“I have never had an experience that challenged me more or instilled more growth in me than my summer with Christ For the City International in La Carpio, Costa Rica,” said Connor, one of our Global Ambassadors who taught ESL classes as an assistant for 6 weeks.

“Upon arrival, I learned I was assigned to the English classes in La Carpio, alongside a long-term Christ For the City missionary. I had no idea what this would entail or how I would be able to help, so I got off the bus on my first day with an open mind. I walked into a one-room school building that doubles as a church, to find “Teacher Megan” already engaged with the elementary-aged students.  Over the next few days Megan showed me the ropes, explaining each teaching strategy and the motivation behind each technique.

Each class begins with a morning circle—where students hear, understand, and respond in English using songs, wall calendars and conversational questions. The daily lesson plan uses diverse activities to help the children put the words into practice, solidifying them into memory. During game time, the children just enjoy themselves while receiving encouragement in English. The group moves into a more relaxed Bible story time, during which the teacher uses a Children’s Bible with pictures, speaks slowly and articulately, and emphasizes full body-language to ensure comprehension for each level of English.  The class period winds down with puzzles, books, games or crafts to create word association. For example, the words “cut” and “glue” are now associated with the action of cutting and gluing.

In just one short month, I had a lifetime’s worth of encounters and interactions.  My Spanish improved significantly, and I could develop real, meaningful relationships by the end of my time.  I witnessed joy in the eyes of children who had, in comparison to my own situation in the United States, effectively nothing. I was able to see hope even in the nearly unforgiving poverty cycle and vicious circumstances surrounding these individuals.  I saw my God in a whole new way—as Provider, the Giver of hope, the Giver of purpose.”

La Carpio itself is home to around 40,000 people, half of which are children. All of them are crammed into a space that’s a little over 1 square mile. It’s also the city dump. Our missionaries estimate that up to 90% of children in this region have been sexually abused, living their lives among overcrowding, poverty, food insecurity, violence, drugs and gang activity. Due to the huge numbers of children, the schools have to offer shifts of classes and the kids only attend school for around 2.5 hours per day. There is also no high school in the slum. This is why English classes (and our other programs) are such incredible opportunities for these children. It instills not only their value and worth, but provides a positive community and role models, Biblical truths and principles, and opportunities for future employment.

Connor encourages others to consider spending their summer as he did.

“If you’re on the fence about going to the mission field, I can’t emphasize enough how great and life-changing the experience can be teaching English in another country. So, as you search for international experience, language immersion, and follow the voice of the Lord, I encourage you to consider Christ for the City International.”