group photo before we left for the airport
This was our senior missions trip, and the first year that our church was going to Costa Rica. We stayed at Hogar de Vida, a transitional home for children age 0-10, located in Atenas, Costa Rica. We would be doing work projects and helping to take care of the children.
It was a long day of traveling, but we finally arrived to our destination, Hogar de Vida, at about 10:30 that night. We went to bed tired, but excited for what the next day would bring. I woke up and had a brief moment of "where am I?". We had arrived when it was dark, so I didn't really get to see the country until the next morning. Costa Rica is absolutely b e a u t i f u l ! It's so mountainous and lush. It's always filled with fluffy clouds, fog, rain showers, tall trees, brightly colored flowers, and a lot of ants. Each day held a schedule:
5-6 am- wake up
6-7:30- get ready, eat breakfast, and clean up
7:30-8:15- team devotionals
8:30- gather at the Rancho with the rest of the Hogar de Vida community for devotionals
9:30-12- work projects: we rotated sanding and painting a large fence, mixing and laying cement for the new driveway, helping out in the baby house, and doing landscaping work.
12:30- lunch, clean up
1-2:30- free time!
2:30-5- gather at the rancho to play with all the kids, or if it was raining, break up into groups to go to the houses
5:30- dinner, clean up
6:30-9 hear a testimony, then do recap of the day, and team worship
9-10- shower, talk, go to bed
the breathtaking beauty of Costa Rica
This was a short term mission trip that I prayed carefully about, and I knew that this was where God wanted me, BUT I honestly had no idea how life changing those ten days would be. I faced hardships, but overcame them. I developed a closer relationship with the Lord than I ever thought possible. In Costa Rica, his voice was clearer than I've ever heard it before. Without the distractions, electronics, or business of life in the States, I found it so much easier to focus & really HEAR him.
The beauty of Costa Rica continually blew me away. On the fifth day we went to a waterfall. It was about a 1/2 mile trek, and then a steep downward climb down 300 "steps". When we finally came into sight of the waterfall though, it took my breath away. In that moment I thought, "when you see something like this, how could you ever doubt the power of our mighty God?" Swimming in that beautiful place, going under a waterfall, and jumping off rocks into the water.. it felt like something out of a movie. That was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip. Everything I was feeling- the stress, the insecurities, the emotions- it all flew out the window when I saw that waterfall. All I was left to do in that moment was to just LIVE. I felt so alive in that moment and wanted to stay like that forever.
I went into this trip not really being a huge kids person. Don't get me wrong, I love kiddos, and I did a ton of babysitting growing up, but I've just never been one of those girls with the strong maternal instinct or the obsession with babies. I've always wanted to adopt. I've always been sure about that. I really just have never had a huge family desire. At least not nearly as strong as my desire for marriage or animals. God knows me so well though, and he knew exactly where to place me during the trip. We took turns being with different age groups, but it was clear right away that everyone had a pull to a different group. My pull, believe it or not, was to the baby house. I like to think I'm good with babies, and heaven knows I've had a lot of practice with them over the years. Bottles, diapers, crying babes- it doesn't phase me. What did surprise me though was how head over heels in love I fell with the kids. Knowing how much I've always wanted to adopt, this shouldn't have surprised me at all, but it did. During the trip I was filled with the biggest love for these children, and I realized how much I want a family of my own. I poured every ounce of love I had into those precious, darling, little children. Goodbyes at the end of the trip weren't easy, but I know that I will always have the memories to cherish. I thank those Costa Rican babies for helping me come to so many realizations and realize what I truly want in life.
I think we were all thinking about that on our trip- what we're doing with our future, and what we really want in life. I knew my answers to these questions already, but God taught me so much more about myself and made these answers even clearer. I know I'm old-fashioned, and probably in the minority for what I want in life. To me though, the most important things in life are faith, love and family. I don't care about having a big career or being independent. That's for some people, and that's great. What I want most in life is to get married, rescue some animals, have a family, travel with my husband, continue to blog, maybe write a book, and find a way to work with animals and in the makeup world at some point in my life. I want a life filled with love, friendship, and family.
It's no secret that I'm an introvert, and that definitely was apparent to me on this trip. I absolutely loved being with my team, but I'm also a person that needs some quieter moments. Every morning I would get up five, when our cabin was still quiet, so I could shower and read my Bible, and then go start coffee for everybody. At night after we turned our lights out, I would pull out the book I was reading that week (The American Wife by Taya Kyle) and listen to a few songs, most in particularly Danny Goiki's "More Than You Think I Am". Those quiet moments were when I felt closest to God. Our conversations that week were the most special thing I've ever experienced it, and I'm determined to keep that relationship back in the states.
