The NUCC mission team traveled into the mountains of Costa Rica several times during their trip. Here the team poses with their in-country missionary contact. From left are Pastor Wes Wileman, Pastor Frank Culver, Kenny Lee, Pastor Sarah Culver, Dallas Beaumont, Mardi Hulm, Jon Dahlinger (missionary), Jenna Hulm and Kim McGriff.

Costa Rican mission trip enriches souls

Maybe people are wonderful like that all over the world. You can look at someone with a cynical eye, but my view has changed,” Kenny said.
While most New Underwood residents were preparing for the inevitable short days that accompany the time change and winter’s shift away from the sun, six New Underwood area residents were preparing for a trip much nearer the equator.
Under the leadership of Pastor Wes Wileman of the New Underwood Community Church (NUCC), Kenny Lee, Frank and Sara Culver, Kim McGriff and Mardi Hulm chose to take 10 days away from home to serve on a missional service project in Costa Rica. Mardi was joined by her stepdaughter, Jenna Hulm, and her granddaughter, Dallas Beaumont. This particular trip was Wileman’s fifth mission trip, and the third that he led. The team was gone from Nov. 3-12. 
Originally, the team had planned to help with construction on a new Bible school, but their itinerary changed, and the team found themselves painting in several different locations instead. 
“Painting’s not hard, but it was a service that needed to be done,” Kenny said.
This trip was Kenny’s first mission trip, though he had traveled to Mexico in the past. Going to a foreign country with the agenda of being a servant was something new for Kenny. 
Kenny decided to take part in the trip last spring when Wileman presented the opportunity. Kenny was experiencing a difficult and life-changing period, and he thought that this might present a good chance to see the world from a different perspective.
He was amazed, Kenny said, by the people he met. 
Though Kenny only speaks minimal Spanish, and most of the people the team met spoke only Spanish, Kenny was astounded by how welcoming the people were. One church that the team visited on their first Sunday in Costa Rica was a small church set high in the mountains. Their pastor had been with the church for 40 years, and no outside groups had been to the church in the last 20 years. Following the service, Kenny said, the congregants swarmed the mission team, eager to welcome them.
This proved to be the case wherever the team went. 
“We got fed everywhere,” Kenny said. Much of the fare provided was rice and beans – sometimes for all three meals of the day. But the food itself was not as remarkable for Kenny as was the spirit of hospitality the people had.
After his return to New Underwood and his life as a farmer, Kenny said he looks at people differently. “Maybe people are wonderful like that all over the world. You can look at someone with a cynical eye, but my view has changed,” Kenny said.
The trip was also Kim’s first mission trip. She had heard from her stepson and daughter-in-law, who have been on many mission trips, about how rewarding such trips can be. Kim is already quite involved with the church through youth ministry, but she wanted to grow in her faith by taking on a new challenge.
What she experienced in Costa Rica has changed how she views prayer. Citing the visit to the same small mountain church that left a strong impression on Kenny, Kim recalls how the people of the church prayed over the NUCC team.
Tuesday and Thursday of their trip, the team attended prayer meetings at different Costa Rican churches. What she experienced there changed her whole understanding of prayer, Kim said.
“They prayed for everything and everyone,” Kim said, detailing how one woman had stood before the group and prayed for a quarter of an hour for everyone in their town, from bus drivers to school children. 
“We always take prayer requests, but this opened my eyes to my heart,” said Kim. 
Mardi has been on mission trips previously, both evangelistic and medical. Her first trip was to Columbia. She was 17 years old at the time – the same age her granddaughter, Dallas, currently is. This made the trip to Costa Rica even more meaningful for Mardi.
“It was really special that I got to share this with Dallas, and with Jenna,” Mardi said.
Mardi served with the rest of the team in ministering to the Costa Ricans they met. Using her experience as a nurse practitioner, she also served the team by having a med kit at the ready. “It was God’s goodness that I never opened it except to take out cortisol cream for bug bites,” said Mardi.
According to Mardi, two different things struck her most strongly during her time in Costa Rica. The first thing of note for her was the dedication the Costa Rican Christians have to their faith. One pastor she cited sold his house and his car so he could help further his church. For a period of time, his family walked everywhere, and his wife sold empanadas to feed their family. 
Mardi also recalled the numerous Costa Ricans they met who faithfully meet at their churches at 5:00 a.m. for times of intercessory prayer. Seeing this revived a fire that had been in Mardi for seeing people, including herself, passionately living out the Christian life, and praying fervently and expectantly. She and Kim have plans to carry the prayer they saw in Costa Rica into their lives in New Underwood.
Short-term mission trips are usually designed for intensive evangelism or service projects to aid an in-country missionary or to bless people by helping to ease their burden. What is frequently not anticipated by those on the mission team, however, is how their participation will change them, and how they will impact their own communities when they return. This aspect makes it all the more important for people to participate in mission trips, several members of the team said.
“If anybody has an opportunity to go on a mission trip, go!” Kenny said. 

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