The month of August has been filled with adventure and excitement it has been wonderful to be part of God’s work in Costa Rica. Time after time God shows me why He keeps bringing me back to the Bribri reservation. I truly feel like I have a family among the indigenous people of Costa Rica, from the community in Watsi at the entrance of the reservation all the way to Alto Coen, one of the remote villages in the Talamaca mountain range.
The week of the 5th - 13th I was in Coroma, Talamanca. Experience Mission has been working in this community for the last few years partnering with the community to build a high school. Currently there are about fifty-five students attending the Coroma High School. A couple of years ago when the high school was started there was only twelve students and there was only a couple of standing building, currently there are four functioning classrooms, and one kitchen with a small dining room.
Our project this week was to help continue building a two-story classroom at the local high school. The First level will be used as a classroom, the second level will be used for dormitories since the three teachers that are currently teaching have to walk about an hour and a half to teach in Coroma everyday.
There was a couple of highlights of this trip, one of the main highlights of this mission trip was that the local church in Coroma received 2 proclaimers. The Proclaimer is a digital player dedicated to playing God’s Word in the local language which in this case is the Bribri language.
Here’s the way it works:
This device is perfect for the Talamanca area since there is no electricity in the coroma area. This will be a great tool to share the gospel in the reservation. I felt so excited and privileged to be part of this project to take this playback device to people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word.
August 31, 2010
This week has been filled with wonderful moments that show how great our God really is. It has been awesome to see Him work through the teams and the people in the Shiroles community. One of the areas in which His hand was evident was at the painting and building of an addition to a home for a family.
The team that worked here was able to receive instruction from Victor, the father/husband in the household. At the beginning of the week, he was very shy and reserved. By the end of the week, however, he and the team had inside jokes and communicated often, whether it be through the English they had taught him, their Spanish, or some hand signals that they had developed as a new language between them all. It was great to see by the end of the week that they were all laughing together and enjoying each other’s company.
To thank the teams for the work they did this week, Sara (Victor‘s wife) wanted to bake a cake for everyone. During our Friday evening program with the team, their whole family stopped by with a piece of (delicious) cake for each one of us! They expressed their gratitude towards everyone and it was rewarding to see how they had all opened up to and were going to miss one another. The family joined us for a time of worship and we all enjoyed being able to share that time with each other and with a God who spans any and all cultural boundaries. How great is our God!
Team Costa Rica
June 25, 2010
Experience Mission is offering summer 2011 mission trips to Costa Rica. Learn more at www.experiencemission.org or by calling the EM Office at (360) 554-8060.
Well, it’s been another week here in Costa Rica and God has shown His face more and more every day. We had an awesome group of people this last week and they had a huge impact on the community of Shiroles where we were working. There have been so many great stories and changed lives.
One of the many projects from this last week was one at the school of Shiroles. Among all the other projects done there, one group made a ramp up the main stairway. We found out that there is a child at the school who is blind. In the past, he has literally had to climb up the steps by feeling them with his hands. We have been learning that we have a lot to be thankful for. Whether it be something as small as ice water on a hot day, or something as big as our sight, there are plenty of things, all over the place, that we should be giving God the glory for.
Once we informed the team about what they would be doing, and the reasoning for it, they couldn’t wait to get started. Mixing cement down here is a very difficult task in and of itself, but there were no complaints, even during the hottest time of day. They quickly split up the team into mixers and spreaders and made sure to drink plenty of water.
The Lord provided so much during this trip in both, the teams that were working, and the kids that were passing on their way to their next classes. It was so much fun getting to watch the hard work of these teams. But even more than that, seeing the lasting impact that the teams have had on this community can only be explained by the incredible love of God.
For His Glory,
Team Costa Rica
June 25, 2010
Note: Experience Mission has been working in the Bribri reservation for several years. To check out more exciting trips Experience Mission has to offer, visit our website at www.experiencemission.org
This week we got to work alongside team leader Kelly and five other teenagers from Jupiter First Church doing VBS this week. Throughout the week we had lessons, crafts, games, and snacks for kids who were anywhere from 2-14 years old.
At the end of the week, Kelly decided to have a fun day where we had a small lesson about God’s holy water, played with water balloons, and took a trip to a nearby river. When the kids arrived on Friday, they were anxious for the afternoon to come because they knew they’d be playing with water. With the help of some visual aides in the form of puppets, the kids were able to focus a little better.
If the kids were able to answer a question correctly, they would be allowed to pop a water balloon over any member of the team. In short, they were very excited and the team ended up soaking wet by the end.
