Hello, United States-ians!
Today is Sunday, the 7th of February, 2016, and a very happy Sunday it is!
My host sister, Angie, who was on a two month program in Oregon, came home this morning and it was SUCH a joyful event! (shh, don’t tell, but her whole extended family is coming over at 3 pm for a celebratory dinner) Angie is so incredibly sweet and I’m really excited to get to know her better these next months. She even thought to bring me a post card and a keychain from Oregon 🙂
I’m going to give a little summary of what I’ve been up to this last week, and I’ll add some more detailed posts later on.
Yesterday, my group had our second excursion (my first) to the Pacuare River, where we went on the longest commercial rafting tour in the country.
(Look it up! You’ll see various pictures of a narrow canyon with what appears to be a bridge going across it. The government wanted to build a dam there, but the local people petitioned to leave the river the way it was, and the vote passed. There are only traces left of the beginning of the construction. The Pacuare River has been voted by National Geographic as one of the top ten most beautiful rivers in the world. I can’t argue with that. We got to swim/drift on our backs through that canyon, and I was singing God’s praise in my heart the whole time. What a full life I’ve been gifted with!)
We traveled about 18 kilometers the 3-4 hour long trip, conquering Class III and Class IV rapids and only flipping the raft once, thanks to our guide’s attempt to do a wheelie with the raft. Our guide’s name was Manuel. He spoke English very well, though I understood him most of the time when he spoke Spanish with our assistant director in the raft, too. He taught us the commands in Spanish and would sometimes tell us to paddle forward, backward, etc in Spanish as well as English. Every time he gave a command, he would say please and thank you. And when he spoke to the other guides, he used the word “mae” (pronounced: MY) more than anything else. Mae is kind of like bro.
“Adelante, por favor!” “Alto, gracias!” “Buen trabajo, equipo!” “Todo bien, mae?” Forward, please! Stop, thank you! Good work, team! All good, mae?
I had never gone white water rafting before, but it was a truly incredible experience. It made me want to raft the Grand Canyon, something I’ve never done despite how close I live to that fancy little canyon space. 😮 The river was pretty low since it’s no longer the rainy season, so the water was moving more slowly and we had more time to react to what our guide asked of us. Still, such an incredible experience to be surrounded by God’s creation, by lush rainforest and animals we couldn’t see like sloths, monkeys, tons of birds, reptiles, who knows what else! (Dad, you’ll be proud of me! I spotted some vultures way up high because of how they were flying, with their wings shaped like a V. The guide told us they were King Vultures, so that was cool! We were usually moving desmasiado rapido/too fast to see any non-birds.)
Before the big rapids, I would say a little prayer and know that even if I fell out, God would take care of me!
He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone! Psalm 91:11-12
Now, I’m interpreting this verse very literally, but it is true! God protected me, body and soul, every moment. No crazy water snakes came near me when we were swimming; no rock (of any size) caused me pain or dashed against my foot! The only evidence on my body is a funny rectangle sunburn on my thighs from sitting in the raft for so long and muscles a little bit stronger than before. What an incredible adventure, and what a blessing to have been able to recognize that every moment God was with me.
A few times, I was reminded of my time in Belize with my Mission team last summer, when we took a two hour tour of these caves at Blue Creek. (Shout out to Belize 2015!) I was mighty freaked out by the darkness and the realization that I couldn’t see the bottom of the water, didn’t know how to leave those caves, and was honestly just really scared about the whole situation. What got me through that experience were the songs “Be Not Afraid” and a slightly Erin-altered version of “You Are Mine”:
Be not afraid/ I go before You always/ Come, follow me/ And I will give you rest
I will comfort you in the darkness/ I will lift you from all your fears/ In the shadow of the night/ I will be your light/ Be still and know I am near.
This time, on the river, I was singing in my heart the whole time: How great is our God! Sing with me how great is our God! All will see how great, how great, is our God!
Yesterday was truly an incredibly unique and special experience. I’m excited to share pictures with you guys, but I don’t have them yet because our raft received one CD for all of us, and it’s in someone else’s hands at the moment.
On Friday, we presented our final projects for our first module. (Recap: I am taking three, three-week long courses that are 45 contact hours each. We have class from 8-11 am every morning, Monday through Friday, and the first one ended on Friday, meaning I have already been here in Costa Rica for three weeks!)
The other groups all made videos, and they were very funny and showed everyone’s personality well. My group, one of two in the most advanced section, was the only group to present our project en vivo (live). We created a talk show with three guests, one of whom was our professor. I was the host and the two other girls, Cami y Meagan, were a tour guide and tourist, a celebrity soccer player, and the profe, Arturo Jiménez. We made everyone laugh quite a few times, and it was a major success! Presenting this project took me out of my comfort zone in a good way, and I know I grew in confidence because of it.
Because my program is fourteen weeks long, and we just finished our first module, I now have three weeks free! My only classes are on Monday and Tuesday with locals, and so far they have gone really well. Because of this free time, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to travel a bunch. This coming weekend, I am going to Guanacaste, the northwestern province in Costa Rica, where the best beaches are known to be. I plan to wear sunscreen and spend some time in the shade, but I also plan to enjoy the beauty and the sunshine! We’ll take plenty of pictures and have a good time. Please pray for safe travels by public bus, and that everything works out well with the apartment rooms we have rented for the weekend.
Lent begins on Wednesday, so I plan to attend an Ash Wednesday service and enter into this time of penance and reconciliation with God.
Frequent sacrifices of time, luxuries, and food, along with a personal Lenten promise and extra time in prayer and spiritual reading. This is a vague explanation of what I want to do to make this Lenten season special, and I pray for all of the little ways that you all will be making reparation to God and preparing to celebrate Christ’s death and Resurrection during Holy Week. Let us reflect with love and sorrow on the places we must improve, and let us bring God’s good news wherever we go, remembering His mercy towards us.
How are you preparing your heart to grow closer to God and to develop a more intimate understanding of Christ’s sacrifice this Lent? Please share!!
Whew, that was a lot! Thank you all for joining me on this journey. As always, please keep praying for me. Please keep praying for safety and for openness to God’s will. Above all, please pray for the courage to be authentic witnesses to God’s love despite the worldly influence offered to us every day.
Ustedes son muy amados, cada uno!
You are all so loved!