Language school

Language school

Monday, August 25, 2014

Two Down, One to Go!

We hope everyone had a great summer! For everyone else, it's back to school season. As for us, we've been in school all along!  We just finished the second of our three trimesters of language school and are gearing up to start the third next week. Unfortunately, the end of a “tri” means saying goodbye to friends who are finishing up their year of school. The good side of this, however, is that we now have friends sharing the GREAT news of Christ in countries all over Central and South America!

We're gonna miss these two, and many others!

It also means meeting the new students coming in to begin their year of language school. This time around, this means new fellow Forgotten Children Ministries missionaries, the Stewarts!  We've had a fun time showing them around town and helping them get settled in.
Our new FCM missionary friends, the Stewarts, who are new students this trimester!
The other highlight of our break has been seeing another volcano! Volcano Irazu is about a 45-minute bus ride from here and sounded like a fun (and cheap!) day trip. We had heard it would be cooler on top of the volcano, but nobody mentioned that what we'd really need is a winter coat! It was about 45-degrees and sleeting, which was definitely the coldest we've felt since leaving the US in December. We're not looking forward to the cold of an East Tennessee winter at the end of the year, but a morning up there was good preparation for us!

What we could see of the crater through the fog and sleet
Please be in prayer for our many friends who are traveling and settling into their new countries and ministries. God has sent out a wonderful group of missionaries this month, and we know that He has great plans for them! Please also pray for the Stewarts and other families who are beginning language school next week. They have each chosen to give up everything for the call of Christ, and they need our prayers as God uses this year to change them and teach them. It is a time of great testing of each student's faith, but God is good, and He is faithful to show each of us His glory through this time!

Finally, for us, please pray for our upcoming visa renewal trip in September and our final trimester of language school. Our Spanish has progressed so much this year, but this will be the most difficult trimester of all, as we will have a more difficult class schedule along with more complicated, abstract topics of Spanish that aren't used in English. I will be adding on a class in translation this time around, while Leslie will be taking “FARO” class, which requires her to find people in the community to talk to about certain topics each week. Please pray for her safety as she spends more time out and about, and for helpful Costa Rican friends who will be willing to discuss these topics each week!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Little Over Halfway There!!

The end of July is fast approaching. Next month we will be finishing up our second trimester of language school and saying goodbye to some of the dear friends we have made in the short time we have been here. We will also be gearing up for our 3rd and final trimester of language school. We'll be "seniors"! Which means hopefully we know enough about living here now that we can help out the new missionaries coming in to begin their language journey in August.
Last month we went on our second visa renewal trip, and we decided to go to Honduras this time.
We got to spend some time at the girls' shelter. And Jeff did the tango! 
We got to play games and practice our Spanish. It's so wonderful to be able to communicate. It's proof of how far we've come! 
We got to watch the girls do a couple of their special dances they had prepared to show the teams. 
And we got to sing with the kiddos and spend time at the boys' shelter. We had a great time, visiting with the kids and our fellow missionaries there. We were able to ask all kinds of questions about moving to Honduras, etc. to help us feel a little more prepared. We can't wait to go back!
The weekend after we returned from Honduras, Leslie and Lucy were walking in the park near our house, when a big dog attacked Lucy. Lucy ended up getting 10 stitches and we learned that she had picked up an earth borne disease (from eating the grass), and had to be put on antibiotics for a week. Now she's well on the mend. She's back to playing ball and destroying stuffed animals as per her usual routine (to hear Lucy's side of the story, check out her blog: She's still pretty jumpy at sounds, and shakes every time she leaves the house. Hopefully over time she will recover from this as well.
Earlier this month, my baby sister Kristen and her husband got to come and visit us for a weekend. We thought we'd show them one of the many beautiful areas of Costa Rica and took them to see Volcan Arenal.

We got to visit the hanging bridges. There are several of these bridges in the rain forest area, and the further up the mountains you climb, the higher off the ground these bridges were. Eventually we were looking down on the treetops and those trees are tall! 

