Monday, January 5, 2009

Costa Rica

In the last two segments (The Breakers and Visa Trip), I’ve written about stress – the stress of not knowing what in the world we are doing a lot of the time as we learn to live down here in Central America. I’ve written about stress because this has been a particularly stressful time in our lives. I think that it is common for where we are at in our lives – as new missionaries. Other missionaries told us that we would encounter very stressful times as we learned to live in the new reality of life outside of the United States and away from much that is familiar. So while it is not unexpected, it is kind of our first really rough spot since we left the US three months ago. We know that rough spots exist in every country, and in every walk of life. So, in writing about it, it is not my desire to elevate our rough spot above yours (dear reader), because we are “missionaries” but simply to tell about it in sufficient enough details so that I can get to the good part – the part where we learn to trust God more and where (hopefully) we learn to worry less.
My last point before I get on with the story: just because I’ve been writing about a particularly stressful time in our lives, this doesn’t mean that all has been bad. Quite the contrary – in the midst of the stress and worry – there have been beautiful days and a beautiful Christmas season. We went swimming in the Caribbean on Christmas day for heaven’s sake – so please don’t “worry about us” we are doing well – just learning how to live in a new environment that at times can be very difficult indeed.
We found ourselves in a difficult position: Having to leave Honduras for at least 72 hours to renew our visa. This is not possible to do in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Nicaragua. Previous plans to go to Belize seemed imprudent right now as we couldn’t be sure that the route was safe and we didn’t feel comfortable enough yet with our language skills to be able to ask the right questions and get a good sense of the answers to questions like “is it safe”. Remember that no one in all of Central America answers a question directly (perhaps a slight exaggeration) – one must learn to listen to the answer in the answer here.
So, at the urging of our dear friend, Iain McKenzie from Scotland, we began to look at flight options to Panama and Costa Rica. Several missionary families in our group had spent a year in San Jose Costa Rica for language school and knew the area well and assured us that a good and safe trip was possible there. I had always wanted to see the Panama Canal, so we looked into Panama as well. We found very inexpensive tickets ($160.00 each round trip) to San Jose, so we purchased the tickets and the hunt was on to see if our friends could find us a place to stay in San Jose for three days muy pronto.
God worked in so many ways to deliver us from our uncertain situation and to show us His mercy and grace during this time – it is hard to keep it all straight. First, there were our friends Nelson and Margo, who spent a year in San Jose for language school and who sprung into action on our behalf and began emailing friends and contacts in Costa Rica to help find us a place to stay. They contacted a man in San Jose named Fernando who seems to have a ministry helping to arrange travel connections and lodging for missionaries in San Jose. Before we knew it, Fernando had written back, asking if we would like stay with a family in San Jose that “takes care of missionaries” and that would provide us lodging and meals. We were hugely thankful to have received such and offer and immediately said yes and thank you. We emailed off our flight info this person in Costa Rica named Fernando and began to pack. On Sunday we drove to San Pedro Sula for an overnight stay and got ready for an early flight on Monday (12/29). We had a nice (short) flight on the newest aircraft that we had ever flow in before to Costa Rica. Very windy conditions made the landing one of the most exciting ones we’d ever had – landing in an “S” patterns down the runway. We cleared customs and walked out of the airport. If you’ve never experienced this in this part of the world, let’s just say that you know what cattle feel like at the auction. Each person is inspected with regard to how much money they might possess (gringos are “grade a” in this respect). It feels completely overwhelming the first time you experience it. It doesn’t take long to get over the intimidation – but it is interesting. But, in our case, there was a young man standing there holding a placard with Familia Fields de Honduras on it, just like we were royalty or super rich or something. The nice young man, named Oscar, ushered us outside where a taxi / minivan was waiting and in five minutes we were on the road and on our way to…….well we had no idea where. Lots of thoughts go through your head – like what if these nice people are taking us to a warehouse somewhere to beat us up and take our money. I have definitely watched way too many movies. After a 20-30 minute taxi ride and some very pleasant conversation – all in Spanish – Oscar took us into a nice neighborhood and said “this is my house, David….and your house.” We’ve probably all heard the “mi case es tu casa” saying in Spanish – but we were about to experience it firsthand. Oscar’s father and mother greeted us at the door as if we were their long lost relatives that had finally come home. In the traditional Spanish fashion, they lingered over both Benny and Mariah explaining how beautiful they were and kissing them and caressing their hair as if they were indeed a prince and a princess. They began to show us their house and tell us that we were honored guests and that they were so excited to have us stay with them. I can’t even explain to you what it was like to have these people treat us like our visit was the best thing that had ever happened to them. I can tell you that we love to extend hospitality to others, but we were absolutely blown away by the warmth of Oscar (Sr.) and Sonia. As they continued to show us around the house and tell us that they were delighted to cook every meal for us and that if we needed anything that we were simply to tell them what it was and that they would take care of it. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I just broke down crying and hugged Oscar Sr like he was my dad and thanked him with my tears. All of the apprehension about what was the best thing to do on our visa trip just disappeared. We were right where God wanted us to be.
Oscar Sr. and Sonia have hosted over 200 missionaries in the last 20 years. Wow. After and early lunch, they hurried us off to our rooms to rest – complaining loudly whenever I tried to help with the dishes. Later in the afternoon, Oscar took us to the grocery store (a huge super mega grocery owned by none other than – you guessed it – Walmart) taking Benny down the cookie isle pointing at every cookie and asking him which was his favorite and then buying it for him. The home that we are staying in has this cool inner court-yard with plants and partial open ceiling that opens up to a beautiful blue sky. It is secluded, simple, and perfect. Across the courtyard, we have our own rooms (2 of them) each with a private bath and a laundry area with a small fridge. There were two big rocking chairs in the courtyard and toys for Benny to play with. What a wonderful provision God had in store for us! It was better than anything that I could have tried to prepare for us. The second day, after a relaxing morning, Papi (Oscar Sr. as now become Papi and Sonia is now Mami) took us shopping in a souvenir district called Moravia, with tons of little souvenir shop – very reasonably priced and lots of fun.

The third day (New Year’s Eve) – we went on a driving tour to the South and East of San Jose, to a town called Cartago where we saw a Catholic church that dated back to the Spanish colonial presence in the 1600’s. The people still today crawl down the long center aisle on their knees to the altar at the front to pray. We continued south from there to ?? where we saw incredible mountain valley vistas with coffee plantations dotting the hillsides. Wow. The beauty of Costa Rica is something that we just won’t ever forget. The trip concluded with tearful goodbyes to a family that in four short days has welcomed us into their family and in a way that only God can do, we had become one family. It is one of the most beautiful things that happens to us as missionaries and it is such an incredible blessings.
One other thing; Marinajo and I were blessed to be able to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary during this trip to Costa Rica. Words fail me to describe the incredible blessing that she is. I’ve learned some new language to express my love for her in Spanish (after all it is a “romantic language”). I’m so happy and thankful to have been able to celebrate our anniversary in Costa Rica together with mi amour.
So in two short weeks we went from the “breakers” to this place of beauty and peace. I know that the breakers await me once again as we return to life in Honduras. I thank God for giving us this respite and for giving us an opportunity to see that His hand covers us as we prepare to get back to work in Language school and ministry.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Hey,

Isn't it sad that it takes us so long to learn how incredible His ways are? I'm learning more and more and I just want to let go and let Him work in every area.