Costa Rica Mission Trip – Day 2

Costa Rica Mission Trip – Day 2

Praise, Worship and Rain

Day 2: Nov. 4, 2018

As we awakened to our first day here at Pura Vida, God was just finishing lifting the blanket of fog outside. The quiet neighborhood was just beginning to stir under a cloud-dotted sky to what appears to be a day promising sunshine.

The tradition here is to circle up after breakfast for a few moments of prayer and scripture, after which we have “TAG” (Time Alone with God) Time. In the silence of the mission house, we each sat with our Bibles, our journals, and the guide provided by Pura Vida, and had our own personal dialogue with God. Afterward, we headed to worship in the community of Linda Vista, where we will also be working with the children this week.

The humble church building had no markings on the outside identifying it as a house of worship, but from the first moment we stepped inside, it was clear that God was present and worshiped here. We were welcomed with smiles, hugs, and blessings by the pastor and his wife as we entered into their sanctuary — one room with a few dozen simple pews, a beautiful, wooden lectern in front and a small table on which sat the sound system. There were no hymnals in the pews — and none were needed by the congregation — and the only Bibles present were those well-worn ones that had been carried in by the parishioners. This simple setting came to life with music, praise, dancing and joy as the service began. Listening to the music was inspiring and uplifting, but I also was moved by the mumbled prayers of the worshipers that filled in the short silences between the songs. The energy and enthusiasm for praising God was infectious and we swayed and clapped and responded with “Hallelujah ” and “Amen” when appropriate.

Prior to Pastor Carlos’ message, the children were taken to a neighboring room for their lesson. Since the walls between the rooms did not reach the ceiling, the chatter of children was heard while he spoke, but he needed no amplification to be heard. After a while, the children’s chatter ceased to be a distraction as we listened to his passion for the Lord, which came across loud and clear. Reminding us of the presence of Satan among us and the need to stay vigilant, you would have thought he knew our lesson plan for the week — “The Armor of God.” He spoke from his heart, referred to the Bible as a “menu for life” and challenged us to consider just how we are preparing for Christ’s return. As he said, “When your eyes are on heaven, they cannot be on the world.” I would hope that our week here will be, for all of us, a part of our personal preparation.

As we headed back to the mission house for lunch, the bus pulled over at one point to let one of the young staff volunteers step off. We were puzzled at first as the bus slowly inched forward with this young man observing from alongside. Then we looked overhead. You see, when this community was built it was not wired with electricity. Rather than do without, the residents have tapped into the nearby electric sources, stringing wires like a crazy grid between houses and across streets. The reason for our slow-down today was that the bus driver was concerned that the bus would not clear under the wires overhanging the street. (Yes, we made it!)

And while the day did start with sunshine, it didn’t last for the entire day. Around lunchtime, we could tell that rain was definitely on its way — but we had all come prepared. As we packed our supplies to return to the same church for our Bible class with the children, we made sure to throw in our rain gear and ponchos. This turned out to be a very good decision. We were fortunate that the real rain did not start until we were back inside the church, and it pounded on the tin roof while we played with the children and began our instruction on “The Armor of God.” As our lessons came to an end and we prepared to leave, our supplies, made of poster board and cardboard and packed into fabric bags, would have suffered greatly without the protection of these ponchos as we made our way across the yard to our bus. The bus filled quickly with dripping missionaries, some of the children who we would drop off on our way out, and all of our supplies — safe and dry.

Costa Rica Mission Trip – Day 1

Costa Rica Mission Trip – Day 1

Costa Rica – We Have Arrived

Day 1: Nov. 3, 2018

The day started early for 15 missioners as we gathered before sunrise at the airport in Tampa to begin our journey to Pura Vida Missions in Ramon, Costa Rica. While our flights were on time, our passage through immigration at our destination, rather than being the anticipated 15 minutes, took almost two hours. Our hosts for the week were, however, patiently waiting when we finally departed the airport. Between the luggage and the people, the van was full to capacity for the 45-minute drive to the mission house. We were captivated by the beauty of the lush countryside as mountainous terrain made uphill climbs a challenge for our vehicle.

Arriving at Pura Vida hours behind schedule, we sat down to lunch at 2:30 p.m., knowing that it would be just a few short hours later that we would be back at the table for dinner. It was an attempt to get us back on schedule and to end an already long day on time. In between our meals, we were given an overview of this mission house and the plan for our week ahead. We’ve had rain today and expect some rain every day — which will be a challenge as some of our plans have us interacting with the children on a soccer field. But we have all worn our flexibility caps and will roll with the punches and deal with each new challenge as it develops.

