An Adventure at La Montana
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in a men’s
retreat adventure at La Montana near Arenal. We decided early on that since this event was strictly for men, the word retreat must be replaced with adventure. Perhaps a bit of a self- fulfilling prophecy.
The adventure started early, turning a normal 4 hour trip into a 7 hour adventure. The adventure peaked as darkness slid in on us near the end of our drive, accompanied by a thick wet fog. The kind of fog that sparkles and dances off your headlights putting the driver (me) into a trance. This was made even more perilous because we were venturing up a thin road unknown to all of us, a tiny windy road up the side of a mountain. At least we assumed it was a mountain because I couldn’t see past the side of the road. To make it even more adventurous, we were following a giant bus, who had to stop each time an oversized semi truck meet them in the road to ensure that neither would sustain fatal damage. Although we were slightly encouraged by the ” Viajamos con Dios” written on the back of the bus. Our average speed during this portion of the journey, about 10 km per hour. Doesn’t sound scary,but when you consider speeding semis, being passed on blind corners by motorcycles, scooters and cars, and the constant peril of hitting a cow or sliding of the edge of the mountain, I think I forgot to breathe for about and hour and a half.
Finally after one wrong turn, several scary switchbacks we pulled into what we believed was our destination, Camp La Montana. The bus we followed, pulled into the same location. A group of twenty men all arrived at the same time to check into the camp.
Upon arrival we scurried off to find a room. We found two rooms upstairs right across from each other, perfect for our group of eight. The rooms had two bunk buds, and two lower beds adorned with the thinnest foam mattresses available in all of Costa Rica. Also staring us in the face was the fact that there were no sheets or no towels in the room, and no one in our party had bothered to bring any of the aforementioned. A detail that apparently escaped all eight of us. Next time when they tell us to check the website, I will check the website. But in this case the adventure continued.
After a dinner, which included beans and rice, some kind of meat and something else, we had some worship music, a message and met in small groups. The theme of the adventure was hearing God’s voice. Our small group, the only group from Guanacaste met outside in the evening fog. We were adorned in our shorts and t-shirts, and to a man we were chilled. Sure it was probably 65 degrees our there, but when you live in 90 temperatures, a wet 65 can be a little frigid.
Upon retreating to our rooms, and completely exhausted from a nearly 8 hour trip, we thought sleep would be easy. We were fortunate that they were able to dig up fitted sheets for us to use as bedding, and a couple of pillows. Although damp, they were welcomed.
Sleep, at least for me, was intermittent and fitful at best. Every move made on the mattress echoed throughout our room, and the rough cut lumber lining my top bunk kept digging into my back and hip, leading to many adjustments throughout the night. Looking forward to a hot shower to kick-start the day, I was surprised to find that unlike the water in our area region of Costa Rica, the water actually gets cold, very cold here in the mountains. The best part, there was not a lick of hot water to be had. There was a handle for hot water, but no hot water. So my shower was very cold, exhilarating and quick.
That day included three more meetings intertwined with some basketball, frisbee, hiking, water slides, water swings, archery and a two-hour epic soccer battle on a field pitted with ankle busting holes. Adventure sprinkled with danger, everything a man could want.
There were a few minor injuries, a lot of sore muscles and more sweat than an episode of The Biggest Loser. The good news is by this time the hot water was working and the spittle that dripped out of the shower had at least blasts of heat.
The meetings were great and effective. We got to do a lot of soul-searching, deep conversation and learning helping us all to grow. The meals were an adventure, to keep with theme of course. There was always rice and/ or beans with every single meal. Then a meat product and something else. I say meat product because at least two times we were unable to identify what we were eating. But what’s an adventure without a little mystery. We did not go hungry.
Sleep was certain for night two, especially after the lack the night prior and the two-hour soccer game. Sleep I did, for about an hour, and then it was back to toss and turn throughout the night, even though I moved my mattress to the ground. The last day began with breakfast, some praise and worship, a short message and testimonies given by attendees sharing what they got out of the conference. The ride home was in the daylight and other than me cutting off a guy in an intersection in San Ramon, and being pulled over for no reason other than to be extorted, it was peaceful. In fact we turned the 7.5 hour trip into a 4 hour trip, and that included a stop for ice cream and gas, and a friendly conversation with a local police officer, and I use that term loosely.
In reflection, perhaps the trip revealed to us that no matter our surroundings, no matter the circumstances or how uncomfortable we are, we can and should always seek out to hear God’s voice. To understand what he is telling us and where he is guiding us. After all, Paul, in Acts, lived in a world of discomfort, adventure and peril and was perhaps the most effective messenger of Jesus of all time. So perhaps it is good for us to have adventure or suffer at times to bring us back into the world of others that suffer daily and still maintain their faith in the midst of it all, and as a result bring us a little closer to him and increase our ability to hear his voice. Which can call out even in the midst of the night and over the din of the mysterious mountainous snorer in your room. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!