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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