(Scroll down to read parts 1-3)
This is my last blog about my trip to Costa Rica with the synod at the beginning of August. I have been thinking a lot about Costa Rica the last few days. When I came home I went right back to work and really didn't get much time to process the trip. Now that it is the holiday weekend and I have had some time to myself away from the busy-ness of work, some things are clearer to me than they were immediately following my return.
First of all, I should make it clear that I had a really good time. I definitely had issues with the mission theology and teaching methods of Pura Vida Missions, but that doesn't take away from the fact that we were there to love and serve Costa Rican children, and we did that successfully and with great passion. In many ways the theology of Pura Vida Missions doesn't even matter, because those children (and our youth) had a great time and learned a lot about God's love for them through our service. The Holy Spirit was there, and she was working! A wise missionary once said to me, "The Holy Spirit doesn't work because of us, the Holy Spirit works in spite of us." Even though I heartily disagree with the theology of evangelism that Pura Vida practices, that doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit was absent. God can do great things, even in the midst of us sometimes doing not-so-great things.
Secondly, I feel really blessed to have been able to be a part of the lives of such wonderful, interesting youth. The young people who went on this journey with me are all intelligent, interesting people with futures full of hope. Some of them really touched my life, and that makes me feel very blessed. It was neat to see these young people blossom as they discovered a culture different from their own. Some of them really came out of their shells--they were discovering new things about themselves, too! Others revealed that there are things in their lives that they are really struggling with right now. Throwing people who don't know each other together like that in a different cultural environment can lead to wonderful realizations about ourselves and each other.
In particular, today I am thinking a lot about Jenn, Holly, and Candice. Each of them had their own very personal experiences, struggles, and revelations on this trip, and each of them taught me something about myself. There are others, too, who I have not named. I hope that they all continue to grow into the fabulous, enlightened young adults they are becoming.
Probably the last thing that I need to say is something that I learned about myself toward the end of our time together in Costa Rica. I have always said during my travels around the world that I will always try anything once (except for fried termites--a girl has to draw the line somewhere!). Well, towards the end of our time in Costa Rica, that mantra was severely tested. On our last full day in Costa Rica we went out into the jungle to participate in a canopy safari (You can visit Canopy Safari's website here). For those of you who don't know what a canopy safari is, let me explain it to you. You are attached to a harness, and you literally hang in this harness from a carabiner that is attached to a cable suspended between trees, high up in the air (otherwise known as a zip-line). But, you are not just attached to the cable--you actually move through the air between the trees by "zipping" along this zip-line. It is cool in the fact that you get to see the canopy from within the canopy. It is NOT cool in the fact that you are flying through mid-air 150 feet up (or some such crazy height) with nothing holding you up except this cable, harness, and carabiner. Like this:
I have to tell you, I was scared to death to do this! We were all told that we didn't have to do it, but that the entire group would be participating and that we would regret it and disappoint everyone else if we didn't do it. As a leader on this trip, I really felt like I had to. I was one of the people setting an example for the rest of the group. But, I really didn't want to, and I was scared! It even made me cry. However, one of the young people in my group, Holly, really encouraged me and I was able to overcome my fear and participate in this experience (but not without some swearing on my part). After having processed the day, I would probably even say that I had fun (something I was not willing to say immediately after the tour was over and I took off my harness and kissed the earth). I might even be willing to do it again someday. That is definitely growth for me.
My overall experience that day was awesome--I learned that I could do something I really thought I couldn't. I swear I thought I might die, but I came out OK in the end. It wasn't that bad and was actually kind of fun. And Holly really ministered to me and gave me the courage to do it. I wonder if she knows how important and powerful that was?
I also owe a lot to Big Al:
He seemed like a rough guy (he was telling jokes about some guy's "woody" on the way to the safari site) but really helped me be brave and didn't mess around because he knew I was scared. All in all, the staff at Canopy Safari was awesome. They took good care of us, and made sure we had a safe, positive, and fun experience.
The Canopy Safari was a good cap to an awesome week. I am proud of our youth for being such awesome young people--they did great work with the Costa Rican children, and ministered to me and to each other, too. I can only hope that I made a similar impression on them. During our time in Costa Rica, we all discovered more fully what it is like to live in God's Promise, as Children of God.