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.


 

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

So our work here is done and we have headed to Managua to begin our journey home to our loved ones.  We will spend one more evening enjoying, breaking bread, having devotions and recapping this week which has flown by way too fast.

We have learned so much here, about ourselves, about each other, about working as a team, and about the people here.  We know that family is so much more than blood relatives.  We are all part of the greater family of God and we are so grateful.  We appreciate that having things is not what defines happiness and that living in a home with dirt floors doesn’t mean you don’t sweep daily.  We have learned to take a good look at what we take for granted – clean water, enough healthy food for your family, access to good health care and social services, the importance of an education. And that tears can’t fix anything – only hard work and continued dedication can do that.

So many things have sent us into peals of laughter.  When foul weather headed towards the construction site they joked that they would all be safe since they had Glenn with them – tall enough to be a human lightening rod.  At one point on the Rhino Rally – our primary means of transportation with an open back and bench seating along the side – a sudden, unexpected stop meant Stephanie was thrown forward and we had a four human pile, where we remained for quite a few minutes because we were laughing too hard to recover.  But that was just indicative of this entire week – we were always there to catch each other.

We have memories etched in our minds.  People doing their first-ever devotional – and hitting it out of the park!  Watching people step out of their comfort zone and pray aloud for the first time. The generosity of the Nicaraguan people with whom we worked who, having so little, still shared their food with us.  The infectious smiles of the children and their joy in singing their hearts out.  Seeing families be almost as excited for the gift of the box it came in as they were about the filters inside.  The young mothers nodding their head as we shared new information.  And Dr. Medina thanking us, time and time again, for the time we spend working for and with his people.  The pride in the voice of the little boy who shouted out to us as we walked the barrio, “Hello, my friends. How are you.”  We believe we are making a difference in Marañonal – it feels like a hand up, not a hand out.

We made rubber glove balloons and have a new appreciation for Miss Hawaiian Punch and Bozo the Clown.  We know how to adapt – while one group has no basketball, they used a soccer ball instead, another had no soccer ball, and used a basketball.  And we can tell you that what has been said for years is true, the chicken crossed the road just to get to the other side.

Goodbyes were sad because we know that the workers of El Ayudante are our family now.  We will miss so much – we already do.  The morning quiet time, the love we have felt here, the new friends we have made, both on the team and on the ground, and recapping the day together in the dim lights of the ranchero – with our quiet voices somehow always being audible even over the blaring music of the nearby Pentecostals.

Sometimes our tasks mean pushing ourselves through the uncomfortableness, doing the unfamiliar, and participating when we would rather not, because we are here not as individuals.  We came as a team who help and encourage each other through the tough times.  We were there to lighten each other’s load.  We shed tears together – but we shed as many tears for joy as for sadness.  We had crazy moments together, and we laughed when we felt moved – even if we were in the midst of praying.   And we leave here as family.

Since this country has an election this Sunday, there were often times when trucks would drive through the streets, blaring music and shouting through bull horns.  Each time we heard music some of us danced down the street – much to the amusement of the local residents.  I would like to think they were laughing joyfully with us, and not at us, as we adopted the attitude of “Why walk when you can dance!”  But there was one time when the tune was a familiar one.  We were standing in the courtyard area of a home, having just delivered a filter to the homeowner. She said she is all alone and asked that we pray for her health as she is not well.  Then Vicki called our attention to the song in the distance, Chris Tomlins’s “God of This City” – Greater things are yet to come, Greater things area still to be done in this city…..  We believe that to be so.

I wish all of you could have been with us every night to hear our stories.  This blog could have gone on daily for pages and pages, but even then it would be impossible to capture everything, and it shouldn’t try to.  This is so much more than a trip – it is part of our spiritual journey, and can’t be fully captured in words.  And it’s sometimes hard for us to put into words what this week has meant to, and done to, each of us.  For me, the answer to “How was your trip?” is always, “Life changing”, for it affects me profoundly each year.  Many of us will be back next year, and anyone who feels called can do this. Is God calling you?

 

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