Monday, April 17, 2017

One Thing.

By Emma Munter (Northcentral University)

 Emma's Journal - January 10, 2017...
"I said goodbye to the United States of America today for almost four months and I think it's the best thing for me. I need to relearn how to trust the Lord."

At that point in time, I could barely speak one sentence in Spanish. My skin color was Minnesota, milky white. I thought that I hated hot weather. I thought I enjoyed being alone. I had not a single clue of what culture shock was. I told myself (it seems silly now) that there was no way I'd be able to be close to the students in my program who I'd only be with for four months. Today, none of those things are the case.

In a short nine days, my chapter with LASP will have its last sentence written, the page will be turned, and I will say extremely difficult goodbyes, for seemingly the millionth time this semester.

The last three weeks, during my immersion, have been the most challenging of my entire life. If we're honest, the last three months in general have been. I have had my faith questioned, I have questioned my country & the way the US does church, how I interact with people has changed, and I have been forced to do things that I REALLY did not want to do.... and so much more.

I am so tired.

It's a strange feeling to have a heavy heart from being so far removed from any ounce of normalcy in life, and yet knowing that soon, I will ache for a place that seems foreign in this moment, but somehow, has become home.

I, as it was the first day of this journey, am back to having no idea about what is ahead of me in my returning "home." Really, I am absolutely terrified. "But, Emma, why are you terrified? It's home. It should be easy."

I'm terrified because literally everything in my life is different today than it was on January 10, 2017. I am not the same Emma Munter as I was three months ago. I am extremely thankful that I am not the same today as three months ago because if I was, that would mean I went through an intense program and allowed myself to be unchanged; how awful would that be? With that reality, comes the knowledge that I am not allowed to have expectations of what re-entry is going to look like. LASP has taught me to ditch expectations; to have an open mind and an open heart. This doesn't end when my time in Costa Rica ends.

January 10, 2017....
"'All I know is everything I have means nothing, Jesus, if You're not my One thing.' I want to learn how to live in this reality and fully lean upon it in the next 110 days. It will be a process, but it's a process I am ready for."

Well. I wasn't at all ready for that process, but I went through it anyways. It was messy. It was painful. It was hard.

The only thing that has remained the same through every single second and step of the way is Jesus & He will be the same in three months & in ten years & forever. Even when the world fades away and absolutely nothing remains the same, He does and His love is constant and faithful. Yes, I did relearn how to trust Him, like I prayed on that very first day. If I would not have, I don't think I would have been able to persevere to the bitter end.

Re-entry? Yeah, it's going to be really freaking hard and scary and I will be misunderstood. But my eyes remain on the one thing I can, and will, always find my rest and peace in and the only One who will ever fully know me: Jesus Christ.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Bubble Has Been Popped!

By Victoria Baker (Malone University), from her Nicaragua Journal

I have been thinking a lot about when we were on the remains of the old presidential palace. On one side of the view, you could see the “rich,” “new” Nicaragua. On the other side, you could see the old, poor side of Nicaragua. That didn’t really mean anything until I realized that those images summed up my life, and my experience now.

It was as if I was looking at my own life from above. Here I was, standing on the remains of an old presidential palace, with a “Tree of Life” that shines brighter than hope. I then compared that to my life. Up until now I had this beautiful bubble that I lived in that had no struggles. People would look at the bubble in awe of its beauty, until one day that bubble was popped. The remains are no longer the same and never well be. When I came to Costa Rica is when my bubble was popped. People no longer saw me the same way, because I WASN’T. I stood on these remains and thought about how my world has been flipped upside down. As I stared at the Tree of Life and the statue of Sandino, I realized their meanings. One was big and beautiful, pleasing to the eye, but its meaning was no freedom, less help and no hope. On the other hand, there was a non-appealing, plain statue, but its meaning was one of HOPE! I began to think. When people look at me and try to see the remains of my bubble, will they see a fake but beautiful representation with a hidden meaning, or will they see something dull, and search to see the hope behind it?

