Journey to Costa Rica

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The aroma of wood and jungle still fresh in my favorite shirt, transports me to the place my soul met its maker.  I must write now, while I don’t think I’ll forget the experience, I know with time my head will trick me into thinking that my memories are a product of my imagination, a fantastic story and nothing more.

First I must start by saying that going to Costa Rica was not my idea.

It all began in January when I had the strong feeling I needed to renew my passport. I couldn’t explain it. Even though, I’ve let it expire for more than three years, during my last visit to Mexico City it began bothering me. Still, I didn’t renew it.

Four months later, during a women’s retreat organized by my church, I overheard a woman who had just returned from living in Costa Rica for nine years. I felt and instant connection with this woman, which I’ll call Blue, that could not be explained. Literally, we only exchanged a couple sentences but I wanted to hear more about her life in the mission field. So we shared our telephone numbers with the promise we would meet again to have coffee. I thought God put her in my life to serve me as a model as I entered the world with Amor. I didn’t call. She didn’t call.

In May, I was in Mexico at a house build with Amor when I met Anne, a young woman who shared with me her beautiful and powerful story about going to Costa Rica in a mission trip with Latin American Child Care. She spoke of the experience as the most life altering moment of her life. And while she repeatedly mentioned Costa Rica, the children and the trip, I only listened to her transformation story, failing to notice the background in which the story took place.

During that same trip, another friend made the first invitation to go to Costa Rica that she was leading. Which I quickly declined, I was head over heals with Amor, and I felt my focus should remain in fundraising for the new chapter of my life, that according to me it didn’t include Costa Rica.

The very next day I returned home and went to my local coffee shop in Santee. I picked up a conversation with one of the customers and our barista about coffee; the conversation took us naturally to speak about Costa Rican coffee. Our barista was from Nicaragua and he had lived many years in Costa Rica. We talked for hours. The rain forest began filling my mind.

That same week, while I was visiting the neighborhood park with a friend and the kids, we met a man who had started a non-profit in Costa Rica.

Despite feeling that perhaps I should consider the invitation, I did not sign up for the upcoming Mission Trip to Costa Rica. Instead I scheduled my Hernia surgery. Something I’ve also put off for three years.

I was on my way to the operation room when my phone rang. I didn’t answer it, but the fact that no name showed up intrigued me.

 “Do you want to go to Costa Rica?”

When I woke up from surgery, I reached for my phone and I listened to the voicemail:

“Hey Fabiola this is Chris E…, I work at Newbreak Church and I’m the High School Pastor…, I got your information from… We are looking for a Spanish speaking female leader for our High School trip to Costa Rica, THIS July. (six weeks to be precise) …if you are interested at all give me a call back to ….”

Although the surgery had been a simple procedure, the pain was devastating. The idea of going anywhere, let alone Costa Rica was unfathomable. But under what could’ve been the stupor of the medication, the visions of all the recent conversations about this place in Latin America swarmed to my mind’s eye.

God had extended a personal invitation to a new adventure once again. Since I started my journey with Amor I had made the song Oceans by Hillsong United my personal anthem, a prayer from my soul. Never I imagined He would respond so literally.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.”

I called Chris back and I said, yes.

He couldn’t believe how easy it was to convince me, he had no idea the convincing had been done way before he even had the need.

Within two weeks I was able to get a passport, the pain post surgery was unbearable but subsided at the end of the third week, and my husband was on board 100 percent and even kicked in some money for my expenses.

But Amor called me and asked me to start as soon as possible, which I did, noting that I had a Mission Trip planned.

As the weeks progressed and the date of departure approached I began doubting myself. I felt woefully unprepared to take the leadership of a group of young women, not to mention they still scared me. Although God had healed my heart toward grown women, I wasn’t sure about teenagers.

I was afraid they would see right through me. “I don’t posses the spirituality, knowledge and charisma to be anyone’s leader,” I kept telling myself. What had I gotten myself into?

To make matters worse I finally joined the team of Amor and I was working full time and getting the household going with new schedules. I still needed to find supporters. I had abandoned the blog and taking more time off seemed irresponsible.

It was too late. I was committed and the Youth team already counted on me.

Two days before setting flight to Costa Rica, I attended a Global Missions meeting at Newbreak that I’ve signed up during a slower period of my life and this was their first meeting.

As I entered the room of the meeting, with her wide and warm eyes she smiled at me. Blue.

It couldn’t be more serendipitous. I was eager to share with her about how she had planted the seed that would eventually lead me to Costa Rica.  Yet we ended up talking about Amor, and she shared how it was that she wanted to join an organization working with Mexican families. I gave her a huge hug and we said goodbye. I needed to run back to pack my suitcases.

Next day she showed up at my office. She was checking Amor as I shared that we had a new position available in the staff.

This time we had a chance to talk about Costa Rica. I asked her about phrases, the food and the culture.

Before she left she asked me a favor that if I had the chance during my stay in San José, to visit a woman who she had a chance to meet right before she headed back to the States and say hi.

She could’ve shared any number of names from the stories you can accumulate in nine years living abroad, yet she said: “You have to meet Mary Mahon, you’ll fall in love with her and her ‘Chicas de Promesa’ program.”

I wanted to cry. While I didn’t know what anything meant I knew something was about to happen because Mary was precisely the person who we were getting ready to meet in Costa Rica and it couldn’t be a coincidence.

Can you have faith in the face of fear?

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29 Jesus said, “Come, Peter.”Then Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30 But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. He was afraid and began sinking into the water. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”31 Then Jesus caught Peter with his hand. He said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

 It never fails; doubt and fear are a heavy burden that causes drowning.

It is no wonder fear has been a recent visitor in my life. See, I’m like Peter. Of course it’s easy to follow Jesus in land, but to follow Him in water?

I’ve told you my story about where I’m heading here.

However, at each step my legs wobble and my hands tremble. A couple times (more like a thousand) I’ve questioned how wise is for me to take this path. I’ve told myself that maybe I should’ve been looking for something to secure my family’s future. A career with greater compensation, big benefits or at least job security.

The truth is that fundraising has not been easy for me and didn’t expect it to be.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I imagined that the whole situation would resolve itself, keeping me from the inconvenience of becoming “uncomfortable.” Don’t get me wrong I’m eager to start working with Amor and I’m convinced about my calling and their mission.

Yet, my life would have been easier if a big donor would have jumped in and offer to cover my salary for the entire year. Talk about miracles, right?

But I know growth only occurs when you get out of your comfort zone. God is after something else. He knows I’ll need more faith than ever before to carry out His message, to help His people and to stay strong for Him. It feels like a test, but I believe is rather the lesson.

Fundraising is only hard now because it is something I’ve never done. However, as I walk in this path, with each step my legs become sturdier and stronger, remembering what they’ve done and what they can do through Him.

When my faith sees itself tested. I draw strength from past experiences. One day this experience will too serve to show me that faithful work has its recompense. One day soon I hope, I’ll be telling you from the offices of Amor that all is well and you too should consider stepping out into the water and join us in a mission trip.

Today don’t fault me for doubting; these are my first steps out of the boat.