By Adam Chittenden
Unfortunately, today was our last day of serving the people of Costa Rica. Yesterday we hit the beach for the “fun day”, and the only thing I could think about was being back at La Finca with the kids. So, today came with great joy because we were heading back to the streets of Los Guido. Cory, our bus driver, dropped us off at the top of a hill with the rest of our candy, balloons, stickers and silly string.
We walked through the streets handing out Jolly Ranchers. It’s so cool to see how everyone, from the toddlers up to old grandmas, was so excited to receive a free piece of candy. We found a dirt lot with minimal sewage, perfect for VBS. The neighborhood called it their “park”.
The woman that lived next door to the park allowed us to plug our boom box into her house. She was a grandma, who has probably lived there since the shack was built. About 50 kids showed up in the first fifteen minutes that we were there. She told Mark that this was the happiest she has seen the park in her whole life. The local gang stood by and watched as we spread the gospel to their people. It wasn’t long before they joined in and played with balloon swords and silly string.
As we finished up at the park, the youth leadership team asked the kids if they would follow us on a 2 mile walk back to the church. About 20 kids joined us in the long trek. I thought for sure Josh wasn’t going to make it. At the church we set up a slip and slide and squirt guns for the kids. It’s so funny how they beg to get squirted in the face over and over. We finished up the day with an old tradition, the Gringos vs. Ticos futbol game. The game ended in a first ever non-loss for the Gringos. We tied.
This trip has been such a great blessing for me. I grew up going on a lot of family vacations, but I truly feel that this trip was just as good, if not better than any vacation I’ve been on. A few years ago I was very skeptical about mission trips. I used to tell my wife it was a waste of money, and that I thought with all the money we could do more good in our own city. I quickly realized that I was wrong. This was the most receptive audience I have ever seen. Obviously these people accepted the gifts that we brought, but they also loved seeing “the gringos” and actually wanted to hear the gospel.
Thank you God for paving our path on this amazing journey.
By Manuel Patino
After a week of trench digging, gravel laying, handing out food bags, VBS, and a lot of walking, the day of rest had finally arrived. Waking up at the wee hour of 3 am, we loaded up the bus and headed out to Manuel Antonio to enjoy some rest and relaxation.
Walks along the beach, a tour of the national park, sun bathing, a dip in the pool, and massages on the beach were some of the ways the team chose to relax. While the team was relaxing by the pool, we were treated by a barrel of monkeys swinging from tree to tree. As one monkey would swing from one branch to another, several more of them would follow. As I was watching them do this, I looked back to some of the work we did together this week and was reminded of this verse; “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”, Proverbs 27:17. Regardless of how hard the work was, we continued to help and encourage one another, working as one body.
To round out the day, the team enjoyed some dinner together at El Avion, overlooking the ocean, with an amazing view of the sunset. Over the course of our meal, I would glance over at the other team members from time to time, and noticed how relaxed and comfortable everyone was with one another. When our trip had started, most of us didn’t really know one another, so it was great to see everyone laughing and having fun together.
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”, 1 Peter 4:9-10
As relaxing as the rest day was, the days that lead up to it were much more for fruitful. Our time together has created new relationships, strengthened others, and helped us bond together spiritually.
By Kat Kolde
Today was by far the most challenging and the most rewarding day thus far. On our way to pick up the youth leaders from Church, we had Christian music playing and the song, “Oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us all,” came on and I was thinking how God shows his love for us differently such as preaching the word, receiving a food bag or delivering a food bag. God loves each and every one of us and he uses us differently however, we are all giving the same message, the Love of God. Due to the kindness and donations from our church members we were able to deliver 85 bags of food to 85 different houses. The food bags consisted of rice, beans, oil, sugar, salsa, 3 different flavored soups and 3 different types of fruit juices. Each bag is able to feed five people for a week; this means today we were able to feed 425 people for a week.
The food bags were the most challenging because Los Guidos is at a higher altitude then most of us are used to and the houses are built of very steep pathways, some being paved but most are not. Each member carried about four bags that weighed 10 pounds per bag. Everyone was assigned to a team where we were paired up with two youth leaders at the church in Los Guidos and we went door to door handing out food bags. Since we do not know how to speak Spanish, the youth leaders spent 10-15 minutes talking to the families about God while we prayed over each house.
