What a joy it is to be a part of the body of Christ! Every year Asbury UMC sends a team to Costa Rica to work with the Costa Rica Mission Projects (CRMP). In 2016, Gina McIntyre and I were sitting in Wil Bailey’s office (Wil is the founder of CRMP) listening to him talk about a Methodist Church in Sierpe who desperately needed a new sanctuary.

At the time, Asbury was in the middle of the Reach campaign. But our Missions In Action team decided to give $14,000 to fund the construction of the Church in Sierpe. MIA announced this to Asbury with the heading, “Now We Are Building Two Sanctuaries!” What a joy! Since its completion in 2017, the church in Sierpe has been a very active part of the community. When massive flooding rocked the community late last year, this new sanctuary housed 100 people for a week.

This summer, our Costa Rica Mission Team got to meet and work with the church members on building an addition to serve as Sunday School space. The next time flood waters threaten Sierpe, it will be able to shelter 100 more people.

Day 1 (Travel Day). We arrived in the Asbury parking lot at 5:00 a.m. and rode by charter bus to the Atlanta airport for a four-hour flight to San Jose. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our bus driver Daniel who takes care of us each and every year. We ate a nice meal at a Mexican restaurant with amazing churros! After lunch, we settled in for a four-hour bus ride through the mountains to San Isidro where the CRMP ministry center is located. This was somewhat of a family reunion, we got to greet Wil and some of the CRMP staff as well as the team from Herndon UMC in Virginia that has been serving the same week as us for the last three years.

 

Day 2 (Church).  Sunday is always on of my favorite days of the Costa Rica mission experience. The Asbury and Herndon Team go to a local church as a group for worship. Church in Costa Rica is quite different than church at Asbury. The service starts with prayer and praise. For 30-45 minutes, we sing songs and pray to God. It’s a moving experience…especially when you see how devoted the worshippers are. The pastor will teach for about 45 minutes which is quite a treat since you can’t understand what he’s saying. This year, we ended worship with a birthday party for the pastor’s wife and a luncheon. After lunch, we packed up to headed to Sierpe which is about a two-hour trip from San Isidro.

Days 3-5 (Work Week).  It was such a meaningful experience to work on the church that Asbury financially helped build. It was like we were working with people we already knew.  The pastor was so inviting and the church members hospitality was inspiring. Our job was to work on the foundation of a building for Sunday School space. This means we were working in the dirt building a cinderblock wall and support columns. We also got to do some backfill. So each day we were dirty and wet–ready to go with us yet?!

We rose about 5:30 a.m. headed to the worksite and had some coffee and snacks. We got to work around 6:30 a.m. to beat the rain. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were enjoyed in the beautiful new sanctuary. When weren’t working, we played board games, took siestas (naps!), and walked to the market for some awesome Costa Rican snacks.

On the third and fourth days, we spent some precious time at VBS with the kids from the community. We played games, sang songs, did crafts, shared Bible stories, and made balloon animals with 35 kids and their parents. We built relationships and shared the love of God with our neighbors–we left with full hearts!

The Food. Fanny from CRMP and her team of Church members from Sierpe prepared our meals each day and the food was awesome! Everything was organic and the fruit–especially the pineapple–had such sweet flavors. The only challenge was eating rice and beans at every meal…even breakfast. Some of my favorite dishes were cheese quesadillas, a garlic spaghetti sauce, and fried red snapper.

Day 6 (Last Day in Sierpe). After we cleaned up the worksite, the pastor took our team on his father’s boat through the channels that feed into the Pacific Ocean. We got to see a crocodile, monkeys, iguanas, and macaws flew over our heads. After our tour, we went back to the CRMP Ministry Center for dinner with the staff and the Herndon UMC team that worked at another work site.

Day 7 (Free Day).  We were supposed to go zip-lining on Friday but there were some landslides that blocked the road to the lines. Instead, we went to the beach for rest and shopping and the search for the coveted “Trits” (Costa Rican ice cream sandwiches that are absolutely incredible). After a team lunch, we headed back to San Jose to stay the night and then travel home.

It’s hard to explain the joy you feel when you see the Body of Christ at work. First Corinthians 12 says this about the body of Christ:

26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. 27 You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. 28 In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues.

We belong to each other, we are called to be there for one another in good and bad times. Our relationship with Wil Bailey and CRMP enabled us to be the Body of Christ.  Our team does not go to Costa Rica to save the day, we learn and grow from each other. I think if you ask anyone who has gone to Costa Rica as a team member the first thing they would say is they got much more out of the experience than they gave. These trips tend to work on our souls pushing us closer to be the person God has created us to be.

We would love for you to consider going to Costa Rica on a mission trip. Our next team is for high-school and college-aged people, May 25 – June 1, 2019. Our next intergenerational trip will be May 23 – May 30, 2020.

-Pastor Robert