A 4:15 a.m. departure is no joke after a week laden with a constant work schedule of ministry, but our team was ready to see the natural beauty of Costa Rica. So with sleep in our eyes, we set off to Manuel Antonio, a beach city located about 3 hours from The Mission House. We spent the first hour of the drive sleeping until we made it to the infamous Crocodile Bridge. When we approached the bridge, we witnessed dozen of scaly creatures lazily lounging in the dark river. To rouse them, Josh threw pieces of chicken on which they gladly chomped down. However, within minutes, our supply of chicken was gone and so our crocodile sight-seeing was over.
We returned to the bus as the sun began its ascent over the clouds and rushed passed thick brushes of palm trees. Rays of sunlight danced between the openings between their fronds. It was going to be a gorgeous day.
Once we arrived, some of our team opted for a leisurely walk across the ocean shore, a few others walked the paths of the National Park, and a couple of us decided to go parasailing. With scorching hot sand, the warm ocean water was comforting. The National Park proved to definitely be “where there is still more monkeys than people.” The monkeys so acclimated to people almost looked to be posing as Josh snapped a quick picture. Sloths climbed trees and people swarmed the beach. Carmina and I decided that parasailing was the adventure of the day. The apprehension and fear of soaring several hundred feet high in the air over the Pacific Ocean quickly subsided when we experienced the tranquil serenity of the crisp water below.
However, as beautiful as that ecological display was, it wasn’t as beautiful as what we have been experiencing all week. The flowers that flourish in the rusted tin city of Los Guido, the mist of the rain that cooled our faces as we shoveled mounds of freshly mixed cement, the vibrant and colorful rainbow that stretched across the sky low enough to touch, the joy of a grateful heart displayed on a elderly woman’s worn face as she received desperately needed food, and the bare feet of a child that runs across dirt and rock beaten paths, reminds me that everything has beauty because God makes all things beautiful.
Today was quite an eye-opening day. Last night, we packed 80 bags of food to deliver to the people of the Los Guido slums. This morning, we headed out early and started delivering the bags right away. We split up the load into two so we could do half in the morning and half after lunch. For the first half, we visited Sector 8, the area that we did for our first day of VBS. We walked up the steep, slippery slopes of the slums to the top of the hillside to start delivering the food bags. We went to each individual house and gave them a bag and prayed over their houses. The youth leaders of Iglesia Nueva Vida went with us to share the gospel with each house that we delivered to. This was such an amazing experience because we got to see just how grateful people can be over one little bag of food. Their smiles and ‘muchas gracias’ really touched our hearts. It was so amazing to see how God can use us to love others.
For the second half of delivering the bags, we went to Sector 7 of Los Guido to an area we had not visited before. This sector was packed full of houses with maybe a 10-foot walkway in between them. It was very steep and full of trash and sewage. No one refused the food or the time to talk about God. This was so great to see because they were willing to hear what the youth leaders had to say. They were so willing to listen, and I could see on their faces that they agreed. They seemed happy that people were talking to them about God and how and why Jesus came and died for them. Today was such an eye-opening experience for me to see how God can work in people’s lives and how much He loves them!
After we delivered all of the food bags, we went back to the farm to play a riveting game of volleyball. We played a best-of-three match. Since the Ticos beat us pretty good at soccer, I was thinking that they would definitely beat us again. But we put up a fight like no other! For all three games we had a solid defense, blocking most everything that came our way, and keeping the ball in play. On offense, we had a good front row to keep the ball alive and mostly on their side. We let them make their own mistakes, which won us a couple of matches. They put up a good fight on the first game, beating us. But we came back and won the second one, making us tied at one game a piece. For the third game it came down to a 12-9 lead with Nick up to serve. He gave us three aces, winning us the game! So we proved that the Gringos can win at a sport against the Ticos. Overall, it was a truly splendid day in Los Guido, with all the lives that God allowed us to be a part of, and the good fun we had.
If you were to look at Costa Rica from a distance, you would see lush mountain scenery and mostly rundown shacks serving as people’s homes. What you can’t see is the people, which is the heart and soul of Costa Rica. Everywhere you go, there is a sense of community that binds the people together. I think this causes them to have a better attitude towards their difficult, poverty-stricken lives.
I was blessed to have experienced this first hand throughout our second day doing VBS’s for the kids. We walked up and down the streets of Los Guido with the youth leaders yelling “upe”, which is Spanish for “excuse me”, and handed out candy and stickers to the kids. The youth leaders would explain to the adults that we were putting on a VBS for the kids and where it would be taking place. It seemed like everyone who answered their door was friendly and responsive. For instance, one man said he didn’t have any kids and lived alone, but wished us a Happy New Year and said, “God bless you all.” As soon as kids starting coming to our VBS spot, instant laughter and smiles filled the air. Although we don’t all speak the same language as them, the kids knew we were there to have fun with them and love them.
The people of Costa Rica make any foreigner feel welcome. It makes it much less difficult to share the love of Christ, despite a very prevalent language barrier. God tears this barrier down everyday, allowing His love to spread freely from us to the people of Costa Rica.
