Sometimes I think that impact is only in the big things: moments of revival, providing water sources to those who don’t have them, rebuilding shanties for families without a roof over their heads. Those things are beautiful. They are necessary. Yet I’m learning that impact is more. Mother Teresa once stated, “We can’t all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” Impact is measured differently than I ever dared to imagine.
This past month, I’ve been interning with Boy With a Ball in Atlanta. Quite clearly, I remember on my drive down that I was struggling with different anxieties about how terrible it would be if nothing life-changing happened in this month away. Bringing these worries to God, I heard him whisper to me about trusting Him, “Haven’t I brought you here? Can you trust that this is my will being done?” I did trust, but life-change happened differently than I dreamed it would.
Midway through week three of my internship, I got to join the BWAB team and members of Covenant Life Church on a short term trip to Costa Rica. Leading up to that week, I had been thrilled to leave the country for the first time, get to know the El Niño Y La Bola team members, and love people. It was an exciting time for me, but the moment that I got off the plane reality finally hit. What was a doing there? I didn’t speak any Spanish. I had no expertise. For heaven’s sake, I was an eighteen year old girl who had just made it out of high school. In all actuality, there wasn’t much going for me. Thankfully, God works in ways that my little mind can’t conceive.
On Saturday, I drove to the outskirts of a slum called Los Cuadros, got to tutor two sweet kids, and have a minimal conversation with one mom. It was a precious time, but it was also hard not being able to fully communicate with the children. There were so many things that I wanted to say, but didn’t have the words for. How do I tell the little girl sitting next to me that the joy in her sparkling eyes is changing my world, and that the drawing that she’s laboring over is absolutely incredible? It was tough. Later that evening, I went and joined a girls group in El Triángulo (another slum area), and got to spend a couple hours playing with young girls on a playset. It made me think that for children love is spelled T-I-M-E, and that was a language I could speak.
That evening, our team met for debriefing, worship, and prayer. Near the beginning of the time, a young lady came into the room of our meeting and sat down away from our circle. During worship, she began weeping. I went over to sit besides her, and asked her to join us. As it turned out, she was a missionary in Nicaragua who had had to leave because of all the unrest; consequently, she was in Costa Rica awaiting her next assignment, and seeking God about what was next. She talked about how she hadn’t been able to hear what God was saying until that evening when she was sitting in the room with us, and that’s when God started talking to her. Esther ended up joining our team for several days of the trip as we went into the El Triángulo slum [also called a precario in Costa Rica] and met with the people there. She herself had such a meaningful influence on the community. It made me think of the story of Esther in the Bible, placed there for such a time as this.
Another beautiful part of our week in Costa Rica was a young woman named Esmeralda. She’s the head of BWAB in Nicaragua, and had come to Costa Rica for a span of ten days to spend time with all of us. She has been deeply impacted by all of the unrest in Nicaragua. One of the very special and unanticipated parts of the week was getting to pour into and love her. The way that she described it, coming into the week her tank of faith was almost empty, she was seeking God, but not easily seeing him in the situation that she was in. Every interaction, from the deep conversations to all of the joking around, had helped fill up that tank. God had used us to tend to her precious heart.
A final small part of the trip that rocked my world was watching the team members who had lived in Costa Rica before interact with the community. Picture with me, if you can, a small community of tin structures with narrow dirt or cement sidewalks leading from house to house. In one place, there was a precarious bridge made out of wood planks and pallets. As the team walked through the space, they stopped at open doors to speak to the people who live inside. There was one woman who recognized Jamie immediately; she had housed meetings in her place and wanted us to pray for her. There was a young woman who many of the team members knew as a little girl. She now holds a baby in her arms and is excited to know that the people who loved her so well when she was younger still remember her. People pour out of their houses, hug Jamie and Anna, and greet Josue with enthusiasm. There was joy in meeting the people who have cared for them so well.
That week in Costa Rica, I saw impact in a different light. I got to see how valuable and lasting relationships are. I got to see how God used a few people who were willing to get out of themselves and enter into deep friendships with men, women, and children. I got to see that it wasn’t the outward community that changed, but the heart. So maybe impact doesn’t fit within my box. Maybe impact doesn’t look like something newly painted, although it can. Maybe impact isn’t only found in evenings full of revival, though it is there. Maybe impact is walking a dusty street with a little girl hanging onto you. Maybe it’s bending over a child’s math book trying to comprehend the word problem so that they can understand it too. Maybe it’s loving the team member so that they can go home and love their own country. Maybe it’s exactly what happened within the relationships that formed in my one week in Costa Rica.