The Armor of God
As has always been our custom on our adult mission trips, we come with a well-prepared week of Bible lessons for children. We are given guidelines regarding the facility in which we might be working, the number of children who will probably attend, and the approximate timeframe in which we will be working. We knew before we came that we would be doing lessons in two very different locations. In the mornings we would be doing our lesson on a soccer field while in the afternoon we would be inside the church we attended on Sunday. The pivotal point here is that we came with the knowledge that one of our lessons each day would be outside — subject to whatever the day’s weather would be (and, of course, like good travelers, we had checked the weather forecast prior to leaving home and knew rain was predicted every day we would be here). This caused us much consternation prior to arriving, however when we voiced these concerns to the staff here, we were told, “Don’t worry! You will be at the field in the morning, and it never rains in the morning!”
We were also told that, despite the fact that they had given us numbers to work with, a small fly in the ointment had developed. The teachers here have gone out on strike, leaving the potential of many more kids than anticipated. Not feeling as certain of our abilities to multiply our supplies as Jesus had been with the loaves and fishes, we added this to our list of items of concern. Nevertheless, we set out each day determined that one way or another, things would go just fine. Having armed ourselves with our own concerns, our first visit to both locations presented the same problem — one that had never entered our discussions — we did not have a key to access either location. Rest assured, we were able to do both of our lessons, but not necessarily because keys were found.
At the first location, the church, the possessor of the keys was located — we just had to wait for them to arrive. In typical “go with the flow” style, we improvised games outside until said key arrived. This was made easy by prior planning — balls for the older boys and a parachute for the smaller kids. By the time the key arrived, the kids had spent a bit of their energy making them just a bit more willing to sit and listen. There was one little boy who perhaps expended himself to capacity, as shortly after we got inside, he curled up on Janny’s lap and slept the entire time. Fortunately, he lived right next door to the church, so as we left for the day Janny simply delivered him, still sleeping, home to his mother.
At our second location, the soccer field, the possessor of the keys was also located. Unfortunately, his “location” was his work, quite a distance away. Now we had a challenge — we have prepared missionaries, a lesson plan, and children, but no place to teach. A suggestion was made that there was a nearby field — just an open field — to which we could relocate for the day. Ready to do whatever was necessary, we headed in that direction. Unfortunately, reaching the field required an uphill climb on a narrow path that didn’t look inviting to any of us. There was, however, a flat, dirt area that appeared much more easily accessible. What we hadn’t considered was that, although it was not raining (it was morning, after all), it HAD rained the night before. Unswayed by the fact that all of us were slipping and sliding on muddy ground to get there, we headed in that direction, hoping that the dirt area was a just that — dirt! It took only one wrong step to find yourself on the ground, which is just what happened to Chib. We were committed, and willing to give it a go anyway, when our interpreter informed us that one of the women in the neighborhood had seen our plight and kindly offered to open her garage for us to use. Again, knowing that we would have somehow made it work, God put a solution right in our hands, so off to the garage we went.
With the exception of the fact that we have yet to have a lesson where there is not also at least one dog in the midst of things, our lessons were just as one would expect at home. These children are just like our kids — eager to learn, silly, noisy, and needing to be reined in every once in a while. But they participated with eagerness and really seemed to enjoy both the games and the crafts that we provided to share with them the importance of relying on God to keep yourself safe from the temptations of evil. We are sharing love and forming bonds with the kids and it is easy to see that saying goodbye at the end of the week will be hard. On our drive back to the mission house this evening, we saw a number of them walking home, proudly wearing their helmets and shields, made of nothing more than paper. We hope that means that we are having a positive impact on them. And so far it has not rained in the morning, and we have had more than enough supplies for all the kids who showed up.
Drying Up Houses
Day 3: Nov. 5, 2018
Our construction volunteers have been working on two projects this week, and on both of them their guidance and suggestions have led to an effective solution to the problems at hand. The first home was a 20’ by 30’ structure occupied by a young couple and their two small boys. The home with such limited square footage was divided into two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. The kitchen contained a table large enough for the family to gather around, making it a tight squeeze. As is typical here, there is a front porch with a few rocking chairs, enclosed with iron bars which the homeowner securely locked just as soon as our workers were inside to guard what little they possessed. What is sorely lacking in this home, besides adequate living space was any place for storage, a role filled by one side of this porch. It was this lack of storage space that explains why their Christmas tree remained up all year long. Squeezed in the corner, it proudly stands between a piece of furniture and the wall, complete with a creche made of sand, shells and garland. If they were to take it down, they would have no place to store it, so it stays there all year. Seeing this beauty prompted Larry to observe just how wonderful it is to have nothing and yet to have something wonderful.
