Together for far too short a time

Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone – Andy Stanley


Wednesday evening, the bus delivered us safely home and we climbed the steep road to the Unbound center in the soft darkness. Another full day of visits – to a school, coffee plantation, and native animal rescue center – had left us weary, but content. For me, this was the moment that I had been anticipating for a very long time. Dixie was here somewhere, perhaps getting ready for tonight’s “fancy dress” dinner.

A cluster of people stood waiting, though, and there she was, wrapping her arms around me in a huge hug that might have lasted forever. It had been a long bus ride for Dixie, her mother Dalia, and social promoter Maria. And, it turned out, Dixie was just recovering from a virus and almost hadn’t been able to travel. Dinner was dressy in a casual, summery kind of way, made special by colorful decorations, abundant food, and an escort to our table. We visited and talked, all of us feeling a bit shy, then headed for bed. I was happy that we would have a whole day of activities together tomorrow, too.

I hope you’ll understand when I say that Unbound’s philosophies resonate within the context of much of what they do. For our day of fun, the activities were simple, creative, and brought us together in laughter and sharing. It’s best to tell the story in pictures:

One of Dixie’s biggest smiles of the day, with me and her mother Dalia.


Lifting our voices in a song that transcended the barriers of language…it was Kum Bay Ya!


Zumba lessons, and then a piñata, brought a festive end to the day.


There was so much that I wanted to know about this goddaughter whose letters take months to travel back and forth. Her small nephew Dilan Jesus came to life in videos on their surprisingly nice phone and I learned he would be joined in a month by another baby nephew. I tried to describe snow and they a village close to Nicaragua where life was so much different. But in our laughter and my terrible Spanish there was community and a yearning to become family. In the end, they missed their bus and I’m not sure why. Thus they stayed another night, a blessing that let Dixie sleep away the time from late that afternoon to early the next morning. She was still ill and even had a fever. In the morning, there was no putting off the goodbyes that came so hard. I will just have to come back!





There just aren’t words

And for the rest of our time in Costa Rica, there were no words, at least not on WordPress and my blog. The internet went down and never came back the same. I’m safely in Charlotte now on the way home. The story continues, beginning with the post I was writing as the sun rose on Wednesday morning.

The first hug just might be the best!

To reach the Guanacaste area, we traveled northwest, losing elevation and gaining some impressive heat and humidity. We passed the Pacific port of Cartera and saw the sea. A showy flowering tree in yellow or pinkish-white (Corteza amarilla or blanca) kept company with plantain, mango, pineapple, and teak trees for lumber export.

We were welcomed with such love into three villages. There were heart-wrenching stories and heart-warming fellowship, home visits and Circles of Hope hard at work. And if you gave us music, we had to dance!

This photo is for Dad!


The Guanacaste tree inspired the name of this, the farthest west of the country’s seven provinces. In the local indigenous language, the word means “ear,” the shape of the tree’s shiny brown seed pods.

A friend for the day, in a village where we drank fresh coconut milk straight from the coconut.

And if you gave us food, boy could we eat. Fried fish, fabulous fruit, local cheese, and below, samples of local treats, the gift of a group of mothers. I tried their rice pudding and papaya salsa on tortillas – both yummy!

The Juvenile Leadership Academy brings two young people from each project together to inspire and equip them to teach their peers back home. Within Unbound and also the universities, volunteering is a huge component of their programs. All of our young translators earned nothing for their week of helping us to understand not only the words, but also the culture and realities of life there. Just one of many reasons to rededicate myself to the mission of Unbound. More soon! 


Within a Circle of Hope

Yes, Maine, there are still flowers and ferns. Blue skies, intense sun, low humidity, a breeze – I could be writing an alluring travel brochure. That was Sunday’s weather. Today and tomorrow (Monday/Tuesday) will take us on a four-hour bus ride for an overnight stay in the hot and humid Guanacaste area. Today the first of us will meet our sponsored friends.


On Sunday,  we explored the history and evolving future of Unbound. It was 1981 when four Catholic siblings and one of their friends had the courage to act on a dream. They were a housewife, a lawyer, a banker, and two long-time missionaries…each with talents to bring.

The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, as the organization was called then, had their first office in Bob Hentzen’s basement. The five sent their first letter soliciting sponsors to the people on their Christmas card lists. All five are gone now, but we are blessed to have Bob’s wife Cristina (top left below) as part of our group for the whole week.

Unbound’s work is personalized to the needs of each country. Here in Costa Rica, the framework for achieving change within communities is found within the Circles of Hope, parent groups who focus on fellowship, building self-esteem and starting local businesses. Mothers organize the letter writing, and even track finances. In a monumental change, parents have been given the authority to spend their benefits themselves, although spending by category is little changed as a result. 

Below…four mothers brought their coffee-roasting business to us for the day, showing us the process from beans toasting in an iron pot over a fire to the finished packaged product. They buy high-altitude coffee beans and go from there, producing as many as 100 small bags in a day. At the end, we tried the freshly brewed café with tamal asado, a local dense, moist bread reminiscent of flan or corn pudding.


The evening brought a travel serendipity that all began when my hand shot up of its own accord, volunteering to be a reader at mass. Never mind that I am not Catholic and even all my new Catholic friends weren’t sure what worship here would be like.

Hours later I was processing in through the arch below, with incense and altar boys, berobed priests and a friendly woman who I was to follow in reading a responsive psalm. It was strange and wonderful and, if I survived without messing up, it was going to be a fabulous memory. Soon, I was standing inches from the priest as clouds of incense engulfed us and I peered over his shoulder at a beautifully decorated Bible.

The best part, though, was to kneel and say a prayer for Dixie. 


Bienvenido… with Unbound in San José de la Montaña, Costa Rica

Another adventure awaits. Yesterday I flew in over Cuba to the capital of Costa Rica, San José.  Staff and fellow travelers from our Unbound group were waiting with warm smiles and a bright and familiar sign as I came out of customs. My $100 became almost 50,000 colorful colones.

Unbound, the wonderful organization through which I sponsor Fredy and Dixie, offers awareness trips in the 19 countries where they work. This will be my first one. Waiting in my comfortable single room with bath was this welcome letter from Dixie. Our hearts are so full as we anticipate meeting each other. That will happen Wednesday!

The Unbound center where we are staying looks down over the city from an elevation of over 5,300 feet. This morning, we sit visiting at the start of a glorious sunny day, cool from the elevation, drinking rich local coffee as a blend of Spanish and English surrounds us.

I’ve learned a new expression. If you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll say, “Pura vida,” life is good.