Huntington, Ind.—Spring break in San José, Costa Rica, wasn’t a vacation for the Foresters who participated in the week-long mission trip. Eight people went on the trip, including six Huntington University students and one faculty member and his daughter.
From March 14 to the 22, the group crossed international borders and delved into a different culture. As part of the Christ For the City International service organization, they served, lived, shared, and now emphasize the significance of an international service experience.
“I think that college students are at the perfect stage in their lives for the challenges that such international experiences bring as well as having something valuable to share,” said Dr. Todd Martin, associate professor of English at Huntington and leader of the trip.
“I wouldn’t really say that I ‘lead’ it,” Martin said. “The students did all the planning and developing of the trip.”
Alex Lute, a junior elementary education major from Lansing, Ill., was responsible for suggesting Costa Rica to the Joe Mertz Center as a mission trip possibility. He served with CFCI for six months in that same area of San José just after he graduated high school.
“CFCI exists to enable people to minister to the desperate and hopeless city dwellers of the world,” Lute said. And that was the basis for the Huntington group’s ministry opportunities. The group served in various mission opportunities, including a street-feeding ministry and helping with “Club,” similar to a Vacation Bible School program.
Lute recalls the great number of children at Club, approximately 230 total. Despite feeling a little overwhelmed considering there were only about 15 adults, Lute said it was fun because of the children and their eagerness to learn and participate.
“We learned a dance to ‘Mi Rey Jesus,’ which is ‘My King Jesus’ in Spanish, and we did it at Club,” he said. “The dance was fun to do, and it was exciting to see the kids catch on so quickly and sing and dance along with us.”
Another memorable opportunity was the afternoon the HU group went to one of the most impoverished and dangerous areas of San José to serve in a street-feeding ministry. At this time, the group distributed food to more than 500 people.
“I remember looking up from serving food at one of the most impoverished areas of the inner city and seeing [my daughter] handing a plate of food to a woman holding a child,” Martin said. “Seeing her smile at the woman as [my daughter] served her is a memory I will cherish.”
Another memorable element to the trip was that the group members all stayed with host families. Paired off into groups of two, each pair was assigned a family to live with for the week.
“Everyone loved their host families,” said Lute.
Kelsey Butcher, a junior psychology major from Bloomington, Ind., said her host family surmounted the language barrier between them in unique ways. They discovered a way to connect and have fun through music. Butcher recalls the last night she stayed with them.
“They didn’t know much English very well, but they certainly knew their songs,” she said. “We sang karaoke to a little Celine Dion and ‘Take My Breath Away’ from the movie ‘Top Gun.’ We had so much fun.”
The HU bunch also spent some time having fun as a group. At the end of the week, for a debriefing session, they rode a zip-line course through a jungle area.
“I felt like I was Tarzan flying from tree to tree,” Butcher said.
The trip was a positive yet challenging experience for Butcher. She says that she wouldn’t trade her cross-cultural experience for anything.
“I think such experiences in a different culture help one to appreciate others more, and it reveals some of the flaws in our own culture as well,” Martin said.
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