ReCreation binds our community together. Through diocesan, convocational, and intergenerational events we become more aware of our call to be one Church, one people united and made whole through faith.
In July, the Cathedral sent a mission team of 15 high-school students and 12 adults to the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica, where they teamed up with Bishop Hectór Monterroso Gonzalez to aid impoverished communities in that country. Six members of the team kept diaries of their experiences, which follow below.
We are Costa Rica bound. As a fellow Latina, I understand that there is a lot of poverty, what I did not expect, was how lively this place was from the moment I got out of the plane. Walking to the bus and just looking around my surroundings, I sensed the feeling of being proud of my race, my origin. Being a Latina may be hard at times, but looking at my surroundings made me realize, that we are united. We are people who are determined to get what we want and that we help one another often, because we know how it feels like to be brought down by so many people. The way this community has impacted me was making me realize that I should learn to embrace who I truly am, and what it means to be a Latina.
I saw Jesus in a lot of places, but the place where I truly saw him was on the ride of the airplane, and the market. Today was the first time I’ve ever ridden a plane, and I loved every minute of it. When I woke up from a small nap and looked out the windows, I was left speechless at how amazing my view was. I remember just thinking, “Jesus died for this. He died for us so that we could have a better life and be forgiven when we sin.” God’s creations are truly a beautiful thing. Walking around the market, I noticed how enthusiastic everyone was. Even though it had just rained and it was a bit humid, they didn’t give up. Jesus gave them the power to keep on going, and they probably do this every single day, but they don’t give up on their goals, and that is the beauty of the people in Costa Rica, they don’t give up on what they want, they keep on going until they reach that goal.
“Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.” This is how I started my morning with this quote. As I was sitting down on the plain I was thinking about my future and thinking about what God has given me. I was really happy for everything that my parents have done for me and what an amazing experience I have been having. When we landed in Costa Rica, I know that God was with me while we were in the bus. Looking at my surroundings I saw happiness and hope. My hope is that with the help of our team, Costa Rica will be a better place because we are doing something that is helpful and is something the people want. Looking on how the people live makes me think that I am lucky to have most things. During our time in the market, I was thinking that people work for money because that’s the only way they can possibly survive — by selling things and getting the money from tourists or people that need it. It also made me think that I am proud to be a Latina and that my people are doing everything they can to be happy and to have money or at least a home. My goal in Costa Rica is to bring hope to the community and to bring prosperity to the people and give them the word of the Lord. My day was amazing. I learned about some of the culture and I learned words that are different to me. I hope the people of Costa Rica get the message and are grateful and happy for what our team has done. I want tomorrow to be great and to learn more and experience Costa Rica.
My journey to Costa Rica began by overcoming a dreaded obstacle: waking up early. I get up by 5:30, leave my house by 6:00, and arrive at the airport at 7:30. While I was only half-awake for the four hour plane ride, I knew that it was all going to be worth it once I arrived to San Jose, and it was, in every way possible.
After getting off the plane, my group boarded a bus. As the bus drove I looked out the window to see a whole new world passing by. I saw the larger-than-life mountains, a sight all too unfamiliar to a Texan. I felt like a stranger in a strange land, absorbing a whole new culture every moment, though I was not alone. The scenery of San Jose is breathtaking, as we are in a city where Man and Nature come together, as the city feels almost like it’s half-park, and houses reside on the mountains off in the distance.
The first thing we all did was walk through the streets of San Jose. It’s a beautiful city driven by the diverse culture of it’s inhabitants, which had some of the characteristics of an American city, but was also a breath of fresh air for me, both figuratively and literally, as even on it’s worst day, Costa Rican weather puts Houston weather to shame. Religion was obviously important to the city, as San Jose seemed to decorate itself with religious imagery. We even came across a street preacher, who sang his teachings to the crowd of pedestrians, something we don’t see very much of back home. I saw Jesus everywhere I looked, through the city and the people. It made me eager for the next day, to see what I had else to learn about this place that I was only just getting to learn about. Today was my first day in Costa Rica, and thankfully, it’s not the last.
