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Tales From the Field

Costa Rica

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Mission Trip to Costa Rica 2018

Your shirt is sticking to you,

you smell disgusting,

you’re bumping around in a fifteen-passenger van with seventeen people in it,
and you’re in the middle of nowhere –

You might be on a mission trip!

These are just a few of the things Chris (my husband) and I got to experience in Costa Rica. And if you’ve ever traveled on a short-term mission trip, you very well may have experienced the same things!

After every mission trip, I like to set aside time to process. I ponder what God did on the trip, how I felt throughout the trip, how I feel after returning home, what impact we may have had on the local people, etc. Sometimes this processing is straightforward and easy, other times it is strained and confusing. In all honesty, I’m not completely sure where I’m at after returning home from our trip to Costa Rica. Lucky for you, this time you get to participate in my time of processing!

Nothing about this trip was exceptionally unique. Of course, every trip is unique in its own regard. In fact, we were originally supposed to travel to Nicaragua, but civil uprisings forced a change of plans. I’ve grown accustomed to this kind of fluidity among mission trips. We make a plan, follow the plan, then adjust when flights get delayed, people change their minds, or any number of other random occurrences transpire. Fortunately, after the location change, this trip progressed with only small bumps along the way. Once we shifted from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, we began preparations for a jungle village in the very northern region of the country. The local, long-term missionary we partnered with has spent a significant amount of time in this village, and we had the privilege of jumping in alongside that ministry. We traveled into the sticky, hot, humid, muddy jungle and we saw God work in the same spectacular ways He does in our own lives. God is good and He is the same no matter where you go! This is one of my absolute favorite things about missions. You get to see God move in the hearts of those who have nothing AND those who have everything.

Now, about my own processing of the trip: as routine as this trip felt for me, it has still stirred my heart. I have realized new things about myself, and I have many more questions about where God is leading Chris and me in ministry. Short-term mission trips are truly incredible. They have the power to turn our world upside down, pull us closer to God, force us to delve into the depths of our hearts, ruin us for the normal. I have thrived on this all my life (literally, my entire life). But this trip to Costa Rica is opening my eyes to new wells inside my soul. I am seeing clearly that I desire to help people get wrecked by short-term mission trips (wrecked in a good way, of course!), but I do not want to stop ministering to them there. I want to continue to walk with them afterwards. How? I have no idea, but I’m ok with waiting for answers.

So, if you’ve ever travelled on a mission trip with me, you can bet that I probably still think of you from time to time. I hope you’re thriving. And I’d love to hear from you!

 

Written by Kenzie Dunn-Morris
Kenzie@inmotionministries.org
In Motion Ministries Trip Coordinator

Rampart, Alaska

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Mission Trip to Rampart, Alaska

“I have no clue what to think,” I thought to myself when I heard about Rampart, a village in Interior Alaska, accessible only by air or boat on the Yukon River.  Viewing “Fish Camps” along the way, we got a brief glimpse of life in Rampart as our team traveled the two-hour trip down the river in a 26-foot flat bottomed boat captained by village worker, Leon. These were just glorified camp sites which are used in the summer during salmon spawning runs to provide for wintertime subsistence. The population of Rampart increases greatly in the summer months (estimated at 92 people this summer, versus 30-ish in the winter) as many residents spend their winter in Fairbanks.

We were greeted at the shore by a couple of local dogs, who entertained right away by fetching sticks (or small branches, as was the case). Leon went to get a village pickup to haul our luggage and supplies to the school, while the team trekked up the road to our accommodation.

Our proposed lodging was in the community center with no refrigerator or stove available, an outhouse out back and showers 5 minutes up the road at the “Washateria” – combination laundromat and bath house. Surprisingly, we got an upgrade! We were notified the morning we departed to Rampart we would be allowed to stay in the school instead, which is in the heart of the village. There are approximately a dozen students during the school year from families that live in Rampart year-round.  The school has a couple of showers, flush toilets, and we were also fortunate enough to be allowed the use of the school kitchen facility. The Rampart Village Council Office also operates in the school building, so we had Wi-Fi available for 2 ½ hours each evening, but there is no cell service. Locals, mostly kids, hang out around the school during those hours to get on the internet and check e-mail.

We set up housekeeping in the small gymnasium. Each of our 8 team members (+ 3 leaders from Last Frontier Ministries) “staked” our claim for spots for our air mattresses and sleeping bags. Then we set up our dining/meeting table down the center of the room and our food pantry in the corner.  We had the benefit of basketball goals, balls, a cool hanging rope, as well as village kids of the school custodian to play with.