Once we ran out of water balloons we all went to the river to meet up with the other teams who had been doing construction projects for the week. It was amazing being with everyone in the river and seeing God’s love through the kids’ actions and expressions while speaking or playing with Jupiter’s youth group.
Of course the saddest part was saying goodbye to the kids, but I know that they will always remember us because I believe that a seed was planted in their hearts and it will continue growing throughout their years. The love that the Jupiter youth group showed to this kids will never be forgotten because it was all for God’s glory.
Team Costa Rica
June 11, 2010
*To learn more about what Experience Mission in Talamanca, Costa Rica, visit our website at www.experiencemission.org.
It’s nothing unusual to participate in a service project that benefits the community while on a short-term mission trip—in fact, that’s what one would hope for.
But Experience Mission is taking that model a step further. While partner community needs have always been taken heavily into consideration, EM has started an increased effort to let local community leaders determine the specific projects they need and see what can be done to support those needs, even if they fall outside the scope of a traditional short-term mission trip.
For example, in Jamaica this past summer, residents said they needed help building two new kindergartens. In Costa Rica the year before, residents of the village of Coroma said they needed a suspension bridge.
The idea, EM Executive Director Chris Clum said, is to make a more practical impact in residents’ lives and to inspire them toward a greater sense of ownership regarding community improvement efforts.
Clum said one concern has been making sure that such centralized projects do not take away from one-on-one time with community members—time that is practically guaranteed if home repair and construction comprises the majority of the work. But as it has turned out thus far, the inclusion of larger community projects has allowed for plenty of personal interaction.
“We’re actually engaging the community more, because we’re impacting more people’s lives,” Clum said.
Clum mentioned the schools built in Jamaica.
There, in the small rural town of Catadupa and nearby villages, Pastor Leroy Gordon of the Christian Fellowship Church and community members have maximized minimal government funding and led an effort to run community-based kindergartens for children between three and six years old. The classes of between 20 and 30 children are held in small churches without indoor plumbing; the children use pit toilets outside. The facilities were extremely basic, but they got by.
But newly imposed government regulations forced them out of those facilities and—if they wanted to continue holding kindergarten classes—required them to construct new buildings. The community of Catadupa, he said, would have to provide the government with blueprints designed by an architect. The process cost money the community didn’t have.
“What we have to do is hire people–skilled men–you are dealing now with a proper building,” Gordon said.
At that point, a grant from Canada-based S.O.S. became crucial, as did EM’s large volunteer teams. Gordon said the combination of the donation and enough manpower made it possible to make significant progress on the buildings, and this helped rally the community together.
“There was a tremendous sense of ownership in Jamaica,” Clum said. “This was their project, and we were just coming to help them with their project. The workers there were going to continue on.”
There was similar participation in Coroma, Costa Rica, the year before. The suspension bridge volunteers built would allow children to get the school and the elderly to seek medical care in those cases when the river there rose. Knowing this, community members took time off work to volunteer and took turns cooking for the volunteer teams.
Selecting projects like these does not, Clum said, mean that mission trips won’t involve plenty of spiritual outreach.
“The spiritual needs aren’t going to be met unless we’re connecting and engaging with people. So whatever we’re doing during the week, we have to involve interacting with people,” Clum said. He said if work projects don’t lend themselves to a great deal of interaction, a trip might incorporate outreach programs such as community barbeques, additional Kids Club activities or supporting Meals on Wheels programs in urban communities.
Clum said allowing the community to determine what the work projects will be is an important component of EM’s burgeoning Community Affiliate Program, in which community leaders are identified to work with residents toward year-round change, as opposed to solely relying on outside involvement during the summer months.
“The ownership rests in the community. Our role at EM is to help them connect to opportunities, resources and networks,” Clum said. “If one component is that they want teams to come down, then that’s great, but it’s part of their thing. And if it is one of those components—and we assume that it will be—then we bring the labor and the materials down there, and we go down to help them. It’s exactly flipped around, and exactly as it should be.”
Experience Mission is offering Summer 2009 mission trips to locations in the U.S. and abroad. Visit www.experiencemission.org or call 360-732-0986 to learn more.
It has been interesting to see in person how big and mighty of a God we serve. Teams experienced this first hand last week as the Lord continues to provide just what we need at just the right time. One of our new work sites sits in an area called Bambu. While the work there is similar to other work projects, the biggest challenge comes in getting the teams there and back, as only cars and one public bus are able to travel the rocky distance.
