I'm not really sure how it all went down because we were in Panama renewing our visas when Costa Rica decided to change shape. We missed it (is it demented that a little part of me wishes we hadn't? I mean, just to say "Oh, yeah, I've felt a 6.1." while I nod my head with a knowing look.). We came home the day after it hit to some stuff that fell over, picture frames, candle sticks, the ironing board - nothing exciting. But then the police rolled through our neighborhood with a loudspeaker imploring people to give, help, pray. That was different. And, like that, the goodness and compassion in the people around us began to pour out. I've gotten emails from our team members, our neighbors, and the kids school about coordinated efforts to receive and distribute goods and services to those in need. I watched a press conference where the Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias, stood on the brink of tears after viewing the devastation and pleaded with the church, Catholic and Evangelical together, to be the face of Christ among the lost and hurt and needy. People responded quickly and generously.
Then I heard about this:
In the heart of the epicenter was a very nice hotel, built on the side of a mountain that showcased a spectacular set of waterfalls called La Paz. Someone had the good sense to harness the economic power of Gods creation and the result was a lovely hotel, restaurant, and gift shop - all stops along the way to view an aviary, butterfly garden, reptile, frog and monkey exhibits and, ultimately, to traverse the steep catwalk to the viewing platforms for each of the roaring falls. Steve and I referred to it as the Disneyland of Costa Rica. It was perfectly clean and manicured at all times. There were clear signs and directions to each area of the park and, for those that found the arrows too difficult to follow, you could arrange for a private tour guide to take you to each sign, read it to you, and then gesture with his hand in the direction that the sign was pointing so that you would be sure not to get lost. They even had bathroom attendants to hand you a paper towel and quickly wipe up the mess you made while excitedly washing your hands in the custom waterfall shaped faucets. It was perfect. And pretty expensive. But, it was a great place to take tourists, and we often took work teams there on their free day. In fact, we were there only 2 weeks ago with Steve's Mom and Dad. They loved it, and we loved watching them love it. Anyway, my point it that this was a real tourist destination. So here is where this gets ugly. When the quake hit huge landslides erupted all around La Paz. The catwalk fell with people on it, the restaurant basically exploded, and the entire area became impassible by land. No way in, no way out. With 300 tourist trapped at the hotel. Some were injured, some were elderly, and all were absolutely terrified. While the Costa Rican government was slowed in rescuing this group by a limited number of helicopters, the private tour companies decided that they could take advantage of the situation. Private helicopters began to land at La Paz offering to lift out stranded earthquake victims - FOR $300-$500 A PIECE. Is that not disgusting??? Warped and messed up??? What kind of low grade person thinks of how to profit off of the terror of others? To me this is heartbreaking. In the face of devastation, when a whole nation rallied to help, one small group of jackasses decided to make a profit.
Dear Mr. Helicopter Operator,
You are an embarrassment to society. I hope that your helicopter crashes and that you live. Not because I am nice, but because you should no longer be able to use your life saving and potentially heroic position as a pilot to suck the world dry. But, you should have to live your life on the ground, like the rest of us, because we see each others faces, eyes, the way we hold hands with our kids. We see, apparently what you do not see up there in the clouds, that there are times when we give what we can just to help because in the end we are all the same. You are a jerk.
Anyway, if you could pray for the people of Costa Rica during this time that would be great. There are still many missing and stranded. There are so very many without a permanent place to sleep. And, pray a blessing on those who have given and responded, who have namelessly, facelessly stepped in and helped because they saw a need they could fill. Bless the heroes who will never be paid, or thanked, or even seen.