August 23rd, 2017
We have finally arrived in Chicago and we are in route to Hope! We have had an incredible trip and we were blessed to receive the opportunity to share God’s love to Costa Rica. This trip wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Sawyer’s sponsorship. Sawyer gave us the opportunity to give the Costa Ricans clean water and help prevent communicable diseases. We also would like to give a big thank you to Push The Rock! They gave us the opportunity to grow as a group and individually. We will miss Costa Rica very much! We’d also like to extend a thank you to those of you who have been sharing in our journey through this blog and through prayer.
Geers and JT
August 22, 2017
Today was a day filled with many lasts of the trip. We started our day bright and early at a 6:00am and left Los Chiles. We had a full day ahead of us that consisted of adventures like zip lining, bus rides, and hot springs. As we filled our anxious bodies with food served on seaweed we prepared our minds for a canopy tour over the jungle. We strapped up, and we were on our way! There were twelve different zip lines including a Tarzan swing, crazy horse, and superman across the valley. We got to see God’s beautiful natural creation. Our guides cracked many jokes about how tall Cody was, Jdawgs screaming, and Sydney and Luke’s fear of snakes. After surviving this crazy new experience the team bonded over a long bus ride to Baldi Hot Springs. We enjoyed the time and fellowship with each other in the hot springs and water slides at the base of Arenal Volcano. On the bus ride home, Melinda shared with us about how the Israelites created a memorial of 12 stones to remind them of God’s great works among them (see Joshua chp. 4). Likewise, we each reflected on the most impactful experiences and people we encountered during the trip and made our own monument out of Costa Rican colones (their currency). We discussed best practices for transitioning back to life in the United States and look forward to sharing about and applying our experiences, shared and individual. Coach Kust blessed us with a beautiful affirmation she wrote for us, and we finished our team time with prayer. Thank you for following along on this blog and for your prayerful support of this team and our trip. We anticipate continued blessing and safety as we travel tomorrow.
Matt, Syd, and Hayley
We didn’t sleep in today!! The rooster from Coto Brus called his cousin and told him we would be here. We left home base around 7am for a 30 minute bus ride into Los Chiles. The morning began with a sports clinic. The kids came from all over to play a mixture of sports that included: Follow the leader, Disk Golf, Catch, and Cabezas y Manos. Some of these were extra fun because the field we were in was full of water due to an early morning rain. The first clinic ended with Matt and Frankie sharing their testimonies with the children. All this was done before 9:30am. Shortly following the first clinic the second one began. Many children came eager to play despite the heat and humidity. The second clinic consisted of: Dodgeball, Wiffle ball, and Lacrosse (lead by our fearless Juliana). The children really enjoyed learning these new games. After lunch we returned to the field where the kids and their families came back with buckets ready to receive water filters. The water filter instruction and demonstration was led by our very own Melinda and included a gospel message. After the demonstration each team member was able to assemble 5-6 water filters for the people of the village. It was great to see their smiling faces as they walked away with their new filters. We made filters for 65 families! This was incredibly cool, yet humbling to witness their joy over something we often take for granted. And when we get home we will have to make sure to send more water filters to this community because there are still families in need. Thankfully the Push The Rock staff visits the local ministry here often. After the final filter was assembled, we were done for the day. To show her appreciation, a women named Esperanza (Hope) made us Arepas (similar to the best pancakes you have ever had) and brought us a refreshing cold drink. On the bus ride back from Los Chiles we stopped at an Iguana bridge. This was quite literally a bridge with Iguana covering it. Our dinner was wonderful as always. After dinner we gathered together, sang some worship songs, and continued our study of 1 John. The night finally came to a close with one last water filter assembly for a local futbol coach who works with the ministry we are partnering with.
Tomorrow we return to San Jose and will get to experience some of the beauty in the area of Arenal Volcano along the way. We thank you for the continued support and prayers as our wonderful journey comes to a close. Buenos Noches!!
