Missions Trip #3: Costa Rica 2011

So I really wanted to post this before I left for Haiti, but, ya know, life is busy sometimes... Anyways, this post is going to be about my last missions trip, last summer, to COSTA RICA! Woooohooo! Missions trip #3.....

(p.s. Here is Missions Trip #1 & Missions Trip #2 if you missed them!)

So here we go. We went to Costa Rica. Where in Costa Rica? Um. I think it was called Heredia. But I really don't remember..... oops. But we went down with an organization called PVM, which stands for Pura Vida Missions. We went for 10 days! Longest trip ever! (In a good way). Also, we went with another church, Abundant Life Church. Which just so happens to be the church that Jackson attends. Convenient? I think so. 

So we drive earrrrly in the morning to the Orlando Airport, and board this misty, magical plane. Misty, magical plane. Wut. Yeah, look at the picture. It was worse than the picture shows. We still aren't sure what the misty fog stuff was, it didn't smell bad or anything, but it was taking over the plane while we boarded. Once we took off, it was gone. Weird!
That's Jackson peeking at me. Unfortunately, we didn't have seats together. But, I was pleasantly surprised when the person behind me tapped my shoulder and said, 'this is for you' and handed my a napkin. On one side, it said, "Pass to the girl is 29B" and the other side said, "Hey. You're cute ;) Call me? 941-*7*-*3*2" He is soo charming :) 

Here's our first look at Costa Rica. It is such a beautiful place!

Next we land and get on a few buses that takes us all here, to PVM! This was up in the mountains and the weather here was AMAZING. Cool and a little rainy, I loved it so so much.
 This is the room where all of the girls slept at PVM. a big narrow room that is three bunks high all the way around. It was shared by us Bay Shore girls, the Abundant Life girls, and then another church joined us from Kansas, but honestly, I know nothing about them except they always woke up really early and made a lot of noise! What a great way to make friends, eh?

This is Drew, my friend. She has on every sweatshirt and pair of sweatpants she could possibly find because it got so cold at night! PVM's property was an old mushroom farm (I think!) So our rooms were underground, where it was extra cold! Especially at night after you take a freeeezing shower. (No hot water, ever).

 One of the staff members at PVM told us there was a YWAM base right up the road from PVM. So, a few of us being interested in YWAM (especially me) we decided to walk up and check it out! It was an amazing place! So pretty, up on a big hill. There were dogs outside parking and little kids playing in the yard. Just like a dream. There were also people sitting on the front porch, and we went up to talk to them. They told us that there were no students right now, they were getting ready for their September school. It's a very small place, so it has very small schools. They're all about sustainability there, which is sort of neat. They had their own garden, and even a goat where they get their milk from! We got to milk it, it was SO weird! haha. 

photo by  Alyssa Shrock
The little banner on the top of this cute house is the Univerity of the Nations seal, and this is the building where the students have their lectures. 
 Their garden was super cool. They had us pick some herbs to take back to the kitchen staff at PVM, and it was in our food that night! 

After 3 days of training at PVM, they sent each of the three churches off to do our own missions in different towns in Costa Rica. We were sent to Heredia  maybe? I don't really remember. But it was a small rural community, and it was SO cute there. It was a 5 hour bus ride to get there though! 

  This is our home church! And I'm not sure what its called.. Maybe I don't remember the names of these places cause I don't know Spanish?! But the middle building is the Sancutary, and the two connected side rooms were the SS classes, and the kitchen and bathrooms. 
 They have big lizzards. 

This is one of the Sunday School Classrooms. Girls slept in the classrooms, and boys slept in the sanctuary. Some of us brought pool floats to help with back pain, as sleeping on conrete is probably not the best for your back!
 We went for a little tour of the school in town. A bunch of kids from our group repainted it later.. It looked sooo much better! This is before.

 This is the house across the street. 
 And this is the family that lives inside the little house! The grandma, her son and daughter, her sons wife, and all of her grandkids!
 These are the grandkids, and they are sooo sweet. I love love them. Esner, Pearlita, Diego, Ericka, and Jessica. We hung out at their house a lot with them, they were so nice and gave us so many gifts... bracelets, photos, and even some strange dish we politely scarfed down!
My sister, Nicole, and Diego!

Precious Jessica.
Ericka! Such a sweetie.
Me and Sarah!
Hanging out at the church!
Noah and Diego. Diego is seriously the cutest child I have ever seen. 

We spent a lot of time at the church hanging out the the church people, the youth, playing with kids, eating rice and beans (every single meal), and having church! Abundant Life was at a church in the area too, so they came over a few times during the week.

During the day, we split into 3 groups for our work projects. 

