The following journal is a recap of God’s goodness to our team as we served in Costa Rica the last week of March 2022 as part of our Spring Term mission trip through North Cobb Christian School.
COSTA RICA | Sunday, March 27 🇨🇷
We are having an incredible time in Costa Rica! After meeting at 3:30am Atlanta time at school Saturday morning, everyone woke up Sunday morning reporting they had a great night of sleep! Since Costa Rica doesn’t celebrate Daylight Savings, they are two hours behind Atlanta. That meant our 8am breakfast felt like 10am and the whole crew was grateful! Breakfast consisted of beans and rice, scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fried plantains, and fresh fruit. Many of our crew have discovered how much they like the Costa Rican coffee!
This sharp looking group loaded the bus to head to church. We worshipped at Fortaleza Iglesia with Pastor Gonzalo and his congregation. Over the first 20 minutes of worship, people just kept coming and coming to the point where a large portion of our group stood in the back or just outside. I loved how quickly our kids were to hop up and offer their chairs…awesome respect and honor from this group!
After the singing, all of the children were dismissed to join the gringos for Sunday School. Mason led the kids in a lesson about the Fruit of the Spirit with help from Ella and Natalie. Mason picked up a bunch of different kinds of fruit at WalMart yesterday and it was a great visual! Several of our other Spanish students jumped in to help as well. Once that finished up, the NCCS students broke the Costa Rican kids into smaller groups o get to know each other and play card games, color, and make bracelets. After awhile we brought our soccer balls and footballs and we had a blast playing outside for a long time!
Once the main service finished up, Pastor Gonzalo brought the congregation outside to announce that, through the generosity of many friends in the US through Bryce’s GoFundMe, the land they had been praying for was purchased for the church. It was a powerful moment! Our group and the Costa Rican people spread out to pray around the perimeter of the land that the Lord would use that space for His glory for many years to come. We love Bryce’s enthusiasm for advancing the gospel. He found a way to make this land a reality for the church to expand their children’s and education ministry space.
One of the ladies in the congregation made the most amazing lunch of chicken, rice, and frijoles. It’s become evident quickly that we won’t go hungry on this trip! Our team continued visiting with our Costa Rican friends and making plans for the week ahead.
Bryce, Mr. Carr, John, Mrs. Peterson, and I visited with the the Pastor to talk about using the rest of the money we raised to purchase Spanish Bibles. We want to purchase a lot of Bibles for the church to have to give to anyone that comes to visit. We are also purchasing special leather bound Bibles as a gift for people who will be baptized in May. The church is planning a big celebration for the baptisms to include a cookout. We hope the Bibles will be a sweet part of the discipleship process of these new believers.
We left the church mid-afternoon and headed to a really cool ice cream place. Check out our pictures to see what a “super cono” is. It was quite remarkable! Mrs. Peterson stayed busy translating the ice cream options from Spanish to English and then our orders back into Spanish. We are making sure she gets some good practice with her Spanish! She’s been such a blessing helping us build relationships.
Our next stop was an oxcart factory up on the mountain. The bus trip up was fairly quiet with some kids dozing. They played hard with the kids! Our tour guide showed us how they make the oxcarts along with everything that goes into the process including the intricate custom painting. We all learned a lot! The tour finished up with a really cool gift shop and the kids had lots of fun looking around and picking up some fun souvenirs. It to spoil the surprise, but someone’s parents are getting a monkey made out of coconuts.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped for dinner and ate out on the patio just as the most beautiful sunset was wrapping up. It’s been fun to see the way the group is mixing and sitting with different people at meals. The food was wonderful! The conversation was even better! Mrs. Peterson, Mr. Carr, and I really enjoyed the chance to catch up with Tremain and Denzel and hear all about their college plans.
We are on our way back to the hotel for worship and devotions. Evan has been leading us in worship each night and Mason is leading devotions tonight. We start each evening gathering by asking the question “Where did you see God at work today?” And with that, scroll to read the perspective of some of our awesome students.
Today, we went to a church service and then had fellowship with the families. It was really cool because we all sang in Spanish, and you could tell everyone was really passionate about the Lord by just the way that they were singing. Even though the songs were in Spanish, we were still able to sing and worship with them (the pastor even invited us to sing the songs in English if we wanted to!) Everyone was very welcoming, and it’s been super cool to see how God has worked through so many different people in so many different ways today, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us! -Natalie Byrd, 12th grade
Today we went to a church and most of the students led the Sunday school. Emily and I met two young kids who beat us in soccer 3-1, and they were about 10 years younger. They lived next to the church and Did not typically attend. Today after I was done playing with them, they told me they had so much fun and wanted to come back. This made my heart happy knowing that the light shining through each of us students made people want to come to the church again. -Bella Marino, 12th grade
We got to lead children’s church while the adults had their service, it was kind of nerve wracking! Fortunately, several of us have experience working in children’s church back home, so it went pretty smoothly! We taught a short lesson on “las frutas del Espíritu,” and then we spent the rest of the time in groups getting to play with the kids and get to know them! (Shoutout to Ella for teaching the church kids how to play Uno!
