“We were there to change the wall, but the wall changed us,” student Kasey Boston said during a chapel service at Mars Hill College recently.
Boston and other Mars Hill College students were telling about their week of service in Puriscal, Costa Rica, where simply painting a wall around the city cemetery opened doors and inspired pride in the community.
Students were able to see community pride mounting through the week, as people nearby started painting homes and other buildings.
“It was funny,” Boston said. “Every day there were more people painting. We felt like we were starting a painting trend.”
The Mars Hill students originally planned to visit a local English class one evening.
“But we all just loved it, and the people were wonderful,” Boston said. So they ended up going to the class each evening of their time in Puriscal.
The English students were very knowledgeable about English, Boston said, but they had had very little opportunity to converse with English speakers.
The Mars Hill students’ nightly conversations “helped them see how we really talk,” Boston said.
For Mars Hill student Kaitlyn Allen, the trip to Costa Rica was the continuation of her ongoing dream to be involved in missionary service work.
That dream began when she made three trips to Gulfport, Miss. to help with the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina.
“Those trips changed my life for the better. Each time I’ve gone on a service trip, it changes me, and gives me a new perspective. It opens my eyes to new ways of life,” she said.
A new perspective is something all the Mars Hill students brought back from Costa Rica.
Without exception, each student said he or she was deeply affected by the concept of “pura vida,” which permeates the Costa Rican culture.
The words “pura vida,” means “pure life.”
In context, the phrase refers to a simplicity of living, a slow pace of life, and a focus on other human beings, on beauty, on family.
According to the Mars Hill students, the residents of Puriscal had very little regard for time as Americans measure it, but their regard for their families, and for the strangers in their midst was enormous.
“They are just more relaxed and peaceful.” Boston said. “I’m sure they have their problems, but as a rule, everyone was friendly, and no one was stressed out, and they place much less importance on material things.”