Monday, March 21

Costa Rica Day 6
We had a great last day in Costa Rica! This morning, we took a 2 hour scenic drive to the top of of mountain where our Canopy Tour was located. Zip-lining through the mountains of Cartago was absolutely incredible! There were 13 different lines, and all were amazing! Thankful for beautiful weather today and the chance to see beautiful views of the entire city.
This afternoon we took a tour of a coffee plantation and got to see how coffee beans are picked, cleaned, dried, roasted and packaged. We ended the tour with Costa Rican coffee and cold mochas with whipped-cream!

We had our last dinner together tonight at a beautiful restaurant…we had the whole restaurant to ourselves! The kitchen staff was so accommodating and gracious to our team. Before bed, we got to have one last “team meeting” and have an awesome time of reflection and share time of highlights and memories of the trip. The Lord has used this week to transform each of us and show us Himself.

      

      
Team Member Testimonies-

Hannah DeGrange: 12th Grade. A moment that really stood out to me was when we went to the Basilica. While we were looking around the sanctuary, we noticed a crowd of people crawling in on their knees from the back of the church all the way to the front of the sanctuary. Egidio explained that these people were coming in to ask for forgiveness for their sins. That Sunday just happened to be Palm Sunday, and we had had a worship service at our hotel that morning about how works don’t get us to heaven. It completely opened my eyes to how incredible God’s grace is. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, there’s no need for us to come crawling in on our knees every time we sin. This whole week has opened my eyes to multiple things, but this tangible moment showed me grace in a completely new way. 

Seth Sullivan: 11th Grade. Since this is the last full day in Costa Rica, the thing that God really put on my heart is seeing how happy people are that have nothing. From Egidio’s testimony to seeing the everyday living conditions of the average person in the village, were all happy, loving, and willing to share anything they had. Egidio told us a story that when he was building his house, the government told him that they could build it for him. Even though Egidio had no money to finish his already started house, he signed over the government’s house to a family in need who had also no money and no house. From my personal experience, everyone we met was willing to cook for us or give us things they had and even give us their time which is very valuable here. For me, it will greatly change the way I think and feel about my possessions, sharing, and most importantly, giving glory to God.

Tristan Black: 11th Grade. Wow. This week has been incredibly eye opening and is truly hard to put anything about the trip into words because words really don’t do it justice. What was really amazing to see this week was just how God worked through everyone on the trip to bring these people to the Gospel. I had the privilege of working in a group that literally brought light to the darkness for this brother and sister who lived in a windowless house. These people did not have anything nor did they speak English, but God was able to use us to open up a door for Egidio to work with them and present the Gospel to these people. Seeing the many ways God works throughout the week was an incredible experience and showed me how powerful and loving our God is. 

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Sunday, March 20

Costa Rica Day 5We missed worshipping at FBCO this morning, but we had a sweet time of worship and communion in our hotel lobby after breakfast this morning! Paxton led us in songs of worship and Dan gave a message out of Ephesians 2, reminding us the truth of the Gospel: it is by GRACE we are saved, not by works. In a culture that is so works based and success driven, it’s hard to believe that grace is the only thing that can save us. Nothing we can do (not even spending a week ministering to the people of Costa Rica) gains us extra “points” with God, or makes Him love us more. It was a great reminder on this beautiful Palm Sunday that we are covered with grace and made sons and daughters…no longer slaves to sin.

 An hour and a half bus ride took us to our Basilica tour which was a really neat experience. We walked around and saw where hundreds line up to touch and taste the holy water that drips from small pipes in the wall. We watched people crawl on their knees from the back of the sanctuary to the front to confess their sins. It was interesting to see how these people believed that they could only be cleansed of their sin and their shame by touching water and confessing them in a Basilica. Praise God that we have access to a Great High Priest who loves us, extends grace to us and is ever-present.    

 Ephesians 1:7-8 “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all grace and understanding.”

This afternoon, we had lunch at Egidio’s house, finished up some jobs and played with kids at the local school, went to the hotel to freshen up and had dinner at the Waterfall Restaurant. 

  
     

  
Team Member Testimonies- 
Sam Gardner: 9th Grade. Now a days, we are always thinking that we are the center of the universe. This week in Costa Rica, through the mountains I’ve seen and the people I’ve worked with, God has shown me how small we really are compared to His glory and righteousness. Without God, it would be a straight line downward to chaos and disaster. Today we throw around good words about God and how great He is. This week in Costa Rica, I’ve seen how great He really is.
Dawson Waldrop: 10th Grade. As I look at the mountains of this beautiful country I see GOD in every glance. He has been with us this entire time. I’ve realized I’ve taken the luxuries of our country for granted…when we go into the villages they have only the basics. The kids are really engaging and it is fun to try my broken Spanish out. I’m really excited I came, and very excited to see what GOD will show me in the next two days.  