This is a great place for a photo op with the volcano in the background.....when it's not cloudy! 
Not only did we get to visit and spend time with them, but Lucy got to spend some time with them too. She was so excited! And they brought her some new stuffed animals to destroy!
This past Saturday we had the privilege of spending time with the youth at our church here in Costa Rica. They are a great group of kids and we really enjoyed spending time with them. Hopefully this will be another great way we can practice our Spanish and share the love of Christ here in Costa Rica!

- we had a safe and encouraging trip to Honduras
- Lucy is recovering from her dog attack
- we've made it past the 6 month mark!
- Kristen and Brandon were able to come visit!
Prayer Request!
- continued healing for Lucy
- our friends that will soon be graduating and moving to the countries God has called them to
- that we will continue to study hard as the end of 2nd tri approaches
- the new students/missionaries getting ready to come to Costa Rica next month to begin language school

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sticker Shock?!

We have been living in Costa Rica for almost 6 months now, and one of the questions we keep hearing is "what surprised you the most about living in Costa Rica?" Hands down, I think the most surprising thing was safety (and drinkable tap water). We came down to Costa Rica prepared to live how we would in Honduras. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised that it is much safer here. We actually take the public buses quite frequently (something we will never do in Honduras!), we walk to most of the stores we go to (which would also be a bad idea in Honduras). We don't feel the need to constantly be looking over our shoulders when we walk anywhere. In fact, many times I (Leslie) have taken Lucy for walks by myself and been very safe.
One of the other big surprises here was the prices of certain food items, things that were cheap in the US, and/or things we were accustomed to eating in the US. So we took a few pictures of some items and thought you might enjoy seeing what we see every time we go to the grocery store! (Disclaimer: these prices are from the cheapest grocery stores in the area. Also the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD to roughly 550 colones, which is subject to change.)

For all the non-math people (like me), allow me to translate the exchange rate! :) This 56 ounce bag of my favorite candy is approximately $15. 
$4 for the bottle of Hersey's syrup (notice the security tag!). And this is actually a very good price! These are usually $6-7. 
Almost $6 for this 2 cup bag of semi sweet morsels! 
Ok, something besides chocolate! haha! A nice big bag of Doritos for only $7ish! 
My favorite cereal from the States for only almost $6! (We have since found other things to eat for breakfast most days!) 
Who doesn't like a good peanut butter and honey sandwhich?? The big bottle on the right is only $9! 
And what recipe doesn't require cheese?? The white cheese on the left is only $9 for 400 grams! (I am unable to translate grams, sorry!)
Classes at 7:30 in the morning require caffeine (and unfortunately, neither of us are coffee drinkers). These 2.5L of coke are approximately $4 each. 
We found this gallon of lemon juice at the store this week and it is $16ish. (And who needs a gallon of lemon juice?!)
Ahhh bacon......I love bacon, however this bacon is 3 lbs for $19....I guess I don't really love bacon....
I hope you enjoyed our entertaining pictures and prices! Sometimes we go into the store and just laugh (or come out wide eyed and in disbelief!) But it reminds us time and again how thankful we are for all of our supporters and just how precious you are to us! Because of you, we can afford to go into the grocery store and buy the things we need to eat. But it also reminds us of the other people who live in this country with us (and will be living with in Honduras). They go into these same stores and see these same prices, and probably have more mouths to feed than us! How amazing would it be for our support to be doubled by the time we get to Honduras, so that we can help feed extra mouths! Have people over for lunch or dinner and share food and the Gospel with them! Through you and through Christ, may we be used to be a blessing to those around us!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Back to School!

We've had a break full of excitement, but it's time to go back to school!  Today was our first day back, and we enjoyed meeting our new teachers who will be teaching us for the next 4 months.  During our break, we were able to do lots of fun things like go on a tour of downtown San Jose courtesy of our former Lenguaje teacher Gerardo, show Leslie's parents around San Francisco (the town where we live, just outside of San Jose), join Leslie's parents on their trip to the beach in Guanacaste about 5 hours north of here (thanks, Chuck and Susan!), and move into a new apartment. 

