OXFORD, Ohio — Adventures in Missions is an inter-denominational organization dedicated to using prayer to influence and better the lives of people around the world. With an emphasis on awakening others to their spiritual roles, the organization has taken more than 115,000 people out into the field since it was first established in 1989. Those wishing to take part travel to other countries and choose from a list of mission trips lasting between a week and a year. Trips are offered to virtually everyone from children to adults, according to Annie Bingham — one of the Adventures in Missions advocates — with each person traveling with the hopes of making a difference and spreading the word.
Some 5 million people call the Central American country of Costa Rica home. The country was already fairly poverty-stricken, and COVID-19 did not make things any easier. In 2020, poverty in Costa Rica reached as high as 26% — the highest in three decades. The jump in poverty corresponded to a significant increase in unemployment, also caused by the pandemic, climbing from just above 12% to more than 23% by that first summer.
Coffee is a Costa Rican staple, becoming one of its largest exports. Yet, changes to the climate have made growing coffee throughout the country difficult, putting the whole industry at risk. More rain over the years has put flash flooding at the forefront. Rivers have overflowed within the country, leading to severe damage. Flooding of the Estrella River closed a bridge last July, shutting down a major transportation route within the Limón province. It also left more than 200 people in temporary shelters, since numerous houses and living spaces were left disheveled.
All of this flooding prompted the Costa Rican government to declare a state of national emergency in late July.
Children in Costa Rica
One in every four children in Costa Rica lives below the poverty line, which notably makes them the main victims of poverty within the country. Rates are even higher for those who are Indigenous to Costa Rica, who also lack access to education and health services.
The results of this include an inadequate amount of clean drinking water, an unhealthy diet, and insufficient education. Primary school is free — and is mandatory. Yet, some 8% of children who come from poverty-stricken areas are uneducated, even as a number of teachers tend to coffee bean harvesting as a way to raise enough money to purchase required classroom materials.
Role of Missions Work in Costa Rica
Bingham tells The Borgen Project she traveled to Costa Rica just ahead of the pandemic in March 2020 in what she said should have been the country’s “dry” period. Instead, it was a time when Costa Rica was filled with multiple flash floods. Recognizing how critical dry land is for the people of Costa Rica — specifically of the Puerto Viejo community — Adventures in Mission immediately began repairing the area.
Bingham herself navigated around the community, bringing machetes, shovels and brooms to many homes while also cleaning large amounts of bamboo off power lines. Bingham’s group even devoted an entire day to damming a creek that flooded after the rainfall.
One of the main barriers to work in Costa Rica is the inability to afford child care while they work. This was a perfect opportunity for Bingham and Adventures in Missions to provide free soccer camps for children within the community. They ensured the hours fell into times when parents were working and are what Bingham described as a stress reliever for parents while serving as an outlet for children who, for a few hours a day, are able to focus on having fun, rather than working or managing the reality of living in poverty.
Building Lasting Relationships
One of the main objectives of Adventures in Missions is to share the word of God, providing those who live in areas with high rates of poverty with a different perspective as well as faith. During her time in Costa Rica, Bingham enjoyed building relationships with communities, helping them develop healthy ways to cope with poverty.
Seeing the transformation of lives from those experiencing homelessness is something Bingham said was the most special for her, and the reason why she finds missionary work so imperative. “Every time we met with him he was a little bit soberer, a little bit kinder, a little bit more gentle,” Bingham said of one person they encountered. “He actually started coming and finding us when we were in the city, instead of the other way around. So we were able to have some really fruitful conversations.”
Although Costa Rica has one of the lowest poverty rates in Central America, there is still much work that can be done to improve the lives of those living in poverty there. Providing the country with the resources necessary to stay afloat after severe flooding, and helping children keep their younger years is something Adventure in Missions has advocated for throughout the country. The organization also has trips planned next year for Romania, Guatemala, Africa and even within the U.S.
Bingham described serving in other countries as the building blocks of life. “It’s like the hierarchy of needs,” she said. “If you don’t have food, if you don’t have access to water, if you don’t have a consistent shelter — like, if you’re not stable — it’s really hard to address the matters of the spirit.”
– Nia Hinson