Green, lush mountainsides appeared as the plane descended through thin clouds into San Jose, Costa Rica. The fairly uneventful flight included a mixture of experiences: some had traveled to many countries, some were leaving the United States for the very first time and some had not flown since they were very young. One youth in particular was so excited about her adventure, legs briskly moving up and down, that she shared her travel enthusiasm with her seatmates who five minutes prior were strangers.
Once airborne, the youth’s new friends graciously purchased an airline movie subscription allowing her to pass the time and to track the flight. As the plane made it’s way over the Yucatan peninsula, the new friends encouraged the youth to take their window seat as the Caribbean coast came into view. Out came the iPhone for photos of dark green land that faded into shades of blue sea. Strangers had become friends by sharing a remarkable lifetime moment.
The day continued to be sprinkled with little moments of Jesus encounters as twenty-seven members of Christ Church Cathedral split into five groups and explored the downtown area of San Jose in search of culture, food and Costa Rican goods. One group chose pizza for an afternoon meal and exited the restaurant with several slices in a to-go box. They soon met a hungry man without a home and one of the youth asked for permission to give the man the remaining food.
Mission trip members navigated the crowded city streets greeting people with smiles, attempting to converse in Spanish or relying on those group members who fluently spoke the native language. They visited small shop stalls whose walls were lined with brightly colored souvenirs and material goods and negotiated prices with graciousness. All of these interactions were evidence of Jesus, even the smallest smile at a stranger.
There will be many more moments of Jesus encounters this week for the entire group and none will leave Costa Rica unchanged in some way.
Today was the day one for work day. I was nervous for what was to come, but at the same time, I was excited to help build this beautiful church. I encountered Jesus today when I finished the last few minutes of work we had left. When we were cleaning up, I looked up and saw all the progress we had made, in just one day. I couldn’t believe this a group of people (most not having experience with this kind of stuff) did this much work in a limited time. I felt proud of all of us. Even though we all were extremely exhausted, we kept giving it our all until time was up.
I was definitely impacted by the community by how friendly everyone was today. From the minute we got there we were treated with respect and acceptance. The workers gave us tips here and there to help us out on what we were doing. Costa Rica is starting to become one of my most favorite and memorable mission trip. What I took from today was that you want to be the person who smiles at you, not the person who never smiles back. Be kind to one another, and treat them with the kind of respect you would want for yourself. Know that all this that you are doing, is in the name of The Lord.
It is now my second day of the trip. I woke up early, something that I still have trouble getting used to. But this is worth it for the delicious breakfast that awaited, which was made up of scrambled eggs, fruit, bacon, and black beans. I can’t stress how good the food has been so far. I was told that the food would be exquisite before hand, but I was not prepared for the reality.
After breakfast, we were split into two groups: construction and painting. The painting group helped to decorate a school, and the construction group, which I was apart of, helped to build a new church. Everyone in my group had multiple jobs, which ranged from mixing cement to sanding down the walls. I had little to no experience with construction, so all of this was instantly a challenge, and I had almost no idea what I was doing. But all of the workers were supportive and friendly, helping anyone who needed assistance. And through the construction of this house of worship, I saw how Christianity can instantly bring people together. These people used their love of Christianity to fuel their good will, which seems to be a bit lost on some Americans nowadays.
Now, did I have fun? Well, while there were some difficult moments that required patience, it was one of the most satisfying and self-fulfilling jobs of my life. Through it, I understood the value of hard work, as my confidence grew, as I over came a huge obstacle. I don’t know if tomorrow will be as challenging as today, but I can’t wait to find out.
Today I went to a building that needed interior painting and other tasks done. For the majority of the day, I scraped the finish off a table that needed a new finish, chiseling it away bit by bit. It was utterly painstaking. Very taxing a task, but we completed it.
The individuals there besides us were friendly and kind. I now understand how significant a language barrier is. The only thing I could do was smile and say “Si” to phrases I understood and “Gracias.”
I enjoy the bus rides to and from our worksites. The scenery is drastically different than the kind I’m used to, which is good. I look forward to the other things I will experience on this mission trip. On a closing note, I loathe that no male on this trip besides me has the ability to do the magical thing called power showering.
