Roble Alto: El Manantial
By: Anthony Tardella
Today was our first day serving the people of Costa Rica. I can already tell that God is doing and will continue to do tremendous things in our lives and the lives of others throughout this week. My team,which consisted of 14 people, went to El Manantial, a Roble Alto center. The minute we walked in, the joy of the kids was evident. We split up into 2 groups; one went to help out in the classrooms while the other group finished painting one room and started to prep another room that will be painted tomorrow. I was a part of the group that went to help out in the classrooms. Within minutes of walking into the room the kids were swarming and screaming “visitas,” which translates to visitors. We did lots of different things that consisted of painting, playing tag out in the courtyard, and simply helping the teachers manage their kids. Going into this we thought that the language barrier would affect the way we interacted with the kids, but we were wrong. The kids didn’t care who we were or the fact that we spoke another language. They just loved our affection towards them. My overall favorite thing from today was seeing how happy every single kid was despite the struggles they go through at home. It really changed my perspective on all of the “first world problems” we face at home. We are truly blessed beyond words. I think it’s safe to say that everybody is excited for the rest of the week at el Quince de Setiembre, el Manantial, the Hope Center, and Finca San Juan Public School.
Roble Alto: 15 Setiembre
By: Celine Apollon
It’s beautiful here in Costa, and today not only was I able to capture that in the landscape but also in the hearts of many at 15 Setiembre. As my team and I drove to the main center for Roble Alto, emotions were flowing for our first real day of service. Some of excitement, some of jubilance, but there was also a little bit of fear of what to expect. Quickly though clarification came when we were given an eye-opening presentation at the main Roble Alto center by Pamela, the primary coordinator for the organization. She explained that the families in the lobby were waiting to see if their children could be a student in Roble Alto– and perhaps be changed by God’s everlasting love. Pamela also spoke of the impoverished and brutal living conditions of which each of these kids endure, bringing tears to our eyes. We were all ready at that point to give it our all in serving these kids. When my team and I finally arrived at 15 Setiembre, our hearts dropped as the children in the yellow halls tried to dash towards us. That was the moment when I knew that this was going to be a day that God would truly touch my heart and impact me. After further instructions, we split up into two groups: maintenance and workshops. I’m not gonna lie, maintenance was not my first choice, but it turned out to be the highlight of my day. First we were given the task of sanding the walls, which was not easy! Despite the straining pain on our arms, the white dust completely coving us, and my personal dust accumulation over my eye we were able to definitely shape the place up. And boy did the kids shape us up! From the miniature World Cup tournament to the endless jump rope attempt, we were getting a full on cross fit workout. Even though we knew little of what they were saying, just a simple exchange of a smile was enough to realize how much they really loved us and we loved them. The funniest part was that they wanted to serve us. I had my own experience with this when a girl named Juliana gave me her necklace as a gift and even cleaned my glasses out of generosity without even knowing a clue of what I was saying. It’s that exact generosity that is often lacking in the United States- to do something out of the goodness of you heart. Clearly the kids are inspiring us. After rinsing down the walls and lunch, it was finally time to get the paint brushes out. Quickly though, with the unsettling fumes increasing and the rain falling, we agreed it was time to call it a day– well with work at least! The kids had us back on our feet with more soccer and more love! Hugs and kisses came to us nonstop as our bus arrived, which only made us more sad to leave them, yet it is comforting to know that God is still with them in each of their hearts. After this day of serving I know that God is going to shine His bright light through everyone this week, even when it’s raining.
Finca San Juan
By: Emily Crabtree
All I can say is wow. I knew it would be awesome but it was incredible. Today I had the absolute privilege of spending time with the kids at Finca San Juan. We started out the day by meeting the principal and some of the teachers at the school and then going to our first class. We didn’t know exactly what to expect but from the moment I entered the building to the moment I left the only way to describe how I felt is pure joy. In our group we had two teams. One team worked on a gigantic mural with an amazing local artist while the rest of us spent the day with the kids. And in the first class we went to we got to meet some pretty awesome kids. The patience level they have for our attempts at speaking Spanish is impressive I must say. I don’t think I could count the amount of times we asked them to repeat what they said or the amount of times they patiently waited for us to piece together something to say to them. We did some activities throughout the day with the kids from coloring and making puppets to bracelets and jump rope to basketball and soccer. And I’m certain we were having just as much fun as the kids were. By the end of the day we were a mess of hot, sweaty, tired, but happy people. But quite possibly my personal favorite part of the day was just talking with the kids. Breaking language barriers and being able to communicate with them just brought me so much joy. And to remember them I would have them write their name down on my arms. Needless to say it was a huge hit and I left with names in very color of washable marker all over me. And of course hearts and stars too. To wrap it up, today exceeded anything I could have imagined and I can’t begin to describe how blessed I feel just to be here and to be surrounded by such incredible people. And the best part of it all… It’s only the beginning!!!!!!! ¡Pura Vida!
