Day 1 - Tuesday
Missions Connection 2011 is a group of students dedicated to give ten days to missions projects in Costa Rica (May 24—June 2). The vision for this missions trip was born in the passion of the leadership of LifeChurch, Gilbert, AZ, specifically Lead Pastor Terry R Baughman and Student Ministries Pastor Ethan Brumfield. Both are veterans of numerous international trips with missions involvement. In addition to the group of eight from LifeChurch, four students and Gravitas director Roy Fisher from the Western District (UPCI), and two students from Palm Coast, FL joined with us to complete our team of fifteen converging in San Jose, Costa Rica on Wednesday, May 25. Missionaries Schwarz and Rivero planned several services and a church painting project for us to be involved in. The team is also bringing several suitcases of donated clothing to distribute to churches they visit.
In preparation for the trip, LifeChurch was challenged to commit to a month of Prayer and fasting for the success of the trip and the spiritual impact of the group. Fund raising projects and clothing/candy drives were conducted to involve the local congregation with the effort. A side benefit of Missions Connection is to heighten understanding and passion for the work of the kingdom of God outside of our local church and around the world.
Prior to our departure on this trip, Adrian Brumfield, wife of Student Ministries Pastor and Tour Director Ethan Brumfield, flew to Florida to celebrate the graduation of her sister and accompany the students from Palm Coast on the trip to Costa Rica.
After a busy weekend of preparation and packing, the team planned to meet at Sky Harbor Airport at 5:30 AM Tuesday, May 24, 2011. Rising at 4:00 AM on departure day, with all of four hours of sleep, we prepared to leave for the long journey to San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s not all that far in distance, but the airlines need to fill flights and load planes I guess. The first leg of our flight was Phoenix to Denver …. the opposite direction. To go south you must first go north!
Frank and Barbara Martinez brought their daughters Julia and Shanda by our house to pick up my wife and me. We loaded our suitcases into their Toyota Sequoia and left for the airport about 5:00 AM. Les Bublitz brought Siarrah and picked up Ethan at the church to drop them off at the airport. Since he had to be at work early they beat us all there and were checked in before we arrived. Rhette came in from the other direction and our Phoenix group was complete.
The additional baggage of donated clothing required us to check in with the “additional services” agent. Each bag was weighed to make sure it was under the 50 lb limit for international travel. The first leg of our flight was on United and the consecutive flights were on Continental Airlines. Even though they are in the process of a merger there were several challenges to getting our boarding passes for our entire itinerary. Perhaps the agents were unhappy about their jobs 🙂 the service was sorely lacking.
There were quite long lines clearing security. With the additions of several body scanners the lines seem to creep along. Fortunately, we allowed for extra time for our group and cleared security with enough time for a cup of coffee. Some ate a little breakfast from Wendy’s in the gate area. The flight to Denver was not full so it was reasonably comfortable. There was some turbulence leaving Phoenix (which is not unusual) and more on our descent into Denver as we came through the cloud cover and landed in falling rain.
The next flight was scheduled to depart at 11:16 AM. It was delayed and projected for a 11:40 departure. No real cause for alarm since there was almost four hours layover scheduled in Houston. Our plane arrived and we began to board. This leg of the flight had a change of aircraft and our seating selections were jumbled. Some us were stuck in middle seats with strangers on either side. This was the segment that caused us grief Monday night when we tried early check-in online. I received an error message and was given an 800 number to call. After talking to a call center in India, I was placed on hold for an hour and five minutes! I called back on another phone and was able to find out in only 10-15 minutes that it was impossible to check in online due to the change of equipment … great! I could have been sleeping…
After sitting in a loaded plane packed like sardines for a good 30-45 minutes in Denver, we were finally cleared for take off. The 1 ½ hour flight to Houston was uneventful other than the landing. Apparently, some of the wind and unsettled weather that spawned tornados in Oklahoma and the Midwest gave us a rough ride on the way down.
Even though we arrived about an hour late we still had about three hours in Houston. That gave us time to eat and walk around a bit before boarding for the final leg and the international segment of the trip. Gayla and I ate at Pappasito’s Cantina and the rest of the group ate at Pappas BBQ. (Pappa seemed to be a very popular name in Houston. Pappadeaux’s was in the same terminal.)
We boarded another full flight, Continental 1499, for San Jose, Costa Rica. The flight was about 3 ½ hours and featured a meal. There was a choice of cheeseburger or a chicken wrap, served with salad, carrot sticks, and cookies.
We were still excited about the trip, but after several hours of flying and four airports we were ready to be there and find our rooms. Adrian, Adalynn, and Carly flew from Florida about 3:00 PM and met us at the airport in Costa Rica. They were waiting for us when we cleared customs. Missionary David & Yonda Schwarz met us at the airport and transported us to Hostel Bekuo where we had reservations for our group. It was late enough that the traffic was no problem and it looked quite normal. It’s a rather different scene in the daytime I’m told! Well, that will wait until tomorrow … Until then, good night!