Italy 2019 Update #2

Our day started out with a 8:30 breakfast in which the team got to enjoy an American-style breakfast (eggs and bacon). Normal Italian breakfast consist of cereal, cookies, and pastries. After breakfast, we drove to Ravenna (approx. 40 mins away) for church. Church was all in Italian and we definitely enjoyed worshipping in their natural language. The message was on “How does Satan try to divide the church” through 1 Timothy 1:3-17. The pastor highlighted verse 17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen”. At the conclusion of the service, the church members greeted us and said they are praying for our week of camp in Forli. Following church, we proceed back to Faenza, where we had a chance to play “Cambio” before lunch. Lunch was amazing as the missionary prepared pork loin, rice, cucumber salad, and corn. After lunch, some of the coaches took a nap while the others played more card games. Later in the after, we decided to walk near the center of town as an annual city parade was taking place. The parade was medieval-themed with 5 sections that represented the 5 zones of Faenza. As the parade concluded, we walked to the downtown part of Faenza in which we would have our first team gelato. And YES…the gelato was amazing. Dinner was in Forli, so we drove 25 minutes to the church there to have pizza with missionaries and members from the church. One of the missionary families is going on home assignment tomorrow so this was our opportunity to meet them and for some of us to say goodbye. Our night concluded with Team Time in which we covered camp logistics as well as go over an introduction into Philippians.

Italy 2019 Update #1

After about 9 hours of traveling, the team safely arrived in Venice, Italy and was greeted by a missionary and church member. Team was also greeted by rain and thunder despite Italy being known for its hot June. After getting loaded into the car, the team arrived at the Bed and Breakfast they would be staying at the following. The church member, who met them at the airport, she lives in an apartment below the Bed and Breakfast. She offered to allow us to leave our bags with her as we downsize into smaller bags for our trip to Faenza. After getting ourselves together, we grabbed lunched at Ali Baba’s (place known for its Turkish-style kebabs and a staple of every Italy trip) and proceed for the train station. We boarded the train around 1 pm and arrived in Faenza around 4:15. Our missionary host greeted the team and took us to her apartment. We were finally excited to get settled in and relax. Prior to dinner, we decided to play several card games, like Skip-Bo and “Cambio,” as part of our team bonding. For dinner, we would enjoy parmesan-crusted chicken, green beans, salad, oven-roasted potatoes, and pan-seared zucchini and tomatoes topped with parmesan cheese. Dinner was amazing and the missionary shared several stories from the camp she was running in a nearby town last week. After dinner, we cleaned up the table and washed the dishes. We concluded the night with Team Time by discussing tomorrow’s schedule, covering some training material, and trip expectations. We are excited about worshiping in Italian as church tomorrow will be in a nearby town.

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.14.19

Pura Vida

After a long evening of games and laughter from the night before, we woke up this morning slightly tired but with full hearts. We packed our last few things and got organized for the long day of travel ahead of us. Everyone was very sad to be leaving the AMCA house. This place feels like home, and our team feels like family. It is a hard thing to walk away from. Fortunately, we had Musmani (the bakery up the street) to look forward to. It was incredible as always, and we enjoyed our last morning in the country. Heading off the airport, we departed from Nattie, Patri, and Gabriel. Goodbyes are challenging for all of us, so we weren’t thriving in those moments. On the ride to airport, Jack played DJ in the bus and Ronny (our trusty bus driver) finally wore the hat at the front of the bus we have been wanting him to wear all week. Jack played songs to match the mood and some of us partook in some cheesy dance moves and hairbrush singing. We wanted to make the most of our last Costa Rican ride.

The airports were peaceful themselves. Outside of the fact that our connecting flight was late, which meant we had to rush to reach the flight to Chicago. It was weird being back in the states. After living in a shack with only the sound of the animals at night. As well as a bustling town for so long. The peacefulness (and cleanliness) was a welcomes sight. But it was clear that people were sad to leave. Everyone was just trying to soak in the last few moments together, and enjoy the community we formed. As we fly over the United States and stare at the gorgeous sunset on the horizon while playing cards or reading a book, We want to spend our last few words in this blog to reflect on a question we asked ourselves before signing up; And it may be something you asked your child, relative, friend, or whomever told you they were heading to Costa Rica.

Why a Missions Trip?