Towards the end of our trip we had our "off day or tourist day". It was a day I will never forget. We got up at five and piled into vans to make the hilly, crazy drive to Jaco. We got to stay at a Costa Rican resort for the day, and it sat right on the beach. There is nothing like eating your dinner on the patio, by the beach, at sunset. That morning we went on a ziplining canopy tour. A canopy tour is basically a bunch of ziplines- one after another, all connected to platforms in trees. Ours took about two hours to complete. For those of you that don't know me, I'm terrified of heights. Like so bad that I freaked out on the flights down. I had committed to doing this though, so there was no going back. When we all piled into the bus/wagon to ride up to the top of the mountain, my heart was racing, and I was starting to panic. Somewhere on the way up, God just took over, and I knew everything was going to be okay. I'll admit, taking that first leap and jumping out onto the zipline was a little terrifying, but the second I was in the air, I was in love. Each zipline was connected to a tree with a little platform. You would walk around the base of the tree, one of the instructors would hook you up to the next zipline, and off you would go on the next one. The heights and lengths of the ziplines varied, but let's just say we were up really high, and you could never see the end of the next zipline. As I was sailing through the jungle all I could think was how immeasurably blessed I was to be having this opportunity. Everyone kept asking me if I was scared, but I honestly wasn't because I was having so much fun. My only moment of fear was when we were nearing the end of the tour. Midway through one of the lines both of my thigh straps came loose and slipped down to my knees. When they slipped down, it completely threw my form, and I slipped father down into empty air. I have no idea why they did this, because they'd been perfectly fine for the first twelve ziplines. There I was, high up in the middle of the jungle, and I couldn't see any of the platforms or any of my team. I was all alone... but I wasn't. My temporary moment of sheer terror was completely overtaken by God's peace. All alone in the jungle and all I could hear was God's voice, loud as can be, "Be still my child. I've got you."
Joyfully jumping at Jaco Beach
We spent the afternoon swimming in the ocean, wandering through the shops, and finishing it all off with amazing Costa Rican ice cream. The shops were overwhelming, and transferring American dollars to Costa Rican colones was confusing, but I was able to find some beautiful leather bracelets, postcards, and an organic tank top made out of bamboo and banana.
We were all so refreshed after our day off, but also feeling very sad because we knew we only had two days left at Hogar de Vida. The end of any mission trip is always my favorite because that is when everybody is closest. You've bonded over common ground, everyone's tired, and the walls are down. Those last two days were so precious to me. We went grocery shopping at a Costa Rican grocery store and I got coffee and the kid's favorite, Yipy bars (they're amazing!).
Throughout our trip we were able to hear several amazing testimonies, but the one that touched me the most was by a woman named Chris. Everything she said spoke to my heart, and when she came around and prayed over each of us at the end- something magical happened. When she placed her hand on me and prayed, the Holy Spirit overtook me, and the power of his presence that I felt was earth-shattering. The words she whispered to me at the end of her prayer will stick with me forever.
I connected with so many people on the trip, and was overwhelmed by how amazing, hardworking, and kind each of our team members was. I was struck by the realization that I had known most of these people since I was a little kid, yet we didn't really know each other that well. By the end of the trip we were all so close. When you go through something like that together, you can't help but be close.
Each person brought something to our team, and I felt very blessed by the friendships that were formed. Just a few of those-
I was incredibly blessed on the trip to form a deeper bond with my friend and coworker, Jess. This girl is golden. She has the biggest heart, and has this amazing work ethic. She's dedicated, a good listener, and literally the sweetest person you will ever know. I wish everyone could know her the way I do, because she has the most beautiful soul and truly has a Jesus heart. Moments with her were some of my favorite memories of the whole trip. Going on the swings, walking on the beach, rides in the van, and walking to see the sunset were just a few of them.
Leah. I reconnected with this beauty halfway through my senior year, and we instantly hit it off. She's so down to earth, warm, friendly, funny, and caring. Her love for the children and God was so apparent on this trip and I learned a great deal of my limited Spanish from her.
Kelly, one of the amazing leaders on our trip, made such an impact on me, and was my rock during that trip. Talking with her is like the best therapy in the world. She's so sweet, humble, caring, and has such a servant's heart. She was my mentor and remains such a huge role model in my life. Getting to know her was a definite highlight.
Leah & me
I woke up Wednesday morning and realized that by the end of that day I would be in my own bed, back in the States. I was filled with a horrible pull of emotions. I missed my family, but I didn't want to leave Costa Rica. It felt like a home away from home, and I hated the thought of leaving a place I had so quickly grown to love. My passion for missions work, international travel, and children was really opened up on this trip, and I know that this is just the beginning for me.
Our last day was a long one, and it started very early. I woke up at 4:30 and woke the other girls so we could go watch the sunrise. We were all in our pajama's, wrapped up in blankets and sweatshirts as we quietly walked up the road until we could find a good view of the sun. We all sat down in the road and waited. Long story short, because we were so close to the equator, Costa Rica doesn't really have a sunrise or sunset. It's just like all the sudden the sun is up. It was absolutely worth getting up early though, because I got to share a quiet morning with the most amazing girls in the world.
The rest of our day was filled with emotional goodbyes and a lot of travel. We left Hogar de Vida at 9:30 and got to Kansas City around 9:30 that night. Time seemed to lose all meaning.. the traveling just seemed to go on forever. Going through customs coming back into the States took a very long time, and we honestly didn't think we were going to make our next flight. Never underestimate the power of prayer, and some guys that can run. By God's grace all twenty of us made our flight and arrived late at night back in good ol Kansas.
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love..."