Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring Break (Week of Evangelism) Trip to Costa Rica

Wow! I took a pretty neat trip to Costa Rica over our break. We had a bit of everything--excitement, danger, intrigue, illness, and some pretty neat natural hot springs-filled swimming pools, that enabled us to rest our weary muscles after a 3-day long excursion in the mountains near Chirripó south and east of San José.

I took a group of five students, ranging in age from 20 to 67 years of age. We had a great time. We left Joplin, MO about 7:00 AM on Saturday, March 18 to head down to Tulsa, OK to catch a flight. Our flight left Tulsa a little bit late, which shortened the time of the lenghthy layover we were expecting to have in Atlanta. Since it was Spring Break time, the flight from Atlanta to San José was oversold. Delta Airlines was asking for volunteers to stay until the next day. The next day, however was Sunday, and we had planned our trip in such a way as to be in Costa Rica on two different Sundays, so we had to go. I've always wanted to get bumped when I could afford the time. It hasn't ever happened. A year ago (Spring Break time) I missed a connecting flight in O'Hare airport on the way home, but that is another story.

The pastor of the church we were working with, Rodrigo Rojas, and his brother, Francisco, met us at the San José airport about 9:45 PM, and we made our way to the church complex, on the southeast side of San José. Francisco had a Hyundai Diesel Jeep. Five of us sat in the two main rows of seats in the jeep, the three girls travelled on fold-down seats in the trunk area of the jeep (not very comfortable), and all the luggage was tied onto a luggage rack on top. That experience brought back memories of living in Latin America.

We stayed at the Iglesia del Evangelio de Jesucristo, located in a part of the capital city called San Miguel, Desamparados. On Friday, another group of students from OCC
had left to go to Costa Rica. They would be workinging primarily with Roger Twitchell and Darrin King, OCC alumni who are working in Costa Rica. Our Sunday activity included a joint united church service for several churches in Costa Rica. The other group participated. Darrin King told me that he thought the service was historic, in the sense that nothing like that had ever taken place there since they arrived a couple of years before. Tony Allmoschlecher taught the adult Bible School class (I translated), and I preached during the main worship service. One of the students with me gave the communion meditation.

On Monday, we began a journey for which we were ill-prepared. God kept us safe. Rodrigo Rojas has an old 4WD Isuzu Trooper, but he really doesn't like to drive much. I found myself as the principal driver for our trip. But first, we had to buy supplies, that we ourselves would need, as well as package of staple food items to give to Indian church leaders in the mountains.

We got kind of a late start, le
ft San José, and stopped for lunch at a nice restaurant east of Cartago. From there we continued through Turrialba, then got off of a main road that took us through a place called La Suiza, another place called Grano de Oro, after which we continued on dirt roads. We kept going further and further into the mountains, and the road was getting rougher and rougher. The group with me thought that I was doing a great job navigating the ruts on the road, but I would have been happy to pass the job to someone else. Finally, we got to a place called Quetzal Alto, which was with a fourth of a mile of the end of the road. It was late afternoon, and a meeting between Rodrigo and the Indians who had hiked there to help us get to our interior destination, recommended that we spend the night there, and begin our hike the next morning at daybreak.

We had about a six hour hike to get to the hut that belongs to an Indian brother named Arnoldo, who has a church that meets there. All in all, there are seven Indian church leaders scattered over the mountain region, who look to Rodrigo for leadership and guidance. Rodrigo had never made it to Arnoldo's place, so we ended up going farther than he had ever gone. The Indian leaders go regularly to San José, and meet with Rodrigo. There have also been celebrations held at Quetzal Alto, but we made it further than Rodrigo had been. It was the grace of God that allowed us to get there. You can get a glimpse of what our mountain trail was like from the photo at the left. Indians helped us as guides and carriers. Crystal (seen with the backpack) carried her on pack all the way in. The rest of us surrendered our loads. We had some pack horses, and a couple for riding. But when the path was steep or muddy, the horses couldn't carry a rider. Orvel (a retired student) twisted his knee within the first couple hours, and was relegated to a horse. After about six hours, we made it to Arnoldo's hut. It was built out of sugar cane poles, and had a zinc roof. We were ushered into the house, and found a platform instead of chairs. That became our bed that night. All six of us slept side by side on that platform, built out of sugar cane poles. Our feet were hanging off the end of the platform. The night before, I had slept on a hardword floor in a sleeping bag. At the start of the second night, I commented that the sugar cane pole was more comfortable. By the next morning, however, I wasn't so sure. You can see a photo of our "bed" to the above.

We got up at 4:00 AM the next morning, to hike out of there. The hike out was mainly uphill. We had secured a couple more horses. The hike out of there was longer, since we were mai
nly going uphill. Each one of our group spent a little bit of time on a horse. I was the last person in the group to get on a horse. I rode on out of there at the end. I ran completely out of gas (physically speaking). Near the end of our hike out, I sat down on a rock and nearly fell asleep. I sent word to one of our Indian guides that I needed a horse (by that time everyone else of the group had been on a horse at least for a short time). Probably all of us were in danger of dehydration, and we needed nourishment. We left our food provisions (which were slim) with the Indians, and began hiking. The trip out of there took us about 7 and a half hours to get to the Trooper. Another problem was that it was raining most of the way, and the little trail was quite slippery. Once all six of us made it out, we enjoyed some saltine crackers and a room-temperature Fresca. It was wonderful! From there, we had about a two hour drive (in the rain) to get to Turrialba, where we had lunch (about 4:00 PM). Another two hours later, we were back in San José, where a shower awaited us. God had protected us all on the journey. All the muscles in our legs were tied into veritable knots. We looked very funny walking anywhere.

On Thursday, we had a Rest & Relaxation. We went to a natural hot spring that flows from the Arenales Volcano north and west of San José. The place we went to had a se
ries of pools constructed with thermal water (even with thermal waterfalls). After our over-exertion in the mountains, it was wonderful!!! It was like soaking in the largest, most efficient jacuzzi in the world! It really rejuvenated us all. It was a wonderful day, except for Liz, who was sick on the way back to the city.

On Friday, we visited the Spanish Language Institute, where Rose and I had studied Spanish 30 years ago. It was a nice visit. Gilbert ran into an old friend who works with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and who had been doing an intensive course there. He hadn't seen her for about 20 years! On Saturday, we went downtown to San José, and did some souvenir shopping. We took public transportation to downtown San José and back. The first place we went, however, was to a pharmacy (both Crystal and Liz were sick), and then to the Clínica Bíblica, a private hospital run (formerly at least) by the Latin American Mission.

I taught Bible School on Sunday, then translated as Gilbert preached during the morning message. The girls spent Sunday with the other OCC group at a youth retreat. Kevin and Teri Cook (long-time friends that we knew from Chile that now live in Costa Rica) visited the church in San Miguel on our second Sunday. I had lunch with them and their two kids, and was able to catch up on their lives. Sunday night, we had a Costa Rican BBQ as a despedida. All in all, it was a successful trip. Assuming that Mark Scott (my boss) wants to repeat the course, I would go back there. In some ways, I would prepare myself and the next group differently. The church is alive and well there.

I got back home at about 3:30 AM on Tuesday morning. I had Greek class at 7:00 AM. I slept for a couple hours, then got up and went to work. I got through my Tuesday morning classes, then went home at lunch time, and had a nice afternoon nap. I believe I'm caught up on sleep now. Early Monday morning, I have pre-enrollment appointments with several of my academic advisees.

Life goes on, but God is good.

Blessings to all of you!


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