For some of us it was an opportunity to escape out of the cycle that we call our everyday lives. For others it was a chance to step out of the comfort zone. For many, it was the opportunity to see God in a way that we’ve never seen him before. And for everyone, it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

So here’s to those moments of exhaustion in the heat as we spread smiles and a wealth of joy to the children who never seemed to run out of energy themselves. To the crazy games of Dodgeball where high school kids tried to tear our heads off. The Basketball and Soccer games in the prison where our hearts were opened to how kind and loving the people seen as outcasts truly were. To the wide eyes of community members as we showed how God can change our lives as crystal clear water poured out of a bucket full of dirty water. The multitude of inside jokes and laughs and tears of joy that ensued on nearly every bus ride around town. The nights of cards and games of “ultimate werewolf” were we convinced ourselves that sleep wasn’t necessary. Weekends spent going to church and playing disc golf, Zumba, and wiffleball. Here’s to the thoughts and discussion during team time, and the vulnerability of everyone’s testimony.

And while it may seem like you were able to go on this journey with us through the blog. We were truly only able to get to the surface of how incredible this trip was, and what it meant to all of us. So when you see your trip goer, say one thing… “tell me about the trip”. I can guarantee what they will tell you, and what you will come find, is that everything that happened on a small country in Central America is nothing short of God at work.

With all that being said.

Here’s to the Smiles. The Laugher. The Tears. The Friendship and Fellowship. The Risks. The Conversations. The Inside Jokes. The Leaders. The Support. And Every Life we changed.

Here’s to The Costa Rica Seed trip of Summer 2019.

Signing off With Love,

Reagan, Claire, Madison, and the Entire Missions Team

Pura Vida

God bless

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.13.19

Superman & Slides

This morning we had an early morning wake up call as we got on the road to head to the canopy tour at 6:30am. After a slight backtrack to get Jenna’s phone (oops), we ate buffet breakfast next door to the zip line place. There was a lot of nervous anticipation as we suited up in the harnesses and awaited the tour guides. After about 45 minutes, we began the hour and a half tour that consisted of about 10 different zip lines through the rain forest. The three favorites were: The Tarzan Swing, which was where hooked to a cord that swung you over a cliff with a river at the bottom and an incredible view of the forest, the Crazy Horse, which was a zip line lower to the ground where the cord bounce while you were zooming through the air, and finally, the Superman, which was the longest and highest line where you were strapped into a harness that carried you on your stomach, so you flew like superman way above the forest. The superman was the top favorite because of how breathtaking and indescribable the view was, even though it started raining. We are all very grateful to have experienced God’s beautiful creation in such a unique and exhilarating way. Shout out to our team for going out of their comfort zone and facing the heights.

Next, we headed to the hot springs at the bottom of the volcano for an afternoon of relaxation and, in some cases, more adrenaline from the water slides. We had a very nice lunch in the resort, and then we dispersed to the different pools. Each pool was heated from the volcano, and they progressively got hotter—ranging from 109 to 130 degrees. There were four different water slides, peaking at 27 miles per hour. These included a toilet bowl slide, where you shot down a tube into a big bowl where you slid around until you fell through a hole in the middle into a little pool. The other three were slides into a hot spring, one was a straightforward chill slide down, another was a longer and faster slide that curved more but still pretty chill, and the last one was very intense because of how fast you went down and the drop before shooting out of the tube (everyone got some air). Our time at the hot springs was a great last team bonding, and a relaxing way to end our last full day.

On the bus ride back to AMCA, we had the opportunity to debrief about the trip and share how each of us have uniquely impacted each other on the trip as encouragement for one another. We also had a five-minute reflection time, followed by sharing what God taught each of us individually and how we want to bring that into our lives once we get back to the states. Praise God for bringing this team together because it has been such a blast to get to know one another, grow together, and build lasting bonds.

Love,

Abby and Rachel

P.S. Prayers for safe travel tomorrow would be appreciated! See you soon!

Hope Costa Rica Update 2 6.11.19

Last Day of Service

This morning Reagan, Jack, and Emari awoke in their hammocks for the second morning in a row. They decided to stay the night in the new hammocks they bought instead of sleeping in the rustic huts that are now our dwellings. After a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, and fruit, we departed for the school where we would spend the day.

