Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Costa Rica: Part Armadillos

About 2 weeks ago I participated in a mission trip with the youth group from my church, which I report on in this entry. You should know that this entry, however, is not the original. I actually wrote the original report in Spanish for our church secretary, which she corrected :) and posted on facebook. So what you're getting is a translation of that report back into English :) I hope you still enjoy it all the same.

On this trip I got to use some of my lesser-known talents that sit dormant until they have some reason to be used. I did lots of magic tricks for the kids, which they loved. And along with some others, we taught some breakdancing moves. It was awesome fun.

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We arrived in Abangaritos, Costa Rica after night had fallen. As soon as we arrived, we went immediately to the church to participate in the service and share with the community. Gary, one of the teens from our partner group, Funda Vida, sang some hip-hop songs. Later, two teens shared their testimonies. And finally a group did a choreography. Even though this was a weeknight (Thursday), they still had a church gathering. It was a great night to meet the community. However afterward we had to set up our tents in the dark.

For the next few days, we worked really hard and did lots of activities. One group prepared worship for the night service, some practiced their choreography, some did activities and crafts for the kids, and some helped dig a trench around the church in order to construct a wall.

I talked with Edgar, the trip leader, about the church and the little village of Abangaritos. In this village there is only one small "pulpería" (small convenience store) and a small restaurant that provide the food. There's one football field and one school that offer education and activities. There's one bar that provides beer. And this new fledgling church that provides hope. The church brings a little rivalry against the bar, because while we were there sometimes the music, worship, and dances from the church almost drowned out the noise form the bar. I don't think the bar is pleased that they lose clientele to the church.

The church has been in process for 5 years. Right now, a few posts support a tin roof. That setup is situated inside the partially-built walls for the new church. During the past five years, the walls of this structure have been constructed block by block. That is, the members bring in their "tithe" - cinder blocks - every week for years until they had enough to build the walls. Now they're waiting for a roof, which will probably be built in July of this year. It seemed to me very interesting that each person had brought a piece of the church until they arrived at what they have today.

Bit by bit, the community has accepted the church's presence in their village. Edgar explained to me that the church has supported the people of the village, and many resources, activities, and blessings have gone to this village through the church so that the people will know what and who the church represents, as a source of life and hope.

It is a place with significant need. The people of this village harvest watermelons to export, but that source of work only happens four months per year. The rest of the year, 8 months, they don't have a fixed source of income. And whats more, every 3 years the river rises and floods the house of the pastor and her family. They have to take out all their possessions and put them on top of the roof until the river recedes.

Speaking of floods, on our last day there, we had an experience that taught us a little of what the people suffer every year. On Saturday night at about 2 in the morning, a downpour fell, so intense that several tents flooded. Some 15 teenagers had to look for refuge under the roof of the outside cooking area. Fortunately, the pets shared their sleeping space with the victims. But no one complained. We realized that we had a small experience that those people suffer often.

We did much more, arriving totally spent in our sleeping bags every night. We did magic tricks, hip-hop classes, crafts, a bonfire, and dramas. We showed a family film free for the whole community. Many people came and stood around the outside, but didn't want to come in and sit down. But some of the families that did were not normal members of the church.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Adios Language school!

This is old news. But old news is good news. Actually it doesn't always work that way. In any case, my official graduation from the language school was back in May, but it didn't feel much like a transition point until this August, when now my year of language studies is over and all my classmates I went to school with have moved on to the countries they're serving in, or gone back to the U.S.

Anyway, just wanted to post some photos from graduation. I got the honor of carrying the Costa Rican flag! (since my last name starts with a "B," probably, and since that's where I'll be living). I also attached a video I helped one of my fellow classmates make while we were taking classes. I planned on making a video talking about language school, but I never found the time. Steve does a good job of highlighting some of why the school is there and what the language school experience is like.

The other reason I wanted to include this video is because at minute 3:45 there is an interview with one of my favorite teachers, Graziella. She has a particularly powerful testimony which she shared with us and even allowed me to video it. Graziella is an incredible teacher and taught lessons on culture and personal growth that went far beyond normal language classes. The flashcards she made us are one of the main reasons I put together the student resources website. Anyway, I was very blessed to have her as a teacher (twice, in fact, which isn't normally allowed) and hear lots of her stories. Here is one I invite you to watch...

Click here to go the the original post on Steve's blog