Sydney Alexander: 10th Grade. On this trip I have seen, more than ever before, that God really has a hand in everything we do. Yesterday, we went to this little village to play with kids and just bring light to the people of the community. While there, Katherine and I were kicking a dodgeball around with one of the younger girls. The girl kicked the ball to me and of course I missed it and had to run to go get it. When I was on the way back to where we were playing, a man called me over to him. I got panicked and called to Kat. When we went over there he showed us their church. I had no idea that building was a church, and it was very cool to hear about the church and interesting how I came upon it. 

Holly Grace Robinson: 12th Grade. Every bus ride (one hour +) has captured my attention because of the mountainous scenery. Worshipping and having quiet time in Egidio’s backyard was so breathtaking because it was literally on the side of a mountain. After, Taylor came up to me and said, “Holly, look at this picture I took of you…it is amazing.” And it was. The camera screen had me in the bottom left corner, looking about as big as a centimeter, and the rest had as much of the mountain scene as the screen could fit – which was about 1/4 of the actual view. I know God creates all things and that He is so much bigger than I, but I have only seen that through my eyes. I have never seen myself in comparison to how big the world is…how big God is. That picture really just made that fact come alive to me. 

Leigh Whatley: Chaperone. Each day I am amazed of Egidio, Louis and his family! They are such an incredible example of loving their neighbors and serving others. They have showed our team what it truly means to be a servant of God. They remind me how I need to be more intentional in taking time to be the hands of feet of God wherever I go! How blessed I have been to be a part of this trip. 

Saturday, March 19

Costa Rica Day 4

Today has been full of playing with children in the community of Elempalle. We moved from a different village than San Martin because Egidio wanted us to minister to the people of this impoverished community. We played with kids, took pictures of them and had them printed from Alan’s printer, decorated frames and gave them to their families. It was such a treasure for these mothers to receive a printed picture of their sons or daughters. Egidio and Dan Kennefick helped re-wire the entire electrical system of a woman’s house. This project was such a huge blessing for this woman and her family. Katherine Neil and Tristan Black read the Bible story of the “fiery furnace” to the children (in Spanish from the Spanish Bible!) and we sang songs in Spanish (Jesus Loves Me, Joy Down in My Heart) with the children. We spent the afternoon & evening in San Martin and hosted a Fiesta tonight! We showed the movie Fireproof and had a Gospel presentation. It was a great evening!

Here are a few pictures from today’s adventures! 

   
   
   
   
   
 
 

Team Member Testimonies:

Lauren Sullivan: 10th Grade. I always throw around the word “blessed” sarcastically when something awkward or unfortunate happens, and up until this week, I never realized how blessed I really am. Today in the village I was talking to an 18 year old mom of two kids, and I learned that it was uncommon not to have kids by the time you are 16. It really shocked me because I could not imagine the responsibility of being expected to take care of kids that young. I am now even thankful for windows, you never realize how much you take for granted until you witness people longing for the things that you don’t even give a thought to, it’s just given to you. Another thing I learned this week is my problems aren’t even problems at all. The things I dwell on and stress about are nothing compared to the troubles the people here face. The Lord has also told me this week that my plans are not His plans. Even though I may not like the situation at hand, I know that the Lord will use me in ways that I don’t know yet.

Katherine Neil: 12th Grade. In the first community we went to today, it was Tristan and my turn to tell a Bible story. When no translator was available, Tristan and I were left to tell the story of the fiery furnace in Spanish. In the end, we read this story told in Daniel 3 from the Spanish Bible, and then I wrapped it up with my little bit of Spanish (with the help of a few friends). At first after telling the story, I dwelled over the lie that my words weren’t understandable with my poor pronunciation, and that no one truly learned anything through me. Soon after, the Lord reminded me, that in no way does He need me in order for his power to be shown. He doesn’t need me, but still He chooses to use me. That’s pretty awesome. Also, through that, the Lord revealed to me the simplicity of the Gospel. Although my words may have been blurry, the fact that God’s love is great and that He is always with us was clear. That is the most important thing.

Joseph Hyatt: 12th Grade. Today we went to a different village than San Martín. I met a little boy named Jason and his mom Nancy. Jason was about 4 years old and loved things made out of balloons. At one of our meetings, Dan and Alan gave us Bibles in español. God put it on my heart to give my bible to someone at that village so I got it out and Ellie Whatley and I went through and marked verses. We wrote the Romans Road in the front and where they could find it so they can see a simple representation of the Gospel. Ellie and I finished so we prayed over the Bible. I told Ellie I would love for Jason to have it for when he is older, but I couldn’t find him. Ellie said if God wants him to find it you will see him before we leave. I looked up after she said that and saw Jason round the corner. I asked him where he lives so I could tell his mother why I wanted Jason to have it. He understood. He walked me to his house and his mom met me at the door. We were able to communicate without a translator and we held a conversation. I haven’t taken nor spoke Spanish in two years. I realized God’s thread through it all and saw how God broke down the language barrier so the Gospel could be presented to Nancy and her son. God had his hand through it all. The Holy Spirit came alive and now Nancy and her son have God’s Word. This reminds me of Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever.”

