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Guest column: Costa Rica or bust for mission work
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Today’s the day.

Today, I’m grabbing my two overstuffed duffel bags, my plane tickets and my international calling plan. Today is my last day in Gainesville before I move to San Jose, Costa Rica.

I’ll be there for nine months learning their native language of Spanish, studying theology, and doing what I feel called to do — mission work.

It wasn’t an easy choice to make. I graduated from Lakeview Academy, a school that puts high priority on college. Taking a year off to go live in another country definitely isn’t the usual route for Lakeview graduates. But I feel that my time would be better spent in Costa Rica.

The GAP year — it stands for Global Adventure Pursuit — isn’t me running from college. I think of it as a great opportunity for me to really think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

Being bilingual will be an asset to me whether I’m in full-time missions or in the full-time work force. I’m hoping that this year will clear some things up for me as far as what my future may hold.

Before I leave the country I have a three-day orientation at First Baptist Church in Woodstock. My stomach is flipping and my mind is racing. I’m anxious to meet the people I will spend the next year of my life with.

Some of these people won’t simply be my classmates, they’ll be my roommates. Orientation is going to serve as my transition. The director of the program, Jeff Hackett, will go over our guidelines and make sure we’ve braced ourselves for culture shock. I’m looking forward to easing into this year instead of just being thrown into it without a clue about what’s going on or what to expect.

As much as I am excited to leave and start learning and meet new people and be immersed in the culture, I’m apprehensive about all the same things.

I’ve never been to Costa Rica before. I have been out of the country, but never for this long.

The past weeks I’ve been watching my friends leave for college. Friends that haven’t graduated are back at Lakeview. Here I sit — me, my two overstuffed duffel bags, my plane tickets and my international calling plan.


But completely ready.

And totally unprepared.

How could this many paradoxes be filling my life right now? I know that the year I’m spending oversees will help me to mature as an individual and strengthen my faith. But to be honest, I am a little nervous; more about meeting new people than living in another country. Strange isn’t it?

I feel completely comfortable leaving my overly-blessed lifestyle in the United States in order to trade it in for a modest jungle setting. Yet I feel out of my comfort zone meeting new faces. First impressions are everything, they say. I don’t know who "they" are, but that saying has proven true time and time again.

Tonight is my Commissioning Service. The SCORE International Bilingual GAP Year students will stand on the stage as Woodstock Baptist’s pastor Johnny Hunt begins our journey together. He will pray over us as a group and send us out.

After tonight we are no longer the bum kids who skipped out on college. We are the eccentric ones who chose an amazing way to spend a year and enrich our lives. How many people get to say that when they graduated high school they took the path less traveled and spent a year abroad soaking up every cultural detail and life lesson that country had to offer? After tonight, I will be one of those people.

On Tuesday, I will officially leave this place I call home. I will tell my friends and family goodbye.

I will grab my two overstuffed duffel bags, my plane tickets and my international calling plan. The next nine months hold untold adventures and remarkable places. Who knows what all I’ll do and see inside and outside of the classroom. It’s a mystery; one that will be unfolding until my very last day there. All I can say is: Costa Rica or bust.

Sarah Beth Little is a 2009 graduate of Lakeview Academy in Gainesville. Over the next nine months, she will write occasional columns about her adventure in Costa Rica for The Times. Check out her blog at