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On March 8th I set out for Alajuelita. It’s a very small and poor city right outside of San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. It was my first time on a plane and my first time leaving the country. Well, there was this time my family and I went to Mexico on accident, but I’ll save that story for Jeopardy. The contestants always tell silly stories on that show. Anyways, I had an amazing time. Amazing really doesn’t sum it up, but it will have to do until I get a more extensive vocabulary. I’ve never felt so adventurous before. I’ve also never felt more uncomfortable than I felt our first day there.
We went to a barrio (neighborhood) called Juan Pablo. It was breath-taking. I’ve seen poor neighborhoods in the U.S. before. My grandmother lives right across the street from a project in southern Georgia, but this was different. I was so overwhelmed with the level of poverty and on top of that I realized that there’s worse. What I saw was pretty bad, but there are people living in conditions that are unbearable at best.
I didn't know what to do with myself and then I saw this little boy. He wasn't wearing a shirt, shoes, or socks. He was playing in the road. The road, filled with trash, shards of glass and sharp rocks and stones was not the safest place for him to play. I wanted to grab him and tell him that he could hurt himself, but he was so content. Forget about the fact that he's poor. Forget that my low middle class status would be riches to him. He had so much joy. Immediately I was jealous. I wanted what he had so badly. I wanted joy that could pierce through suffering and insecurities and tear its way into the hearts of others. I think that kid had that and I couldn't figure out how he got it.
This was going to be a summary of everything our group did in Costa Rica, but I changed my mind. While I was there learning a new way of life and befriending those who had been living it, I felt at ease. I assumed I felt this way because I didn’t have school, tests, or annoying people to worry about. I’m pretty sure that that was a wrong assumption.
Life didn’t appear simple there because of what I wasn’t thinking about, but it appeared that way because of the fresh thoughts. The meditations of my heart were of Jesus Christ and His people. That’s it. Since I’ve been back from the trip, all of the junk that I hate fretting about has returned and I want desperately to relapse into Tico (Costa Rican) time.
I just recognized the correlation between my easy thinking in Alajuelita and my latest depressed state. Depressed is an over statement. I was just sick of looking for answers and not finding them. Well, I wasn’t finding my answers because I was asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong places. If this seems “cheesy”, I’m sorry. We often say that something is “cheesy” when it seems inauthentic or too good to be true. Well, this is true to me so deal with the cheese.
Anyways, I looked in plenty of places. Even some places I probably shouldn’t have looked. I came up with nothing. A recent event sent me to a new, uncharted position. The situation is actually pretty silly in retrospect, but for security’s sake I won’t go into detail. Let’s just say that my misery hated solitaire.
In Costa Rica we did these affirmation things. We would pick out a name from our team and watch that person throughout the day. That night at group time we would then “affirm” something about that person. It was nice to have people saying good things about me. It was nice to say good things about other people too. I think it’s okay to like compliments, but it’s when you need them that the problem arises. I needed them. I needed assurance. I needed security. I still need those, but I’m not looking for them in holes in the ground anymore.
In Alajuelita, I loved. Back home, I short-changed a lot of people. When did I have the most joy? When was I most assured? When was I most content? The correlation is this: I am most satisfied when I glorify my God. “Love is the key to our connection. When we love, the church, God’s people are edified. When the church is edified, God is glorified and when God is glorified,” … satisfaction. God seems so backwards. I can attain an inner fulfillment by diverting my attention outward? This may be a “duh” moment for some of you, but this was a big “AHA!” event for me.
I just wanted to share. God is more relevant to me than ever before now. So I’ll continue to reach out to reach His heart. If you’re not a Christian and you read this, cool. If you've got questions you can ask me. I don’t mind and I won’t be offended. If anyone is inspired you should give this “outward” thing a shot. I bet if you focused on loving selflessly, after a while you’d feel more secure than ever. That’s not a “build self-esteem” recipe. I hate ABC, 123 methods. The security is in your connection to a God who IS love. In my opinion, that’s the truth. That’s life abundant.
Grace and love,