In June, twelve teenagers and five adult leaders from our West Allis location went on a mission trip to Costa Rica. One of the students, Elaine Hawk (17), talks about how God stretched her, grew her faith, and affirmed her trust in the Lord.
Elaine, share with us where you went and what you did with the kids there?
We went to San Ramon, Costa Rica which is a little north of San Jose, which is right smack dab in the middle of the country. When we were there, we did VBS (Vacation Bible School) with kids. So in the morning we would go to one village and do things like songs, games, and bible lessons, etc. as well as just play with them. We did a lot of soccer and bubbles. After lunch back at the mission we would do the same thing in another village.
Every day we would go back to those villages and do the same things, but everybody had a different role so we could all interact with them in different ways. The first day I did songs, then the next day I did games, then I did a group activity, then the last day I did the Bible lesson. We really just loved on the kids and ministered things to them that they don’t really get to hear a whole lot.
What was the place like where you stayed?
I felt like someone who actually lived in Costa Rica; not just a visitor. Usually when you go places you stay in a hotel but that’s not at all what we were in. There was a main room where we had worship and meals and was basically the hub. The rooms were filled with bunk beds and suitcases, but I knew before we got down there that it would be like that. We also shared bathrooms with everybody. There were guy shower times and girl shower times.
It was livable though and just took me away from my regular life and forced me to live a little outside my comfort zone. But that was great! It was more of a reality check for me personally, where I had to change my way of living to be comfortable but again it wasn’t a bad thing at all.
How were the kids that we served? What were they like?
The first village and the second village were very different. The first village was more reserved and quiet. They loved to play and listen. They really took in and enjoyed our time there.
One kid that stuck out was Sebastian. He was awesome; he was smart and willing to try new things. He was determined to learn English no matter how hard it was for him. It really showed me how God works in little ways that make big impacts. I felt as if I was making an impact on him.
The second village was much more animated. They got out of hand at times but it was so worth it because they would always come and listen to the stories and the verses and really just take in what we were saying, no matter how riled up they were, or the fact there was a bounce house right by them.
What did you learn about yourself on the mission trip?
I learned a lot on this trip, not all about me but about God through myself as well and other people. I realized that I am a selfish person and I’m a sinner, but I also learned that I love to serve God and He’s given me opportunities like Costa Rica to do so. I love teaching and I love music and I was able to incorporate that into my work down there. But while we were on our way back, I didn’t just want to wait until next year and I also thought, “I’m really busy!” But then I thought, “I don’t always have to do good deeds but I can rather love on people and let God show in what I do everyday.”
What did you learn about your team on the mission trip?
I learned that we as a team are awesome! And that you can share four showers with a lot of people. I mean pulling it off especially towards the end of the prep process and financial aspect was great. We all worked hard and pulled through. On the trip it really was cool to see how everybody interacts in different ways. Sam and Jade would always play soccer with the older boys, but others would stay and color or blow bubbles and just be with the kids and now worry about anything else except them. It was just remarkable how we all just mended together better than we thought we would.
How has your relationship with God changed since going on the mission trip?
It definitely has changed. On our last night of being at the mission, we were doing worship and we sang a song that I have heard and sang many times recently, even at the mission days before. But I was so emotional and filled with this feeling towards the middle of the song–the feeling of guilt and joy and sadness and fullness all at once. It was truly something I have never felt before. I remember sobbing and not being able to talk to Sarah (Sarah Wahl, adult co-leader of the trip) while everybody else debriefed about their day. And I just remember people asking, “Are you OK?”, and I would just be happy and say, “I am amazing,” because I was. I was saved that night and I knew that in my heart and I didn’t care what anybody thought! It was truly a night to remember for me.
How has your relationship with God been since being back in the U.S.?
It’s always hard coming back to the US after a trip like that. Having that high of being alone with God every morning and being in a different environment. But I saw God working. There were temptations to go back and do things that I usually would have done, but I chose differently because I thought that’s what God would have wanted; not what I want.
I’m not going to say it’s easy because it’s not! It’s very hard especially when you’re new to this like me. But my relationship, I think, has been strong with God. I used to doubt him and even test him sometimes, and you should never do that because he will come back and show you who’s boss. But it’s just been great since I got back. I’ve had this urge just to love and be there for people because I know they might need it whether it’s talking about it or just a hug. I feel God can work through me in that way and that’s what God wants; He wants me to love people so He can work in them through that.
If you can give any suggestions or advice for someone considering going on a mission trip next time, what would you tell them?
Do it! It might be cliché, but if you feel that God is calling you to go on a missions trip, do it. Don’t doubt him for a second. I almost dropped out because I felt so overwhelmed, but going was the best thing I have ever done. Even if you don’t know if you can handle it financially, God will provide. That was our theme for our VBS with the kids and really that’s what it’s about. God has a plan, and if you go, He will work through you! If He wants you to go, He will make a way for you to go.