CostaRica

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There is a saying in Costa Rica that reads, “Lunes ni las gallinas ponen”, which means On Mondays, not even the hens are laying. We certainly can relate to Mondays in that way. With all of the activities and projects, it sometimes seems like we need another weekend in order to rest from our weekend. For this reason, it is important to start off with a good breakfast to get our energy going, and on days like today, Costa Rica’s national holiday of Labor Day, we have the time to prepare it.

For starters:
Of course, no breakfast is complete without a good cup of coffee, but how to prepare it? Prepare it Costa Rican style, café chorreado. First, you need a chorreador, the coffe maker pictured in this post, which essentially is a cloth bag suspended by one of a various arry of wooden frames. I picked up what I thought was a fairly attractive one for about $12. The coffee, ground fairly fine, is placed in the wet bag at the desired strength. (I prefer 2 tbls. per 6 oz. of water.) Then, water, just off of the boil, is poured over the grounds slowly, so as to create a stream, or “chorro” from the bag into the cup. The result is a fine brew that allows the natural oils of the coffee to pass through to the cup. And although many Ticos have switched to the “coffee maker” because of convenience, the choreador is still the most repected way to make coffee.

The main course:
OK, the coffee is taken care of, but what to eat? Gallo Pinto of course! The traditional breakfast food of Costa Rica, Gallo Pinto consists of beans, (normally black) and rice to which is added cilantro, bell peppers, onions, and the top secret ingredient, Salsa Lizano. A truly Tico flavoring that gives gallo pinto it’s charateristic taste. Added to this is usually eggs, the tomato for color, and in this picture, some Mexican chorizo or spicy sausage. We added it to give the meal some Mexican zing. (We are missionaries to Mexico.)

So there you have it, a good Monday morning pic me up. Sorry that this came on Tuesday for those of you who are subscribing via email.

Well even though I have missed video blogging week, as mentioned on Missionary-Blogs.com I thought it was appropriate to put up a video of another visit a volcano, since we seem to be keeping a pretty good catalog of trips to these wonders of nature which you can visit here (IrazĂș) and here (Arenal).

The day below Poas, which sits above the central valley of Costa Rica, was sunny and bright. But when we reached the park entrance, we were told that the crater was completely clouded over, and at the time of the day that we were visiting, probably wouldn’t be visible. However, with Kelly’s family visiting, and the remembrance of 2 other failed attempts to view the second largest volcanic crater in the world, we were determined to try.

When we arrived, it was as we were told. All we could see was a wall of clouds. But almost as an answer to prayer, the clouds parted, and we were able to see Poas in all of its magnificence. Allow us to show you. Click on the player above to view a Google video file of the appearance of this, one of the most frequented tourist sites in Costa Rica. Note: What looks to be the lake in the center of the video is the principal crater.


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Sometimes, we are on top of the world and think that fluency in Spanish is within our grasp. Other times, we are somewhat like Josh Amiot, hanging on for dear life!

This is the stage that we find ourselves in this week. We are now passing through our “ECHO”s, or Spanish conversation proficiency exams, during which our conversation with one of our professors will be recorded and our level of progress marked. This is one of the most stressful times for the students of CINCEL as we try to bring everything together for this “final exam” for the current term. (Two terms down and one to go!) We appreciate your prayers on our behalf during this time.

Now about the picture. Josh had the unfortunate experience of slipping on the rappelling wall in full view of the camera during our recent men’s retreat. We certainly thank him for the wonderful object lesson, and of course for his great sense of humor!

Hands

There is a song that says, “It is no secret, what God can do…,” but knowledge and expectations at times can be two totally different things. In the case of the Luis Palau Festival God blew away the expectations!

The students of CINCEL got a chance to be a part of the festival, as I had mentioned in this previous post, presenting a 15 minute “mini-show” to the children on Friday night. The picture above is of what had a chance to witness during the call for those who wanted to ask Christ into their hearts following the show. Dozens of children came to the Lord that night. More than that, the workers were able to collect information from over 4000 children who made a committment to the Lord during the two day event. Like I said, “It is no secret,” but at times it can be surprising what God can do.

Thanks to Renay West for the great photography. The photo album is posted here.

Now that we have about 6 months of Spanish under our belts, we feel fairly confident to travel in San José and to go about our daily activities. Still, expressing thoughts, wishes, and feelings can be a stretch for our minds and our mouths. So sharing about our relationship with Christ in Spanish has been a challenge to say the least. Still, we are aware that ministry is not just what is waiting for us in Mexico. Ministry starts here in language school as well.

That is why when the students from CINCEL had been given the opportunity to participate in the Luis Palau festival we felt lead to join the team. This weekend’s festival which features Luis Palau, considered to be the Latin Billy Graham, is expected to draw upwards of 100,000. We have been working on a 15 minute “mini-show” to present during the children’s portion of the program. During this show we will be presenting a clear message of the gospel in Spanish to which the children watching the program will be given an opportunity to respond.

Please pray for the following:

  • That all of the logistics of the campaign will move smoothly.
    That God will prepare the hearts of those who will attend the festival to hear the message of the cross of Jesus.
  • That God would work through our “mini-show” as well as the other events in order to motivate children and adults to have a relationship with Him.
  • That God would help Luis Palau to communicate clearly the message of reconciliation with God through His Son Jesus Christ.
  • That the cooperation among the evangelical churches that this festival has provoked will continue.

Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit the volcano IrazĂș. This volcano, located directly east of San JosĂ© is most generally known for it’s eruption of March 19, 1963, the day the President Kennedy visited the country. At the summit of this now dormant volcano, one can find a strange, cold and almost moon-like surface. As well as a temperature has been known to create frosts in this tropical country. However, few of the group of students that traveled to visit this natural wonder were expecting to see this placard of US culture waiting for us when we arrived.

It appears that the US Department of the Interior once had an earthquake monitoring station here at the summit of VolcĂĄn IrazĂș, and this metal plate was a remnant of their operations. What at one time may have served as a tool for scientists served on Saturday as a reminder of the thoughts and prayers of family and friends back home for a small group of missionaries. And to those who continue to show their love and support we say, “Thank you!”

We felt no “temblors” while we were exploring the terrain, but we did get some great pictures. Take a look at them now by clicking on the picture to the right or by clicking here.

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During our time on the itineration trail, we had the chance to share with some groups that missions is a world-wide mandate, that God is calling people from everywhere to go everywhere in His name. We have several examples of this reality here in the English program at CINCEL, people that have been called from nations traditionally classified as missionary receiving countries. One of those examples is Jaime Chacon.

Jaime, together with his wife Jacqueline have responded to God’s call to go to the United States. They will serve South Carolina and the surrounding area by spearheading an effort to raise up missionaries, first to reach the expanding Hispanic population in the region and then to train those who would respond to go to the world.

Jaime and Jacqueline are slated to begin their first term in the U.S. in January 2007. Their main focus will be the creation of a district-wide missions department which will assist with church planting among Hispanics, and then be available to train missionaries called out of the region.

Called into missions at the age of 17, Jaime felt a burden to reach the Arab nations, but as he followed the leading of his heart, it became clear that God was redirecting him to the U.S. to train others who would go: “I believe,” said Chacon “that God blesses those nations that send missionaries, It is our desire that The United States continues to receive that blessing.”

Some interesting facts about the need for Hispanic missionaries to reach into the U.S. from other countries:

  • Hispanics make up the largest ethnic group in the U.S. By the year 2016 they will make up 25% of the total population.
  • These Hispanics living abroad, many thousands of miles away from family and friends are open to the message of the gospel as never before.
  • Hispanics, in some instances, have the ability to go to countries that are closed to U.S. missionaries.

I was working in the kitchen by the window that overlooks the cul-de-sac between CINCEL and our house, when I saw an ambulance arrive. Concerned that there might be some kind of injury in our park or some kind of emergency, I watched as it came to a stop outside our gate. However, imagine my surprise, when the door opened to reveal teenagers passing out phonebooks.

Yes, things are different here in San Jose than in the U.S. Some other differences include:

  • You have to ask for the bill here in any restaurant. If you don’t, you could be waiting for it the entire night.
  • It is extremely impolite to throw anything. If you need to pass something to someone, you need to hand it to them or have another person pass that object.
  • There are no area codes in Costa Rica. All phone calls to every part of the country are local calls.

I’ll add more to this list as differences come to mind.

Costa Rica held its presidential elections this past weekend, an event that occurs here every four years. There were 14 parties (sample ballot) that were running for a chance at the executive post, but, as it is in the United States, only two contenders, Óscar Arias of the National Liberation Party and OttĂłn SolĂ­s of the Citizen’s Action Party had realistic possibilities of winning the election. As of early January, it seemed as though the race would be extremely one-sided, but the elections turned into a dead heat in the final days with Arias falling while SolĂ­s gained support. Still, no one was prepared for what happened at the polls on Sunday.

Turn out was lower than normal, with about 36% of those registered abstaining. The streets, normally choked with voters going to the polls were virtually quiet until the late afternoon, but inside the booths, events were happening that would have people talking for years. Because, as it stands now after 90% of the votes have been counted only 3,429 votes separate the top contenders. With the separation this close, The Supreme Elections Tribunal is now begining a manual recount of the votes. (Sound familiar?) The difference here is that there is no Electoral College here in Costa Rica, the president is elected by gaining at least a 40% majority of the popular vote. So, if the margin of victory is only one vote between Arias and SolĂ­s, the man with the most votes wins.

We got a chance to drive through the city on Sunday to view the event with Costa Rican missionaries, and as you can see from the pictures in this post, the people tend to identify with their candidate a bit more than we do in the States. In fact, Election Day, being a Sunday, takes on the air of a festival, with vendors on the streets and people going about displaying their alliances. The only difference is that this is a decidedly dry holiday, as no liquor is sold from Friday until Monday morning, a measure taken to force poll-goers to make sober decisions. Still, as the count went well into the night, with no clear winner determined, several went about their Mondays “hung over” from the indecision of Sunday night.

Coffee is more than a morning beverage here in Costa Rica. It is the product that transformed this country into what it is today. In the 1800s when coffee was first brought to Costa Rica, this country was a small, remote, unimportant part of the Spanish Empire. But when coffee was introduced, the people found that the product flourished in the rich volcanic soil and high altitudes that were readily available.

The superior product soon created a demand, and the Costa Rican government, wanting to speed production, provided incentives for farmers to begin to cultivate coffee. Not only did this bring about the Costa Rican coffee industry that is know world-wide today, but it also created a strong, independent middle-class that has hosted the 2nd oldest democracy on the continent. (US has the oldest.) For Costa Rica, coffee truly is the “bean of gold.”

The students and faculty of CINCEL recently took a trip to Britt, one of the most recognized producers of coffee here in Costa Rica, in order to gain a bit more appreciation for this wonderful drink that has played a large role in the shaping the Costa Rican culture.

Click on the picture to the left, or here to view the photos of the tour.

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