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Costa Rica 2017 Trip Updates

AND THAT'S A WRAP....

Costa Rica isn't the kind of place where you can get hot water all the time or even a toilet that flushes paper.  But playing, singing, eating, and creating with the kids of Los Guido showed me that life isn't perfect. Who knows what they were going through.  Some were medically challenged.  Some were poor.  Some were lonely.  Yet, each and every child put on a smile and showed courage!  So, all in all, from the early wake-up calls to the late night fun, I can tell you that this trip was definitely worth it!
- Madison Lexi Hoar (11 years old)

Travel day sunday 09 July 2017

Here's a quick summary by the numbers of the 2017 Costa Rica Trip:

  • Number of children and adolescents making trip: 23
  • Number of adults making the trip: 21. (Adults are outnumbered. Pray for us.)
  • Number of custom form changes: 4....no 5....no 6. It's definitely 6.
  • Time we met at church: 3:15am CDT
  • Time we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica: 11:46am CST, also known as mountain time.
  • Temperature: 70F or 21C

TRAVEL DAY HIGHLIGHTS

SCORE and the trip leaders, Mari Beth Poor and Melissa and Sean Sanderson, planned. The Hoar family performed rear guard duties flawlessly. No one was left behind at Atlanta International Airport.

Salvador and Veronica Barrantes, our host missionaries,  greeted Team Mountaintop upon our arrival and whisked us to The Villa in two buses. A snack of bananas and cookies were very appreciated after a long trip. 

The Villa is incredible!

Veronica covered ground rules for The Villa and reviewed our itinerary for the evening. She stressed the importance of everyone making time for personal time with God daily. Veronica encouraged everyone to not just be flexible, but "be elastic".

Before dinner, Veronica and Salvador shared their personal testimony of coming to Jesus. Hearing their stories reminds me of how vulnerable it can be to share your story, but also how powerful it is for others to hear. Team members shared gifts they brought for Veronica and Salvador and their family.

Salvador brought "monster pizzas" for dinner. Delicious!

After dinner Liesl Varner led the evening devotional and reminded the group about focusing about how to shine light for others. The week's focus is on Bible verse Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

We finished the evening with reminders from the celebration team to "Eat the Peach" this week and demonstrated the "Shine Your Light" theme song and dance.

 

 

 

Preparation Day Monday 10 July 2017

Our first full day in Costa Rica began after much needed rest with delicious breakfast. Lots of pineapple and watermelon! After breakfast Liesl Varner led the group in morning devotion, also known as "Devo".

We divided and conquered Tuesday morning into two groups:

Blue Group: Go into San Jose shopping for food distribution for families in Los Guido

Red Group: Stay at The Villa and prepare for the VBS 

Salvador led the shopping trip to the Max Menos for shopping. Think the Piggly Wiggly, but everything is in Spanish. If you ever find yourself at the Max Menos be aware that staff frowns upon you taking any pictures or video inside the store. The shoppers caravanned fifteen carts loaded with provisions for Los Guido families.

Melissa Sanderson kept The Villa on task and Chyanna Rausch and Carly Sartain led the VBS prep team in song and dance practice. Everyone's confidence singing in Spanish appears to be increasing . . . especially on the choruses. The lyric posters made this morning will be very helpful too. Karen Hoar, Jai Smith, Allie Sanderson and rehearsed the Bible story sharing for large group. It's going to be fun!

The lunch preparation team made a delicious lunch of chicken, salad, papa puree a.k.a. mashed pototoes, and fruit. Again, so yummy.

After lunch we packed  the Bibles and drove en route for our first trip to Los Guido, about 30-40 minute drive from The Villa. Many thanks to the buses drivers skillful navigation of the busy San Jose streets.  Driving in San Jose is not for the faint of heart. 

Upon arrival at the school where VBS will take place, we were able to tour the school and meet the head mistress and head administrator of the school. They both expressed thanks and gratitude for the Mountaintop group coming to share the Bible and Jesus with the children and families of Los Guido. 

Adrienne Smith led afternoon prayers over the Bibles that will be shared at VBS and prompted groups to pray over the rooms where children, teenagers, and mothers will congregate. We are so grateful to the families who helped provide the Bibles for this trip.

We finished the evening with dinner and evening devotional where group members shared how they have seen God's presence in their lives on this trip.

Tomorrow we go to serve the families of Los Guidos . . . we are pumped!

 

 

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VBS DAY ONE Monday 11 JULY 2017

The big day is here: Day One of VBS! We began the day with breakfast, and reading the devotional of the good Samaritan. We met our translators this morning too: Daniel, Priscilla, Isabella and Daniel. These translators are our life-line  for communicating and were amazing 

After we arrived in Los Guido, Salvador explained some of the challenges for the 38,000 families living in Los Guido. Approximately 85% of the families immigrated illegally from Nicaragua. Almost no homes are have two parents and many have children do not know either parent.  

We divided into two groups for the morning. Nathan Varner led one group stayed at the school and painted the support columns to help maintenance and prevent rust and wear. Everyone in this group was very focused on the task at hand, especially the Mountaintop kids.

The second group traveled with Salvador into Los Guido to deliver groceries to five families. Salvador introduced the family members who expressed thanks and appreciation for the food. The group prayed for blessings and good health for all the families we met. Melissa and Sean Sanderson led another group walking through Los Guido going door-to-door inviting families to attend VBS. 

