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WRITE: Here I Am, Send Me: Courage in Costa Rica, Part I

The Bus Ride Back

The Bus Ride Back

Many of you know that every year since 2010, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with Never the Same Missions and what was first SUSIE, then Sisterhood Magazine to write the story of some amazing adventures. Back in 1996, author and speaker Susie Shellenberger, then of Focus on the Family and Brio Magazine, had the idea of taking some of her readers on what she knew would be a life-changing experience: a missions trip. She began partnering with Steve Goley of Big World Ventures to produce trips that are, as Susie says, “Part missions trip, part youth camp, and part good old-fashioned revival.” She wanted to see students’ lives  changed from their experience in serving others as well as from the experience of worshiping with hundreds of other teens, hearing great speakers, and being challenged to go farther in their walk for Christ.

Despite changes in publishing, the missions tradition continues. This past year, the Never the Same team spent two amazing weeks in Costa Rica, with extended trips to Panama and South Africa. My husband, Tom, and I came along for the Costa Rica part of the trip. He loved being a part of our story on the mission field! But sadly, my article sharing the trip story never made it to print. The publishing house that produced it closed temporarily and, in the process, shut down Sisterhood permanently. That’s a sad loss not only for me but especially for the thousands of teen girls who want and need a high-quality, positive magazine geared to their age group.

Here’s the good news:  I’ve received permission to share what would have been Sisterhood’s January cover story. I’ll share Part I today and Part II on Thursday. That magazine issue was to have a focus on courage, so my article has that theme as well. As we went through the days of the trip, I found myself amazed at all the stories of courage God brought my way. Enjoy the first part, and I look forward to sharing the rest with you next time. Blessings!

“Here I am, Send Me: Courage in Costa Rica”  Part I

© 2015 Marti Pieper

Think you’ve got excuses to avoid the mission field? Check out these beauties:

  • I’m not qualified.
  • I’ve got a lot going on.
  • I’m needed at home.
  • I’m in mourning.
  • I’m unworthy.

Meet a man who could have used all these excuses and more. In fact, if we matched him up to a checklist of qualifications, our missionary candidate would score a perfect zero.

Except in one area. When God called Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, he responded not with excuses but faith-filled courage: “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8).

And so did the nearly 200 Never the Same summer missionaries to Costa Rica. When I spent two weeks with them this past July, I saw courage in action—over and over again.

photo credit © Hursch Family, 2014

photo credit © Hursch Family, 2014

Courage to Ask: Jordyn

Join me on a journey (co-sponsored by Big World Ventures and Susie Shellenberger Ministries) that began long before our training time in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For a soccer-playing girl named Jordyn, it started last summer on the Never the Same trip to Peru. There, she noticed kids playing with worn-out, flat soccer balls. “Our school gets new balls every year,” she says. “And our old ones just sit there.”

Her need to complete a National Honor Society service project sparked an idea. She began contacting soccer teams (school and club) about donating used balls. Her five needed service hours became many, and the few balls she hoped for, an unbelievable 103.

Jordyn and her good friend Josiah brought two gigantic bags of deflated soccer balls to missions training. Instead of weighing the bags ahead of time to make sure they’d miss the penalty for overweight (more than 50 pounds) luggage, they did it at the airport. “One was 44 pounds, and the other was 49,” Jordyn reports.

The six teams who ministered throughout San Jose, Costa Rica loved giving away the round, bright-colored fruit of Jordyn’s labor. She watched one day as the surprise brought a little boy to tears. “Really?” he said. “I’m so lucky!”

Not lucky, but blessed. Not fear, but courage to ask sent Jordyn and her soccer balls to Costa Rica.

Courage to Care: Kohlie

Kohlie also traveled to Costa Rica, but on a free ride. Her winning entry in Sisterhood’s Faith in the Wait contest covered the cost.

Not only was this her first missions trip, but the journey from home to Florida was also her first flight. “My mom and dad were nervous,” she confessed during training. “But I want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I’m excited to learn about the culture—and I want to be brave in my faith and stepping out.”

As the trip progressed, God brought opportunities to do just that. “Lord, use me today,” Kohlie prayed one morning. Never the Same teams use a pantomime drama, “Spellbound” to share the gospel. Her team performed that day on a dirt road in one of San Jose’s poorest areas. Afterwards, “I turned around and saw a little girl who looked dead,” Kohlie explains. “Her friend was carrying her like a rag doll. I didn’t know what to do.”

But Kohlie remembered her prayer. “I went over to check on her, then ran to get Chris,” she says. The medical clinic, a new ministry on this year’s trip, was operating alongside Kohlie’s team that day. Two doctors, several nurses, other medical professionals and students took turns meeting basic health care needs. When Kohlie called, Chris, a pediatric nurse practitioner, went into instant action.

“The little girl really did look dead,” Chris explains. “But when I checked her, I realized she had passed out from dehydration and lack of food. We gave her some water, and soon, she was running around again.”

Since the team also operated a feeding station alongside the clinic, this little girl and many of her neighbors received a full lunch. “It broke my heart,” says Kohlie. “I realized how selfish I can be when I don’t get what I want at a restaurant, and here’s a little girl who doesn’t have enough to eat and drink.” For this first-time missionary, Faith in the Wait meant courage to care.


Read more of this missions story on Thursday’s blog. My husband and I hope to join Never the Same Missions again this summer on their trip to Ecuador, June 29-July 12, 2015. Please pray about going with us or serving on another missions trip as God leads.

Have you served overseas, either on this trip or another? I’d love to have your questions and comments.