Mostly Frankie…some Cody….plus a little Matt and J-dawg
August 20th, 2017: Day 6
We slept in today! For the first time all trip, we slept in past 6 am to a much later 8 am (get at us 8 am classes). We got all dolled up and took a lovely stroll down the road to a local bakery where we proceeded to fill our bags with an abundance of sugar and carbs. While slightly reminiscent of Good Time Donuts, it was fully lit and lacked our favorite donut man. Nonetheless, we were all satisfied (except Matt who couldn’t decide whether or not he liked his pastry). Luke would like to add that he personally enjoyed a fresh home brew of AMCA coffee.
After carbo-loading, we loaded up the car. As we’re sure many of you are on the edge of your seats in anticipation, the rumors are true. El Toaster (our bus) has returned!! It might just be an urban legend, but some say that they saw Heather Randall cry when we heard that it was again our trusty steed for the trip to Los Chiles. Before making our long journey, we attended CED church in San Jose.
We loved church! Everyone was so hospitable, and they provided a translator for us during the sermon. The worship songs were interesting to navigate at first, but we quickly caught on to how many of them were the same chapel songs we sing back at Hope, like 10,000 Reasons and Cornerstone. It was so humbling to be a part of international worship like that, knowing that The Lord is above all worship in every language. We think that many of us will look back on this day when we sing those same songs in chapel when we return to campus. The pastor sent us out with a benediction, reminding us of how we were living out the scriptures written in The Great Commission. Though we’ve already used this word to describe our church experience, humbling is truly the best word that can capture the experience. Being a part of the international church was an incredible experience, one that we will all hold in our hearts for years to come.
Back on El Toaster, we were ready to conquer the world. The City Mall didn’t know what had hit them when us gringos piled in and promptly hit up Mickey D’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Pizza Hut was a bit of a struggle with the language barrier, and most people ended up with a mystery meat on top of their pizza (the most popular vote right now thinks that it was Canadian bacon). Many of us were pleasantly reminded of how nice it is to have a drink with ice in it, a luxury we had not experienced since our last plane ride. After we explored a little bit and sadly learned that Costa Rican Nike costs the same amount as Nike in the US, we headed out and popped back in El Toaster yet again.
El Toaster never disappoints. It provided us with A/C, laughter, and safe travels. Favorite memories included hot spot interviews hosted by our very own Matthew Douglas (Douggy Fresh) VanDyken, rainbow spotting, and a quick pit stop at a tourist shop with candy. The interviews stuck out as the fan favorite, including questions such as celebrity crush (male & female), what it feels like to be an All-American Athlete (@Frankie @Sydney), and Hope College CFA (Crush From Afar–which has yet to receive any answers). After what felt like the shortest bus ride yet (3 hours), we arrived at our new home for the next two nights. Los Chiles is about to be quite the aventura–that’s adventure, for you non-Spanish speakers. We’re all about to come back fluent. Look out world.
After settling in to our new quarters, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and kicked off team time with some worship–catch us on Spotify, Kust recorded it. We’re getting ready for bed now and are eager to lead two more sports clinics in the morning and a big Sawyer water filter clinic and distribution for families in the community in the afternoon! Buenas noches!
Love from The Squad,
Luke, Heather, and Julianna
P.S. There was a giant frog that Julianna caught in a lacrosse stick.
P.P.S. Heather is getting emotional just writing about El Toaster.
P.P.P.S. We thought Luke deserved a shoutout here too.
August 19th, 2017: Day 5
The rooster chimed in for the third consecutive morning two hours before wake up call. The early 5:30 wake up was filled with bittersweet endings as we prepared to leave Coto Brus and our wonderful host family. We received one last feast that consisted of eggs, rice and beans, cheese, fresh fruit, toast and avocado. After a delicious meal, we said our goodbyes to Ricauter and his family (including buster the dog, who…… stole everyone’s heart, but lost his…). We packed the bus and Ricauter sent us on our way with one last prayer in Spanish. It wrapped up our stay perfectly as we battled the language barrier all week, but still managed to learn and show God’s love to all we encountered.
