Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The End of our Costa Rican Adventure

Wednesday morning we ate our last breakfast at El Palmar, folded up sleeping bags, sorted out work clothes or other items that we didn't want to take back with us and added them to the pile for George.  Most of our unwanted items can be reused. We all made a line and circled through the kitchen area saying our goodbyes to the ladies who had cooked for us all week. There were some tears and many hugs and then it was time to go.

We piled into Eduardo's van, while another vehicle was loaded with our luggage.  Our destination was a hot springs resort.  After we arrived we walked through a forested trail to get to the warm water. Besides a main open-sided building that had a small restaurant there were several pools of water with underwater ledges around the inside of the pool for sitting on. Each body of water had a sign telling it's temperature. Some were much hotter than others. The warm water felt good on first contact, but I felt more comfortable sitting on the top edges of a pool, with just my legs and feet in the water. It was very relaxing and we soaked in the enjoyment of doing nothing at all.

Our next treat was eating at the hotel's buffet lunch. Rice, salads, several kinds of meat and various drinks were all very pleasing to look at and very tasty. Again we had free WiFi. We felt very pampered.

From there we headed for Grecia.  We stopped briefly in the town of Zarcero and enjoyed the central park which had some unique shrub formations.

Because Grecia is in the mountains, our trip was a winding, sometimes steep climb on busy roads. The scenery was awesome even though the day was a bit hazy and the clouds hung low.  As we pulled into George's drive we were looking forward to a couple nights of some comforts we had been without, like warm showers and some American food.

Anita had sloppy joes for supper with potato chips and chocolate cake for dessert. I had a good visit with Anita before heading to bed. The house was a buzz with our presence. The Borbons are wonderful hosts and have a house with a grand view from any direction.

View from the back yard

The next morning after pancakes for breakfast, we gathered on the back porch for our devotional time. George shared his history with us.  He has a very interesting story and shows the awesome power of our God to deliver those he calls out of darkness.  God has used George to start many churches in Central America and he has a passion to preach the good news.

On tap for Thursday was shopping for souvenirs.  A Walmart store was the best place to buy local coffee and Kevin and I stocked up for family and friends. Next we visited the town of Sarchi and bought wooden crafted items that were made there. Some of the items were hand painted . We took a tour of the factory behind the store. The machines are run by the force of a huge water wheel.  The section of the work shop we were in made ox cart wheels.

We stopped for lunch at George's house and Anita had another wonderful meal for us.  We had a brief rest and then went to the downtown market which mostly had food items for sale.  Steve wanted to buy a special coffee here that is more rare and more expensive. We had to try some also; the price was still better there than buying it on line or at a specialty shop in the States. From the market place we walked to the central park and spent some time viewing the Catholic church on the edge of the square and taking group pictures.

The Borbons were disappointed that our schedule did not include a time to visit their church in Grecia.  I was glad we stopped there to see the building.
Inside the Grecia church

Our last stop of the day was the mall. It was small by our standards, but the stores were very Americanized. The food court was our main attraction as we spread out and made our choices for supper from KFC, Pizza Hut, or Taco Bell. Kevin and I had a chicken wrap at KFC and finished up with frozen yogurt.

That night we sat around the dining room table at the Borbons and listened to the last three devotionals from our group members.  It was also interesting to listen to the CD of the words of prophecy that had been prayed over the group the Sunday morning before we left.  We could see how God had been working according to his word. We would leave the next morning with mixed feelings and each of us being changed for the better because of our experiences in Costa Rica.

Cold cereal was set out for breakfast in the morning, and we finished packing suitcases in preparation for leaving.  Kevin and I had finished our packing the night before, and I grabbed a cup of coffee to take with me to the upstairs balcony. Anita came and joined me, and I so enjoyed our time of sharing. She is a kindred spirit and we had a lot to catch up on. When the word came to load up the van to go, we ended our conversation and scurried outside to merge into the group picture being taken in the back yard. Anita was driving their SUV with some of the team's luggage. George suggested I ride to the airport with her, so we had a few more moments together.

While we waited for our flight many of us made last minute purchases at the souvenir store in the airport. For those who had not exchanged their colonies back to dollars, it was the last chance to make good on their money.

The flight to Houston was uneventful, but we only had a two hour layover before boarding our flight to Chicago.
Matt by a welcome sign in the Houston airport
After landing we waited almost an hour in the customs line, then had to pick up our checked in luggage, wheel it to another area where it was reloaded to our Chicago flight, and then go through security once again. Joel, Lance, Kevin and I got into the slowest line and we waited nervously as we watched the minutes counting down to our departure flight. The rest of the team went on ahead while Steve waited on the other side of security for us. Once through we made a mad dash for our gate and found they were just starting to board the first group. Steve decided to try and find some food for us as there would not be a meal served on this flight and with the time change it was now somewhere between lunch and supper. Kevin went with him.  The group waited together until last to board, watching the hallway for the food gatherers to appear. I explained our situation to the gate attendant and waited to the side hoping they would arrive soon. The others all boarded. Only the standbys were left. Steve and Kevin made it with sacks of food and we boarded without incident. We each had a half a wrap to eat which would hold us over until we reached Chicago. Whew!  No one would have wanted a round two at La Quinta; no matter had nice it had been seven days ago!

