Monday, February 1, 2016

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

We're back in Baltimore.  I still have a "summer cold" because I didn't include enough long sleeve shirts.  It was cooler than I expected.  And I probably didn't ask enough of the right questions beforehand.  And, two days later, my neck and back are bothering me some. The flight back seemed to take more of a toll than the trip down.

I took some pictures, but not as many as I'd originally planned.  I was unsure of Costa Rican legalities, in some places.  Other times, it was suggested that I might be mugged for my phone if I took it out in some areas.  And there were times when I felt privacy was more important than me getting pictures.

That's a selfie of this guy, to the left.  It was taken in the church patio area and I already shared it on Facebook.  I don't usually do selfies.  In fact not many pictures.  The trip was for me to gain some firsthand insights.  But, in a larger sense, the trip wasn't about me.  It was an opportunity to watch God at work, both around me and in me.

The earlier posts in this series were written while in Costa Rica, Later posts came after my return to Baltimore.  As I write this introduction, some are yet to be written.  We're starting out with a day by day format.  I'm not sure we'll stick with that or not.  But there's a lot to say.

Day 1:

San Jose, warm, sunny, friendly.  When you arrive at the airport, immigration is particularly friendly if you even attempt to communicate in Spanish.  The lady at the bag scanning machine wasn't particularly that way.  But that was probably a combination of boredom and answering the same questions over and over, with only a nod.  Walk out the door and there's a mob of what seems like hundreds of cabbies all clamoring for your business.  And there I was looking for a friend in this sea of faces.

Hebrews 13:1-2 (NKJV)  Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

1 Peter 4:9 (NKJV)  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 

Because I hadn't received the message that another friend would be there a couple of hours later and he planned on picking us up together, I didn't realize I was supposed to wait for my friend.  And my phone wasn't connecting to either wifi or roaming, at the airport.  Low battery, at the time.  About the time I figured I needed to do something to get to the hostel where I was staying, along came Juan, asking if I needed a ride.  His price was about the same as the hostel's shuttle would have charged.  So, off we went.  As we were riding, I mentioned again that I had planned on meeting a pastor friend and we hadn't connected. Juan asked what church, then who the pastor was.  When I told him, he dialed a number.  It was my pastor friend.  It turned out Juan was someone we've talked to and, unintentionally, became my first ministry opportunity in Costa Rica.

The hostel was unique.  it has all kinds of levels, separated by either long or short stairways, sometimes leading to nothing more than a landing, sometimes going onto a level with one or more rooms. Longer stairways don't go up without curving around.  After hauling my bags, I decided to stay in, the first night.  Bedtime was earlier than usual.  Between being tired and my body still being on EST, that was a no brainer.

Day 2:

The hostel supplies breakfast.  If you want eggs, you cook your own.  But there are lots of fresh tropical fruits, cereals, bread, milk, coffee.  I got hooked on the papaya, pineapple, mango and bananas, mixed with granola or cereal, and liquid yogurt..

Pastor Brent came to the hostel and we took a walk to the supermarket for a few things.  I have some chilled green tea, and a few other things to cover meals for the rest of each day, beyond breakfast.  I mentioned what they call liquid yogurt, in quarts.  It's thinner than regular yogurt, but not as thin as milk or cream.  A quart of that with the fruit and some granola mixed in does make a great breakfast.

The hostel has Netflix and cable available.  As folks were watching CNN, I started discovering that I had no desire to watch anything even barely resembling US TV.  And that got me thinking about American TV and my relationship to it.  There's a lot of garbage on the air.  Quite a bit of decent stuff, too.  My tastes were all toward the decent stuff, mostly news and action shows.  But even those would sometimes sneak in attitude statements that weren't right.  But what I found disturbing was the realization that I had become a TV junkie.  Every night of the week, I had programs I felt I didn't want to miss.  Not good for me, but exactly what the broadcasters and advertisers wanted. And it brought a verse to mind.

1 John 4:1 (NKJV)  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Just because something isn't bad doesn't mean it's good.  And, even if a program is all good, the question is whether it becomes a distraction from things that are more important.  In my case, the answer was "Sometimes.".  Over the next 24 hours or so, that led to a wonderful discovery.  Talking to people, doing all the things I should be doing and want to do, I wasn't missing even my most favorite shows.  Their importance paled next to what I was actually experiencing in San Jose.

Day 3:

Mark 16:15 (NKJV)  And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

I had my usual breakfast, talked to a few people at the hostel.  I was open about the fact I was here visiting the church a block away.  That was cool with some, a turn off for others.  None seemed to be saved.  I worked on that.  But that verse I added for the day is important in describing my day.

The afternoon had a bunch of blessings.  The church in San Jose does a Wednesday afternoon outreach to the local university.  We met at a local food place for an outreach meeting, where I shared a devotional for the team.  We then prayed, went across the street, and split into teams of two.  

Pastor Mike teamed up with me, with the idea that he'd introduce me as a visiting American, I'd share the Gospel, he'd translate.  We were going to do that with the first young lady and her boyfriend, who turned out to both speak English.  She didn't accept Christ, but had lots of seeds planted.  And it turned out her boyfriend was a born again believer.  So, he smiled when I suggested he could explain more to her, later.  We met a variety of people, from "metalhead" to what looked like a businesswoman who believed in Krishna, and a pastor's wife who worked at the school.  In the hour there, we had the blessing of being used for two salvations.  Several other groups had others.

That day, I ended up hanging out with the church team for the rest of the afternoon.  There was a fellowship supper, plus midweek service, both awesome!  One of the upsides of the day was thinking that my only thought about TV was that I didn't miss it.  The one downside?  While my mind was on San Jose time, my body was still on EST time!  That resulted in my going to bed earlier than usual, according to local time.  Because I was wide awake at an earlier hour, local time.

So far, this is an amazing trip.  We'll talk more about it, next time.

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