"Yeah, you better give me the insurance, because I'm gonna beat the hell out of this car." -Jerry Seinfeld
Tuesday morning, Carlos, a tico missionary with CFCI, Joe Yoder, a former Amish boy and missionary with CFCI, and myself started our trip to the border of CR and Panama to visit some pastors to be able to possibly take teams to their churches in the future. We had planned to visit a guy on the way down, a bunch of churches on Wednesday and head back on Thursday.
We arrived at Economy Rent A Car at 7 in the morning to pick up our Toyota Yaris. It's a small car and we had hoped for a 4x4, but they didn't have any available. After a quick stop at Burger King for breakfast we headed out of town.
Let me take this opportunity to explain something about the roads in Costa Rica. There not the greatest. This conclusion does not come because of their curviness nor because of the fact that they're two lanes. This can be stated because they have large holes in the middle of the road. So one is driving along and all the sudden one must slam on their brakes, pass over into the other lane of oncoming traffic to avoid what would rival the Grand Canyon. It's destiny to hit a hole every 5 minutes. And so unlike the States where you can set your cruise control and practically fall asleep at the wheel, here in Costa Rica driving is a very active activity. I drove the entire week and as if I needed to say it, I hit some holes.
Most of the pastors that we visited were off the beaten path. The first being a good 20 km, or about 13 miles on a dirt and rock "road". I felt a bit like a Rally Car driver avoiding the big holes. And my mountain biking skills came into play as I had to pick the correct line to avoid the big rock that would most certainly break something on the car. The visit with the pastor went well and for the size of church that he has, God is doing great things. A wonderful place to send a team.
On our way out, it was raining, but the road I knew and the water helped to slid the car over most of the treacherous spots. But then with no warning, the front passenger shock went out. After figuring there was nothing we could do about it right there, we decided to continue on. Most of the ride was fine except when we hit the unavoidable canyons. We called the Economy when we had the chance, but there was little they could do at that moment. After 15 minutes went by we decided we had to continue. Still about an hour out, the brakes and power steering went out. Luckily it was a standard, so I could slow by down shifting and plus there was the hand brake. Not knowing the road there we hit more bumps and flew over some invisible speed bumps, but eventually we were able to make it to Paso Canoas, our destination, safely enough.
We called Economy once again and they said they would send a new car early the next morning so they would get there by 10 am. We passed the night by and slept in a little in the morning. However come 10, they were not there. Double checking we decided to call again. "No we don't have any record of you needing a new car." AHG!!! Finally, at 11 they left San Jose. Our whole day would be shot. For the next few hours we sat around the hotel, sleeping, reading and watching TV. Around 2 we left for lunch, during which we decided that we should visit with the pastor there in Paso Canoas. We were able to check out his church and then he took us to see another pastor well off the beaten path. This pastor is in his last years. He's been planting churches for the Four Square denomination for his entire pastorship. And he admitted that while he's willing to do whatever San Jose tells him he's to do, he feels that this will be his last church. It was very encouraging to hear this pastor speak of his life dedicated to the Lord's work.
After a dinner of ice cream, I was sent back to the hotel to wait for the car, while Carlos and Joe went to a church for a service. Finally at 8 the car showed up. I headed to the church and was able to hear of Carlos' testimony of how God took him from teaching English and in a matter of weeks took him into leading short-term teams with Christ for the City. Later that night we grabbed a real dinner.
Thursday was not a total loss. After taking a short trip to Golfito to check out the Tax-Free Zone, we headed back and were able to find some pastors available for us to visit. We drove out around the country-side and flirted with the Costa Rican-Panamanian border, eventually getting to visit a total of three pastors.
Friday, we had another adventure. Even though we had passed through the police checkpoints several times in the last few days, today was a little more difficult-- they asked for my passport, which I had left in San Jose. I had to go back to immigration in Paso Canoas. The issue arose that I have been here for 4 months, which means my visa had expired a month ago.
"Estás ilegal." You're illegal.
"Oh." They wanted to deport me-- right then and there.
Um, there's no fine or anything I can pay?
Nope, the law changed. You have to stay here until your passport arrives tomorrow morning.
How 'bout this: Can I return to San José, get my passport and some things, before I leave?
Well, yeah, I guess you could do that.
(Deep sigh of relief.) About 5 more minutes and I was a free man again. They gave me a note that would allow me to get through the checkpoints, but said I had to report back to the border on Monday. In reality, all I have to do is leave the country-- I can go to Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, or the States. However I'm headed out to Panama City to spend some time with the CFCI base there.
Back on the road we were able to interview another 11 pastors before heading the rest of the way to San José. Once there we still had to fight it out with Economy about the first car they rented us. They're claiming that the damage was some how our fault and so far they have not released the vouchers that have my card on them. Hopefully this will be resolved shortly, without too many problems.
We were able to interview a total of 17 pastors and easily we will be able to send teams to at least 14 of them. Overall we had a very successful, adventurous trip.