Recently a friend encouraged me to “blog” about my trip to Costa Rica. I have to admit the word “blog” intimidated me (I know it just means to write) but it sounds so technical and honestly, technology greatly intimidates me. Nonetheless, I decided to step up to the challenge so here goes.
As a Pre-K teacher, I spend most of my days wiping noses, tying shoes, and singing songs like “Shake Your Sillies Out” and “The A says Ahhhh.” So when I was offered a chance to go to Costa Rica, I was sort of excited for the getaway. The first thing I noticed about Costa Rica was the twisting, winding roads as we drove from the airport to the mission house. My ears even popped a couple of times with the changing elevation. As we walked into the mission house, we spotted a fruit bat which I thought was pretty cool! As we entered the house, Rebecca Rusnak (program assistant at Strong Missions) greeted us with a warm smile and glasses of citrus tea. She warned us to get some sleep because the next day would be a full one.
We awoke the next morning to eggs, sausage and tostones (fried plantains, yum!) After each meal, we took turns doing the dishes. We were driven around town by a sweet man named, Carlos, who also doubled as a magician. Charlie Strong (the founder of Strong Missions) met us at our first location, Carpio, which is the largest slum in Costa Rica. Out of respect, Charlie does not like the word “slum” so he uses the word “precario” instead to describe an area of poor living conditions. Carpio’s population consists mostly of individuals from Nigeria, Dominican Republic and Colombia. Currently they feed 45 kids here every Sunday for a cost of $60 a week. Their goal is to add another meal on Wednesday nights and work towards feeding 100 children, five times a week (once a day and then hopefully twice a day.) I did forget to mention that the total population here at Carpio is 40,000. Aside from feeding, Strong Missions next goal is education. The children in Costa Rica go to school on a rotating basis, so most children only go to school about 3 hours a day and do not get fed at school. This gave me a real appreciation for what our country does for our economically disadvantaged students. Strong Missions would like to start GED programs in Carpio along with tutoring programs and scholarships.
Our next stop was to Guido, another precario, also with many needs. They currently feed 50 children here, 4 days a week. Strong Missions would like to see that increase to 5 days a week and then eventually increase the amount of children receiving a nutritious meal. Pastor Eugenio oversees the program at Guido and only makes $400 a month. This is where we were able to participate in the feeding program for the children. After eating, we moved into a multipurpose area and had worship songs and dance. They played my favorite song, “Waves of Mercy”, of course it was in Spanish so it was hard to follow along, but I did get the motions right! It was so enlightening to see the joy in the faces of the children.
The next day we spent walking around in the neighborhood by the mission house. I learned that Costa Rica is only the size of West Virginia. The country is truly beautiful and there are all different kinds of fruit trees. Scott (another of Strong Missions assistants) climbed a star fruit tree and picked the very last star fruit just for us. (It was delicious!) We stopped at a coffee bean farm and picked several of the berries. They tasted really sweet and the coffee bean that is roasted is inside of the fruit.
All in all, it was a short but wonderful trip. If you are reading this blog, I ask you to consider coming with us in July to visit Costa Rica and spread God’s love among the people of this beautiful nation. Our Father wants us to step out of our comfort zone every once in awhile, not only to help others but to grow ourselves, closer to Him and deeper in faith.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” – Matthew 25:35
Written By: Laura Stewart
Cypress UMC Member & Volunteer