Costa Rica Day 8: Work Hard Play Hard

This morning, we started our day with eggs, toast, beans, rice and juice. After hearing the roosters crow all morning, our chaplain Matt wanted to share a devotion about Simon-Peter’s relationship with Jesus when the roosters crowed. We discussed how Jesus gave Peter another opportunity after his resurrection to claim his love for his Savior.

We then took a short bus ride to the local women’s ministry and did bucket and tap water filter demonstrations. The crowd intently watched and listened as Luke, Abby, Marie and Jennaka gave examples. After this, some of the group decided to make the walk back to the reservation while the ones who wore flip flops took the bus for a more scenic route back.

Lunch included pasta, bread and juice. After lunch, we got on the bus and headed to our Air BnB which is near the National Park we are visiting tomorrow.

At the Air BnB, half of us swam in the pool while the other half went on a nature walk where we saw poisonous frogs, ate from cacao, and learned about local wildlife. We saw monkeys and sloths back at the house which was pretty amazing. The monkeys greeted us by throwing nuts from the trees above as well as getting quite vocal. We played pool games as a group including categories, sharks and minnows, and races.

Then we had dinner- Different types of pizza and cheese puffs with soda and lemonade (leaving one demanded slice of shrimp pizza for Leader Ben). After that, the group had team time and listened to testimonies from Erik and Matt. We are going to close out our night with some games and conversations, and head to bed to prepare for a fun day tomorrow at the National Park!

Dan, Hannah, and Jennaka

Costa Rica Day 7: Welcome to the Jungle

Hey everyone! Marie, Deven, and Abby here. After hearing about everyone’s bug stories from last night, we headed down for a devotional and breakfast. For the devotional, Matt led us through Psalm 34. We talked about its meaning and its significance in our lives. Breakfast consisted of pancakes, eggs, watermelon, and pineapple. Then we got on the bus and began our long journey to an indigenous area – which was about a three-hour trip in total. After a short 20-minute bus ride to the river, we piled into two boats and headed upstream. Once we arrived at the riverbank, we were greeted with a tractor and a cattle trailer. We helped each other into the trailer and began the tumultuous journey that would be an hour and a half through the jungle. Along the way, Diego treated us to fresh roadside coconuts and bananas.

Around noon, we finally made it to the leader of the tribe’s house. He gave us a warm welcome and told us a little about himself. For the rest of the afternoon, we played games with the kids, such as duck-duck-goose, soccer, and cones while we waited for families to come for water filter demonstrations. We showed the leader and his family how to use the water filters. After a hot three hours at the leader’s home, we piled back into the trailer and were able to hand out some more water filters as we passed families that were heading back home from school. On the way back, Diego treated us once again – this time to refreshing sodas. Once back to the river bank, we all piled into one boat and started back to our house.

When we arrived at home, we began preparing for the church service we would be attending later that night. The service took place with some of the locals in the area. At the service, Jennaka, Dan, and Hannah had the privilege of sharing some of their favorite scriptures, and we all got to sing two songs that we had prepared. We hardly practiced them at all and none of us are really good at singing – but it turned out to be a really powerful moment for us and those attending the service. The service was pretty different from the ones that we’re used to, in the sense that everyone prayed out loud simultaneously. Nonetheless, although we weren’t used to certain practices, we felt God moving in that place. Following church, we had dinner – rice and chicken, beans, salad, and Costa Rican Munchies. After dinner, Madison and Dan blessed us by sharing their testimonies. We are excited for our jungle adventures to continue tomorrow; pray for us as we continue our travels!

Costa Rica Day 6: God’s Beautiful Creation

Hola familia y amigos, this is Kam and Bella.

We started the morning with waking at the early hour of 4am to prepare for our travels to Talamanca. We loaded the bus and by 4:45, we were on the road. The morning was very calm and quiet, due to the exhaustion from minimal sleep.  

Soon after leaving San Jose, our view became absolutely gorgeous. The bus was surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation. Many of us didn’t sleep in fear of missing the captivating view. We occupied the time with conversation and games, with moments of intermission to admire the breathtaking scenery. Who needs technology when you have the exclusive experience of driving through God’s beautiful creation?

At 6:15am, we took a detour to an open concept breakfast buffet. We fueled up on Hispanic breakfast items such as rice, beans, eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and juice. We got back on the road and arrived in Talamanca around 11:30. We were greeted by our friendly host Diego, who helped us unload and settle in. For lunch we ate chicken, rice, beans, coleslaw, and plantains which were deliciously prepared by a few local women at the reservation.