Once again, we spent the first part of the day playing wonderful games with the children and showing them God’s love through sports, hair styling sessions, hugs, piggy back rides, and other forms of affection. These kids were simply amazing. Although we were in one of the most economically impoverished areas we had visited so far, the kids were overjoyed to see us and were another great example of how we are all God’s children and are equal in his eyes. This sight truly exemplified one of the concepts we have been talking about lately as a group.

We have been discussing how although the people we are visiting are “poorer” than we are, there are aspects of their lives that make them “richer”. We live in a society that in some ways takes community and communication for granted. These people down here are so happy because they are together, united without the technology that we use every day. So in this sense, they are richer than we are. We also live extremely busy, hectic lives. We seldom take the time to enjoy the day, live in the moment, and forget about packing in as much as we can into a 24-hour period. So when thinking about lifestyle, some would argue we are missing something and are “poorer” than our Costa Rican brothers and sisters.

Working in this area made that notion quite clear. When distributing water filters, the exterior perception of the families that lived here was that of a less wealthy community, considering the need for water filters and economic facts we have been given going into the community. However, the spiritual wealth was so present and seemed to overflow in our small area of the world. As Rachel explained the renewal of Jesus during the water filter demonstration, smiling faces of children and parents were surrounding us. Both the families and the Push the Rock team worked together to make the water filters, all one community from different parts of the world. We also give a big shout-out to Ronny, without whose powerful drill bit-twisting skills came quite in handy. Several hugs, smiles, and water filters later, we took to the road with the extra filters to spread the clean water and joy of the Lord.

Our love for God and for each other is growing with every moment. The significance and purposefulness of each member on the trip is evident. It’s hard to imagine this trip with any other group of people. God is using our unique abilities to bring His plan to fruition: from our Spanish-speaking abilities, to our varieties of leadership, to our ways of connecting with kids: from our sarcastic jabs, to our senses of humor, to our laughs-that-make-you laugh; from our struggles, to our wisdom, to our different walks of faith; God is using it all.

The reality of our trip coming to a close is starting to set in. This only makes each moment we get to spend together even more meaningful. Our days our limited to continue to push each other in our faiths, but we are living in and loving on every second!

Stay cool USA.

Love,

Gabbi, Jack, & Lauryn

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.11.19

Spotting God & Cats

Our day was eventful from the get-go as Megan had a great morning wake-up from our new friend Spot the stray cat who wandered into the girl’s room last night and decided to cuddle with her feet. Nothing gets eight college girls up faster than screaming after finding unexpected friends. On the bright side, all of the boys who slept outside in hammocks also survived the night without getting eaten alive by bugs or worse, las cucarachas. Breakfast at our new location was followed by another surprise: a local man stopped by the church we are staying at and asked for prayer as he is battling alcoholism and wants to begin a relationship with Christ. It was only 8am but we already had quite the day!

It was a general consensus that the school we visited today made the top 5 experiences of the trip. Here’s why: we got off the bus that our driver, Ronny, so skillfully maneuvered to get us to the school safely and were greeted by 90+ 1st-4th graders – talk about a welcome! Although they were the least socioeconomically wealthy school we have visited, they were rich with joy. While with them, we did relays and played futbol, dodge-ball, and fan-favorites, Pato-Pato-Gonzo (Duck-Duck-Goose) and Enfuego en la Jungla (Fire in the Jungle).

We found great joy in engaging with the kids who didn’t want to play the larger group game and playing games with those that wanted to play with them. After our hearts were filled, our stomachs were filled with fresh fruit from a neighboring farmer. We indulged in mango (with the skin still on), pineapple (with salt), and papaya. Our tasty snack was followed by a tour of the school, including a child’s dream playground, garden (that included pineapple, corn, cucumber, yucca, cabbage, and chili peppers to name a few) and a greenhouse. We ended the tour in the cafeteria were we enjoyed chicken in some creamy sauce, rice, beans, salad, and a fried condensed milk dessert that we either loved or didn’t.

Lunch was followed by the student’s families coming back for the water filter demonstration and our testimonies in which we shared the Gospel. Since this was our first demonstration, there were a few rookie mistakes but overall, it went well and we believe many of the families were impacted by our stories. One thing that motivated and gave us a new perspective was when Jon said, “Taking 5 minutes to drill a better hole will give these families clean water for over 10 years. You are changing the way these kids are growing up – that’s worth the extra time.”