Today I saw God in many people that were around me working. They were giving to others and helping out. It made them look strong and made them look like they are doing it for the Lord. While we were painting and while we were working on more things, we had time to talk to native people of Costa Rica and learn more about Costa Rica. Overall, I learned today that it is right to give to others in a good spirit and I also believe that you can receive something back from the Lord. I learned that people surrounding us need help to make their community stronger and also make people happy. I was thinking yesterday while I was working that we always think that we are the one suffering or the ones who need help, but don’t think about the people around us that need more help and need more things than us. I hope that tomorrow I can experience God with me in myself and make myself reflect on many things that I wonder and think and see.
Today is Monday, and we successfully completed our first day of mission work! Yay! Most of the group went to the main site at la Iglesia de Ascension and a smaller group went to another church to work on the Children’s School. There was so much to learn, and boy did we! From making concrete, to laying slab for sidewalks, to painting ceilings, to doing a lot of sanding, to painting tables and chairs; it was a busy one! With the hustle and bustle of learning new work, a lot of which most of us had never had the opportunity to do before, came a lot of room for spiritual growth. Through the blisters and jammed fingers, to the paint in the eye and splinters, we still managed to find Jesus! We found him in Don Victor, the sweet, petite, gray-haired man (who reminded me of our Ardell because of the work he does and person he is, not by the gray-hair). Victor may be older, but he was so great with teaching us how to sand the chairs and tables before painting them, as well as paint the curved tin ceiling in the Sunday School area. He was such a patient man, even when we sometimes made mistakes. Victor loves to work with his hands and followed the vision from the Padre of the children’s church. Through Victor, we were able to follow the vision, as well. We are so fortunate to have Victor mentor us this trip through the work we are doing at the Children’s Church. We hope that by making the Children’s Church a more colorful and inviting place for the little ones to play and learn, that they will feel more comfortable and happy learning about and with Jesus. Though the children are not physically there this week (out on winter break), we know that we are going to make a huge impact on them, upon their return next week! Won’t they be excited to see their new chairs and tables and colorful setting! Jesus was definitely with us today!
Workday today wasn’t so great. I got my first injury on the job. When I was chiseling the concrete, my hand slipped and my finger went in between the cinder block I was sitting in and the hammer smashed my finger. The pain was absolutely unbearable. This is where I saw Jesus. When I was close to tears because of how bad the pain was I just kept thinking, “Please let this pain go away, I want to serve others and finish the work that I just started.” Right on cue one of the adults in our group stepped up and explained that he works as an ER doctor, and he helped me out with my hand. It was as if Jesus had heard me and my cries of pain. Even though I did small work around the worksite, I felt happy to be able to help everyone out, even if it was a little bit.
Today I went back to the building and helped paint some chairs and the ceiling. I discovered I am not a careful painter. I spilled blue paint on the ground and got white paint all over my arms and hands.
We went out to dinner at a spectacular restaurant high up on the mountain. Worth the long bus ride. I enjoyed delicious food and socialization with the people around me. Out the window you could see a beautiful view of twinkling lights from the city. A waiter at the restaurant told us, “Thank you for coming tonight, because without you I would be out of work.”
What can I say, it was an amazing day full of joy and fun with lots of great spirits around. My team was not playing around, we were focused on our job. We wanted to finish on what we started — we had a plan to progress faster and it turned out to be great. As our plan was working, we all made sure that we helped each other during the process so we’d be able to finish. This is also going to help the other team to finish its work the next day. While we worked we also started to translate and get things right. We also had fun dancing a little and having a great time. I was happy because we were able to manage our time and have fun. Also we all have each other’s back, especially when you almost get hurt or have paint all over you, we got help to clean up the mess we made. After a long day of work, it was time for everyone to take some time to look their best for the night. The dinner at Ram Luna was amazing and it had the most amazing view. Once we all got there, no one could believe how beautiful the city of San Jose, Costa Rica, looked. The dinner was amazing. After the dinner, we went outside and had a moment of prayer and our high and lows as well as taking pictures. I enjoyed the view a lot. I was happy I said thank you to Paul, because I have not seen a best view since my grandfather passed away three years ago and it brought a good memory. I saw God in the mountain. I also saw and felt that my grandfather was there with me. I felt great with a huge blessing. I will never forget this moment and I am happy that I am here.