So, with all that's gone on, where to begin?  How about with everyone's favorite, the beach!  We spent a week in Playa Azul, Guanacaste, with Chuck and Susan (Leslie's parents).  Playa Azul is about as far away from civilization as you can get in Costa Rica, requiring a 30+ minute drive on gravel roads to get there, and situated over an hour from the nearest city.  Thanks to this, we almost always had the entire beach to ourselves!  It was also a great opportunity for us to practice the Spanish we've learned thus far!


Once we returned from Guanacaste, we got to move into our new apartment.  It's just a few blocks away from our old one, but is smaller and has a nice yard for Lucy to run and play.  She certainly gives her approval of the new place, complete with gated yard away from the noisy street, and a comfy couch!

Now that we've had a nice break, we're back to daily Spanish classes.  Leslie's birthday is coming up on the 16th.  If anyone wants to send her a card or a letter of encouragement for her birthday, I'm sure she'd love it!  Our mailing address is:

Jeff and Leslie Vanvactor
Instituto de Lengua Espanola
Apartado 100-2350
San Jose, Costa Rica
America Central
We have several things we hope you'll pray about in the coming weeks. 

  --Homework and general difficulty level will be ramping up quickly during the second trimester.  Pray that we're able to have great attitudes, good health (so we don't miss any classes), and minds ready to learn a lot in a short amount of time.

--Many new students started today, with a few more still traveling here this week.  Please pray that these students have safe travels and acclimate well to the new culture, and that God will help us to be welcoming and encouraging to them.

--The rainy season is starting, so there will be lots of rain in the afternoons and throughout the night.  Because so many missionaries live in our area due to the Spanish school, there are many homeless people who live near us who will be sleeping outside during these stormy nights.  Please pray for God's hand of protection and provision on them, and for opportunities for us to show God's love to them even through their difficulties. 

Thank you for keeping up with us on here, and especially for your prayers.  As you can see from the graph near the top-right of the blog, we're still not quite where we need to be financially for moving to Honduras, but we know that God has and will continue to provide.  If you feel that God might be calling you to support us financially, or if you know of an individual or church that might want to know more about us and the ministry we're preparing for, please send us an email at or send us a Facebook message.  If you just want to send us some words of encouragement, those are also the best ways to do that, and will greatly brighten our day!  And finally, if you want to see what Lucy is up to here in Costa Rica, she has her own blog at travelingterrier.blogspot.comUntil next time, Dios los bendiga!

Jeff and Leslie

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nicaragua, here we come!

We're over halfway through our first of 3 trimesters.  Oh, how time flies!  We've been learning things like intransitive verbs, direct and indirect objects, and Jeff's personal favorite, food vocabulary!  We've also found out how Costa Rica solves the low water reserve situation during dry season:  they turn the water off sometime during the day and don't turn it on until sometime during the night!  After a few days of this, we were getting a little worried about how we could work our schedule to get everything that requires water done in the morning before school (dishes, laundry, rinsing and soaking fruits/veggies, etc.), but we're getting that routine figured out. 
We're headed to Nicaragua for our visa renewal trip later this week.  When you come here, the maximum your passport can be stamped is 90 days.  Because of this, students that don't try to get a student visa here in CR have to leave the country for at least 72 hours before their 90 days are up.  When you come back in, you request another 90 day stamp, and hopefully you're able to get it! We've only heard of a few instances of a border patrol officer not wanting to give out a second 90-day stamp, so we're praying for God to provide us with a friendly border patrol officer who's having a good day, as well as safety on the bus ride to/from Nicaragua (about 7 hours each way). 

There are a few things we hope you'll pray about in the coming weeks:

--Several of our fellow students have caught a stomach bug that's being passed around.  Missing a few days of class is difficult, and having a lack of water to flush toilets for most of the day makes having a stomach bug a little more interesting.  Please pray that God would watch over our fellow students (as well as us), that He would bring healing to those who are feeling ill and protection to those who have thus far remained healthy.

--This coming weekend is the most common for students to take their visa renewal trips.  With so many of us traveling, please pray that God would provide protection for us while we're on the road, guidance as we obtain the paperwork needed to leave and re-enter the country, and the blessing of an additional 90-day stamp as we re-enter the country.

Dios lo Bendiga!