As we started our six hour journey back to AMCA, we were thrilled to hear that a quick stop at the beach would break up our travel. As we travelled through the vast mountain ranges we encountered many bumps and turns that dampened our opportunities to sleep. Thankfully the never ending, beautiful views of Costa Rica filled our minds with joy. We approached the coast and knew the beach wasn’t far. Randall (the driver that brought us across the country), steered us in the right direction, and we ended up at the beach safe and sound. We watched the waves crash in and explored the wonders of what lied ahead of us. Taking pictures, collecting seashells, walking through caves, and climbing rocks were the favorite adventures. Some of our more daring teammates: Cody, Luke and Jack, got a whistle from the lifeguard for wandering too far on the rocks (REBELS). After a team selfie, bathrooms breaks and sweaty armpits, we boarded the bus for the final leg of the trip.
We arrived at AMCA with smiling faces and hungry tummys awaiting the tasty meal ahead of us. It was comprised of spaghetti, bread and coconut bars, which all tasted delicious and reminded us of home. After lunch, we went to the bank, aka Mike, and exchanged US dollars for CR colones. Once we received our colones, we loaded up El Toaster and headed to the market. We all spent money on wonderful gifts for all you readers! Kust even had to go back to the bank and exchange more. Haha @Kust. We had a fun time bartering with the merchants, and J-dawg shined her true colors by marking down prices left and right. The market was a really cool experience and a way for us to dive into the culture in a new and exciting way. After that market, we decided to expand our horizons and head to WalMart. Yes, you read that correctly, we went to WalMart. Many bags of Costa Rican coffee were purchased including Kust’s 10 bags. Luke finally bought a razor and shaving cream to shave that thing he called a beard (LOL). Our journey came to a close and we headed back to AMCA for some R&R. Our dinner of chicken, potatoes, salad and coffee flan reminded us of home once again. We spent the remainder of the night in team time, discussing 1 John 3:1-10. We enjoyed this fellowship with one another as we continue to grow as a group. Thanks again for keeping up with our wonderful journey, and can’t wait to share all the memories with you when we get home! YOU GUYS ROCK! (Get it, Push the Rock LOL)
Love, Matt and Sydney
August 18th, 2017: Day 4
Everyone on our team is embracing their roles, the rooster included. He woke us up once again in the fourth hour. Coach Kust complemented the rooster with a false alarm much earlier than our expected wake up call. Luckily, a hearty breakfast awaited us, including some heavenly, fluffy pancakes. We then loaded ourselves and the equipment onto the bus and headed to our first school of the day. We would be remiss if we failed to mention the river we drove through to get there. Thankfully, our 90’s Isuzu bus, battle wounds and all, doubles as a World War II era tank. Once we arrived, we provided the school with clean drinking water in the form of two Sawyer water filters. Meanwhile, the rest of our team began playing with the children. We split into two groups, one of which played soccer and the other wiffle ball. After a heartbreaking defeat to the local children in soccer, we bounced back for a rousing game of dodgeball, in which the children begged for mercy. Ha ha. Just kidding. But in case you were wondering, we won. We finished our time at the school with testimonies from two of our team members: Hailey and Heather.
After some downtime and a nourishing lunch, we took a short hike to our second school of the day. Immediately upon arrival, it promptly started pouring rain in biblical proportions. Luckily, there was a large covered area ideal for some controlled chaos that challenged our ability to think on the fly. Without an outdoor space to play games, we managed to invent some new games to play with the kids. Even though the rain continued to fall, our spirits were lifted by the smiles of the children. We demonstrated setup and use of two more water filters and left them with one more for future use. We concluded our time with two more testimonies, this time from Sydney and Madison.
Since it was raining, our bus driver came to give us a ride back from the second school. On our return trip, we happened upon a mudslide that left some rocks in the road. This gave us an opportunity to embrace the name of our sponsoring organization as we literally Push(ed) the Rock(s). Preceding dinner, we serenaded our gracious host Ricauter to the tune of Happy Birthday. We celebrated his birthday with an incredible dinner, which included smoked pork, mashed potatoes, fresh pineapple, salad, and yuca. We ended the night with a powerful testimony from Nattie during team time. We also continued our discussion from 1 John, keeping in mind that God is light and in Him there is no darkness. We were left with a question to consider: In what ways do we take sin lightly and how can we move forward into forgiveness?