From 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., my third day was similar to my second day. I once again went with the construction group. Though once we arrived at the church, I was struck at how different it already was compared to yesterday. There was a sidewalk this time, and the walls were much smoother. It was both gratifying and humbling to see this, gratifying because we all had made good progress, but humbling because there was so much more to be done. Everyone, especially the workers, still had great enthusiasm, and the presence of Christ could still be felt in the yet-to-be-church’s walls.
From then on, the day was almost exactly like yesterday, with the addition of delicious cupcakes that were made by the bishop’s daughter. Everyone in my group is getting more comfortable with each other, which makes the hard work easier to endure.
We all left the church at around 4:30 and returned to our home, but instead of eating dinner at the house, like before, we went out to a restaurant, which stood on top of a hill. This allowed everyone to get to know San Jose even better, which is always a delight. What was once a feeling of nervousness and homesickness has turned into sheer excitement and delight. And while I miss the folks back home(I’m incommunicado with no phone and no wi-fi) I find myself getting accustomed to my new surroundings and my new friends, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
People moaned and buried their heads deep under warm blankets as the morning wakeup call echoed through the hallway, as though a layer of cotton and woven fabric would transform sound waves impenetrable. “Rise and shine,” it seemed, would be challenging for most on day two of the Costa Rican mission adventure. Loss of sleep, an overabundance of excitement and the day’s prior hard work on two separate sites had combined to form groggy humans.
As Jeremy, source of the unwelcomed wakeup call, ushered everyone into the Diocesan House chapel for morning devotional, he appropriately assessed the need for standing singing to aid in opening eyes as well as minds, and so the day began with music and prayer. Eileen read from John, encouraging everyone to actively practice living like Jesus throughout the day, and reminded all to imagine looking in a mirror to see if the person reflected was truly the person Jesus wants them to be.
Soft conversations filled the air on the bus ride to the first work site, quieter than the day before. As people descended stairs off the cushy transportation through the Iglesia Acension gates, feet slowly shuffled. Backpacks were dropped and replaced by gloves, safety goggles and tools. Work began faster than the day before with everyone knowing expected tasks and procedures and joyful chatter was audible as hammers and chisels set to chipping tile. Upbeat music set the pace and partnerships formed for specific jobs where two or more people made the work more productive. Conversations with the site’s foreman and construction employees became lively and animated as new friendships formed.
There was evident transformation of a sense of accomplishment throughout the day. The vigorous sanding a mere 24 hours before had led to dry wall application. The strenuous mixing of rock, water and sand into concrete that was moved with countless wheelbarrow loads had become a sidewalk. Broken chunks of tile and dirt exposed rebar that could be cut away and discarded. Progress was visible through the hard work. And so was Jesus.
The two days of sweat and physical effort was rewarded that evening with a winding bus ride through the streets of San Jose to a mountaintop restaurant for delicious food and delighting conversation. Evening prayer was a circle of changed people, dressed in their best with shining faces and souls, around an outdoor fire overlooking the city’s twinkling lights. The day’s highs and lows were shared as heads nodded in agreement with others’ recounting that resonated within hearts. You could see how lives had been altered, how lives had been inspired, and it was only day three.
Today was quite an interesting day. Instead of going straight to work, we went to a school call Hogar De Escuela. This is where I saw Jesus. The Obispo began to explain how this place was made, and the people that contributed to it. Just by looking at his face I could see how proud he was, and he’s probably told this story a million times. The power of our Savior has given him the hope in people, and makes him believe that we can all achieve anything, as long as you have faith in what God has planned for you. This is also how I was impacted by the community. You should never say your dreams or hopes are impossible unless you have tried your absolute best at it, and even then, keep going, and never loose hope in what you truly love.
Today we went to the school and played with the children there. The bishop explained to us some of the accomplishments of the project and the things it does for mothers and their children. I was moved. It was a reminder that in this cruel world, there is some kindness. The children were happy, healthy, adorable, and energetic. All you have to do is touch one of their shoulders and say “Anda!” to begin a joy-filled, tiring game of tag.
After lunch, I went to the construction site and shoveled dirt into a filter to be refined for making concrete. I also chiseled away some of the pavement to level the ground.