It was very rewarding because everyone got to see the joy and happiness on the families’ faces when they received a bag of food. We were not only able to feed 425 people we were able to witness the youth leaders preach the word of God to 85 homes. Today there were three people that gave their lives to the Lord and ten that want to get involved in discipleship.
In gratitude of appreciation for the help of spreading the word through the youth leaders we decided to treat them for all the work they do, not only today, but also throughout the year. For the past week we have been introduced to Costa Rican food now it was our turn to treat them to American food….pizza. Most of us ate more pizza than our stomachs can handle so we decided to treat them to another surprise that was more active, so we could burn off the pizza. We surprised the kids with a bowling excursion. For eleven of the thirteen youth leaders, bowling was their first time. Even though there has been a language barrier all week, we were able to communicate non-verbally as one group through this activity. God has been able to work in our hearts this trip and has shown what the body of Christ looks like through praying, teaching, helping and showing love towards others.
“No eye has seen, No ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
As it approached midnight here in Costa Rica, we stood together on the balcony united as brothers and sisters in Christ. Watching the most beautiful view of fireworks and lanterns being let loose by the people of Costa Rica. We popped our poppers, said cheers and drank our apple cider. My heart and eyes kept wandering back to the view of Gods creation. The sky was clear and the stars seemed to be dancing through the clouds, the mountains stood strong, and I just stood silent and in awe. How blessed are we to know that what the Lord has prepared for us who love Him is beyond anything we have seen or even imagined.
We started our morning at La Carpio, also known as “The Dump”. It is one of the poorest parts of Costa Rica. Walking through the streets of La Carpio, we had the pleasure of passing out candies, stickers, necklaces and bracelets to the children we encountered. Then we set to do a VBS on the streets of this small town where we were able to invite the kids to sing, dance, and listen to Gods word. We were able to pray with them, play with them and of course pass out more candy. But most of all, we were able to love on these kids in a way the Lord was glorified. Seeing these little faces with smiles and laughter reminds me of when Jesus calls us to have childlike faith. Their faith is pure, and simple despite the struggles they face living in poverty.
Ending our night in Los Guido, at La Finca we were given the opportunity to honor and thank the board members and families of those who serve in the church. We served them dinner and dessert, played multiple games and gave out prizes. We wanted to thank them for their sacrifice and time they give to the Lord and to us. Making sure they knew they were appreciated and loved.
Every opportunity and experience here in Costa Rica has a glimpse of Gods love and grace that has flooded my heart. His presence is so evident, and His hand is on these people. I am excited of this beautiful reminder that the Lords love for our new friends we have made, is deeper and stronger beyond what our minds can even fathom.
By Ryan Schaefer
Tonight each member of our team had the unique opportunity to support the Youth Leadership Team by sharing gifts and games with them as we continue to bond through Christ. The language barrier that seemed so strong just days ago has improved greatly as we share our lives with each other. This included fun team building activities such as scavenger hunt, Spoons and Capture the Flag. We found out just how competitive our new Costa Rican friends can be.
The highlight of the evening was having the opportunity to share our favorite verses or impressions to encourage the Youth Leadership. Our team members expressed appreciation for these young people by urging them to remain faithful to God through the many challenges they face in their lives. This expression of support calls the church to be united as one body and work together to accomplish the fundamental goal of sharing the gospel.
We were able to experience this first hand by honoring the youth leaders and recognizing their hard work and effort. We encouraged them to stay committed to the church body and continue spreading the word of God. One verse a team member shared summarized letting God take control of their lives and trusting that he will always make the right decision for them. Many of the youth leaders have encountered difficult circumstances and have struggled to keep their faith strong.
We finished up the night with a giant “Minion” piñata and a bowl of ice cream. Everyone enjoyed their delicious treat and laughing with each other.
-Happy New Year from Costa Rica!
By Conway and Emily Robinson
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5
The past few days have been exciting, encouraging, adventurous and filled with joy as we have had the opportunity to meet many new kids and families, reconnect with familiar faces, attend church, and participate in multiple ministry activities.
Today, we set out to accomplish various work projects at the main ministry area in Los Guido called “La Finca,” also know as “The Farm”. The two main tasks were to create a drainage system and improve the already existing pathway. The first project required us to dig a 125-foot trench in order to lay the pipe that would allow the water to drain from the top of the property down to the bottom. Although this task may seem simple, it serves a great purpose during the rainy season, which is typically 8 months out of the year. The pipe that was laid is vital as it directs the water in a way that prevents erosion of important structures. The second task consisted of laying gravel on top of the old pathway. Over the last year, the rain washed away the pathway piece by piece, which made it difficult for vehicles to enter and exit the facility.
