Costa Rica Sunday morning

We’’re getting a little break from the cold weather today. It is already 24 degrees outside and my computer says, “Today is forecast to be MUCH WARMER than yesterday.” A high of 39 degrees will melt more of the small amount of snow we have on the ground. Yesterday I worked outside for a while and I was really layered up. Insulated coveralls are a real comfort item in this part of the world.

Rain showers are ini the forecast for San Jose, Costa Rica today, where it is currently 62 degrees on the way to a high of 68. That’s not exactly summer weather, but that is what the weather has in store for most of the week to come, with things warming up to the mid seventies by Saturday and rain showers and thunderstorms forecast for most days. Tuesday might be the best day for outside activities, but it will be cloudy all week long. By the weekend, it is likely to feel muggy with all of the moisture in the air and rising temperatures.

I’m thinking of Costa Rica because it is time for Vacation Bible School at our sister church in Los Guido, on the south side of San Jose. A lot has changed in the little church in the past decade or so. Building improvements have improved the process of creating and serving meals. Many church families have better and more permanent places to live. Numbers of children rise and fall, but Vacation Bible School remains one of the big events in the life of the church. It brings out some people that aren’t seen during much of the rest of the year.

Members of our congregation here in Rapid City have been visiting our sister church in Costa Rica every year since 1988, when a couple from our church made contact through a denominational program called “person to person.” The long-term relationship has allowed both congregations to get to know the partnership through the ups and downs of church life and change. The couple from our church who made the original contact no longer go to Costa Rica. The husband has died and his widow is in poor health. A pair of missionaries who lived in Costa Rica and were major players in our visits in the early 2000’s have now retired to the United States and the husband suffered a stroke last week and is in the hospital. The pastor of our Costa Rica congregation is preparing for retirement and here are lots of questions about leadership in that congregation. I, too, have had thoughts and conversations about retirement in the past year.

One of the things that we have learned from our sister church is that we have more in common than the differences that were apparent when we made our first visits with the church. I wasn’t around in the early years, but made several trips just after the turn of the century and remember the gentle transition from being surprised and at times shocked to feeling that the community was familiar. Even though we live a long ways apart and don’t see each other very often, I feel like I’ve been through a lot with Pastor Dorotea. Our children have grown to adulthood. We’ve welcomed grandchildren. Some plans have worked out well. Others have not turned out the way we expected.

18 years ago I thought I’d learn more Spanish than has been the case. We don’t really have a common language if you consider only words on paper. But we definitely share the language of faith. I keep a picture on my desk at work of the two of us, dressed in white, standing in a public swimming pool and celebrating the baptism of members of a recent confirmation class. Those kids are all adults now and most of them are not active in that particular congregation. but at least on that day, we had a shared understanding of what it means to be members of the body of Christ and how the community of the church transcends distance. We have led public prayer in each other’s churches, though Pastor Dorotea was only able to visit South Dakota once in the years of our relationship.

We are different people in different places but we belong to the same church. We think of each other even when the concerns of daily living are quite a bit different. Pastor Dorotea doesn’t have to shovel snow or worry about the high cost of having the parking lot plowed. I don’t have to struggle with the seemingly endless bureaucracy of health inspectors who seem to be always threatening to close down the feeding program at the church. We both know what it means to love and serve people and how the ministry is so much more than preaching words and getting people to make some sort of intellectual assent to a particular set of beliefs. Real ministry is serving people where they are and sometimes that means getting involved in the nitty gritty real world of dirt. We’ve both spend enough time on our hands and knees scrubbing the floors to hav first hand meaning of the concept of service. Neither of us have much time for the power and prestige of ordained ministry. We’re not too much into fancy vestments and other trappings of the office.

This morning we’ll both be leading worship. Ours will start a bit before theirs. We’ll have a few more people show up. It is amazing what a few degrees of warmer weather will do after a cold snap. Ours will start on time after a bell, connected to a clock rings right at 9:30. Theirs will start when enough people show up, probably at least a half hour after the posted time. We will both mention the other congregation in our prayers. We will both feel the connection of our communities. We will both try to speak of the love of Christ in a meaningful way. We will both speak of our gratitude for each other.

We are one in the Spirit.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!