One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 16:9 "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps". This is so true! When I decided to be a missionary I had no idea what would happen to me.

A whole series of events, surely led by God, allowed me to choose Costa Rica as my destination for the year 2001. When I applied for this position I had some expectations, but none of them came true. Everything turned out to be so different. I experienced a new environment, a new church, a new culture. Everything was new to me. I felt lonely and missed my home and my friends. But as time passed by I found a home in UNADECA. I found new friends and most of all I found Jesus.

My family and friends did not approve my decision to leave everything and everybody behind, but the words of Matthew 19:29 were always on my mind. The Lord said that "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." These words were my strength and my comfort because I knew that I would receive many blessings during this year.

Power of Prayer

One of these blessings was the full understanding of the power of prayer and its importance for my life. I learned how to depend on God every day and every hour. I learned to go to a place with Him and come back with Him. I learned in every single step I must ask for His guidance and protection. Every decision must be made on my knees and God will provide an answer that will be perfect for my life because He knows what is best for me.

I am happy I stayed a whole year, because I got closer to God. I started prioritizing and studying the bible and the spirit of prophecy daily. I prayed more. I can see the difference in my life.

What made me change my lifestyle? People in Costa Rica have a distinct way to express their love of God. They are not afraid of talking about their Savior, they are not embarrassed about their God. Part of the daily routine in UNADECA is to get up at 4 or 5 a.m. to pray. Students and teachers meet in groups and pray. In the beginning I thought they were crazy but soon I realized the importance of prayer, and no matter what time it is or when you do it, you just have to do it. I stopped calling them crazy and started admiring them and wished to be like them. The next step was very obvious to me, I just had to start praying, too.

Going to church there is a blessing. Most of the churches are rented places and the facilities are not very comfortable. Some of them don't have a piano or any instrument at all. They lack so many things. Some of the buildings are falling apart. But you know what? People are not sad, people don't complain, people don't feel frustrated or embarrassed. People are very happy with big smiles on their faces welcoming you every Sabbath in church. They are happy when they sing, even if they do it out of tune. They are happy because they are praising their Lord. I really admire people in Costa Rica. Many students have financial problems. Others have other kinds of problems, but they are always happy and they greet you with a big warming smile on their faces. They trust in God!
I have learned, just like Paul said "to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Phi. 4:11-12)

I wish to thank God for the opportunity of being a missionary in Costa Rica. It was a great experience. I have a strong wish to continue the work I started there, so maybe I'll go back!

By: Marlene Vieira

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Far Better to Give Than to Receive
I recently returned from a year-long mission trip to Libertador San Martin, Argentina, where I taught nursing, English and music at the Universidad Adventista del Plata. This was my second mission trip; the first was a short weekend trip to Mexico in 1999.
At a young age, I promised God I’d work for Him, and I dreamed of doing mission work overseas. I felt that mission work was something you did somewhere else—in a different place than where you lived. When I first thought of going back to Argentina, where I was born and where my family still lives, I wondered if it was too easy or "comfortable." I wanted to go somewhere more exotic...but God wanted me in Argentina.
My job was teaching—a variety of subjects, in a variety of places. When I first arrived, my teaching schedule was light, so I was sent out into the community to teach first aid and CPR to different groups, such as fire fighters, police officers, teachers, Pathfinders and high school students. I also went to an Adventist hospital, where I was able to teach nurses about neonatal (newborn) assessment, which is my specialty. But my favorite job was acting as nurse and chaperone on high school and college camping trips! At the University, I divided my teaching time between the nursing program and the English department, and occasionally taught piano and music theory.
Besides my teaching responsibilities, I was given the opportunity to minister to non-Adventist students, through a special Sabbath School program. I helped coordinate events, such as a camping trip and a singing group to the local hospital and got the young people involved. We would fellowship and sing together on Sabbath afternoons. There were about 30 students who attended the Sabbath School, and we became a very close-knit group. As a result of this ministry, two people were baptized.
I was also involved in presenting a monthly praise church for high school students, with 300 to 500 in attendance. It was so amazing to see the results of our ministry. Shortly after I arrived, the University started a small group ministry, and I was the leader for one of the groups. During the short time I was there, the ministry grew to include 60 groups!
While in Argentina, I experienced a change in attitude toward life. The experience helped me to refocus and simplify my life. I realized that I work not only for money, but more importantly, for a higher purpose—to preach the love of Christ through my actions. It was a win-win situation. Not only was I able to help others, I was also blessed through the giving of my time and energy.
A year ago, I was curious to see if I could really do ministry on a full-time basis. Now, I know that I can, and that I want to continue. The location doesn’t matter. It’s up to God to send me where He wishes, and if it’s not overseas, I will minister right here.
It is truly better to give than to receive. In giving, you rise above your own needs, and in return, you are blessed! In Argentina, I received much more than I gave...and was humbled.

By: Carina Rode

Carina continues to be involved in music ministry at Vallejo Drive Church. She is currently playing piano in the Children’s Sabbath School Division. She encourages everyone to find a way to share God’s love—whether it be close to home or overseas. "It will change your life...if you let it."

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