But God was with us and in it all!
Tuesday night, June 26, the packing came to an end and Kevin and I headed to bed for some sleep before the alarm would wake us at 1:30am. Not much sleeping for me as excitement and anxiety did a good job of keeping me restless and far too stimulated to settle down. Besides the inside stimulants, a thunderstorm added to the tumult.
A few short hours later we had squeezed all the suitcases and carry-ons tightly shut and were headed to our church to meet the other team members. After going over last minute announcements and posing for a team picture, we boarded either the van towing our luggage, or the other vehicle driving along that would give us all the seats needed for our 15 member crew.
We arrived at the Chicago airport two and a half hours later and were herded through the group check-in area before passing through the security check points. It was decided we would get breakfast when we arrived at our gate area and since the expenses would come out of team money, we all had to eat together and the closest place was Mickey Ds.
Steve, our leader, began making phone calls in flight, trying to put together alternate arrangements. On the ground again our mob emptied into the Texas airport, some tumbling into seats while other were asked to wait in line, while Steve waited in another line that was snaking it's way very slowly to the United help desk. Many flights had been delayed /canceled due to weather related issues. It was now lunch time. To our credit, none of the team complained or whined for food as the wait seemed endless.
I had opted to stand in line, since I needed a break from sitting. Wanting to make the most of opportunities, I decided to open up conversation with the woman in line behind me. She had hoped to be on a flight to Calgary, Canada, but it had been canceled. Our menagerie were all wearing T-shirts that had a map of Costa Rica printed on the front of the shirt. She asked about our visit, and I explained what we were planning to do. She said she had been to CR within the last 5 years to hand out shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse. I figured that she was likely a believer. While in Houston, she had attended a Christian book seller's convention. I asked if she was a book distributor. She paused, slightly, then asked if I had ever heard of Jeannette Oke. I had read several books by her, and said yes. Then she revealed that she was she! Wow! I was dazzled! A real live successful author, standing right in front of me. We talked about how many books she had penned (over 70), when she started writing and being published, and the fact that she was now retired. Yet she had another idea for future books co-authored with her daughter; I'm thinking, maybe semi-retired, but not finished writing. She had been invited to the convention to preview the latest movie Michael Landon, Jr. had made from one of her books. Kevin thought to ask for a picture of us together, and I pulled Sharon over to pose with us. Our group was finally on the move to lunch, so we said our goodbyes to Jeannette. What a privilege to have made her acquaintance!
|Jeanette, Sharon and Me|
After enjoying the hotel's breakfast bar the next morning, we gathered for a group meeting. Time was of no essence, so we took turns telling each other about ourselves. Steve also shared a small devotional, starting what became a daily event; each of us taking a turn to share inspirational verses and thoughts that we had prepared ahead of time. Perhaps God planned those extra moments of bonding as a team to build a stronger unity that we would need in upcoming adversities.
About 3 pm we headed back to the airport to have plenty of time to cash in on the $30 food vouchers each of us received from the airlines, compensation for our travel plan interruptions. We survived another scrutiny by security, after a small delay waiting for one of us who had to jump through some extra hoops because he had about 3 swallows left in a water bottle he was carrying.
Matt Oyer, Jackie, Kevin and I made a foursome and Matt's engineering mind figured if we all combined our vouchers we could make them go farther. We dined at Ruby's, picked up some Auntie Anne's pretzels and stocked up on some sandwiches for the flight that evening. (We hadn't figured on getting a meal onboard, so we had plenty of eats!)
Since the flight was about 3 1/2 hours we arrived in San Jose around 9:30 pm local time, which was approaching midnight our time. From the airport we were whisked onto a small bus and joined the caravan of two other vehicles carrying our luggage and the mattresses we would sleep on--the mattresses that have served many mission teams prior to our visit--mattresses that look and feel like they have born the weight of many who had gone before us.
Crammed in the bus tightly, we all moved together with the swaying motion of zig-zaggy turns, and some of us winced at the speed our driver was traveling on the gravel topped roads. The younger set let out hollers of thrill during the hair-raising ride, which egged the driver on. After the two hour ride we arrived safely, in the dark, to some remote place where we could make out several shadows of buildings with the help of the one dull, yellow outside light. It was misting, and the ground felt muddy as we un-stretched from the van. We fumbled around clueless and bleary eyed, trying to stay out of the way of the parade of mattresses being carried past us into one of the buildings. As our luggage was dumped from the other vehicle we claimed our belongings and tried to appear confident as we got in line to follow the beds. Inside, under the dim additional florescent lights that were switched on, we surveyed our surroundings.
We stood in a small church with tiled floor. There were openings in the wall with decorative grated iron bars over them for windows; they held no panes. The front of the church had a stage area with music equipment and a podium. Everything was very simple. The door we had entered, also had no covering, just iron bars with a metal plate that covered about two feet up from the bottom. The simple pews had been pushed to the back of the room to make a space for our 14 mattresses to lie side by side. We grabbed a mattress and staked out our individual plots. God would watch over the seeds he was planting in each of us that night and bring forth a harvest from the hearts that occupied those twin-sized bed patches.
Two small stalls with one toilet each were not far away and we were soon taking turns brushing our teeth at the one common sink.
I felt a bit of worry at what creatures might visit us that night and how easily they could get in. Also, knowing I would need a restroom break before morning, Sharon, another can't-make-it-to-morning-without-going woman, and I, made a pact to wake each other up and go together. I planted a flashlight close to the head of my bed and had my flip-flops ready for slip-on. I'm not sure how easily I slept that night, but I was ready for whatever was ahead.
More to come...
Ignore any dates on pictures. The camera's calendar was not set correctly.