Last Friday, in between meetings and things to do, Marie and I had a chance to do something that we’ve been planning for several weeks: call Tia Margarita and greet her on her birthday!
It was funny though, coz even if we have planned it for a long time, on the day itself, we both forgot our phone book. So i have to dig my memory box to remember Tia Margarita’s number. After guessing a couple of numbers, we have agreed on one number that sounded familiar for both of us. I dialled the number and when someone picked up the phone at the other line, I nervously said “Hola? Buenas Noches! Este es la casa de Margarita Lainez?” (Hi? Good evening! Is this the house of Margarita Lainez?”. I was nervous since it’s already past 11 pm in Costa Rica and we’re not sure if someone will answer and if it’s Tia Margarita’s house. Anyway, after the question, there was a long pause. I thought the other line put down the phone until a familiar voice said “Kaimy?” Oh yes! We got the right number! “Tiaaaa Margarita!!!” I started screaming in the phone! Excitement. Joy. Relieved. That’s how I felt at that moment I screamed.
So we talked, updated each other’s lives, and Marie and I even sang a Happy Birthday song for her! For a while, I thought I was gonna cry. I felt that in that 5 minutes we were talking with Tia, I was back in Costa Rica once again. Flashes of good memories with Tia and her family and with the MPC there came back. And I had this strong desire to go back there at that moment and give them a big, bear hug.
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It has been exactly 14 months today since I arrived in the Philippines from a 2 year foreign mission in Costa Rica. And since then, I tried my best to stay in contact with them. Since I am not an email person, I do call them on their birthdays and special occasions (even if it’s sooo expensive) just to let them know that I haven’t forgotten them.
Costa Rica became a home for Marie and I even if there were a few of not-so-good memories there. But even if there were, you don’t focus on those things. You focus more on the good memories and experiences you had on your stay there. You focus on how God revealed Himself through the people you met there. You focus on the lessons you have learned through the hardships you have gone through during your stay there.
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Days prior to the phone call, I was invited in facebook by an SFL (Singles for Family and Life) from Costa Rica to attend an event, and when I saw the event, it was their then-upcoming CLS (Christian Life Seminar). And then I saw their picture. I can’t help but get teary-eyed. I remembered those times when we were starting SFL there. A lot of tears, heart breaks and painful memories along the way. And seeing them doing it now with so much passion… who could have thought that these men and women who were in the point of giving up on SFL before we left were the ones moving around to invite other single men and women to experience God through SFL? Amazing! Yes, amazing how God works! Amazing how He has made their hearts turn 360* back to Him. Amazing how He is using these people, who has been the crosses we were carrying before, to be the ones carrying the crosses of other people. Amaze of their transformation!
I then remembered one of my conversations with Marie during our one-on-one household – it was at the moment when we were both disappointed of what’s happening around us and we were in the verge of just packing our bags and go home; that maybe, our purpose there is not to see the fruit but just cultivate the seed. We were not the first ones to plant the seed, someone did it for us in the past; when we came, we were God’s assistant gardeners – we were there to cultivate, to give food, to water them. Sometimes, we need to uproot some weeds to assure that the plants will get healthy; sometimes there were resistance with this, to the point that the healthy plant goes with the weed and die. And you can’t do anything but just cultivate the other healthy plants. Sometimes, it’s frustrating not to see any flower nor fruit growing. You did your best but it’s not bearing. At one point, it was dying. Until it’s time to go. And you have to leave. And you can’t do anything but just surrender the garden tools to the main gardener and just walk away. Because your work is done. It’s time’s up for you.
At first, you don’t understand. Why you’re not bearing fruit. At what aspect you did wrong. You gave your all but it’s not enough. Then you’ll see that someone is reaping the fruit. Your doubts to yourself started to build up again. And since it’s eating you, you went to your knees and told Him this heart breaking reality: “Why Lord? I did my best… but..??” then you’ll hear that small, still voice talking from the deepest corners of your heart “My daughter, what did I tell you? I just told you to water my plants; feed them; cultivate them. I didn’t tell you that they will bear fruit nor you will see them bear fruit. I just told you to take care of them. And you did. And you have done your part. That’s why I pulled you out from there, because your work is already finished. You have done your job.” Then, that’s when everything seems to make sense. All the pain, tears and hardships that you faced there were seen in a different light, and you’ll realized that it’s all worth it. That you have to go through those things, even to the point of breaking you, so that you can be made whole once more. And that process is necessary so that the next process will take place.
Marie and I were the process. We were the ones blessed to experience all the difficult moments of taking care of these “plants”. I’m glad we became part of it. I’m glad we were chosen for the job. I’m glad we came out as stronger individuals. And i’m glad that through out the whole process, our Master gardener was with us, guiding every action that we need to make, teaching us what to do with His plants.
I will never exchange my Costa Rican experience to anything. It was an honor, a pleasure, a privilege to serve in this area at that specific moment in my life. I believed I was hand picked by my God to be there, to be used by Him to bring His Good News to those who don’t know Him yet.
Sometimes, the success of what you do isn’t measure by how many graduated from the camps and CLS that you do, but how many lives were really converted because they have personally experienced God through these activities. And I believe, that even if we didn’t produce a lot during our time, we have inspired with the personal testimony of how God worked in our lives those who are working in the vineyard of the Lord there. And for me, that is evangelization. That is transformation. That is being a real witness.
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Going back to Tia Margarita, It was just a short 5-minute conversation. ON those 5 minutes, we were transformed into Spanish-speaking individuals again. On those 5 minutes, we traveled back to our home for two years of our life. On those 5 minutes, we were reminded on how God’s mercy and gracious love used us to touched lives there. And even if calling to Costa Rica’s a little expensive, if that’s the only way to remind me of God’s amazing transformation of my life, I am willing to spend a lot just for that. For nothing is expensive when it comes to the one you love; and when it comes to my God, I am all out; coz for Him, it cost His life just to show His great love for me.