Coming Full Circle
Looking at this picture below, as I begin writing up a blog that can somewhat capture all that God has done in and through my friendship with Ryan, I realize that it feels like a lifetime ago when we were both in Costa Rica on totally different paths in life.
I arrived in Costa Rica with the intention of getting my ESL certification; this I accomplished but I also received so much more in gaining a friend that later in life I would proudly call my brother.
Every time I tell the story about how Ryan and I met it makes me chuckle. Within the first few days upon arriving in Costa Rica, I realized that most of the students in my class weren’t getting their ESL certification with the desire to actually teach English somewhere, but most probably to enjoy the month in Costa Rica partying and seeing the sights.
A good portion of the class was made up of college students or recent college graduates and Ryan was in that group. During the first few days of class I quickly identified (and judged) Ryan as the typical surfer guy with muscles, a big mouth, and desire to be the center of attention.
I really didn’t want much to do with him, but during our meet and greet exercises, I was paired with Ryan and we both discovered that we surfed and since I drove down in my own truck from Nicaragua, we could surf together during our month in Costa Rica, which definitely would be more fun than surfing alone.
So that’s what we did! The 1st day that we went out surfing I still remember clearly. After our surf session we hopped back into my truck and Ryan asked me “So, you’re a Christian huh?”
Our 1st day of class we all had to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class and well . . . lets just say that after that 1st day I was pinned as the whacko and judgmental Christian Bible beater guy that’s probably super lame and does nothing but read his Bible and pray all day.
So I responded “Yes, I am a Christian and a missionary.” To which Ryan replied “Yeah, me too! I’m a Christian too.” Needless to say I was a bit surprised to hear him say that as I had already spent a day or two in class hearing about Ryan’s exploits with the girls and adventurous times out partying the nights away.
Ryan then began to explain to me that he had grown up in a Christian home and knew what was right and wrong, but had decided to put that stuff on the shelf for a while and just have fun in life; and that one day he would probably get his life right but for the time being he was just having too much fun.
I listened as Ryan told me a little about his religious upbringing and quickly it became apparent to me that Ryan had probably never really met Jesus, but rather had just grown up in church and religion and that had been all that he had known. No wonder he rejected the religion of his upbringing for the pleasures of this world!
Looking back on this time in my life I realize that I too was still going through a process of de-religifying myself and I can only thank God that by His grace I was able to show Ryan grace and not judge him.
The Lord let me know that all I was to do was to continue to love him and show him by my own life what a real love-relationship with Jesus looks like. We continued to surf at least 4-5 days a week together as the month went on. Ryan continued partying pretty much every night and some nights I would let him convince me to go out with them for the first few hours of their night and have a beer or two and then I would go home as the rest of the crew along with Ryan would continue to party into the early morning hours.
Ryan would tell me near the end of our month together that I was the 1st Christian he had ever met who he didn’t feel judged by. He said that he could see that I treated others with love and respect despite where they were at in life or what they believed, and that my example had impacted him. I asked if I could pray for Ryan before we parted ways on my last night in Costa Rica, which we did and I headed back to Nicaragua.
I didn’t really know if my life had impacted Ryan’s over that month together to the point where he would want my Jesus in his own life.
However, about 8 months later Ryan sent me this email:
How is life bro? Your ministry has been on my mind a lot for the past few months, as have several aspects of my life that have needed to change. You are aware of the stuff that needed to change from the talks we had in CR and since it seems that your history is very similar to where I was.
So here’s the update in a nutshell - I had been getting little prompts from God for some time, nothing loud, but still apparent…
About 5 weeks ago things came to a point, there were a few instances (two specific ones come to mind, but there were more) in a short period of time where I was supposed to talk to people about things and give them the spiritual encouragement they needed, but my gifts were ruined by the lifestyle I was leading and the type of relationship I had with these two people.
God was making it obvious that He had given me a gift that He was not able to use like He wanted (and like I wanted) because of the way I was living. It was then that I was given the grace to break down and fall on my face before God and ask forgiveness for the bad choices that I was deliberately making. Life has changed for me, and I hope the change is for good, doing the right thing isn’t like being confined, it is an opportunity to return the love that God pours out on me, despite my determination to do my own thing.
Beyond that, following God isn’t like letting go of everything I want, instead it feels like an opportunity to be used to my greatest capacity…it’s the other side of the coin. I have finally found myself in the place where I am looking for what God wants with the eagerness I have admired in people like you for some time.
I don’t care what it is that God wants, I just want to do it, and that is completely fulfilling and a total gift of His overpowering grace that I am the grateful recipient of. However, I don’t feel like I’m out of the woods yet, the lifestyle I led is only one step back and I need your prayer.
I am really excited to hear what has been going on in Managua and how things are going with you. Send me an update on the ministry and the surf scene!
Also, as a word of encouragement to you, one of the things that stand out most to me from CR, and my entire life up to this point, was the time we spent together and the way that God influenced me through you. You have had a bigger impact on my life than you know and I hope that this comes to you at a time when you really need to feel like God is using you, even in ways you can’t comprehend, STICK TO IT MANNN!
Thanks for following hard after God and showing me that it is possible to be in the world and not of it without being a stiff and in a way that models Christs’ love and acceptance of others.
Your bro in Christ,
Needless to say, when I read Ryan’s email I was elated and so thankful that our time together had impacted him so deeply and all I could do was give God the credit because He is and has been these more than 13 years I’ve known Him the reason I can be a blessing to anyone else.
These last couple of years Ryan has been able to finally come to Nicaragua and visit us and the ministry and we’ve been so blessed to be witnesses to his life truly beginning to blossom like a well-watered tree once the rain of God is received and begins to give growth and the tree bears much fruit.
Ryan’s last trip to Nicaragua was by far the most profound and impactful not only for him, but for me as well and others who had the opportunity to get to know him over his visits these last few years.
In May of last year Ryan, and I met up in North Carolina at a Power and Love Conference and spent 3 days soaking in amazing Gospel teaching and fellowship with other like-minded believers and it was truly a great time together.
But I think the most impactful moment for Ryan that took place during those few days we spent together was when he got filled with the Holy Spirit and began praying in the Spirit. When Ryan came back to spend some time with us in January we could very easily and quickly see how much Ryan had grown spiritually over the last half year. So much so that literally everyone that saw us together thought we were brothers and many even assumed we were twins!
I truly believe that this wasn’t only due to physical likeness but a spiritual likeness that had grown between us and it could be sensed when we were together.
As you can see in the picture above Ryan got baptized during his last trip to Nicaragua and for me to be the one to baptize him was something really special to me.
To personally get to witness our Father and His amazing love and grace do such a work in my brother’s life has truly been one of my greatest experiences I have had walking as His son. It’s always a joy to bear witness to the greatest miracle that our eyes can see, the coming home to the Father of a lost soul; but when you get to walk with someone over the years and personally get involved in sharing, loving, encouraging, and in general just being Jesus in physical form for them, well . . . its something extra special to be a part of.
So if you’re reading this, I want to encourage you to not grow faint! Don’t give up praying for your lost family member or friend that you feel has grown cold and fallen away from the faith.
So much can be happening beneath the surface that our human eyes do not perceive but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things being formed on the inside and foundational truths beginning to take root that will mature and bear much fruit down the road.
Love to you all - I hope you have enjoyed sharing in our joy for Ryan!
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