We started each day with devotions, following breakfast, where the team each took turns with their selection. The discussion following the devotion was the best conversation ever – there is nothing better than fellowship with the team. Our first full day, we determined our schedules for afternoon Vacation Bible School and evening ministry, all held in the community center. Our information flyers were designed and drawn by our younger team members. We split up, went down the road (after we put on our “bug dope” to ward off the mosquitoes) house to house to introduce ourselves, and spread the word to the villagers about our VBS. At a few stops we got to see, first-hand, the processing of salmon for smoking it in strips; it is a kind of jerky. This salmon-smoking ritual seems like it would have been the same 100 years ago.

Our VBS was a well-attended success, even though most of the adults seemed to have a lack of faith.  The village children began gathering at the appointed (ish!) time in the afternoon. Since the Alaska summer night is not dark, but dusk at best, the kids go to bed early in the morning most times. It is not unusual for them to barely make it to VBS at 2 p.m.  Our theme was “God’s Chosen”, so the first day was rewarding to assist in helping them describe themselves in positive ways; something that was obviously not the norm. Our skits were a hit, just as much as the team enjoyed putting them on. It was refreshing to have the youngsters feel comfortable, easily laughing and playing with us.

Our leading team members blessed Rampart by sharing messages at three evening Church Services, beginning with Praise and Worship. We could sure feel the presence of the Holy Spirit! Following the last service, the team conducted four baptisms in the Yukon River!! One young lady, Teresa, was at all three services and let the team know she felt that we had come just for her benefit. What a victory for Jesus! Teresa was baptized by Bryan and Rob, of our team, along with three of our young team members. The Baptism was attended by several of the villagers – adults and children.

The folks from Rampart are a very private, protective people who don’t immediately open up. Fortunately, we had the benefit of the solid relationships that had previously been established by our hosts Sam and Rob of Last Frontier Ministries, who had spent time working alongside some of the Rampart residents. This paved the way for our team to be accepted in the village. It was a privilege to hear of the life journey and subsequent return to Rampart of an elder, Harold, as well as the tender closeness of Michelle (the Village Administrator) as a child, her Aunt and their prayer ritual. We also received gifts of fresh caught King Salmon and got to enjoy that wonderful delight for supper a few times – there is no comparison to what we experience at home!

The team all did their part to clear brush and weeds (willow trees sprout up everywhere and needed to be lopped off) to reclaim the school playground and outdoor living space for some of our friends. The guys split firewood for a few of the elders, which was especially appreciated as wood is their main source of heat.  It was our actions that spoke volumes in conveying the message of Christ to the people of Rampart.

All too soon, it was time to pack up, scrub the school to leave the place a little better than when we came, and travel back up the river….

‘Till we me meet again, Rampart – you made a special impact on us all!

 

Written by Bonnie Ruggles

England

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It was 1986 when this team left Colorado for our first international short-term mission trip. We had literally been from coast to coast in the U.S. – east, west and south – on short-term mission trips, but we had not been out of the U.S. together. We boarded a double-decker Boeing 747 in Denver and made the second ever direct flight to London. The first such flight had taken place the day before.

Oh, what novices we were. Some had never been on an airplane. Only I had previously been to Europe. We were about to learn what it means that England and America are “two countries divided by a common language”! We were not very subtle about our surprise at the things that seemed like inconveniences to us. Hopefully our naivety was not too offensive!

What we did know was the heart of short-term mission trips. LOVE. We loved God, we loved people, and we loved music. Oh, how this team could sing. And, they sang everywhere we went. Yes, they sang in churches, schools and various places where they were invited; but they also sang on the airplane, on their bus, on the streets, in the garden where William Shakespeare proposed to Anne Hathaway and in cathedrals that they were touring. They sang. They prayed and shared God’s love where ever they went. This is the essence of a short-term mission trip. LOVE.
Recently I listened again to some of the songs they recorded upon returning home. Then I read the team journal that they wrote. One excerpt particularly touched me. “Burt (one of our home hosts) shared his feeling about watching the group that had been in his home the night before. He and his wife spent a lot of time that night trying to figure out what made them different. They eliminated the single fact that they love each other because a lot of people love each other. They concluded that the unique quality was that they edified each other in the Lord. They encouraged and taught each other, as he put it.”

What a successful first international short-term mission trip we had in 1986. We experienced a great harvest for the kingdom, we made life-time friends, our lives were greatly impacted along with many of those whom we ministered to in England; but what we didn’t know at the time, we established a firm foundation for hundreds of teams and thousands of team members that were to follow.

We have now been on 6 continents and in 50 countries. You can read about some of our escapades and lessons learned while on short-term missions in the book “101 Ways to Flush a Toilet.” If you would like a copy contact me at: norma@inmotionministries.org

Isaiah 52:7 (NET)

How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains the feel of a messenger who announces peace, a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

I would invite you to join an In Motion Ministries short-term mission trip. Come taste the joy of carrying this message of good news to the world.

Written by:
Norma Dunn
Founder and Missions Consultant
In Motion Ministries