VBS: Vacation Bible School. In other words, the challenge at which a group of brave souls attempts to present the Gospel in a fun manner to a large group of crazy, excited, squirmy children. Ok, so it’s not as scary as it sounds; it’s actually really fun. But when you are in a foreign country such as Costa Rica, and the only thing separating you from 200 little munchkins is the language and cultural barrier, it gets pretty intimidating. That is, until you are introduced to a little someone who changes your view on happiness.
â–º quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
This story begins in a petite church, Iglesia De Eden, twenty minutes from San Jose, Costa Rica. Now you may ask how a small town girl from Imperial, California, ended up there. I went with Adventures In Missions, an organization dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the ends of earth. This was my very first mission trip, three weeks long, and on that rainy Costa Rican morning, I was questioning my purpose there. Of course this was an experience of a lifetime, but I missed home, and I felt almost like kept waiting for something epic to happen. Nevertheless, I put my thoughts aside, and prepared myself for the mass of kids entering the church.
Sitting on one of the church chairs, I was enveloped in a conversation with my teammate, when I noticed a stroller in front of me. Naturally I was curious, and apparently the little boy in the stroller was just as nosy. Both him and his brother were constantly turning around, looking at me, and laughing. The little boy in the stroller caught my eye; he looked so tiny and frail that I assumed he was not older than 4. I leaned over and asked him, “Como te llamas? Cuantos anos tienes?” The biggest smile plastered on his face as he replied in perfect English, “My name is Emmanuell, and I’m 11 years old! What about you?” I replied, but I was still dumbfounded. How could this small thing be 11 years old?! We began a playful conversation, but I felt as if my mind was focusing on the broken side of him. He was so tiny and feeble.
When it came time for each of us leaders to take a child and make arts and crafts, Emmanuell turned and begged me to take him. I felt honored, as I pushed his stroller outside. In that moment, I decided to also push away those negative thoughts, and focus on all the positive things about Emmanuell. As he craftily painted a wooden cow, I came to be in complete awe of his persona. He was loud, he was unique, but he was also the happiest boy I’ve ever seen. He told me everything about him, from how he loved to play on computers to his love for his brother and older sister. The craziest thing was when I was listening to him, I didn’t see his brokenness. I saw the life in him. Emmanuell made me laugh so much that day, and later that night I cried because I knew I would never see him again. He showed me that joy doesn’t come from your circumstances; it comes from your heart.
There is song by Nevershoutnever!, entitled Six Feet Tall, that reminds me of Emmanuell, especially these lyrics:
You’re only as tall, as your heart will let you be,
And you’re only as small, as the world will make you seem.
To my very special Emmanuell out there, keep enjoying life. You made my trip to Costa Rica life changing and worthwhile.
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