“The God of Miracles”: Reflections on My Time in Costa Rica

This May, I was able to spend 10 days in Costa Rica with a nursing student team from my college to partner with CFCI and run health clinics around the communities of San Jose. Check out my reflections below:

Our God is the God of life-renewing miracles. Recently, I have struggled with this idea, and over the past few months I have stood in the face of some of the toughest questions about my faith. In Costa Rica, these doubts were shattered as I was reminded of the power of our ever faithful God.

I saw Him in our answered prayers. During our orientation night, one of the CFCI leaders (Christ for the City International, the ministry we partnered with) told

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And so, I prayed. And the next day I talked to a man who was helping at our first clinic. He told me about his testimony – that his family had fallen apart because of his past decisions. He lived as a criminal, addicted to drugs, and had almost died on more than one occasion. He always knew about God. But when he decided to enter into the presence of Jesus, his life was completely changed. I prayed for him, and he prayed for me, and he humbly declared that it was purely God’s “milagros” that have saved him. He translated this phrase for me on my phone.

God’s miracle — a changed life.

I saw God in the hearts of the people that we served. Some live in inexplicable circumstances. Yet, they had hope. Some cried as we offered them the simple care of a listening ear and prayer, and many left our clinics with radiating joy.

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My Wonderful Host Family

God is moving in the communities we visited.

 

I saw God in my own team members, leaders, and host family. Each day, we worked together, and we served together cohesively. I saw the joy in their hearts. I saw their passion for each person they intentionally took the time to love on. And I was ignited by their burning hearts for Christ.

Perhaps most profoundly, I saw God in His restoration and peace. I witnessed how He is completely restoring lives and communities in Costa Rica. But I also witnessed His restoration in me. While filled with many incredible experiences, my previous trip out of the country was wrought with internal disaster. For the past year, I have struggled to reconcile what happened on that trip. I’ve had to learn how to accept the fact that God loves me, and I’ve had to learn how to love myself.

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On this trip, every single day was filled with supernatural peace. I felt God life this burden of shame off me. He renews. He restores. He is always faithful. We won’t experience His glory fully until this broken world is made new. But for now, I rest in His life-changing power.

And so, here I am. There is a lot I don’t know about what my future holds. But one thing I am sure of is that it is hard being content living in one place while my heart lives in the lives of people and countries far beyond my own’s border. What can I say except that I feel unbelievably grateful?

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I am grateful to have gotten the opportunity to know the hearts of so many different people from all over the world. I love them. And I know I will return to them some day. For this, I cannot wait. But there are so many I love in the home in which I grew up. There are many to love here whom I have yet to meet. God is moving here. And we need Him.

God, let us love well, wherever we are at.

“Yo soy la luz del mundo. El que me sigue no andará en tinieblas, sino que tendrá la luz de la vida.” – Juan 8:12

How do You Learn? On Education and Cross-Cultural Experiences

I have always valued education. Having grown up in a somewhat un-stereotypical setting of being homeschooled, I have always appreciated unfamiliar educational practices. My time in other countries has shown me that education need not take place solely in a classroom. I have found that I learn best when experiencing my surroundings.

I learn when I sit in a bus seat and reflectively and steadfastly watch the unfamiliar landscape pass by.

I learn when I sit in a car with a person who only speaks an unfamiliar language and I am forced to speak that tongue, no matter how difficult.

I learn when I fall asleep on the ground of a hut in a poverty stricken village.

I learn when I step inside a bomb shelter on an elementary school playground, overlaid  with cute paintings to overshadow the bleakness of the actual situation.

I learn when my tongue comes into contact with 20 different types of Brazilian fruit, and my nose smells the incense over the altar where Jesus was crucified, and when my ears hear a hundred Mexican children laughing amidst the dirt and filth of their situation.

Finally, I have learned that my heart does not belong to any one place. It belongs to a thousand different places. Some of these places I have deposited its piece, and countless others are still waiting for their piece to arrive. I am waiting to learn – not necessarily from professors or courses, but from people and stories. So what have my travels taught me about education? It has opened my eyes to a lifelong of learning from people who are not my own. And I cannot wait.

About Brazil…Some Reflections from a Life Changing Trip and the Power of Being Open

Reflecting can be hard to do. At least for me, as a person who (occasionally) spends a little too much time musing about past life lessons, processing life events presents itself as a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, today, a brief 24 hours after returning to my home country after my three week stay in Brazil, I decided to tackle the challenge.

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Most of my Wonderful Host Family

First things first: Brazil was incredible. I can’t even begin to describe how loved I felt staying with my incredible host family which consisted of my host mother, father, two teenage daughters, a sweetheart of a grandma, and other family members such as my host-great aunt who spent at least part of her time with us. The very fact that I was able to make lasting connections with a family I only knew for two weeks speaks volumes about the nature of these wonderful people.

I also had the honor of participating in several Brazilian activities which helped me at least scratch the surface in beginning to understand their fascinating culture. I was able to converse in Portuguese – at times by myself – with several people for lengths up to 30 minutes at a time (thank you João for the transformational car rides in which you were so patient with us!). I was able to learn how to make some Brazilian food, learn a little Samba, visit old friends, practice my martial arts skills (Mr. Lepkowski, you’d be proud!), see an autopsy at USP, shadow in a hospital, ride in a speedboat under waterfalls, and so much more.

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Practicing Capoeira – A Brazilian Martial Art

However, aside from these things, I also had a bit of a rough time working through some emotional challenges that I didn’t know I was ready to handle. (Get ready for the part of the blog I am slightly uncomfortable to write).

You see, I recently learned I have a bit of a chemical imbalance in my brain. Due to this imbalance, I sometimes feel abnormally anxious and depressed for no pinpointable reason (sure, that’s a word). It often manifests itself in unpleasant physically damaging ways that I am not proud of. On this trip, I had to face this challenge head on.

I suppose many factors contributed to the fact that I had several embarrassing mental breakdowns in several different locations on this trip. But, as one of our leaders, Julie Rushik, so kindly and patiently reminded me, I don’t have to understand my emotions or know for sure where they come from. I experienced the power of being open about these uncertain emotions. Julie encouraged me to share this challenge with the group at the end of the trip, and the moment I did, I felt a burden lift off of me. This is why I decided it would be therapeutic to share with you all through the form of this blog.

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Luciano and Nanda – I was also able to reconnect with Karen!

So, in the end, I realize there is much I need to work through. I know I could feel guilty or embarrassed about what happened, but I am choosing to be thankful. I am thankful because I now have the opportunity to spend time getting to know myself better. I’m thankful because I now feel free to be more open about this with God (as if He didn’t already know), friends, and family. And I desperately hope that it helps me to help others someday.

For all the leaders, both from Roberts and Brazil, who were involved in making this trip happen, thank you so much. So much.

It was life changing in ways I never could have predicted.