Sunday, July 7, 2013

Here, at Last!

Did you have a good time? Did it all go as planned?
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.
As we ate our convenience food, it was storming outside and raining hard. The information board posted a delay for our flight and we kept listening for updates from the gate counter. About 45 mins after our scheduled departure, we finally boarded the plane. More waiting ensued as we sat in the plane for awhile. The aircraft then began to move and as we made the turn onto the runway, I could see a long row of planes all pointed forward, nose to tail, waiting for the clearance to climb. The pilot announced we were about 30th in line for take off and turned the seat belt sign off so passengers could move about. The flight crew handed out bottled water and the typical airline biscuits that come packaged double in cellophane. Remembering newscasts of nightmare stories of travelers stranded in planes on the tarmac for hours, I realized I was living the dream! Everyone stayed amazingly calm and pleasant.  We finally ascended, now knowing we would miss our connection in Houston.

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
Steve explained to us that the next flight we could take to CR did not depart until early evening the following day. I felt a bit of disappointment that the edgy anticipation would be prolonged another day and at the same time a bit of relief in knowing the delay would hold off the unknown a little longer. Our overnight lodging was booked in La Quinta, a hotel close to the airport.  The hotel was isolated on a small complex that included a Shell gas station and a Burger King. Since we had no transportation, Steve tried to rent a van so we could eat an evening  meal sans fast food. We shuttled from the airport to the car rental garages where he had been told a van was available.  The travelers clumped together in the center of the garage while Steve approached almost all the service desks only to learn the larger sized vans were all checked out. So we boarded the bus back to the airport and hopped on "The Rocket", the hotel's shuttle.  La Quinta was very hospitable and no one complained about another night of USA comforts or dining at Burger King.  Their 50 cent ice cream cones were awesome, especially during the next afternoon as we had the whole day to hang out in our unexpected detour.

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.
Before the lights went out, we gazed at the geckos on the walls above us and settled down for our first night of sleep in this foreign land. What thoughts were tumbling around in each head at that point? Kevin told me later that when we pulled up in the van, he had a moment of humor remembering a story his sister had told about a kindergarten child she taught who on the first day of school was ready to walk out and leave before the end of the day. When she told him he would have to stay, he replied, "Well, who in the h---- signed me up for this?!"  :)

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. 


  1. How neat that you ran into Jeanette Oke on your adventure. Sounds like you had quite a trip from the very start! Not sure how well I would sleep with geckos on my walls. :-) I have gone to El Salvador the past two summers but am not going this year so I miss having my own adventures in Central America.

    1. The geckos never got too close to us; that I know of... We did have an adventure for sure.

  2. Oh, wow, Ruthie. What an adventure! And meeting Jannette Oake! I think that was an extra treat planned by your heavenly Father! W've been on mission trips similar to your experiences so far, but our recent trip to CR was w/o problems...a gift to Ronnie and me. Once we were held in Birmingham by a big storm in Detroit that canceled out plane. Finally we were put on a bus to Memphis, then had to sleep on benches in Detroit airport, rerouted to NYC and St. Petersburg, and arrived in Moscow a day late and w/0 ALL our check in luggage and camp supplies in duffel bags. The luggage arrived several days later. Those types of mission trips make a great memory and teach us so many lessons. God receives great glory as team members hang together and keep serving and looking to the Lord.

    1. What a trip to Moscow, Diane! Yes, we do learn a lot and God is so faithful, always. Yes, it was a treat to meet Jeannette. :)


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