Short-term missions is a very interesting undertaking. It is easy to wonder "why raise the money to travel to a place and work when you could just send the money?" There are several answers to this question, but the 2 most important are IMPACT LEVEL and RELATIONSHIPS. Here's what that means...
Consider the average Costa Rican who is at least somewhat well-off financially, is a Christian and wants to minister into their community. Because of work, many have only weekends available to work in ministry (just like us). Even then, there are the regular responsibilities of life. Many Ticos (Costa Ricans) who have labor jobs get little to no time-off during the year. Americans who can take a week or so to come and focus on ministry -- whether physical or spiritual -- can accomplish more in that short focused period o f time than the nationals could over the course of many weekends. Work is done faster and more ground can be covered spiritually in these times. The IMPACT LEVEL is simply greater and the missionaries and churches here can build on the work done by the Americans. This connection is a vital one between the American Church and the Church in other countries.
When it comes to RELATIONSHIPS, the first few days of any trip make you start wondering if there will ever be a connection made with people who speak different languages and who come from such diverse backgrounds. For me and Steve, this trip, our second to CR was amazing in that we immediately reconnected with those we met in July. For the other guys I could see it starting to happen. Today was really the day that I felt that relationships that these men will never forget began to jell. To watch these guys play with children, spend time with some older people, and work together with our Tico friends is a complete joy! Time out from "work" to build relationships is one that we all agreed needed to take place as God opened doors for any of us. The men have been very sensitive to these "divine appointments", letting each other disappear for awhile, trusting that these powerful connections are being made.
We didn't quite get all of our goals met today due to difficulty with obtaining supplies, but everything that could have been done was done. Meanwhile, Phil and Craig have become known by the kids as suppliers of "Chicklets" (candy). Jeff is our game player in the group, spending time throwing small balls (and sometimes rocks -- improvisation is a needed gift on these trips!) Ed gets most of the attention due to the fact that he is nearly a foot taller than most nationals!
We were able to haul up most of the final supplies needed to finish as well as get the trusses for the roof complete. The window woodwork has begun and we think we can get everything finished tomorrow before the big PPP celebration (Praise, Prayer and Pizza) at 2pm with the families and neighbors. As the day closed, Joselyn, the young woman who's home we are building took a "new homeowners tour". She looked out over an amazing view for the first time from her new window. I hope that she listens closely as the still small voice of God reminds her that what she see out that window was made by her loving Heavenly Father AND the home she lives in was built because of the love of His Son Jesus, by men who love him with their whole heart. Maybe she'll see that in reality, Jesus built her home.
We left the site early in order to go to a Men's Drug Rehab Center run by the CCA church. We met for an hour or so with these wonderful men who are fighting their way out of addictions. I know that each one of us was impacted by the testimonies of God's goodness to them. I have a soft spot for addicts so this is always a special time for me. As we finished, the men in the rehab gathered around us and prayed for us in a concert of prayer (that means all at the same time, out loud). We went outside to take pictures and our group sang "Amazing Grace" over them. We spent a few minutes taking pictures and it struck me that when someone looks at the picture, there is no way they could determine "who is who". This is just a group of brothers on different journeys whom God brought together for a few special moments here on earth. One day in Heaven I think we'll take another photo of all of us together again -- none of us struggling anymore with our earthly challenges!
What an exciting day tomorrow will be -- 2 houses ready to go. 2 families lives forever impacted by this group of Gringos from the US.