After church, we went to Sarchí—home of the famous Costa Rican oxcarts, or “Carretas”. These carts made of teak and mahogany are painted by hand by artists with years of training—they’re gorgeous! We toured the place where the carts are manufactured, which also provides power to the public using a water wheel. -Mason Morrow, 12th grade
COSTA RICA | Monday, March 28 🇨🇷
After another great night of rest, the team gathered at 7am for breakfast. Same breakfast as yesterday and we were all excited about that! Today kicked off our project for the week. Our team is blessed to be able to build a home for Katherine. She is working hard to provide for her 4 young children and we hope to ease her burden a bit this week by ensuring they have a roof over their heads. Our devotions this morning from Ephesians 4 remind us of the blessing of Christian community to encourage, equip, and empower us for the calling God has placed on each of us.
We are so thankful for Mrs. Wilczyznski’s 3rd grade class at NCCS! They are our prayer partners for this trip and they sent us with letters of encouragement and prayers over our team. We love this special partnership with our Lower School! Reading those letters was a really fun way to start the day.
The team loaded the bus and headed back to the church we visited yesterday. Everyone loaded up with sunscreen and got our work tools organized. The site for the home is about a 5 minute walk from the church. That allowed us to leave our backpacks at the church and get right to work. The first task was to unload all of the wood, drywall, concrete boards, and sheet metal from a flatbed truck. Brayden hopped up in the truck and started handing everything down to the team. One thing we love about this team is that we don’t have to ask them to help…everyone just gets to work. No one stands back, they step forward. The unloading went quickly and then we divided into three teams: Painting (Mrs. Peterson), Framing (Mrs. Strange), and Truss building (Mr. Carr). We were so thrilled to see how many of our students quickly volunteered for things they have never done before. We learned a lot about power tools (everyone still has all of the fingers they brought with them) as well as measuring, hammering, and just being flexible.
One of the biggest blessings that our team probably doesn’t realize is that there was already a foundation where we are building the home for Katherine and her family. That saved a lot of work mixing concrete! The concrete pad is approximately 16×20 for Katherine’s home and then there is another similar sized pad next to it where they will ultimately build a home for Katherine’s mother. Katherine chose a beautiful bright blue paint for her walls, so the crew started painting. Thanks to the heat and very welcome breeze…the paint dried quickly. The rest of us set our attention on measuring and cutting a lot of 2×4’s to start the framing while Mr. Carr and his crew starting building the trusses for the roof. Everyone worked very diligently for over 3 1/2 hours with lots of laughter and a good amount of “figuring things out.” We have loved working alongside Pastor Gonzalo, Pedro, and some of the other Costa Rican friends we are getting to know. They have been very patient with our kids and are really focused on teaching them how to feel successful with the tasks we are doing. They are gentle and humble men and lots of fun! We are all learning more Spanish working together and they are enjoying practicing English. It’s a great partnership!
We broke for lunch around 1pm and enjoyed being back in the shade of the church. Everyone enjoyed sub sandwiches, chips, fruit, and a variety of Costa Rican fruit juices and tea. After reapplying sunscreen we headed back to the site for a bit. We started our day with a concrete foundation and by the time we left the site at 3:30pm this afternoon, all four perimeter walls were up and the doors and windows were cut out. The last part today was squaring up the walls so that we can begin with the roof trussing and metal roofing right away tomorrow. We will also begin working on furnishings and purchasing groceries over the next two days. Most of the day today, Katherine and her family watched us work…I saw her wipe away tears on more than one occasion. Our kids enjoyed playing with her kids. It’s mind-boggling for our kids to realize that she and her 4 children will live in a home that is smaller than our classrooms at NCCS.
One more experience for today was some rush hour traffic on the bus back to the hotel, but our Joshua Expeditions guide surprised us with some cookies as a thank you for everyone’s hard work today…so everyone was happy to enjoy a snack and rest on the way back to the hotel. Once we got back, a big group of kids swam for a while while others took showers and changed for dinner. The bus will take us to dinner in a bit. We will come back to the hotel for our team time and evening devotions led by Caeden. Lest you confused Caeden and Kaden, the letter Kaden got from Mrs. Wilczynski’s class was addressed to Mr. Kaden, so that’s what we call him now!