After we finished up at the school, we held another demonstration at the church down the road which was equally impactful. God’s love was very evident through the smiles and laughter of the children and the appreciation the families showed us for the water filters. We have seen Him working in many ways, big and small, this week and cannot wait to see how He shows up at the clinic tomorrow and throughout the rest of our time here.

Dinner was prepared for us at our new home and was followed by team time, where we finished up hearing everyone’s testimonies and heard the Word from Jon. We wrapped up our night playing some of our favorite games where we learned a little more about each other.

Hope you all have a great day and can see God working in your lives back in the States. Stay tuned for our translators Jack and Lauryn and our amiga, Gabbi who will be updating you tomorrow!

See you soon America!

Megan and Jenna

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.10.19

It’s an “ON” day!

It’s another one of those wonderful travel days! The day began around 8:30 a.m. and started off very normal. Like most days we headed off to Musmani, the local bakery. However, on the way, an elderly man stumbled across the street into the arms of the two nurses on the trip, our fearless leaders, Jon and Peyton. Very quickly, our “off” day turned into an “on” day. With experience and quick thinking, Jon and Peyton were able to assess the situation and get him the proper help he needed.

From there we ate our breakfast and headed to church. On our way, we were informed that their usual translator was sick and unable to attend the service, leaving us wondering how we would understand the sermon. The service began with powerful worship through song. The lyrics were in Spanish but the power of the Holy Spirit was evident. The language of God is universal, and for many of us this was our first time experiencing such thing. As we said earlier, this was our “off” day but this strange “on” day kept continuing. As many of us were pleasantly surprised when the pastor was accompanied on stage by a translator. It was apparent to all that God was moving in our lives today.

Church was followed by a brief visit to the AMCA house where we grabbed our bags and began our voyage up north. On our way to San Carlos, we stopped at a local mall to grab our lunch. The mall was very similar to our malls in the U.S. For those who are interested, Penny Lane Sports is just like Finish Line. The route to San Carlos was beautiful. Our wonderful bus driver, Ronny, brought us through a Costa Rican National Park where we got to see amazing views of the rainforest.

Following our arrival at San Carlos, we settled into our rooms. The women were situated “indoors” while the men were led to their room out back. After getting settled we had a little chance to relax we had the opportunity to play a few team games. We were called to the dinner table at six and began worship at seven. Team time started with powerful testimonies which were followed by our usual two songs. These two songs however, led to a night of belting worship where we needed jolly ranchers and refills of water to keep our vocal cords up to speed.

On a day where we were not scheduled for ministry, God showed up in indescribable and unforgettable ways.

With love from Costa Rica,

Emari, Madison, and Christian

It doesn’t end, come back tomorrow to hear from two of our finest; Jenna and Megan.

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.9.19

Zumba, Wal-Mart & A Haircut

As college students, we never thought we would be so excited to “sleep in” until 7:30 am… and yet that’s what we experienced as we had a later start to our first day without any clinics. After a delicious breakfast at the AMCA house, we went to a park called “Parque la Libertad” where we did multiple activities with each other and some locals. Many of us played disc golf around the park, while others joined in on a very challenging but fun Zumba class. During Zumba we saw God as we were able to talk with some of the locals and bond with them through our participation in the Zumba class. After both groups were done, we played a whiffle ball game, threw the football, and passed with the mini lacrosse sticks. We went back to the AMCA house for lunch (Reagan finally got his tacos that he had been talking about the whole trip), hung out for an hour, and then adventured to the Artisan Market. It was overwhelming, but ultimately an eye-opening experience that gave us a glimpse of Costa Rican culture (plus we all left with some goodies).

When Kim said we were going to a “supermarket” to get Costa Rican coffee, we all pictured a local grocery store—and then we pulled into a Wal-Mart. Jokes on us. Inside the Wal-Mart we got some tasty ice cream at a mini shop called Pops, and then we all dispersed to get our coffee and snacks. As we were waiting for everyone to check out, Madison keenly noted about Joaquin (Jack’s new name for those of you who don’t know), “I have never seen someone with their face engulfed so deep in a bag of coffee beans.” Let’s just say our bus smells really good now. After the supermarket, a.k.a. Wal-Mart, we had a Costa Rican dinner at a restaurant called “La Parodito de las Brujas” where we discovered which of us are the bravest as some ordered tongue and liver for their meal. Both Abby and I (Rachel) agree that the tongue is better than the liver. The liver tasted like a very dry and tough steak with a weird aftertaste, whereas the tongue tasted like it was straight out of a pot roast (also softer than we all anticipated). However, once we noticed the taste buds on the tongue, no one wanted to eat more of it.