We landed in Chicago around 9:30. We would eat our last meal at the same place we had eaten our first meal of the journey--good ole' McDonalds! McDonalds does know how to do FAST and can herd a group through pretty efficiently.  We waited to eat until we had gathered luggage from the bagging carousel and were out of the airport, curbside. Our drivers for the ride home, hovered nearby and were notified that they could come and pick us up. We were headed home!

Here is what Amanda, Auron, and Elika had on our counter as a welcome back! Thank you!!

Father, thank you for providing this trip for Kevin and me. How faithful you have been! Keep our hearts poised to learn even more lessons as we process the experience in the days ahead.  Bless the work for your kingdom in Costa Rica. Bless the new friends we have made. Thank you that we are all one in You and will be forever.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Rainforest Up Close and Personal

Sunday afternoon, Euardo chauffeured us to the river which was not too far away. We were eager to see some rainforest wild life.  The boat was long and narrow and held all of us plus the people from Grecia.  The river was very placid and the ride was relaxing.  We enjoyed the view and animals we saw.

A sloth with a baby-very unusual to see



 Before the boat ride

Me and Shirley

Just as we came back to our pier, it started to rain. What great timing!

On the way back to El Palmar we stopped at a hotel in the town of Pueblo Viejo.  We enjoyed an ice cream cone and made contact with family and friends with the free WiFi.  It did seem like a long time to not be in touch.  How much we depend on these electronic gadgets!

Some in the group either did not have a cell phone along or opted not to use it. They were approached by a few men from a group who were from the States, doing mission work in CR also.  They offered to pray for our group who were waiting for the cell phone users. God had some prophetic words through them and our group was blessed.

We finished out the day with a group time and decided to get to work the next morning before breakfast, planning to make use of the cooler hours in the day. We also heard that we would be leaving a day earlier than planned.  There was a threat of mud slides in our area and if the roads would wash out, we would have a day's travel to get to Grecia, which would mean we would miss our day of shopping. I don't think anyone was disappointed with this announcement!

So early Monday morning we donned our boots, hats, sunscreen, bug spray and work gloves and went back to work.  It was more pleasant to work in the early morning, but the temperature rose very quickly.  Monday was a repeat of digging, pounding and framing. Again, we had many water breaks and a siesta period mid-morning until early afternoon.

A load of lumber being delivered.  I believe all the lumber used on our project was from one tree.

A banana delivery!


Shirley and mango

Nothing like fresh pina!

Geiselle and Shirley-very special ladies from
Grecia.  I enjoyed speaking with them in Spanish.  They were very patient with me and knew a bit of English.  We shared about family and life.  Geiselle, unfortunately got ill on Sat. and I did not get to see her after that.

Melissa, Taylor and Matt G. all had birthdays while we were there.  George surprised us with a cake he bought Monday afternoon. The candle was lit 3 times so they each had a turn blowing it out.

Another game of Golf. A great way to pass time and enjoy our team mates.  Thanks for teaching us, Jackie!

Parrots congregating in a tree on the property

Our time in El Palmar was drawing to a close.  One more day of work and probably only half a day as we have almost finished what was expected we would do.  I will miss the people who we have spent time with all week.

Some report says Costa Ricans are the happiest people on earth.  These sure were.

Estevan, Eddy-Roberto, and Tino

Macho-the project manager and a jokester
We all loved Macho.

The Pastor of El Palmar-Tino

Pastor's wife Tina, on left
one of our cooks

Maria Elena-very special
Eduardo, our driver

The last day in El Palmar!  The women now are moved from the back digging hole to the front drive where we need to scrape gravel off the driveway.  It isn't easy to find the gravel as it is covered with grass and dirt.  After the gravel, a pickup truck load of sand is brought in and we shovel that into buckets to go over the packed ground in the new building.

Clean up begins!

                                                          The roof is put on. 

The project is completed! The floor will be cemented later. We were able to give George money to buy the cement.

That night an impromptu meeting is called and church folk come for a dedication service. There are many who testify and express their thanksgiving for what they now have.  We pray that the children who will be taught in this new building will learn about God's kingdom. Many of the cooks give glory to God for healing all who got sick.  They were very impacted by the events on Saturday.

God has been faithful to us and them.  I am thankful to have been a part of this work.
Tomorrow starts our journey back, first to Grecia and then home!