Spring break, 2010, was selected as the "go date" since I was out of school on break and the others were able to use some vacation time. Steve flew on American Airlines, using a travel voucher from last year's trip that had to be used before April 2010, out of Nashville. Ben, Jill, and Brian flew on Mexicana Airlines out of Washington, DC. Margaret, Minor, and I flew Spirit Airlines out of Atlanta. We landed first, around 11:30 am. Steve followed at 12:30 pm. The rest landed at 3:30 pm. San Jose's airport is very large, modern, with a quick and efficient customs agency. We were off the plane, through customs, and had our luggage within 30 minutes of landing! A quick stop at the rental car agencies allowed us to work the agents and get a good deal renting a 15 passenger, 5 speed, diesel van. We were off to the races by 5:30 pm (after a stop at Minor's grandmother's house to drop off some goodies he brought her and to pick up a cell phone).
By 6:00 were driving through Cartago, a large city at the base of Cerro de la Muerte. It was already getting dark and was drizzling rain. Perfect weather to drive over the mountain of death! We were all exhausted from our flights and Ben, Margaret, and Steve were battling congestion problems. As we took on the very large mountain (well over 11,000 ft) the 3 had major problems because their ears would not adjust to the changing altitudes. Steve had the worst of it and we eventually had to stop for a dinner break, both because we were hungry and to allow the 3 travelers a chance to try to get their ear drums adjusted. The trip was a slow go due to fog, rain, and very, very slow trucks trying to creep their way up the narrow 2 lane road. After some delicious fried chicken we finished the journey and found our way to Buenos Aires around 9:30 pm.
We met Daniel, the local preacher in Buenos Aires, at a Bus / truck stop. he guided us the final couple of miles to our hotel. The small, simple hotel was a welcome sight to 7 very weary visitors. It took very little time to unload the van and check into our rooms. Minor, Steve, Brian, and I took time to visit with Daniel to go over plans for Saturday before hitting the hay. We visited for about 45 minutes in the outdoor dinning area of the hotel discussing different ideas of what we wanted to see on Saturday. And, just like Honduras, the vast majority of the plans we made were out the window before we ever left the driveway on Saturday! Oh yeah, this place will be perfect for what we do!!!
The hotel was small, only 25 rooms total. Very basic, and certainly not fancy, it seems to be a perfect place to house a mission team. It is quiet, clean, and does have hot water showers and AC. The beds were comfortable, especially for those who are exhausted, and is located in an area of town that allows a very easy drive into town and to the church building. It is secure and very reasonably priced. Rooms averaged $25 per night for 2 people. there is a small dining area and the meals were very good and reasonable priced. We ate breakfast for about $4. It included beans and rice, scrambled eggs, sausage, and fried plantains and a salsa made of tomatoes, onions, and peppers.
Our first stop Saturday morning was the market area to buy toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, and other items forgotten for the trip. It was hot and the sun was out. By 10:00 seeking shade was one of our top priorities. Once that was done we drove out of town to one of the Indian reservations (there are 6 total) in the area, home to about 45,000 native Indians. Our comfortable 15 passenger van became an awesome 4x4 off road mule as we left the paved roads behind and took on dirt, gravel, and rock bedded roads. I am sure Economy Rental Car had no idea what their van was going to be up to during the week!
We drove through miles of pineapple fields before reaching the rain forest area where we dropped down into the Cabecares Indian reservation. It was a gorgeous site as we saw unspoiled natural beauty all around us. Lots of cattle along the way caught our eyes, especially the ones who thought they were mountain goats! Cattle was spotted on the sides of very step hillsides and all I could think of was how good the grass must have been up there to get the cows to scale the hillside to get there! We crossed dry river beds and one river on a make shift bridge (the main bridge had been washed away in a flood last year and the new one was not in place yet). Houses and small pulperias were spread out and we did not see a lot of people along the main road.
There are members of the church living on the reservation and we drove deep into the reservation to go visit one of the families. We got as close as we could and then hiked it back to the house. A primitive wooden house with a dirt floor was tucked into dense foliage and trees. The family was large (about 8-9 lived there) and very friendly and glad to see us. We had a short devotional with them and then stayed to visit for a while and take photos. It was such a beautiful place! Their yard was full of banana trees; orange trees; mango trees; lemon trees and coconut trees. they were growing papaya, beans, and gourds. The used the gourds for cups and water pitchers. The used bamboo as pipes to transport water from place to place. It was amazing!