With the absence of modernized machinery and the presence of shovels and pic axes, we certainly had to rely on the Lord for strength and energy to complete these challenging tasks that were before us.
Not only did the Lord give us the strength to complete these tasks, He also allowed us to see what it means to apply this concept of “the body of Christ” and better understand the way that it functions. Each team member contributed in a unique way that allowed us to reach a common goal… to bring glory to God by functioning as one body through Christ.
By Susan and Ben Mendoza
Today we went supply shopping for a fiesta, had an afternoon church service and a dinner with all the families of the church. It was very heart warming to see how dedicated these people are to their church. Some people travel miles everyday to go there and help. Hanging out with the kids—even with the language barrier, Christ shines through our lives and into theirs. When they see the devotion and passion you have for Christ by helping and playing with them, it seems to put that same sparkle of passion in their eyes too. Seeing how positive these kids are in challenging conditions helps us have a better mindset realize how blessed we are and we should appreciate what we have.
One of my (Susan) favorite things we did today was roast marshmallows and make s’mores. It was a real treat for the kids from the church. They were a sticky mess and having the time of their lives. It takes so little to make someone’s day and was a reminder to me to take the time to reach out and smile or lend a helping hand-even showing someone how to make a s’more.
By Clementine and Christiana Garrett
Every day in Costa Rica is a new experience and brings a new adventure. Today we focused on the Vacation Bible School with the kids. It was a real joy to see the pure excitement in their faces as we handed out toys and candy.
The day started with us walking around Los Guido to attract the children. Los Guido is a small village made of tin houses and any materials that can be found. For the first forty minutes or so we just played with the kids. We made balloon animals, sprayed them with silly string, and some of the older kids played soccer. Afterwards, we sat with the kids while the gospel was shared. Our favorite moment of the day was watching the young girl we had been playing with all day pray to Jesus; it allowed us to see the true purpose of our trip and the main reason we came.
Later in the afternoon we headed back to La Finca (which is home to Iglesia Nueva Vida) for a day of fun with nearly 200 kids. Water games, a giant slip-n-slide, and tons of candy, made for a fun afternoon.
We ended the night by attending the running of the bulls and the carnival, which allowed us to participate in an aspect of Costa Rican culture. It was a once in a lifetime experience that allowed us to share in the traditional activities with the Costa Rican people.
Ministry is a process, and today we took another step in the development of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in sector 7 of Los Guido. The process for our team started in June this year, when we decided to join the team. Even before our finances were finished or had set a foot in the country; God was working in our lives as well as the lives of the People in Costa Rica. The missionaries have been praying for this section for the past three weeks, that the minds of these people would be open towards the acceptance of the gospel as truth in their life. Today we took another step towards our mission here in Costa Rica; today was the day that we bought and made 85 food bags. After we had finished the last bag, we prayed that they would bless the people who would be receiving them. Please continue to pray with us that God would bless everyone we meet and protect every member of the team during our travels. Susan Mendoza and Dan Schaefer loading the bus with the bags of food we just purchased.
Jacqui and Sarah Hurd
…and on day 9, they rested. Today the team had a day of rest and rejuvenation after our week of service. We left very early (315 am) for the bus trip to Manuel Antonio. We were blessed with perfect weather, albeit a little hot/humid. The team was in awe of the beauty of this place. There was a national Forrest, which contained white-faced monkeys and a variety if animals. The ocean was warm and inviting. The team had time to reflect on the week, while soaking in the beauty of nature around us. With our toes in the sand and our heads in the clouds, we gave thanks for this wonderful week.
To end the day, we went to dinner at the top of the hill, overlooking the ocean/valley below. All the cameras came out as the sun began to set and the sky was filled with pink, red and blue hues. As the bright, orange sun turned into a dot and then disappeared into the ocean, the group erupted in clapping and cheering. It was a great finale to our day.
It is with mixed feelings that we prepare for our journey home. Although anxious to get home to our families, we will all miss the people of Los Guido and La Carpio. To God be the glory, for this amazing week!
