Monday, March 9, 2015

What Changed My Life

During the course of our lives, many, if not most people will experience that one defining moment or experience that will change them completely. This moment could be almost anything, but for a lot of people, the effect is the same. A realization, a complete turn around; something that leaves you with a new and more certain sense of who you are and what you were designed to do. I recently had one of these experiences; a missions trip to Costa Rica.

Its been a few weeks since I've gotten back, and ever since I have, my mom has been telling me that I need to write a blog post about it; either on my blog, or on hers (a little shameless advertising here, her blog is, and you should totally check it out 'cause its pretty awesome). So here it is; this is how my life changed.

First off, I want to talk about the amazing leadership and teachings we had. All of the leaders were wonderful; all of them were so supportive, knowledgeable, wise, inspiring, motivational, loving, and just all around amazing people. They, individually and as a whole, taught us all so much in those short 10 days. The main theme that was kept constant during the course of the trip was leadership; how to be an effective leader, what is keeping us from becoming the leader we are meant to be, and (the most dreaded by almost all) public speaking. I think the part of the teachings, and the trip that hit pretty hard was when we talked about the lies we believe about ourselves that are keeping us from reaching our full potential as a leader, and worst of all, keeping us from God. We didn't just write them down, no, we talked to each other about them, we recognized them as lies, and rebuked them. They left us. It really made an impact on me, and I'm probably going to do a whole other blog post on it at some other time in order to do the whole idea and experience justice.
Listening to an amazing teaching 

      We did a lot of activities while we were in Costa Rica. We toured an organic cacao plantation, where the owner's goal is to run his business as he thinks God wants him to, we painted a fence for a little school building, and yes, we did go to the beach.These experiences did highly contribute to my experience as a whole, and I would be more than happy to elaborate on anything if anyone has any questions. Those times gave me the opportunity to take everything in, think about what was happening around me, and get to know and grow closer to a wonderful group of people, each of whom I love very much. However, as life changing as that may have been, the real moments that changed my life were still yet to come.
Touring the cacao farm

learning how to make chocolate :)

At the beach with some wonderful  people :)

     My first moment was when we went to the Indigenous village. As we stepped off the tractor and said hello to Pablo the monkey (yes, you read that right), I knew I was in for something, I just wasn't sure what. After leading praise, worship, and dancing for a seemingly unresponsive crowd, we began to pass out food bags and bibles to the villages inhabitants. Then came the fun part; passing out toys and school supplies to the village's children. This experience alone probably could have been enough to change my life, all by itself. The looks of pure joy on the children's faces when you hand them a tooth brush, or a pencil are enough to break my heart. But I loved it. And then I saw an older lady sitting on a bench, hunched over and reading intently one of the copies of the Spanish bibles we brought for them. At that moment, my heart was crying. Crying from joy and from sorrow, from the fact that these people had so little, but realizing that this only meant that we had so much more we could give them, including God's word and loving-kindness. But that was just the beginning.
The tractor we took up to the village

Pablo the monkey, climbing on my friend Noah

A little boy from the village who.... really liked those pens :)

Passing out food bags

TThe food bags and Bibles all lined up

Worship team :)

Children from the village watching us dance

My next moment came on my birthday. We had gone to Bri Bri to an elderly peoples home. I later learned that most of the ladies and gentlemen who live there are there because they were abandoned by their families. After we sang and danced for and with them (some of them loved the music and dance so much they wanted to join in!), we handed out coffee, cake, and simple little presents. There were many of the same reactions that I had seen before, but something else really struck me. While I was there, I met a wonderful lady named Clara. Clara had been staying there for a number of years, and was able to speak some English. The thing that really stood out to me is that even when we couldn't understand each other because of the language barrier, she still really wanted to talk to me. All off the people there did; even though hardly anyone in our group (with the exception of a few awesome people) spoke Spanish, Clara and all the rest of the people there would still try in earnest to communicate with us. They wanted and needed our attention. I saw that we could give these people so much more than just material possessions; we could give them attention, time, a sense of devotion, and the love that they craved and so desperately wanted. And better yet, we could let the light and the love of God reflect through us, so that these lovely people could better see it for themselves.
Me and my friend Rachel talking to Clara
Painting Clara's nails :)

Worship team in Bri Bri

Dancing for the nursing home :)

My third and last moment, as well as probably my favorite day of the trip was at the orphanage. I was told that this orphanage is well funded; there was enough room for everyone, they had enough food and clothing to go around, and their living conditions were pretty decent. When we got there, we took a tour of some of the houses that the kids lived in, and then we had a while to play with them (or if you are me, hold an adorable baby) before we passed out cake and ice cream and started praise and worship. After we got done playing music for them, we danced with and for them, which they really enjoyed, and I had the opportunity to dance with an adorable little girl who later came to hug me goodbye. Then came the passing out of gifts and school supplies. It was the same scene as before; children crowding around, squealing out of joy and excitement from receiving some pencils, a note pad, and a small thing of bubbles. It wasn't this that got me though. What really got me was how these kids and teenagers had created such a sense of togetherness and family even though they had none. Even though many of them still had a desperate need for outside attention and affection, it was amazing to see how they made the most of their situation and learned and grew to love each other like one massive family. It really opened my eyes to how grateful I should be. I have a family who loves me, a roof over my head, plenty of food, more of everything else than I could ever possibly need, and God, who loved me enough before I was even born to send His son to die for me; I have no right to complain about anything  at all.
Dancing for the kids at the Orphanage

Lining up to play a game :)

Some cuties from the orphanage :)

These experiences clearly have changed me. I no longer care about the selfish desires or plans I had made for myself before I went on this life changing adventure. I don't know how much of an effect I had on anyone I came into contact with while I was there, but even if I only truly touched one person's life, every bit of it was worth it. I've decided to no longer rely on myself anything, really, because after coming back I've realized that the only thing that truly matters is my reliance on God. I so truly believe this and have been effected so much by this experience that I have decided (and hope I will be able) to go to missionary training camp next year through one of the trips leaders ministries (Crucified Life Ministries, if you were interested). I cant tell you in words how truly happy I am that I took the leap and jetted off to a foreign country by myself, or how much God has shown me in doing it, but I hope to have given you at least a taste of the experience that changed my life.
"Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works amoung all peoples!" 
Psalm 96:3
"We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault in our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We paitently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind."
2 Corinthinans 6:3-4
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah 6:8

"Failed" jumping picture at the beach with some awesome people
Photo creds for this post go to basically everyone except me. Yupp. I was lazy.