El Molino, Costa Rica     Volunteers In Mission  
Neil Brown  Feb 7 - 19, 2011
Click on the dates below.


DAY 1      FEBRUARY 7, 2011

   Today is a travel day , we fly direct from Charlotte to San Jose, Costa Rica, a 4-hour flight. We are met at the airport by a 20-passenger Toyota diesel bus. We make a stop at the local mall for a quick lunch and groceries.

   After a grueling 3-hour ride over narrow and steep mountain roads- the Blue Ridge can't hold a candle to these roads- we arrive at our destination, the Iglesia Evangelica Methodista La Molina, down a mile-long bumpy dirt road. We are greeted by Efrain Bermudez, the district superintendent of the Iglesia Evangelica Methodista de Costa Rica, translated as the Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica, a pan-Methodist denomination. No United Methodists here. It's 7:30 p.m. and the ladies of the church have supper prepared for us.

   Sitting across from me is Enrique, a local church member wearing a Kairos shirt. Turns out he volunteers at a prison in San Jose. We compare notes with his halting English and my poor Spanish.

   Our 10-member team come from 8 churches from Spruce Pine to Madison, Greensboro to Charlotte. Turns out we are the first WNC Conference building team to come to El Molina. Our task is to repair termite and rot damage to the adjoining church parsonage, built partly of concrete and the upper part of wood.

   After a delicious meal, we pump up our air mattresses, hang tarps with ropes to divide the sanctuary into 2 sleeping rooms, and bed down on the tile floor. It's a simple concrete building with a metal roof and no doors or windows, only bars over the openings. We survive a restless night interrupted by bats flying overhead, barking dogs, night critters outside the door, and roosters crowing at 3:00 a.m. The joys of being the hands and feet of Jesus!                  

Back to Top

DAY 2      FEBRUARY 8, 2011

The church ladies feed us 3 delicious meals a day out of a simple kitchen that no US woman would dare cook in.

Team members hard at work, tearing off the wooden outside back wall

Unloading building materials at the parsonage

Tuesday night prayer meeting, I meet another Kairos brother

Back to Top

DAY 4    FEBRUARY 10, 2011

   Progress continues on interior painting, exterior soffit replacement, and replacement of the rear exterior wall that had been severely damaged by termites. Our local church ladies continue to feed us 3 times a day with delicious and bountiful local food with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Local church members pitch in to help the mission team.

The open air kitchen sink

Costa Rica Kairos prison ministry pictures

Thursday night gospel sing at the church

Thursday night gospel sing at the church

Back to Top

DAY 5      FEBRUARY 11, 2011

Work continues on the parsonage.

At the end of the day, we are treated to a 3-hour ride in a wagon behind a farm tractor out through the rural countryside. We see 4-foot iguanas- they say they taste like chicken-, water buffaloes and howler monkeys.

Work continues on the parsonage.

Costa Rica style transportation, the back of a pick up truck.   
My team members

An 8-foot tall poinsettia plant

An 8-foot tall poinsettia plant

4-foot male iguana

Back to Top

DAY 6      FEBRUARY 12, 2011

   Today is a recreation day, a van takes the team out to an indigenous Indian village while I take a taxi into La Fortuna to visit with John and Bessie Ott at Camp Casi Cielo. Many improvements have taken place since we sent a team there 5 years ago: the road has been paved, the drive into the camp is paved, the multi--purpose building is complete except for tiling the lower floor, and a new separate kitchen building is under construction. John has a new diesel pickup truck and the camp has acquired a new 15-passenger van.

The 2nd floor of the multi-purpose building

The new camp sign: In Spanish for "Almost Heaven- Christian Camp"

The Arenal volcano- active for over 20 years;
 a rare sight since it's almost always obscured by clouds.

The Catholic cathedral on the city square in La Fortuna

The new La Fortuna fire station, complete with a dalmatian dog

A view of Camp Casi Cielo from the highway

Back to Top

DAY 7      FEBRUARY 13, 2011

The worship service begins at 10:00 a.m., our team leader, Pastor Roger Sailors, handles the preaching with our interpreter Peggy, a US retiree whose missionary parents lived in Chile and Costa Rica, tells the sermon in Spanish. Worship ends at 11:45 a.m. We stand up for all singing, prayers and scripture reading, sitting only for the sermon. This congregation is enthusiastic and spirited, hands in the air and voices in unison during the praise music. They love their music. We recognize some of the contemporary praise songs.

Sunday morning worship service, no pew Bibles or hymnals

We take some recreation time by taking the van to La Fortuna, about
 15 miles away and spent the afternoon at Baldi, a hot springs resort,
 the water heated by the Arenal Volcano next to the resort. Water at the top
 is at 153 degrees, at the bottom a milder 93 degrees. The volcano has
 been active since erupting in 1968 when it buried the town killing 83 people.
It is the most famous of the 9 volcanoes in Costa Rica although the
Poas Volcano has recently come to life after a century of dormancy.

Back to Top

DAY 8       FEBRUARY 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day from Paradise- more cold showers and no mirror to shave by. Up at daybreak- 6:00 a.m.- every morning when the flock of parrots and other birds serve as the alarm clock. Here in the tropics, every day, summer and winter, has daylight from 6:00 a.m. To 6:00 p.m.

We are enjoying our hosts- most gracious, friendly and welcoming, loving God and loving life!

Today Bob and I install a ceiling and overhead light in the church's men's bathroom. Other team members work on completing the painting of the parsonage. Our projects are way ahead of schedule due to as many as 6 church members working with us each day- we thank God for such wonderful teamwork and spirit! We hire a welder and helper to install steel framing at the front of the sanctuary and the one side wall in order to make the walls higher. They are currently 10 feet tall and open to the metal roof above that. The church is all steel and concrete- too many termites and moisture to make good use of wood.