The job that had been planned for our volunteers was to replace the roof. One of the small boys who lives here has serious trouble with allergies and it was thought that replacing the roof might cut down on the dust, thus giving him some relief. The men were a bit perplexed as to how replacing a metal roof would minimize the dust, but began the work of moving furniture aside to begin. It was then discovered that the bottom three feet of the wall behind the couch was covered in mold. The houses here are very close together and their neighbor is in the habit of tossing his dirty water out on their side of his house. With no seal on the outside wall of the house, the dampness increased and mold thrived. Determining that the mold was most likely the allergen creating the young boy’s problem, they had just identified what really needed to be done.
Identifying the problem did not mean that the solution was going to be an easy task. What would be required was to dig a three-foot trench between the houses, scrape the mold off the outer wall, bleach it and then seal it with a waterproof paint. The real challenge was not the labor required, but the lack of permission to do so from their neighbor which he had refused to provide for more than a year. This week that all changed when our mission team leader, Glenn, posed the question. Prepared for perhaps at least a mild debate, Glenn was pleasantly surprised when the neighbor agreed. We speculated that perhaps he did so this time because Glenn is 6’6”, or more likely, because God had his hand firmly in this situation allowing us to provide the needed remedy for this family.
Our second construction team was tasked with taking down a wall. Upon arriving at the site, they asked why the wall had to come down. The problem was similar to the other home in that it involved water intrusion — only at this house the issue was not mold but flooding. The house was built on steeply sloped land and the run-off of rainwater next to the house had carved a trench in the dirt. This trench overflowed in the heavy rains and the water then seeped right into the house. After surveying the situation, our team quickly realized that tearing down the existing wall, which was placed directly on the footers, would not alleviate the problem. What was needed were concrete blocks at the base of the wall. Consideration was given to building a new wall outside the existing one, but this would require new footers — which could not be accomplished in the time allotted here. The decision was made to remove the existing wall (all 30’ of it), build the concrete base on the existing footers, and then replace the wall, hopefully reusing the existing material. This created a small problem for this house. While only four people actually live in the house, it is a daily beehive of activity as just one of three neighboring houses connecting one large extended family. When it was decided that this was the proper solution, nobody made any move to halt the demolition — so down the wall came. Now the music favored by the teenage girls in the house could be heard more clearly outside — day and night — as the entire inside of their home is left exposed until the project is finished. This became another example of finding a solution once we knew all of the circumstances causing the problem.
The day ended with a visit to the center of the town where we are staying, San Ramon, a city much like Leon in Nicaragua. We enjoyed ice cream, some sweets and coffee, and a visit to their beautiful church. Our group did not arrive together, having come from our respective work sites, and there was a discrepancy about what time we would return to the mission house. The Bible study group had asked if we could leave 30 minutes prior to the planned time, feeling like that was more than enough time to see and do all that we wanted. The bus driver was more than happy to accommodate the change. Unfortunately, we hadn’t taken into account that the construction crews were still planning to leave at the originally scheduled time, a fact that was not relayed to the bus driver. So he arrived early to pick us up only to be informed of our situation, all of us agreeing that we had to wait until the later pick-up time. This turned out to be very fortuitous. When we arrived back at the bus with the remainder of the group,our bus driver was busy helping a young lady who was having car trouble. When asked if we would mind waiting ten more minutes so he could finish, we readily agreed. Clearly, the original time allotted was more than WE needed, but EXACTLY how much God intended.
Our 15-member adult mission team departed Saturday, Nov. 3 for a week of work and fun with our mission partner, Pure Vida, in Costa Rica. To keep up with posts of their progress and experiences (and posts of other mission events,) visit our Hyde Park Speaks page.
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 – 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.
The gifts keep on coming ….
Our resident video storyteller, Don, has created a slide show of our trip.
I know you’ll want to be sharing this with your family and friends.
Thanks so much Don.
This is like “manna from heaven”.
God’s Peace to you and yours…