The Life of Liz

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

Monday, July 16, 2012

Missions in Costa Rica

I just got back from a week doing mission work with Rice and Beans Ministries in Costa Rica and I am determined to get as much written down as possible before I forget everything!

The Orange Group
It all started when my friend, Patricia, called me and asked if I wanted to go to Costa Rica for a mission trip. She said the ministry would pay for my bus ticket, food, and lodging for the week. It should come as no surprise that I said no (if that does surprise you, let's just harken back to the time I initially turned down an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii...). This was actually the first mission trip I've ever been on that I didn't want to go. I had several reasons for not wanting to go, I was already physically and emotional exhausted and wasn't looking forward to a long draining week. I was also feeling very guilty for leaving Eli alone yet again, this time for his birthday. We've only been married a year and this is the third time I've left the country for more than a week; not exactly Wife of the Year territory here. Eli, however, is much smarter than I am and said no, I should go, I needed this.

And he was right. I've had a pretty difficult time as far as missions go. Working with the teams that come down has been awesome but every other part has either been terrible or a long slog of excruciating boredom. My soul has taken a beating lately and I needed a chance to get away from all of it, soak up God's presence and actually, physically, DO things in His service. I'm so thankful that Eli recognized what I needed and made me go.

So when I found myself in a hard, narrow, damp bunk after over 19 hours of traveling and only one meal, I thought wow, life doesn't get much worse than this. That may seem somewhat hyperdramatic, but keep in mind I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep the night before. That's not nearly enough to stave off even a small pity party.

The next day did not improve substantially. Due to some logistical malfunctions, all the things we had scheduled to do were missing key materials. So it was nap day, basically. I'm not at all sorry about the opportunity to rest but it didn't help my feelings of guilt for leaving. I mean, I can do nothing at home, there's no need to go all the way to Costa Rica. I also felt a strange disorientation amongst the international group. I am not really, legitimately from Nicaragua. I wasn't born here, I can't understand Spanish with my peripheral hearing. On the other hand, my life has nothing in common with the Americans, especially all the teenagers. One girl in our dorm lost her mind when she found a teeny tiny spider in her bed. Really? The girls from Guatemala didn't freak out that much when they found a 4 inch roach hanging out on their pillow (I did leave the room for that one. I may not be terrified of giant bugs but I am also not stupid, those things can fly!). I may be wandering away from my original point here and that is this: idleness + loneliness = not good for me.

Thankfully, Monday rolled around, our first official day of the program and everything changed. We got into our seven color-coded groups, piled into our vans, and set out to serve the Lord. In the morning we ran VBS for the kiddos, short break for lunch, then we decorated and filled bags with rice and beans to hand out to local families in need. We roamed the streets of Costa Rica, knocking on doors, giving out food, and asking if we could pray for the families. In case you haven't heard of it before, Rice and Bean Ministries is a wonderful organization that works through local churches to meet people's physical and spiritual needs. It's not just a one time gift of food, but works to connect families to churches in their area. You can find out more about them at www.riceandbeansministries.com.

During the days we worked hard - in the blazing sun, in the downpours, when no one showed up, when hundreds of kids descended on us, when we were so tired we stumbled like zombies from house to house. And then in the evenings we all came together to praise God and give witness to his presence working among us. We heard stories from two of our worship leaders, named Adam and Steve. Steve met a young boy who didn't own a pair of shoes and was running around barefoot. Steve offered this boy his shoes but they were too big. So the smaller-footed Adam stepped forward and gave his shoes - the only pair of shoes he had brought with him. He spent the rest of the week in Steve's flip flops. We heard stories of groups praying for people struggling with addiction, with health issues, with crushing poverty. One lady broke down in tears when a group visited her house. There was not one speck of food in it and she had no idea what she was going to do to feed her family that night when suddenly a group of soggy people appeared at her door shouting "upe!" and bringing enough food to last at least a week.

One lady that really touched my heart told of how a group from Rice and Beans had come through her neighborhood last year and prayed for her leg. She said it was completely healed. How cool is that? To be able to see the result of what last year's teams had done. On short term missions like this it's frustrating to think how little you are actually doing for each person and wondering if it makes any difference. All we can do is plant little seeds in the faith that God will send someone else along to water them and that He will make them grow.

I met some truly amazing people within our group and especially my dorm. The sweet and hilarious girls from Guatemala and Costa Rica, my bunkmate Christine (a police officer from Florida), a fellow mission world traveler from New Orleans McKenzie, the bilingual dudes from Honduras Bryan, Jose Raphael and Manuel (they somehow managed to turn the nightly announcements into stand up comedy shows), and so many others. I loved seeing so many teens and adults from wildly different cultures, and many who couldn't speak the same language, bonding as one big family. I get kind of snuffly every time I think about it, but you just can't imagine what a tremendous blessing it was to be surrounded by everything that my heart had been missing: friends, activity, pancakes, worship in English, a feeling of safety, and so many things I hadn't even realized I was lacking.

On an amusing note, there was a great deal of confusion as to where exactly I was from. I was introduced as part of the group from Nicaragua, so people made the natural assumption that I was also born there. It also didn't help that I spent a lot of time in the beginning hanging out with Patricia and speaking Spanish. Several people asked me where I learned English so well (uh....from my mom?) or explained something about American culture to me (yeah, I know). One lady asked my friend Manual if he would translate so she could talk to me (that's ok, I'm from Missouri). But I am proud to claim Nicaragua as my home, however recent that development may be. And I'm also pretty stoked that everyone thought my Spanish was good enough to pass for native (however laughable THAT may be).

So to wrap up this excessively long blog post, I'd just like to say that despite the lack of sleep, icky damp sheets, and whatever it was I ate that made me vomit in the presence of a toad, I am so so SO thankful that I went. It was an unforgettable experience that I will carry in my heart forever.


Things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psalm 78:3-4

2 comments:

Pammy July 16, 2012 at 1:19:00 PM MDT  

I laughed, I cried, I gagged...(puking in front of a toad...really?!?!?)...all the makings of a wonderful post. And I am BURSTING with pride. You are amazing person and I know that group of blessed to have you...a Nicaraguan/Missourian in their midst. I love you lots deary!

Pammy July 16, 2012 at 1:39:00 PM MDT  

*group was blessed not group of blessed :-)

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A brand new mom trying to navigate the crazy world of mixed families, babies, and working full time. Phew! Just writing that makes me want to lie down.

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