This is Pastor Warner. A week serving with and for this man completely changed my life. It’s been hard to come up with the words needed to describe the ministry, the experience, the people, and my heart transformation. I don’t think that my words will do it justice, but I’ll give it a go.
Pastor Warner lives in Nicoya, Costa Rica. He drives a bus full time (The Happy Bus) and works as a pastor all day, everyday. He has provided transportation for most of our trips/teams in Costa Rica for the past 3 years. I had the highest honor of taking our first PPM team to his community to serve. His church is not made up of a building, Sunday School, youth programs, women’s ministry meetings, or an order of service. His church is held on a gated lot and is made up of children and youth from the San Martin community. San Martin is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Costa Rica. Pastor Warner provides a feeding program to the children at least once a week. He pays for it out of his own pocket and recruits the few involved families to cook the meals each time. Warner believes that a feeding program will bring people in and turn them to Jesus through the prayer, the presentation of the Gospel, and love… because that’s exactly what happened to him. On any given day that the feeding program is held, you can expect that AT LEAST 80 chidren will come to receive a meal. To these children, Pastor Warner is more than just a meal or a pastor… he has become a father figure to so many of them whose need for love have gone unmet for so long.
The love this man has for people, especially kids, is astounding. I have never seen anything like it. Even when he is driving the bus for us to another location, children are automatically drawn to him, follow him wherever he goes, and absolutely adore him. It’s truly a gift. To see him simply interact with kids, lead them in song, and tell a Bible story… it will bring you to tears.
Not only does Pastor Warner have a special connection with the children, he can make anyone feel special and essential. Everywhere we went, people knew him and invited the ministry he was doing to their place of work! Many people in Costa Rica are hesitant to invite Christian ministry into their area because of the strong division between The Church and the Catholic religion, but with a man who loves as well as Warner, it was all welcomed. We were able to experience and serve in a variety of areas, and even had to cut the list short due to a lack of time, because of his witness.
I’ve described him in words as best as I know how… so I’ll show some pictures of our incredible week of ministry in Nicoya.
This is my team from Michigan with Pastor Warner. They are amazing. They came ready to serve and love on every person we met. They also came ready to crack jokes on our driving in Alabama when it snows. Ha!
You can check out the full trip journal HERE from their week.
Perrin was our youngest missionary on the team! (PLEASE check out the pelican on his outfit… presh!) When I talked to the Group Leader, Tracie, about the trip and found out she would be bringing her baby I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. What would that be like? Would he cry all the time? Would I be the baby-sitter? Haha! Can I just tell you… IT WAS AMAZING having him there! Nothing else in all of this world can start a conversation with complete strangers like a chunky baby with blonde hair and blue eyes can. The Ticos (Costa Ricans) fell in love with him immediately, which lead to walls breaking down and relationship forming! Having him there actually gave me a LOT of hope for having a baby on the mission field in the FUTURE (not today). It was really good to see his missionary momma in action with him! I know… and all of my friends said, “Thank you Tracie!” Yea… yea…
The team did VBS each afternoon at the church lot. At the conclusion of each day, dinner was served for free to all the children. This is a snapshot of the feeding program. It was impossible to get all of the people in one picture… but you get the point. For some of the children, this is their only meal for the day/week.
I feel like it’s all just talk and a good idea until you see pictures of these babies and know some of their stories. It’s hard to describe without experiencing it yourself. It’s a battle. It’s survival of the fittest. It’s a requirement to be aggressive to be okay in this group. It’s hard to be loving and kind and get what you need. 3 of the boys who came to VBS/feeding program each day stole my heart. All of them the age of 12. They reminded me a lot of our Eric when we met him when he was 12 years old. All tough. All have a sparkle of hope in their eye… knowing that they could overcome their situation and do great things.
Meet William. He has 3 younger siblings. His mom is, what I gathered, a prostitute. She leaves for months at a time, with no word or support for her children. When I met him, she had been gone for over 11 months. His dad is in a wheelchair and earns his income by selling tomatoes at the local hospital. William was forced to quit school to help his father sell tomatoes and take care of his siblings. He’s strong, tough, and just wants someone to believe in him.
This is Randy and Alonso. Equally tough stories. Randy lives with his grandparents and experiences neglect and abuse often. He escaped from his home with his parents that provided an even rougher environment. I talked a lot with these boys about becoming men of God. I had opportunities to speak truth over them and encourage them to look up to the examples of Pastor Warner and the other youth involved, to follow Jesus regardless of their circumstances, and to know and believe that God loves them and has big plans for their lives.
Nasa, Maria, Harrison, Herald, Alison… all names with faces that my team and I got to serve and love on while in Nicoya.
Oh my heart…
My team and I were able to do so much this week.
Serve in an elderly home – shave faces, play games, fix hair, sing songs, and bring joy with the presence of a baby.
We were able to minister at the local police station… which is a really big deal. We were able to go inside the station and pray over the officers. The team cleaned the holding jail cell… which was quite possibly the smelliest place I have ever been inside. They also cleaned the room the police officers rest in while on duty. The servant hearts that were revealed when doing this… wow.
This is how crazy and awesome Pastor Warner is – on our last day of VBS, we had a parade. Not just some rinky-dink parade… a parade complete with a marching band, police escorts, lanterns, balloons, signs, and more!!! WHAT?!?!?! I’ve never heard of that happening on a mission trip! Ha! But, he loves these kids and our team SO much, he wanted to set up something truly special for the last night. It was so much fun! We walked about 2 miles dancing, showing signs with Bible verses, and making Jesus’ name known! Hundreds of people came out of their houses to see what all the commotion was!
The team and Praying Pelican Missions was also able to fund and build a new roof/shelter for the church property! A place where the children can come, rain and shine, to be feed spiritually and physically! Praise the Lord!
An incredible week is an understatement. I will be processing this one for a while…
The craziness for the Lord.
The purpose. Vision. Calling. Faith.
I’ll never be the same again, and I know my team won’t either.