Thank you so much for your prayers! This team has just been the best. Mr. Carr, Mrs. Peterson, and I have so enjoyed the way that they are working hard and really taking the time to build relationships within the team as well as with so many new friends we are making here in Costa Rica.
Have a great night!
Megan Strange, Upper School Principal
Today I noticed how attentive the people of costa rica are to see servanthood. the way the students served as a whole today impacted the hearts and souls of the people. I’ve never seen more people curious about the Gospel from looking at the shadows of the people serving them. the citizens of San Jose are hungry for the Gospel. they are hungry for God.
-Bryce Crawford, 12th grade
While we were walking back to the house build after lunch, I was able to talk in Spanish to a little girl from a nearby house. I learned that she was 4 and her name was Josebelle. She rode piggyback for the whole walk, and we talked about her favorite colors, and where she found them. Her joy was contagious and it was inspiring how happy she was even though she had very little. I was so happy to be able to hang out with her and the other kids throughout the afternoon.
-Ella Lawson, 12th grade
COSTA RICA | Tuesday, March 29 🇨🇷
We just got back to the hotel for quick showers before we head out for the evening. This is going to be a special evening! We are headed to a store to pick up furnishings for Katherine and the children to surprise them for their house. We are getting things like bedding, curtains, kitchen items, etc. Earlier today we purchased a stove, washing machine (wash on one side and spin on the other side) and a refrigerator/freezer for the family. When we get on the bus, students will be put in groups and given an envelope. Mrs. Peterson has put a piece of paper in each envelope that lists the few items that group is responsible for finding. We also told the kids they are welcome to bring money if they’d like to personally purchase anything for the family. They really lit up at that opportunity…this is a generous crew! This will be fun to see how our kids work through the process of setting up a new home!
Today was another really great day of working on Katherine’s home. The students worked really hard. We got the entire roof on the home and built out two bedrooms on the inside (think slightly larger than average closet). One bedroom will have a double bed for Katherine and the 6 month old twins. The other room will have bunk beds for the 4 year old daughter and 7 year old son. While we have the family out shopping for groceries tomorrow, all of the furniture will be delivered and assembled to surprise them when they return. Yes, we have all teared up just thinking about it…tomorrow is going to be special!
We have really enjoyed working alongside our new Costa Rican friends Pedro, Marcio, and Ruth. They have been very forgiving of our slightly below average construction skills. They are so patient and kind and they really want the kids to have the feeling of satisfaction of a job well done. We have learned so much about power tools as well as just good ole fashioned hand tools. Every single member of our 30 person team has gotten their hands dirty and contributed. One huge blessing arrived after lunch today when we walked back to the job site and found that it had become overcast and breezy. What a treat after some of us have already achieved our mid-summer tans.
I’ll keep this brief this evening because we are so excited about our shopping trip this evening. After shopping, we will head out for dinner…we have eaten like kings and queens this week…and then return to the hotel for devotions led by Mrs. Peterson. Can we ask you to please pray for us tonight and tomorrow? Our goal is not that there would be any accolades or attention for the Americans. We want all the glory to go to God…not just the completion of the home, but even the stewardship of our time and the relationships we have enjoyed building.
Thank you for cheering us on from home. These are special days!
Upper School Principal
Today was day 2 of building the house for the family, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic for them! The best part of the day was being able to get up on the roof to help put it in place (which was really scary & i almost slipped off), but it just showed us how far we had come along! It’s been so incredible to see everyone come together and work hard with each other! -Emily Simpson, 12th grade
Today we continued on the house build. We made a tremendous amount of progress as we went from nothing much on the inside to having walls up and a roof partially up as well. I worked on the inside getting the walls on the inside up and nailing different things to the wall. As we worked longer all day we saw the people around us getting happier as the house build got closer to completion. -Luke Brock, 12th grade
The second day of working on the house was tiring, but I had a lot of fun. Aside from laughing and joking around with my friends, we got a lot of work done which included finishing the roof. -Tremain Davis, 12th grade
COSTA RICA | Wednesday, March 30 🇨🇷
Happy Wednesday to all of our family and friends back home. We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and encouragement. It means the world that you are reading our blog and checking out our pictures. Our ultimate goal in all of this is to tell the story of what God has done and is doing. As Christ followers, sharing the gospel is a charge to “tell a good story.”
