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Casas in Costa Rica

Mar 28, 2018

The third stop over on my recent 10-day business trip was in Costa Rica. The Valor Boys and Girls Soccer Teams had a Discovery Trip. Discovery is a program through Valor Christian High School that gives students experiences serving others around the world. This particular trip combined members from the boys and girl’s teams. The students and leaders worked during the day to build two homes. After a short break in the afternoon, the students would then dress and get ready to play small-sided soccer games against local Ticos (Costa Ricans) or to host soccer camps and clinics for children in the different towns and villages.

As the chaplain for the boys soccer team, one of my roles on the trip (besides a lot of lifting and painting) was to help add spiritual insight and guidance to the team. As team members were confronted with issues of poverty, language and cultural barriers, and spiritual issues I was there to help guide conversation and encourage students to see the greater spiritual realities beyond what was plainly visible.

Below is an excerpt of something I shared with team members, one particular evening after a tough couple days of work on the casas (houses),

Today I observed a lot of frustration — yesterday, both teams hadn’t been able to complete enough work at their sites and for one team, our machine broke leaving us stranded in finishing the concrete work.

The truck in the background hauls off our broken concrete mixing machine and Team Fuego smiles and soldiers on!

With memories still fresh, the foreman (Manuel) came and began to direct both combined work teams. I could see and feel many of the team members (including myself) as we frustratingly put materials into piles. Manuel seemed stubborn. “No, here.” He would point. It didn’t make sense to us. Many of us felt that there might be more efficient ways of doing the work or sorting the materials, or something! We didn’t want a day like we had the day before.
Manuel then gathered the whole work crew. He was going to show us how to frame and drywall a panel. The teaching went painstakingly slow. We messed up. Screws not entirely screwed in. Wood that didn’t seem to be able to fit. Manuel patiently guided us. He would show us, sometimes, doing the very work himself. Once he had demonstrated and got us through the first panel, it was on to making other work stations and other teams to do the same work. There was a look in his eye — but we weren’t sure if it was frustration at the gringos trying to complete this work that he could do so easily himself or if there was just a little gleam in his eye. The kind of gleam that a grandpa gets when he is taking time to teach his craft to his grandchildren. Some mix between love and firmness.

Our wall building team took some time, but soon learned how to work well together.

Then it started to happen, team members started to learn their roles. We grew in confidence. We leaned on each other. We encouraged each other in the work. Our speed and efficiency improved as we began to work together. As Nicole later declared, our team had achieved “peak efficiency” (or some other economics term, I can’t remember). In a few short hours, our team had completed 5 panels, nearly 1/4th of a house.
It was interesting, too, to watch Manuel. He was there if we had a question. He would show us things we had done wrong and he would help us make corrections to our mistakes. He would “hover” over teams and inspect each team’s work. Pointing out errors. Occasionally, a smile would creep across his face if we got something right.

Manuel (background with red shirt) was overlooking each team and making sure we got it right.

Where I am going with all of this comes to this — there is a metaphorical parallel to our walk in following Jesus!
We find ourself in the midst of calamity when we first arrive on the scene. Our lives are a mess with sin and shame and the past ways in which we have failed so many times. We are broken down frustrated, incomplete creatures who have a sense that something just isn’t right. That we aren’t really complete and that something is missing. There are piles of stuff, but it seems out of order, random and unmade.
Even when Jesus does come into our lives and begin to “order” things more rightly we still have our own feelings an opinions about where things ought to go or how things ought to be. We have a hard time letting go. We have a hard time receiving instruction from the “Master.”
But as we sit at the feet of the Master — Jesus, in the case of spiritual things; Manuel, in the case of building houses in Costa Rica. We begin to learn. We learn about our role and calling, our place in God’s kingdom. We learn what are gifting are and as we enter into the communal space of the church, the body, the bride of Christ, we learn what it is to come alongside and work together. And Jesus doesn’t abandon us to this work, alone. He is there. His Spirit with us to help us when we stray, when we have questions and doubt, when we need rest. But we become the hands and feet. We become the vessels through which Jesus works change in the world.
At the end of that second day, everyone (tired as we were) had a much better sense of accomplishment. We felt a sense of purpose and achievement. We had grown in our understanding and our skill. We had become transformed and it was because we sat at the feet of Manuel’s mastery of putting a house together.
We went on in subsequent days to paint the prefabbed frames of the houses. I had the privilege of teaching the students what little I knew of painting. We had a great time as some of the pictures below show.

The Valor Girls rocked the paint crew. They even made up a little song about me! Link to come…:)

But our time in Costa Rica wasn’t about building earthly casas, it was about demonstrating the love of God. Our hope is that our time spent will add more numbers to the heavenly casa.

Team Fuego pauses for a picture before putting up that last exterior walls of the house.

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