We ended the evening with more team time of going through Philippians, as well as packing for our excursion up north for the next three days. Even though today was not focused on ministry, we all still saw God at different points throughout the day, such as playing whiffle ball and lacrosse with one of the locals named Stephanie. God was clearly shown through the smile that came from her experiencing these sports for the first time. Also God has really been helping us grow closer as a team, which was clearly shown through Jenna’s trust in Christian and Joaquin to cut her hair with an ordinary pair of scissors. We learned that they can’t cut in a straight line, but don’t worry Jenna, as Megan said “if you turn to your head to the right it doesn’t look as bad.” We eagerly look forward to what more He has for us up north. In conclusion, the next time you go to your local supermarket, a.k.a. Wal-Mart, we hope you’ll think of us and maybe even pretend like you’re in Costa Rica.

With love,

Rachel and Abby J

Come back tomorrow to hear about our day from Reagan, Christian, and Madison—an incredible trio.

Hope Costa Rica Update 6.8.19

Peace, Love & Futbol

Well, once again, we awoke to the sound of birds…well some of us did. We also had another delicious breakfast at the bakery down the street. After eating our fill of Costa Rican carbs, we had an another engaging bus ride to our first destination of the day: another prison. We went there to play a full 11 v 11 game of soccer against a team composed of the inmates. Knowing this, our minds naturally expected a full squad of Fifa professionals and that our grave defeat was inevitable. However, when we arrived, we learned that the prison was home to men that averaged around 65 years old. So, the game was slightly more fair than we expected. It was a hard fought game, ending 1-1, and we all had a blast competing but most importantly enjoyed connecting with the people we met there.

Post-game we really got to know the people there by listening to their stories and sharing a snack. The joy they had was inspiring despite their circumstances. Many of the men had been in prison for most of their lives, and some may very well spend the rest of their lives there. One of the most impactful parts of the visit was seeing the communal atmosphere created there. Dance lessons were taught, friendships were evident, and supporters came to watch the lively soccer match. This was a huge contrast to the other prison we visited.

So after a sweaty match of soccer, we went down the road to another prison. This one held another overlooked part of the population. The inmates were young adults who were mostly 18 to 25. Words to describe the young adults were dangerous and aggressive, but this was far from what we encountered. They were friendly and eager to interact with us. The feelings of anxiety from the brief description beforehand disappeared once we began to introduce sports. Our focus was to teach the guys some basketball skills, and spread God’s love through our testimonies and sports. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the time we shared with them. It was amazing to see the inmates how God sees them and not how society defines them to be.

After lunch at the AMCA house, we headed off to the second school we visited yesterday. We expecting two hours with third graders and to our surprise, the third graders were actually thirteen year olds. Thankfully we have a team that is able to adjust, and Rachel and Gabbie were able to lead them in some age appropriate games. Lacrosse was introduced to them for the first time, and it was fun to see their joy while experiencing a new athletic event. After that, we played our new favorite schoolyard game: dodgeball. The students took dodgeball strategy to a whole new level we did not think was possible until today. The heavy rain did not discourage us from having the best time playing games.

So a common prayer for our team is for the energy to bring our best selves to the clinics every day. Today we felt more exhausted than usual, but God continually provided for us throughout the day. People were fatigued from the soccer game and a shorter sleep the night before, but we were still able to pour into those we ministered to. He showed up for myself personally (Claire) in the second prison today because God challenged me to view the men with the same love that he has for his them as his children.

After a long spontaneous discussion about scars, injuries, and other unfortunate mishaps in our lives, we finished the day with another great “team time.” Peyton and Kasey talked us through more of Philippians and what it means to live with a submissive mind. Together we are challenging one another to deny ourselves of our personal agenda, our control, our natural tendencies, and our comfort. It’s amazing the way our team is growing together and it is truly evident that God has handpicked each and every one of us to be here together. We are really spurring each other on in our faith and encouraging vulnerability during discussions. We look forward to growing closer to God and closer to one another over the course of the next six days.

Peace, love, and futbol,

Jack and Claire

Listen in tomorrow to hear from Abby and Rachel about more great adventures