Reflections shared by Rev. Dr. Ivan E. Greuter, IM Board Member, who was team c0- leader.
The sky was dark, and there was little traffic on the roads when we landed after midnight at the San Jose airport in Costa Rica. Peter McCurdy, a global servant for International Ministries, greeted our mission team on Sat., July 6, after we cleared Immigration/ Border Control and Customs. Eight youth from the 2018-2019 ABCCR 4TEN Youth program, two young adults, the Special Assistant to Short Term Missions with International Ministries (Dr. Cindy Falk), and I, headed to our bus for the ninety-minute drive to the Campamento Bautist en Ochomogo (Baptist Camp). After a very short night, we had our first breakfast (thankfully, not beans and rice) before we arrived for worship with our Tico hosts (Costa Ricans call themselves, “Ticos”) in Cartago. The youth at the Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) had prepared a bilingual Sunday school class with worship in Spanish. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Rosti Pollo restaurant, watching the new Spiderman movie at the mall (in English with Spanish subtitles), and resting at the camp.
The goal of the mission trip was to travel as God’s guests to a cross-cultural setting in hopes of building long-lasting friendships between youth from the United States and Costa Rica. The Federacion de Asociaciones Bautistas en Costa Rica (FABCR) hosted our group at their mountainside camp (5,000 ft. elevation) in Ochomogo. Mr. Roberto Azofeifa, Director of Youth Programs for FABCR, plus thirty-four Tico youth arrived on Monday morning and stayed thru Friday afternoon. We played team-based games (lots of water sports and soccer), studied in bilingual small groups, ate lots of delicious food (including beans and rice) thanks to our camp cooks, Margoth and Laura, and completed work projects during the nine days of service. A few memorable experiences were daily chapel services in English and Spanish (simultaneously), the obstacle course concluding with a mud pit, Lawson celebrating his 17th birthday in Costa Rican style, and the USA youth sharing one of their camping customs by teaching the Ticos how to make S’mores. Most of the Ticos had never enjoyed these chocolate delights.
Our mission journey was interspersed with two day-trips: First, to the Irazu Volcano National Park, the abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, and Pops Ice Cream shop. Many of the Costa Rican adults and students were able to visit these sights for the first time. Second, our USA mission team spent several hours learning about the environment at the Café Cristina organic coffee plantation (fulfilling our educational commitment for IM’s generous financial support of the trip)
before touring Lake Cachí, the church ruins in Ujarrás, a pedestrian swinging bridge, and the Iglesia de San Jose in the Orosi Valley with our IM guides, Sarah and Peter McCurdy and Sue Hegarty. Of course, we also enjoyed a final day of worship at Roberto’s church (Primera Iglesia Bautista) en Desamparados where I was invited to preach. We enjoyed an afternoon of shopping at the artisans’ market and the San Jose mall before resting at our hotel before our early morning trip back home.
The trip was a success despite a couple of sprained ankles, a trip to the doctor, and an emergency visit to a dentist! The students and adults accomplished all the goals of the journey by building long-lasting friendships between students in the USA and Costa Rica. Hopefully, this trip will be the first of many cross-cultural exchanges between the ABCCR and FABCR.