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Reflections from Costa Rica…

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Some Costa Rican reflections from the 8th grade class of Anastasis Academy:

“Reciprocal Evangelism” Missions, evangelism, spreading the gospel.  What does this mean?  Are we called to convert people or simply love people?  How should we witness? Christ associated with all, served humbly, engaged in conversations, and showed compassion and love. They will know we are Christians  by our love.  We are the hands and feet of Christ. St. Francis advised us to, “go forth and preach, and if you have to, use words”.  God, thank you for  Riana, Caleb, Edith, Camilla, Johnny, Jherson, Mario, Walter, Marco, Fiorella, Alan, Bianca, Melody, Christian, Eric, Caesar, Sebastian, Ruth, Alana, Krsna, Fernando. — and so many more Ticos who encouraged and loved us.  Perhaps they were the true evangelists. Our prayer is that we were able to encourage and love them back.

“Universal Language” When I commonly think about people speaking other languages, a barrier comes to mind that lies between the different languages because we can’t ‘communicate’. Then again, does communication have to be limited to talking? My 8th grade class all traveled to Costa Rica together, and we were able to first hand experience the universal language. This language could even be soccer. While some of the Tico’s and our class played a game of soccer we all found a common interest and joy. This language could also be music. While in the car, the radio was playing the song, Titanium by David Guetta in Spanish. Although, our class all sang it in English and the Tico’s sang in Spanish. This single moment was extremely powerful to me because we didn’t need to have a translator or use our hands to get a point of joy across. Everyone just was jamming to the music and having a good time. After this trip, I go back to the thought of the barrier and why it feels like there is a limit to each other. One day we went to a school and played games, made crafts and just hung out. At this school I meet a boy named Marko. Marko sat away from the other kids, so I went and sat with him asking if he needed any help with the craft. Although Marko spoke zero English and he spoke way too fast for me to even kind of understand what he was saying, I just sat there as he made his craft. I could tell he was unique and special. He made me feel very happy while I was with him, the kind of happy that words can’t amount to. This was a sublime moment I don’t think I could forget. This universal language only consists of emotion, because that is something every single living thing shares. Communication doesn’t only consist of the words to say, but the attitude and openness you share, so truly there is no barrier.

“Costa Rican inspiration” Over the week we were in Costa Rica there were many things that inspired me, such as the attitudes of the Ticos. The attitudes of the kids in both the schools we went to were amazing, the people on the streets we saw on the first day, and our new friends from Conexion where amazing. The kids had little to nothing, yet they still had such amazing attitudes. They always had a smile on their faces. One day we went to a school and we played soccer on a patch of dirt with an old torn up soccer ball and two broken off slabs of concrete for each goal, and yet the kids still had a smile on their faces. In the U.S., the ball that they were using would be considered garbage, but they didn’t care it made them happy so they played it. Some times I wonder if its bad to have life as good as we do with all that we do, because all it brings is greed and anger.

On the first day we walked down the streets and nearly every person we saw had a smile on their face. When you are in the US and you smile at some one a lot of the time you  don’t do it because you care, but when you are walking down the streets of Costa Rica and some one smiles at you, you can just tell it is genuine. I want that to be me when I walk down the street and smile at some one. I want that smile to affect their day. And last but certainly not least our Conexion friends. Specifically Jhairson, Johnny, Mario, Caleb and Jonathon. These guys specifically had the most impact on me because they were always so welcoming and willing to help. They always made and served us our breakfast and dinner no matter how early or late we needed it, they also did it with a good attitude. When we were playing soccer no matter how bad we were, they always made us feel like we were doing ok. The way all these people acted inspired me to have a better attitude and help people more with a good and joyful attitude.

“Enjoy Coca Cola” Simplicity is bliss. While in Costa Rica, my class and I learned about the simplicity of life in the Tico’s point of view. Their way of life is one full of joy; seeing the world as a pleasure, seeking the Holy Grail. They find pleasure in not the superficial things but the in-depth view of life. When we first arrived, we had lunch at a family’s house. As we ventured out of the van, I was confronted with a group of young kids playing baseball. Not only was this baseball, but the bat was a coke bottle and the ball a dog toy. Most American kids would expect a great bat and a real baseball, but not these kids. They make do with what they have and don’t complain. I truly believe simplicity is bliss and we take advantage of the things handed to us; instead we should find joy in little things.

“An Orientation of Sorts” The sun was shining brightly, and we all were feeling optimistic, nervous, and exhausted all at the same time (But mostly optimistic). The Costa Rican air held traces of the sea and the sun (and livestock) as we wandered around the ginormous marketplace. Everyone around us was speaking Spanish, however, it felt natural in a way. As we threaded through the crowd, we were feeling exhilarated and ready for anything. Eventually, we stopped at La Parque de Central, or Central Park, to eat some fruit that we had purchased earlier, and eagerly surveyed the bustling streets of San Jose. We stopped at a large market full of interesting items, and ended up spending a large percent of our day there buying souvenirs for our families. As we rolled away from the beautiful, busy city that was San Jose, we were deeply satisfied with our day, and were excited for our short stay there in the gorgeous country of Costa Rica.

