Today was a totally different day beginning with breakfast (15 min. earlier than usual), no buffet but a fruit plate and a plate of eggs and toast brought to us, devotions on the bus, and a 2 1/2 hr. drive to our first appointment — a community church in Upala, almost as far north as you can go in Costa Rica without crossing into Nicaragua. The terrain changed the closer we got to that of a rainforest and we saw a couple of volcanoes — fortunately not in active at the moment and from a distance.
On the way, we stopped to get ice and let people use the washroom at an interesting cafeteria that had a kind of parrot jungle out back. We weren’t there very long but I got a couple of good pictures of very large colourful parrots like the ones my dad brought back from Colombia when he worked there in the early 60s.
When we arrived at the little open air church, there were 3 groups of children involved in their workbooks called The Greatest Journey. This is the follow-up to the Christmas shoebox. Every child who receives a shoebox is invited to take part in this discipleship program. The children participating in the program here were not from regular church-going families but were from the surrounding community. The pastor and his wife were very young and told us they have about 40 adults and 20 children who attend and that the land their building is on was donated and they’re trying to raise funds to complete the building.
When the children finished their lessons, we engaged them in parachute play and they had great fun playing games with it. After that, we did the face painting, etc, that we’ve been doing everywhere we go and the children enjoyed themselves very much.
We went into town afterwards for lunch and the on to another church in the same district to take part in a graduation ceremony for 22 students who have completed The Greatest Journey. The group consisted of children from about 5 to 14 years old. It was a very special time for them.
The ceremony began with the Canadian volunteers each leading a child into the building (same style as the building from the morning but beautifully completed with a tiled floor and platform and tiling on the porch as well where there was also a wheelchair ramp) and to their decorated chairs. Then the pastor welcomed everyone, led us in a few songs, and made some opening remarks. Some of the students came up to the platform to recite some verses and did a very good job. Our team leader, Gilberto Dumas, talked to the children and we Canadians (it’s Canada that contributes the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to Costa Rica) were privileged to congratulate each child and present them with their certificate, their completed TGJ booklet and a Bible in their own language. It was a very moving ceremony and we all had many highlights to shares on the bus as we headed home. I’ll have to borrow pictures to add later as I didn’t take any myself.
We stopped to eat at a great restaurant on the way since it was getting very late and had the great news that we can sleep in an extra 15 minutes tomorrow morning. Hasta mañana.