Sunday, October 18, 2015

Greetings from Costa Rica! The Growing Stations of a Relationship.

"Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails." -Proverbs 19:20-21

Hola amigos, Alejandra here!
It has been almost two months since my arrival in San José, Costa Rica with my Mission partner, Katherine Snow.
Since one of my main purposes as a YASC missionary was to come build relationships with a foreign Diocese and its community, I have broken down my last few weeks in San José into something many of us know as: “The Stages of a Relationship.”


1. A T T R A C T I O N,
otherwise known as the “honeymoon period.”
(Duration: approximately 4 weeks)

Kate and I were excited to be in a new relationship with this opportunity. Naturally, we quickly fell in love with Costa Rica. As we know, when we first fall in love it is difficult for us to see our partner’s flaws. Love is a chemistry; chemicals are released in our brain that sends our heart thumping, it allows us to see the world through rose-colored sunglasses (think Joe Biden). It’s an addiction, except this one is legal and meant to serve the greater GO[O]D.

We were immersed in a new culture, language, routine, job, life. The organization of our work seemed to be coming together, people were friendly, we were familiarizing ourselves with the transportation system, and we were making friends. "Pura Vida" as the Costa Ricans say, meaning "Pure Life." This popular expression described Costa Rica perfectly the first few weeks we were here.

What I fell in love with the most was work. After spending the first week getting adjusted to our new homes, Kate and I quickly began working at two schools established by the Diocese of Costa Rica. These schools, called Hogar Escuela, are located in two of San José's most impoverished neighborhoods. This Ministry serves the children of these communities; providing them with resources and more importantly, an education. The goal is to teach these children the skills and values necessary to surpass poverty and excel as a child of God.

Kate and I's p u r p o s e at Hogar Escuela is to teach students the fundamental English skills needed in order to continue their journey to learn a new language and be able to excel as students. It is proven that being bilingual is not only a great benefit in today's globalized world, but it is also a great way to exercise and strengthen the most important muscle in the human body- our brains. (Okay so the brain is actually an organ but by exercising it, you can help it grow and strengthen, like a muscle.)

Being able to speak more than one language makes an individual overall more intelligent. What I mean by this is that being able to speak two languages gives an individual the ability think in two languages, giving the brain the capability to reason in multiple ways. Being bilingual strengthens the brain’s "executive function," making it easier to direct plans, solve problems, and perform mentally demanding tasks. Coming up with a solution to a problem, question, thought, and idea become easier.

By strengthening their minds, the student's at Hogar Escuela will be able to excel in school as a whole, therefore giving them the skills, confidence, and motivation needed to continue an education after high school. This is the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica's vision for their Hogar Escuela Ministry, they realize the importance of educating their communities.

The fact that they had so much faith in Kate and I to allow us to take on such an important job, humbles me. That is the reason why we are so proud to be in Costa Rica, and more importantly, why we work so hard to make sure that our students receive the best English as a Second Language education possible.

Our g o a l on the other hand is not only to teach our students basic English skills, but to demonstrate Christian values by being the most authentic selves we can possibly be. Both, by incorporating Scripture and Bible study into our English lessons and by leading by example, Kate and I plan to teach our students what it means to be a follower of Christ and a missionary of God.

Having something so clearly display God's powers makes our job's not only easier, but enjoyable. The first few weeks of teaching were smooth, our introductory lessons went well and the kids seemed to be excited about having two new teachers at their school. Students were receptive and when they weren't Kate and I were able to quickly come up with a solution to some classroom management hurdles we encountered. We also got comfortable with our schedule and began learning all of the kid's names.

These first few weeks were easy to tackle because of the high we were feeling from everything that seemed to be happening at once. We were so easily able to see God's omnipotent work.


2. P O W E R  S T R U G G L E,
otherwise known as “reality.”
(Duration: approximately 2 weeks)

It is during this stage that most divorce happens. This is when finding similarities gets harder and harder and differences become the center of focus. It is during this part that most relationships either:
* break up or
* survive
Breaking up at this point would be so much easier. Packing our things and turning around running would have been the simple way out. But we know this opportunity is part of our journey. We know that surviving and getting through this hardship is the essence of s a c r i f i c e and c o m p r o m i s e.

The blessing in this is that we were able to realize that it was when we lost sight of our purpose and goal when things began to get difficult.

When I stopped thinking hopefully and began thinking selfishly was when my mood and feelings altered. The honeymoon was over, everything became real and all of the sudden this was my life, my job, this house was my home, this friend was my roommate… this country was it. This is where I will be for the remainder of the year and there is no going back now.

Kate and I's food expenses became unbearable, the transportation system was now unreliable, the amount of walking we had to do was exhausting, the fact that we lived in an office and not a real home was suffocating... the light dimmed for a second, rose-colored glasses tipped off.
Not only was our living situation feeling less and less like Candy Land and more and more like Monopoly, we were learning to see the country and it's communities like natives rather than foreigners. We were able to see past the image of Costa Rica’s "Pura Vida." We learned about injustices in the communities we were working at- about how for most students the Ministry serves, the meals they receive at Hogar Escuela are the only meals they receive period; about how many of the mother's of children we teach are single and either homeless or near it because of lack of opportunities and extremely high cost of living (comparable to that in the United States!); about how the schools in the community these student's live in are rarely open and when they are it's only for half a day.

