International Ministries

Nebraska to Boca Arenal - July 2013

January 20, 2014 Journal
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"The essence of hospitality is a heart open to God."

"Hospitality is a way of receiving each other,
our struggles, our newborn ideas,
with openness and care."

Dear friends,

It was not a promising beginning: the 8 teenagers and their leader were drooping with exhaustion and hunger, and, even before leaving the airport, seemed to be repenting of this rash act of coming from Nebraska to Costa Rica for a mission trip. They had been traveling since the day before and still had a 4-hour car trip through the mountains. They hadn't eaten for hours.


A week later, they were drowning in tears, but this time at the thought of leaving their new family at the mission church in Boca Arenal, in the north region of Costa Rica. They were still exhausted, after a week of painting the parsonage and the church, visiting church families, teaching English classes and helping with Vacation Bible School. But this time their exhaustion and their tears were spiced with joy. Their recurring theme was hospitality: how the members of this tiny church of mostly Nicaraguan immigrants had opened their doors and their hearts, sweated over hot stoves to prepare them meals, greeted them with smiles and hugs, painted alongside them, prayed and laughed and played with them. They got a new glimpse of the joy of being part of God's worldwide family. Their joy was a result of their ability to see God present in their new experiences.

The two groups broke through the barriers of language and culture to establish authentic relationships. Melissa and Jennifer were the first to greet their guests every day, eager to help, practice their English, and share hugs. Their mother's welcome was just as warm when the pastor took us to visit their home. Vasilicia explained that her husband of 15 years had left her for another woman and she was taking sewing classes at the church to try to earn a living to support her 2 girls. But she was paralyzed in her work for the moment because her sewing machine needed a new part that she couldn't afford. Maybe in a month or two she would be able to buy it, she said, because it cost $20. The spirit of God touched Michelle, as she realized she could spend $20 without even thinking about it, and she shared God's grace with a generous gift to her new friends' mother.

Later, we took Ryan and Ely to visit Cecilia and her family, also members of the church. We were reminded that hospitality does not require wealth or luxury, only a warm welcome and an open door. She and her husband Luis had built their own house, latrine, and well in an unused field, where they had planted corn and fruit trees. Of course, they were in danger of being evicted any day, and had no idea what they would do then. Neither of them had been able to study in Nicaragua, not even first grade. Luis was working in the pineapple and sugar cane plantations. But now that they were in Costa Rica, their 3 children were all in school and had a much brighter future. That night at church, Luis thanked us with tears in his eyes for honoring his family with our visit. Surely we were the honored ones!

Hospitality is recognizing the presence of God in those around us, being blessed by them and blessing them.

I am blessed by God's presence in you. You have opened your hearts and shared your gifts in this recent matching fund drive and I feel honored by your generosity. Thank you.