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Lessons in Godliness, Contentment from the Rain Forest


Gregory J. Rummo

AUGUST 1, 2002

REV. ELADIO BARAHONA pastors La Iglesia Bautista Gethsemane on Costa Rica’s Isla del Venado, a tiny island nestled in the Golfo de Nicoya, where parrots compete with howler monkeys to see which can be the most disruptive during the heat of the day.

There are less than one thousand people living on this lush, green dot of tropical rain forest. Approximately one hundred of them are members of his church.

Chickens, roosters and dogs range freely in the muddy yard outside their humble tin roof abode. By American standards, they live in abject poverty. But the Barahonas don’t seem to mind. They simply call it home, and they are content with the things they have, believing they are blessings from God.

The cacophony of modern life is muted here. There are no cars—the island is only seven miles in circumference. The Barahona’s have no television, no telephone and no video games despite the availability of electricity. A pipe from the mainland supplies municipal water which allows for the luxuries of a shower and a flush toilet. (You flush it by pouring water from a bucket into the bowl).

On the day I visited their home with a group from my church, it was 104 degrees. The heat and humidity enhanced the drowsiness produced by the Dramamine I had taken to keep from getting motion sick from the ninety minute ferry ride across the gulf from Puntarenas to Playa Naranjo.

That boat ride, followed by another, shorter run across the bay in a twenty-two foot fishing boat had sapped my strength and soaked my t-shirt. Fortunately, there were four hammocks and a couple of benches in the Barahona’s backyard underneath a stand of mango trees. Most of us took advantage and rested for an hour or so before lunch.

And what a lunch it was.

Despite our host’s meager resources, they had prepared a small feast.

Eladio’s three daughters had spent the better part of the morning cleaning, filleting and breading sea bass which had been freshly caught. Their mom then fried the filets in hot oil in a cast iron skillet over a wood fire. The fish was served with rice and beans, coleslaw and lemonade.

Those who weren’t overcome by food comas sat and talked around the table for several more hours. Finally, 3:00 o’clock rolled around and it was show time.

Gathering up our gear, we set out along the muddy path through the rain forest to the church about a mile away. Choruses of Chicharras, large locust-like bugs, sang to us from the recesses of the jungle.

We were dripping with perspiration and our feet were muddy when we finally walked through the doors of the small church.

A group of school children had been anticipating our arrival. They had heard we would put on a presentation of the Gospel using puppets. Slowly, the kids began to appear. Each was greeted at the door and given a Gospel bracelet—a series of five beads on a string that taught the story of God’s redemption of man. Each of the beads was a different color; a black bead was symbolic of our sins, a red bead as a reminder of Christ’s blood, shed to atone for them, and so on.

Finally, the small church was filled with the giggling sounds of the children as the puppets explained through a humorous story how lives could be changed by the power of the Cross.

At the conclusion, they applauded our efforts. Before sending them home, we walked through the pews hugging them and giving them candy.

The sky began to darken and the ominous rumble of thunder volleyed through the clouds over the mainland. We hurriedly packed our gear and made our way down to the dock for the journey back across to the bay in the small fishing boats.

The outboard droned as we bounced across the water. The sound mesmerized us into silent contemplation of what we had witnessed that afternoon.

It was then that one of the missionaries who had traveled with us broke the silence. “Hey guys, after all you just saw, what do you think about this Bible verse? ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain’.”

No one answered. No answer was necessary.

The shoreline finally drew close enough for one of the men sitting in the bow to jump out of the boat and pull it the rest of the way to shore. One by one, we climbed out, exhausted yet content because of what we were able to accomplish among the children of the Costa Rican rain forest. 

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist and author of “The View from
the Grass Roots,” published in July, 2002 by American-Book. You may order an
autographed copy from his website by clicking on the
banner below. You may e-mail the author at

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