God is Healer- Lessons from Cartago, Costa Rica

Monday, September 9, 2019

So, there we were surviving in another country.  I'm not really sure we were actually doing it well We'd had been living in San Jose, Costa Rica for nearly a month.  Our purpose for being there was to learn Spanish.  We went to school throughout the day, homework, and tried to work our way around a city with no car and no language.  

We were treading water, so we decided what better way to test ourselves, than to leave a city by train.  I did a little research and tickets were like $1, so the plan was take the train to Cartago, visit the sites, go to the open market, and head back by noon.  Mission planned, but could be accomplished?  

We headed to the train depot and purchased our one way ticket.  Somehow there was a language barrier (figures) and it ended up costing us $5 a piece one way. We had to make the most of it, imagine not being able to communicate if you got one pulled over on you, but we smiled and felt accomplished.  Now we were on the train, and it started to roll down its rickety tracks to Cartago.

Cartago is a city just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica, 16 miles to be exact.  It is the capital of its providence and actually served as the capital of the country from 1574 to 1824.  It was founded, I believe, by one of the famous explorers Juan Vasquez de Coronado in 1563.  Win for my world history class in Pittsburg, KS when I remembered who Coronado was!

Stepping off the train to a trickle of slow, steady raindrops, we failed to take into account the rainy season, so had to make a quick stop for ponchos and a big umbrella. We used our GPS on our phones to begin to walk to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles.  Each year pilgrims come from all over, a tradition for over 200 years, to walk en masse to the basilica to either give thanks to the saint or to petition her for advice. The official day is August 2nd, but many people will begin this journey a week early to make time, setting up tents and camping.  Although, we didn't visit during this celebration, we did later witness many people in San Jose making that journey months later.  Even Red Cross sets up stations to support those who make the walk.

August 2nd is the feast day of the Virgin of the Angels.  The church here has a statue of a Black Madonna known as , who supposedly has great healing powers. The sick come to her statue in hope of a miracle from La Negrita.  This is what we came to see, this relic of the catholic world.   We weeded through the people to see it and it's might.  I was a little disappointed to see that the rock was only a few inches tall, which made it all the more interesting that people crawl to this little thing (bleeding and broken), believing it (she), this "saint" was going to heal them.  

Had they forgotten, had no one told them- that God himself brings healing and deliverance.  Not a rock, and not a stature.  

“For I am the Lord who heals you.” – Exodus 15:26 NLT

Not this little stone, but for whatever reason folklore says the statue was found by an indigenous girl in 1635.  Legend has it that the statue was found by an indigenous girl in 1635. But, in reality, the only inhabitants were black and mulatto slaves who lived in a village named La Puebla, away from the white masters in Cartago. The legend says that she brought the statue home several times, but it mysteriously reappeared at its original site.

As we walked out we witnessed the charms of little arms and feet and hearts and any other body part you could buy and lay at her feet.  I wonder, if this was the same anger Jesus had as he turned the tables and we were rocked (pun intended) of the brokenness found in these church walls. That people have yet to know the divine healer and instead settle for a rock.  How can we bring the good news?  How can we separate the truth from the fabricated lies the enemy has built with the walls of the church? That's what the devil does he twists the truth just enough to turn our attention away from God.  

Next we walked seven blocks to the Plaza Mayor so we could see the Santiago Apóstol Parish Ruins.  The buildings were actually never completed.  In the middle of construction there was an earthquake (1910), and the building stopped.  Regardless, to me, they were old and beautiful.  

We ate some chicken, picked up our weekly fruit at the market, grabbed a popscicle and waited for the train that took us home.  Mission planned, and now accomplished. 

For more information:
Cartago, San Jose: www.costarica.org
La Negrita-the Black Madonna: https://thecatholictravelguide.com/
Can God heal us?: https://ag.org/Beliefs/

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