Around 2pm, children and families started to gather around the community’s home-base. This area consisted of the homes of our hosts, a church and a guest house that is still undergoing construction. Our team connected with the children by playing with bubbles, soccer, nail painting, and stickers. While a group of team members played with the children, a few presented the Sawyer water filters at the church to the adults of the community. The townspeople were extremely grateful for the generosity SEED and Push The Rock had to share.

During our downtime, Diego offered to take us on a walk to see the landscape and a nearby river. The hike was incredible and a fun bonding opportunity for us. Along the way, Diego stopped at a friendly neighbor’s house that sold homemade ice cream. The ice cream was unique and delicious.

We gathered back at the house for a familiar dinner of homemade burgers and fries. After dinner we concluded the night with testimonies by Marie, Luke, and Emily.  We ended on a group hug before preparing for an early bedtime. Buenos Noches!

Arrived and doing well in Talamanca!

The team made it to Talamanca and are doing great! They have no internet but their Push The Rock leader, Nattie, was able to reach out to me to send a couple pictures and let me know they had safe travels and all is well. They’re still writing blog posts each day and will get them online when they have internet access again. Top picture is the beautiful surroundings where they are staying and the bottom picture is at a church where they are serving. Thanks for your continued prayers and support! -Mary

Costa Rica Day 5: Reset Sunday

By: Jonas and Kerrigan

First, we would like to wish all of the fathers a wonderful Father’s Day. Also, “Happy birthday Mom, you mean the world to me and I wouldn’t be here without you.” -Bella Turner

To begin the day, Jonas (that’s me) went for a 6 mile run. I took a new route- It was fun because of the new scenery but very humid. As everyone else woke up, they started getting dressed for church. Before church we made a pit stop at a bakery. After filling up on some delicious baked goods, we walked back to the AMCA house and filed into the bus for church. The church we attended was the same one we went to last night with the youth group and it was so nice to see familiar faces. The songs were filled with passion from all those attending. Following the songs, we greeted everyone at the church. The community we were welcomed into was outstanding. They call their church a family and you could feel how loving they were to one other and welcoming to all of us. The message was given in both Spanish and English. We learned that your attitude and determination are controllable ways to keep your eyes focused on the Lord. Unfortunately, when church came to an end, we had to say our goodbyes to the members. They were so open to show their thanks and welcomed us back if we ever go to Costa Rica again.

Following church, we headed to the mall and got lunch from the food court. After we ate, we all explored the mall. Some went shopping and others just walked around. Purchases where made including card games (for the 6-hour bus ride tomorrow), stuffed animals, necklaces, a comic, and more. On our way back to the AMCA house, we had a pit stop at Walmart for some more shopping. The hot pick was coffee and snacks for the rest of the trip.

Back at AMCA house, we had a little free time before dinner which was filled with euchre and good conversations. Dinner was served around 6:00 pm and we had beef and rice with fried plantains, cinnamon rolls, and salad. To drink, homemade black berry juice and water. Dinner was divine and after we jumped into bible study and testimonies. Today’s bible study was about the fourth commandment- Keeping the sabbath. We dove into Exodus 20:8-11 and Mark 2:23-28 which is where we talked about how we can prioritize the sabbath throughout our busy lives. Three testimonies were shared by Abby, Kam, and Bella. To wrap up the night we separated into our prayer groups to debrief the day and pack for Talamanca. Talamanca is a remote area and we may not be able to post the blog the next few days, but we’ll be sure to upload them as soon as we can!

Thanks for following along, Jonas and Kerrigan signing off.

Costa Rica Day 4: Capturing the Moment

Hello everyone! Madison and Abby here. A couple of us started our fourth day in Costa Rica by going on a run. This was an amazing experience to be able to see the scenery and the calm of the morning in Costa Rica. The rest of us woke up to a delicious breakfast of pancakes, hash browns, sausage, fresh fruit, bread, and orange juice. Breakfast was followed by a devotional led by Matt about having compassion and grace for one another as the week goes on.

Today’s agenda was a bit different. We traveled to a local public school where we were able to help beautify the school grounds. Although it was a Saturday and class was not in session, we were able to serve God and the community by pulling weeds, painting tables, and cleaning up around the outdoor area. This particular school is not given government funding, so it is difficult for them to keep up with the maintenance of the grounds. We found this more rewarding than we would have ever expected knowing that what we accomplished would bless so many people and help keep this school open.

Around noon we headed back to the AMCA house for another delicious meal. Today’s lunch consisted of fried fish, mashed potatoes, vegetables, brownies, and fruit punch. Shortly after, we headed out on the town to do some shopping at a local market. We spent time looking at all the trinkets and were able to purchase some souvenirs.

