Friday, January 28, 2011

Work and Play

Occasionally, when I sit in front of this computer screen thinking of how to best describe the latest experience, I sit, and then when I think more, I sit more, and eventually after a long time of sitting and thinking, come up with absolutely nothing. I don’t know if amateur bloggers can get writer’s block, but I am pretty sure I can sometimes be diagnosed with ABB. Amateur blogger’s block frustrates me beyond words. Literally. Fortunately, this is not one of those times.  I could probably write novels of what has happened over the last week and the new, somewhat different, experiences I have encountered. Many firsts, and hopefully not lasts.

Let me preface this blog with an update on our work site. This past week moved very well. Above is the building we are adding a second story. The team from North Carolina worked very hard getting a great deal of work done. The old roof was completely removed. The tin from the roof was restored, painted, and can now be reused. The new concrete foundations were set and poured. The giant support beams were coated in rustoleum, welded together and successfully set in the foundations as columns. On the final day, we were able to lift the trusses, which run horizontally on top of the steel columns, to the second story. These steel beams had to have weighed 400 to 500 pounds each, which is why it took about ten men to lift them up to the second floor. I thought to myself… “Isn’t this what they use cranes for?” Each person on the team would have to remove a sweat drenched t-shirt and shower before dinner each night. There were a few cuts and bandages but overall no major injury. I don’t have other weeks to compare it to, but from my perspective, it was a great first week. We were even able worship with the Costa Rican’s once during a powerful Tuesday night service. We prayed prayer for this broken city that God restores hope through the works He has called us to do.

These next stories still make me laugh to myself when I think about them. Hopefully I can write them just as they unfolded. They are in order of greatness on the story scale, not necessarily chronologically. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did, but I don’t know if that is possible though.

Again, after a LONG week of work in the hot Costa Rica sun, Wil, My new amigo Pedro, and I went out to Playa Hermosa, a beach off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, to learn how to surf. January 20th and I am surfing in the Pacific Ocean. I never would have dreamed. We grabbed our boards, waxed them down, walked like we knew what we were doing, and went out in to the ocean. Waves were crashing far out from shore. We fought our way past the currents and small waves to get to ones we could really surf. I would watch each one reach its peak right before it crashed down causing chaos in the surrounding waters. I grew up going to the beach in the Gulf of Mexico along the Panhandle. These are no panhandle waves. The only words I know for these waves are “mucho grande.” I had also grown up doing water sports on Smith Lake all my life so I assumed surfing I could just pick up. Just after completing that thought, I saw it... In the distance rolled a mountain like wave that had my name all over it. It is as if this triumphant event of my first surf was all in slow motion. I climbed on my board with mounting anticipation, paddled my heart out, and began to feel the lift of the wave. This was it. Hopefully there is a film crew and pro surfing scout in the area because I knew they were about to be amazed. Just as I attempted to pop up on the board and coast into shore to meet surfing contracts, surfer girls, and surfing endorsement requests, the nose of my board touched the rushing water. Crash and burn would be an understatement of what unfolded next. After my pride was completely destroyed it felt as if someone shoved me into a salt-water washing machine. My toe smashed into the hard ocean floor and the surfboard I once befriended plowed into the back of my head. I have a purple toe and knot on my head to show for it. Sand made its way into every area of my body as I resurfaced gasping for air and dignity. I found the air. Thankfully after a few falls, I figured it out. I had a few good surfs and finally was able to stand up and coast into shore. I am hooked. A few more times I got brave enough to face the Goliath water wall but again I was put back in my place quickly. No sponsorship contracts this time, but a message to the surfing world… I’m not done yet.

                                                                       Learn to Surf:  

If learning to surf was the least great of the stories, these others are pretty good. I don’t want to downplay the surfing experience because it was incredible, but these other two are just so unique.

 Entertainment will never be the same to me. After you have reached the summit of the mountain, you never fully appreciate the base again. I think I may have just peaked. That is what I concluded after going to The Sanisidro, Costa Rica Fair. Spanish music filled the air, carnival games were everywhere, and vendors everyplace you could walk were selling everything from fried food to flip-flops. If this was not enough, the Fair Rodeo was the icing on the cake. When they told me rodeo, I pictured lassos, barrel racing, and maybe some bucking broncos. No. Costa Rican’s really know how to Ro De O. It crossed the line into loco. Fan filled bleachers circled the wooden walled, dirt floored rodeo ring. Dust and the smell of farm animals drifted through the air. Walking vendors with shaved iced, potato chips, and sticks of meat circled the stands yelling their sales pitch to hungry fans. A man with a microphone spoke Spanish as quick as an auctioneer announcing the specs on the next event. The anticipation mounted. Then, just when I thought it was going to get good, what happened next made good relate to pony rides. It got great. People from the audience began to climb in the ring. To validate my confusion, I glanced around. No one but me seemed alarmed. More and more men climbed down inside the dirt arena. “What are they doing!?” I proclaimed to Wil. Knowing what I didn’t know he sat in silence and let me find out for myself. The Spanish man’s voice that I couldn’t understand built with excitement, louder and faster. There were now nearly one hundred men inside this wooden framed circle of sand and dirt. A buzzer rang through the speakers as two mean swung open a side gate. The gate unveiled a huge bull that looked like someone just threatened to make him to a steer. I could feel the bull’s rage. This giant bull came bucking in the ring mounted by a small Spaniard that was hanging on for his life. One hand was wailing in the air as this huge animal tossed him like a rag doll across the ring. He hung on for longer than I thought he could actually. Once the brave Spaniard dismounted, the bull proceeded through the crowds of people in the ring. They would climb up the rails to dodge his charging horns. The bull would stand intently with his eyes, ears, and gorging devices pointed directly toward his targets as he shoved his front hoof into the sand and threw it over his back. A few brave, more than a few adult beverage consumers, would run up towards him to taunt him into action. Action they received. He would charge like a rhino at a safari bus of tourists. Once, the bull’s head and horns met a brave man’s back and threw him to the ground. The man had had enough but the bull felt otherwise and lingered in the victory by plowing his head into the man as if he was trying to put him six feet under in front of us all. Somehow the man walked away and then they continued as if they didn't get the message the bull was sending. Honestly, at first I felt bad for not being able to stop laughing. I asked Wil, “Is it bad that part of me wants that bull to throw one of those guys thirty feet in the air?” With a grin he replied back with, “No… everyone here wants the same thing.” My conscience was relieved and my attention was focused. It was like I was a kid watching an action film, knowing that if I turn away for even a second I may miss something good. The word good does not do justice.

