Phil mentioned earlier in his blog that we had a different experience of Easter this year. I want to share that experience with you; for it was one that came as a sign of God’s faithfulness and interest in the two of us being in Costa Rica and it was one that completely touched my heart.
Ronnie and Tammy are members of our team here in Puerto Viejo and through Kid’s Church ministry they have become an important couple to Phil and me. They invited us to go to a church service in Manzanillo, about twenty minutes south of us, on Easter morning. With them was a couple, the wife of which I teach the really young ones with at Awana’s (the Ositos are the name of our age group here). They speak literally no English and it is amazing how much I love them and feel a connection with them regardless of the fact that half of our relationship consists of broken sentences and shy smiles. It really is true that God gives you a connection with people through your faith in Him that outweighs and out-trumps any language barrier that exists.
We sat in a tiny church, with fake flowers tacked to the walls and a banner over the pulpit that read “Jesus is the same today, tomorrow and forever”. The service was a mixture of English and Spanish, and worship was led by a woman I have come to know as Ms. Spence singing loudly into a microphone as Rasta Music trailed in from the beach outside.
We had hymnals to sing from, we sang “He Lives”, and I have never realized how much I liked hymns until that day. It has been almost 7 months since I have been inside of a church here in Costa Rica; there literally are none to go to, and to be inside of one at that moment filled whatever was missing inside of me that could now be in peace. I was watching Ms. Spence, and Tammy who sat one row in front of me, and I watched Ronnie help lead with his guitar, and at that moment I was so thankful that God had brought me to that place. There is something powerful and sacred about being in a congregation (of five or 200 people) that lets you see a glimpse of God’s desire for His people; the love that we are supposed cultivate and maintain within our community, and how we have the privilege not the responsibility to be a part of this body. I told my mom on the phone that night that I have never appreciated church more than I do after being here and not having it. I remember sleeping in, or making other plans some Sundays and I kick myself now for not realizing the opportunity I had.
Tammy was saying that when she and Ronnie first came to this church it was just a deck. There was no roof and no side walls, but people wanted a church and so they fixed it. I was in their building yesterday; the building they built because they realized the importance of community and having a place to worship God in together.
We took communion after a two and a half hour service was coming to a close and as a ate a piece of soda cracker and drank a sip of Welch’s grape juice I could not help but thank God for allowing me to see His church that day. He was in the people I met, the songs we sang, the communication that happened in English and in Spanish and in some small way I felt like He was remembered more that day than I have remembered Him in a long time. I could not leave without knowing that God is continually going to show Himself in new ways while we are here in Costa Rica, and that He will bring His people into fellowship with Him in many different ways.