Jeff and Leslie

Monday, March 3, 2014


Since we've been here we've noticed the things we think about have changed. Here are some thoughts we never thought we'd think....

"I probably should leave my rings at home today since we're going to church."

"Do we have enough change to make it to church and back?" (we take the bus)

"I'm going to take my purse, but I'm only going to put (the equivalent of) $10 in it in case someone decides to rob me, and I don't really need my cell to go to the store so I'll leave that at home too."

"Yes, you can drink the tap water."  :)

Every morning when I get in the shower (without contacts) I have to remind myself that this spot on the tile is not a cockroach!
"Let's hang our clothes on the line today and save money by not using the dryer (electricity is expensive here)."

"Watch where you step! (There may be dog poo or a "gringo trap"!)"

"We better do the dishes before we go to bed tonight.....we don't want any creepy crawlies!"

"I'll just get in my car and drive to.....wait, no car, do I want to walk, take a taxi or the I really need to go anywhere?"

"I just want to go for a walk.....let me unlock my 3 doors that stand between me and freedom... or is that safety?"

"The bathroom trash needs to be emptied again......because you can't flush toilet paper."

"I am so thankful that the bathroom does not smell like what is in the trash can."

"Fireworks again?"

"It's so nice outside, do I want to wear a skirt or pants?"

"Do I want to look out and see who is tapping on my gate?"

"If I don't have internet, do I really want to use data on my phone to check email/facebook?"

"Another cockroach?"
"Why are there ants on the bathroom counter where there is no food?"

These are just some of the many adventures of living in Costa Rica!  We're so glad you're along for the ride with us, thinking about us and praying for us.  To our friends and family back in the States reading this, we miss you very much!  And to our new friends here who might be reading this, it's been a blast sharing these new thoughts and experiences while serving here with you!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Welcome to Costa Rica!

We're very excited to be here in Costa Rica!  We've had a wonderful start to our adventure here.  God has been blessing us greatly with new friends, fun new experiences, and gifted teachers.  We hope you'll follow along as we follow God's plan of action in our lives to fulfill His Great Commission!

Upon arriving at the airport in San Jose, we were picked up from the airport by our "Big Brothers" and new friends Jesse and Lisa and whisked away to our new home in San Francisco de Dos Rios (just a few miles outside of San Jose, and 4 blocks from the language school).  Below are pictures of the living room and kitchen.  Check out those cabinets!  :)

Our adventure got off to a fast start, as we went on the Three Crosses Hike on our very first weekend!  This hike takes you up into the clouds and gives you an amazing view of San Jose and the surrounding areas.  We're hoping to be able to try this hike again later in the year on a clear day so we can get the full view from the top of the mountain, but being so far up into the clouds was a very fun and unique experience that we'll never forget!

We've been spending our time studying, enjoying the many parks within walking distance of our house, and eating lots of healthy food from the "feria" (similar to a farmer's market where local farmers come to sell fruits and veggies for cheap!).  Leslie and some of the other students have also been having a fun time doing Zumba at the park with the locals!  

Thank you to all who have been praying for us and supporting us.  God has blessed us richly with wonderful friends and family, and we know your prayers are helping us daily as we go through this transition into full-time ministry!  Please join with us in praying for:

-Our ability to learn Spanish.  We can't share the Gospel without being able to speak the language.  Please pray that God would bless our teachers, our time studying, and the opportunities we have to practice with local Costa Ricans so that we can learn the Spanish language as quickly as possible this year.

-Our safety.  We're blessed to be spending this year in an area of Latin America with a very low violent crime rate. However, things like pick-pocketing and robberies are very frequent here, and have already occurred with a few of our classmates.  Please pray that God would provide us with a keen awareness of our surroundings, sound judgment in choosing the places we go, and wisdom for any situation we may find ourselves in.

-Our encounters with others.  We have many opportunities to speak with and spend time with both Costa Ricans and English-speakers.  Please pray that we would use these opportunities effectively, encouraging those who know Christ and sharing with those who don't!

If you're on Facebook and aren't friends with us on there yet, we hope you'll "Friend" us!  We post small updates most days there, as well as occasional pictures of our time here.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!  

In Christ,

Jeff and Leslie