A Day in Shiroles

1:00 am – Receive my “good morning” call from the roosters that never dare to venture behind our house. 

3:00 am – awoken by my host Mom listening to Christian music and praying with amazing faith, I remind myself of just how much I have yet to grow . . . 

8 am is really when the day all starts, though. I unzip my bug net and get ready for the day in the once-closet-turned-room that I have. Life in Shiroles can seem pretty lazy on the outside, but it’s always filled with random adventures and work. 
In the States I despise breakfast, but here, breakfast time has become one of my favorites. Usually it involves plantains, fantastic banana pancakes, or beautiful bread arepas matched with the best coffee in the world! Either getting caught up in conversation with my brother on the trip, or a surprise conversation with my host parents brings me to midday. I look forward to those conversations. By then, we have done our daily chores and exercised a bit. Ahhhh. That cold-only shower is something I look forward every day. 10am – 2pm is the prime humid time of the day; I make sure to save my shower time around then. 

I might first shoo away some chickens or stray dogs that like to enter the house, but finally, I start my devotions. I usually try to snag my favorite blue and white rocking chair that my family keeps out in the front porch. 

By the time I read, journal, and pray while watching the men and women walk past our house, I hear a “Rebecca!” come from the kitchen, letting me know that lunch is ready. My host Mom has probably prepared a plate of food for some man wandering around the street, too. 

Costa Rican’s have three main foods: rice, beans, and chicken. While one may think that it would get boring after a while, my host Mom does a fantastic job at mixing them all together with different spices, in different ways every day. I have never gotten sick of a food that she has prepared for us, and one thing I have not missed whatsoever is food from the States. I crave Costa Rican food. 

After lunch, the house turns quiet. This is not common in every house in Shiroles, but it is a breath of fresh air for me, someone who needs some privacy. I may do my laundry, go to the store, read, try (and fail) at playing the ukelele, talk with my host brothers, or take a walk with a member of the IMMERSION group. The later the day becomes, the more random, extended family members come in and outside of our house. 

5:30 – 6 pm: The sun goes down. 

This has been such a hard part in my transition. I am so used to going to bed when the sun goes down. Here, it goes down hours before we have dinner! 

By this time, my family may be watching TV. I’ll watch a soccer game, National Geographic, or a new movie that just came out (who knew that they carried good movies here!?), and then I try to help with dinner. 

Let’s just say that cooking is not my favorite thing in the world. I don’t know how to cook a lot of things, but I want to learn. I have officially become the chopper of vegetables in my family, and although I may get tired of it, I try (as much as I can!) to keep a good attitude and be faithful with this task the Lord has given me. 

We eat dinner around 8:30 or 9pm. To me, that is super late. By that time, my stomach is growling hardcore. I may get two plates of food by the time dinner is over. But, I say that a happy, growing stomach is a good stomach while I’m here in Costa Rica. I can worry about weight loss later ­čśé With every meal comes a drink. Coca Cola is such a huge priority here, and I really fear they have an addiction. I get at least one, sometimes two glasses of Coke a day. I used to not like it, but now I am warming up to it . . . 

And from there, we talk. I tend to go to bed early; I don’t know how my family makes it until 10:30 or so. But people joke around with each other and talk about the neighborhood gossip. It’s a good time of family (immediate and extended) members of the community that my family has “adopted,” and us, the white gringos that are striving to understand at least half of what everyone is saying. 

This is a day in the life of Shiroles. If short-term mission groups are here, my lazy day turns into helping my mom cook for the team. If the school needs us, we teach lessons. If my host dad asks us to work, we work in his plantain field. A day in the life of Shiroles is impossible to fully explain, because it changes every day. You never know what’s going to happen until a couple minutes before or right when something is going on. The beauty of spontaneity is this: we rely on the Lord for our daily actions and we stress less. If we rest, we rest for Him. If we work, we work for Him. When we commune with others, we commune for Him. 

Shiroles has taught me a lot about what it means to truly live. 

Present 

Today, my team and I are resting at a house near the Mennonite church we attend, away from our host families and away from our new “normal.”

It’s a perfect time to bond more with my group. And yet, while I have the perfect opportunity to pour into others, I want to retreat away from everyone and take a nap.  If this was a one-time thing this wouldn’t be a problem, but I notice my tendency to retreat a lot here. 

Oh my, how hard it is to be present. 

To be honest, I never thought I had this problem. I thought that I was semi-decent at change and could adapt pretty easily. I realize now that it is not the case. 

My desire to serve my teammates has gone down and my homesickness has increased since I’ve been here. My initiative regarding connecting with my family has been lacking. I’m having a hard time. I want to make these last couple of weeks count, but all I want to do right now is rest. 

I don’t always feel like that, though. This past weekend, our group and our host families went together on a trip to the beach for the day. It was such a great time, and I felt so in awe of the scenery, the sunset, and God’s creation. I was craving more and was sad that we had to leave. 


When I retreated at the beach, it was to spend time with the Lord and praise Him. When I rejoined again with the families, I felt present and alive.  Why can’t I do the same in day-to-day life here in Shiroles? 

