The sliding glass doors of the small airport in San Jose, Costa Rica opened and exposed me to the brilliant Sun and hundreds of people speaking a language I could hardly understand. I signed up for my youth group’s mission trip for the summer of 2008 not truly knowing what to expect. Even as we reached the headquarters of Score International in Costa Rica I was eager to learn more of what I would be doing for the next ten days. Some of my best friends were on the trip which alleviated any homesickness I might have felt traveling to another country for the first time. My first impression of Costa Rica was that the Costa Ricans were terrible drivers and spoke quick and loud Spanish. We soon learned that we would be painting a kindergarten, putting on a bible school for preschool students, feeding the homeless, playing sports with orphans, and distributing food to Nicaraguan refugees.
Costa Rica was absolutely beautiful with its lush tropical plants and flowers and before my trip I thought of the country as a popular vacation spot but it has a different side, one that includes humans without basic needs.
The most memorable project was when we were asked to give some of our personal spending money to buy food for Nicaraguan refugees living in a slum. My team and I decided to each give twenty dollars. We were given a list of basic staple foods including beans, rice, sardines, coffee, noodles, tortillas, flour, sugar, and cooking oil. We purchased so much food with so little money. The shanty town was known as “The Hole” due to the fact that the homes started on a hillside and went all the way down into a large valley. The pastor of a local church near “The Hole” lead us down the steep and winding hill to the families receiving the food. Children ran around me and I noticed they all were bereft of shoes and wore torn, dirty clothes. The bright sunshine and thriving tropical growth was in sharp contrast with the piled trash and river of sewage winding through the town. We brought food to twelve families that day and at each home we learned their story. I learned how all of the families fled the violence and wars in Nicaragua and when it rained the homes built of scraps of metal, wood, and plastic would slide down the hill into oblivion. The people would then rise from the destruction and rebuild their substandard houses each and every time. We learned that fifteen years ago the Costa Rican government promised the residents of “The Hole” government funded housing. The promise still stands but has not come to fruition. However, the people refuse to give up hope and believe one day the promise will be fulfilled.
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