So here I am, back in San Jose and thinking how I may never see the incredible people of Shiroles again (of course God's plans reign, so who knows!). Whatever happens in the future, I feel so blessed to get to look back on this summer and find a time filled with incredible memories, relationships, and an overwhelming amount of joy and love. I will never, ever forget all of our incredible "community partners," who were so much more like family. Sara and Victor, our community parents, were our backbones the entire summer. There were many times that I would go to Sara crying and she would hold and comfort me, or times that we would all work together with community problems or logistics. They are true examples of the image of Christ. Pastor Indalecio's devotion and testimony inspired me to give my all for Christ - and to follow in complete obedience when He gives a specific calling. I have hope for the future of Jonathan & Giselle as the new leaders of Iglesia Cristiano de Dios, I know their servant-heartedness and persistence will reach the community for Christ. For everyone else, all the cooks and workers, kids, and youth of the community - the culture of Talamanca, the lifestyle of the Bribri, the darkness that still exists and the need for revival; all will continue to be in my daily prayers.
I was so encouraged this week by our myriad of people and teams from Florida, Michigan, Kansas, and Israel! Throughout the week our teams continued work on the church bathrooms, working on the inside stalls and outside wall stucco, we will be leaving the community with very little left to complete the project. We also saw a lot of progress in our work with the home of Pastor Jonathan who hopes to complete this home construction project and use his bigger home to start up a ministry to host mission groups and pastors. With just Roberto and I the week had a very different dynamic! Without that third person there to sway decisions or form clicks, we came together in all of our decisions; and even though our responsibilities doubled there was joy and peace throughout the week. We began placing prayer more at the forefront of our daily schedules and used evenings to really debrief within our leadership and within our personal lives. Through our leader debrief, I was able to open up more about my dad who passed away when I was 16. Through the growth I’ve had this summer I feel I was able to be more vulnerable as I shared my testimony with the groups – my father having a seizure and taking care of him until he passed away, partying in high school and losing myself in the world, and the depression that I experienced in different seasons through college. Roberto has lost both of his parents and I know the Lord partnered us together this summer for a reason – it’s been encouraging for me to share and be open and vulnerable about my past and how God has so graciously delivered me and restored my life.
I was also very encouraged by our team who wrote me sweet notes and bought me small gifts of appreciation throughout the week; it was the words of affirmation that I desperately needed to keep going! It was fun getting to lead kids club, though it definitely stretched my patience – “Sarah. Sarah. Sarah” J What was the most impactful for me this week though was the opportunity we got to stretch our outreach ministry beyond kids club. The Lord had placed it on my heart this summer to try and reach out to the youth of the community where there is the most prevalent darkness of drugs, alcohol, depression, and witchcraft. It’s a difficult age group to reach out to – most want nothing to do with the church. We attempted to throw a last minute movie night last week, but kids ended up coming and mostly just running around. This week I knew I wanted to get the word out right. So we created fliers and passed them out to teenagers we saw walking, the two main pulperias let me post up the paper on their doors, and Roberto made an announcement after the community men’s soccer game. We began praying for this outreach; that it would plant a seed in the youth or at least transform their negative attitude toward the church. We began popping popcorn, filling cups with powerade, and setting up the projector and banks for a movie night under the stars. When I settled into one of the pews, I was shocked when I looked around and saw anywhere from 60 – 70 young people from the community. Underneath their Bob Marley dress, slumped postures, and “I don’t care” attitudes – I saw the beauty of God’s creation and hope for the future generation of those in Shiroles. It may have been a small step, but I was so grateful that our prayers had been answered and that so many had come to fellowship with us. On Thursday, we decided to do a prayer walk a little bit different than the first. This time, Pastor took us to four different homes and people who he knew had specific needs throughout the community. We stopped at the home of a young woman who had left the church and had fallen back into drinking, a burnt-out female pastor who leads an outside church covered by a large black tarp further up the mountain, Pastor’s father who is reaching old-age and struggling with illness, and a tabernacle in Monte Cion where Pastor Indalecio envisions leading worship services in the future. As we stood in this wooden sanctuary we began singing worship a cappella and praying all at once, all the while the Lord brought a striking thunder as background music for this time of covering the community with prayer – how great is Our God!
So now, I’m left waiting to leave for my plane for Belize at 10 tonight. Roberto left earlier and I just still cannot believe that our time in Costa Rica is officially over! I decided last week that I would take each day one at a time, and that I wanted to cherish my last week in Talamanca instead of getting my head stuck in Belize or school. Now that I am officially done with this week, I am so pumped for Belize! I started talking to Mauricio, our partner at the hostel in San Jose, and he started going on and on about a trip he made to Belize. Please be praying for me as I venture there on my own and jump into this new community to lead a team! Even though I’ll be in a new place I know that the Lord will give me wisdom and strength to connect the community with our teams.