I want to be an example of hope to those around me, but for that to happen, I must stand tall against the opposing message that I fight with. The other part of this trip was viewing the two sides of Nicaragua and all I could see was myself. One side had me in my privilege with “Trees of Life” or fake messages everywhere. The other side was me where I am now. This side used to be one of the most beautiful parts of Nicaragua until an earthquake came and took that away. I saw me there. When I first got to Costa Rica, I had only good thoughts about the U.S. and their influence in the world, but once I got deeper into this experience, an “earthquake” hit. All of my thoughts were shaken and some destroyed. I am now in the process of rebuilding my thoughts, but I look as the poor side of Nicaragua did. Less beautiful or full as I was, but stronger now than ever.

This earthquake may have taken away the beauty on the outside or this side of Nicaragua, but the people on the inside have really come out stronger. The only reason that I can say that for sure is because I am now on this side of Nicaragua. I am living with the poor and they are teaching me how to be strong. They are the strongest people I have ever met. So, from that palace visit, I realized that by stepping out of my privilege and onto the side of the “poor,” I can begin to rebuild my bubble with the vision of HOPE and continual knowledge. I am very appreciative that I can stand back and see where I was in life, to where I’m at now. This will aid in the process of rebuilding a new hope. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Our new Spring 2017 cohort of students has arrived and we are three weeks into our semester activities! Here is a blog post by Alanna Paris, from Houghton College, on our recent trip to the Limón province:

I was looking for dinner on a balmy Friday night in Limón, Costa Rica. I wanted something different, something I couldn’t get in San José. I walked down a line of food and souvenir stands. The air smelled of salt water and chicken cooking and reggae music filled the streets with its lively beats and rhythms. I was walking with some friends when we decided on a stand that offered a meal of tacos and a coke. Perfect after a long day of travel, interviews with locals, and lectures about the region. The special was four tacos and one coke for 1200 colones. I went up and confidently ordered just that, cuatro tacos con una coca. The man at the counter looked mildly horrified after I ordered and asked me for 5,000 colones. Figuring I was getting ripped off because I was a gringa tourist, I accepted and paid. I sat and waited for my food as the man at the counter informed everyone that they were out of tacos at the stand.
I waited and waited until finally the man, who I now realized actually spoke English because of his Jamaican heritage, informed me my last meal was not going to be tacos because they ran out and so I was getting a hamburger. I looked down at the counter to see four cokes sitting and waiting for me. Horrified and incredibly embarrassed I realized what I had done. I had ordered four meals of four tacos. I bought sixteen tacos supposedly for myself. I stood there as taco after taco was handed to me. My fellow students cracked up laughing as I handed them excess tacos to enjoy. After finishing my meal we all left together with a story to muse over and lots of laughs (and tacos) shared.
 While this story is very funny, it has a deeper meaning on my whole experience in Limón and in Costa Rica in general. I failed, big time, ordering those tacos. It’s not the first time I’ve failed either. My life, since I landed in Alajuela, has been a series of failures, some comical, some not so much. The thing is, that’s okay. It’s okay that I accidentally asked if there were rules under the Christmas tree instead of presents, it’s okay that I didn’t realize it’s okay, actually preferred, that I hang out in my siblings room, and it’s okay I didn’t realize that you don’t eat pork with a fork and knife here. While these are all failures, they’ve taught me something. They have taught me how human I am, how much I need to learn, and how much I need God and those he placed in my life.
Going to Limón smacked me in the face with that reality. I needed to fail, because failure is good. There are tons of people in Limón who know so much that I do not because they’ve experienced different realities than I. I am beyond thankful I got to hear the handful of stories and perspectives I did while I was there. Limón, with its ups and downs, was something I needed to experience because it showed me that even in the age where information is at my fingertips, I only know a handful of perspectives and ideas. Limón broadened my horizon and that is invaluable.