One group painted the school.
One group made a new sewage system at the church.
One group went to La Cruz to help enclose a church.

I went with the group to La Cruz, and it was the best group by far (not that I'm biased). 

The work that we did those 4 days was by far the hardest work I have ever done in my life! We moved HUGE rock piles, mixed tons of concrete by hand, sawed 2 by 4s, hammered to our little hearts content, and we even were given a whole fish to eat for lunch, eyeballs and all. (With rice and beans, of course).

It was all SO worth it though! The people were so happy that we were helping them make their church better, and it was great to see the progress we made! The construction that was done there felt so unreal.. We could barely communicate in the same language, so it was sort of hard to be able to understand what we needed to do. Our group joked around that what we were doing was 'monkey construction'

At the end of our time at our church, we packed up, said our goodbyes, and took the 5 hour bus ride back to PVM in the mountains! There, we sort of 'debriefed' and shared our experiences. On the last day, we got to have a fun day! Since our group was so big (40+ people!) we went with the cheapest fun-day option: the beach. We were okay with that! Who doesn't love the beach?! The other option was white water rafting and zip lining. But like I said, who doesn't love the beach?!?! haha.

So we drove a longggg time to get to this beach, where there were supposedly tons of touristy shops to shop at as well. We get there and first of all, the sand is black. CRAZY, man! Second, the waves are HUGE, like I'm gonna die huge. Third, there are no shops close!  
Photo by  Alyssa Shrock

So me and a group of kids decide to shop before swim. So we walk. And walk. And walk. And walk. AND THEN. We see a few shops. Nothing to crazy, but some touristy things were available. PHEWF! Then we walked allll the way back (It was 2 miles, btw). And we were just in time for lunch! Some sandwhiches. Then we swam and jumped and frolicked in the waves to our little hearts content, and when it was time, we headed back to PVM as our fun day was over! It was a really great day. But guess what? The bus driver took us to the wrong beach, come to find out. Hahaha. We were supposed to go to a beach that was MUCH closer, and really did have shops and restaurants right on the beach. Oh well! We still had fun. 

And then the nest day we flew home. 

And that's all for Costa Rica! Now I can't WAIT to share my trip to Haiti with you!!! :) I have photos to go through, and sickness to get over, and work to go to, so have patience, young grasshopper! 

Until next time....
xoxo Vanessa Rae.

Missions Trip #2: Haiti 2010

Welcome to day two of my little mini series about my past missions trips! 

(Did you miss day 1? Check it out here!)

So yesterday I posted about my first missions trip to Haiti in 2008. And it was fun stuff. But I have to say, that trip doesn't stick out in my mind as much as the one I'm about to tell you did! 

When I finished my junior year, (grade 11) our church youth group went on another missions trip to Haiti! I really liked Haiti the first time, so I was super excited to be going back! Our church has very strong relationships with another church in Haiti so we see the same people when we go back. It's so cool to see them growing and become more mature in their walks with Christ. The organization we go with is called  Christian Fellowship Mission, (CFM) and a family from our church started the organization a number of years ago. My parents are board members, so they get to go on trips a lot! CFM has two orphanages, a girls orphanage called Mama Sommers Orphanage, and a boys orphanage, called Papa Sommers Orphanage. Both are named for the CFM's founding couple. 

Anyways, no traveling mishaps this time around. The plane lands, and this is what I see: 
Does it look as bad as it smells? Nope. Haiti is seriously a beautiful country!

So we walk down the stairs and off the airplane, onto the runway and into the airport! We were delighted when we realized half of the airport got AC! haha.
There's a nice band playing some welcome music when we get inside the airport. Once you take their picture though, or appear to be enjoying their music, the expect some $! Sorry...

Once you go through the longest customs line EVER, you exit the airport to see this! Lots of people very eager to take your luggage for you. Luckily, we were able to take it on our own, because if you hand it over to them, a lot of them won't give it back without receiving a large sum of money.

Obviously we stick out a bit, with our bright orange shirts!

We all loaded onto an old school bus that was going to take us to the mission house (CFM's compound). We sat there in the bus for what seemed like forever while waiting for everyone to get on with their luggage (There were about 50 of us in our group!) While we sat on the bus, these little boys stood outside the bus saying over and over, 'Sister! Sister! Please, one dollar. Please, one dollar!' I didn't have a dollar for them, but I gave them all the bracelets and ankle bracelets I had on. The boy in the lower photo standing in the puddle only wanted shoes. I felt so so bad for him. This was the first time I cried on this trip. I wish so badly I could have given him my shoes, but they were the only pair I had and I couldn't give them away on the first day. 