This morning more of our crew woke up with sore muscles and a feeling of accomplishment! We met for breakfast and everyone was in great spirits and excited about the day ahead. Lizzie purchased a jar last night at the store and asked everyone to write down a favorite Bible verse (in Spanish) and fold up the paper and put it in the jar. She wanted that to be a visible reminder for the mom of God’s encouragement. We also brought a Spanish/English Bible with us and everyone highlighted a verse and wrote their name as well as some words of encouragement in the front cover. Our hope and prayer is that anything Katherine’s family remembers about this week is simply God’s provision for their family.
When we arrived at the church, we unloaded all of the furnishings for the family so we could keep those as a surprise. We walked down to the site to finish up a few projects…paint touchups, running electrical, framing windows, etc. Then…just like moving day back home…things got exciting and busy! The furniture and appliances showed up and we moved all the furnishings down to the site. This all happened while Mrs. Peterson, Graham, Ella, Denzel, and Emily took the mom, grandma, and 4 kids to the grocery store. They purchased TONS of food and supplies for the family using the money that Mrs. Wilczynski’s NCCS 3rd Grade class sent with us. The 3rd graders did chores around their own homes to earn money to give towards this grocery trip. How cool is that?! Before we know it, the NCCS Class of 2031 will be going on their own Spring Term trips!
Speaking of our prayer partners, we had a chance to do a Google Meet with Mrs. Wilczynski’s class while we were finishing some things for the home so we could show them how everything was coming together. They have been so faithful to pray for us! The “big kids” loved getting to say hey to the 3rd graders as well. I love that special partnership at NCCS because our “big kids” remember vividly being the “little kid” prayer partners.
We got word that the family had finished up shopping and was headed to the church for lunch. Think of the last few minutes of your favorite HGTV shows. We were setting up beds, hanging curtains, folding towels, moving in appliances and furniture…and the kids were all doing it with a great attitude and a lot of enthusiasm! We wrapped up just in time to walk to the church to have lunch together with the Calero family. A couple of us stayed behind for some pictures and a quick video tour.
Lunch was great…but we were ready to get the show on the road! After a bit, we walked back down to the house with the Calero family. The door was locked and we all gathered in their front “yard” for a time of encouragement and a very special key ceremony. Each person who worked on the project had a chance to hold the keys and share a few words. Our students really took this time to heart and prepared in advance what they wanted to say. Some of them were grateful for the translator and others did their very best to say it in Spanish. After we went around the group, I gave the Calero family the Bible and Mr. Carr presented the keys to Katherine and she shared a few words with the group.
Then…the moment we had all been waiting for, the family went into the house…just the 5 of them to walk around and look. As we stood outside, we heard the word “wow” many times. The kids were giggling and laughing as they explored their rooms and found the toys and special things our kids had purchased for them. All of the groceries were stacked up in the kitchen and the family is set for a while!
There are really no words to describe what we experienced today. Lots of tears. Just a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness and a great reminder for all of us that God sees us and He loves us. Our hope and heart for the Calero family is that they would know and trust Christ as well.
The goodbyes and pictures lingered for quite awhile as you can imagine. We walked back up to the church and had a sweet time with Pastor Gonzalo and his family as well. We were able to share a gift with his family to thank him for everything he has done for our group this week. This pastor carries quite a burden serving so many in his community and we were so encouraged by the humility and integrity with which he serves.
There were a lot of wet eyes as we loaded the bus headed back towards the hotel. We just got back here for quick showers and to change clothes for the evening. The team is headed to the mall to stretch our legs and hang out. We will do our devotions on a beautiful rooftop area overlooking the city…looking forward to that! Then we will come back to the hotel to eat pizza and cheer on the US v. Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifier tonight. We are just a few miles from the stadium, so there is a lot of excitement!
This evening we celebrate! Tomorrow we head out for rafting and zip lining. Thanks for praying for negative COVID tests after breakfast tomorrow!