After our visit we traveled back into town and drove around Buenos Aires. It in not a large town (about 45,000) but it is easy to get around. It is a rural town and agriculture is the main source of income for the area. There are a few neighborhoods that appear to be where the wealthier people live, but by in large most houses are very simple block houses. They are well kept and nicely painted and decorated, and certainly give the impression of a middle class. There is, however, one very poor section of town. Wooden houses, very similar to the ones we would find in Honduras, are located off a dirt road leading into the neighborhood. Some houses had dirt floors while others had concrete. The city had electricity to the village but they did not have sewage lines or running water. Water spickets were within easy walking distance. We could see a lot of ministry opportunity here. We visited a family who were members of the church in this neighborhood and Ben and Jill brought toys, stuffed animals, and balloons to pass out.
Later Saturday afternoon we met at the house that serves as the church building. The current congregation is about 25 adults, with several children. The congregation is less than a year old and has already outgrown the house. But the house has a large back yard and Daniel and his son-in-law built a open air building for the church to meet. It has handmade church benches, wooden lap siding, and a tin roof. Daniel ran electricity to the building so there is lights and outlets to plug in fans. It has a gravel floor and is very nice. Children use the house for bible classes.
We had a mid-afternoon Bible study on Saturday. Daniel asked me to teach the class. They are studying the book of James and I taught a lesson on the last 5 or 6 verses of chapter 1. Minor interpreted for me as I used the dry erase board to draw pictures of Daniel to use as my illustrations! After the Bible study we went over to the Chaves' home for refreshments. We had a wonderful time visiting and eating fresh fruits and ice cream. It is obvious that they have dealt with gringos before. Daniel is a veteran preacher of nearly 20 years. He is a graduate of the Bible training school in Panama. He is a great man. Not only does he preach, he does daily bible studies and goes door knocking on a regular basis. he is a great song leader too!
Daniel is married to Maribelle, a wonderful Christian woman. Margaret and Jill really hit it off with her and the 3 of them became instant friends. Daniel and Maribelle have 3 daughters. Their oldest in married to a preacher who works in San Jose. Their middle daughter, Daniella, just got married 2 weeks ago to Vidal, who is planning on moving to Panama within the year to begin training to become a preacher. Their youngest daughter is Jennifer, who is 18, and is as typical a teenager and you can find. I took great delight picking on her throughout the weekend. I told her that I only pick on people that I like.... but I am not sure if she bought it or not.
Sunday morning Brian Steffy taught the adult Bible class. He did a presentation about how big God is and used a lot of Christian evidences, including astrology. Ben Wright preached the sermon. He discussed the crucifixion of Jesus from the viewpoint of Barabbas, the thief that was released to the crowd. Minor interpreted both the Bible class and the sermon. We had a good attendance, well over 30, with several members absent. We met several of the members, all wonderful people who were so friendly. After worship services we went back to the motel to finish packing up and had lunch with Daniel and his family. We spent the better part of an hour discussing plans for the mission team that is now scheduled to arrive in May, 2011.
We truly did not want to leave. Our 3 day scouting trip went by so quickly. But during that short period of time we became friends with an outstanding evangelist and his family. We watched as God opened our eyes to amazing opportunities in the area. We found a hotel to meet the needs of the mission team; places to buy food and supplies; found a hospital to do visitation; and learned of an orphanage nearby that we can work. We found neighborhoods that would be ideal for food distributions. We found a neighborhood where we could build and repair houses. and we found a congregation of faithful Christians eager to receive a campaign group to help them reach those in Buenos Aries and beyond.
As we close the book on the scouting trip, at least for now, we now focus on the work at hand for the Honduras trip. April is here and we are now less than 3 months from the trip. There is much to do and time keeps on rolling right along. April is the deadline for collecting supplies; sending supplies to Nashville to be loaded on the container; shipping the container to Honduras; and paperwork includes photocopies of passports; notarized rules sheets; and Spanish release forms for those under the age of 18. It is going to e a busy month and it will go by fast.
That's it for now, check the blog on a regular basis, we will be posting new information weekly. Continue to keep our trip in your prayers, there are many people spending a lot of hours right now behind the scenes working to make the preparations go as smoothly as possible for the trip. And if you have not bought your airline ticket yet, I suggest you do not wait much longer. Seats are becoming scarce, especially out of Nashville on American Airlines. And don't forget to send flight information to me when you book! Take care. RUE2B?