Weekly on Calle Mora, Jaco, Casafé is descended upon by local youth toting around smiles, laughter, and an energy barely tamed by the ocean they play in. Bikes fill the yard, and the house and garage are emptied of all their surf, boogie, and skim boards. Starting at 3pm on Wednesdays and 4pm on Thursdays, up to a couple dozen small feet patter around the yard grabbing swim suits, rash guards, and flippers; surf boards are waxed and the smell of artificial banana subtly takes to the tropical air. Then, as if on queue, the youth move in a pack to the beach. Surf boards and leashes hover over ankles decorated by anklets and tans. The group is surrounded by a bubble of chatter and laughter. They walk slowly, no need to rush, until they get past the gate and onto the sand, then they run into the waves, splashing in the white wash and paddling far past the beach, up to the big waves they expertly shred. They will be entertained to play and practice together for a while, enjoying a safe community and the remarkable show mother nature puts on for them every week.
Just like that the house is quiet, save for the sound of the waves, and we continue to prep food and clean up whatever was left behind by the youth. We know they will be back in about an hour and chaos will descend once more.
This is Casafé, and these two days are just some of the things we do here in Jaco. Every Wednesday the 12 to 15 year olds join us to surf, play ping pong, play fuss-ball, and listen to the word God has for them. On Thursdays the 16+ year olds join us for surfing, ping pong, bible study, and a meal as a small community. These days are indeed very chaotic as the house can be full to the brim with energetic young men and women possessing very powerful voices; nonetheless we love every moment of having these incredible people take over the house for these hours. The youth have made this time their own, they are a close community in a safe place that is readily available to them. It’s easy to see how having a place like this can allow people to relax and enjoy each other’s company without the pressures they might face elsewhere.
In this space we have encouraged the youth to spur each other on in good deeds. We teach them to have responsibility for the things they are entrusted with; if something goes wrong with an object they were using it is their responsibility. We ask that the youth clean up well and take extra care of the things not theirs. Those who know to do this well, encourage others to do the same and it becomes a cycle of good deeds. These youth constantly bring me back to the verse found in Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,”. They live this verse out in the time they have with us and we hope and pray they take this outside of Casafé as well to encourage their peers at school and in their homes.
It’s time for the kids to come back in now. They bring with them their laughter and chatter; salt water clings to their hair and skin and sand adorns their feet from the trek across the beach. One by one they use the outdoor shower to rinse themselves, their boards, and return everything to its place; towels are placed around everyone’s hips and the rest of the evening can begin. We will gather either outside, around the kitchen counter, or at the table with the whiteboard, depending on the night. We will eat and chat and settle down for a small bible study. Bibles are passed around and the word of God can be heard in their Spanish voices. The pages of the bibles flip back and forth and create the backdrop for the real fun, the chatter, the questions and the scribbling pencils. Voices will be raised as they chatter aimlessly and then shushed as they are redirected to the study. Coffee will be drank and discussions will be had. Youth will direct their attention to learning more about their Jesus as a group in damp bathing suits. As the conversation starts to die down the study will come to a close and any remaining questions will be asked.
We always pray before the end of the night when the youth leave on their bikes (sometimes three to a bike) and disappear into the street lights. We know they return to a life very different from the hours they have spent with us, so we send them with our prayers drifting into the air behind them, knowing God goes with them. As the chatter and laughter fades with the departing pack, we retreat back into the house, tired but thrilled that God once again got to use our time and space to bless a group of crazy, passionate, curious, and energetic youth.