By Ben Mendoza / Party Pants
Today, we passed out 60 food bags to the families of Los Guido, Costa Rica. Getting into groups of two, we paired up with members of the Youth Leadership Team; going house-to-house, knocking on doors, and giving food to each of the families all while spreading God’s Word.
As the team shared with them the Good News of Christ, our team would pray for the family and for their well-being. We’d also pass out goodies to the children of the house. Before moving on to the next house, each individual was given an opportunity to make Christ their personal Savior…many received Him. The youth also invited them into the local church, giving them directions as well as noting whether or not they’d like to be discipled.
Directly after, we got to hear the input of the family, from the Youth Team. A good percentage of those we visited accepted Christ into their heart as well as saying they wanted to become part of a discipleship (Bible study) group.
Later, we celebrated the Youth Team members as we took them to the store to buy an article of clothing. It was very humbling and touching to see the smiles on their faces…knowing that we were able to bring them this small piece of joy was a great encouragement. Right after that, we took them for dinner at McDonalds; and even though it doesn’t sound like much, they were incredibly grateful. I even heard one of the Youth Team members say it was only his second time eating out. For me, this was a moment of realization, knowing that I can eat wherever, whatever, whenever I’d like. It reminded me of all that I take for granted.
As an American, I’ve always held the belief that I am blessed beyond measure, my primary gage for that being my station in life, my privileges, and my possession. But this last week has caused me to realize something, it is the “least of these” that our truly rich in Christ. They are free from many of the distraction that fog my everyday life, unconcerned by what people think of them, the way they dress, or where they may live. The teens that make up the Youth Leadership Team of Iglesia Nueva Vida are full of willingness to serve, have the most humble of hearts, and simply shine the pure joy of Christ everywhere they go…
By Dan Schaefer
We spent the day in La Carpio partnering with the youth leaders to distribute school uniforms to students and their families. During our time here, we have learned that Costa Rica has a free educational system, but students must have a school uniform to attend classes. We were also advised that the region of La Carpio is dangerous and heavily influenced by gangs. We began our walk through the city’s dirt streets and alleys locating the families on our list. I think we were all humbled by the living conditions we observed. Thin plywood and rusted aluminum served as the walls and roofs of many of the shacks we saw. Open sewage lines and precarious powerlines ran throughout the passageways we walked. Navigating the area was further complicated by the fact that streets and individual homes were not clearly marked. Around each corner we encountered the friendly and curious faces of the neighborhood kids. Team members shared stickers and candies, as well as some broken Spanish greetings along the way. By the end of the afternoon we had distributed uniforms to 14 families.
The highlight of the afternoon for me was meeting a local Pastor who was eager to find out our interest in La Carpio. He shared that the area was very dangerous and expressed concern for our well-being. I later learned from Mark that few churches or ministries will even consider entering this area. Mark, Bethany, and the youth leaders are determined to change that. Their goal is to share the love of Christ across boundaries both culturally and economically.
By evening we had gathered at La Finca with the youth leaders to share a meal to honor their efforts and hold them up in prayer. These youth leaders have demonstrated a committment to discipleship and service to their community and the surrounding areas. I enjoyed listening to our CBC youth and the local youth discuss their favorite bands, sports, and hobbies. The most entertaining time of the evening was watching the youth leaders swing wildly at a huge pinata anticipating the moment it burst and shed candy and prizes all over the gym floor. What a great night!
By Nick Schaefer
Today, our team had the opportunity to finish up a few work projects at the church in Los Guido. We painted some of the benches that the church uses for their Sunday morning services and finished touching up the new cement that was laid down yesterday. After completing those, we returned back to the mission house to pack the food bags that will be delivered in the city of Los Guido on Thursday. And to top the day off, we spent the evening watching insane people run around in a circle and get trampled on by a crazy bull!
With this being the start of a new year, I have taken the time to reflect on the past year and evaluate where I want to be spiritually for this upcoming year and the years to come. For me, there is no better way to start the year than by actively serving the Lord. I am so blessed that God has given me the opportunity to serve in another country and further His kingdom.
This trip has been a humbling experience for me. Watching the love of Christ shine through the missionaries and children leaders reminds me what being a true follower of Christ really means. They neither complain nor argue, but only share love and kindness to a city that is hurting and in need. I am so thankful to be serving alongside them, and I pray that God will continue to work through our team and the team here in Costa Rica.