Costa Rica: A Journey in a Country Full of Love, a Q&A with Ashley Vargas

Expecting the Unexpected...

When I was asked to go on this trip by Nick Scheske, Associate Director of Student Impact, I almost immediately said yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

However, I’ve found that anytime I’ve fully surrendered myself to a call to serve, God moves in unbelievable ways. With this trip, I was ready to expect the unexpected.

What was my experience going on a Student Impact Serving Trip?

My experiences on this trip were incredible. Here are some of my main takeaways and highlights:

1. God Answers. Pastor Gerald was the local pastor of the church community we served through our local partner. He has been a part of that church community for over 30 YEARS! Before our arrival, he was conflicted with the decision to either continue with the church or to give up. The burden of the community was heavy. He began asking God whether he was the right person for the job. He then shared, “Then I heard you guys were coming. God answered me.”

2. God Moves. We witnessed a church service unlike any other. Filled with passion, dancing, joy, heart, and worship. They even sang songs twice over at times, once in Spanish and once in English, just for us. We worshipped our hearts out!

3. A Limitless Creator. When it comes to God, He has no boundaries. His love has no limits. The only thing that we needed was the limitless love of our Creator, and it permeated throughout that community. We created bonds with people that are now family. God is amazing!

4. Our Students are AMAZING. The sweat. The hustle. The love. Student Impact students are incredible. Our project was to break and level an old concrete floor and ramp and pour concrete for a school for kids in the community to attend. From our work, 150 kids will be immediately impacted.

What challenges did I face?

The challenges for me came after learning about the problems that children in the slums and the community had. These included:

1. Violence/Drugs.

In the community that we were in, gang violence and physical abuse were prevalent. We were told that in the streets of the slums there are “lookouts” that will tell kids when it’s safe to pass a territory or when it’s time to run. If they tell you to run it’s because there's a high probability that you could get shot.

2. Poverty

We went to homes made from sheet metal, with dirt floors, horrible wiring, and overall poor living conditions. Single moms occupy a lot of the area. Seeing that broke me and took me to a place where I had no choice but to lean on Jesus.

What beauty did I find?

Gorgeous landscapes, scenic heights in the mountains, and a sky that only our Creator could use as a canvas to illustrate his majestic artistry. There was also beauty in the hearts of the people. From their hospitality to their embrace and engagement. The people of Costa Rica showed us that beauty doesn't come from a place of financial abundance. It comes from a heart abundant with love.

What did God teach me?

God taught me that He is shepherding young people to do His work all over the WORLD. Students can connect to communities in a way that we can’t as adults. We must invest in our youth. We must invest in creating better futures, and it all begins with one student heart and our time.

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