Because I haven’t been intentional with finding God in everything I see and do here. 

It’s easy when I see nature to praise God and be filled, but when I’m surrounded by people that I’m not fully comfortable with yet, I have a hard time. Yet, God’s most beautiful creation is the human being. And although we are all broken, we are all still God’s masterpieces, being worked on day-by-day. 

Will I finally be able to focus on the work that’s being done in the lives of those around me and not their flaws? Will I finally be able to regard that progress, and not the lack of what I think as progress, as beautiful?

Once I see my host dad’s jokes, my host mom’s service, and my teammates’ progress as a beautiful way that God is displaying His glory and His character, I will then be in awe of Him and be present. 

I desire to be where God is. If only I could remind myself to see how God is working through others in Shiroles, then I would want to be here. If I desire to see more of that change where I am at, the Lord will grant me the gift of being present. 

God, show me how to praise You through the work You are doing in others, and in me. Let me desire to see progressing holiness in the people I am with.  Help me not retreat, but rather be present here and be thankful for all that You are doing. 

Rest in the Work

Relaxed doesn’t mean lazy. 

“It seems like they have no care in the world. I wish I could be like them, with no stress whatsoever.” – Average person going on a mission trip 

Wrong.

They do have things they care about, and they can be stressed. We are all similar, but may handle the same situation differently. 

It doesn’t matter what time an event is going to happen, because they know it will eventually get done. People here are hard workers. 

That doesn’t mean that one can’t take a break once in a while to talk and catch up with someone. But it doesn’t mean that they are being lazy. 

Being here in Costa Rica, I’m learning the balance between rest and work. I’m learning that I need more rest in my day-to-day life, but that doesn’t negate the necessity to work hard. 

Here, you work for your food. You legitimately put in physical work on the plantain fields in order to have fried plantains that night. 

Here, you work for your house. It’s more common to build houses here than in the States; my host brother, the same age as me, right now is making a plan for a future house he wants to build. 

Yesterday morning, our team helped a bit with a house that the church community is building for their pastor. Seeing how detailed and hard-working my host dad was reminds me not to become lazy while I’m here. Seeing the community come together and build a house together makes me desire to see our church communities in the States come together more to help around the community. Think of how much we would grow, serve, and connect if we just worked together more, instead of holding an offering and only donating money to pay someone else to do what we could do, ourselves. 

When us Americans come to other countries the mindset of “just pay the next person to do it,” or “use this tool to make it easier,” we are missing something extremely important; the satisfaction of work and community. 

Work was meant to be a good thing in the sight of the Lord. It may be hard, but it is definitely rewarding. 

And after putting in a good days work, why not rest and relax? Why not just care about the things that are necessary? Why stress about what’s going to happen tomorrow? Tomorrow will happen the way the Lord wills it, anyways.

That also doesn’t mean that people go about life with no plans whatsoever. I need to let my host mom know if I know I’m leaving in the morning so she can make sure breakfast is ready in time. That’s called respect. But if I don’t know what the day might hold for me, I shouldn’t stress out about it. I know that things will happen the way the Lord wills it. 

While I live here, I learn a lot. I hope they’re learning from as much as a fraction of what I’m learning from them. 

Sleepless nights 

Have you ever had this happen to you? The moment you’re sick with a cold and need sleep the most is the moment that you cannot fall asleep?
I’m having one of those nights. Instead of getting the rest I need, I’m just sitting in bed until the wave of exhaustion wins over my stubborn spirit preventing me from getting better. 
So here I sit. And sit. And sit. 
Honestly, a lot of our time in Costa Rica has been spent sitting. Whether that be at the dinner table, with our teammates, or the family, we have a lot of time to do . . . nothing. Or maybe we have tons of time to do the things we’ve wanted to do for a while. Or maybe things we need to do. 
I now have no excuse to say that I cannot have long times with the Lord because I’m so busy. I can’t say that I can’t help my host mom around the house, because I have so much to do. I am not here to “change the world.” God already did that. I’m here to be faithful with what the Lord has given me, whether big or small, and glorify Him in all I do. If He gives me a lot of time to talk and clean, I better talk and clean as if I’m doing it with Him and for Him. 
If I am waiting in a line for the bank, I have to wait in line as if I’m waiting with Him. If the bus from the nearest bank runs out of gas an hour into the trip (solely hypothetical, of course) I have to see what God is trying to teach me. 
Patience: That has definitely been the word of the week. 
When I try to teach an English lesson to a group of ten year olds that don’t understand how to control themselves in a classroom, I cannot lose my temper. When I am working with others that do not have the same cultural mindset that I do, I need to respond with love and try to understand, not judge. 
I need to have patience when all I want to do is go to bed, but the Lord just won’t let me fall asleep. 
As I write this blog post, one of my favorite songs came on: our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.
Maybe the Lord is using my cold that I have to make me restless and reflect on how much I need Him. Without Him, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to serve here in Costa Rica. Without Him, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without Him, I wouldn’t have wisdom to handle the situations that stumble along my way here.
Maybe I did need to be restless for a bit. Thank you, Lord, for guiding me through the unknown. 
Thank You for things that we might not understand at the moment.