Our Mission Statement

Friday, March 23

final meetings and the wrap up

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. God has not just opened doors for us, he has created a revolving door! By the time we finished one meeting another one opened up. We have barely been able to keep up with the pace since we arrived in San Jose. And even though we have accomplished a lot we have found that there is still a lot to do before we arrive May 26th. 2 months may seem like a long time but we will have to really get after it to get everything done that is required before we bring our team into Costa Rica.

We arrived in San Jose Monday night to find that we had a meeting with the Vice President, Alfio Mesen, at 3:00 on Tuesday. Before we met with the Vice President we had 2 meetings to secure information needed before the meeting at the Presidental House. Our first meeting was with Roberto Chacon, Director of Human Development for the City Council of Guatelupe. He specializes in community development and gave us information about Christian foundations and donated goods. In order to bypass a lot of the "red tape" Torch / IRC needs to apply to be a NGO (non-governmental organization) foundation. Once this process is completed bringing in medicines and other donations into the country.

After meeting with Roberto we met with Mariano Ocampo , a local lawyer who has worked for many years helping groups establish foundations. We met over lunch at a local seafood restaurant across the street from the Munincipal Building. During the meeting we covered all of the forms, applications, and requirements needed for a group like ours to establish a foundation. Let's just say it is a lot of requirements and we will not have time to complete everything before our mission trip this summer. So, this summer we will have to do things the hard way. Other than picking up the lunch tab Mariano did not charge us for his time (and all he had was a glass of papaya juice!).

The meeting ended at 2:00 and it gave us 45 minutes to find the Presidental House.We arrived at the Presidental House at 2:30 and passed through 2 layers of security before we gained access to the main building. We were led to Senor Mesen's office at 2:45. The Vice President's executive assistant greeted us and took us from the waiting room into the office. Our meeting lasted nearly 2 hours! Nearly an hour was dedicated for us to introduce ourselves and stating the purpose of our visit. Tim explained in great detail what we have done in Honduras and what we would like to be able to do in Costa Rica in the near future. After our presentation we had about 45 minutes of questions and answers and a stategy was outlined. We left the meeting feeling very confident about the results from the meeting and look forward to working more with Vice President Mensen in the next few weeks!

Wednesday we met with the office of the Department of Health. We met with Ronny Munoz Salazar, the lead lawyer for the department. The meeting focused on how to bring our doctors, nurses, and medicines into the country this summer. This meeting lasted nearly an hour as he laid out all of the things needed as far as documents, lists, permissions, and legal documents that will have to be completed before we arrive. After this meeting we went to meet with Agnes Guiterrez Rojas, the director of the College of Nurses. We met with her after being referred by Seno Salazar. This 45 minute meeting focused on the requirements needed from our nurses and the process of being appointed an overseeing nurse from Costa Rica that will work with us during our clinics in Buenos Aires. Our oversseing doctor from Buenos Aires has already been apointed.

Thursday we traveled north to La Fortuna where we will be having our retreat. We met with Fortuna Welcome, the company that is handling our reservations. Our initial reservations by phone / email had problems so we met with the office staff personally to work out the details and pricing. This paid off since we were able to met with them face to face. Our contract is now in place and everything is set up for our retreat. Since we were there, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Baldi Resort and enjoyed the thermal springs (sacrifices must be made). It rained most of the day and the volcano was covered by clouds most of the afternoon. Finally about 4:30-5:00 the clouds broke and we were able to get photos of the volcano. Locals told us that Arenal has been dormant for the past 11 months and is "asleep." Even without any fireworks from "monte del fuego" it was really beautiful (and very hot!).

Today we spent most of the day looking at different hotels that we could stay the night before the group flies home. We met up with Diego Rojas and his girlfriend Katherine, and looked around the area of Heredia, where Diego lives. We found a beautiful hotel that has villas (private houses) that we negotiated a very good price. I had to go to a local ATM to withdraw enough money to pay the deposit to secure our reservations. tonight we are going to go the one of the malls and eat at the food court. We have early flights in the morning so we will be calling it a night early.It has been a very productive trip. We got a lot done and we put hundreds of miles on our rental. We traveled the southern part of Costa Rica, drive along the Pacific Coast, drove throughout the cetral part of the country, and drove to the northern part as well. Only the Atlantic Coast was missed in 6 days.
We are tired and ready to get home and eat some home cooking and sleep in our own beds again. This week was very much needed to get ready for the Costa Rica trip. On top of that, Tim and I did a lot of planning for the Honduras trips as well. The first trip is 2 months away with the Honduras trips not far behind. It will be here in a blink and the pressure to get everything done ahead of time increases. A lot more to come, so stay tuned! Dios te bendiga!


