Life’s Lessons


Speaking the language helps keep you found

After producing the correct passport (last week’s column), I had an uneventful flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. I used wheelchair service because I can’t do all the walking required in airports. One advantage of that service is they whiz right through the lines where others are waiting. So we quickly arrived at Customs.

I was wheeled right to the counter, where I was confronted with the language barrier. Someone very graciously explained I needed to give the attendant the address where I would be staying. My answer? “I don’t know an address. It is a Methodist guest house.” But that wouldn’t do.

“I need an address.” “I don’t know an address.” On and on it went.

I finally told her a 15-member team had come through yesterday wearing the same team shirt I was wearing. She studied my shirt, wrote something on the form, and allowed passage. I thanked her.

Baggage claim was without incident. Then I was pushed outside, where hordes of Costa Ricans awaited arriving friends and family. This is where someone was supposed to meet me. Our team leader’s parting shot the day before was, “We’ll have a car waiting for you.” The driver would know me because of my team shirt. (Also, I suppose, because I was American.)

But in that large group of eager people I saw no one looking for me! My chair was pushed out of the crowd to an area where I would be out of the way, I guess. Being out of the way was not forefront with me right then.

Again, a local man tried to help me. He even tried to locate a Methodist guest house using his Smart phone. No success. Again, he needed an address! At least he did speak some English.

He finally left, and I wheeled myself back to the horde of people still crowding the waiting area. At least there I might be seen. I tried my phone to try to locate my team leader and got the familiar “no service” notice.

Wondering how to handle this situation, I was thrilled to hear a voice call out, “Helen!”

Another team member I’ve known for many years, but was it she who found me? No, it was the bus driver assigned to our team for the week who said, “Isn’t that her?” as he pointed out my green team shirt. And that’s about all the English he speaks. He and I became good friends during the time we had – perhaps it was mutual respect. He is someone I knew I could count on.

I didn’t think I had been lost, but it was surely good to be found!

But let’s give our team leader credit. He had done everything he could to assure I could contact him. He knew I had a phone and assumed I was blessed (?) with a Smart phone, so he had sent information via email in case I needed it before I was met. Of course, my flip phone didn’t pick up email and, anyway, I had no service at the airport. I found the email when I got home.

Anyway, in spite of all the delays and language quandaries, I did arrive, was taken to the job site, and then to the John Wesley Guest House with the team. It was a wonderful mission experience once again.

Language barrier or not, perhaps someone met Jesus because I was there. Perhaps someone entered into a closer relationship with Him because I was there. I’ll probably never know but I do know I was right where God wanted me to serve Him for that period of time.

If you haven’t already done so, won’t you ask Him into your heart right now?

Speaking the language helps keep you found