– Ryan Schaefer
Today was more extraordinary than most. We set out to la finca to pick up the youth leaders and then endured a very bumpy bus ride to a poverty stricken community in los Guido. We rolled up with candy, toys, and balloons and began to walk the streets. Split into groups, we walked up large hills and through tiny, dirty alleyways to knock on doors inviting the children to come and experience Gods love – in other words Vacation Bible School or in Spanish, “Esquelitas”. Slowly but surely the children of Los Guidos heard the music and followed the sound to a corner where we were set up. First we made balloon animals, swords and flowers, which they loved, and handed out candy and stickers.
Their faces lit up in such a way that could outshine the sun. It was truly beautiful to see the children’s smiles despite their surroundings. It was as if in those seconds the danger, poverty, and heat from the sun didn’t mean a thing. We turned up the music and began to dance. Imitating the moves the leaders came up with was so fun. We probably looked like complete fools “swimming” and doing the chicken dance in the middle of the street but it didn’t matter. We played some games and then sat the kids down to make “Gospel bracelets”.
We stayed up putting exactly 5 beads and a string in a bag the night before. Each of the beads had a significant meaning. Black- signifying our sin. Red-Signifying Jesus’s blood. White- signifying that His blood has washed us white as snow. Green – signifying how we should continue to grow, and finally Yellow- signifying the gates of heaven. After this was taught, Memo and Michel read verses relating to salvation followed by a repeat-after-me prayer of salvation. Such an important message was put in a plastic bag and taught by teenagers. We serve such a great God who is doing incredible things in Costa Rica and 10 Americans had the privilege of experiencing just a taste of that today. Glory to God.
After dinner we walked through Wal-Mart collecting 80 of 12 different items to distribute to families of los Guido. Imagine the line on New Years Eve and us in it. Imagine the employee ringing up our items. There were some technical difficulties but it resulted in 680,000 colones paid, sore arms, and a packed bus. Tomorrow should be an adventure but until then, the night is young and the New Year is coming. Felize Año Nuevo a todos!
– Carmina Garcia
It was another day of work for our team at La Finca today. Thankfully, we were blessed with a breezy, cloudy day, making the work a little easier. We continued making improvements to the church property by doing more cement work, filling in part of the drive way that leads into the church. We also painted parts of the drive way and the sidewalk in front of the property.
After all the work was finished and we had some lunch together, it was time for our annual soccer match with the youth leaders from La Finca. The ticos (Costa Ricans) put up a tough game as usual, but our team was able to hold their own (with the help of Cory, our bus driver, and some of the youth leaders switching to our team). However, in the end, they still defeated our team 7-6.
Our team finished the night with a traditional Costa Rican dinner at Doña Lela, a local restaurant that the team goes to every year. As simple as the dinner was, it’s an enriching time, where we get to bond and grow as a team, as well as a family. Some shared stories of past mission experiences, while others shared food that was too much for some to handle. Overall, the day was a simple. But sometimes it’s the simple ones where the teams get to connect the most, and this was definitely one of them.
– Manny Patino
After a good night’s sleep, our team set out for La Finca, the church property, to do some work projects. We were given the opportunity to help Mark, the local missionary, and his team of youth leaders make improvements on the church grounds. We mixed and poured cement near a sewage pipe in order to prevent leaking during the rainy season. We also painted the church bathrooms and other areas on the property that needed to be repainted. Finally, we cleaned the entire feeding center on the property, as well as all of the church benches.
It was the first of two work days on the church grounds. Although these are not our favorite days here in Costa Rica, it is a rewarding experience nonetheless. The work can be difficult at times, but knowing we were able to help a church over 1,000 miles away from home makes it all the worthwhile. It was a great experience becoming construction pros with the youth leaders in Costa Rica.
We capped off the day with a fun night at El Toros de Zapote. This is an annual Costa Rican event that includes death-defying carnival rides (I have the bruises to prove it), amazing food, and, most importantly, crazy people in a ring running away from angry bulls. We attend this event every year, and for the first time, we got to bring the youth leaders to the event with us. For most of them, it was their first time seeing the bulls, and they loved it! We were grateful for the opportunity to not only work alongside these youth leaders to help improve the church grounds, but to also fellowship with them at a fun event.
– Nick Schaefer
After a much needed morning of sleeping in after 24 hours of travel, we headed to La Finca (which serves as the hub for Iglesia Nueva Vida Los Guido and many of the Christian Light Foundation’s ministries) for lunch. We had some downtime before church started and naturally some of our team enjoyed a quick soccer game. The rest of us enjoyed the afternoon spending time with the youth of the church.
It is always such a neat experience attending church at La Iglesia Nueva Vida. I look forward to it every year! Worship is always enjoyable here. Though we may have not understood much of what was being said, it was great being able to worship our God alongside the people here.
A small group from the church just returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua to visit their sister church and Mark shared with us some of the highlights from their trip. It was quite fitting because he opened up his sermon by challenging us, “Why do we do mission trips?” He wanted us to really examine the reasons we go or in some cases, not go on mission trips. He shared that many people want to say, “If it’s God’s will, I will go”, or “If He provides, I will go”. People overlook the command we are given in Mark 28:19-20, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given to you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We should go on mission trips because we are commanded to go and make disciples. We don’t need to say, “If it is God’s will, I will go.” He gives the command to GO and therefore that is why we need to go on mission trips. Mark challenged his church members to begin praying now for the opportunity to obey this command and go on a mission trip to Nicaragua in several months.
Hearing this message and these thoughts is a great way to start our week of serving. I pray that it reminds each of us of why we are here- that we are intentional about making disciples.
– Lanaya Hager
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.