Sights of Haiti. This is seriously real life, and these really aren't the worst of it. This trip, everything seemed a bit more terrible, as we went 5 months after the massive earthquake that devastated the country. There was so much rubble and debris every where. Also, I'd say about half of the country lives in tents.

I love this photo I took of this little girl. I always have wondered where she was going, and what was in her lunch box. I really hope she was going to school!

As soon as we got to the mission house, we were greeted by a ton of people who go to the church and live near the mission house! They were SO happy to see us, and we were so happy to see them! This is another time when I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing! And so many people remembered us too. I just thought that was amazing. It had been two years since we had been there last, but we had made such an impact on them that they even remembered our names! Also, in the last photo, my hair is getting done. The women and girls there are OBSESSED with doing our hair! They love the texture and length, and will do full head corn rows for you in an instant if you gave them the go ahead. I didn't though.. it's painful! One girl was crying her eyes out as they did it to her. 

I think I loved the second time in Haiti so much more because I genuinely wanted to be there spending time with the people. The first time around, I didn't know what to expect and kinda stayed in my shell. But the next time I was so ready to establish relationships with these people and bless them. In turn, I was so so blessed by them! The people are so loving, so kind, and so wonderful, it's hard not to fall in love with them! That's why I regret playing so much Dutch Blitz the first trip, cause I didn't spend as much time with the people! The second trip I was literally the first person outside in the morning, to see the kiddies off to school, and the last person to go inside at night. I just couldn't get enough of these lovely people. I tried to pick up the Haitian Creole language as best as I could, and surprisingly, it isn't as hard as I thought it would be! A lot easier than Spanish, that's for sure! 

The woman in this photo with me is Rosemene, and the little girl is her oldest daughter, Anne. 

Rosemene is deaf, and so is her husband. When she was a kid, all of Rosemene's friends and family thought that she was demon possessed because she couldn't talk right, only making noises. When CFM met Rosemene, they quickly realized what the problem was: she is deaf. So, through sponsorship, she was able to attend a deaf school. She learned sign language and finished all of her schooling. But get this... she learned sign language in English! So she doesn't even know Haitian Creole.

This was really handy for me, because I know a bit of sign language from my days in private elementary school. Also, my Dad took it as a foreign language in college. So, I was able to communicate with Rosemene really well! What's crazy is that her husband, whom I said is also deaf, only knows sign language in French. Sooo, they can't even talk in each other's language. Isn't that insane??! But they have been married for awhile and while I was there, they had two beautiful girls, Anne (pictured) and Rose. 

While we were there last, I noticed that Rosemene's tummy was beginning to bulge. I asked her is she was expecting, and she nodded yes, but told me to keep it a secret! She also told me that she had a feeling it was going to another girl, and that she was going to name her Vanessa, after me! That made me soooo happy! But, she turned out to have a beautiful baby boy, whom I think she named Michael! I can't wait to meet him!

One day, we were playing with the kids at the mission house, when Rose, Rosemene's youngest daughter, pooped her pants. Just saying, it was the weirdest poop I have ever seen! It slowly slid down her leg and into her pretty and frilly church socks. Yum. So, I told Rosemene what happened, and we walked to her house together to ger new clothes for Rose, while someone cleaned Rose off at the mission house.

I'm not sure what I expected to see when we got to her house, but I sure wasn't ready for what I saw. We went through a series of alley ways, and finially, behind a big rusty door, we got to her house. It had three walls (in the shape of a triangle) and no roof. NO ROOF. There was just a makeshift tarp covering about a 1/4th of the area. I saw absolutely no beds, so I'm assuming they slept on the ground. There was a few pots and pans with a couple forks, and a few bags of clothes beside lotion, shampoo, and soap. (Rosemene is very clean and changes her daughter's outfits AT LEAST 5 times a day. No joke. Their hair ribbons and bows are always changed to match with the outfit, too. I think she learned this from her time in deaf school). 
But anyways, I couldn't believe this was their home! What do they do when it rains?! When the sun is beating down?! And actually, Rosemene told me this was a lot better than their old house. She was so grateful for their new house and all that she had, and it was obvious she was so proud of her home. I love that lady and can't wait to see her again. 

One day, we went to Wahoo Bay Beach Resort, just like the last time! We again, spent a lot of time jumping off of this fun cliff! In the first picture, you can see some of us crammed into the back of a pick up truck. I absolutely love this picture!! Go back up and just look at our faces. Priceless. The other photos are of scenery on the two hour ride to the beach. Look at those ladies carrying the giant buckets on their heads! INSANE! There's a lot of that down there. 

