This month our family has the privilege of traveling with a team from our local church to San Jose, Costa Rica to visit the people of Pavas. A few months ago I couldn't have told you where Pavas is or who lives there. Since then I've learned that it's the largest slum in Costa Rica. Upon hearing this I assumed the people living there are Costa Rician citizens, but I was wrong. They are not. The people living in Pavas are mostly Nicaraguan women and children who fled during the 1980's when warfare broke out in their home country. These people left with no documents and little else. They were once considered refugees but now after so many years they have even less status than that. They are ineligible for Costa Rican benefits yet they are allowed to stay in the country as long as they keep to themselves. Their make-shift houses are located in one of the poorest areas of San Jose called Pavas.
The next obvious question I asked is why don't they just leave and go home? It seems like a simple solution, right? Well the answer is more complicated than that. Many of them have children that were born in Costa Rica and have no memories of their parent's home country. Additionally, even if they could make the journey back, what would be waiting for them there? Costa Rica is one of the most stable and economically growing countries in Central America. There's not much for them to return to in Nicaragua.
If you are a female with no government status, no education, and no skills, what would you do to earn money to feed your children? You guessed it, prostitution. If that's not heart breaking enough, finding out that very young girls are not exempt from this line of work is even worse. It's not uncommon for American businessmen or sportsmen to pay $20 for an evening with one these girls of which they may take home about $2 to their families. The men in the slums are often involved with drugs and gang activity or serve as pimps. It is not an easy life nor is it one that offers much hope.
The good news is that Hope Partner's International has set up the Hope Center in Pavas whose mission is to work with the local people to offer hope through life transformation, education, medical care, food, clean water, and relief from human trafficking. Our team will be visiting the center and building a relationship with the people whom God has strategically placed in service to the community.
Our visit to the Hope Center won't solve any problems or stop the cycle of despair many of these people endure everyday, but what we can offer is support to those already helping, encouragement to the women who need a break, fun and laughter to the children, and most importantly the love that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brings. We'll be serving the children a hot meal, acting out Bible stories, singing songs, and doing crafts with them. We hope that we can make their day just a little bit better and if they see the hope of Christ living in us maybe they'll see that their lives can also be transformed in a real and meaningful way even in their present circumstance.
Our kids have never left the country and this will be our family's first mission trip. We are excited to see how the holy spirit will move during the week and we are looking forward to being able to share our experiences with our friends and family upon our return. Your prayers are always appreciated and will be a great encouragement to us as we serve on team !mpact Costa Rica.