This was the 2nd year for Torch Missions to work in Costa Rica. The team of 52 from the States joined forces with several nationals in Buenos Aires to work with Daniel Chaves and the church that meets there. Months of planning and preparation paid off with a great trip and a lot of memories along the way.
Because of cost of airline tickets the team arrived at different times on different carriers. Some landed five days before the main group (3), some two days (2), and some one day (4), while the main team staggered in from mid-morning till late afternoon on Saturday, May 26th. The Cookville, TN group had a flight delay and did not arrive at the hotel in Buenos Aires until late Saturday night. Sunday morning was the first time the whole team saw each other as we loaded up the buses and headed to the church building for the first of many meals to be eaten there. The Ladies from the congregation, headed by Meribel, Daniel's wife, prepared delicious meals three times a day for our team. With the staples of beans and rice we enjoyed different kinds of meats and fruits and some of the best bread around! I don't believe any one's waistline's shrank any while we were there!
Garrett Best taught the Sunday morning Bible class and Daniel preached the morning lesson. The time spent together in worship was inspirational and started the trip off on a high note. After lunch we broke into several teams and work began. The VBS team began practicing skits and reviewing lessons for the week while another team went out to go door knocking. The medical team went back to the hotel to begin sorting medicines and applying labels to the pill bottles. This job turned out to be a two day project because of the sheer amount of medicine we brought into the country for the clinics! (26 suitcases full of medicines and supplies)
The gospel meeting kicked off Sunday night with Eduardo, one of the preachers who came to work the campaign, preaching the lesson. Joe Roberts, from Cookville, TN, spoke Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and the last sermon was preached by Christian, Daniel's son-in-law. During the meeting we had about 15 responses, including 2 baptisms! Several Bible studies were conducted during the door knocking and other studies were set up for Daniel to do after we left. The nightly attendance averaged between 80-100, not counting the children, who had a separate class during the meeting. The children's class was taught by Debbie Kirk and Brooke Smith, both from Corinth, MS, along with several helpers. Sunday night the class started off small with about 18 in attendance, but each night the class got larger. By the last night there were over 60 children in class! Even though the class was meeting in a carport about 100 feet away from the church building we could easily hear them singing and participating in the activities!
The VBS team performed 5 times during the week at different schools and the church building. In all about 335 children learned about the apostle Peter. Kim Fussell did a great job teaching the lessons, and Garrett Best (minister at Oliver Creek in Memphis) did a fantastic job with the skits and taking on the lion's share of the translating. Blake McCaskill, the youth minister from Oliver Creek in Memphis, did not keep his lack of Spanish skills keep him from going all out on the skits! Joe Jones, Leah Wright, Joel Fussell, along with several others worked in the skits and helped out with the VBS to make it one the kids will not soon forget.
The medical team, 1 doctor, 1 nurse practitioner, 1 dentist, and 4 nurses, along with several helpers and translators, went to two different Indian Reservations to conduct two separate free medical clinics. According to Dr. Matt Bolton, Cookville, TN, the medical team saw around 150 patients during the two days. Unfortunately we were not able to work all 4 days as originally planned because we lacked one permit to finish up the clinics. Only God, Minor Perez, and I know the full extent of the mountain of paperwork we had to fill out, permits to be issued, and meetings that were conducted that got the medicines and medical team into the country to work. Many thanks to Tim Hines and the DOZENS of government officials that worked with us to get the permissions and permits that we needed. According to Daniel Chaves, Eduadro, Christian, and other preachers, we were the first medical team to come into Costa Rica through the churches of Christ to work with full knowledge of the government in the past 50 years. And, now that we have met with just about everyone that could possibly be involved in issuing the permits, medical teams in the future should be a lot easier to bring in!
Rain, rain, and more rain kept us from finishing the classroom we started to build for the congregation. The children had been meeting under the palm trees in between the church building and the house for Sunday school and that was the site picked for the classroom pavilion we began. The only thing lacking is the roof which Daniel and the members will complete. Once the roof is on gravel will be ordered and placed inside to keep the ground from getting muddy. It will be a nice addition for the church and will allow the kids to have class every Sunday, rain or shine. And believe me, during rainy season, you can count on rain! It rained every day were were there, and I am not talking about a small spring shower, either, but powerful rain and wind. However, except for the construction, the rain did not slow us down very much at all and we did not have to alter plans very much. Our 6 1/2 days in Bunos Aires was awesome and ran about as smoothly as you can expect working in another country with a different culture. As Merdock from the A Team would say, "I love it when a plan comes together!"
Our final few days were spent sightseeing at a retreat in the northern part of Costa Rica at La Fortuna, next to the Arenal Volcano. Arenal is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is a spectacular sight! We went to the Baldi Hot Springs Resort to enjoy a day at the thermo-springs that uses water that is heated by the volcano, and stayed at the Los Lagos Hotel. We enjoyed the hot springs and food, and some ventured out on a boat ride (I wonder if anyone sang the theme song to Gilligan's Island?) on the lake beside the volcano while others did the canopy zip lines. We certainly had an adventurous bunch!
Our last devos were held in the convention room at the hotel and the acoustics were as good as the chapel at Villa Graicas in Tegucigalpa! The singing was wonderful and inspirational. Jesse Pitts did a great job leading the singing along with Malvin Algood. Leah Wright did a great job posting blogs to keep everyone back home updated on the trip. You will have to talk to individual members to find out any of the "behind the scenes" stuff that did not make it to the blog! Lots of laughs to say the least!
Monday departures saw the end of the team as we knew it and everyone returned home safe and sound. In a few weeks, after my Honduras teams have returned from their trips, work will begin once again for the 2013 trips. I already have a brand new team from Virginia signed up and ready to go! Thanks to everyone that went on the trip this year, to the congregations who sent you, the family and friends that supported you, and the ones who made all of this possible. It was an awesome trip and one I will not soon forget. Farewell until next time, and as they say in Costa Rica, "PURA VIDA!"