Tomorrow afternoon we will begin our work, both construction and Bible study. And as we anticipate our work ahead, we can’t help thinking, as we settle into our home for the next week, that our original plans would have had us elsewhere — at El Ayudante in Nicaragua. Many of our group have been there in years past, and it is hard not to make comparisons. The place is different, the food is different, the routine is different. But we also are aware of the first line of our mission statement — It’s not about me. And what hasn’t changed is that we are blessed to be called by God to serve. And we will do so this week — making God’s love real here in Costa Rica.

Prayer Bears

Prayer Bears

Have you seen one of these bears before?

If you can believe it, 10 years ago, Trish Krider started this ministry. Since then, these bears have helped children find comfort in this space, brought peace to people in the hospital, and have been delivered to all ages, in all walks of life – from CEO’s to the homeless. They’ve even made it around the world. Other churches have begun similar ministries. It only happens because of the volunteers, but also because you are part of this church, you have and continue to support every bear through your financial generosity.

Thank you. And next time you see one of the bears, say a prayer for the person who will receive it.

How the United Methodists are Helping in Puerto Rico

After hurricane Maria, UMCOR approved $5 million between previous grants and other assistance to the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR). On April 13, 2018, UMCOR board members approved three separate grants to MCPR, including a grant for $15 million. These grants will allow the church to continue to expand its comprehensive recovery work through 2020.

“There is good, responsible, accountable work being done in Puerto Rico with all of these grants, and it’s a pleasure to associate with them and work with them.” Said Bishop Bickerton, who recently visited Puerto Rico to meet with members of MCPR.


 

Family Mission Trip – What a Week it Was

Family Mission Trip – What a Week it Was

We left Tampa on Sunday as a mixed group – male and female, families of varying sizes – many of whom have been longtime friends while others had just met. But there was a common thread that wove us together, we were each answering God’s call to serve.  We were not traveling to the destination we had originally planned – but I suppose that is because when God calls us, he expects us to follow HIS plan. Although our intended destination had been El Ayudante in Nicaragua, the civil unrest there made it an unsafe option – so we traveled to Nassau in the Bahamas instead. While many of us were heartbroken not to be returning to El Ayudante, we also understood that our call was to serve God’s people, wherever there was a need – and to wherever he would lead us.

It might have been a change in our plans, but for Pastor Stubbs and his church, we were an answer to prayers. This church sees vacation Bible school as such a valuable way to give hope and share the love of God with the dozens of children who attend that they have expanded it to be a four week program.  This year, while Hyde Park UMC was struggling with the question of where we might serve, St. Michael’s Methodist Church here had still not found volunteers for their third week – the same week that we had planned to travel.  So here we are, answering Gods call as he answers this church’s prayers.

It hasn’t been a quiet week. The walls reverberate with the shrieking of children, the air bubbles with laughter, and songs of praise ring out. In the quiet, steamy atmosphere of the neighborhood the squealing of the children’s voices competes with the echoes of hammering. Settling down at night is hard – as there are many of us in each room – but the noisy, work-filled days make for exhausted missioners so sleep did eventually settle in.

Things didn’t always go as planned, and revamping our plan for the day became our norm. Fortunately we came with a willing heart and a flexible attitude and we adjusted as the need arose – in at least one instance our revised plan was only possible because of the yarn left by mission groups before us, connecting our groups in one continuous thread of God’s love.

As a family mission trip it has particularly been a joy to watch the younger generation. Although not much older than the group of children they were leading, they handled their charges with gentle patience, learning most of their names.  The end result of these bonds they formed was tears from more than one Bahamian child as they said farewell to their new friends from Florida. How blessed we are to be able to ensure them that we will continue to be their brothers and sisters in Christ, we will pray for them, and we will see them again in our heavenly home.

It was especially heartwarming to see our own young people interact with each other. Although there was a wide range of ages, there was no silly pettiness among them.  No one was ever left out and they were always moving around as a group. Where you would find one of them you would most likely find them all.  This is not to say that they always agreed with each other. Whether they were discussing fashion or faith, all differences of opinion were handled with respect, humor and love.  (And, Jack…. it is HI-biscus!). Their interactions personified the words of Corinthians 3:3 – “You show that you are a letter from Christ… written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”

From the children we taught, to the kitchen staff who fed us, to the workers who oversaw the construction of the shed and those who drove us around, we shared our faith, shared our praise, shared our love, and expanded our own families to include these brothers and sisters in Christ. How fitting that today’s daily scripture from Hyde Park included Corinthians 4:5-6, for there is no doubt that this group of missioners has radiated “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” while making Gods Love Real here in the Bahamas.

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