Sam Hyatt: Chaperone. Humility & humanity leads to knowledge and wisdom. Our God has created an array of people: different nationalities, different lifestyles, different languages, and different beliefs, but we all know and can communicate the universal language of love to all people. God is so much bigger than any of these barriers in our differences, so when we humble ourselves and show love for others, the impact of what we can teach each other can have an eternal impact. Egidio, our ministry leader for the week, uses his resources, his time, and his love to provide for basic needs for the people in his village and surrounding villages and ask for nothing in return, hoping that by demonstrating this love will open a door to later provide spiritual needs by introducing who Jesus is to him. I pray we can use our knowledge and wisdom that we receive from Christ and the demonstration of His love by others (such as people like Egidio) to live in humility and show humanity. 

Friday, March 18

Costa Rica Day 3 by Taylor McQueen

Today we split into two ministry teams – one team built a concrete ramp at the local school and the other team installed windows on a woman’s home. 

   
   
 Our “ramp team” did some serious labor today! We have some hard-working team members on this trip…team work made the dream work! We had students digging up dirt to help level the ramp, we had students mixing and making concrete, and Dan Kennefick and Alan Jones helped lead the way in making sure the ramp was level and of good quality. Our tool inventory was limited…but the locals had creative ways to get around the lack of supplies and get the job done. 
   
 

    
The “window team” had a very special project, considering their job changed this woman’s life. This woman and her brother were living in complete darkness, and spent all their time outside, only to sleep inside. Installing windows not only improved their house, but will greatly improve her life as she will now be able to function INSIDE their home with light! What a metaphor of the Gospel – turning darkness into light. Egidio has built relationships with her and her brother and had that project at the top of the list of jobs for us when we arrived. Ever since Dan and Alan did their pre-trip in October, Egidio has been anticipating the help we would bring and knew that we needed to help this woman.

   

 

  
Tonight, we are winding down in the lobby of the hotel! Some people ordered hamburgers from the restaurant in our hotel, there is a group of students playing cards, and some chose to go to bed early and get caught up on sleep! We are excited for tomorrow’s adventures!

  
Team Member Testimonies-

Jennifer Kennefick: Chaperone. What an experience this trip has been…and there is so much more to come. After praying for God’s guidance on this great vision that Egidio has for his community and spreading God’s Word, it brought to mind that Satan will be at work to hinder this project. Egidio shared a touching testimony later that proved Satan was already at work but was defeated. Egidio has put his faith in God and I can’t wait to see God’s will fulfilled. Egidio is a great example of being obedient when God leads you on a mission.

Paxton Brittle: Senior at AU, Student Ministry Intern. God is so good. Today we put windows on a house for a mentally handicapped brother and sister that had been literally living in darkness. Our task was long and seemed simple, however, it was such a reminder of the Gospel. Tomorrow morning when the sun rises, light will flood into the darkness of their home and hopefully remind them that God is faithful. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:5

Hannah Grace Dozier: 11th Grade. Today, God taught me that there are multiple ways to serve Him and His kingdom. We all have to obey Him in order to make up the body of Christ. If one Christian does not follow God’s vision, then the vision of His people will begin to dwindle. Today specifically, God taught me that you do not necessarily have to be working to serve Him. Just playing with kids plants the seed for something beautiful, that only Christ can work in them. I learned that I can use my gift of speaking Spanish and communicating with children to please the perfect and holy One. We all have our own way to serve Him with the personality that the Lord gave us.

Caleb Kennefick: 12th Grade. Yesterday our team of about 10 was assigned to go to the workshop where beds for children are made. When we arrived, we realized that the man who works there (employed by Egidio) knew no English. We had a translator, Corey, (Egido’s brother) who spoke a little English. As the man who lived there began talking and showing us what to do, we all just automatically picked up on what he was trying to tell us and barely needed the translator. We all just began working right away and did as much work in one day as one man could do in about a week. It was so amazing watching God tear down the language barrier right there in front of me on the first day. He showed me right off the bat that He is in control and there is no obstacle He can not overcome!!

Annah Beth Alverson: 12th Grade. God taught me just how much I take for granted. I knew going on this mission trip that there would be less fortunate people who don’t have as much as I might back at home…but I didn’t realize how much I take for granted. I wouldn’t even think of windows as a huge thing because back at home everyone has them in each room of their house. Today, God showed me that there are people that don’t have things that we might consider “little”, and a little help means a lot to them. When we first arrived to frame and put the windows in, we thought it would just take a few hours in the morning and we would be in and out really quick. But God decided to also teach me patience today. The angles and measurements of the window frames were different on each side and we had to measure each side individually and then cut it exactly on that measurement. It was a very tedious task and took a lot of time and patience, but in the end when we stepped back and looked at what we had done, you could just feel the presence of God. It was a really humbling experience and made me really happy at the end of the day knowing that I helped bring light into a dark place and allowed them to see God’s beauty at all times. This trip has already been life changing, and I am so thankful to get to be apart of God’s plan for this village. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life.