It is difficult to put into words the experience you have when God drops you into another country and starts showing off. But those who know me well, know that this “word girl” will certainly give it her best shot – and attempt to do so with brevity. #lordhavemercy
I just returned from a week long Trades of Hope Vision Trip with 9 other Compassionate Entrepreneurs from around the country (and 2 staffers – love you, Julie and Mary Ann!) to the beautiful nation of Costa Rica. We partner worldwide with underprivileged artisans (and related ministries) by selling their beautiful handmade accessories and decor here in the states to empower them out of poverty.
It is specifically called a Vision Trip, because we are going to SEE with our own eyes: the need, the people, and the redemption. And as I met our artisans, toured the ministry sites, soaked in the beauty, and even connected with my fellow sisters, I began to observe a weaving theme of CONTRAST. It’s true everywhere, but I had the privilege of getting close to the brokenness and beauty of Costa Rica.
Known around the world as a destination of majesty, activity, and relaxation, Costa Rica was all that I had hoped for and even more. I felt like I had found my people! Their ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, their hospitality, the food, the weather, the colors, the beauty of a tropical creation all around me, etc. – I will definitely be back!
But in many of the areas that we were in, if you gaze beyond the beauty, you can see brokenness. When you look past the rolling carpets of vegetation and charming patchwork of colored homes, you would see an abandoned coffee field in Alajuelita where many go to dump trash, drink rubbing alcohol, and buy sex. The 2 churches we visited in Esterillos and Tejarcillos had loving, hospitable people and iron bars affixed to every window.
Costa Rica has a relatively stable government and a proud history, but prostitution is legal and it is a hotbed for sex tourism. Penny Williams is the founder of Seeds of Hope and Roots of Hope (an after school program for at-risk girls and boys that Trades of Hope partners with), and their program has been invited to join a government task force to work towards a solution to this national crisis.
Penny found her calling while visiting the well-known eco-tourism spot Crocodile Bridge on the Tarcoles River and a fellow tourist bragged to her about how easy it was for him to buy girls for sex in Costa Rica.
But those harsh realities were not all we saw. My friend Sara debriefed her realization that we are actually more similar than different. Though we CEs did not share a common language with our hardworking artisans, we shared laughter at our inability to recreate their beautiful wrap bracelets, try as they might to teach us. 🙂
We were reminded of how much we are all truly the same, when my friend Marie tearfully shared with artisan Ivanya that she too, has a special needs child and how grateful she was that Trades of Hope allows she and Ivanya to both work from home to take care of them.
And God led us to ask each person we met what their personal story was – because everyone has one and they are so important to know.
Pastors Frank and Ileana shared how God pulled them each out of a personal and spiritual darkness into this beautiful work that they now do with children in their community.
Kyle an unlikely college kid from Alabama, was drawn to the slums of Costa Rica to be a host and neighborhood advocate for 6:8 Ministries.
Scott is a realtor from Florida who sold all his earthly possessions to run Hot Springs Lodge in the middle of the rainforest, a place of respite for those in ministry.
Jairo, the homegrown 22 year old manager of the sustainable garden that feeds kids in the Uno Mas tutoring program, dreams of going to school for an agriculture degree in the big city of San Jose.
Amy, the bi-lingual girl from San Diego who only planned a short term visit with the Seeds of Hope girls, is so encouraged by the effectiveness of the ministry that she hopes to stay on and build them up for 2 more years.
Diego, the Costa Rican local finishing school to be a veterinarian, had his life course completely altered after a conversation on a plane with the Roots of Hope founder about the redemption God was bringing to at-risk youth in his country.
And I will never forget how our small but mighty sisterhood pushed past our comfort zones and gifted each other with our own stories of beauty and brokenness long into the humid evenings. We bonded over a unique experience that we will never forget. We overcame fears, vulnerably shared our heartbreaks and hopes, demonstrated our unique gifts, and are coming back more on fire than ever before to advocate for our artisans.
And this is what drives us:
“I have seen that God plants goodness in the darkest places.” – Winter
“I am now more confident and excited to share.” – Fawn
“This is a business, but it is SO missional.” – Katy
“I feel an ownership now. This is not just something I do.” – Jacey
“This was a spiritual awakening for me!” – Shari
“I now have 1st hand stories to share with the skeptical.” – Krisy
“I love that there is a such a focus on the children to change the course of the next generation.” – Erica
“You take a piece of the artisans home with you.” – Marie
“I am motivated to work everyday because there is so much work to do!” – Sara
And I was personally touched by the good men doing good work here. In a world where corrupt men steal innocence, burden the oppressed and commit devastating acts of injustice, I am thankful for: Pastor Frank of Juntos Para Christos, artisan Wesley who makes our Men’s Survivor bracelets, Pastor Dennis Leon of Pura Vida church, Jairo and Steven who work in Uno Mas’ sustainable gardens, Scott who hosts at the Hot Springs Lodge and partners with local churches and ministries, and Diego the mentor of Roots of Hope who teaches and trains the boys to grow from roots, to branches, to trees so that they can become protectors and respecters of women. Can I get an AMEN?! Their leadership is truly shifting the attitudes and redefining the culture of the next generation!
The future is bright for the people of Costa Rica and I’m thrilled to have a personal connection and a specific role in building them up by marketing and selling their beautiful handiwork like this Costa Wrap Bracelet. It is a dignified partnership that is having a sustainable impact around the world!
Thanks to each of you who has supported me on this journey – from every positive comment to those who consistently prayed and generously gave. YOU are part of the work as well and I would love to see more people shop our products, host a gathering, and join our sisterhood, so that we can have a deeper and wider impact worldwide!
Let me know how you would like to participate with us in empowering women out of poverty around the world! PURA VIDA!
WHAT TOUCHED YOU ABOUT THE BROKENNESS AND BEAUTY IN COSTA RICA?
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make justice and praise spring up before all nations.” Isaiah 61:11
“Porque así como la tierra hace que broten los retonos, y el huerto hace que germinen las semillas, así el Señor omnipotente hara’ que broten la justicia y la alabanza ante todas las naciones.” Isaias 61:11