Costa Rica Mission Trip: A Lesson in Service
March 27, 2019
Over Spring Break, we had a group of children and adults spend time serving at the Methodist Children’s Home of Costa Rica. We are so grateful to have one of those volunteers, Vicky Benish, talk about her experience with mission trips, and what this particular trip meant to her and her son.
Six years ago I felt called to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica for the first time. At the time, it didn’t make a lot of sense – I had small children at home and was known to worry when I wasn’t close to them. Why would God call me to this? But I knew it was the right thing to do. In 2013 of that year, I spent six days at the Methodist Children’s Home of Costa Rica, outside of San Jose; I was amazed at the peace that came over me – worry never showed up at all. When I got there it didn’t take long for me to understand why God had called me to this. God used that work to show me the growth and learning I needed to undertake, and to show me what letting go and having faith was all about. But there was one more message I got during that trip that was loud and clear: I was to return one day with my children so they could witness this. That was the ultimate reason I was called there.
Since then, I didn’t overthink it – I knew when the time was right I would feel it and know it was my time again. 2019 was the year. Although one of my children was still too small for mission trip-type work, my 6th grader, Carson, was the perfect age. I’d spent my time before the trip trying to prepare Carson for all there was to expect. I really emphasized this was a mission trip not vacation and he would need to work hard and give it his all even when he felt out of his element. I reminded him time and time again God was calling us to serve others and we needed to come ready and willing.
So on March 10th the two of us, along with four other children and six more adults from our congregation, boarded a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica where we spent four days at the Methodist Children’s Home. A new building was being constructed on the site, so things like rebaring, stuccoing and painting were on our to-do list. A brick wall was also being built, so our crew jumped in to help with that, too. It was a lot of work to say the least, but we had such a good team and with so much laughter, singing and fun there was never any complaining. Yet, the best part was the time we got to spend with the children that lived in the home. We’d see them either in the morning before we got to work, in the afternoon when we were done, and sometimes even during lunch. Witnessing not just my child but our group of children and adults interact with these children was where I felt God’s presence the most throughout the week.
One of the most memorable moments came on Thursday when we met with the children in the home after our last work day. Our kids had prepared a skit for the children in the orphanage as our farewell to them. When it was over the children returned the favor and sang “Jesus Loves Me” in Spanish to us, standing sweetly in from smallest to oldest in their matching t-shirts. This had tears rolling down my eyes as I felt God’s presence in their voices and watched everyone take that in.
It was in that moment I realized I had gotten it a little wrong trying to prepare Carson to come on this trip solely to serve others. The reality was those beautiful children, along with so many others we’d met along the way, were serving us. From our bus driver, Wilson, to the kind people that cooked our meals and the construction workers who had been kind and patient with us while we learned the skills – they were giving us gifts of love and care each day. While I was expecting them to be thankful we came down, I found myself thanking God for each one of them and realizing God didn’t call us just to serve them. He called us there for us to be served by their grace, presence and love.
I know in time I’ll feel called to serve again, but for now am just thankful for Spring Break 2019 and that I got to share the experience with my son. I know neither of us will ever forget it.