“It’s the Little Things” Mission trips are often misinterpreted. The ‘normal’ Christian mentality is that we are going to go hand out bibles and convert everyone we see. But what is it really? I believe it’s the little things, like holding a child’s hand, or trying to speak with someone who doesn’t know your language, or simply making the effort to be loving. It is encouraging others and taking the initiative, not necessarily converting others. During our trip, I felt the most encouraged when I was speaking to this little girl named Camilla in Spanish about her doll she was making. We quietly sat there together as I watched her draw the people she cared most about.

“God laughs and plays” Edith, one of the older volunteers with Conexion, was an inspiration to our team.  She did not speak a word of English but the joy of the Lord and the fruits of the spirit overflowed from her.  She always had a smile, went out of her way to serve, and did the jobs no one else wanted to do.  She prepared the arts and crafts, she swept up the room after the activity, she painted by hand the places the brushes weren’t reaching, she sang, she played soccer, and she worshipped God through her actions.   I had a standing joke with her that if she spoke her Spanish ‘mas rapido’ (quicker) to me, I would better understand.  She would carry on with the joke, speak super fast so I would be clueless, and then burst into laughter.  I saw God laugh, play, and serve through his Costa Rican vessel.  Thank you God for Edith!

“Meeting Alana” It was our fourth day in Costa Rica, and we were driving down to help out at a school. We brought our art for the nations bags and laid out different activities for the kids. Micah and I were partners, and we didn’t talk as much to the kids as I intended to. Our fourth group came and it was a group of four girls. Once they sat down,  I remember thinking to myself, “Ok I am going to talk to these girls”. Well it turned out that they knew some English, and they kept asking me questions like “Where do you live”, or “How many siblings do you have”, etc. As the more I talked to them, the more I focused on this little girl. Her name was Alana, and she was the cutest little girl ever. She had brown hair, straight across bangs, big green eyes, and the most vivacious laugh. I still have the vision in my mind of her waving her little hand at me saying hello or goodbye. Alana reminded me as myself when I was little, just the way she laughs and smiles when she sees someone new. How loyal and welcoming she was just kind of reminded me of myself. The moment I knew we were friends was at the end, and we were all taking a picture, and I kneeled right next to her and she wrapped her arms around my neck and held on as tight as she could. Till this day, I can still see her smiling at me and I will never forget her.

“The Conexion team” During the whole trip to Costa Rica, we were with an amazing team called Conexion. Everyone that is on the conexion team are volunteers. Yet what made this team special was their attitudes. Some of the Ticos, couldn’t even speak the same language, yet there were the most outgoing and amazing people. For instance, Johnny was our driver and sort of our tour guide. No matter what time in the morning he would be there and he would do everything with us. The day we left, our flight left at 6:30AM, but we had to be at the airport by no later than 4:45AM. When he showed up at the compound at 3:45 he still had an amazing attitude.  Another example would be with Jonathon and Caleb. They did not speak the same language as us, yet they still became our friends and had a huge impact on all of us. They always played soccer with us and would joke around with us. None of us cared if we spoke the same language because we could use the language of the world. Never let a language barrier stop you from letting you connect with others.

“Nature through my eyes” God works in mysterious ways in nature. My first time in Costa Rica, and I saw more vegetation than I ever have before. Costa Rica’s nature is so breathtakingly beautiful that you can’t even comprehend it all.  Sure there may be garbage and stray dogs, but if you look deeper, you see Gods array of colors and beauty. A couple of people from my class and I went to walk on the beach one evening, and a stray dog started to follow us around. At first we were obdurate towards the dog and tried to get him to leave, but when we noticed that he never intended to hurt us, we let him tag along. It turns out he was full of energy and was pretty good at making sure no harm came to us. These little things make you think differently about a lot of what’s going on in others lives besides our own. When we made it to the beach that night, I couldn’t see as much as I wanted to, but the smells and sounds made me feel at peace with everything. Humans never seem to live in the moment anymore and that really can cost us later. The one thing I regret from being in Costa Rica is not taking in everything and not continually ‘living in the moment’.

“Pura Vida” The skyline gates, the dirt ground, the children in this school, and the sun shining so bright.  These kids can have their days lit up by a simple smile from my face. Their simple lives are inspiring, with such little they have, I was blessed to have the opportunity to even play soccer with these wonderful kids. A little girl named Melody and I were making beaded bracelets and I showed her how to braid the string with beads. She made my day with how every time she added a bead she would tap my shoulder to show me with her bright eyes and huge toothless grin. She inspires me everyday to be aware of how a simple smile can change a person’s attitude for the day or even the week. The second school I went to, I was making paper chains and a boy named Christian came up to my station and asked me to make him a flower. I tried my hardest to make the best flower possible. I later saw him give his paper flower to a little girl from a younger grade who was sitting alone and the smile on her tiny face was unforgettable. After that, children came up in dozens asking for flowers! It was amazing how a mere paper flower can make these kids, with near to nothing, smile. These experiences make me think how good I have my life as far as shelter, clothes, water, food, and family. God can do great things.

Thank you to Conexion, Impact, Sascha, our parents, and our school for supporting us and allowing us to do this unforgettable trip!  This opportunity gave us a great dose of “Pura Vida” that we will not soon forget.

Mr. Fink and the Great 8!!

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