Today is March the 14th and I am one week shy of having lived in Costa Rica for 7 months. In that time I have been eye ball deep in trying to learn Spanish. It has been a very difficult chore and I do mean very difficult. What we are doing is not an easy thing to do. We sold almost everything that we owned, kept about 8 suitcases worth of stuff, quit our jobs, said goodbye to our family and friends, hopped on a plane and moved to Costa Rica with plans to then move to Honduras. About a month after we got to Costa Rica the plans changed, now we are staying in Costa Rica but we are in a sense starting over again. The last 7 months has been filled with ups and downs and in some ways I may have lost perspective on why I am here. Today God got my attention, loud and clear.
Being at school has been a fun experience. I have made friends that I will be friends with for the rest of my life. It is very awesome. It was very unexpected pero in 5 weeks I will be saying goodbye to them. Unlike my friends at home in Washington and B.C., I most likely will not see these friends again. Even if we are all home in North America at the same time we all live in different states. It has been easy for me to get caught up in life with my gringo friends. It’s natural that I became very close to other students. We are all here to be missionaries, we all gave up a lot to get here, we are all struggling our way through language school and we all speak English. None of us really lost all of our perspective but I think that God has sent a wake up call to all of us at least once if not more. Today was my turn.
It is common to have people come to our gate and ask for food. Hannah and I have pre-made bags of beans and rice to give to the beggars at our gate and we ask for prayer requests from them also. We were miraculously given money to buy Spanish Bibles to hand out to people and we are in the process of purchasing those now. In addition to having people come to our gate it is a normal sight to see people going through the garbage. Since we have garbage pick up 2 days a week I have often witnessed people looking for cans to recycle, or old tools, jackets, backpacks etc… It seemed like they were always looking for things to make something out of. Whether it was for shelter or clothing or to sell for money for food. I am not naive, I know that a lot of homeless people are addicts so we don’t give out money. I also know that they most likely have to struggle to find food. The truth is that I noticed it everyday and I didn’t give much thought to what life on the street is like. God was about to change that.
This morning I was walking through a park on my way to school. It is the same route that I have taken loads of times. Today was different. Today, God had a treat in store for me. Passing through, I saw a man digging through the garbage. He had a large clear garbage bag about 1/3 of the way full of cans, clearly for recycling. I thought nothing of the all too ordinary scene but then I saw it. The man’s eyes got big, out of the trash he pulled a 1 gallon plastic ice cream container. By the look in his eyes I could tell he hit the jackpot. I was very curious what he would make out of this gem that he had discovered. What was it about this piece of garbage that made this man’s day? Then the man looked at the lid, took it off and then started to lick the left over ice cream off of the lid and out of the container. He was in paradise! I almost stopped dead in my tracks. I wished I had the words to say to him, to ask him about his life possibly take him to a store and buy him an ice cream cone or breakfast.
That scene shook me to the core. I very literally had goose bumps and I almost started to cry. This stranger’s day was made by somebody’s left over ice cream. A few minutes later I was telling some friends at school about it and I almost started to cry. God put every thing back in perspective for me today. I went to class and fumbled my way through a presentation about the history of the radio. I got all my numbers wrong, my tenses were all over the place and it was a disaster. That is normally very VERY frustrating for me. Then I went to my next class where I had a grammar test. I am pretty sure that I mixed up all sorts of conjugations and participles and future tenses but I was rattled. Any other day I would have been very mad at myself, the truth is I probably would have pouted all day. Not today- today God reminded me why I am here. As much as I love my new friends I am not here for them. I am here to learn Spanish so the next time I witness a similar scene I can talk to the man, pray with him, encourage him, help him as best as I can. Instead of pouting about my bad day at school I have a new outlook, my vision and my purpose were re-aligned. God gave me a tiny glimpse of why we are here and how we are going to be used. Now I am more motivated than ever to learn how to help these beautiful people in Latin America. Suddenly, it is not about me and my fears of saying goodbye to friends and moving to a town where I don’t know anybody, both of which will have happened for the 2nd time in 8 months. Now I am ready to move. I am ready to see how God is going to use us in His ministry. I am ready to see how all of these long stressful days of class will be used by the Almighty, to be used to help advance His Kingdom. The fire has been reignited in me all because of an seemingly empty tub of a ice cream and the treasure that it was to the man who found it.
Ezekial 16:49 ESV “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”
Lyrics from Burning Clean by Stavesacre;
“I want to be real again
I want You, Father, be real in me
And if I see you on the way down
I’ll lift your name up into His care
And if I see you headed down
I’ll do what I can to lift you up again
Burn us clean, refine this world away
Make Yourself real in me
Make us to live as You would”