LASP’s Transforming Effect
Every time I think about my experience as a LASP student, I am met with memories of some of the hardest challenges I’ve endured to date. There were so many times I wanted to quit and run back to the familiarities of home, but I’m so thankful I pushed past the tough times to enjoy an extremely amazing semester. I now realize that these feelings were a result of a challenge I was facing for the first time in my life-a challenge to question the norms of my culture, my background, and my faith. While I met this challenge with a closed mind to begin with, my LASP journey ended with the largest amount of growth I’ve ever experienced in any stage of my life. Today I’m overwhelmed with a level of gratitude that outweighs the tough times by a mile-gratitude to God for making LASP part of my journey on this earth, gratitude to my family and friends for encouraging me to take this chance to study abroad, and gratitude to the LASP team for making the program everything that is described in the mission statement, and more.
Unlike many study abroad programs, LASP fosters learning by placing students in the Latin American context from day one. Students are interacting and engaging the culture from the moment they arrive. This engagement, through host families, cultural visits, and internship opportunities, taught me so much more than any textbook, lecture, or assignment ever could. While interviewing local residents in Limón, living in a small village in Nicaragua, and aiding an inspirational coffee farmer in all aspects of his family business, I truly began to comprehend what it meant to be a functioning member of a culture outside my own. My thoughts on my own culture were tested, I began to ask questions about injustice, and I began to fathom the idea that, regardless of our birthplace, we are all members of God’s creation. There is no better way to illustrate this season of personal growth than to share with you an entry from my journal during my time in Nicaragua:
October 15, 2013“…Everything I saw today and experienced only left me with so many questions, so many conflicting feelings, and so many fears. I saw people my own age living in a dump, addicted to glue, sleeping in the street, and living in a country full of conflict. Part of me thanks God for letting me be born into a nation and a family where I am truly blessed. Another part asks Him why He chose to have me be born in the U.S. and not into the injustice of Nicaragua. Yet another part asks Him-considering where I was placed in this world-what this means my role in the world should be and what I should do about it. I feel happy that I don’t have to feel the pain they feel, but also guilty because I don’t feel it. When I saw these people, I felt afraid and judgmental of their dirtiness, but quickly caught myself doing so and felt God calling me to stop, see them as His children, and show them as much love as I was capable of. I feel awful that this was so hard for me, and see this as proof that God has a lot of work to do on my heart.”
Today, the Lord is still working on my heart, but He used this experience to ignite the spark of an incredible journey to serve Him first. Before LASP, I never thought about what was going on outside my community, or how my actions affect children of God thousands of miles away. Now, these components are a key part of my day to day thoughts. LASP is an experience that I wish every college student could be a part of. It changes you. Because of LASP, and its commitment to its mission, I am now a globally-conscious individual, who has a love for the people and culture of Latin America. I’m not sure what the Lord has in store for me after I graduate this May, but one thing is certain-I feel extremely prepared to enter the globally diverse job market thanks to the challenges I overcame, and the knowledge I now possess thanks to LASP. This program is a true blessing to everyone it touches.