Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pura Vida: "Pure Life" in Costa Rica

Part 2

(Scroll down to read Part 1)

I should probably be working on this weekend's sermon instead of writing a blog (Yes, I am preaching this weekend. Those of you in the Lansdale area who are interested should join me at church this weekend. Click here for our worship times). But, here I am, thinking again about Costa Rica and what I can possibly say to make this experience as real for you as it was for me.

Before you continue reading, I think this blog may need a DISCLAIMER: I really struggled with whether or not I should publish some of the doubts and frustrations I had during my time in Costa Rica. I was torn between trying to be positive for the sake of the youth and my other travelling companions, and being honest about my experience. Let me be clear: my experience with the people of Costa Rica was outstanding. I am so glad that I got to be a part of their lives--they have touched mine forever. My experience with the staff of Pura Vida Missions upset me greatly, however. I struggle with trying to adequately explain those frustrations and disappointments without upsetting anyone who might have had a different experience. Some of my journal entries have been edited in an attempt to be honest without being offensive.

I figure this is my blog, and I want people to know that I am real. I am real Christian person with hopes and dreams and frustrations and challenges just like everybody else.

Here are some excerpts from my journal:

Sunday, August 5, 2007

It was interesting driving through the Costa Rican countryside and watching the reactions of our youth and young adults. Many of them have never been outside the U.S., or if they have, it was to Canada or Europe or some other place more... what? Modern? Easy? Comfortable? I looked over the shoulder of one of our girls as she was writing in her journal... "This place is so beautiful...."

Some things about Costa Rica seem so familiar to me, even though I've never been here before. Banana trees. Afternoon rainy-season thunderstorms. Cold showers.

I also recognize a few big differences. I never wanted to come here. I mean, I wanted to come here--it's not like they duct-taped me to my airplane seat and made me come. But even as I travelled to Africa for the first time, I knew somehow that it was where I belonged. I was waiting to be proven wrong. I wondered as we rode the bus to the Dulles Airport to fly to Amsterdam and then to Tanzania how I could possibly know. But, I did. And, I was right. I was never proven wrong.

Yesterday evening, however, as we drove to New York City and JFK Airport, I was waiting for something else. That feeling--that mysterious, magical sure-ness was missing. Instead, I was waiting to be shown that this place could be loved, too.

Now that I am here, I am sure that it can be loved. But it will never have the hold on me that Africa does. Costa Rica is the closest I have come to an environment and a culture anywhere similar to Africa's in four LONG years, and I know already this experience will not be the same. Africa has this enchanted hold on me like nothing else, nowhere else, ever can.

It is starting to rain. I am looking forward to meeting the children tomorrow.

Monday, August 6, 2007

It's a beautiful tropical morning. I had fresh local pineapple and bananas for breakfast. The sun is starting to peek through the remnants of last night's rain storms.

I had an interesting conversation with ____ last night about our hopes and fears for the youth on this trip. My personal beliefs about the mission of the church and what it means to be a "missionary" have already been challenged in the 24 hours we have been here. I think the staff at Pura Vida expects us to live out a different mission theology than the one I believe to be right and good. What I can say is that I am not here to "save the souls" of the children we will meet. God will take care of that. I am here to show the love of Christ to them through service to and relationship with them. We are not here to proselytise. We are not here to give "testimonies." We are here to serve, and through our service show the love of Christ to these children.

Pressure has also already been put on our youth to have some sort of "salvific" experience while they are here--that God will "transform their lives." That may happen for many of them. But, it also may not. Even those with the most open hearts may not feel God move or hear God speak or even witness God working. Sometimes our ways are not God's ways. We can't force a transformation in the children we are here to serve, and we can't force it on ourselves. We can't assume we know when or where it will happen.

My earnest prayer for all of us this week--the children we are serving, and our own youth, young adults, and adults--is that God does what God needs and wants to do in each of our lives, whatever that may be. God is here--for some reason I always see that more clearly when I am somewhere else. God will work. In God's way, in God's time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It is a beautiful Costa Rican morning. The sky is brilliantly blue, the sun is shining, and there are a few white, puffy, cottony clouds drifting by.

Yesterday after our service to the children we went into San Ramon to do some shopping, etc. I am surprised at the size of the town, the number of cars on the roads, the quality of the roads, and other things. There are public trash cans and people work hard to keep their town clean. There are functioning public telephones. There is electricity and clean water. There is free public education. This seems, in many ways, to be a nice place to live and to be from.

The children we are working with are awesome. They are eager to play and to love you and to be loved. They show God's love and light to us--even though that's what we are here to show them! They are full of joy and love and light. I know that these children are going to have a lasting effect on our youth.

The staff at Pura Vida has talked a lot since our arrival about "personal testimonies." This speaks again to the difficulties I am having in dealing with the mission theology of Pura Vida Missions. I want our youth to understand that the love and service that they are showing these Costa Rican children witnesses to the love of Christ for them more than any "personal testimony" ever could. Their service is a testimony.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right about God. He will work in mysterious ways and He will impact those who which need impacting, Costa Ricans and Americans alike. But I don't believe the staff was wrong in their push for sharing testimonies and for wanting to reach the missionaries and CR kids.

Christ calls us to live out our lives, but He also calls us to speak of His glory and mercy and love. They go hand in hand. The children of Costa Rica may never hear the word of God and if missionaries come and do a good service for them, that is all it will be, a good service. The staff wanted the kids to know why they love them, why they serve them. Because Christ first loved us and served us.

When it comes to salvation, we as Christians are saved by the blood of Christ. This is our salvation! The staff was excited to share that and that was their motive to their "salvation" theology. It's biblical.

Sorry your experience was bad with the staff. They sacrifice a whole summer physically and financially to serve the short term missionaries and minister to them as they minister to the community. I hope God moved through you on the trip and revealed more to you than the "faults" of the staff

Anonymous said...

I just read your comments and agree with a lot of what you wrote. As an MK who is serving back in her village once again, I too resist the programs and steril structure of many missions. I prefer to let God decide how and what He'll do and fit into His plan.