As I sit in our quaint little town house in Kissimmee Florida, I have time to look back at our time in Costa Rica. Our time there, although short, will have an eternal impact on our lives. The short 13 months have molded who we will become over the next 50 years. In a simple phrase, it was simply complex. Life in the Guanacaste Region of Costa Rica is simple, not simple by choice, but because there is no other option. Guanacaste is a young province, there are still full time cowboys, most people still do not have cars, and the roads reflect that. There are no movie theaters, few restaurants, no bowling alleys or malls, very few external activities to tug at your time. In return, it is easy to pour yourself into something, easy to focus all your energy in one direction, other than simply living, there are few distractions. As reflected over the last year’s posts, our direction, our energy was focused in fulfilling what we felt our mission was in Costa Rica, and helping Beach Community Church as much as we could. After all, we had the time.
The complex enters the equation in the just living portion. You see the simple life is a life that puts you back in time, back in a world where receipts are in triplicate, where car fuses are only found through local knowledge, behind the bicycle shop in the old lady’s house that doesn’t look like a store, where you cannot buy the car you see on the lot, where it takes 3-4 trips to the bank to setup the account, where sometimes you can’t use your church building on Sunday because the river crossing the road is flooded, where the power goes out often and horses and cows still roam the main streets. Nothing comes easy, and everything needs paperwork, in triplicate, from an attorney. Nothing comes easy and nothing comes quickly.
What did we learn from this? Patience and a simpler way of living, and the value of friends. You find quickly that you can do without a lot. But what you find is that you cannot do without friends. We found that we made friends, good friends, quickly, because of the instant bond. It is like making friends in a pressure cooker. Friends are invaluable, because they know things, the complex things. They have been there, they have done that and they can sympathize with every little trial and tribulation. They think like you, they act like you, and they too seek the comfort of friendship. It is the essence of a small town community. If you don’t know somebody, you know about them, even at times much more than you want to know.
Amazingly enough, likely because of this bond and the smallness of the community, you find that you have a greater impact on those around you, good or bad. Your influence is magnified and intensified. This was not more evident than in the impact we had our gate guard and friend Felix. Felix was born and raised in Nicaragua. He came to seek a better life in Costa Rica, and he informed us that he prayed for a family, a family like ours to come and show him what love is. You see, he did not have a good life. I will not go into detail about his childhood, but in my 15 years as a Trooper I have never come across anyone with a story like his. I have never seen or heard of the things he endured as a child, nor could I imagine them. And although he could not speak a word of english, we connected. He has a pure heart, a heart damaged and almost destroyed. But he has a heart that longs to give. Felix is special and he became a part of our family. And as much as we impacted him, he impacted us. He has a servant’s heart, a heart to give, a heart to love, and a very tender heart. Until this year no one had every made him a birthday cake, or even told him happy birthday. Yet for each and every birthday in our family, he could not wait to tell each and every one of us happy birthday, he could not wait to give a gift, he could not wait to give period. He reveled in it, and I dare say he lived for it showing more excitement than even 8 year old Jake.m I know how much our time their had impacted him, because for the last month I could not talk to him without him tearing up.
It is easy to see why we would end up in a neighborhood where we had not even looked to rent. It was easy to see how God could have crafted our trail so that we could meet Felix and he could be there for us and we could be there for him. It was easy, simple. But what is complex is why did we leave him? And like a child, I am not sure he understood, and in fact I am not sure I understand. What I do know is that I have never felt worse leaving someone than I have ever felt leaving him. Every other person we have ever left had lives outside of us and we had lives outside of theirs. With Felix, he was part of our everyday life and he did not have much else going on. He works 12 hours a day, pretty much every day. He eats, he sleeps, he works, in the heat of the day and the dark of the night, he works. He opens gates and closes gates, every day. He doesn’t have much going on. Simply put, it is much too complex for me to understand. What I do know is I have never seen a man so broken hearted when I told him we were leaving. So for those of you that pray, please pray for Felix, that he will find God’s love. And if you want to make a fantastic friend, you can find him at the entrance of the Altos De Flamingo neighborhood in Flamingo, he loves postres.
Although the sunset much quicker on our time in Costa Rica than we anticipated, I know that the time we had was effective. I also feel as though we will return. And as we dodged and parried our way through Wal-Mart this morning in Orlando, where we could find every single thing for life’s basic supplies and much more, we missed our corner market. The one 50 meters from the entrance of Altos De Flamingo, which is no bigger than our living room. The one where the same five workers are there every day to greet us in Spanish, and teach us new words, and where if you are lucky, every once and while you can buy some flavored coffee creamer. Or if they are out, you can buy some milk, hope it has not spoiled and throw in a little vanilla. But if that does not work, you can do without.