Thursday, August 28, 2014

Journey of Godly Reminders ~ Part 3

The sunset is creeping on us fast.  Here in Costa Rica the days start very early.  Dusk is around 4:40am and it is dark at 6:00pm.  We had been hiking for several hours, pretty much a very steep incline the entire way.  We came upon a school where a woman shouted from the porch asking what we were doing and where we were going.

We stopped, rested our backs and our feet, and chatted with this lady.   And gladly used the facilities {an outhouse} she offered.  A 4X4 vehicle passed by and she looked at us like we were crazy...."Why didn't you ask him for a ride to get you further," she asked us.  Hindsight....we should have all gone running like crazy chickens asking for a ride!  
We loaded back up and hiked some more, daylight is ending and we are not going to make it to Roca Quemada tonight.  Our options of places to pitch a tent are scarce to say the least.  We are about thirty minutes from dark, you can see the thunderstorm rolling in from a distance, and our options on each side of the road are a wall of red clay or the deep valley of jungle {a drop off}.  Moving as fast as you can when hiking and hauling 30-40 pounds on your back, our goal was just keep moving.  We came across a small open spot where a couple horses were grazing.  An answered prayer, I am sure each of us were praying about.
We all waited outside a bamboo fence while Keith stepped inside the yard of a very humble home {a bamboo and grass hut structure} of a Cabeccar family.  This would be where we camped for the night.  A man walked out to the field and staked the horses.  It is 5:50pm and thunder rolling in.  I think we all pitched our tents in record timing.  
I have to throw some humor in here for you.  I am a girl who loves a soft bed but likes to camp as well and can rough it when need be.  I knew this would be a rough trip.  My question to David before I left was, "Will there be a river?  Anywhere?  Anything to get clean?"  He assured me that would not be a problem.  Ummmm, yeah that didn't happen.  Remember back when I said I would never truly be able to relate the entire experience to you because it would be void of the things you could see with your own two eyes, feel with your heart, taste, and let's not forget the SMELLS!  I am beyond disgusting.  I will just say, I wasn't the only one in the same condition..ha.  There are about 179 layers of sweat, grime, and mud.  My hope of a bath tonight vanished around 5:00pm when I knew we would never make it to the river tonight.  My cleaning up consisted of unhooking a small black hose, soaping up a washcloth and washing my face and arms, filling my water bottle, and running back to the tent.  The lightening in Costa Rica is wicked...WICKED.  I love storms here, the lightening is beautiful, and I love the rain.  But not when I am at the top of a mountain in an open field.  
This trip brought an whole new meaning to the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  As the lightening flashed and the thunder was crashing, I prayed constantly for God's protection over each one of us.  And, at the same time was so thankful that this lightening was not striking where we were at, because it strikes so close to our house all the time that the windows rattle and your heart takes a few steps out of your body.  This trip was definitely a journey of lots of prayer with the Lord.  A reminder that we get busy in our daily routine and my prayers just become routine and not hours of uninterrupted communication with God.  
I finally fell asleep and managed to nap for a few hours.  My camping mates did not fair so well with the rain that poured continuously until the early hours of the morning.  Reid was floating in his tent and moved in with his parents in their two men tent with all of the gear.  Jessica was semi-floating in her tent.  And, I believe the others managed with only the bottom of the tent being wet and everything that was sitting on the bottom of the tent being wet.  Everyone was up and packing bright and early and we were heading down the mountain by 6am.

{all packed up and ready for day 2}

This part of the trip I think was definitely the hardest.  It was hours of down, down, down....sliding down, slipping, falling, and so much mud caked on your shoes that they were coming off and added several pounds of weight.  
The further we went the muddier it got.  About an half hour into our hike, we came to the most amazing view.  Pictures cannot capture the justice that God's majesty portrayed.  Breathtaking, and really silence, was an appropriate response as we all stopped and took in the peace that surrounded us.


We finally reached Roca Quemada, much later than we had anticipated.  At this point we met Yamileth, one of the women who is working with Dr. Judith in helping teach prenatal care and newborn care, and most importantly she is saving lives.  Her stories are an entire other post all alone.  

{Yamileth, Keith, & Emily}

We were supposed to meet Yamileth at the "store" ( a small shanty consisting of tuna, sugar, rice, and beans) the night before, but we did not make it.  She was sitting in the doorway waiting for us when we arrived at 9:30 Thursday morning.  She told us her plans to visit a pregnant woman in another village later that day and asked us to come with her.  We agreed to meet her in this village later in the day.  We headed to the river to filter water and restock and then continued our trek further into the jungle where we camped in the yard of another young woman who has also helping the women on the reservation.  

