The #1 thing I learned in Costa Rica…


It’s been two weeks. Two weeks since I first stepped foot in Costa Rica for what possibly was the best week of my life.

It’s been one week. One week since I said my final goodbyes and boarded a plane back to America.

People have been so incredibly sweet in the past week, asking how my trip was, how was the weather, what did I eat, etc. I love talking about it, probably almost too much. 😉

But there’s a question that always semi-stumps me, making me go through the week all over again.

“What was the number one thing you got from the trip?”

It’s an almost impossible question to answer. God taught me SO MUCH. I experienced SO MUCH. God let me learn SO MUCH. Trying to narrow it down…

There are a lot of answers, but one answer comes to mind because of much it attests to the greatness of God.

God used me, in spite of me. 

If you had asked me before the trip what my biggest weaknesses were, I would have two answers that would’ve come to mind pretty quickly:

I’m not a good communicator, and I’m very bad at connecting emotionally to people at times.

I’m a writer by nature. I journal, I blog here, I write long-winded Facebook statuses. It’s how I feel most comfortable and best at expressing myself. I typically feel like I’m not very good at small talk, and striking up conversations with strangers is rather terrifying.

I also view myself as someone who struggles with reacting in emotional situations. When someone starts to cry, I typically freeze. I blame it on the German in me, but that’s probably just a cop-out.

God used my two biggest struggles and insecurities in Costa Rica. He used them in spite of me.

When we set off for the first day of going into the communities with our churches, I wasn’t scared, but I was nervous. I hadn’t been on a mission trip in nine years. Also, I knew ahead of time that my first two trips were very different–I had never been 1) on my own for a trip without a group from my church with me and 2) one-on-one with a translator, forcing me to not hide so much behind others and to actually HAVE CONVERSATIONS. I was used to sharing a translator with four or five other Americans, which often meant that we would take turns and I would often never be pushed fully out of my comfort zone.

But there I was, walking up to the first house with my wonderful translator and Costa Rican church member. And God removed all that fear, self doubt and worry from my mind. I sat down, shared my story about how I know Jesus and how He’s changed my life, talked with the woman about her life, then helped her pray to ask Christ to be her Lord and Savior.

No fear, no shakiness, nothing but pure joy. Because of Him. It was all because of Him.

Later on in the week, during a Bible study at the home of a woman who had just accepted Christ the day before and had asked us to come back the following day, I noticed the tears welling in her eyes. There was so much pain there. But I decided initially to just continue, not realizing what God was doing in that moment. I asked a Costa Rican church member with us to share her testimony, and the tears continue to build as she listened to the other woman talk.

I didn’t know what to do next, but I felt God urging me to not avoid the situation, not hide from whatever emotions were clearly coming forth here. I couldn’t ignore His prompting anymore.

“Are you OK?” I asked her via my translator, Stip.

What came next just broke my heart. Through the tears, she shared her story. It was a story full of real hurt, abandonment and lots of insecurities. She had been through so, so much, and hardly anyone was there for her.

“I just feel so alone,” she said, over and over.

I fought back tears, as I knew God was working in that moment and I was unafraid to be caught up in the emotions.

We prayed over her, showed her verses in the Bible to let her know that she is never alone now that she has Jesus in her life, prayed more, and I ended our time with her with a hug. I’m typically not much a hugger, but in those moments that we had our arms around each other, not speaking the same language, I was overwhelmed by the love I had for this woman I had only met 24 hours before, my new sister in Christ, and the unending love that God has for both of us.

We smiled at each other as I turned to walk out her door. Her eyes had held pain and hurt when we walked in, but I saw happiness and relief now.

God used me in spite of myself on this trip. I pray He will continue to in the future.

He gets all the glory for this, plain and simple. I am only honored and humbled that He chose to use me, and I forever will be.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” -Ephesians 3:20-21


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