After lunch children from Los Guido began arriving. Team Mountaintop created a "rock-star" arrival for the children as they got off the bus to attend the day's activities. Free play was raucous, full of soccer, jump rope, bubbles, face painting, laughter and big smiles. 

Karen, Jai, and Allie taught the large group about the story of the good Samaritan. Chyanna, Carly, and the worship team led the large group in lively renditions of VBS songs. After large group the younger children participated in craft, snack, and game stations. Teenagers met with Mari Beth and Nate in small group sessions, while Viviana and Jen met with mothers.

On the way home, the rain that fell all afternoon during VBS slowed to a drizzle. We are grateful for the skilled bus drivers navigating the wet, curvy and crowded streets of San Jose. 

We finished the evening with Nicole leading the group in a devotional sharing our highs and lows of the day. The celebrator team distributed awards for outstanding performances and service for the day.

We are pumped up for Day Two!

 Princess Sofia

 Princess Sofia

VBS DAY TWO TUESDAY 12 JULY 2017

Day two of VBS Costa Rica just wrapped up. Here's a quick recap.

Nicole led the morning devotional sharing the story of Nicodemus. The takeaway being even we can't see God with human eyes, but we see him through actions and serving others. Mari Beth reminded the group that we are not saved by serving, but we are most connected to God when we serve others.  

Our host family's daughter Sofia turned two years old today. We celebrated by singing feliz cumpleaños and bringing her gifts. Sofia's second birthday is extra special because she had chicken pox on her first birthday. All smiles and no itching today! 

Day two in Los Guido started a lot like day one except teams switched roles. Teams that painted on day one got to go with Salvador into Los Guido and bring food to families. Families that distributed food day one painted on day two. The families that received food again expressed gratitude for the blessing. Another team went on a walk-about with Salvador hand delivering written invitations for families to attend VBS. Salvador walks with a bullhorn inviting everyone in earshot. We later saw some of these families come to VBS for the first time . . . very cool!

The painting crew made quick work of applying the thick, oil-based paints to the rest of the support columns. The many hands of the VBS prep team made this project lite work. Many thanks to Ryan Gray for making the paint stretch to finish today.  The need for all the extra protection on the building soon became apparent.

After an awesome lunch of hot empanadas, the clouds rolled in and the rains came. 

And it rained and rained and rained. And I don't mean a strong rain, but rather a torrential downpour. Several inches fell in just a couple of hours just as VBS was to begin. 

Fortunately Salvador drives through neighborhoods providing families transportation to and from VBS. Without his commitment, it's likely many would not have braved today's weather. 

Melissa, Sean, and Mari Beth were unfazed and called an audible moving large group from the the leaking and flooding gym to smaller classrooms. The sound of the rain on the metal roofs was deafening at times. Moving to a more intimate settings allowed those attending VBS, as Mari Beth remarked, a better ability to  hear God's word.

All of the Mountaintop  adults and children showed great flexibility and positive attitudes adjusting to trying circumstances. Parents on the trip have been especially impressed with the service and work ethic of so any of the youth on this trip. Nicole remarked during devotional that we are seeing the fruits of  the years of work and service Mountaintop's children's ministry.

We are ready for day three. .  . rain or shine!

 

 

 

VBS DAY THREE THURSDAY 13 JULY 2017

Day three of  VBS is finished. First and foremost. .  . thank you God for no rain today!

Here's a quick recap of the day:

Adrienne Smith led the morning devotion around the idea that "God made me to shine". One of the ways we do this is by serving others. After morning devotion the Mountaintop team sangfeliz cumpleaños for Veronica because today is her birthday.

The food distribution team finished delivering the last of the groceries for Los Guido families. Getting to hear the personal stories from families and how the important the deliveries are to them. One family shared that the father had lost his job the day before, and they did not know what they would do for food. God's timing is perfect.

The painting team wrapped up their project by sanding and painting the window bars and gates.  Resources and staff are in short supply at the school, so they were very appreciative for the many hands making fast work. Don and Donovan worked outside of the gymnasium digging a trench and patching the gym leak. 

After lunch, VBS attenders began arriving. By the numbers:

  • Children: 80-100
  • Teenagers: 21
  • Mothers: 21 (yesterday 8 attended!)
  • Rain: 0

Mari Beth, Nate, Gracie, and Jace took all the teenagers for a fun outing. For some of the teens this was their first time to come to a McDonalds. Because we had access to free WiFi, we were able to have many small conversations without the interpreter  using Google Translate. It was so cool to learn how on fire they are for God.

The Bible story team wrapped up their week by teaching about God making us to shine and that we do so for His glory.

The praise team finished with one more round of the VBS songs. Chyanna closed singing Good Good Father and hearing some of the children singing along in English gave you chills.  

As all of the VBS attenders dismissed, and each family was given a Bible written in Español. The school thanked Mountaintop by making fresh empanadas for everyone. Yummy!

At evening devotional many Mountaintop families shared about their experience leading up to and during the mission trip. So many good reflections were shared by children and adults. The celebrator team recognized and awarded every team member about aspects of their service this week.

One of the most powerful stories shared was when Salvador drove the VBS attenders back to their home today. He told usabout one boy that got off the bus, sat day with his father, and began reading the Bible to him. God is good!

Tomorrow we go sight seeing and zip-lining.