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Costa Rica Chronicles, Day 3

Jeff Raymond on September 30, 2013


Monday, September 30

4:45 am – Alarm.  Wow, up before it gets light, which is 5:00

Pack up a large amount of video gear

5:45 am – creatively insert said gear into Mike Armstrong’s VW and head for the TACTICA Ministry Center where I grabbed some oatmeal.  Actually I put it in a bowl and grabbed a spoon.  Mike and I didn’t stay there with the team, we had to head over to Dos Pinos (Twin Pines training site) to meet guys delivering chairs and porta-potties, both very important.

It’s a beautiful sunny morning and very quiet as nobody else has arrived at the training site yet.   It gives me some quiet time to talk to God and look at His word.  This morning I’m looking at Genesis 2 and the origin of sin as I prepare a testimony I will share with all the Costa Rican officers on Thursday.

6:45 am – the team arrives and work began – hauling loads of gear from the bus, setting up chairs, and lots more.  With 20 men it didn’t take long.

Each day, the team is given a specific color TACTICA shirt to wear so we all match for that day.  Today the shirts are camo (which is not really a color but a way of life for some people)


7:15 am – Costa Rican police officers began arriving at the front gate.  Attending this training is everyone from municipal police to the Costa Rican equivalent of the FBI.  From federal penitentiary guards to the President’s security detail.  The team set up an entry process of welcoming them, then checking their weapons and inserting a yellow zip tie in the barrel to assure the chamber was clear.  Finally each officer was frisked to make sure that nobody had any live bullets on their person, or in their bag.

A number did have ammo they’d forgot about hiding in their bags, so the team takes it away for the day.  In cases where they find it to be old ammo, they replace it with new ammo to take home this evening. 

It was interesting to see police officers shaking down police officers.  When an officer was fully cleared they received a piece of yellow police tape tied around their right ankle so it was obvious they were safe.  I’m about the only one here all day without a yellow ankle decoration because my cameras ARE loaded.

Another thing TACTICA does for the Costa Ricans is to service each of their pistols.  Two men on the team check the guns in and completely disassemble, clean and check the working condition for them.  In some cases, spare parts are on hand to make a repair.  In most cases, the guns had just gotten very gummed up with crud.

The meeting began with everyone all in one big classroom.  TACTICA was introduced, along with each missionary.  Then each team member was given a chance to introduce themselves, most through a translator.


As another way to build bridges, “baseball” type cards were made up of each team member, containing a photo in full tactical gear on the front and a salvation testimony in Spanish on the back.  Today they were projected on the screen but through the week the team members have a stack to hand out to Costa Ricans who are trying to collect them all.

After team introductions every Costa Rican officer was asked to stand and introduce themselves.  With 85 of them it took forever but it is a cultural thing they do here. 

A TACTICA video was shown that very clearly indicates our purpose in doing the training is to introduce them the Jesus Christ and to disciple new believers.  Then Bibles are given out to each person with the indication that they will be using them every day.  They are encouraged to memorize Scripture verses listed in the front of the Bible.  Quite a bit of time was taken as a large group to practice looking up a verse, telling everyone what page it is on so they can find it (which works because they’re all holding the very same Bible) and then following along as a fellow officer reads out loud. 

The incentive for memorizing passages of Scripture are three huge tables full of TACTICA police gear and clothing they can win.  The harder and longer passages allow them to choose bigger gifts.

Most have never read a Bible before and we know the Word of God is power unto salvation.  Reading truth reveals darkness and deception.  Costa Rica is 85% Catholic.  In fact every Costa Rican resident pays 4 ½% tax that goes directly to the Catholic church (one of only five countries in the world who still have a state funded religion).

After introducing the Costa Rican officers to the higher purpose of TACTICA, some rules and procedures for the week were spelled out.  The group was divided into three platoons and lined up in formation for a flag ceremony.


Each platoon started their first of three classes for the day – controlling suspects , defensive tactics, and room clearing (which included shooting 9mm paint balls at “bad guys”).   Platoons would rotate through these three classes (2 hours each) throughout the day.

What I did all morning was hop from group to group, wherever I found the most visually interesting activity going on, capitalizing on the action as I was shooting video.  Light coming in the former windows was excellent, but sound bouncing off of bare concrete was very loud and echoing, so I did most audio through a wireless mic on the instructor.

1:00 pm - By the time lunch was over, it started raining.  Very soon it was pouring buckets.  Within an hour, dumping the whole ocean on our heads.  The corrugated metal roofs created a deafening thunder.  Although most training today was under “roof,” these are crumbling buildings with no windows and broken roofs, so a lot of water comes in.  Between water and very dark skies there was very little light left to shoot photos or video.

5:30 pm – it’s fairly dark by now.  These abandoned buildings have no power, water or light so the final meeting and testimonies by four of the team instructors went until it was pitch black inside.  Packing up all of the equipment and gear was difficult by flashlight.

7:00 pm – Arrive back at the house.  As with any evening when I’m shooting overseas, now the work begins.

Click here to read the next blog from the Costa Rica Chronicles series