Monday, February 15, 2010

God's Extraordinary Simplicities

This week’s teaching was by far one of the toughest for me. The first half of the week was spent with Greg Burch, an American missionary living and serving here in Costa Rica. He shared with us about working with children at risk and how to have effective organizations and ministry within a community. Through case studies and thorough evaluations of different ministries thorughout the world – some successful, and some not – we discussed what attributes and priorities are necessary to have a productive and fruitful ministry when working with kids.

The second half of the week was taught by Brooke Burns, another American missionary who is serving in Costa Rica. Brooke has a huge heart for ending sex trafficking and child prostituion, and shared with our class about the ministry she’s working with and the topic of trafficking. The facts are devastating. The stories broke our hearts, and it was difficult to emotionally handle the intensity of such a terrible topic. I became aware that Costa Rica is called “The Thailand of the West” in reference to the exploding numbers of tourists that come here for vacation and to enjoy legal and available prostitution. Because Costa Rica is such a safe and convenient country for Americans and Europeans to travel to, and considering its beauty and attractions, it has become a top destination for sex tourism. This means that the trafficking of women and children in and out of San Jose and different beach towns around the country is at an alarmingly high number. My heart has been heavily burdened with child sexual exploitation as well as the trafficking of women and children, and so I was both saddened and excited that I was in this place at this time. I was unknowingly called to serve in a country that is suffering from the very need that I have a heart to meet – I felt totally confirmed in my being here.

With all that I learned about sex trafficking in Costa Rica, my prayers were answered – God gave me clear direction about where to spend the next 5 months of my trip after my training in San Jose finishes in April. Jaco, the beach town I have been visiting and acquainting myself with, is a top city for sex trafficking and prostituion. Poverty and drugs are also rampant in that town, and I feel led to do ministry there. I am so excited! There is so much to be done in that town – local youth are everywhere, children are only in school for half of the day and have nowhere else to go afterwards, and there is an abundance of tourists who are in Jaco solely to party and buy prostitutes. The town seems attractive at first, but in reality is a dark place in need of light and hope. I am already meeting and building relationships with the people there, and can’t wait to head back full-time to do ministry. Please be praying for the people and organizations that are already there, and that God will begin to prepare the hearts of those we’ll be meeting and working with!

I spent much of the last couple weeks praying about the people of Costa Rica and what my role is here. Currently, I am swamped with training, homework, readings, and duties – and on top of that, trying to maintain relationships from home, build new ones with the people I’m living with here, and try to have some fun and relaxation. Yet I was continually burdened – if I am a missionary living in Costa Rica, I need to be a missionary all day, every day. Scheduled outreach times or Sunday mornings at different churches are not the only times that I need to be interacting with the locals or reaching out. I was convicted that sometimes I separate my life into two parts: my life, and the life of a missionary. So basically when we go to different organzations or do a children’s program in the slums, I am a missionary. But when I need to run to the store or go to the beach with friends or eat dinner out, I am just Emily – American girl who is too lazy to conjure up Spanish words, a little tired of meeting new people, and pretty wary of strange men on the streets. But in praying, I really felt God telling me that I need to be a light and witness of love to people all the time – whether I’m riding the bus, surfing in the ocean or ordering pizza. So in obedience to that revelation, I began to look for opportunities to build relationships in the simplest of places. The result? I’ve made a bunch of Costa Rican friends and have had the pleasure of visiting them in their homes, sharing meals together and practicing our languages. We’ve exchanged stories, Facebook pages and made plans to spend time together. One woman has adopted me as her honorary daughter and introduced me to her family via Skype. Apparently God wants to open up doors for relationship and love in all sorts of places - like on the streets of San Jose and during a short bus trip. I realized that God wants to work in extraordinarily simple ways, if that paradox makes any sense. Conversations are simple to start, but the relationships that result are so much more.

Local outreach this week was spent running a children’s program with Metro Ministries in Santa Ana, doing the weekly routine of worship, games and fellowship with the neighborhood children. I taught my first Bible lesson on a stage… in Spanish! It was a lot of fun, and I’m grateful for the grace the audience had with my Spanish. During the week, a group of us grabbed our instruments and went to the downtown square in San Jose to play worship music and meet new people. That was such an awesome experience – tons of people came up and wanted to talk, sing with us and find out why the heck a bunch of gringos were making so much noise in their streets. Fortunately, so many young people are eager to learn and practice their English, so conversations are easy and plentiful. I particularly hit it off with a few of the girls we met, and got a chance to hang out with one of them this weekend. It was awesome – I felt right at home as if this were my own country and these were friends of mine from Indiana. I am blessed to feel so welcomed and loved by the people of this country. They feel honored to meet and spend time with me as a foreigner, but the real honor is on my end. I am absolutely in love with the people of Costa Rica J


Costa Rica Elects First Female President

It was so exciting to see Costa Rica elect their first female president, Laura Chinchilla! I'm not very familiar with the politics of Costa Rica, but I did take an interest in the candidates and political position of the nation that I'm living in - especially because of all the hype surrounding the election. Laura won by nearly half the votes, and will be serving for four years. Her campaign is focused around fighting crime - particularly violence and drug trafficking. In light of my recent education, though, I find it ironic that the human trafficking/child prostitution epidemic in Costa Rica wasn't included... Anyway, I am eager to see what direction she leads the country in! I've enjoyed talking with the nationals here and finding out where they stand on the election and why. An added bonus? Her last name is CHINCHILLA! Wow :)

Please pray that:

-President Laura guides her country with wisdom.

-The nation is able to be politically united, regardless of where people stood before the election.

-Her policies are enacted and enforced quickly and without corruption.

-The best interest of the nation's children becomes a focus for the government - stopping crime and trafficking particularly in the lives of the country's youth.


Not For Sale Campaign

Yet another organization fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery! Please check out their movement and find out how you can be involved in ending one of the most devastating things happening in our world today.

Polaris Project

The Polaris Project is ALSO fighting human trafficking! They're one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the U.S.A. and Japan... again: learn, educate others and find out what part you could play in the anti-trafficking movement!