Upper School Principal
Today was the final day working on the house and then at the end of the day we were able to hand the keys over to the family. It was such an amazing experience seeing the joy in their faces. Seeing God work through us to be able to gift this family a house is such an inspiration not only to me but to everyone on the trip. -Mallory Swank, 12th grade
This was my first mission trip, so the whole experience was completely new to me. It was an honor to serve among both fellow students and local mission leaders. I loved seeing the looks of joy on the faces of Katherine and her family as they were handed the keys, as well as the opportunity to bless a family with a home of their own, something we all too often take for granted.-Julian Aquilino, 11th grade
Today, myself and a few others had the opportunity to take the family of the house shopping for groceries. Since I am a twin, my sister and I got to connect with the mother on her six month old twins. I then pushed Gabriella in the shopping cart while we bought groceries. After the key ceremony, I got my chance to say goodbye to the family that I spent the day with and wished them the best. Overall, today was a great but bittersweet day. -Graham Lawson, 12th grade
Today was absolutely incredible. Being able to hold the keys to the house and tell the family how blessed we are to have built it was something I won’t ever forget. From painting, framing, roofing and everything in between it all came together in a beautiful masterpiece that demonstrates the domino effect of God’s love. -Lizzie Chladek, 12th grade
COSTA RICA | Thursday, March 31 🇨🇷
We just arrived back at the hotel after a CRAZY fun day of zip lining through the canopy and whitewater rafting. Early this morning we got up to do our COVID tests for re-entry to the US (praise the Lord they were all negative!) and then headed up for our breakfast and to get the plans for the day. The bus ride took around 2 hours up through the mountains and some of the most beautiful scenery you could imagine! We had a great view of downtown San Jose as well as a variety of beautiful villages and farmland. Some of the kids dozed, some played games, and others chatted.
Halfway up, we stopped at a roadside place for bathrooms and snacks. This area is well known for their awesome strawberries, so several of us enjoyed a fairly healthy snack. We arrived at the outdoor adventure place around 11:30 and got our equipment to go zip lining. We went on 8 separate lines and got to explore the jungle of Costa Rica. There was a lot of laughing as we went from platform to platform…and we even got to see some monkeys and a really interesting iguana! The last line took us down by the river to the lodge where we originally started. Just in time for lunch!
We had a great lunch around the tables on the deck overlooking the river. It was just a perfect day! After lunch we put on our swimsuits and picked up our helmets, paddles, and life jackets and loaded the rafts after a great orientation. We had 6 boats out on the water. I had the privilege of rafting with Mallory, Lizzie, Denzel, and Tremain. At one point, Denzel almost fell out and Lizzie was the only one who attempted to rescue him. Also, Tremain is the new high school principal, so that is a fun development from this trip. He has a lot of exciting things in store for his classmates! Actually, he gave the principal role back to me after we made it back safely to the end of the river…so we’ll see how it goes! In other news, we saw monkeys, a sloth, and a toucan…and also jumped off the cliff and had a blast swimming and eating fresh pineapple on the side of the river.
We will have lots of pics to share soon from the rafting and zipline adventures. Those are all still downloading, but I’ve posted a few so you can see a glimpse of our fun from today. Lots of people tried something new! Dinner at the hotel was great…we had chicken sandwiches and strawberry ice cream and then gathered as a team for our last night together here in Costa Rica.
Each night, we have spent time reflecting on “where have you seen God at work this week?” Almost everyone in the group has shared at least something. The main reason we ask that question is because it causes us to be intentional about looking to see the places that God is at work and inviting us to join Him in that. Sometimes it’s a conversation, a relationship, a situation, an opportunity…anything that draws our attention to Christ and someone He has placed in our path for us to serve. I’m grateful for Evan leading us in worship each evening and sharing his gifts with our team. Tonight we spent some time reflecting on the week and what it means to Live Sent. I reminded the students of the promise of Colossians 1:17, “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” As well as the passage from Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission) that is the foundation of what it means to Live Sent.
Tonight was extra special because we presented the team with the letters sent from home. It was a sweet time in the room as the students and leaders read letters sent by their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. talking about how they’ve been praying for them this week and encouraging them to continue serving others in the name of Christ. What a great time to be encouraged and challenged to live out what we have experienced this week! The last thing we did was to go around the circle to share our prayer partners.
When we arrived last Saturday in Costa Rica, we gave everyone a name to be praying for this week. Someone else on the team that they would be working side by side with. The goal, most importantly, is to pray for that person. Secondarily, we wanted everyone to get to know their prayer partner and to serve them this week. Tonight we all went around the circle and shared two things we really appreciated about our prayer partner this week and then shared who we’ve been praying for. That’s always a sweet time!
Now we turn our attention homeward with the challenge to Live Sent beyond this week. Students are packing (totally kidding…they are sitting by the pool eating the rest of their snacks and talking for a bit) and then we will eat breakfast in the morning and head to the airport. After a quick stop in Miami, we should arrive in Atlanta around 9:30pm just in time for Spring Break!
Thank you in advance for praying for our safe travels home. This has just been an incredible week of God’s faithfulness at every turn. I personally have so enjoyed the conversations with our students working side by side on the worksite, around the table at meals, in our adventures today, on the bus, and everywhere in between. This is an awesome group of young men and women and Mr. Carr, Mrs. Peterson, and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time with them!
Pura Vida! Live Sent!
Upper School Principal