One of the things I wanted to learn by coming to Costa Rica was the commonalities and differences between my own Mexican culture and the Tican culture. There are words and phrases that they use that I don’t normally use, and vice versa! But there is a common value that I believe both Latino cultures share: the value of relationships.
Everywhere I go, there are perfect strangers wishing me a good morning or sharing the common phrase “Pura Vida!” There is an easy friendliness here amongst the neighborhoods that reminds me of family.
At the educational center, I see and experience the connection between the teachers and the students as they work hard together to improve the child’s chances of graduating on time. At the women’s health and fitness site, the workouts have been a place where new relationships form and it becomes a place that the women look forward to (especially among rough home-lives).
One of my favorite experiences has been at a cooking class with the environmental and community health site. Many of the women who come feel pretty comfortable around a kitchen already, but look forward to attending every week for the community time and relationships they have built. After we made chips and a Mexican Volcano dip together (I suggested some red pepper flakes for an added kick, since it is Mexican!), we sat down and ate together with a cafecito. I listened to these ladies talk about their families and their lives. I heard about how the machismo culture had affected their health education and also heard some fun and even difficult anecdotes about their childhood. I realized as I sat and conversed with them, that this was the basis for real relationships. The hard and the easy, the sad and the joyful, the highs and the lows in conversation and intentionality are part of how we are to build community and give a face to our brothers and sisters who may not share the same resources and opportunities that we may have.
I think about the people God has placed in my own life and ways I can deepen those relationships. I think about the challenges of poverty and human trafficking in Fresno and how easily I can view people without a face and without real value when I am challenged in my own comfort.
My comfort has definitely been challenged on this trip: physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Lord has shown me things I didn’t realize were hindrances until He removed them here and I started to see what I’ve been missing. Focus and intentionality with a heart of humility is a new goal. I am encouraged and challenged to take what I have learned from these amazing people (these Ticans and the AMAZING staff at Students International), and grow my relationships back home and enter into relationships that take me out of my own space.
The author of Hebrews encourages me in this: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1.) I look forward to this new way that God is refining me.
- Lizette L.