slopePlease welcome travel reporter Joy M. for a series of post on her and her husband’s recent trip to Costa Rica. Their travels took place in May 2015 and they appear to have enjoyed every minute of it! They happily agreed to share their experiences with us. Please enjoy.

The primary purpose of our trip to Costa Rica was to see my parents and learn first hand about their mission. My parents, Paul and Bridget, are missionaries with Indigenous Community Development International (ICDI), a Christ-centered non-profit organization that provides funding and logistic support for community development projects to under-served people groups in under-developed areas of the world. My father maintains the buildings and landscaping at the Emanuel Community Development Center, which serves as the base of operations for several of the ICDI projects.

The projects include dental clinics, micro loans, Puentes de Vida (Bridges of Life—a program that trains and employs indigenous women as maternal and infant health promoters in their communities on the reservation near by), a bridge-building project to span the dangerous rivers in the area, classes in English, and a school bus service. The Emanuel Center is currently used for hosting short term mission teams, but plans are developing to make it into a community center with a computer room, lending library, thrift store, resources to help people study for their high school diploma, and activities for youth and families.

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My first impression of the mission, which is a cluster of buildings on one of the few flat spaces near the river, was its remoteness. It is over an hour from the nearest town with a gas station and grocery store and three and a half hours from the city of San Jose. However the distance is as much a result of the very poor roads as the actual mileage. The terrain is extremely mountainous and the gravel roads twist through valleys and climb up and down dizzying slopes via endless switchbacks. The region is mostly considered farmland but with hillsides at a forty-five degree angle and more, it retains a very wild appearance. The crops grown on these mountains are mostly coffee, plantain, bananas, and sugar cane, all of which are harvested by hand. Dairy cows (imported from Wisconsin of all places) also graze in fields that look like they were pasted onto the sides of cliffs!

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A short term mission team from Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas visited the Emanuel Center in 2007 for the first time. The church has a long standing relationship with ICDI and sends a short term mission team once a year for a couple of weeks to add new buildings at the center or to a school on the reservation. In July 2014 the construction workers doubled the size of the dining room and another part of their team gave baking classes and put on a Vacation Bible School at the school on the reservation. Several of the same people from the church have come each time and have started to develop relationships with the people who live near the mission. One of these is a finance professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He met farmers who needed small affordable loans in order to provide for their families. The professor got his students involved in starting the ICDI micro loan project. Each spring break he brings a group of students to the Emanuel Center and takes them into the community to interview partners (people who receive loans) and work along side them, teach basic economics to elementary students, lead a finance class for adults, and to play the annual soccer match between the students and community. It is people like these that are having a positive impact on individuals and families in the neighboring communities.

Being that my husband and I both love books, we were invited to help with collecting Spanish books for the new library that is being started. We were delighted! Books are very difficult to find in Costa Rica and are very expensive and all items shipped into the country are heavily taxed so the best way to obtain new books is to buy them in the United States and have someone transport them in their luggage. Over the months leading up to our departure we started a GoFundMe and my mother set up an Amazon wish list. We were able to raise about $250 to buy books and received several books directly from donors. I had a wonderful time scouring the used bookstores in the area for chapter books, Spanish readers, children’s non-fiction, and board books. We also ordered several specific books that would be particularly useful to the mission library. In all we ended up bringing over forty books down with us. We also collected several supplies necessary to maintain and repair a library, especially in a humid climate.

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We also got to help with the work of the mission more directly while we were there. My husband and father spent a couple days working on projects around the property, including hanging the new sign for the center. Meanwhile, my mother and Lori, another missionary with ICDI, and I hosted a fun spa day for some ladies from the community. Before we left the US, I collected the supplies needed. Lori brought her adorable three-year-old daughter, and we ended up having five ladies and a little girl come. They enjoyed an afternoon of chatting and pampering. After cafecito (ca-fay-see-toe)—afternoon coffee and cake— we enjoyed a time of fellowship. Even though I knew about three words in Spanish and did little beyond helping set up, changing out the water in the footbaths, and handing out towels, I felt like I had contributed toward this opportunity to show love to these women who have very hard lives.

We felt very blessed to be able to spend time with my parents at the mission. It’s a trip that we will not soon forget!

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