We got an early start to our teams this year, with a first-time group from Mt. Zion UMC in Marietta, Georgia. Well, they're a first-time team for us, but not in Costa Rica, as they have many years of working in the Cartago district east of San José. We were happy to help them find a new project for this year, and they spent a hard week's work at the Faro del Este church, which is where our family attends. They began stuccoing the walls of the future parsonage and Sunday School building, as well as preparing a retaining wall for part of the property.
The Mt. Zion team also brings many other ministries with them, and this week was no exception. They showed family movies at the church two nights, hosted a party night for the local youth group, and also put on three days of VBS activities for the children. The week ended by helping the Faro del Este children's ministry put on their own Bible school, which was a wonderful moment of partnership in ministry. We're thankful for such an experienced and skilled team to be our first of the year, and we look forward to the rest of our 2015 team calendar.
For the seventh year in a row we were blessed to host a team composed of various churches in Michigan, primarily from FUMC Birmingham, MI. This energetic, fun-loving group has given us some great friendships over the years, and their bonds of love and service to Costa Rica grow deeper each year. As they often do, they stayed for two weeks, working first at the Faro del Este church which they built over ten years ago, and then at the Children's Home.
Their work at the Faro del Este church was a continuation of the previous month's work: laying block for a retaining wall, stuccoing the inside walls of the future parsonage, and painting the inside of the sanctuary. They also put on great activities for the children and women of the church. Their work at the Home consisted of forming rebar frames and laying block on the multi-purpose building. As always, we thank God for this great group and all the blessings they bring.
In late March we hosted a joint team from St. James UMC in Atlanta and Hawthorne Lane UMC in Charlotte. The St. James church sent a team last year, and a couple from Hawthorne Lane had come along with them. This year the Charlotte church decided to send more folks, and together they made up a great group filled with easy fellowship. It was great to see some returning team members and meet new ones as well, including a pastor from each church. This was one of the longest- and hardest-working teams we've had in a while, digging many meters of trench and standing and tying several large rebar frames. Our local crew wanted to know if they were for hire! The team also enjoyed two afternoons with the children at the Home, as well as a VBS in Platanares. The "cherry on top" of the week was getting to attend a soccer match between the Costa Rican and Paraguayan national teams. Even the 0-0 final score couldn't dampen our excitement!
In mid-June we were excited to host a team from Will's home church, St. Paul UMC in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This church has come several times since 2008 and the earliest days of the Children's Home project, and they returned this year with lots of energy and hard work. Half of the team spent the week down by the river, pouring column footers for the beginning of the wall. It was hard and messy work but they did a great job. The other half spent the week up top, continuing to lay block on the classrooms of the multipurpose building. Despite all this hard work, the group still had energy for a wonderful VBS in Los Guido, a place close to their heart and ours, as well as a couple of fun afternoons with the kids at the Children's Home. We thank God for a visit from this group, made up of friends old and new, and they were a great start to our summer team season.
In mid-July we were blessed to host two great teams. First was Cokesbury UMC in Pensacola, Florida. A friend of ours from seminary, Ashley, is a pastor there, and we were grateful to her for wanting to send a team from their church. This was a unique team that worked in different types of ministry. First was construction work, as they poured the very first floors for the multi-purpose building and continued to raise columns for the second floor. They also got to spend a lot of time each day with the children at the Home, who were on school break and appreciated having extra fun activities. Lastly, the team brought a dentist and several assistants, who were a great blessing for the kids and workers at the Home and another children's home nearby. They also worked two days at the Llano Grande church providing dental care. As you can tell, this was a very busy and hard-working team, and we thank God for this new connection between Cokesbury and Costa Rica.
Our second July team was from FUMC Birmingham, MI. Teams from this church have been coming to Costa Rica for many years, but this was this first time the youth of the church have planned a trip. Because of the long history between their church and the "Faro del Este" church in Sabanilla, the team decided to work there and continue to grow this wonderful relationship. Not only that, they slept and ate there, too! The local church truly became their home for a week of hard work and great fellowship. The "big" project was continuing an important trench for underground drainage, and they also worked on stuccoing walls in the future parsonage and painting around the property. The team also enjoyed fun times with the church youth, as well as the children during two VBS activities. We are grateful for their presence this week, and especially grateful for another example of how the Lord binds congregations together in love.
Mid-August saw us hosting a wonderful return team (their sixth year!) from FUMC Gulfport, Mississippi. This team was made up of returning veterans plus a few new folks, including the senior pastor. They worked hard on various parts of the multi-purpose building: making rebar frames, laying block, pouring header beams, and also pouring columns. The first floor of the building is almost done, thanks to God's grace and the committed labor of folks like these. Even with all that hard work, the team still had time for three afternoons of children's activities. The had a lot of fun at the Home, at the Platanares church, and at the Llano Grande church, where they have developed a special friendship over the years.
Our final team of the year was a returning team from Mt. Bethel UMC in Marietta, Georgia. Some folks on this team have been serving in Costa Rica for over ten years, working at a variety of churches and projects. This is their third time to work at the Children's Home, and they made an extra investment of hard work and love this year. Much of the group spent all week at the bottom of the property, mixing and pouring concrete for the column footers of the perimeter wall. It was hard work and the rains often interfered, but they accomplished a lot. Others worked on making rebar frames to form the base of the wall. Each day the team also spent time with the kids at the Home, either in VBS activities or just playing with those children not in school. It was a great week of real investment in the Home, and we thank God for ending our 2015 team season on such a high note.