This morning, taxi drivers went on strike, all of them lined up near the government building. Interesting and unfamiliar thing to see.
Today has been great. We had so much fun. With both teams going to the school, it was a time for everyone to realize that we are lucky to have such a great life. It was fun playing with the kids and to be able to talk to them and get to know them a little. I was happy to be there having fun and to be able to know why they built this school. As the hours went by, we all went to lunch and to a small church with Padre Osbaldo. His wife made this chicken sandwich that was amazing and also a passionfruit drink. After that, we went to our work sites and we were able to do more work and we were also able to talk to the workers. After a long day of work, we got to see the taxi strike that was going on since the morning. We also asked why they were doing it. They ask the government for the right for them to be able to work and they want the government to let them do their work. At night we got ready for dance class. It was amazing. We had fun and we all seemed to learn some dance moves. Overall, today was a crazy day and it felt good.
Wednesday, the mid-week point. We started the day in Chapel with our morning service, in which we discussed making an effort to be kind to all those we come in contact with, as this is sometimes difficult in the middle of the week. Leaving the house with that in mind, we had no idea that we were headed some place besides our normal work sites when we loaded the bus.
Loading the bus today was interesting, as the cab drivers are on strike. There is some sort of government building around the corner from us, and cab drivers lined the streets, blocking traffic, in a protest. They are demanding equal rights and privileges as the government-support red cab company (similar to our yellow cabs). The protest seemed peaceful, but one can imagine what it looks like to have cabs line the streets, making it difficult to pass.
Once loaded, we drove a different route, which was interesting to see different streets. To our surprise, we pulled up at a beautiful church school. We have learned that the Episcopal Diocesan here has a huge focus on women and children, which is so touching. The Bishop greeted us and called us into the open (air) chapel where he talked to us about the chapel. Tears literally filled my eyes when I heard that we would get to play with the children this morning! After a brief tour of the absolutely beautiful facility (in the heart of the barrio — very poor area), we were shown where the children were playing. The happiest children were running and playing on playground equipment, laughing, smiling. What a joy. In the midst of the poverty in which they live, they were being what we all want for children to be, happy.
I spent my entire morning with the babies, birth to 18-months old. There were 23 of them! The staff was very helpful and supportive of my assistance. Babies are kind of my thing! I comforted the criers to make them happy again. I followed their impeccable system of washing hands, feeding in high chairs, washing hands and face again, brushing teeth, changing into sleep clothes, changing diapers and finally laying down for naps. I was amazed at the system they had in place and how happy the workers (about 4 ladies) presented themselves!
Baby Tyler and Baby Santiago were two who I will not forget, as I could see the love and potential for great things in their eyes. Tyler, you see, was very sick with mucus (“mocos,” in espanol) and congestion. He was very irritable and cried a lot when we were first arriving. I spent a good 20 minutes holding and comforting him, after which, he fell asleep while holding my hair and leaving his “mocos” all over my shoulder. I was in love. Baby Santiago was the complete opposite, in terms of demeanor when we arrived. He had beautiful blue eyes with long eye-lashes and a smile to light up the room. Santiago was the definition of a “happy baby!”
Though both babies had very different personalities and were feeling very differently, Jesus was present in both of them. I could tell when we looked into each other’s eyes. There was so much depth and history inside the tiny infant bodies. It was like they were trying to tell me that yes, life is not that easy for them or their families, but they are happy. They plan to do all that they can to make the world a better place, despite any challenges that may lay in their path. To me, that sounds exactly like what Jesus thought and did. These babies are living proof that Jesus is in us and works though us.
The staff at the school must also be living through Jesus, as I’ve never seen such a great system and happiness in people who have so many children to take care of. They have been called to do God’s work, and for them, that means caring God’s little ones, which they do with all the love there is to offer.
Leaving the school was very tough for me. We said “goodbye” to the little smiling faces and loaded the buses. I, again, had tears in my eyes, as I hated to see them go. It was then lunch and afternoon work sites.
I will miss those little faces and will always remember them. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us to see you today in the faces of the smallest of your children.
