Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Puerto Viejo

Before splitting up into our Central and South American Outreach teams, the whole group headed to the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica to a happening little town called Puerto Viejo, to do ministry for two weeks. This time together was so rich; it was one of my favorite trips during my time in Latin America. We stayed at a Baptist church and worked alongside one of the elders, a local restaurant owner named Orlando, and his Greek wife Ismini.

We spent the first week with little direction, trying to figure out what to do, since Orlando didn’t have very much planned out for us. Throughout the week, we went on several prayer walks, asking God to reveal to us what we should do. It was frustrating because He didn’t seem to have anything to say. A side from some sanding and painting at the church, we did some trash clean up on the streets of the little town, and tried to bless the people by offering free iced tea while we washed their bikes. We also spent a day helping Orlando clean out his restaurant so he could re-open it. Some of us went with Ismini overnight to hang out with a group of kids from the next town.

As time went on, though, the Lord crossed our paths more and more with different people who were able to serve. A few of us got connected with a Skate Ministry, and spent a lot of time connecting with the kids there. We had a huge dinner for the homeless one night, which was delicious.

One night after dinner, we went out for ice cream at this cafe and made friend with the Dutch shop-owner. God put it on someone’s heart to ask him how we could bless him. We came back the next day, explained who we were and asked him if there was anything he needed. After looking at us, dumbfounded and speechless, he told us he was a “very-well-thought-out atheist.” We told him that wasn’t a problem, so he began preparing a list for us.

A couple days later we returned to his shop to get to work. Kees had much he wanted to get done; he had bought the shop a few months ago, and the previous owner left a bit of mess for him to clean up. The shop had no sign anymore, and the fold-out sign he had was too heavy to bring in and out every day. The outside seating area was eroding into the sea. All of his tables and chairs were wobbly and all of the paint was chipping off. His bathroom needed cleaning. This bench at his bar was dangerously close to collapsing. Kees had quite a bit on his plate, so all eighteen of us got to work. Some guys built a dam with logs at the edge of the seating area to keep it from eroding. Many worked on repairing, sanding and painting the tables and chairs. Some of our girls spent a few days designing and painting a logo for what is now known as “Dam Good Coffee Co.” (dam, as in Amsterdam, where Kees is from.)

Kees was so grateful for the help that he cooked us a free lunch in return for our services. He thanked us ceaselessly, and always greeted us so warmly whenever he ran into us around town. He became a really good friend of ours throughout our stay. Whenever we had any downtime, we would hang out with him at his shop and got to know him really well. It was actually really hard to finally leave after two weeks; Kees came running out to meet us at the bus stop to give us all hugs good bye.

I was amazed at the timing of this interaction. Kees had shared with us that he was very busy, and had neither the time nor the money to accomplish anything on his list. Business was slow this time of year, so he didn’t have the funds for anything extra besides the rent. He only had one employee, and he worked the shop from morning until night seven days a week. On top of all this, Kees’ Australian girlfriend, who he “loved to bits”, was moving out of Costa Rica to study, most likely never to return. He was undeniably in a hard spot. God knew this, and because He loves Kees, He sent us to help him get some things done and out of the way so he could rest a little easier. We didn’t know all this when we asked him, but we knew God wanted to bless him. It was such a pleasure to see it unfold.

So, if you’re ever in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, I would highly recommend visiting Dam Good Coffee Co. which is right along the beach as you enter town. You’ll be met by a very friendly Dutch man who sells amazing fair trade coffee and organic ice cream.

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