We are thankful for the relationships we have built in Coto Brus, and anticipate further growth and blessing as we return to San Jose in the morning.
Que Dios te bendiga,
Cody, Jack, and Hayley
August 17th, 2017: Day 3
Dark and early around 4am, the rooster woke the house up with its loud morning call. Our real wake up time was 6am and little did we know that after breakfast we would encounter a difficult yet rewarding hour and a half hike through the beautiful Costa Rican Mountains. The path winded and twisted on mud and dirt and was consistently challenging us to keep going in order to reach one of the local schools. The scenery of our hike was breath taking; seeing all of God’s work left us in awe! Once we arrived at the local school everyone realized that we were truly in the middle of nowhere. There was a large field of grass down a hill with three school buildings which were filled with smiling little faces. The kids were estatic to see us and to play sports with us for the next couple hours. Once we talked to a few of the locals, we found out that many of the kids at this school walked approximately an hour or two in order to arrive at school. After walking to the school this morning, we realized how difficult it is for kids in this region to receive an education.
At the camp we broke the kids into three different groups and had a total of four stations which included: Soccer, dodgeball, penny tag, and wiffle ball. The kids were timid at first due to us being new faces and the language barrier, but after a little warming up the kids loved participating with us. After each group went through each station, we gathered as a group and had Hayley and Frankie share their testimonies with a translator. Along with the sports we played, we had three of our team members set up three water filters for them to use. We then said goodbye to the kids and thanked them for their participation and showing us their love. Once the camp was over in the morning we then had to hike alllllllll the way back, which was a downhill, muddy battle which led to some tumbles, a walk through a river (or fall *cough cough Hayley Reitsma*), and a walk over a bridge. After the long hike back we arrived home just in time for lunch and a break!
After our little break we hit the hike path again to head to another local school (thankfully this walk was shorter!) We arrived and began to prepare for the sports clinic. In order for the kids to get warmed up to our team we played cat and mouse tag which the kids loved. Then we broke off in to groups with two stations that included: Soccer and wiffle ball. The kids were not engaged at first but with a little encouragement they started to participate more and more. Then we got together as a whole group and Matt and Julianna shared their testimonies. We also set up three water filters and left them four more to assemble later! We then hit the path again and walked home where we then had free time to shower due to how sweaty we were and had the opportunity to take a nap (which we allllll loved).
After dinner we met up for team time and dove into 1 John specifically chapter 1 verses 1-4. We talked about the importance of having fellowship with God and each other.
To conclude this exhausting yet rewarding day we are thankful for our host family and the amazing opportunity we have had to serve in Coto Brus!
-From yo gurls: Heather and Hailey
August 16th, 2017: Day 2
Our “Equipo de Esperanza” (Team Hope), as we have begun to call ourselves, started this morning with a prompt wake-up just before 6 am. We fueled up at the AMCA House (our lodging) with a delicious meal (as seems to be the usual around here) and then travelled in El Toaster (our bus) to La Reforma youth prison, where we split into two groups.
Our trusted tall athletes (also known as the men’s and women’s basketball teams) lead 5 youth in some basketball drills, while those of us who are more vertically challenged (the non-basketball players) taught a prison administrator and a guard how to use the Sawyer water filters.
We went through multiple different basketball drills including ball handling, passing as we shuffled up and down the court, full court layups and lightening (also known as knock out). The game of lightening was a nail biter, but D Rose (one of the youth) was able to hold off our very own Luke Dreyer in the final round. The game of 2 vs 2 was also called “no blood, no foul” as well as our 5 on 5 game (Ticos vs Hope basketball). Hope pulled off the victory after an impressive and bold half court shot by crowd pleaser Jack Thompson. The youth then challenged us to a soccer game, which both the tall people and non-basketball players participated. The Costa Ricans won……we’ll just leave it at that.