My fourth day was drastically different than the previous ones. Instead of splitting into our respective groups, all of us went to an elementary school. The school was designed as a sort of safe haven for children who were either refugees or came from poor families. This instantly made an impression on all of us, and I saw Jesus today in a more definitive way than before. We all played with the children, who were cheerful, full of joy and laughter, and had a high stamina for tag. We had a chance to see a different side of San Jose today, and even though it’s a city that has it’s issues, the people never seem to give hope, which, to me, is what Christianity should be about.
Afterwards, we had lunch at a small church, were the painting group worked. This time, I went with the painting group. Though I never hit my finger with a hammer this time, I saw that painting was no easy task, but it was still all worth it to look around and see all the progress that we were making.
We then got ice cream afterwards, which as usual was delicious, though it was probably the most “American” thing that I’ve had here. And, due to a taxi-strike, we had to walk a bit back to the house. Walking through a city allows you to get a better sense of it, which I was grateful for in this case. Finally, the day concludes with dance lessons, which I desperately need. All in all, this could be my favorite day so far, and I wonder if tomorrow can beat it.
Day 5 was pretty exciting. Going to the church to paint was a blast. I connected with some of the people, and I heard their stories. I saw Jesus in the church I was in and at the construction site. After our lunch time, some ladies came in and talked about their program, and how they help women with HIV and AIDS, or who are LGBT. These women inspire others to not give up, even though it may seem too late for hope. These people help women and men struggling with a disease like that or in general being there in need for comfort. Jesus gave light to these people and these people pass it on to others that are in darkness.
When we were about to leave the worksite that we were in, Padre Orlando put a necklace on everyone who helped paint, and he told us he hand crafted the cross on the necklace. (He is a carpenter.) I saw Jesus at this moment because he sees our hard work and how much we have done in a week, and he gives a way to remember all that we’ve done. I was impacted by the community in this way as well because just seeing all the joy that there is here makes me want to spread it and keep serving others in the name of the Lord.
Today I went to the construction site again. I shoveled and sifted a large amount of dirt. I spent the rest of the time chiseling, which was quite frustrating, as I could only chip off small amounts of the concrete. I also hammered at fancy tile, which was enjoyable, because it shattered easily, and was, well, fancy tile that I got to destroy. I enjoyed singing some songs from Les Miserables with my fellow chiselers. Overall, an uneventful, relatively frustrating day…
Today was a great day. We had a great morning and a great afternoon. Wwe all went straight to work and had to do our jobs. Overall, I think I learned more about construction, and to be able to talk to some of the workers was amazing. I also had fun climbing up and down and painting and learning the techniques. I think I learned more today about what a job is and how we have more opportunities in life.
Today was more of a return to form. The group immediately split up after breakfast, and I went back to construction. Construction was still grueling, and it was more exhausting to me than painting, but I was more comfortable with it, if not for the fact that I had come to love the environment that the church had created. Many members of my group had started growing close with the workers, which was wonderful to see. Also, this is our second to last day of work, so we all made sure to appreciate the work we were doing today.
After an American-style lunch (cheeseburgers and Coke), a group came in to talk to all of us. This was a group that was devoted to raising money for AIDS treatment by selling beautiful pieces of clothing and other things, such as blankets and bibs. It’s like with every day comes another example of compassion and dedication that Costa Rica has to offer.
And the day finally ends with a soccer (or should I say football?) game between us and the bishop’s team. Seeing as how I haven’t played soccer in about 4 years, I can’t say that I’m all too optimistic about my chances, but I know that it’ll be a fun game. If it’s anything like dancing, then it’s going to be fun, exhausting, and just a little embarrassing.
With the trip coming to its inevitable ending, I both look forward to going home, and dread leaving such a beautiful city. But I should be thankful, as I grow to love Costa Rica more and more. But, the journey goes on, and so do we.
“Did you hear that loud noise at 4 a.m.? It sounded like gunfire!” Not all morning conversations begin with this question and answer, but for the guests of the Costa Rican Episcopal Diocesan House in San Jose, this is how Thursday began. Some recalled the jolting noise and others announced they’d slept right through it. The mysterious sound source was never confirmed, and by mid-day, the event had been forgotten as memories were replaced with new ones of hard work and closer church relationships.
