This was written this past spring while in Costa Rica 4 months. Ultimately we ended up doing a Rice N Beans Ministry that involved supplying rice and beans and picking up garbage in dirty neighborhoods…
(names have been changed to protect the parties in this commentary)
Costa Rica is the only place I’ve ever been where the ocean and sky are so much the same color, it’s hard to tell where the two meet. Azure waves languidly tumbling against the shore; azure skies mesmerizing watchful eyes into an endless firmament; both lulling the towns into a never-ending siesta.
And in the nearby jungles White-Faced Capuchin monkeys, too, recline on branches and sloths hang upside down under the shaded trees. Iguanas sunbathe on scorching rocks beside the sea. Red tailed hawks glide and turn like paper airplanes, and rest finally, high atop the sprawling hardwoods and silently survey the land. Colorful butterflies curiously float through the trees, descending on pathways and delighting passers-by, inevitably departing to land on peach and pink hibiscus.
Only the tiniest of the multicolored and varied exotic birds move with any kind of haste, as they dart from trees into the dark jungle overgrowth at lightning speed.
It is here, in this land of wonder and intrigue, our Traveling Mercies Ministries has landed.
Our purpose for being here is three fold:
We’ve been married for two years and have never had a honeymoon- this is it!
We have been separated for five months, living with relatives for nine, and catapulted into high stress since the day we said, “I do.” We have desperately needed to REST and regroup- this is it!
And of course our hearts, as always, are to reach the people for God- and boy, oh boy- this is it!
Which brings me to the intertwining of our lives with Ron and Estella.
Sometimes, when we pray, it’s hard to see or believe that God answers. It may be the case that concerning certain things we’ll never see God’s answer until we reach eternity. That’s just how it is. And if we have faith we “get” that.
There are other times, however, that God’s answer to prayer is so immediate, so obvious, and- well, so overwhelming that it takes your breath away. And so it is with Ron and Estella.
I was on the plane descending into San Jose, jumping out of my skin with excitement at the promise of finally being reunited with my darling husband. And as I watched the million city lights below, I began to pray.
“Lord God, please bring us to the people who need us the most, and who we will best serve according to the traits of our personality.”
After three days spent in the Capital, we ventured out in a rental car to get the lay of the land and determine where to settle for three to six months in Costa Rica. Eventually we chose the town of Jaco (pronounced Hawko) for a few reasons: their organic market place every Friday; close proximity to the ocean; and the couple who would rent us our little one bedroom apartment.
Ron and Estella have a large house. It is really something according to Costa Rican standards.
There are the large and luxurious European and North American condominiums and resorts lining the beaches which I consider an outright imposition to the Costa Rican culture, hardly noteworthy or indicative of the “pura vida” (pure life) that is so proudly boasted here.
But, yes, by Costa Rican standards the “Casa de Leon” (House of the Lions) is really quite a grand house.
Ron and Estella and their son Abram occupy the bottom floor of the house. Three self-contained units are sub-let on the second floor with a community balcony for respite from the sun. There is a patio below where guests visit with Ron and Estella for hours of conversation and laughter.
So warm and welcoming, so accommodating and hospitable they were, it didn’t immediately dawn on me this was the family we were sent to minister to.
I don’t know, but when flying half way across the globe to a country that is still in many ways third world, with the intention of doing mission work, my thoughts were to the “poor people.” Ron and Estella are more like upper-middle class here.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of poverty here. Hot water is a rare luxury. Beggars, hustlers, and homeless are all too common in many towns. Prostitution is out of control, police and government are corrupt. There are insane driving practices, deplorable road conditions, thousands of babies without fathers and struggling single mothers. And in due time Tim and I both know God will call us into those ranks in some form. But for now, I am called to Estella. Tim is called to Ron. And there is no doubt about it.
Estella and Ron have been “together” for one year. Estella (a native Costa Rican) beams as her man, Ron (a fed-up Americano), speaks. She hangs on his every word. He is indeed her “knight in shining armor.” Secretly, between sobs, she shared with me,
“Nobody hast aver lovED me like hist loave. And hist loave dasn’t stop weeth me. He loave my cheeldrens like he wasa their reel Daddy.”
Estella’s past is horrific. Her father, a “minister of the gospel” sexually abused her from age nine forward. Her mother, meanwhile turned a blind eye. When she was fourteen years old, her father saw her holding hands with a boy. As Ron relates, “He went ballistic, sent out four men to hunt her down. They captured and raped her repeatedly for two days.”
Estella has two sons, both of the boys’ fathers never wanted anything to do with their offspring. (all too common among Costa Rican men according to Estella). One of the fathers attempted (with extreme violence) to murder Estella five times.
Estella and Ron are now expecting a baby of their own. She is eight months pregnant. Ron wants to be in the delivery room when the baby is born.
“He is the first a one eva that a wanna take a part. I canna believa the joy!”
Estella’s eyes are dancing. She is joyful and giggling like a child. Unashamed of the emotion which, in our culture, would seem “inappropriate” for a thirty-eight year old woman. In fact, it is this very trait that draws me like a magnet to the unpretentious bliss that is Estella. How could a woman who has been through so much, be so resilient and full of life you ask? I think Estella herself put it best: “When I come upon the trables of the life, the only soolusion I have is the Jesus.”
Estella and Ron are not without obstacles of their own. Estella’s very “Christian” family looks down on Ron who really doesn’t attend a church, but respects the name of God. He rides an Indian bike and drinks Jack Daniels. His love and devotion to Estella and her children is unmistakable. His protection of her is nothing short of valiant.
Estella’s joy recently turned to terror when Ron announced that he must unavoidably return to the United States for a week. And this, three weeks before the baby is due to a mother who has always popped 2 weeks early in the past! Her sobbing is understandable. He seems unable to console her. She cries and cries.
This is the time we knock on their door to retrieve our food from their fridge to transfer to our new fridge they so kindly provided. Estella puts a towel over her face. I am embarrassed by our intrusion of their privacy as I head toward their fridge. I put my hand on her shoulder in silent comfort.
But, it is my husband who gently grabs her shoulders from behind, leans over her neck and begins to pray out loud. As Tim prays her sobbing begins to subside. He prays for her peace of mind. For the safety of the baby. Ron bows his head. Little Abram bows his head. I hold onto my husband and Estella reaches up to clasp his hands.
We assure Estella that we will be there for her at the delivery if Ron doesn’t make it back in time. Abram, too, will be taken care of. I will help when the baby arrives.
I can’t wait. I love Estella. I respect Ron.
I am once again amazed at my husband.
But mostly I am enchanted by a God Who is so mind-boggling, Whose ways are so much higher than ours, Who orchestrates our coming all the way to Costa Rica to help a beautiful little lady just when she needs help the most!
PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE! All honor and praise to the Jesus!