We stood at the edge of two hundred miles of dense cloud forest stretching from Costa Rica to Panama. It is a national reservation and home of the Cabecar Indians, Costa Rica’s oldest indigenous tribe.
We’d driven two and a half hours from the town of Turrialba where the St. Francis of Emmaus Center is located. The first half of the trip took us through curvy mountains on two lane roads where trucks, vans, and motorcyclists pass each other on blind curves like “chicken-playing pros.” As terrifying as that was, it was tame compared to the second half of our journey. An hour plus on dirt and gravel, pot-holed roads had our stomachs bouncing up into our throats.The experience was novel, which went a long way toward making it less uncomfortable. Colleen’s husband Greg loves his Land Rover and was an entertaining guide. He and Colleen had us hysterically laughing our way through the adventure. This wasn’t their first rodeo with a group of short-term missionaries.
We stopped for lunch in the remote town of Grano de Oro, where the Mitchell’s started their ministry in Costa Rica. It is also the site of the “rivers of healing” described in Colleen’s book, Who Does He Say You Are.
Another bumpy ride took us to elevations so high the foliage became scrub and the air thinned. Finally, we came to the literal end of the road. We gladly peeled our bodies from the bench seats of the Land Rover, stretched our legs and backs and necks, resituated various other body parts, and began to walk down the path where the Cabecars enter and exit the jungle.
A logging company recently exchanged the rights to harvest wood in the reservation for building a road. They’re gone now, and Greg told us the road they built won’t last more than one rainy season.
Two young boys passed us walking up the dirt road. One carried a bunch of bananas on his back to sell in town. The second laughed and ran up the hill when we said “Hola!”
Both carried machetes half as long as them. I thought of my own boys and how they would have thrilled to exchange their pocket knives for a machete at ten years old.
After walking a few minutes down the mountain, we remembered our steep uphill return and decided to stop. We took photos that, for all our best efforts, couldn’t begin to capture the wondrous site before us and all it represented.
I could tell Greg was telling the man about St. Emmaus and the care they provide for indigenous moms. The man asked, “Cuantos cuestan?” How much does it cost?
Greg answered. “Gratis,” the Spanish word for free.
Greg wrote his phone number on a piece of paper and gave it to the man who smiled and shook Greg’s hand enthusiastically.
Then he shook each of our hands. His eyes shown with excitement, as he said “Dios bendiga,” God bless you, to each one of us and hurried down the path.
We turned to Greg, and he explained that the man’s wife is four months pregnant, and now he will bring her to St. Emmaus when she nears her delivery date. He knows doing so will prevent miles of walking through the mountains and then hours of car travel during labor, as well as the risks of an unattended birth.
She will be literal minutes from the hospital in the loving care of the Mitchell family, an experienced doula (Colleen), and a community of women who have likewise been helped.
The LOV Foundation has collaborated with ViBella Jewelry and the St. Francis Emmaus Center to provide sustainable employment through jewelry making for Cabecar mothers and other women at risk.