The mission teams must also take a short boat ride across the river in order to finally get to their location. On Wednesday afternoon, due to heavy rains, the public bus (which was the team’s way of getting to their site) was unable to make the return trip to BriBri. Our team found themselves stranded in the middle of the jungle, in a country where they didn’t speak the language and had no way of contacting us via telephone.
They were forced to fully rely on God to provide a way for their safe return. Putting their faith in God and in their Costa Rican maestro, Tachi, the group was amazed at their adventurous return back. Through a series of various forms of transportation, the help of the community, and the power of God, the team arrived safely in time for dinner.
God had not only provided transportation but had also provided a way for the BriBri people to be part of an answer to prayer. Not only did the team experience how precisely God places people at the right place at the right time, but they also got to be blessed by the community. They left this mission trip with a greater faith and trust in God to know and meet our needs no matter where we are.
Seeing God’s Provision,
Upcoming adult mission trips are available on our website at www.ExperienceMission.org.
This last week in Costa Rica, we had two different teams come down. While Chris and Thatia remained in the BriBri/Cahuita area with a wonderful team from Long Island, I had the privilege of climbing up “Tiger Mountain” with a group of six amazing people. We were a combination of Texas, New Jersey, Washington, and Illinois that was mosaically placed together. Words don’t seem to be able to express the memories and experiences we had this past week.
The journey as a team began with a three-hour hike Sunday morning. Muddy, tired, wet, and yet full of excitement for the coming week, we arrived at Leopoldo and Carlos’ house. They opened up their home to us with a love for Christ that overflowed into their love for us. Days were spent constructing a 36 square meter post house at the top of a mountain. Nights were spent in a time of fellowship with the father-son duo as we shared praise songs in both English and Spanish, and simply enjoyed loving each other. There is so much that I would love to share and am still working to process from the week but what I most want to share with you all is an example of love that I witnessed throughout the week.
There is a song by the band Wedding that says, “if you love me then just love me, don’t you give me pretty words, lay your life down at the altar, let me see how serious you are.” This song has been a challenge to me throughout this summer, and I have seen many examples of it being displayed throughout Costa Rica however the most distinct display appeared this week. So many times, Christians make following Christ difficult or “foo-foo” so to say. It becomes more of a show than a love relationship. This week, we had the pleasure of simply loving God.
Leaving behind all comforts and climbing into the unknown, for at least one week we were unable to “put on a show” and simply love God. Carlos and Leopoldo demonstrated such a love for Christ that was so simple and yet so genuine. No pretty words, no “foo-foo” just simple love for spending time with Christ. A love for Christ that is so real that it’s contagious to everyone around. I hope that I live my life with such a contagious faith that God’s love for me and my love for God overflows into the lives of others. May God be given all the glory.
Desiring Contagious Faith,
Well, we made it all the way to Puerto Viejo on Sunday. I landed around noon and we were able to catch the 2:00 bus. We got here fine, but then of course being a Sunday, every room in town was completely booked, so we had to stay at Rocking J’s (the hammock hotel). Evidently the rainy season got here a couple weeks ago, so I’m not sure what this is going to mean for the construction project, but we’ll be heading up to the river in about an hour and we’ll know more then. The material transportation is supposed to begin today. I don’t have any photos now, nor do I have much to tell, but I’ll know more when we get to Suretka, and I will get back to you all as soon as I can. Perhaps tonight, perhaps tomorrow, but no later than Friday. Adios!
The cancellation of a major bridge-building project in Costa Rica seemed at first devastating, but quickly proved fortuitous for a team of EM volunteers who discovered an even more pressing need for a bridge at another site in the jungle-covered mountains of the Bribri indigenous reservation.
The new bridge site is in the village of Alto Cuen, an isolated community of about 130 people. Getting to the village requires an hour-long trip in a riverboat, an hour-long trip in a banana truck, and a grueling, five-hour hike through the jungle that includes several river crossings.
“They are totally isolated,” said Benjamin Briton-Mora, Emergency Commission Coordinator for the area’s indigenous reservations. “There is no communication.”
The Cuen River is the main obstacle residents face in getting to civilization - it is that river they hope to span with the new bridge. Briton-Mora said that during the eight-month rainy season there, it is utterly impassable.
If there is a medical emergency, the only way to get the sick or injured down to safety is to haul them down the steep, jungle-covered hillside in a hammock, a perilous enough prospect even setting aside the need to cross the Cuen, which is chest deep at its most shallow point during the year. Briton-Mora said the dangerous hammock extractions have lead to several deaths, including a woman in labor and her unborn child.
