During the Outreach

Since the moment we drove away from the airport I knew I was going to love Costa Rica. The familiar smells of Latin America filled my senses as I took in all the foreign billboards and stacked architecture. Muddled Spanish was being spoken all around me and I longed for a piece of fruit from one of the fruit stands I saw on the street corners. I anticipated what God was about to do in the next two-week outreach as I laid my head down that initial night.

Kayleigh (on the far right) in Costa Rica
Kayleigh (on the far right) in Costa Rica

One boy from California, an intern from Mississippi and a missionary from Nicaragua was my team at the Special Education site. To my surprise on the first day, I found that the students we were working with were not kids diagnosed with Down Syndrome or autism or cerebral palsy, but children who have been emotionally disturbed or are going through some sort of emotional trauma or neglect.

Naturally, it was not easy for the sweet kids to open up to another group of white people coming through for the standard two weeks, but Norma, the missionary, was thankful for our help. She seemed to appreciate our willingness to watch her at work and learn from her. And man, did I enjoy it. Norma has truly found her profession and her passion.

At the site I learned how to integrate the lessons from stories such as David and Goliath, Noah’s Ark, and Abraham and Lot, into the lives and situations of each child. I watched as Norma helped a nine year old boy realize that cutting his wrists does not make him happy, but makes him feel sad. Today, I can look back on him painting a smiling face on construction paper and realize that is a healthy way for him to express his emotions that the lack of parental care has neglected to teach him how to do. I watch as Norma asked a sweet little girl if she has been getting sleep. She does not sleep, because she has been told that her grandfather is in the hospital, very sick, but he is truly in prison. She wanders around the kitchen at night finding anything to literally feed her anxiety, because she cannot go see her ‘nearly deceased’ grandfather and because when she goes to school tomorrow she will still feel alone.

Every evening we went back to the upper/middle class neighborhood to our home stays and I would lay down and think about how I live in an upper/middle class neighborhood, too. I thought about the lower class neighborhoods in Lubbock, and in Dallas, Portland and in Orlando, Detroit, etc. Guilt did not sweep over me, on the contrary, it was excitement. Poverty-stricken children do not only exist in Latin America, or India, or Africa; poverty-stricken children live in my backyard. But it is not just money they are deprived from, it is educational, emotional, physical, spiritual, motivational, and political poverty.

Some of My Thoughts since the Outreach

When we think poverty we usually get the image of a grungy and sketchy looking adult. I understand why we are leery of giving “them” our spare change. I understand why we don’t understand why “they” don’t just get a job and I understand how sometimes we just don’t know how we can help. But it shouldn’t stop there. More often than not, “those people” have children they need to buy milk and school supplies. The Bible says to whom much is given; much is expected. Costa Rica inspired me to share my privilege, my educational, emotional, physical, spiritual, motivational, political privilege.

In processing what influence the Costa Rica outreach has had on me, it is helpful to list and take inventory of what He’s done and what He’s instilled in me. I am in college, I definitely do not have a spare Benjamin laying around to give to my waitress at IHOP. However, since I am in college I’ll have an education and opportunities to share with the less privileged in my town of Lubbock. He’s given me a motivation to share my passion for missions with my peers, so that they might motivate their peers, and so on. I am a woman, and I definitely have the compassion to love and pray for others, including my homeless friends at the homeless shelter. I am a millennial and I am definitely inspired by the leaders around me to live a life of purpose. Allowing God to change your perspective is the first step. But a changed perspective is the “gateway drug” to a life deeply motivated to living it to the full.

Because He lives,
Kaileigh Turnquist

*For more ideas on how to process and ask questions after a short-term trip, check out Urbana’s list. Also, this one on their top-10 books to read on missions. Also:

When Helping Hurts, by Corbett