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Today I Saw God

How Blessed

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Editor's Note: Lastweek 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Laney Hartin.

My week in Costa Rica has been an incredible experience of learning and connecting with new people. I came into this mission trip not expecting much; however, I have bonded with not only other teens from the church but also with the people of Costa Rica.

I've learned how blessed I am in my everyday life and also how great it can feel to help others. Riding the bus through the multiple neighborhoods, seeing stray animals and rundown homes and shops made me feel extremely blessed to live in such a fortunate county with everything I could possibly need or want.

A huge moment for me was the first day when we went house-to-house praying for people and delivering rice. We heard many stories of the difficulties these families dealt with, which made me even more grateful for my family and the support I receive from my community.

One of the best parts of the trip was Vacation Bible School (VBS). It didn't feel like work at all because we were able to have fun with the kids while also making a huge difference in their lives and the community.

Over the course of the three days at VBS I bonded with a little girl named Linda who was so sweet. Linda loved to talk to me even though half the time, because of our language barrier, I responded with, "Lo siento, no comprendo." Which means, "I'm sorry, I don't understand." We still had so much fun drawing pictures, tossing the beach ball and blowing bubbles. It was really sad to say goodbye to her when we left, but she gave me a card that said, "Te amo," with a heart, which made leaving a little easier.

Aside from VBS, working construction was also a huge learning experience. I got to put others before myself even when I was physically exhausted, which in the end was a great feeling. I loved seeing the finished products of the team's hard work and how happy Antonio and the rest of his group were. Overall the trip was a great experience, and I will probably visit next year so that I can put even more work into helping the Costa Rican community.

The post How Blessed appeared first on Today I Saw God.

Surprised by Community

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Editor's Note: This week 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Erin Dare.

Going into this mission trip, my anxiety was through the roof. Not only was this my first mission trip, but also my first mission trip would be in another country. I kept putting off the fact that the trip was approaching up until the day that we actually left. My first thought when I got to Costa Rica was that it was going to be a long week.

On the first day we went around the village to pass out packages of rice and beans to families. It was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences of the whole trip because I really got to see the living conditions of the families in Costa Rica. Even the nicer houses still seemed to have problems. I began to feel confusion and anger toward God. I didn't understand why God would put people in these kinds of situations, where they may not have proper living conditions or enough food to eat.

I was confused as to why I felt like this on a mission trip, considering they're supposed to strengthen relationships with God. Monday seemed to drag on forever, and I found myself questioning why I came on this trip in the first place. I was very sleep-deprived, constantly confused about what time it was and just overwhelmed overall.

It wasn't until Vacation Bible School (VBS) on Thursday that everything really began to click. Although language was still a barrier, the kids and I somehow figured out a way to communicate and come together as one. Being around the kids filled me with overwhelming joy and gave me a new appreciation for their lifestyle. Even though the kids might not have all the materials that kids in Northern Virginia have, they are still blessed with so much. The kids were so full of happiness, joy and pure silliness.

I got alone really well with one little girl named Susanna who is about 8 or 9 years old. Susanna immediately taught me so much about how to love others unconditionally. She showered me with hugs and giggles. When Susanna was given a snack, she cared more about giving her snack to her mom and little brothers at home, to make sure they were fed first, than she did about eating it right away.

Later that day, during construction, I really saw God in one of the construction workers. During VBS, Susanna loved writing her name all over my arms and legs with a marker so I had her name "tattooed" on me. A worker came up to me and began to point at my arm and speak Spanish. Confused, I told him that I didn't speak Spanish and also that my name wasn't Susanna. He began to motion to come with him. I followed him to a porch, and he began to show me pictures, a smile stretching ear to ear. On his phone were pictures of him and Susanna, his daughter, doing different activities. I had never had such a heart-warming moment with someone; we didn't need any words. I felt how close this community is and how happy he was to see that I knew his daughter.

I'm not finished with my trip, and this has already been one of the best experiences of my life. I was most surprised with the community. Everyone that I have interacted with has been so welcoming and kind. The couple that lives at the place where we are staying have gone above and beyond to make sure that everyone feels at home and is always full with some great food.

The community at the church is also amazing. We had the opportunity to go to two different churches: one on Wednesday night and one on Thursday night. The church experience here is so different but amazing to watch and be a part of at the same time. On Wednesday night we had little girls come pull us up to the front of the church so we could dance in front of everyone at the service during the worship songs. Although dance isn't usually something you see at church services, it was one of the coolest things that I've ever done at church, and it put the biggest smile on my face.

At first I was scared to go to the different church services because of the language barrier. Surprisingly though, I think I felt and heard the sermon better in Spanish than I would have in English. I know that sounds weird, but I heard the emotion and strength of both pastors while they were preaching and really felt God's strength in those moments of praise.

The post Surprised by Community appeared first on Today I Saw God.

Our Hard Work

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Editor's Note: This week 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Justin Smith.

This is my first time in Costa Rica. My brother went on a previous trip so I thought I knew what to expect. I entered into this week expecting the work we do to be something to get through before having a good time. However, I have been surprised by how much pride I, and others, have taken in our hard work. Each day is different, and our work and other activities bring something new and exciting.

