A few years back, Kathy and I led a team of high school kids on a mission trip to Costa Rica. During our stay, the lead missionary in Costa Rica gave us project where he provided us with a photograph of a child (most were special needs kids) and we were tasked to find them and pray with them and their families. The only information that he provided was the bus to board in the town square and the stop number to depart the bus. So, basically it was a human scavenger hunt. I thought to myself- this is crazy- we will never find these kids with just a picture and a bus stop!
So being obedient, we boarded the bus noted on the first photo and off we went. After counting out the prescribed amount of stops, we exited the bus. I was teamed with a group of young ladies and when the bus pulled away fear immediately gripped the girls. Here we were being thrust into a bustling little third world town all by ourselves. The scene was straight out of the movies-crowded streets, dogs everywhere, kids on bikes, motorcycles buzzing by, smoky cars, street vendors, etc. After gathering them and giving them some words of encouragement, we walked up to a young man on a bike and asked him if he knew the young lady in the photograph. He immediately pointed, and said in English- no less, “Blue house.” Wow, I thought, we got lucky and off we went towards the blue house. The blue house was actually a bakery and we quickly found the young lady and had a special time of prayer with her and her family.
I thought we were just fortunate on the first photo, but the same thing occurred over and over again. As we approached people on the street, in most cases, they actually knew the child in the photo and were able to direct us to their house. How could they possibly know all of these kids- it was crazy! If we were in back in the States, I know we would have had a really, really tough time.
The last picture required us to board the bus to Llano, which is a small village up in the mountains above the town. While searching for the child in the photo, we came upon a Costa Rican man that spoke perfect English and he welcomed us into his home. I shared our experience and how amazing it was that the people actually knew the children as we showed them the photo. The man told us that most of the people in the village of Llano were either his relatives or other families that have lived in the area for generations. He continued telling us that he lived in the U.S. for several years teaching ESL classes. He continued, “I know you Americans, I lived there! You put your garage door up and drive out to go to work each day and at night you drive back in and shut the door.” I thought- wow, he’s right! He really nailed it.
Most of us don’t take the time to get to know our neighbors very well. Just like the description from the Costa Rican man, we live in our little compounds, independent of what’s going on in our neighborhood. Do you know your neighbors? Are you intentional about becoming involved in their lives or do you just wave to your neighbors as you drive by? Since this experience, I have made an intentional effort to get to know my neighbors better. I feel like we are slowly losing an essential part of living in community as we continue to selfishly do our “own thing”. Are you ready to open up to your neighbors, make the effort, and become part of their lives?