This is phrase I have heard numerous times regarding my work in Costa Rica--my ten weeks spent there this summer, and my upcoming three and a half weeks for our Christmas trip.
How does one respond?
I wonder, when told that, if I should share about the gigantic brown cockroaches that would scuttle across my legs in the middle of the night.
Or about the constant terrified wailing of the baby next door I could hear through the paper-thin walls for ten entire weeks and the harsh mother's voice next door raging constantly at the newborn who was just needing to be held. It was after this summer that I realized that yes, I can tell the difference between a baby just crying and the fearful, tormented sobbing of an infant who both longingly cries for its mother and is utterly scared of her. Recognizing this type of suffering in a baby for ten weeks can do strange things to your mind.
Or how I was experienced hunger pangs daily, because my host mom could not afford to give me enough meat (or any milk) to satisfy my body's need for protein, and I learned a new definition of what it means to "go without."
Or perhaps I might share that I only had two Saturdays off the entire summer, one of which was the only time I went to the beach.
Because I was studying through countless academic research journal articles every Saturday...as a part of my summer's work.
Or perhaps I should share about my 10-14 hour days I kept 5 days a week, every week. I WORKED.
Do I share about how I gained weight, because it is very dangerous to run on the streets in Costa Rica, with a very high pedestrian fatality rate, due to drivers' disregard for those on foot, and so I couldn't go running?
Do I share how I spent my Sundays at multiple church services...because I was working on building relationships with the local churches? No sleeping in for me, because I have to wake up early and it will take me an hour to take the bus to church....
Or do I share about how while my pre-medical and nursing student peers worked during the summer to make some kind of income, I gave my summer away, a poor pre-med student who really needs funds but gave my labor away?
What is is people are jealous about?
Please hear my heart. I do what I do out of love: "Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore, all died. And He died for all, that whose who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14.)
Christ's love compels me.
My prayer is that I would hear instead,
"That is so awesome. I am praying for you."
At the director of LoveAIDS, I am working very long hours and slowly, with my team members, building a vessel the Christ-loving church in the United States desperately needs: a vessel that Christian health care workers can utilize to travel globally to love the AIDS patient in Jesus' name.
And I am stepping out to love and serve those neglected and stigmatized the most in countries where it is most needed: resource-poor countries. Costa Rica is only a gateway to further work in other, much poorer countries.
That is my prayer. A coming-alongside of me with a "How may I join in?" and a "I am praying. I am praying for you."
There are many approaches to global work. I have been on trips, and I know many who have been on trips. Recent conversations have sparked an awareness that it might be beneficial to share about LoveAIDS' approach.
In my understanding of the biblical text, and in my understanding of ministry and cultural effectiveness, "I have become all things to all people..." and "Run in such a way to get the prize...." refer to specifics when the apostle Paul penned them two thousand years ago.... (1 Corinthians 9:22, 24)
What are those specifics that Paul is referring to? What does it mean to run in such a way to get the prize or to become all thing to all people? Is Paul suggesting that there are ineffective approaches and methods to go about one's work?
Recently I had someone bring up, "You mean you use the public buses?" [Everyone uses the public buses in Costa Rica.]
"You mean there are bars on all the windows?" [Yes, there are bars on all the windows, and all the homes have bars/gates in front of them. That does not mean it is not safe. It is just a cultural normal for every home to be gated.]
"You mean, you don't want to be out past 8 PM unless you a taxi/car?" [Yes. Of course. In almost every country outside of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and Western European countries, you do not want to be out past 8 PM unless you use a taxi/automobile.]
The assumption was that because we do not take our U.S. American lifestyle and live the same way in Costa Rica, that it is not safe in Costa Rica to do the work we do. [Anyone who has spent a bit of time in Costa Rica knows that, while it is always wise to be vigilant, to make assumptions like that which aren't based on reality only harms the good work we seek to do.]
Ingrid Anne Stavrica
LoveAIDS would like to remind our partners & public that we are limited in both the stories and photos we can share do to needing to protect patient confidentiality, complying with patient privacy laws originating within both the U.S and the countries we work with.