Pura Vida

Hey friends! I know its been a while since I’ve posted, and I wish I have been more on top of things since I decided to create a blog… but I have to tell ya- a lot has happened in my life recently! I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica with 47 other college students and leaders, I moved into my new apartment, AND I started summer classes (on top of having a lengthy job on the weekends). Needless to say, I have not been able to find the time to sit down and intentionally devote an hour or two to write. But, now that I am MAKING time (I have an accounting exam today- its fine) to write and have to myself, I would love to tell you about my Costa Rica trip!

It was 7:00 AM the morning of May 14th, and I was standing in the International Terminal of the Atlanta Airport. I had never been to Costa Rica before, so I did not have any expectations, had no idea where I would be serving, little prior knowledge of the country, and my Spanish was not the greatest. But I was excited! Having been to the Philippines three times before, I was excited to venture to a NEW country and be immersed in a NEW culture with a bunch of new friends I was just getting to know. We boarded the plan at 9:00 AM, and little did I know that that take-off would propel me forward into a newfound love and a newfound calling on my life.

Our trip took place in San Jose, Costa Rica and the poverty-stricken cities surrounding it. There we partnered with Openhouse Church, a strategic parter of North Point Ministries, who gave us an incredible Orientation along with a tour of the city and the areas we would be serving. There were three specific locations on our radar that needed a lot of love. Obviously we had a pretty big team, so we divided into three sub-teams. Two teams went to two daycare centers apart of a God-breathed organization called Roblealto, and the other team went to Lomas Elementary School (where we handed out 1000+ soccer balls to every single student there!!)

I was given the opportunity to be apart of Roblealto, so I got to spend my week at one of their daycare centers with the sweetest, craziest three-year-olds I have ever hung out with. A little background information: these daycare centers serve children (newborns-14)  who live in high-risk areas where a lot of gang activity takes place, where substances are abused, where violence and inner-family violence is common, and where human trafficking (sex and drugs) is nearly inevitable due to the surrounding conditions. Their parents are unable to meet their basic needs; some are street vendors, some in the prostitution industry, some are drug dealers, some are still in high school, and some children only have their mother to depend on because their father abandoned them and doesn’t support them financially. Out of all the child profiles I read, fathers abandoning their families and denying the existence of their children and/or no financial support, was the most common reason I read about. Of course that is only a small sample of the population of Roblealto, but it is nothing to disregard. SO now that you know that, the mission of Roblealto is to provide a loving and safe environment for these children to grow. They teach them the importance of cleanliness, so the students are always washing their hands before they leave for lunch and before they eat lunch. Roblealto provides them healthy food, school support and homework help, development of language; gross and fine motor skills, Christian teaching, implementation of core virtues through an interdisciplinary program, Counseling, Psychological therapy, and Medical control.

SO here’s my experience at Roblealto: We were about to load the buses for our first day at our centers, and my heart was nearly pounding out of my chest. I wish I was exaggerating. I was so nervous! I knew there would be a language barrier, so I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to communicate, or that the children wouldn’t accept me, etc. The enemy was stirring up all kinds of fears in my head the entire bus ride there. But as soon as we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and placed in our respective classrooms we would be serving in for the week. I set foot in a little classroom filled with about 14 two and three-year-olds, and their teacher had them sitting on the floor in front of her going over the date and the weather. The moment I sat on the ground, the children inched closer and I had one in my lap within the next five minutes. And that is how the rest of my week went. Sometimes I would have 5 in my lap at one time, sometimes I would have three hands in mine on the way to lunch, others I would have one monkey on my back and another little hand in mine, and at nap time I would have one little one snuggled up against me while I rubbed another little back to sleep. It was through sweet moments like those where God silenced the enemy and put him to shame for attempting to discourage me on our first day.

I learned and spoke more spanish than I have in my entire life in the span of four days, and I developed a bond with my little class of three-year-olds that I did not anticipate coming into the trip at all- DESPITE all the fears the enemy had tried to distract and discourage me with. GOD defied ALL language barriers, ALL cultural barriers, and created a bond of LOVE by and through the power of his Holy Spirit. That is what the Holy Spirit does, people!! That week proved that LOVE is not merely a noun, but a VERB. When Love is put into action, it becomes tangible. When love becomes tangible, it becomes a lifestyle. And that week I caught a glimpse of the lifestyle my Father has always desired for me to live- the one that he has created for me, in love.

While I can look at the painful situations of the children and focus on the hopelessness of their stories, that is not why I’m writing. I am writing because of the HOPE I encountered. Every child there was incredibly loving, their smiles were big, their hugs were constant, and that is not what their home life is at all. I witnessed God defying all odds, all barriers, and stirring up revival in Roblealto.

“I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

“No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from me.” Declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17 (ESV)

Though I spend my days thinking of and longing to be with my little class again, I know my God will protect them and meet every single one of their needs. He loves them more than I ever could and ever will, and he will make himself known to them in his timing. And Lord-willing, I will be able to wrap my arms around them again.

ANDY

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