Romans 11:36

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen."

Apr 30, 2010

Goodbye Meto

My last two days at the Colegio Metodista involved goodbyes to my high school Bible Study group and my primary school basketball team.

The Bible Study group had humble beginnings last year, with regular attendance of about 4-6 students, but now we're up to anywhere from 10-15 students per week. We've been studying the book of John all year, and it's been great.

For my last Bible Study I brought the kids some cake, and then they brought me cookies and balloons and confetti and a whole lot of noise. It was a super fun afternoon, and the kids were very loving. In the picture above, they were doing some crazy thing where they jump all over the person of honor, right after taking some normal pictures with said person. There were even five students who stuck around after all the others left in order to affirm me and pray for me before I left. It was very moving.

The following day I said goodbye to my basketball team, and it was rather sad. I've spent the past year and a half helping to coach both the primary school boys and girls, and I will definitely miss them. Unfortunately, most of the boys were at a tournament for my last practice, but I still had the joy of saying goodbye to the girls--mostly third and fourth graders.

The girls have had a year of learning, as the majority of them had never played basketball before February. Just last month they had their first 2 games ever, and they played 2 great halves (we won't talk about the second half of either game, though).

As I left practice that day, many of the girls started crying and hugging me and they wouldn't let me leave the court. One of them even wrote me a goodbye note. They're some great ladies.

Goodbye Llano Grande

I received a huge blessing when I attended my last youth group in Llano Grande. I showed up expecting to be a quiet member of the group that evening, because it had been quite some time since I had last showed my face in that youth group. I was, however, pleasantly surprised from the moment I arrived. It turned out that the entire night was devoted to me, celebrating my departure (probably because they couldn't wait to get rid of me) with a collection of random games, dancing and fun.

It all started with balloons that were used in an intense game of hot potato. As each person lost, they were forced to pop the balloon and read a small piece of paper that had been stuck inside the balloon. That piece of paper would either include a Bible verse for them to read to me, or a suggestion of how they could bless me, or a mischievous task for the person to do with me (such as dance with me).

The game of hot potato then turned into a game of musical chairs, with the loser being forced to pop the balloon (the only problem with that game was that I was often the loser . . . my ability to push people around was lost in the fact that I was trying to be a gracious guest).

After that they sat me down to watch a video that Marco (previously mentioned in my Checkmate blog post) had made for me--a montage of music and photos from my years in Costa Rica. It is an awesome video. Then they pulled me into a circle and had the pastor and his wife, Gerardo and Rosa, say some words of affirmation and pray for me. The youth followed the prayer by going in a circle and blessing me with their words, tears and hugs. I was crying by the end. And of course, as do all great Costa Rican celebrations, the night ended with a big meal.

I definitely didn't deserve such an amazing evening in my honor. More than speak to my impact on the Llano Grande church, that evening spoke to the love of the Llano Grande church. They truly are Christ's body in action, and they made me feel more loved than I could have ever imagined. I will really miss them. May God bless them all.

Up, up, up

When I first got to Costa Rica in June 2008, Ray promised me that he would take me to Honorio's village. I wrote about Honorio in one of my earlier posts because he's the only indigenous pastor who's ever graduated from the Methodist Seminary, and he had to walk 7 hours and bus for 2 every time that he came down to the Seminary.

So finally, in April 2010, Ray took me to Honorio's village. And it was awesome.

We drove the car about 4 hours east/southeast of San Jose and then we started hiking. The hike up took us 6 hours, and it truly was a hike UP. It just never seemed to stop going up. Especially for those first 3 hours, when I was dying . . .

But I tell you what, it was totally worth it. Once we arrived at Honorio's house, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery you can ask for in Costa Rica. We had literally traversed mountains through a valley, overlooking a rushing river (the Pacuare) down below. And when we finally arrived, we saw pigs, horses, chickens and roosters walking all around a gorgeously landscaped piece of property that was home to a small wooden church and an ever-expanding wooden house. Honorio's 5 children, his wife and his mother, and his nephews and nieces were bringing life to the land. It was brilliant.

That night we attended a church service led by Honorio, lit purely by the light of 8 burning candles placed along the walls of the church. They had 3 guitars, mostly out of tune, but they sang for more than an hour, playing music to God with nothing holding them back. Then one of the men from the community shared his testimony and Honorio gave a message. While the majority of the service was in Cabecar, the native language of the Cabecar tribe, Honorio would bless Ray and me every now and then with some Spanish translation, a language that Honorio practically taught himself.

There's so much to tell about that evening and the entire adventure, but I just can't put it all into words (nor do I have the stamina to write about all of it and do it justice). But I'll just say that the way down was another 6 hours of hiking--in the rain--and so we had walked for 12 hours in order to spend about 13 hours at Honorio's village. And it was, without a doubt, worth every minute.


Over the course of my nearly two years in Costa Rica, I have become good friends with another pastor's kid, Marco (pictured above). Marco is 17 years old and has muscular dystrophy, but he has a spirit that cannot be quenched. His passion and fire for the Lord are simply unmatched, and it's an incredible joy to see him sing praise and worship music at the church.

I would often visit Marco's house to hang out with him and his family, and we'd always talk trash about Costa Rican and American soccer. Finally, I decided we needed to talk trash about something different, so I challenged him to a game of chess.

Now let me say that I learned to play the game of chess when I was a child. However, my dad only taught me how to move the pieces, not how to win. So, needless to say, I've never been very good.

Marco, on the other hand, had never played chess in his life, and I had to teach him how to play. The kid is an absolute genius, so it didn't take him long to get a hang of the game--and to become a better player than I am. Once we started playing for real, I had to do everything I could to not lose. He's just good. After 5 games, he beat me twice . . . and you should have seen how quickly he beat me in game 3.

Playing chess with Marco will always be one of my favorite memories from Costa Rica.