From the market, we traveled back to the public school and had the privilege of playing games and connecting with a local youth group. We started our time together with a competitive game of penny tag which is similar to flag football in the sense that each team is trying to grab each other’s pennies or “flags.” Next, we spread out around the school grounds full of different hallways and hiding spots perfect for a fun game of capture the flag. It was a close game but the orange team seized the victory.

Following our game of capture the flag, we all piled into the bus to travel to a local church. We had the opportunity to have great conversations with the youth group members over some delicious desserts. The youth group members shared with us a powerful message and blessed us with a gift to always remind us of God’s presence in our lives. We are looking forward to heading back to this church tomorrow to worship the Lord with some of our new friends.

We arrived back at the AMCA house to another amazing dinner of burritos with beef, black beans, and pico de gallo. Dinner was followed by testimonies from Jonas, Jennaka, and Hannah. We were able to further connect with God and one another through their stories. We continued our Bible study with a discussion of the third commandment. This fun day concluded with a continuation of our discussion of conspiracy theories. We are all excited for another fun and fulfilling day ahead of us tomorrow.

Costa Rica Day 3: Unexpected Friendships

By: Jennaka and Luke

               After a full night’s rest, we woke up to Luke and Jonas getting back from a sunrise run, and we headed downstairs for eggs, Costa Rican sausage, fresh pineapple and mangos, orange juice, and hashbrowns. Our breakfast conversation was led by Matt, and we talked about what life looks like to live with God versus without Him.

               We then headed to the UAI prison where we were greeted with open arms by the staff and inmates. All of the prisoners were in full uniform ready to compete with us in a game of basketball. We began by a scripture and a testimony by Marie who talked to the group about how she found fulfillment through her faith in God and sports. Deven led us in a warmup to dial us in for gametime. After two competitive halves, Hope won by 1 point! (thanks, Deven). After the conclusion of the game, we celebrated three birthdays of the inmates by eating cake and dulce de leche, singing in both Spanish and English. We realized throughout the morning how similar these people are to us and how genuine they were. Upon our departure, the inmates went out of their way to thank us for our time and for playing basketball.

               We left the UAI and arrived to the AMCA house where arroz y pollo (rice and chicken), mashed black beans, blackberry juice (YUM), and fresh watermelon was waiting for us… it’s safe to say we are obsessed with all the fresh fruit here! We had a little bit of downtime, so the group sat at a circle table and talked about our similarities in difficulties and adversities in our different sports.

               We thought we were heading straight to the Project Abraham school, but we had the pleasant surprise of going to Pop’s ice cream shop on the way there. We all indulged in ice cream, gelato, shakes, and crepes, and drove to the school where we winded through small towns, rugged cliffs, and jungle terrain. When we arrived to the gym, the children immediately started waving and cheering, and continued to grow more excited the more people they saw from our group. Abby and Deven shared a testimony for both groups of third graders we got the opportunity to play with. We played red light green light and dodgeball, and it was nothing short of pure joy from both the kids and us. When our time was up, the kids expressed so much love to us by hugging us and not wanting to let go.

               We had some time before dinner, so we decided to explore the area around San Francisco de Dos Rios. We walked through beautiful parks and neighborhoods, and it was really interesting to see what life looks like for another culture. While we were walking, we realized that while we all met just a few days ago, our group has grown so close. We finished the evening by eating rice, Canelones, cinnamon rolls, and cas (a tart juice).

               After dinner, we had a time of devotion and dove into the first two of the 10 commandments. This discussion was followed by testimonies by Deven and Kerrigan. They both showed a lot of courage and had very moving stories of their life of faith. We ended the night with great conversation as well as group games such as Mafia and a plethora of card games.

Thanks for following along on our seed trip! We can’t wait for the rest of the week!

Costa Rica Day 2: Futbol is life

By: Daniel and Marie

After a restful 3-4 hours of sleep last night, we woke up to our first delicious meal in Costa Rica! The chefs made us rice and beans, eggs, toast, and fresh fruit (amazing mango and pineapple). On the bus ride to our first school, we got our first look at the beautiful mountains and valleys in daylight. When we arrived at Panama Republic school the students welcomed us with bright smiles and waves – they were so excited to see us! While at Panama Republic we worked with five different PE classes all around 4th grade. During each class period one of us had the opportunity to share a testimony with the students to explain why we were there. We told the kids about our love for Jesus and our love for sports and how we use sport to glorify God. It was so cool to connect with so many different kids through sport despite the language barrier. We were able to communicate through smiles and laughter! We especially had fun playing soccer and sharks and minnows with them. Cam, Hannah, and Marie even got to join the students during their traditional dance class!