The photo is of Minor Perez, Vice President Mesen, Mayor Don Carlos Mora (Buenos Aires), myself, and Tim Hines at the Presidental House

Monday, March 19

meetings, meetings, and more meetings

Sunday morning we had an early morning meeting with the mayor of Buenos Aires and his wife at their house. We met over coffee and sweetbread. We met for nearly 2 hours and talked about a wide variety of subjects and listening to the different needs of the city and the people. Even though Buenos Aires is a small town the mayor oversees over 60,000 people in his area. The needs in the area are many and I forsee work for several years here, not to mention other areas of the country.

After our meeting we were able to go to church services at the church of Christ in Buenos Aires. Daniel preached an excellent lesson on having a clear vision of God's will in our lives and to act upon it. Minor led the singing and did an awesome job. Tim and I both led prayers and we had a great visit with church members we met last year. We were able to get lots of photos of the new church building and also had time to show Tim around town and introduced him to the reposteria (bakery) that we found last summer! Yep, it's still good!

After worship we went to the local TV station and met with the station director and got a copy of the footage they shot Saturday during the President's visit. The station also is need of a lot of equipment and training and I am hopeful to be able to find help back at Freed-Hardeman when I return. Our TV station at school has a lot to offer and I am hopeful to recruit some staff to go with us this summer to do a training class on editing and camera work, along with tech information to make their news broadcasts more fluid and professional. After that meeting we took the western route along the coast to Jaco, which is on the Pacific Coast. We spent the night there at a local hotel that is actually run and owned by people from the States.

Today we spent the day looking at several different hotels that might serve as a retreat at the end of our future trips. The coastal area is really beautiful and there is a lot to do here. We looked at a couple of hotels that are right on the beach and we also looked at some that were up in the mountains. Zip line canopy tours, horseback riding, waterfalls, and beaches are just of the few things to do here. from Joco it normally is about an hour drive to San Jose and we left about 4:00. We arrived in San Jose around 7:00 tonight (we would have been here a lot sooner if it had not been for a fender bender on the main highway coming into town). We are staying the rest of the week at the Best Western Hotel which is near the hotel.

Tonight we got a letter via email from the President's office. Our offical meeting is set up for Tuesday at 3:00. The President is not going to be able to attend due to several things that have come up since our first meeting on Saturday, but the Vice-President will head up our meeting. We are so excited that we have already scheduled the meeting and we are very hopeful that the meeting will be very productive. We are also meeting with members of the San Jose city government in the morning along with lawyers to discuss some of the legal requirements we will need to know before going into the main meeting in the afternoon. Wednesday we will be meeting with a local preacher who is going to take us to the Bible camp owned by the church to see the layout and discuss ways to use the camp as a staging area for our containers and supplies that will be eventually coming into the country.

I will keep you updated as the week progresses. Things have fallen into place very well and we are getting a lot of things done. God is good!


The photo is Daniel Chaves, Tim Hines, Minor Perez and myself with President Laura Chinchilla this past Saturday in Buenos Aires

Saturday, March 17

Amazing start to our trip!

God is good. He is so good. He is down right amazing. The first 2 days of the trip have been a whirlwind and there are lots of things to report!

The first amazing thing took place Friday morning. Our (Minor and I) flight from Memphis to Houston left a tad bit late (about 10 minutes) which normally is no big deal. BUT, when you have a 49 minute connection time 10 minutes is HUGE. Especially when you arrive in terminal B and you depart from terimal D. However, we were able to get to our gate as the last group was boarding! More shocking was to find our suitcases in San Jose when we arrived. That was totally amazing.

The second amazing thing was going to rent a SUV. We did't reserve one ahead of time... not knowing what a popular destination Costa Rica is during spring break. However, we were able to get one with little problem (just kidding) and we left the airport to go to Buenos Aires, normally a 4 hour drive... unless the road going up Cerro de la Muerte is under construction. We had a dinner meeting with Daniel Chaves and Carlos Mora Vargas, the mayor, at 7:30. At 5:00 we were still on the north side of the mountain and it did not look like we were going to make it. However, Tim "Jimmy Johnson" Hines manuvered the mountain like a cruise missle and we got to the restaurant 5 minutes before The Chaves and Vargas families! We ate at Giovanni's Italian Restaurant and had a wonderful meal of new York style pizza, cheese bread and cheese sticks!

Our meeting with the mayor was amazing. We were able to cover a lot of stuff and had a long Q&A session. Tim and I answered questions and brought up additional points on issues we are working through for this summer's trips and more. And, amazingly enough, we scheduled another meeting with the mayor today (Saturday). Costa Rica is in dry season and Buenos Aires is battling many wild fires out on the reservations. It is so bad that Colombia is sending in firefighters and equipment to help. However, the reason we were invited to meet again with the mayor had nothing to do with that, but was because the President of Costa Rica was arriving to see the fire fighting efforts first hand. The mayor knows we are trying to schedule an appointment to meet with her and he was going to help us meet her. (what are the chances?)