                                                                Run From Bulls: Not yet…

This last story topped them all.

Last Wednesday on the worksite, I noticed my new amigo Pedro shaving these thin steel bars into sharp points. I thought it was interesting because it didn’t look like something to add support to a building. Pedro, no habla ingles and I don’t speak Spanish, so I was curious but wasn’t able to ask what he was doing. That night, Pedro and Harold asked Wil and I and a few guys out of the team if we wanting to go fishing. I would never turn down a fishing trip, but it seemed odd that it was nearly 10 o’clock at night. Again, my curiosity and desire for adventure spurred me on. Adventure it proved to be. We drove fifteen miles away into thick jungle. When I say jungle… I’m talking huge trees hundreds of feet tall, roots above ground, boa constrictors, water falls, man eating vines type of jungle. It was legitimate jungle. So here we are… tromping through the jungle about to wade in the jungle river in pitch-black darkness with all the jungle spiders and jungle snakes hunting the jungle fish and jungle shrimp. I thought to myself, “This is usually how either a really great story starts… or a horror movie.” It looked like the set of Anaconda. Once we made it to the river, we waded in about waste deep and walked upstream searching for the sweet spot to fish. I knew any minute that one of our team would go down splashing and fighting never to resurface. It was pitch black so we could only see the rock in front of us by flashlight. I brought my headlamp, which at the time I thought was a good decision. I glanced across the shoreline and saw hundreds of what looked like shining jewels strewn about the rocks. I walked up to one to see what was shining back at me and to my surprise, with no exaggeration, they were reflective eyes of spiders the size of my hand! I then decided to keep my eyes on the water. In the distance a howler monkey let out a yell. What am I doing? I can hear it now, “Up next on Travelers Worst Nightmares… missionaries are found (fill in the blank) because of the hungry jungle river (fill in the blank). Then I reasoned, I am already out here, why not soak up this experience. When is the next time I will have a chance to spear fish in the middle of a jungle in a foreign country? Maybe never. “Pedro, let me give this a shot.” I put on the diving mask, grasped the flashlight in one hand and the homemade spear in the other, and dove in. Again, I thought to myself, “What am I doing? And how in the world do I ever expect to spear anything?” Just then, I saw a fish on the bottom between two rocks swimming in the current. This is it. Don’t mess this up. I thrust the spear through the water. It streamed towards my target, and to my surprise… I successfully speared a fish! Then another, then another. It formed into an addiction that I had no desire to quit. Once during our journey, We made it to a decent sized pool and Wil equipped himself with the gear but this time had a snorkel. After a few minutes of silence and concentration, suddenly I heard Wil’s muffled yell of victory through his snorkel.  Still completely submerged in the water, he trashed in battle with his catch. Judging by his muffled cheer and body language, this one had to be good. He pulled up a shrimp that looked more like a lobster. Probably 12 inches long from claws to tail and we decided he landed the trophy shrimp of the day. That night was so much fun, we  went again last night and brought home a large grocery bag full of fish and shrimp. The two times we have been now we returned home with enough fish and shrimp to feed the group dinner on Thursday night. We all walked a little taller.

                                              Spearfish in a Jungle of a Foreign Country: 

The past few weeks have been full of fun and hard work. We have spent many hours on the roof scorched by the hot Costa Rican sun. God has really done many great things through the teams that have been here. It is such a blessing to be able to work right next to the church in action. That is what church is right? The church is not the walls we worship in, or even the walls we are now constructing. The church are the men and women who are pouring sweat right next to me serving God and the body of Christ. It is refreshing to see people get that.

God has truly opened my eyes to so many things while I have been here. Not just the new experiences, but also the Truth in his Word and things He wants me to learn. It is refreshing to hear his voice. The new experiences are fun but nothing compares to being in God’s presence.

                                                Psalm 34:7-8

1 comment:

  1. OMG Allen!! This is so awesome!! I miss you, but I know God has BIG plans for you!! :)