Also to note, we were asked to be respectful and treat the pictures we took of children as we would want our own children's pictures treated. In other words, ask and don't necessarily splash them all over the internet. So if you are wondering why I am lacking in pictures of the children directly, that is why. In fact at the first school we went to I was so worried about doing something wrong with the camera I didn't take a whole lot of pictures of the kids at all.
One thing I really learned in Costa Rica is that when one joins with a group and goes on a mission such as this is that one's focus and understanding gains a whole new perspective. We were not going in there because we, coming from a privileged country, know better and have got it together and we want to change the receiving country. We go in humbly, understanding that we are joining with God in what He is already doing! He has been at work in Costa Rica for a long time. When we take on that attitude instead of one of superiority it is amazing to watch what God is doing and such a privilege to become a part of it.
And now the fun began. This year there were 40,000 shoebox gifts awaiting distribution in Costa Rica alone. Samaritan's Purse works with local churches who have been registered with them for the Operation Christmas Child program (referred to as OCC from now on in the posts). Samaritan's Purse trains the church's pastors and leaders and volunteers and supports them in the distribution of the gifts and in the presentation of the gospel and in the follow up discipleship classes of "The Greatest Journey". There were about 3 teams that I know of that went to Costa Rica this year to distribute shoebox gifts. Our team gave out about 350-450 over the course of week, I believe. All our distributions were in smaller rural schools or churches but sometimes a distribution can have around 200 kids! When there is not a missions team involved the rest of the distributions are done with awesome local volunteers who give of their personal time. Time to load up and go!
Our team went to schools and churches in tiny, very rural, very poor areas. The schools were one or two rooms with one or one or two teachers. Very poor, most with very, very limited supplies. Dirt areas to play. Not one had any sort of playground. These teachers were amazing as sometimes they not only fulfilled the role of teacher but also of mom and advocate.
This play time was so precious as it gave us opportunity to pursue relationship and connect with the kids and the parents, if they were there, in small tangible ways. Love shown thru a smile, laughter, touch when we painted a face or sparkled a finger nail. Love and laughter are not barricaded in by language. We just had to let it flow.