Today after breakfast, we began Vacation Bible School (VBS). We went to the same church that we had visited earlier in the week. From our efforts of walking around and asking families to come to VBS, over 60 kids showed up to worship and play. It was exciting to see the amount of kids that came, and we are expecting even more tomorrow. The language barrier proved to be a problem at first, but it quickly subsided as we spent more time either coloring or playing games with themDuck, Duck, Goose, or "Pato, Pato, Ganso," was a fan favorite.

VBS began with some coloring and running around; many of the kids enjoyed playing soccer in the grass. The kids then came inside the church, and we listened to the parable of the lost sheep. We told this parable to explain the importance of each of the children to God. Even if just one sheep is lost, God will not stop until he finds that one. After the story, the kids did a craftmaking a mask. The mask was a paper plate with a hole in it, cotton balls around the hole, a string that could be wrapped around the head and other decorations the kids thought fit. We sang songs and played with the children as well. It was a great time, and I think we, as well as the kids, are excited to return tomorrow.

When we got back to the complex we ate lunch and began our afternoon service work. We have begun to repaint the rooms and the bed frames for the second church. It is hard work disassembling then reassembling all the wood for the frames, and when painting, the paint gets everywhere. People walked out with tiny white specks on their face and in their hair. Even though we still have a ways to go, doing all this work provided a sense of pride and was definitely rewarding. After a couple hours of hard work, everyone cooled off in the pool or showers.

The last thing we did was go back to the church where we held VBS to attend a worship service. An amazing moment was when the kids at the service ran to the front to dance during one song, and each of us followed. For two upbeat songs people danced at the front of the church. The pastor preached about the simplicity of being close with God and having him as your best friend. We hung out and spent more time with the kids and their families after the service and then headed back to our own dorms to call it a night.

It is unbelievable how much has happened in just a few days and the relationships developing among the team members and between the team and the Costa Ricans, especially the kids.

The post Our Hard Work appeared first on Today I Saw God.

Already Feels Like Home

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Editor's Note: This week 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Kyle Kanode.

This is my first time visiting Costa Rica (and also my first time traveling out of the country), but it is certainly not my first mission trip. Today is day two, and everybody is beginning to get settled.

Today began with a trip to a toucan preserve where we were able to see exotic animals, such as sloths, that many of us had never seen before. On our way out of the preserve we saw an injured armadillo that needed immediate medical care on the side of the road. We were able to get help, and it was a great feeling to know that our presence in Costa Rica will help both the citizens here and apparently some of the animals.

Our afternoon included difficult yet rewarding work. We are working at the complex where we are staying doing various tasks. One group spends their time digging a drainage ditch that will evidently save our hosts $600 every three months. The other group works to renovate one of the living areas, which will allow for more groups to visit the complex, experience the country and lend a hand just like we are this week.

The week has only just begun, but this place already feels like home, and the team has become a family. I look forward to seeing how our team progresses with each other and what kind of impact we can have in this amazing country.

The post Already Feels Like Home appeared first on Today I Saw God.

Being Flexible in Costa Rica

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Editor's Note: This week 30 high school students and sixleaders traveled to Alajuela,Costa Ricato help with construction projects, work with children at a Vacation Bible School program and help meet the needs of the local, under-resourced community. The following is a blog post from one of the students, Tabitha Tufano.

I was invited to come on this trip by my friend, Casey. This is my first mission trip, and so far it has been wonderful. The first thing that caught my attention after we arrived was that although we are here to serve, the staff still treats us like guests and are so welcoming. The team members who are with me on this trip are so kind and friendly. I came on this trip knowing almost no one, so it was slightly nerve-racking. But in the first few minutes on the plane ride, I could tell I was with an amazing group of people.

The overall experience so far, from the moments at the airport to the end of the first day in Costa Rica, is really great. The culture is so different from home: the traffic, the people, everything. The difference has been really interesting to see.

Today we went around a small community in the mountains of Alajuela. The members of this community go to a newer church where Floris UMC is starting to develop relationships this year. From the church, we deployed as small groups and went around to houses where we handed out rice and beans to families, told them about Vacation Bible School and prayed with each home.

Another way in which the culture surprised me today was seeing the variety of houses. Not only were they different from the houses in the U.S., but also they were different from each other. Some were made of metal sheets while others were made of cement. No matter what the house looked like, regardless of the circumstances, I was struck by these people who don't have a lot yet are constantly smiling.

This afternoon we began our construction work for the week. I volunteered to dig a hole that will end up being one meter deep and 20 feet wide to be used for a waterway at the Methodist Retreat Center.

As I look backupon our first day, I can't help but reflect on one of the things we were asked to be this week: flexible. Flexibility is something that I was able to live out today and see in others in many ways. Even worship tonight called for flexibility because we had technical difficulties. What caught my attention and has stayed with me is how, in spite of the technical challenges, everyone was fully present in worship and paid such close attention, even when they didn't know the songs. The leaders did a really outstanding job connecting the songs to the message shared. As our first day ends, I'm looking forward to what this week will bring and what I will come to learn about the pure life that God intends for us.

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