Monday, August 11, 2008

A Costa Rica Story.

[NOTE: People have been asking me to tell a story about our trip to Costa Rica. Instead of doing that, I'm going to take a shortcut and reprint here a piece I wrote for a devotional put together by my church. Enjoy.]

I love kids. Perhaps this is why I have so many of them. I love seeing the world through their eyes, or hearing them invent new ways of using language, like when my four-year-old daughter Dorothy decided that “beautiful” just wouldn’t cut it while describing a rainbow, and coined the more accurate “cute-iful.”

So yeah, I love kids a lot, especially my own. So, when we decided to go on a family missions trip to Costa Rica with Believers World Outreach this past summer, I felt great anticipation at the thought of spending time in a foreign country with my kids. This anticipation was tempered, however, by a feeling sheer panic at the thought of spending time in a foreign country with my kids.

Maybe not the “spending time” part so much as the getting there, getting around, getting all our basic needs met, and getting home parts.

Nevertheless, time marched on, and, after many generous donations from many friends, family members, and straight-up strangers, we raised the full amount we needed to get there. Before we knew it, we were in Costa Rica, all of us astounded by the natural beauty of the country.

We discovered that our children are natural travelers, and they’re very good at going with the flow. They generally ate whatever was put before them, went wherever we told them, showed up whenever they needed to be somewhere.

But the real revelation came toward the end of the trip, when we went to minister to a group of people living in an area of Jaco that everyone calls “The Riverbed.” It is a place of extreme poverty, a shanty-town erected on either side of a small river fed by the Pacific Ocean. Families live here, in ramshackle homes constructed of found materials like random doors or wooden pallets or rusted pieces of corrugated tin.

The river itself serves many purposes for this community. It is their source of water for drinking and cooking, it is their bathtub, it is their laundry room, it is their toilet. Oftentimes, it is their trash can.

We’d heard quite a bit about the Riverbed before we went, and we did our best to prepare the kids. We told them, in terms they could understand, about the poverty there, and what the kids there would look like, and generally tried to prepare them for the heart-rending images they were likely to see.

And then the strangest thing happened. We went there, and while Michelle and I were devastated by the living conditions of those in the Riverbed, our kids didn’t seem to notice. And while we were busy pitying the shabbily dressed, smudge-faced, hungry-looking children in the Riverbed, of which there are many, our kids simply approached them, smiled, waved, and began to play with them.

Simple as that.

While we adults—supposed examples to our children—were busy focusing on the differences between us and those who lived in the Riverbed, the kids looked right past that (I’m not sure if they even saw the differences in the first place) and focused on the truth of the situation:

I’m a kid. You’re a kid. Let’s play.

In faith today, especially in America, and extra-especially in this part of America, we tend to focus on the differences. We like to compare different churches, different preaching styles, different worship leaders, different song selections, different locations… we notice what makes each church different. And if we don’t like something, we can always go somewhere else.

But what if Jesus, when he told us we needed to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15), meant that we needed to act like my kids acted in the Riverbed. What if he’s saying that, since “both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children, (Ephesians 3:6)” then we need to stop looking at the differences between us and start looking at faith—and church—like this:

I believe in Jesus. You believe in Jesus.

Let’s play.


Marshall Baker said...

If there was a devotionals page at, would you consider adding this or something like this to it?

Adam said...

Would I consider repurposing devotional content that I've written for other sources? Sure!

I imagine that would be a good outlet for a lot of people, but you'd have to have somebody to edit it, just for continuity's sake, or else it could get messy really quickly.

Thanks for stopping by, Marshall.

Mark Keefer said...


That's a GREAT story. I can see your kids doing this. It's universal I think. A few years ago, we went to Mexico to build a home, and Micah hooked up with the kids there as if he was going down the street to play with his regular friends. You gotta love it. You're right, sometimes we have so much to learn from our kids.