We’ve Arrived in Costa Rica!
Photo (above): Does anyone know what that chain is for on our back patio?
One week ago, we half-dragged, half-skipped our weary bodies off the Frontier red-eye flight from Denver to our new hometown: San José, Costa Rica. It’s amazing how little I mind sleeplessness when my bed is a barely-reclining, non-La-Z-Boy in stretch seating, bearing me with motionless wings to a Latin American country with which I’ve fallen in love. It brought back distinct memories of our overnight flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, five and a half years ago … WOW. So much has changed in our lives since that momentous, 8 hour flight, since I left a part of my heart in that insane, gorgeous, chaotic city.
For those of you who began following our God-sized journey after our door to missionary service in Argentina closed, here’s a recap: (*NOTE: Skip down to “Since We Arrived” photos if you don’t want to read this story again!) We were appointed to serve as part of a church planting team in Buenos Aires four years ago. The team we were joining ended up not going back to Buenos Aires after their first term. The Lord used that change in their plans to redirect us, most sovereignly, to pursue other fields where Business as Missions would be much more effective in the next 5-10 years.
We feel that Costa Rica pretty much chose us, instead of the other way around. I fought it at first. Believe me, I fought it hard. It took me aback how much I didn’t like the idea of being a missionary in Costa Rica at first. My instinct to find another field puzzled me. I mean, I had grown up in the Philippines … and Costa Rica is very similar in many ways. I already speak quite a bit of Spanish. I know many missionaries from this part of the world. It just didn’t make sense, until I realized my motivation was that I didn’t want to the job of having to BRACE myself from peoples’ potential comments about Costa Rica, “OH – suffering for Jesus, eh?” You know what I’m talking about. I didn’t like the idea of ministering in a tourist destination for some of the world’s wealthiest people. Really? Jesus, you want us to go and set up home & shop in a place where people actually WANT to go on vacation? Do you truly mean to send my family and team to a location where people plan to visit? That can’t be. Please, send me to Africa. Keith Green is rolling over at the thought of me leaving Buenos Aires for San José.
I’m so thankful that this life is NOT.ABOUT.ME. Truly, His ways are higher. This journey is not about what I wish to protect my heart from, but it’s more about making sure I’m right where He wants to protect me.
God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to open our hearts to a growing movement of Costa Rican missionaries being sent to some of the darkest, most difficult-to-access places in the world. And for some reason, He has seen fit to outfit us as a small part of the launching pad for their journeys to the ends of the earth, through training and discipleship in business skills. More on those technicalities to come later!
Since We Arrived
Life has been AMAZING and we feel like we’ve plunged into language and culture learning like carefree cliff-divers at Casa Bonita. (Yikes. I think I just threw up in a little in my mouth at the memory and the alliteration. I’m not missing THAT part of Denver today! Moving on, rapidly!!!) Thanks be to God, since we arrived one week ago, we have realized/enjoyed the following, among other things:
1. LEARNING TO STOP, as we walk along the way, to appreciate the bounty of God’s creation which surrounds us – proclaiming His glory and providing for our needs. And as you know for us Italians, coffee is a great need! We are going to become very familiar with the process of coffee production, beginning with the “cherries” on the bush, pictured above. We have already toured our first coffee plantation (El Trapiche – will be a separate blog post someday) in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and I will admit, the process is slow, labor intensive, and so worth it!
2. LEARNING TO LISTEN and ask questions of native Spanish speakers … this has launched our language acquisition into hyperdrive. We are so grateful for PILAT (Program in Language Acquisition Techniques), the wonderful training we received in Palmer Lake, CO last April. Jordan has already begun his LAPs (Language Acquisition Projects) and my heart is thrilled when he chooses to tackle conversations in Spanish instead of hiding behind me, or his English, like has in the past when we’ve been simply tourists. He is taking to heart, truly, that language acquisition is like owning your own business. It has been a privilege to listen to and learn from people like German, our neighborhood day guard, pictured above, proudly showing off one of his 20+ grandchildren. Every person’s voice, lilt, accent, tone is so different and it’s giving us a well-rounded ear to hear and to understand. As has been the case in the past, with every passing day … my tongue and brain become less like tug-of-warring jr. highers and more like synchronized swimmers, working in unison. I know I’m learning language when I get to noon and my head “hurts” from verbos y palabras floating between me and my language route folks! May God grant us success in language learning, for HIS glory and our joy!
