Looking back on my 3-month trip to Costa Rica, I really enjoyed myself. I had fun. I learned. I experienced another culture in a way that I never would’ve been able to experience otherwise, and I made friends with a family that loved me and cared for me throughout the whole time I was there.
Through that time, though, life was definitely not easy. I was challenged and stretched in many ways, ways that I never thought I could be stretched. Sometimes I would sit and cry in my room, wondering why I was there. Looking back, I completely know why I struggled and I thank the Lord for what He taught me through those hard moments. But I wish someone told me this on my hardest day:
Friend, I know you feel like you cannot do it anymore. I know the days become longer and longer. You may not understand how your host family functions, and you may not feel like you have a purpose here. You are tired and worn out. I feel for you, and I’ve been there. It sucks. Know that even though the days seem long now, they will feel super short looking back. I promise that you will fondly look back on your trip. There is hope.
During this hard time, though, I encourage you to write as much as you can about what’s going on. Pour out your heart to the Lord; know that He is right there with you and understands exactly how you feel. Before going to other people, go to Him. Use this as an opportunity to grow in spiritual discipline. Build your skills to lean on God instead of others now, before you go back to the States. You’ll be so glad you did.
And please don’t use this lack of receptiveness or tiredness as an excuse to slink away and back out of the culture. Don’t use this as an excuse to reflect on the past and inhibit your ability to be there in the present. This hard time should encourage you to dive into the culture even more. If you’re frustrated with your host family or with your ministry, use it as an opportunity to serve them more than before. It’ll be hard, but you’ll be thankful afterwards. Instead of feeling down on yourself, find an opportunity to brighten someone else’s day. Look for the good and write down what you are thankful for about the experience; it helps gain perspective.
Ultimately, know that you’re not alone in this. You have teammates that care for you and have understanding regarding what you’re going through. Even though you have not known them for long, don’t be afraid to use them as your support system. Let yourself be vulnerable and give them the gift of being able to encourage you. Don’t choose to go through this alone.
Sincerely, Someone Who Understands