For many students, Christmas break wouldn’t be Christmas break without traditions, like gifts, fires, hot chocolate, and spending time with family. But traditions are made to be broken, and this Christmas several students are looking to break the typical holiday pattern.
The point of Christmas is to celebrate Christ’s coming to earth to become a servant, so what better way of celebrating than doing our own acts of kindness? Meghan Sullivan, a senior elementary education major, will do just that this Christmas break as she travels to Costa Rica. This trip has been a long time in the making for Sullivan. During her high school years, she knew she wanted to do some kind of missions work. Over time God has shaped that burden into a more specific desire. After going on a couple of mission trips to Costa Rica over the past few years, Sullivan developed a burden for the impoverished orphans of the country.
Although 80-degree weather and being in a foreign country don’t exactly bring a stereotypical Christmas feeling, Sullivan’s trip won’t be entirely devoid of the normal Christmas traditions. The parents at the orphanage where Sullivan will be ministering write a Christmas play for their children to perform each year, and Sullivan will help with directing and playing special music for this year’s performance. The children then travel around to various churches and put on their production.
Christmastime is a crucial time for ministry in Costa Rica, but not for the reasons one might initially think. As Americans, we associate Christmas with warm drinks like hot chocolate and coffee. Costa Ricans also think of coffee when they think of Christmas, but not because they’re going to drink it around a fire. For an impoverished Costa Rican, Christmas is coffee bean harvesting time: the time when the area around the orphanage is flooded with people hoping to find a job harvesting beans. This influx of people means a host of lost souls who need the Gospel.
Before she found her passion for Costa Rica, Sullivan believed that Christmas was a time strictly for being at home with family. But learning that Christmas was a crucial time for ministry completely changed her attitude. “As soon as I heard that, I knew I had to find a way to get there at Christmastime,” Sullivan said. “God completely changed my perspective.”
Before this realization, Sullivan said she thought of becoming a missionary as a thing of the future.
“If you had asked me a year or two ago about going at Christmastime, I probably would have said that Christmastime is my time to be with family,” she said. If things continue as they’re going, this Christmas could be the first of many for Sullivan in Costa Rica: the leader of the orphanage asked Sullivan to consider taking over the orphanage in the future.
Sullivan will be in Costa Rica for three weeks and will be at home for only a few days at the beginning and end of break. Sullivan said her family was a little wary of her being gone for such an extended period of time, especially during the holidays, but once it became clear that taking the trip was God’s will for her life, they became more accepting of the idea.
Although it will certainly be a different sort of Christmas, Sullivan says she already feels at home in Costa Rica; she’s ready to make some new Christmas traditions in a new country.
For most students, leaving the country would be a big, drawn-out decision, but for Caleb Cox, a senior orchestral instrument performance major, the decision to go to China during Christmas break happened in less than 72 hours. “I found out about the opportunity on Wednesday, and by Friday it was already confirmed that I was going,” Cox said.
During his trip, Cox will have the opportunity to use his skills as a musician to help a friend possibly get a job.
Cox, along with a group of other musicians, both students and professionals, will be playing in an orchestra under a conductor who is looking to turn a part-time job at a university into a full-time position.
“Basically what we’ll be doing is trying to play to make him look good,” Cox said.
The trip will include a lot of rehearsing and performing, but Cox said the group will also be doing some sightseeing as well during the short trip.