Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Costa Rica - Part Dos

This is going to be a long one. I don’t know how to even begin on sharing my Costa Rica experience. It was incredible and exhausting. I had not been able to participate in any of the team meetings leading up to the trip because of my time in France, so I didn’t know how I’d fit in with the team. But it was a fantastic team of 17 people who went – we worked well together and everyone dove right in to the work at hand. I made some good friends - we shared a lot and a lot of laughs.
The main part of our week was spent helping with construction work at the Abraham Project. It’s an amazing ministry to the community around them. They do it all with excellence and amazing vision. I could spend pages telling about it. They have placed themselves in a marginal area to serve the community. They have a daycare. They have a cafeteria for the daycare kids some of whom do not get food at home. The cafeteria is currently also where the church meets. Above the daycare is classrooms where they teach adults life skills so they can get jobs to support their families.

They have 3 children’s homes – 2 are finished and we helped with construction on the third. One home is up and running with Costa Rican house parents with 6 children. These are not technically orphans, but they have been declared abandoned by their parents. Three of the kids are in the process of being adopted by an Italian couple. These kids long for nothing more than to have a family of their own. The house we helped with will be up and running by early 2008. It will take emergency cases when social services needs to remove kids from homes immediately. The Costa Rican government places the kids in the homes. The Abraham Project has a good relationship with the government. The 3rd home is handicap accessible and will be operational once they find a 3rd set of house parents.

We also helped with construction of the multi-purpose building. It will have offices for professionals to come donate services and a large gymnasium. This will be where the church meets and will be for sports programs for teenagers. It rains 70% of the year in Costa Rica, so having an indoor sports facility will be a large service to the community.
I got to help pour concrete for the multi-purpose building foundation. The project hires Tico (what the Costa Ricans call themselves) workers and the mission teams help out.
We were told the work we did last week was 8.5 weeks worth of one Tico laborer. It really encouraged them. We had a good time with our Tico brethren. Ramon promised to have me speaking Spanish in 3 days – not so much. Us “concrete-stadors” had tons of fun. It sounds ridiculous, but it was a blast.
Unfortunately the lye in the concrete mix started burning my hands, so I had to switch jobs partway thru day two. All the wood used at the project is donated by a company in San Jose that ships glass. The wood palates have to be taken apart, nails & staples pulled and treated, planed & stained. We helped pull many nails & staples.
Sunday we attended their church service. Such passion in worship. That night we went to a youth cell group. One of our guys played the guitar and we sang songs in English while they sang along in Spanish. It was an incredible experience – like the Bible says every tongue, tribe & nation will sing praise Him together. Thursday night we got to have a little party at the project with the youth and Tico workers. We also had a chance to play with the kids in the daycare and children’s home. That was so much fun.
Wednesday we helped with Cristo por la Citudad (Christ for the City) - Transformations. Ronald has a feeding ministry to very marginal areas of San Jose. Every week he takes food there and feeds whoever comes. Then later he goes in to build relationships. We took coolers of rice, beans, salad & juice. The first place we went they have run the police out and barricade themselves in. Ronald is allowed in because of all he has done to share love with them. I had to remember to not focus on the serving and look at the kids and adults who came to get food. It was heartbreaking to think that for a lot of them that’s their only meal for the week. Drug dealers, druggies, kids who know no other life. We then stopped and step up on the sidewalk in four other places as well and served until the food was gone. Laughed when one kid ran back to tell his mom yelling something about the gringos coming with food.

Saturday we worked with Ronald again. Went to a squatters camp and had a kids party for about 150 kids. Then fed them and their moms. It was great to see their joy for a few hours of fun.

We had one fun day. Took a catamaran cruise to Isla de Tortuga. Got to go snorkeling and hang out on the beach and get burned to a crisp despite two applications of sunscreen.
I didn’t experience culture shock like I had expected. But I understood what Ronald meant when he said it weighs on their team working in that level of poverty constantly. That was emotionally exhausting. But I think the biggest impact on me over the week was seeing the vision of these ministries being worked out to fulfillment. My heartache grew as the vision I have for my life weighed heavy on me. I long for it to be worked out. It was a confirmation that these things really are my heart’s desire. And while God seems to be opening doors that lead in the opposite direction, I’ll trust that He is working and knows my heart and will continue to work in and through me.
It was a privilege to serve at The Abraham Project and with Transformations. To encourage them in the work they are doing. Costa Rica is a beautiful country but I go away with much more than the scenery – with the people in my heart.

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