3. CHOOSING TO REST from the whirlwind and chaos which transported us here. One of the most important lessons we took to heart from our pre-field training at Missionary Training Institute last April (SPLICE) is that missionaries often fail to pace themselves according to the rhythms which God has put into place. All of nature does it – but we humans fight against it. Sabbath rest is a commandment which is so easy to set aside when you’re “busy doing God’s work” – a fatal mistake for those in ministry and leadership. We learned that refusing to rest is an expression of a lack of trust in God … it’s fear-driven … forgetting that God holds all things in His hands and the world will not fall apart if we stop working for an afternoon, a day, or even a week! We have found that for us, rest – be it Sabbath or any other kind – does not simply happen. We have to schedule it and give ourselves freedom and permission to dive into it, whether it comes naturally or not. We have chosen to allow ourselves the joy of discovering the beauty of rest in this lush, gorgeous country. In the photo above, Megan & Micah are enjoying a spider in his web, right next to a beautiful painting done by a local artist. That’s how much we’re surrounded by beauty here, both God-made and man-made! It takes my breath away, many moments during the day. If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll have a chance to enjoy some of the joys we’ve had in resting from our work! We are so thankful to the Lord for the training He provided us last spring, so that we could resolve to give ourselves permission and freedom to worship Him by choosing to rest. It makes sense, since we live in a country which has “Pura Vida” as its national greeting. Google it!
4. DELIGHTING IN SHARING our home & table with others, even though we are not fully settled yet! Those of you who know me know how much I love to have people in our home, cooking for them and to share in each others’ lives. It was easy to do in Colorado, when I knew where everything was and when the undercurrent of my life was familiarity and comfort. Here, I am a living, breathing exhibit of “casa cabeza” (a phrase I learned from Monica, a language helper of mine in Denver) … it means, literally, “house-head” and it’s a very descriptive figure of speech for the reality we now live with that our heads and our house have tumbled upside down. It’s far from comfortable for me to open up our house for a dinner when kitchen stuff is in the dining room, and dining stuff is lost in the kitchen somewhere … and all in the middle of a remodel which our landlord insists on doing for us. But we put those feelings of chaos aside, put up some cafe lights (thank you, Christy Peterson!!!), conquered the strange little contraption posing our stove & oven, and hosted a beautiful farewell Italian dinner al fresco for Mary Rose, a friend who flew down to help us this past week, along with our teammates, the Mihalkos. Food was eaten. Jokes were told. Prayers and tears flowed. All in all, a wonderful first dinner party at Foote Rest Costa Rica. Casa cabeza might just become of my dearest friends and teachers on this journey. That, and my teammate-sister-friend, Mary, who lives just five houses down the block and understands how casa cabeza feels to me!
5. LEANING ON JESUS for as many moments as possible during this time of transition. These are crazy days … after several crazy weeks … at the end of four crazy years for our family. When I wake up in the morning in my still-feels-like-a-dorm bedroom and step outside into the precious day God has created for us to enjoy & glorify Him, I can hear Him calling us to Himself. It helps that we’ve been going through Jesus Calling as a couple (thank you, Reid and Lucy Greenslade!!!) and that, along with our first cup of coffee & prayer for the day, has helped us to breathe much more in sync when we are both outside of our respective comfort zones. It hasn’t been perfect, certainly, but it has been a tremendous boost to our ability to see and hear Jesus at work ahead of us, within us, and all around us. Please pray with us, that we will not slide on this commitment to begin our days together at the feet of Jesus. This is only the beginning of our new chaos … and we want our feelings of displacement to force ourselves to be centered firmly in Him.
Of course, there are many more moments for me to document by photo and journaling. This will have to do, for now … in less than an hour, we’ll be saying goodbye to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and we’ll begin our trek to the Nicoya Peninsula. We can’t wait to share God’s goodness in the land of the living when we get back!
I’ve already announced this on Facebook just so I don’t lose my nerve (we artistic perfectionists tend to do succumb to that temptation more frequently than we care to admit) and so I have accountability: aka people waiting to buy/download/read my book, scheduled for publication at the end of our first year here. This whole package: moving overseas as a missionary family, finally having the camera I’ve been thinking about and saving up for, for years, documenting the sights, sounds, smells all along the way … all of it … is a dream come true for me. I’ll do my best to make it worth your viewing & reading while.
Until next week, or whenever inspiration hits me next,
PS – Shameless plug: If you are reading my posts on FB or are desiring to follow our adventures via this blog, could you please encourage me along by liking, responding, sharing the things I post? Other horn-tooters are welcome either here, or on FB. So many bloggers, photographers, writers tell me that the hardest part of documenting their lives is that many people may read what they write, but very few take that extra step of interacting. I’ve been guilty of it at times, as a reader, for sure! Let’s pay it forward and start turning that tide now … you do know it will come back to you in sweet repayment, one way or another! Muchas gracias!