Right after Christmas, a group of 10 volunteers from DPC traveled to Costa Rica to volunteer with Rice and Beans Ministry with a local group called Discovery Service Projects. Below is a poignant reflection written by Mary Shull right before coming back to the States from Costa Rica.
As I sit here in Alajuela, I hear the sounds of trucks, cars, sirens, and construction machines as a group of Discovery Service Project volunteers sit with bags packed awaiting our transport back to the airport. This week in Costa Rica has been deeply moving in many ways for me. During our time, we had the opportunity to work on a number of important projects, including constructing the foundation for an earthquake proof dining hall/family life center for the local residents and volunteers; painting the inside and of a local pastor's home before he and his family moved in; leading Vacation Bible School for children who were out of school on a break; and working with Rice and Beans Ministry.
I think that working with Rice and Beans Ministry impacted me the most. On three different days, we packed large white cloth bags that children from DPC helped to decorate with two bags of beans, one large bag of rice, one bag of cornmeal, and one bag of dried milk powder. This is enough food to feed a family of five for one week. These bags were then loaded into a van, and we all went into neighboring villages. We divided into groups of six, with a staff translator in each group. We then went door to door in very poor communities - some whose houses only had dirt floors. Many of these residents had never left their neighborhoods in their entire lives. Upon arriving at a home, our Spanish speaking staff member would yell "Hola" until a family member would come to the door. We, as volunteers, would take turns explaining (with a translator) why we were there, saying something like, "We come in God's name and in His love. We represent no particular church. We are here to give you this bag of food if you will accept it. We would also like to pray with you if you would like." To my total shock and surprise, most of the residents would then open their doors and invite us into their homes! We asked them if there was anything specific that they would like us to pray for. Again, most were surprisingly open, as they shared intimate prayer requests with us. We then held hands in a circle with these families and prayed together. One woman shared with us that her 13 year old daughter had already had two liver transplants and was awaiting a third. She then showed us her daughter's very large scar with archaic looking stitches on her abdomen. Another talked in depth about her and her family's struggles. Along with the rice and beans, we handed out treats to the children, and one little boy who received a mechanical pencil jumped up and down and yelled out, "Gracias!" He was so excited and acted like we had just given him a computer! The families, for the most part, were so very gracious and thankful for the rice and beans. By the time we left one home, I was overcome with emotion and tears as I heard their stories of need and witnessed the extreme poverty surrounding each family.
On reflection, I ask – how much are we really helping? The task seems overwhelming. We were able to accomplish a lot through the building project, VBS, and the Rice and Beans bags, but the shared time of fellowship and prayer on this trip was invaluable, both for those we came to help and for myself. This was my first experience traveling to a third world country and interacting with the beautiful men, women, and children in Costa Rica. I am so much more aware than I was before this trip. I see how very much I have, and I feel a call to simplify my lifestyle. I know that when I think of Costa Rica, I will remember the faces of the children, women, and men that I had the privilege of meeting. I hope and pray that I will change more of my lifestyle and be evermore mindful of our neighbors in other parts of the world.