Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life.
Dear Family, Friends and Former Team Members,
I have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to express our experience this summer in China. Unfortunately, words will never adequately express what a fantastic summer we had. The Lord blessed us in every conceivable way! What can we say, other than THANK YOU for praying for us and supporting us financially this summer.
Our team arrived at Boot Camp on June 23, and after registration was completed, we had 20 team members and three other leaders (Josiah, Taylor and Abigail). The team did a fine job of learning what was taught in each class, and after a couple times losing the “Miss Piggy” award and cleaning the bathrooms, they even learned that every piece of clothing on a clothesline NEEDED a clothespin! On that day, they won and were able to enjoy the swimming pool during their free time.
We received a call from Greg, our missionary, just two days before Commissioning. He had just received a letter from some government agency saying that the building project could not proceed, as the property was in question of ownership (the Chinese way of a shakedown!). So, he was questioning if we should come or not. We assured him we had a back-up plan of returning to Louyuan (in southern China where we were in 2005) if things did not work out. Paul asked Greg about other projects that we could do instead of the second story dining facility that we were suppose to build. He mentioned several smaller jobs that could be accomplished, and also that we could help run an English camp for Chinese students. After sharing this with his mission board, he called back to say it was a “go”, and two days later we were on our way the Beijing, China!
Upon arrival we were met by Nina, an Evergreen representative, and bused 12 hours (and experienced several of the infamous Chinese traffic jams) to our project site at The Joy On The Journey Camp, located in the village of “Little Cow Stop”, about an hour outside of Tiayuan City. We settled into our dorm rooms and kitchen (for the lady leaders) and began numerous projects to make the camp more pleasant on the eyes. The camp is a former agricultural center that mainly was a piggery.
The “theme” of this team would have to be “fluid and flexible”. They displayed this attitude in all the jobs that were required of them. To begin with, the team started clearing out the office building to paint the rooms. One room had ceramic tile on the walls which had to come off. Out came a crew to break the tiles and clean that mess up. Outside, we began building a 15’X25′ pergola over the patio that was used for a dining area along with building more benches and tables. We also began digging a fish pond in an area between two buildings that was just dirt and a few trees. After the pond was completed, the team made a path to the pond, lining it with rocks. Sod was laid and a small waterfall with other rocks was also made. The transformation to this camp was amazing. Our team was willing to do any and every job asked of them and do it all with a willing and grateful heart.
We were also able to participate in running a week-long English Camp. The campers ranged in age from seven to 22. Our team members were the counselors and teachers. This was definitely not in their “comfort zones”. However, they stepped up to the plate and did far beyond what we expected. In addition to English classes, they led the many activities, including mountain biking, rafting, and a rope’s course. Even though we were not allowed to openly witness, we pray that many seeds were planted.
One weekend, we went to Tiayuan City. We went to a park before church to hand out brochures for the camp. We visited a Chinese church that had to have around 1000 in attendance. Even though we didn’t understand the message, we enjoyed getting a glimpse of what God is doing in China! Following the service, we went back to the park and rode several rides, including a roller coaster. It sure was fun!
Our missionaries, Greg and Amy, were amazing. They were warned by several with whom they worked with that they were “digging their own grave” by hosting a bunch of American teens. They were thrilled with the work ethic and attitude of the team. They claimed that we were such a blessing to them and were the “hands and feet” of Jesus to them and their family. However, I think they have it backwards. They were such a blessing to us and our team. Their willingness to do whatever we needed was such an encouragement to everyone. We also enjoyed Olaf (the caretaker) and Nina (who works with Evergreen and did all of our travel and translating). Their witness was such a blessing to all of us!
Our team—what can you say about such an amazing group of kids? Their ages ranged from 13 (Colton was the youngest) to 19. They were one of the most “teachable” groups we have worked with and we saw such spiritual growth in all of their lives.
Colton did really well as a first-time team member. He not only grew spiritually, but also physically. He is now as tall as I am! He is in 8th grade and is doing well. He is taking band this year and is playing the French Horn.
Danae and BJ also enjoyed their summer in China. Danae worked a lot with the team and BJ just had a lot of fun, especially with Olaf. Danae is in 7th grade and was one of only three 7th graders to make the basketball team. She is loving “middle school”. BJ is in 5th grade and will be 11 by the time you receive this letter. We have had him for eight years! He is playing on two soccer teams, which keeps him (and us) busy.
Lindsay stayed home and worked this summer. She was helping at an assisted living facility. She did very well at home and did save enough money to buy a computer. Her club soccer team won State and Regionals and therefore made it all the way to Nationals during the summer where they came in fourth place. It is hard to believe that she is a senior this year! She has been accepted to Bryan College for next year and will be attending on a soccer scholarship along with an academic scholarship (if she can raise her SAT scores). A major prayer request would be for her to keep her “senioritis” in check and also that she would be able to increase her SAT score (her GPA is great).
Thank you again for your prayers and support! We are so grateful for the sacrifices you are making that enable us to be here.
Paul, Beth, Lindsay, Colton, Danae and BJ Kostner
China Team: We love you and miss you! We are wondering when the hole in our hearts will quit hurting and start to close up. We pray that you are continuing in your walks with the Lord and are spending time with Him daily. You mean more to us than we could ever express. Thank you for blessing us so much this summer!