{This is the Chiripó river where we filtered water and treated the filtered water with 
bleach.  Let's just say I wanted to cover all bases.}

While we were down at the river there was a woman washing clothes in the river with her children.  I mention this because many people have died on the reservation doing this very thing.  One particular family we know adopted two children whose parents and other siblings all died one morning when they were down at the river and out of nowhere a huge wall of water came.  It was a sunny morning when this happened, but it had been raining higher up the mountain and the river started rising fast and went downstream, taking the lives of this family, except two children.  Drowning is the number one cause of death on the reservation.  Every time we went down to the river to do this or had to cross a river this was always in my mind.  Everything can look fine, and then in an instant life is gone.  You never know when life will be over.  It can be any second of any day.  I know this, there are things that remind us of this, but when you are literally standing in a place where you know people have died from something they didn't expect it seems even more surreal.  Another one of those Godly reminders, a reminder of why we are here, a reminder of what we are doing, and that the journey to these people is worth every bit of the hardship.   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Journey of Godly Reminders ~ Part 2

This trip to the Chirripó Reservation included myself, Keith Avaritt, Lesa Avaritt, Rob Moore, Heather Moore, Jessica Moore, Reid Moore, and Emily Siemens.  Just sharing this journey with these wonderful people was a Godly reminder in itself of the sheer blessing of being able to call these people friends who are family.  We had some fun times with lots and lots of laughter and some tears.

We left the home of Isaias piled into the back of his little 4X4 truck and along the way picked up two more people, a woman named Gladys and her six year old daughter along with a couple of newly purchased chickens.  We all found it totally ironic that the chickens were being transported in the plastic sack bearing the name "Pipasa," the Costa Rican chicken processing company (same as Tyson for those of you in the states).  We all became a little bit closer in the back of this truck with 9 people, 8 packs, 8 backpacks, and two chickens.

Gladys is a woman that David and I had heard about.  She is a very petite woman with the most muscular arms I ever seen on any woman.  The unanimous story we keep hearing is that she is one of the strongest women on the reservation and carried 2 bags of concrete, each weighing 50kg (that is more than a 100lbs each).  She carried this the entire way from the point where we started hiking which is approximately 8-10 miles to the entry of Roca Quemada (the first community in this part of the reservation).  Talk about some phenomenal stamina and strength.  It is almost unbelievable, I mean to carry 200lbs of concrete, but if you only knew what kind of terrain she is climbing and the grade of the descent make this unfathomable.  

She and her little girl climbed into the back of the truck with us and sat quietly.  The sweet little girl with her had sad eyes; she looked tired and uncomfortable.  Lesa pulled out a little sucker and piece of bubble gum and you could see the whites of her teeth as she broke her lips for a beautiful smile, a little hesitant at first as she looked to her mom first.  This little girl had sores on her arms that looked so painful.  My first thought was that she had been beaten and burned on her arms.  They were whelped like a what you would see on a slave that had been beaten with a whip.  But, yet they also looked like something had bitten her in the middle and it had become grossly infected.

The time came for us all to pile out and start the hike in.  Our driver thought if he emptied all of us out of the truck that he might could make it further with our packs and help us out a bit further.  I was hopeful but not confident that it would happen.  The steep grade of the roads and the incredible amount of very wet mud made it impossible.  He made it about 300 feet when it was determined that would not be happening.  Deflated, but oh so thankful that he was able to take all of us and our packs this far.  

What an awesome view to be engulfed in when you are out on a stroll....well, not a stroll,
because I was sweating like some 500lb man.  I didn't know my body was capable of 
producing so much sweat.  Just keeping it real : ) 

This sweet man unloaded our packs, grabbed one of our backpacks and hiked with is for a couple hours and then turned around and hiked back to his truck.  This part of the trip is hiked on what they call a road, with steep grades that are not even legal in the states, and is red clay.  The first couple of hours were a hard climb...up, up, and up.  We passed several people and almost every one of them that stopped asked me "Where are you going...What are you doing...Who are you...Who are you going to see?"  They are all curious as to what in the world are crazy white people doing out here.  And us white people are SLOW compared to their almost run.  From where we were dropped off they can make that hike in 3.5-4 hours, our pace doubles that time.  

{Pictures never truly depict the grade of places here.  And this mud is 
wet, wet, wet...and my shoes weighed like 20lbs...I know they were!}

Gladys hiked with us for a couple hours before she went on ahead of us so that she would make it home before dark.  She told us during this time about her daughter's arms and that she had just gone into town (a 7-8 hour hike each way for her) for the second time to get medical care for her daughter. I can't recall the exact name, but there is an insect here in Costa Rica that causes severe lesions on the body and can only be treated with an injection of a certain medicine.  There is nothing you can take by mouth or any creams that you can apply that will make it go away.  And with children the lesions usually become worse and worse because they touch them.  This was the second time she had taken her for this exact thing and they would not give her the injection.  They keep telling her that isn't what she has and tells her to come back later and they will look at her again.  This is typical social medicine here.  They've given a her a cream but nothing is helping and her condition is worsening.  She had taken her this second time because she was having a hard time breathing through her nose.  The insides of her nose were swollen and red.  This mother left a doctor's office again with nothing to help her daughter.  Before she went on ahead of us we stopped and prayed that God, the greatest Physician of all, may heal her and give that precious child comfort and take away her pain.  

