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!