As a senior, when I look back over my four years at Grove City College, one thing that will always be a huge part of my experience was the opportunity to participate in the College’s Inner City Outreach (ICO) program. The program designs missions trips to almost 20 places both here and abroad every year and they are a wonderful way to get involved in service.
I have had the privilege of going to Costa Rica three times (once as a participant and twice as a leader). There are generally 11-13 members of the team, and our trips generally last 10-12 days. We stay at a church a little ways outside the capital, San Jose. During our time there we participate in service projects, host vacation bible school for the children of the neighborhood, and build relationships with families of the church. We have team members every year with varying language ability; therefore knowing Spanish is not a requirement.
I value and appreciate that this program is truly student-led. Leaders need to attend several training sessions put on by the Director of Campus Ministries, Devi Wintrode. Other than that, we are on our own, which gives us a large degree of independence and room for growth as leaders and team members. We do not have adults that attend the trip with us, which forces the leaders to plan every aspect of the experience. These tasks include raising and designating purposes for the money, communicating with the hosts where we are serving, buying plane tickets, and ensuring that our team members are accounted for during our trip.
The independent nature of the trip benefits our leaders as well as our team members, because for many of our members, this is the first time they have ever traveled without a parent or family member. College is the perfect time to go on an ICO trip because it can be such a formative experience and can cultivate the desire to participate in missions later on in life.
One of my favorite aspects of the ICO program is the amount of culture we are able to experience while we are there. Since we stay at a church and not with a missions organization, we do not converse with or greet other Americans. Our only interactions are with Ticos (how Costa Ricans address themselves) which provides us with an excellent opportunity to build relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We share meals, work alongside one another, and play soccer together. These individuals are always so happy to see us and share their life stories.
At the church, participate in our designated work projects and spend time with the children. Interestingly, the Ticos do not care about how much work gets done, but rather are concerned more about about building relationships. This is such a refreshing experience to be separated from the busyness of a college campus.
I have returned from each and every one of these trips refreshed and eager to continue to serve the Lord for a new semester here at Grove City. I have gained such a valuable perspective from the culture we get to experience in Costa Rica, the camaraderie we build as a team, and the lasting relationships we create during our time there.
To learn more about Inner City Outreach trips, please visit the Campus Ministries page.