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.

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