Our short friends had some fun of their own as well before hopping in to a good ol’ game of soccer. Our very own Hailey Houck and Matt VanDyken proved they listened during our on-campus training and flawlessly explained (translated one of our local Push The Rock staff, Nattie) not only the assembly of the filters, but also the purpose and maintenance. We also heard that sadly there is an illness that some of the youth have been contracting lately which could possibly lead back to contaminated water. After hearing that it was clear that God had elected this ministry of water to this place.
After leaving the prison we headed back to AMCA House for a quick lunch and packing time. We departed at 1:10 pm en route to Coto Brus in a new, air-condition-less bus (goodbye until Saturday, El Toaster), and arrived at the guest house for Fundacion Piedad at 8:30 pm. It was quite the ride, featuring an opportunity to pull over and see a group of about 30 crocodiles lounging on the side of a river together–some were in the river! Definitely a surreal moment, but we felt nice and safe above them on the bridge. Other van festivities included testimony sharing, snacks, more snacks, and a new running joke about I.T. Matt and Audit Cody (sorry, you had to be there). After we arrived and settled in, we were fed another delicious meal. We just had our itinerary prep meeting for tomorrow, and are all now looking forward to a good nights’ sleep! Hasta manana, Coto Brus.
Love: Geers and J
Our first morning was spent at a youth prison near San Jose. We gave some basketball lessons and played some games. Most impressively, Cody dunked on the crooked outdoor rim that is closer to 11 feet than 10. We were able to demonstrate the water filter system to an administrator and a guard and we learned that they have been having some illnesses due to the water. We left filters to be placed in the cells and provide clean water for the youth.
We are hitting road this afternoon to another region of the country where it is unlikely we will have internet access. Thanks again for your support!
August 15, 2017…Day 1
Mom, quit texting me. Dad, quit freaking out. We made it to Costa Rica, safe and sound.
Our journey today started bright and early at 6am, where we piled into Hope College vans and drove a bumpy 2 and a half hours to Chicago Midway Airport. From there, we began our day full of flying and waiting in lines. After fueling up on overpriced breakfast food and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, we boarded our first flight destined for Houston. Departure was around 11am, and after 2 hrs of Cody’s abnormally long legs folded into a middle seat, we arrived to Houston at noon (Houston time, appr. 1pm Michigan time).
We then proceeded to survey all available food options in the Houston airport before unanimously deciding on Chick-fil-a for lunch. After lunch Juliana insisted that there was a Nestle Toll House/Auntie Annie’s shop hidden somewhere within the airport. After searching each inch of each terminal, an employee of the airport informed us that, we were in fact, thinking of the wrong airport. ):
After a short but highly competitive stint of card games, which included euchre, war and poker with whatever coins were available, we boarded our Costa Rica flight around 4:40 pm. We were far from in the air however. After going through pre-flight checks we backed out of the terminal…and then proceeded to pull right back in due to a family who needed to exit the plane. After sitting in a steamy airplane cabin for an hour past our flight time, we finally had lift off and were on our way to Costa Rica.
Night fell as we traveled into Central America. We arrived at San Jose International Airport around 8:45 pm local time, 10:45 pm Michigan time. Lines for immigration were not short by any means, plus a hold up with Luke’s bag in customs only added more time to our airport stay (thanks to Juliana’s Spanish, Luke is still with us and not spending his first night in a Costa Rican jail cell).
We met our bus driver Christian and Nattie in the parking lot outside the airport, along with our means of transportation for the night, a great white bus affectionately name “El Toaster”. After a rather short 30 minute drive into San Jose, we arrived at our housing for the night, the AMCA house. This will serve as our housing or “base” for 3 or 4 nights of our trip.
We didn’t have to wait long to experience the typical Costa Rican cuisine of rice, chicken and beans, which we ate for dinner around 11 pm local time, 1 am Michigan time.
Thank you to everyone who has supported, is supporting and will continue to support in the coming week as we continue to serve in this awesome country. We have a big day coming up tomorrow and it is safe to say we are all in need of a good nights sleep. Continue to check back for updates this week, signing off for now…
Written by: Frankie + Luke