As many of you may know I was supposed to go to Costa Rica for a month back in May but two weeks before we were going to leave we got some exciting news. We're pregnant!!! We are very excited and because of this we felt it was not wise for me to go for a whole month, so instead I went for a week. Ben, my husband, went with me that week, and this was his first international mission trip as well as a sweet experience for us to share. Below is Ben's experience from the time there.
"The week I spent in Costa Rica was my first mission trip outside the United States. I cooked for our team while I was down there, which was a great joy for me as I love to cook for others. Our primary goal in Costa Rica was to support a local ministry that, like H2O, is focused on reaching college students. We spent time on the campus of Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, where we met students, many of whom spoke English, and began friendships.
One of the friends I made down there is a man by the name of Daniel. He has a love for languages and was thrilled to learn obscure English words and phrases from me and taught me a few idiosyncrasies of the Costa Rican (or Tico) dialect of Spanish. On top of chatting about fun things like languages, we also talked about the struggles of life and the pursuit of faith. Daniel was a fairly new Christian when I met him, and was excited to learn more about God's word and character as well as how to grow into a mature Godly man. It was great getting to know him, learn from him, and encourage him. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to do it.
Here is where you may expect me to say something along the lines of 'this trip changed my life.' That's what people like (and often expect) to hear from those of us returning from international mission trips. I absolutely enjoyed my trip to Costa Rica but it wasn't life-changing. This isn't to say that the trip wasn't good, that the work we did there wasn't a benefit to the people we interacted with, or that it wasn't life-changing for anyone who went. Instead I want to point out a lesson that God has taught me over many years. Our lives are not always spectacular, and they do not need to be.
When I was younger I would have been greatly distraught at discovering that a week spent in service to the Lord in another country would not change my life. In fact, I am almost certain that if halfway through the experience I did not feel as though my entire life were changing on the trip I would begin to manufacture the feeling of it. Thankfully, as I have gotten older I have learned the joy of serving God in the more mundane and even monotonous parts of life. Because of this growth God has worked in me, I was able to go into the trip ready to serve those I met and those I went with, rather than needing the trip to serve my need to feel special. I was able to appreciate my role on the trip and scope of God's Kingdom. Rather than feeling a need to sprint a newly believing Christian to a deep level of maturity in only a few conversations, I was able to appreciate the opportunity I was given and trust that God will take care of the rest.
I truly enjoyed my time in Costa Rica, and I think that the work I did there will bear fruit in time. I am thankful for the work God is doing in me every day (even the normal ones) to help me better love Him and love humanity. And I am grateful that God not only used me on this trip, but used the trip to continue His work in me, even if it was not in spectacular fashion."
I also wanted you to hear from someone who was there for the whole month. Aubry was one of our two freshman that came with us and here is her sharing her experience.
"This past May, H2O Cincinnati partnered with Costa Rica based missionaries Carlos and Ana Lagos to bring the gospel to the students of the National University of Costa Rica (UNA). Carlos and Ana started a ministry they call “hangout” for the students where they provide free food, share the love of Jesus, and spend time getting to know and pour into the students each Wednesday. When their efforts are not directed towards hangout, they are also an integral part of CDI (a development center that focuses on providing free child care and educational resources for children of Nicaraguan immigrants).
Upon our arrival, we had a 3 day weekend to rest, pray, and bond as a team. Within our first day on campus, some members of the team met 3 English education students, who we spoke to about our mission there and got to know them. The next day we went on campus without any expectations or plans, but with expectant and prayerful hearts. God used this attitude not to just open doors, but blow them off their hinges. One member of the team spotted the students that they had met the day before and we approached them to talk to them. They then invited all of us into their class where each of us talked to a group of students and where able to share a bit about why we were there, and the whole class ended up coming to hangout. That day, hangout drew a great crowd where the 3 circles gospel illustration was shared! Many students expressed how loved they felt by our team and how they were looking for a community like this. Throughout the month, the team continued to pursue students from this class of English majors and other students we met on campus. Opportunities for us to join in English classes and share the gospel with students were abundant, and most students expressed we ministered to expressed with us that they had been feeling a need for something more. Students were blown away by the difference between the Catholic legalism and fear they grew up with and the love and grace they felt from us. We were able to bring practices of our church, such as The Well and Life Group to the students and were blessed with the opportunity to do life with the students. These opportunities to dive deeper into the life of Jesus were integral in the softening of hearts, and where we saw the most fruit of hearts being changed by Jesus. By the end of the trip, at least six students placed their faith in Jesus as their personal savior. Two students, Diego and Kendal, were baptized at our Airbnb in an inflatable pool with great celebration. One team member that stayed an additional month began a women’s bible study that has been integral in building up and mobilizing new disciples of Jesus. We praise God for giving us such a ripe harvest and being able to build up new disciples And encourage those already walking in light at the National University of Costa Rica! The Lord was so faithful in the opportunities he gave us and the prayers he answered. A team from Texas is continuing to minister to the students, and a team from Wright Sate is arriving soon to partner with Ana and Lagos. Please pray for the students that have received the gospel to continue to walk in and spread truth.
As you now know, I am pregnant and we are expecting in December. We are so excited to greet our bundle of joy and provide for all their needs. This is a huge change in my life and I want to be able to give to our child more time so I will be lowering my hours to part time to accommodate that. I am excited to still be partnering with you and H2O even as I transition into motherhood. This will not change much of my job roles just how much time I can give to them. My main two focuses will be children's ministry and our city ministry.
Please pray for me as our fall semester starts, that even though I am pregnant I would still have the energy and passion to continue to serve our church here in Cincinnati. Pray also that our child will be healthy and come on time. Lastly, pray for Ben and I that we will be prepared to be good parents for our child and any more children to come.