After a beautiful morning with the elementary aged students, we headed back to the AMCA house for lunch. We were treated to another delicious meal. Soon after we finished eating, we left for Joven Prison, a juvenile Detention Center. We spent time with two different groups of about 10 young men for an hour each, playing sports, sharing laughs and giving testimonies. Any nerves we had going in were quickly resolved once we starting playing games with them.  It was such a cool opportunity to bring sports to a group of guys who don’t get to experience sports in the same ways that we do. Despite their difficult situations, we all were unified by sport. If you were watching from the outside, it would have been hard to tell who were the prisoners and who were not. After playing fútbol and basketball, we all sat together and had a snack and shared our gratitude. The young men wanted to make sure that we were enjoying ourselves in Costa Rica. It was surprising to a lot of us that they cared so much about our experience, especially considering their own circumstances.

Our first day in Costa Rica was so cool, and after dinner we had the chance to reflect with one another during team time. We shared the most meaningful parts of the day, listened to leader Ben share his testimony, and talked about the 10 commandments during bible study. We’re all looking forward to another day filled with new faces and smiles tomorrow!

Day 1: We’re In Costa Rica!

By: Hannah and Devin

Hi, hi, hi everyone! Sorry for the late post! We had a little bit of delay at the airport. A three hour set back had us getting in later than  anticipated into San Jose. Nevertheless, we wanted to catch you up to date! 

We left DeVos parking lot promptly at 7:30 yesterday morning, and were on our way to Grand Rapids airport. Euchre and donuts were popular on the bus ride there! Once at the airport we checked our bags, scanned our passports, and glided through security which was not busy at all on a Wednesday morning. Once through, we hit Starbucks and settled in at our gate. Conversations about books we planned on reading, songs downloaded, and games added to our phones to keep us busy on the plane were topics of conversations as we geared up to leave. On the plane we all had time to nap or talk to the people sitting next to us, (which some of us did simultaneously… Luke). 

Once in Newark, we grabbed lunch and headed back to our gate, when we were notified that the plane we were supposed to be taking was delayed with bad weather. So our 4:45 boarding time turned into an 8:08 boarding time. No problem for us though! A group of 12 college students will find a way to entertain themselves in one of the largest airports in the US. An article I had time to read states, “Newark Airport, along with JFK Airport and LaGuardia Airport, combine to create the largest airport system in the United States, the second largest in the world in terms of passenger traffic, and largest in the world in terms of total flight operations.” To say the least, we did not have trouble finding things to do. From various restaurants, to stores, to long walks down the terminal we all had fun in our unexpectedly long layover. For dinner we all gathered in separate areas. My group went to the Ramen restaurant where Daniel and myself (Hannah) raced to see who could drink their soup the fastest. We headed back to our gate and loaded the plane to San Jose. 

Once we landed in San Jose, we waited in line to get through the security checkpoint. Ben our Push the Rock leader, helped us get our passports stamped and then we were on our way. We grabbed our checked bags and headed to the bus. A quick 20 minute drive brought us to the AMCA house where we will be staying until Sunday! Then it was time to crash! For a quick blink of sleep. Thanks for reading!!

Safari Send-Off | 6.2 Uganda SEED

Greetings! Zoe & Dave here!

This morning was one to remember. We woke up bright and early at 5:30 am in anticipation of an everlasting excursion… A SAFARI. We packed the safari vans full with our group and headed off into the largest National Park in Uganda.

            We were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise our group had ever seen, as well as the occasional Giraffe popping his head out to say hi. The goal for this trip was to spot some big “cats” and it took roughly an hour to get to our prime areas. The “boy’s” van was able to spot a leopard hunting on the way there and then eventually spotted two more in a tree down the line. The “girls” van struck gold when their guide took them off-roading. They were able to find a “pride” of Lions and were able to get within close proximity of these beautiful creatures. Other animals that were spotted between the two groups were elephants, hyenas, water buffalos, mongoose, antelope, gazelles, monkeys, and many more. Afterward, we headed back to the resort to munch down one last meal before we hit the road back to Kampala. We enjoyed an amazing meal overlooking the Nile River and shared great laughs.

            After a long two weeks, the ride back was of decent length, but we made the most of the quality time with our team. Some of our members indulged in Uganda’s finest gas station snacks such as, “Crunchy Daddies, Plantain Chips, Bon Bons, and top-of-the-line energy drinks. Also, a large majority of the bus caught up on some sleep after the early start of the day.

            We made it back to our humble abode, “Namirembe Guest House”, where we shared a team dinner and our last debrief ;(. We are so grateful for this opportunity and the amazing people we’ve met along the way. Not to mention, our wonderful team from Hope. It still seems a bit surreal, but we will always be thankful for every memory made along the way.

Tomorrow, we will venture off into the Markets of Kampala before starting our journey back.