Things began to make me angry, the fact that as children of God, we not only allow such injustice but are the ones to have created it.

Here is where g r o w t h comes in…

Kate and I know we will keep returning to this painful stage over and over again throughout our year here if we don’t learn the skills necessary to navigate our issues and resolve our differences.

Problem ::=:: No Problem.
Kate and I put our thinking caps on and decided to do what we could to make sure we never lost track of our purpose and goal again. This is when we realized that our true calling was not described by those first few weeks of pure bliss and enchantment. It is through these painful experiences and the growth we will gain from it that we are able to show our discipleship. It is through the cracks that the light shines through, in the darkness that light is seen.

Now that we know what our true challenges are, we can begin to purposefully serve as missionaries.


3. S T A B I L I T Y
(Status: in process)

This is where the thrill of being in love returns, even deeper and stronger than upon meeting. This is the stage where clarity begins to form. In this stage, it finally becomes very clear that we will never, ever succeed in changing until we have given up the desire to live in constant comfort. This is the stage where we learn that it is okay for others to have a difference in opinion and views; that it is okay that the world is vastly different than what we are accustomed to the last twenty-some years. This is the stage that opens up the opportunity to set clear boundaries in order to learn how to love, treat, and respect one another and our Mission.

Never forgetting our purpose and goal will be crucial these next few months as I continue to serve in this Ministry.

How will I do so?
I recently received an email from a parishioner at a parish I had the opportunity to preach at this past summer. In it it said, “What can I do to help? …  I wish I had your courage and faith.”
This got me thinking… I began to think not only about courage and faith but about how I can involve those whom might not be able to physically be here into my Ministry. As Episcopalians, during a confirmation, the congregation replies to a number of questions by saying, “I can with God’s help.” I’d like to add something to that…

“I can, with the help of God and the help of God’s community.” Truth of the matter is that we ALL have the courage and faith it takes to make a difference in the world we have been so blessed to live in.

I am currently working on putting together a Request for Guidance to send back home.
I cannot do this alone nor do I wish to. I could not have built the courage and faith to come here alone, I could not have fundraised what I needed to make this possible alone, and now that I'm here, I can not continue to serve my calling to God alone. I need  your courage and faith.

I know this, therefore I am doing everything possible to make sure I include everyone back home help make sure Hogar Escuela and the Diocese of Costa Rica succeed.

This is the third stage. This is just as crucial as the first two. This is the one after my eyes have been opened, where work on self-growth begins. I must put together what I can in order to not only create stability so I can effectively communicate with my team here and at home, but grow closer to interdependence- with the countries, Dioceses, communities, and most importantly, you- God's children.


4. R E C O N C I L I A T I O N,
otherwise known as “communication.”
(Status: next in process)

Once the Request of Guidance is complete and out, communication will flourish. This is the stage where after weathering the most difficult part of the relationship, we can accept the other for who and what they are and still feel a connection. This is where those involved in the relationship can reconcile and learn to accept one another in the commitment they have made. Differences now become strengths.

I am excited for this next stage in my calling to this Ministry. I don't know how long this will last or the trials and tribulations I will be placed on by God, but I am excited and ready to take on the challenge.

I ask for your prayers these next few weeks, as I continue to g r o w as an individual into this position I seem to have been assigned to. I ask that you mediate on your willingness and able to join me in this Ministry as I work with the community of Barrio Cuba and Heredia in San José, Costa Rica.

Courage is defined as the "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty" by Webster's Dictionary. Matter of fact, a synonym for c o u r a g e is "heart." Thinking about the email I received about  “having the courage” to do what I do, I am reminded that the truth is we ALL do have that courage. We have it because we have f a i t h and l o v e in God.


5. I N T E R D E P E N D E N C E,
otherwise known as “ commitment & L O V E.”
(Status: next in process)

This is where those involved in the relationship become O N E, this is the final stage. This is where everyone feels accepted and comfortable being together. This is where exploration into new opportunities and fulfillment happens. This is the stage where a T E A M is built and the relationship becomes a gift to the world. Projects will become shared creative work intended to contribute to the outside world. The lessons learned from the previous four stages are retained and used to move forward in growth and most importantly, e d i f i c a t i o n.

This is our true goal while in Costa Rica. It has been a little past six weeks but Kate and I feel ourselves getting closer and closer to this interdependence and L O V E everyday.

As long or as challenging as some days may seem, I still find it difficult to fall asleep on certain nights in anticipation of the following day. Knowing that tomorrow is another opportunity to be better than I was today and to do more to impact the community and children in which I'm working with.


Thank you again for your support, none of this would have been possible without you.

+ God bless,
Alejandra Garcia
San José, Costa Rica