Desperate for a bridge, Alto Cuen residents have worked almost non-stop since December to dig holes big enough to house the massive amount of concrete necessary to anchor one. While the U.S. Embassy has already donated nearly all of the materials necessary - including more than 300 sacks of concrete, each weighing 110 pounds - the community hasn’t had the funds necessary to contract a helicopter to get the supplies to the site, nor have they had the technical expertise on hand to build the bridge, Briton-Mora said. He said carrying the supplies in by hand would be impossible.
The region’s rainy season is just weeks away. If it comes before the concrete is poured, Briton-Mora said untold amounts of effort could be for naught as water fills the holes and turns their walls into unstable muck.
Change in plans a blessing
EM staff members may never have learned of the need there had it not been for the cancellation of a 163-meter suspension bridge project - one 15 students from Indiana Wesleyan University were to begin work on as part of a cross-cultural leadership training course last month.
Upon arriving a few days ahead of the students, staff members learned from a local government representative that the government organization Japdeva (whose initials in Spanish stand for “The Board of Port Administration and Economic Development of the Atlantic Slope”) had offered to fund construction of the bridge in Soke just after an EM setup trip to the site in December 2007.
“He said that, and it’s like, ‘Oh, OK,’” said John Barry, a volunteer contractor who oversaw the construction of a 53-meter suspension bridge in a Bribri village last summer. “We had to erase that whole plan in our minds. You just kind of hit the erase button.”
The Soke bridge had been frequently mentioned as a pressing community need - a 9-year-old girl was killed last year crossing the makeshift bridge there now - and EM staff members had hoped building it would provide inroads toward more solid, lasting relationships with Bribri community leaders.
As it turned out, there was no shortage of similar opportunities.
Bribri leaders asked the team to build a cement bridge over a washed out portion of the road to allow ambulances and banana trucks to pass. Residents, tired of the lack of vehicle access - and of soaking themselves every time they had to cross the washout - turned out in droves to help the team, volunteers said. At one point, Barry said, local contractors temporarily redirected a backhoe to help the team.
Additionally, students traveled to the village of Coroma, where a suspension bridge EM built last summer has led to the planning of a larger high school - something volunteer teams will work on this summer.
While the majority of the group worked on the automobile bridge and in Coroma, a small team of volunteers and EM staff members, including Executive Director Chris Clum, made the long trek to Alto Cuen, led by Bribri guides. They were the first Americans seen there since 2004, when residents said they saw two backpackers hike past the village.
After spending several hours in awkward silence - many of the residents there do not even speak Spanish, only Bribri - the team was able to break the ice and begin discussing the project with residents there.
Clum said the entire party was sympathetic to the urgent need for help there.
“You find yourself in an opportunity where someone is looking and praying for someone to help, and you happen to wander in and you’re the people who can meet that need,” he said.
Clum said he hoped that funds raised specifically for the Soke bridge could instead be used to fund the Alto Cuen bridge.
“They’re pretty stressed, and I can understand. They worked a third of a year to dig these holes, and there’s nothing more they can do,” Clum said. “I almost feel like we have to help them. The fact that we end up there and we’re they’re only hope - it seems kind of crazy. Why wouldn’t we?”
IWU leadership professor Dr. Bill Millard, who led the students to Costa Rica, experienced firsthand how dangerous the river can be when, crossing on an alternate route, he was swept away and pinned under a rock. Millard said he was nearly killed and would have taken his last breath underwater were it not for thoughts of his family.
“I thought it was over. To me, the only thing that saved me was God giving me energy,” Millard said. “This isn’t just a joke about these bridges being built. These are life-threatening situations.”
Barry plans to return to Alto Cuen in the coming weeks to spearhead the project there. He said he was struck by the resilience of village residents, who dug the 10-foot deep, 10-foot wide holes without a guaranteed method of getting concrete there.
“Suddenly right then I realized, holy cow, I have no faith at all compared to these guys who have put forth all this time and effort,” he said. “It’s nothing short of a miracle we were able to get up there and see it and be made aware of the situation.”
The most critical thing at this stage, he said, is getting the 10,000-pound concrete bases poured, as well as the pillars to support cables for the 110-meter span.
Barry said if they didn’t get it done, the setback would be devastating.
“Who knows if they’ll ever be able to get that much done again?”
For information on how to support construction of the bridge in Alto Cuen, contact Experience Mission at (360) 554-8060 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.