The preident arrived at 10:00 am by private plane and was scheduled to take a helicopter ride to view the fires. We arrived about 9:45 and was admitted into the airport by use of our handy dandy IRC badges! Gringos in shirts and ties with official looking badges has its privilidges. When President Laura Chinchilla arrived the mayor came to our car (we stayed in the SUV to enjoy the airconditioning!) to tell us that they were going to another location for a press interview and he asked us to follow them. However, we did not attend the press conference (refer to the AC reference mentioned earlier). After the conference the group went back to the airport for the helicopter ride. We were motioned to follow again and we went back to the airport. During the helicopter ride the mayor, who stayed behind, came and told us that he has arranged a meeting when she returned from the flight!

20 minutes later President Chinchilla returned and was swarmed by reporters and photographers. The mayor already had us in place to talk with her, right in the middle of the media frenzy. Questions swirled in the crowd who the grigos with the shirts and ties were and what we were doing in Buenos Aires! We were able to talk with the president for about 10 minutes to introduce ourselves and to schedule a meeting with her in San Jose next week. She was quite impressed with what she heard and we will hear within 48 hours from her office for details. She is going to schedule additional people to be at the meeting including the Vice President and several members of her staff including the Secretaries of different agencies. "Like I mentioned earlier, God is awesome!

Tonight we were watching the local news and there was a huge story on the events today. Several photos of us meeting with the president made the news along with some live video. It even made the national news channel later tonight! So, in less that 48 hours in Costa Rica, we have met the mayor of Buenos Aires for a meeting, met the President of the country, scheduled a meeting with her next week, and made the news. We still have 6 more days to go, at this point there is no telling what might happen. This afternoon we went to 2 Indian Reservations to take photos of the places where the medical clinics will take place. BTW, the roads are still as bumpy and rocky as ever. Even Tim said that Costa Rica would give honduras a run for the money as to which country hs more rocks!

We have another appointment to meet the mayor at 8:00 before going to worship services with Daniel at the local congregation here. After services we will start back to San Jose for several days of meetings. It is going to be a very busy week! More to come, stay tuned!

Monday, March 12

Puttin' my travelin' shoes on

Spring break is upon us. And none to soon if you ask me. We have all experienced a mild winter and are now witnessing the blooming of Bartlet pear trees, dogwoods, redbuds, and other beautiful flowers and the urge to get out and enjoy it is evident everywhere. Taking a break from studies, doing spring cleaning, or just getting some R&R are just some of the things going through people's minds.

Freed-Hardeman students are gearing up for mission trips both stateside and abroad. Mission trips are planned for Alabama, West Virginia, New York, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Paraguay, and other places I can't even remember right now. Our sister schools are doing the same thing too. it is exciting to think that so many of our college students are using their spring break time to go on a mission trip instead of so many other things out there. If you ask me this is one of the biggest reasons why attending a Christian University is such a good decision.

Tim Hines, Minor Perez, and myself are going on another kind of trip. it is certainly related to missions, but we are not leading a team and we will not be doing the typical things a mission team would do. We are going to Costa Rica for spring break. We have very specific plans and an agenda to accomplish. Part of the week will be used to finalize the plans for the trip this summer when our team goes and works with Daniel Chavez in Buenos Aires. Hotel rooms will be reserved, tents and chairs will be rented, TV and radio advertisement time secured, supplies purchased, and all of the pre-trip deposits will be paid. Daniel will have a chance to finalize his plans with us and it will be left to us to figure out how we are going to do them.

However, the bigger part of the week will be spent in San Jose. We have plans to meet with several key political figures to discuss a wide range of things that pertain to this summer's trip but also for future trips and plans we have in Costa Rica. A couple of weeks ago we mailed a 3 page letter with a 24 page document to the President of Costa Rica to introduce Torch and IRC to her and to ask for a meeting. We also intend to meet with the Secretary of Health, Secretary of Commerce, and the College of Medicine to discuss all of the requirements we need to meet to bring medical teams and medicines into Costa Rica. We also will be meeting with lawyers and shipping specialists and pharmaceutical representatives. Tim figures to play a key role in the discussions since he has been through all of this in Honduras and has an unbelievable wealth of experience in this area. I am bringing the specifics of this summer's plans and Minor brings knowledge of Costa Rica along with tons of contacts and resourcing information.

So, instead of a full suitcase full of shorts, t-shirts, and sandals, we are packing suits, dress shirts, ties, and dress shoes (very foreign to me I must say....). Don't get me wrong, we will have shorts, t-shirts, and sandals, but I do not expect to use them nearly as much as I would like! We are hopeful that these meetings will be very productive and that we will be able to begin building a working relationship with the government similar to that in which we have in Honduras. The meetings next week hopefully will open up doors for projects in the future that our only dreams right now. Dreams do not become reality until acted upon... so here we go! The future begins today!

Keep us in your prayers. When I get back the pace will quicken and plans for the summer will be in place and we will begin the count down to the mission trips!!!! Take care and I will post again soon. Dios te bendiga mi amigos!