It rained all night last night, a monsoon at times, everything outside very wet and muddy. It's supposed to be the dry season but we've had some rain at least every other day. Fortunately, we've had much inside work to keep us busy.

Stephanie, 11-year old daughter who lives next door, painting the outside back wall.

New jalousie glass units being installed in the parsonage windows by Chuck.

New paint and varnished woodwork in parsonage living room.

Men's bathroom ceiling going up

Local church members helping with exterior painting

Back to Top

DAY 9    FEBRUARY 15, 2011

   It has rained all night and this morning, but the weather has cleared up by afternoon.  Final coat of painting is going on in the parsonage; the welder continues to install metal purlins in the sanctuary so that we can raise the interior walls. The roof is over 20 feet tall at the peak and the interior walls are only at the 10 foot height.

   Bob and I have finished installing the ceiling, putting in an electric outlet and stuccoing the men's bathroom ceiling at the church.

Newly installed metal framing in the sanctuary

The welder installing steel framing

The back wall of the parsonage is complete; such nice tropical colors!

The stuccoed bathroom ceiling

   We end the day by joining the congregation at the Tuesday night prayer service. Our team leader, Roger, gives the message.  The district superintendent, who is the interim pastor, is at the hospital with his wife, Denia, who is scheduled for some serious surgery. We miss her as she is an important member of our team.

   The DS took her in to Alajeula on Sunday morning for pre-op tests.  Surgery had been scheduled for Monday but under the national healthcare plan, schedules sometimes get pushed back.  Costa Rica dissolved its army in 1948 and instead of spending billions on unwinnable wars in faraway places, it uses those funds to improve the lives of its citizens.  All CR residents have free healthcare, consequently CR as a developing country has better numbers than the US in infant mortality, obesity, heart disease, and life expectancy. We rarely see an overweight or obese Tico (Costa Rica citizen). Our US citizen interpreter, Peggy, moved to CR because she couldn't maintain a liveable lifestyle in the US on her deceased husband's Social Security survivor benefits.  Her Medicare doesn't cover her here so she pays $20.00 a month in national healthcare premiums to be covered under the CR healthcare system.  She is able to have a comfortable lifestyle here in CR with her SS benefits direct deposited in a CR bank, with no need for heat or air conditioning, her electric bill is $15, water bill $12, cell phone $40 per month. CR has more cell phones than land lines with high speed internet and cell phone service available nearly everywhere.

Back to Top

DAY 10  FEBRUARY 16, 2011

   Today is the birthday of Pamela, our team leader's wife.  At supper we present her with balloons (some black since this is her 60th), a card, and a locally baked birthday cake.   Her birthday gift from her husband is a horseback riding session, complements of a local farmer.

   The day is warm and sunny, hardly a cloud in the sky; tonight we see the moon for the first time, it's a full one - big and yellow in the tropical sky.

   We finish hanging all the wallboard that we have on the upper walls of the sanctuary - lots of climbing, cutting, and lifting.  We've earned our money today!

The first 2 sections of wallboard go up.

The front wall is complete

The iron window guards get fresh paint

Fresh interior paint and varnished woodwork

   Denia has her surgery this morning, all goes well, praise God, she is experiencing little pain. The DS drives the 3-hour drive to the hospital back and forth daily.

Back to Top

DAY 11   FEBRUARY 17, 2011

   Last night was spectacular with a full moon, powder puff white clouds, and the stars and planets brilliant points of light.   The air was crisp and cool, and the neighborhood was peacefully still; no dogs, roosters, or trucks.  God's magnificent creation on display!  We are so blessed to be in service to Him in this place.

   We begin to button our projects up - installing the window grilles back on the house, final paint touch-up, and moving all extra steel, ladders, and scaffolding out of the sanctuary and cleaning the sanctuary.

   Some of our local helpers begin putting primer on the wall that we installed at the church yesterday while the welder and helper go to work on the building next to the parsonage that now houses the children's ministry. This building was the original church until the larger one was built. They are putting up steel framing around the perimeter and installing chain link fencing on top of the short exterior walls.

The window grilles are on.

The primer goes on the newly installed upper walls in the sanctuary

Working on the children's building

Back to Top

DAY 12        FEBRUARY 18, 2011

Los manos y los pies de Jesus Cristo   =    The hands and feet of Jesus”

   Today is our last day of work, we put down vinyl flooring in a bedroom of the parsonage, finished paint touch up, and 2 of the local church members haul in gravel and improve the drive into the parsonage.

   The Thursday night praise and worship had a large crowd- were they there to see us gringos? Team leader Roger preached again, teenage girls were reading their Spanish bible and their hands are raised while singing, such evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit. It's obvious that these Ticos love the Lord and love celebrating it. It's been our privilege to be among such faithful Christians and share the faith. Not only is Costa Rica a beautiful place to visit but her people are just as beautiful and gracious as well. Praise be to God for bringing us here.

   Tomorrow will be a travel day back to the real world. We will arrive home tired and sunburned but eternally grateful and blessed. Praise be to God for such a blessed mission.

The hands...

...and feet of Jesus

Vinyl flooring going down

Gravel being dumped on the driveway

Gravel being spread on the driveway

2 of my new friends at church last night-
Joanna on the left and Michael on the right

My new buddy Michael

We end today with a tractor and trailer ride to the local iguana conservatory
 and a local souvenir shop complete with tame parrots.