It takes a while to adequately process all the ways that God works. Sometimes we do not even realize or recognize what He is doing until we look at it in hindsight. I am still in “processing” mode after my journey to Costa Rica, but as I continue to reflect and remember the events of this trip, there are a few specific words that stand out to summarize what God did.
The first word may seem a bit unusual, but let me explain. When I think about the trip, I think about the high regard that each team member had for one another. Our team had nine 8th grade students and four adult leaders. One of our prayer requests that kept coming up as we were training and preparing for our trip was that God would unify our hearts and that everyone would be team players and everyone would have a part to play. The Lord most certainly answered our prayers. I told the team over and over again how proud I was of their camaraderie and work ethic, and how they truly developed a strong sense of community. The team just loved spending time together, including praying together, having late night talk sessions, and just doing all kinds of fun and random things. I thank God for the high regard that each team member had for one another. This made the entire trip a joy-filled experience!
In addition to regard, another word to summarize the trip would be resilience. This word stands out because of the number of obstacles that the team faced along the way. Throughout the course of the week, we had several who became ill for various reasons, one of whom had a fever and had to stay in bed for a day. Additionally, a trailer tipped and those riding in it fell out. One of those in the trailer had a more serious injury to his arm, requiring a hospital visit and x-rays to discover if it was fractured. Praise the Lord, it was not; and praise the Lord there were no serious injuries! We had a couple others who were sunburnt pretty badly, and some with other minor injuries. But through it all, the team did not let any of these things get them down. There was a point when I could see the weariness and disappointment in their faces, but that did not stick around long. There was a moment when everything shifted, and a new resolve came over everyone and they said, “No! We are not going to let this get us down or distract us from why we’re here!” Ultimately, the Lord used these setbacks to further unify the team and to show us how to find joy and persevere through every circumstance.
Finally, one overarching theme continues to surface from this trip. The Lord used the trip in each of our hearts as a time of restoration. It would be easy to think that when you’re on an outreach trip, you are the one pouring out and laying everything on the line to serve the people in that location; but that is only partially true. I find that on these trips, we are just as much on the receiving end as the giving end of things. Throughout this trip, God used this special place called Hogar de Vida to inspire us, renew us, and fill our hearts with a greater capacity for love than we had before. They call it a “thin space,” where heaven and earth meet in such a simple yet surreal way. And it is in this place that the Lord can begin to reveal His heart to us and restore our hearts from whatever burdens and baggage we may be carrying. Whether it was through our early morning quiet time; through the beauty of God’s creation all around us; through the compassion and patience modeled by the Hogar de Vida staff; through the inspirational messages given at devotions and testimony time; through the untiring work ethic modeled by our work project leaders; or through the pure, innocent joy on the faces of the children at Hogar de Vida, in spite of incomprehensible life circumstances many of them have faced; God used each of these things and more to restore our own hearts, communicate His love to us, and help us realize how truly blessed we are. God gave us a new perspective during this trip, and it is one that will forever impact the way we think, interact, and live our lives.
Admittedly, the transition back to life here in the States has been a bit difficult for me as I have had to readjust to being met with various needs, different challenges, and the overall busyness of life upon my return. Yet, as the message was shared from so many during our time in Costa Rica, I have to remember that you do not have to go out of the country to have an encounter with God. He will meet you right where you’re at, even in the middle of your life circumstances. But you need to look for Him. The Scripture says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). So my question for you is this: Are you looking? Are you seeking after Him with all your heart? God doesn’t hide from us to make things hard on us. He “hides” to be found—which means He really isn’t hiding at all. It’s like a father playing hide-and-seek with His children: he wants them to find him and win the game! It brings great joy to his heart! If there’s anything this trip has taught me, it is that we must join in and seek after God with all our hearts. He is in Costa Rica. He is in America. He is all around the world. And He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27). Look for His lessons each and every day, and discover the joys of what He will teach you. This is what God taught me through my time in Costa Rica, but I have a feeling He is not done teaching me yet. It is a lifelong journey with the best Teacher in the world.