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Our home base located in Desamparados, a town in the capital province of San Jose, has a population of 5 million people. Fitting enough, the name of the town means “Fatherless” or “Abandoned.” This seemed to be a central theme for our home town and the three other locations we had sites in: Los Guido, Las Fuente, and La Carpi. Each area has high percentages of poverty and crime compared to the rest of Costa Rica. On the outside, all the numbers and statistics show that these communities consist of only gangs, drugs, and violence.
It’s a good thing we don’t judge a book by its cover, right? We did not just take the statistics as a representation of the actual people. We jumped in and got to know the people in these neighborhoods: the people in the schools, the people in their homes, the people on the streets, the people at work.
At some point during the two weeks we all experienced a perspective change. A new understanding of what it means to be a “Tico.” Are there bad people and broken things? Of course, but there is also an overwhelming culture that takes you in and makes you feel like family.
For many of our team, there was a kid or a moment we'll remember forever. My moment was Thursday when I got the opportunity to talk to a group of 30 or so kids. After playing handball, I went through a little bit about my testimony: my life before and after Christ. Through this I was able to share the love and grace God provides to us through Jesus Christ. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit I shared examples the kids will be able to relate to as they grow up and also pointed them to a couple of godly mentors who will be around for years to come.
One major difference with the Costa Rica trip and other Exposure Trips is that our main mission is not the introduction of Christ. The majority of Costa Ricans have already heard of God. Our focus was to water the seed that was planted previously by building relationships and pointing the kids to the Students International missionaries. The missionaries are preaching Christ each day, and they are the ones who will be able to make the impact in the long term.
We had to be very intentional about our focus in order to shine light into the communities. In the end, we knew what we were up against: long days, mentally straining work, spiritually tested situations, and physically demanding opportunities. God has touched each of us in our own ways. One thing we learned here is the power of not comparing. Keeping that mindset with the changes that happened inside us, we all went through different moments and experienced separate situations. None of these charges are better or worse than someone else’s, just different. As we learned many times over this trip, God has a funny way of working things out for the better.
"Missionary" is not a term specific to places outside the United States. You can be a missionary in your classroom, at your work, or in your house. All you need is a praying heart, worshiping lips, and the Word in your hand. Don’t let earthly restraints or temptations hold you from joining in the battle to grow God’s kingdom and to be fishermen of men.
Looking back at the relationships our team formed in Costa Rica, we know our names and faces will fade, whether it be in a week, month, or even a year. We will slowly be forgotten. However, we also left something behind with every single person and kid we touched: the name and love of Jesus Christ. That is the love that conquers all and the name that is forever eternal.
God Bless. Blessings from the 2019 Costa Rica team.