Earlier in the week, Eileen had urged mission attendees to not only recognize bridges formed between macro divisions, such as the U.S. and Costa Rica, but also micro divisions, like the Cathedral families present here in Costa Rica that have attended service together, but never met. It’s a side effect of mission trips when the moments of Jesus and service are not only brought to other parts of the U.S. or the world, but they’re also brought to members within a church who probably didn’t know one another as well before the experience. For Christ Church Cathedral, families and individuals on this trip are making plans to stay in contact when all return to the states. They’re even taking it one step further and inviting one another to the service hour they attend. The micro divisions have been bridged and it’s a beautiful thing to witness these new creations.
Another beautiful sight to witness is the feeling of accomplishment everyone feels and expresses with the two work sites’ progress this week. Efforts increased exponentially today as the end of the trip nears. Comments of, “Is lunch soon? When is coffee break?” weren’t made. Instead, work became intense as the lunch hour loomed. Not all took their coffee break, or they weren’t quick to drop hammer and chisel for the deliciousness in a Styrofoam cup. They kept working, determined to see their tasks through, wanting to make more progress.
The day was punctuated with a mission member’s birthday and celebrated with song and two types of cake at lunch. The lunch break was a little longer made possible by a visit from an HIV/AIDS women’s co-op, who shared their outreach goals within Costa Rica and offered goods made by their members for purchase. Heading into the afternoon of work was somehow easier as excitement grew for a sporting event.
After dinner, everyone boarded the bus to travel to a nearby school for a game of indoor soccer with the bishop and his handpicked team of excellent players. Surprisingly, the mission team did not win, but no one seemed to mind. It almost seemed unnatural after a week of cooperative effort and extending niceties to others to participate in a competitive event and one could only smile as players hesitated to make goals or be aggressive.
The bus ride back to the Diocesan House was filled with jokes and laughter and a slight sense of sadness, knowing this week’s end was so close. Skills have been learned. Friendships have been formed. Lives have been changed from this week of new creation.
Today was probably the most where I saw Jesus. When we finished working, we all came together and the priest starting thanking us for all the hard work we’ve done this week. Jesus brought us here as a whole and we served him this whole week by renewing a church. Even though it was our last workday, we come back on Sunday to see the reactions of the little kids have when they see how bright and new the church is. The other place where I saw Jesus is when we went to the Eucharist. The Bishop’s sermon was very empowering, and just knowing that all these groups of people have come to serve the Lord is just amazing.
Today was our last day of work. I helped paint the interior of a church, and then cleaned up at the construction site after lunch. A non-productive workday, but that was to be expected. Later we will have Eucharist.
Today was amazing. We finished our sites for the day and we got to say thank you to many of the people that were helping us understand our job and helping us. Also, we had an amazing lunch, and we gave thanks for everything that happened that week. We also tried to finish as much as we could so that the workers could do less work. I personally saw God in many of our youth with many of the construction workers. It was a great chance to get to know many people of Costa Rica and have them as our friends. As the day went by, we all got ready for Eucharist and had dinner with the bishop and with special guests. As we got there, to our surprise, we met another group from North Carolina that was doing the same thing as us in Costa Rica in Estrada. We all had dinner and mingled with the North Carolina group and got to talk to them and got to know them. I had fun talking with two of the guys to learn who they were and what experience they were having here. And at the end of the dinner, we took Houston and North Carolina group pictures and many of us exchanged Instagrams. But I love that we got together with another group and got to know them and it will be amazing if we could collaborate with them in the future. It was a great way to end the night.
Friday. Today we finished up at our work sites! It was super rewarding to see the progress we made this week. The site where the construction had been taking place looks like so much has been done! There is now sidewalk where there used to be muck, and the missioners are very excited about seeing their individual projects come to life. At the painting site, the church looks like a new place! The ceilings, banisters/staircase, the children’s chairs, the table and some of the inside of the actual church, all painted! Won’t the children be excited to see their new place when they come back next week! We are having church service at the painting site church on Sunday, and we are excited to get to see the faces of the church members when they see all that has been done!
We also had a church service last night at the church where we played with the children, led by the bishop. Another church, from North Carolina, joined us at the service and for dinner. They had forty mission-goers, and joined together, we were told, it was the most missionaries Costa Rica has ever had! We enjoyed intermingling for dinner and getting to compare stories of our weeks, as they were in a different part of Costa Rica and had different experiences.
