God is good.
My mama tica is very close with her nephew Luis, his wife Cristi, and their 2 year old daughter Valentina. They come over at least once a week for a meal or coffee and my tico parents love to spoil Valentina. The first time they came over was about a week and a half ago, on Thursday of my first week here. We talked about all kinds of things - the U.S., chicken in the oven, engineering, etc. Then my mama tica said in Spanish, "Julie, they don't go to church. What do you think of that?" Um... a little awkward to ask that in front of them. Then she's like "Exhort them, go on!" So we ended up explaining about the church and inviting them. They'd been intimidated in the past by a church with people yelling and falling over all the time. We told them this church isn't as "intense" and that there's no obligation to participate at all. You can just sit there and listen. They agreed to go.
They came to church the following Sunday! Mama tica was a genius and practically stole Valentina and took her to the crying area so Luis and Cristi wouldn't be distracted by anything. The message was exactly what they needed to hear. The topic was silences from God, such as when we pray for something but it doesn't come. After the pastor explained silences from God and God's nature, he explained our nature (sinners), and God's response to that (saving us). He really layed out the Gospel step by step. Even though I'm not usually one for dramas in church, there was a drama illustrating how Jesus took on our sin, died for us, and then rose in victory. It was very powerful. After church we asked Luis and Cristi what they thought of it and they said they loved it! They said the music was beautiful, the message was beautiful, they learned a lot, and they want to keep coming back! yaaaaay.
There was a concert at church this past Sunday afternoon with all kinds of homemade food for sale as a fundraiser for the project. One of the performers was Victor Zuniga and my new favorite song is his song "Dios es Bueno". It's such an 80s dance song! My mama tica bought his CD, so we've been jamming to it while making dinner or cleaning.
At the concert, Mr. Zuniga gave a short message and then had an 'alter call'. Luis was the only one to go up, but he went all the way to the front carrying Valentina and weeping. I hope this is an outward symbol that the Holy Spirit has put true saving faith in his heart. Today mama tica told me she's going to give him a Bible so he can continue to learn about God and water his inner mustard seed. Praise God!
On a completely different note, there are some more Costa Rican-isms that I want to share with you. They store their frying pans in the oven - of course - because they never use it to cook! They believe that rain causes illness. They also believe that if you walk in the house with bare feet you'll get sick. These superstitions are especially irritating to Brian, the Johns Hopkins premed and future doctor. He's like "Of course, bare feet cause illness, because OF COURSE all pathogens enter the body through the skin of the foot!"
Mama tica and I have been powerwalking in the mornings (when I'm not sick). Today was my first day back to walking. We go for a whole hour all around the neighborhood. Costa Rica has a lot more hills than Wisconsin!
We had our first day of math tutoring yesterday and it went pretty well. We're facing up to a pretty awful math education system. My two students are in 8th grade but they couldn't resolve something like 8 - 9 + 5 = ?. They didn't know that 2/2 = 1 and couldn't add simple numbers without their calculator. I made them use their fingers if they had to but they weren't going to rely on that calculator. The "system" must not teach the fundamentals of numbers, the number line, or positive and negative numbers well here. Unfortunately, my students have an algebra exam this week on polynomials. It's frustrating trying to balance preparing them for their exam with filling in the fundamental basics that they lack. Oh, and we also have 13 students total so we can't spend more than a few hours a week with each of them.
I'm excited that we're developing a more fixed schedule and I hope to get back to working construction at the project during the day to complement our afternoons and evenings of tutoring. We're also going to have an English conversation group on Friday nights to help adults learn English and also work in some evangelism while we're at it.
That's all I have for now. Pray for my math students - both that they understand my awkward Spanish explanations and the math concepts that I am trying to teach them!