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A Gringa Back from Central America!

15 Dec

IMG_0624“No disaster will come near your tent!” the Lord promised me in Psalm 91 after my first night in the Costa Rican jungle. It was a promise that I (a total coward) clung to. While tourists flock to the Green Republic to enjoy its abundance of flora and fauna, along with 1000 varieties of butterflies are 100-plus varieties of snakes, some of them poisonous. The warning to wear sturdy shoes was enough to strike terror into my heart.

 Costa Rica was the third stop in a 25-day fact-gathering mission to Central America this 17 Nov. to 10 December. In tiny El Salvador (named for “The Savior”) I found mega-churches–some of the biggest in the world–but Christians who weren’t effectively changing their violent and poverty-ridden society with the Good News.  OM is trying to mobilize more believers for this purpose.

 On Thanksgiving Day I took a bus to Guatemala in order to join an evangelistic outreach to a resistant area. 32 of us split into teams for 9 days. Mine stayed with a pastor’s family in basic conditions. Now, I’ve learned to do without a lot of things through the years, but I’d put a door on the outhouse in the “necessary” category. Altho’ it was tucked in the corner I was in a constant panic that someone would walk in on me–or that I’d walk in on them! Sleeping was also a challenge: dogs barked, cows lowed, traffic lumbered by and over-eager roosters started in at 1:15 a.m. Shivering under inadequate covers in the early morning didn’t help. And while I welcomed my first plate of frijoles (beans) and tortillas I grew less enthusiastic as they reappeared faithfully at every meal.

But the church people were lovely, and some of them accompanied us as we trekked every morning to isolated houses on the mountainsides, talking to families about the Lord and distributing Spanish New Testaments.  The people were so poor they didn’t even have baňos (toilets), so that made me more grateful for our humble facility. One lady I visited was Gabriela, dying from AIDS probably contracted from her husband, who had already died. More than anything else Gabriela needed the absolute assurance that God loves her, and that He would receive her into His arms when she was through with this life. We prayed together, and I believe Gabriela now has the sweet assurance of salvation.

My poor Spanish was stretched to the breaking point as I only had someone to translate part of the time, but it was part of the learning experience. One team in the mountains was in a town known for practicing witchcraft. The pastor who started a little church there has been attacked many times. Murders and suicides among teens are quite common and the pastor, poor as he is, tries to look after the welfare of several hundred widows and orphans. The team was a great encouragement to Pastor Noah. One day we brought some used clothing for the church members. When I found a suit to fit the pastor, I was touched by his delight.

On the final day of the outreach all the teams joined together for a final day in an area so poor that many residents have to wash themselves and their clothes in a stream. In the local church–which had only 8 faithful members because the area is riddled with witchcraft and idolatry–we distributed used clothing and shoes, bags of basic food staples and a toy to each thrilled child. Recipients also heard the gospel message, many for the first time. As a result 17 men and women prayed to receive Jesus into their lives. Hopefully that will triple the size of the church! Altogether during that week team members trekked to 441 homes to share Jesus’ message with 845 individuals, and prayed 113 into the Kingdom.

In Costa Rica God showed me another side to the apparently affluent capital city, which boasts modern malls, Starbucks and Walmart. My heart broke as our field leader’s wife drove through San José by night and I saw homeless men and women and–yes–children, too, curled up on pieces of cardboard along the sidewalks, obliged to sleep out in the rain. On other corners were young transvestites and prostitutes seeking customers. The King Hotel in central San José attracts foreigners looking for easy prey. Costa Rica offers more sex tourism than any other country in the world, except for Thailand.

A trip to an indigenous area 6 hours from the city was where I had my close encounter with Costa Rica’s jungle. No snakes crossed my path, praise the Lord, but I saw the darkness of spirit worship and desperate poverty. We held on for dear life in the back of an open truck and forded streams to get to these forgotten people. OM has been able to build a home for one elderly lady who used to walk two hours each way to attend the local church.–Her life is much better now. We have also installed a pump to give running water to about 15 houses. And this weekend OM holds a “Festival of Smiles” for 1000 children and their parents, introducing the Christmas story, playing games and distributing toys. I know for sure this Christmas will be different for many, many of those people!

This report has been much longer than usual. I’m sorry for that. But my heart is so full, it had to spill over. In the next days I will be writing articles that I hope will get others to get involved and praying for this part of the world.IMG_0055



15 Jun

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