Monday, March 12, 2018

Ruined for the ordinary...Costa Rica 2.0

Fifteen years ago, I travelled to Costa Rica for the first time.

I was a wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic 20 year old. (To be fair, I still think of myself this way.)

I remember getting off the plane, the humid air catching my breath, and knowing that this experience would be special…but really having no idea what I was in for.

“This stuff ruins you for the ordinary,” DeLynn (my ministry leader for Vida Missions) would often say in the years that followed, as we witnessed God work in incredible ways.

He was right.

Year after year, I returned to this dear place. We developed relationships with local churches, welcomed summer staff who stumbled through hard days and rejoiced together in the good ones, and hosted scores of youth who returned home to try and apply what they had learned in a foreign, yet familiar, land.

I developed sisterly ties with my own Costa Rican family. I learned a ton about the way in which God speaks and reveals Himself. I learned how to speak Spanish (roughly), and lead in a new context. I had to adapt, I had to have plan B’s, and I had to ask for a lot of grace. I made incredible friends. 

Iron sharpened iron.

In 2009, I said good-bye to Costa Rica. After much soul searching and prayer, I had decided it was time to pursue my MA studies, which meant releasing my time down south…and choosing to stay in Canada.

And then, as only God can, the story changed. In 2012, a coworker and mentor approached me, about a new idea he had for a program at our beloved Columbia Bible College. He was
(and continues to be) a man of vision. A man who empowers the next generation. And so he gathered a few of us younger staff members, and we began planning.

It would be a leadership certificate.
First semester in Canada, second semester in Costa Rica.

As it launched, I felt my own story with Costa Rica was coming full circle.
I thought it had been a good-bye, but it was really just ‘hasta la proxima vez…’

The LEAD students would be working in the community of Shiroles, Talamanca, alongside students from the mission program I had volunteered with all those years. Their own ministry would coincide with that of my friends Raul and Kimi.

After a couple of very successful years with our LEAD program, the vision continued to deepen and expand (as it often does). Through many brainstorming sessions and a few kicks-at-the-can, this coworker/mentor of mine eventually revealed his longer-term dream: that us younger staff would move into the leadership positions he had held, as he lessened his involvement in his retirement. (It is important to note that this meant 100% loading instead of 200% loading; as I said, he’s a visionary…)

And so, this last year, Matt Kaminski (our Athletics Director) and myself became co-directors of our new Applied Leadership program at Columbia.

As we re-worked this program from the original LEAD design, we knew that the Costa Rica piece was still an incredibly vital experience for students who desired to learn in a new context. Glenallen, a student who had served as the Costa Rica Coordinator for the two years prior, agreed to continue to serve in this role. In the time that had passed, we had seen Raul and Kimi’s ministry grow. We knew that while our students would go and serve with them, they would learn a great deal from these friends about what we are seeking to teach our students: the authentic, transformational, servant leadership that our friends exemplified.

This leads us to today.

On April 24th, six of our Applied Leadership students along with Glenallen (who is about to be an Applied Leadership BA graduate!), are travelling to Costa Rica for 10 weeks.

They will be serving, learning, and sharing their gifts with the ministry that Raul and Kimi have been leading for the past 10 years, Esperanza.

Esperanza’s ministry involves teaching and caring for local children, meal delivery and visiting with the elderly, craft time with women (which has evolved into a sewing enterprise for the women to build an income), soccer tournaments, ongoing home builds, Bible studies, worship nights…and this ministry continues to expand into other remote locations in the local jungle. This year, the local leaders are continuing to grow their ministry as they plan a missions trip to Thailand. Many of the young adults have participated in discipleship training, and, through Esperanza, are continuing to develop their gifts of leadership.

In addition to all of these amazing things, one of the opportunities that our students have in this context will be to connect with these local young adults and share with them about what they have been learning in classes at Columbia thus far. I am beyond excited for our students to journey with these dear people. I cannot wait for them to go and learn more about leadership in this context.
The wide-eyed, eager-to-see-Jesus-work, energetic team of 2018.

In Canada, we can dangerously believe we know “the way” to do leadership, as if we have cornered the market; I long for these students to be ruined for the ordinary…as they share their learning, I am confident it will be refined. They will see Jesus at work. I believe they will return home with new understanding. Their leadership will be stronger, their impact broader, as a result.

In the next few weeks as our students prepare, would you join me in supporting them?

We need your prayers! There are many details to still finalize, Spanish lessons to work on, cultural preparedness to consider, and finances to raise. These students are full time in their classes, and doing all this work on top of their current schedules, in anticipation of what is coming. If you are willing to be added to a prayer list, comment below or message me.

We also need financial support! As a project of the college, these students are raising the costs; would you consider helping us by making a donation? You can do so online by following this link, select "other" for the designation, and note that it is for the project “Applied Leadership Costa Rica”.

I love seeing how God knits our stories…I am reminded tonight as I write this, that He uses all together for His glory, and our good, and we don’t always get to see how it comes together. I am thankful for the glimpse I get into His work in Costa Rica, and the opportunity our students have to be part of it for this season in time. You never know what the next full circle will be for them in this. 

Thanks for reading, friends.


  1. How exciting is this! Please put me on the prayer list....God will do incredible things through this team. He always does, if we only take the time to not only hear Him but listen to Him. Blessings.

    1. Thanks Judy! Appreciate your support!

  2. Rachel King11:18 PM

    Thank you for posting your experience; it's amazing to see God at work throughout the process and i'm so glad that the Leadership program has grown. It's amazing to hear your story, and see how your experiences & skills have integrated into this awe-inspiring calling. I can't wait to see what else God has in store for you, and the rest of Columbia's students.