{Pictured Left to Right ~ Gladys, her daughter, Jessica, Lesa, Reid, Emily, 
me, Heather, and Rob}

When we see these situations that seem so helpless, and you feel like there is nothing you can do to really help them, there is.  We can advocate for them, we can show them love, make God's love present to them.  We hold the most powerful help to them.  We have God on our side.  We have Him any time of day or night.  We can call on Him at any time for anything.  And we can share Him with others.  You begin to feel so deflated when you see first hand the harsh realities of life for these people here and you wonder what in the world am I, one person going to be able to do to really help these people.  There is so much need that there is just really not a tangible place to begin.  There is only one place to start and that is showing and sharing God's love.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Journey of Godly Reminders ~ Part 1

I have thought a lot the last week an half on how I could accurately describe and give you a true portrayal of our trip to the Cabécar Chiripó Reservation.  And I have concluded that it really is not completely possible.  You need all five senses to feel, see, touch, taste, and hear everything.  And as time passes, even I forget the tiny details.  I could write for days and days and probably never break the surface on everything that I could say about that trip, from the back-breaking trek to the heartbreaking realities of the lives of the Cabécar Indians.

I am so thankful that this trip was something that my husband wanted me to go on, and while he wanted also to go very badly, he asked me if I would like to go while he stayed with the kids for a few days.  He drove us as far as he could to the reservation and then turned around and made the long trip back home solo to take care of the kids.  He wanted us to have as much time as possible out there in the short amount of time that we had, because if he had not driven us the 3.5-4 hours then we would have had to spend 8 hours getting there on the bus system.

Yamileth, one of the Cabécar women, who works with Dr. Judith to help the woman on the reservation is married to a Tico, and her husband, Isaias had planned to drive us as far as he could in his 4x4 truck and then we would hike the rest of the way in.  When we arrived he invited us into the home he, his wife, and son share with his parents.  His mother had prepared us lunch before she left early that morning to go take care of her grandchildren.  This family by Costa Rican standards is poor, by American standards poverty stricken, and by Cabeccar standards very well off.  It is all in how you look at things and by what standards you hold.  This family invited us into their home and have opened their arms and hearts to us like family.  I had only met them once before, but this trip allowed me to build a foundation for a relationship that I am sure will only teach me things that I hope will make me a better person and better steward for the Lord.  

One may think that rice, beans, and chyote (a squash like vegetable) is not a grand meal, but the fact that this family prepared that for eight of us is huge.  I know that it is not a light gesture when people offer you a food or drink here, because they are literally offering you all that they have, the food that they are stretching for their own families.  I always feel immense guilt when eating their food, but also feel such honor as they wash their best plates to serve you and search all of the cabinets in the kitchen in fridge to serve their eight guests.  I have never seen hospitality like what I see here, because these people will offer you something, anything when they have hardly anything to give.  And they give with such pleasure.  The attitude that these people show always reminds me of what I think God means a cheerful giver to be.  While I cannot see the inside of their hearts,  I do see their outward demonstration of happily giving you everything they have and not a giver of their extra leftovers.  

I feel so privileged to be on the ground in this country and to be a witness to these things that are such simple gestures, but such huge reminders to me of the expectations that God has for me.  So, thirty minutes into arriving and the journey of Godly reminders starts.  And, so our journey begins, as Rob says, "I spent one week here one day."

Oh, and we can't forget the laughs we had as we arrived and David found himself stuck in mud and sawdust.  Funny how you will let the locals talk you into doing things that you know will not work.  They are relentless when they tell you something will work and you kindly decline and they are very persistent in insisting that it will be fine.  

And you find yourself in pickles like this.....
This picture does not even begin to depict the hilarity of the situation.  But 
us girls had to move our way up the hill and turn around because it was so 
comical.  Keith and Rob had not even started the trek and were splattered
with mud only minutes after arriving.  Side note: The girls made the final
push that made the difference.   : )

We will just say we were all in some really awkward sitting positions to fit
all 8 of us and our 8 packs and 8 small backpacks into the back of this...

The beginning of a very bumpy ride that we were so thankful we had, and that appreciation grew
immensely once we started our incline.