The Hope Center
By: Lauren Pearson
The day started with a bang as my iPhone blared “Wake” by Hillsong United and buzzed everyone in room 1102 awake. Filled with eagerness and a hefty serving of exhaustion, we threw on clothes for the excitement that was our very first service day. After all, this was the reason we came here…to change the world through the hearts of others in the name of Jesus Christ. After reading a Jesus Calling devotion to get ourselves in the zone, we headed out to breakfast. I can tell you this- the lure of more Costa Rican coffee was definitely a motivation as we ran up the endless flights up stairs to get there. The view of the mountains is always worth it though- and so were the potatoes. During breakfast, we were treated to a devotion by one of the students- Lauren Reamer. She did amazing. We walked out inspired and ready to go. For me personally, I went to The Hope Center. We left at 8:20AM with hope already in our hearts- not just for the children to get something out of it, but that by these small acts of kindness we may further spread the love of Jesus Christ. My team of 15 was so awesome. I remember when we pulled up to the Hope Center, I wasn’t expecting to see such a protective barrier. A giant wall with barbed wire at the top met my eyes immediately. We entered though a gate. In fact, as we were driving there through the heart breaking depressed areas, most houses had bars over them for safety. As an American, we tend to take simply walking our dogs or picking up the mail from the driveway for granted. It’s not like that here. Life is at risk. Peering down the streets, I tried to imagine myself as a scared and lonely child roaming them…it’s unsettling. It made me feel an even greater sensation of anxiousness as we arrived. I wanted to see these children and figure out what I could do to make their lives, if but for a minute or two, a little bit brighter- using the light The Holy Spirit gives. Once safely in the gates, we had a tour through the center. It’s small compared to the other centers. There’s a cafeteria, a temple, and a little outdoor area where lots of soccer and football were to be played later. We split off into teams- one was to work on the wall outside and the other was to paint tiles for the temple. I was to paint tiles first, which I actually really enjoyed. We have about 500 to do and we finished about 100 or more today. Squinting in the sunlight with my paintbrush, I remember watching those who were working on the outer wall. I give some serious props to them because they were working so hard to clean that wall. Eventually they painted it green- making the place look even more “hopeful” on the outside. Meanwhile, once my group got the tiles painted, the real struggle was putting them back up into the ceiling. I was the “tile go-getter” who sought the most suitable tile (actually because of the way the ceiling was, the sizes actually were really different in many spots- by the end I felt like quite the expert in terms of which tile fit where) to give to the brave boy on the shaky latter. Soon, kids started to arrive. Let the Spanish speaking begin. Throughout the day, I believe that we all as a group became much more comfortable with communicating with the kids. I love how the kids were so open in trying to understand our Spanglish, especially at the beginning. Their smiles made me smile. The ones that weren’t made my heart sink. But that’s why we are here- to give them the tender love and care they so desperately need. While we interacted with the kids (duck duck goose in Spanish was fun!) and continued to put up tiles, the other group worked hard in the kitchen with the incredible women who make amazing food for these 200 kids every single day. Their dedication and work ethic is so inspiring. Hoping to give them some relief, the group helped serve the food to the hoards of kids that began pouring in around lunch time. There were children all the way from babies to 9 and 10 year olds. Seeing their faces gave us so much joy and excitement- along with some nerves. It was pretty chaotic with that many swarming the place. After the rush subsided, it was our time to eat lunch. As if they already hadn’t done enough, the ladies served US one of the best lunches I’ve ever had in my life. We feasted on delicious home made chicken enchiladas and rice accompanied by fresh salad and plantains. Some juicy watermelon followed. After lunch, we continued in our work and started to prepare the workshops for the afternoon when the kids got out of school. My workshop was coloring pictures and another one was painting. But despite the chaos of the arts and crafts areas, the epicenter of insanity was definitely outside where the children played sports with the boys. And they did not play easy. I could hear the chorus of shouts, laughter, and pounding feet clearly from inside the cafeteria where we colored. But the best part of the whole experience for me was coloring with a little girl named Abigail. She was an excellent artist in terms of staying in the lines and she and I colored pictures together. I would always ask “¿Que color?” (What color) and point to different sections. She was very particular about them. It was with her that I really started to get the hang of speaking Spanish naturally. I talked to so many children in such a short time span that by the end, Spanish was first in my head in conversation, not English. I had to adjust in the hotel. However, in regards to Abigail again, I met her mother. Her mother worked in the kitchen. I loved talking to her. Seeing the look in her eyes as she watched us color and show her the finished product gave her great joy. Her happiness was contagious and I felt like maybe I was doing the thing she so wanted to do with get daughter but didn’t have time. Speaking in Spanish to her mother was heart warming. We talked about siblings and her other children and how her other daughter’s Quinceanera was all pink and so was my sweet sixteen. She showed me pictures and I don’t know why, but I treasured that moment so much. It was like the language didn’t matter. I love how God has the power to break down any barrier- especially language ones. I am looking forward to seeing how God uses us to break down even more barriers this week. The Holy Spirit is very much at work within us all. Costa Rica has a lot more in store and we are all hungry for more.