “uneventful” reflections on the “usual” of each week.

I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to walk with incredible people, on a journey of them discovering their gifts and dreams and hopes. I get to pray for them and encourage them as they overcome their fears and learn more about who they were created to be. I get to affirm them as they discover truth, and I get to lift them up in the midst of their battles. I love how God created us to live in community, to each have a unique function that forces us, yet allows us to work together and never alone. I love finding myself in awe of the talents and gifts that God has given others, admiring the things they create and the dreams they imagine.

So today I want to give you a little glimpse of what I have the opportunity to be a part of. With their permission, I want to share with you some of the creations of two of my students.

Before DTS, Sandra didn’t draw, but nobody could have guessed that! One of my favorite things about reading her weekly journal is getting to admire the way she expresses herself and what God is speaking to her through her artistic creations.

The following is a form of poetry called a French Pantoum. The week before last, our teacher was John Ray, and in his teaching on Identity in Christ, he challenged the students to do this exercise. One of our students, Olivia, wrote this as her response:

I must endure burning
Jesus came to restore the oneness
Repent, the Kingdom of God is here
Constantly be adjusting

Jesus came to restore the oneness
Jesus came to demonstrate how to live
Constantly be adjusting
We get to live!

We get to live!
Repent, the Kingdom of God is here
Constantly be adjusting
I must endure burning

 

 

Something else that I really love about working with Discipleship Training Schools is that I am also challenged in my own walk with God, to go deeper and to keep discovering more about who He created me to be. John Ray’s week for me was so refreshing, and was challenged to write my own French Pantoum:

Only the obedient believe, only the believer obeys
Your hardship does not intimidate God
Your struggles and suffering help you speak a unique language
Leading and discipling is more about transparency and vulnerability than perfection

Your hardship does not intimidate God
We cannot think our way into a new way of living
Leading and discipling is more about transparency and vulnerability than perfection
We have to live our way into a new way of thinking

We cannot think our way into a new way of living
Your struggles and suffering help you speak a unique language
We have to live our way into a new way of thinking
Only the obedient believe, only the believer obeys

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You’re not a slave

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“You’re not a slave. You’re a son, you’re a daughter.”

This week in the Discipleship Training School, we have our dear friend Jack Kody teaching the students on the topic “Father Heart of God.” We’ve known Jack since he taught in our DTS back in 2010, and since then, he has been someone who has had a great influence in our lives. He has become family to us, so when he comes to share in our schools, it feels like a piece of our hearts returning for the week, reminding us how much we are loved and cherished.

This morning he asked the students a question, “So, on your birthday, or at Christmas, after you open your gifts and see how wonderful they are – you thank your friends and family for the gifts, and then you pull out your wallet and ask them ‘how much do I owe you?’ Right?”

From my perspective, Continue reading “You’re not a slave”