This is a photo of me, (in red) my best friend Sarah, (yellow) with my 'brother' Louisis. One day we went to the boys orphanage to paint as one of our projects. When we got there, I noticed that Louisis wasn't in school next door, with all of the other boys. When I asked where he was, they told me he was in his room with a high fever. I ran inside the orphanage to his bed and saw him laying on the bottom bunk crying. I started bawling. It hurt so bad to see this precious boy all alone in this huge room, crying out because he felt so terrible. I don't know about you, but when I'm sick all I want is my Momma to take care of me. But Louisis doesn't have a mom :( She died, and he doesn't know anything about his dad. So all he knows is the orphanage. Don't get me wrong.. the boys are all well taken care of and loved, but it's just not the same as having your mommy. I wanted more than anything to take him back with me to Florida so my Mom could be his Mom, and he could be taken care of. But that's just not possible :/. Eventually he came outside for a bit to watch the other boys play, but I could tell he wasn't himself as he sat in the chair with his arms folded and with tears in his eyes. I love that precious little boy. I can't wait to see him on Monday!

This is a awkward photo yes, but I put it on because if you look past me, you see the back property of the mission house. Here there were many families from the church were living in tents because their homes had been destroyed by the earthquake. 
We spent one day clearing out all of the tents and picking up all of the trash, or at least, attempting to pick it all up. I guess I forgot to mention this, but Haiti is FULL of trash. Everywhere. I really don't know why, but everyone literally just throws their trash where ever they feel like putting it. Its awful. So, the back property had SO much trash. Like layers upon layers. So we tried to pick up all that we could, and also clear our a lot of the shrubbery with machetes. I'm pretty sure the human behind me has one in their hand! 
And like I said earlier, our other project was painting the orphanage! It can always use a fresh coat of paint!

Every morning that we were there, my friend Tara and I woke up at 6 in the morning to go with our friend, Rosalinda, to Morning Star Academy's prayer and worship service. It was incredibly hard to wake ourselves up that early after having a very long and hard day previously, but it was always SO worth it. The songs were in Creole, but they did sing a lot of songs that were familiar to us. It was a great experience and I'm really hoping I will get to go with her again this trip.

Lets see... Other random things:

-During the day that we picked up trash, the leaders asked for ten volunteers to go with them to the home of a family from church that had been destroyed in the earthquake. We were going to go with shovels and buckets to help clear the rubble to make it more livable again. But, I guess the leaders didn't realize how bad the damage was. There was absolutely no way a shovel could help. You would need a bulldozer, or a large crane. The family began telling us their story of what happened on earthquake day, and where they were. Somewhere in their story, the mentioned that their two little grandsons, both age two, had been playing inside when they felt the earthquake begin. They ran outside of their house into the alley between their house and the house next door, and shortly after, both houses collapsed, burying both of the little boys. At this point in the story, I was sobbing, along with everyone else in my group. I just couldn't believe all the pain and suffering they have gone through, especially to lose two little boys. Such a tragedy. I remember, when I was crying, one of the guys said to me, 'Don't cry for us, please. Just pray for us. That is what we need.' The strength of these people truly amazes me. 
-This little boy is named Keke. He hung out at the mission house a lot with his grandparents, who are the ones in the story above. One of the little boys that was buried under the rubble was Keke's older brother. Keke's mom was terribly sick in the hospital, and had been there since the earthquake, and his dad was out trying to find work all day every day. This precious little boy would hang out all day at the mission house, usually naked. And never, ever, did we see him crack a smile. We tried so hard, but this boy had obviously been through and seen so much. It was truly heart breaking. 

-Another time that I cried (I cried a lot!) was when I sat on a little girls foot. Her name was Shelsi, and it was not just any foot.. But a foot that had third degree burns from a pot of extremely hot oil being spilt onto it. When we got there, it was very very infected, but luckily one of our leaders was a nurse! One day I accidentally sat down on Shelsi's foot and as I heard her scream out in pain, a scream that would give anyone the chills, I felt SO horrible, I began to weep. I hated that I caused her so much pain!

-We did a lot of singing and dancing to worship music with all of the Haitians at night around the mission house. It was so fun to teach them songs, and to learn some of theirs too!

-On the day we left, it was so hard to say good bye! But I knew I would come back as soon as possible, which is this Monday! When we loaded the bus though, looking back to all of the people and seeing tears fill their eyes as we left, many of us couldn't help but cry as well. These people impacted our lives more than they will probably ever know! 

Anyways, that's my story of Haiti the second time around. I cannot wait until Monday when I will be reunited with all of those lovely people again!! 

Tomorrow I will try to post on my 3rd and last missions trip, to Costa Rica! I've got lots going on though, so we will see! 

Until then.. Stay cool in this atrocious heat! 

xoxo VRW.