Overall, a lovely, rewarding day was had. We saw Jesus in our new friends from North Carolina, as well as the friends we have made here in Costa Rica (from CCC and from Costa Rica). Today seemed to be focused on “family” and the new family we have made here. We hope these relationships will last a lifetime!
Today was our last day of work in the churches. This gave the day a different atmosphere than the previous days. The relationships that were built in the past few days were more evident, as the workers seemed to be sad that we were going, and the relationship between them and us seemed stronger than ever. At the end of the day, we all took a group picture together, and we invited the workers to be in them, which seemed happy to do. While the work was some of the most difficult I’ve done in my life, I found myself missing the church already, as the bus drove away from the site.
We also cut work short to get ready for communion with the Bishop. The presence of God is sure to be felt strong today, and I’ve come to feel this here in San Jose as much, if not more, than anywhere in the States. This is something I’ll miss as much, and I hope to feel it again.
Today was what I like to call Fun Day. I saw Jesus in various places. When we went ziplining, I looked down and saw this amazing view of the waterfall, and I was speechless. Jesus gave me the chance to come to Costa Rica and serve others in the name of the Lord, also reminding me that there may be times of frustration, but in the end it will all be worth it because we helped others who were truly in need, and that is probably my impact. No matter how frustrated I get when I help others, in the end it’s worth it because I have helped others, and soon enough I will go back to Houston and spread the love and light I have been given in this trip.
Today we went into a dense forest to go ziplining and toured a coffee plantation. I had never experienced ziplining in the way I experienced it today. There was an immense amount of natural beauty and such lush plant life. I also ran into plants with my legs on speedy, thrilling rides on the zipline.
The tour was hilarious, for the two guides were cousins, one was idiotic, the other fierce and hilarious. (They were acting.) After the highly entertaining tour, we tried various coffees. (They’re supposed to have different flavors, but when you’re sampling all of them black, they’re all bitter, evil concoctions.)
No words to describe today. It was an awesome day today and I had so much fun today I can even tell what happened. Our morning started with getting ready to zipline. I was not happy to do this because I am so scared of doing it. As I got on top, I was so scared, but in my mind I was like, “God is going to be with me and I am going to fine.” I was so happy to have the chance to zipline. I also was really happy to go to the coffee plantation and to be able to learn about coffee. It was amazing. At the end of today, I was thinking that I was happy to be part of the Costa Rica mission and to be able to meet new people and have the opportunity to meet God and be happy to give to others. I hope with all my heart that I will be able to come next year and do more things for Costa Rica and be able to see the friends I made here in this trip. Overall this has been one of the greatest trips in my life.
Well, today was our last full day in Costa Rica. This made today both the best and worst day of the trip. I’m sad that I’ll be leaving this wonderful community, this beautiful environment filled with dedicated people, a thriving and joyous culture, and sights that would make even the most cynical person believe that there is beauty in the world, if you look in the right places.
But this made the day more special in a way, as everyone invested all they had in today. Our group did two things today. First, we went ziplining in this stunning forest. The guides told us that there were three “slow lines” and five “fast lines.” I could appreciate the natural beauty of the forest, which had a stunning waterfall, more on the slow lines, but I got a huge adrenaline pump from the fast lines.
After that, we went to a tour of a popular coffee factory, “Café Britt.” This is where most of Costa Rica’s famous coffee comes from. Our tour guides were charming and hilarious as they played characters with a sort of Laurel and Hardy dynamic, in effort to make all the monotonous coffee-making more enjoyable, and boy did it work.
After this, we scoped out the gift shop, where I got some coffee for home. We then went back to our home, where we spent our final night conversing with one another, and playing games. In this last night, you can see how much we’ve all bonded. Everyone is comfortable with each other, and I hope that these friendships that we’ve made survive after this trip is over.
I look forward to coming home and seeing my friends and family, but I’ll certainly remember this trip. It’s given me a better view of the world, as I’ve seen both suffering and joy, how cultures differ, and how they’re the same. No, I won’t forget about this trip, and I’m sure this won’t be the last I see of Costa Rica. I’ll make sure of that.