¡Pura Vida, Mae!

By Carson King, Free the Girls Intern

What does theLORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

I first experienced the wonders of Costa Rica during my senior year of high school. My
small Christian school planned a mission trip to the tropical location, and many students
signed up, eager for the warm weather, breathtaking mountain views, and rich culture
that awaited them. Having studied Spanish for many years, I was ecstatic to serve the
Lord in a beautiful new way, adventuring to far away lands in hopes of seeing palm
trees and maybe even a sloth! Yet, God had a much different trip in store than I
anticipated. Known for its sandy beaches and “pura vida” lifestyle, tourists often flock to
this Central American paradise’s secluded islands, animal encounters, and zipline
adventures. But something felt wrong with this picture as just around the block from
these elegant resorts lay injustice upon injustice. My heart broke seeing these realities
as I took in the immense brokenness.

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Yet when I interacted with these so-called ‘impoverished” people, I was blown away by
their unexplainable joy and love for the Lord. Though they were poor in provisions, they
were rich in spirit. Despite their discouraging circumstances, they always persevered
and trusted God to provide in supernatural ways. I’ll never forget driving away from the
small town of Guarari as the little hands of neighborhood children waved goodbye,
smiles as big as the sun shining across their faces. In that moment, I knew I would be
back. My heart had found its home.

I returned to my soul country twice in 2017, once for a mission trip and again in
September to study abroad in the vibrant city of San José. Eager to serve my new
community, I connected with Face of Justice Ministries, an anti-human trafficking
ministry near the capital city. Before my trip, I heard the word “trafficking” thrown around
in my ministry classes and occasional news broadcasts, but I had no concept of the
scope of the issue. Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, which opens up the market for
sex tourism substantially. Men and women from all over the globe flock to Costa Rica to
find solace in the temporary comforts trafficking victims have to offer clients. Face of
Justice’s goal is to bring light and hope to these dark places through prayer,
intervention, and restoration. I walked the streets with johns, pimps, and prostitutes on a
weekly basis, offering coffee and cookies as I listened to their heartbreaking stories and
witnessed the complexities of the sex industry firsthand. At first, workers rolled their
eyes at me, a blonde Midwesterner with a “white savior complex” who acted like she
understood. Yet as I continued to serve and invest, their hearts were softened as we
laughed, broke bread, and shared life together. Though we came from vastly different
places, the power of love bound us together. I learned that these individuals were more
than victims, more than what had been stolen from them. Each person’s unique story
carried pain and sorrow, but also beauty, love, and grace. There was hope in their eyes
as they dreamed about the future, what could be if only they could sustain themselves
without having to turn to the streets. At the end of my three months in Costa Rica, my
heart was heavy, but I strangely missed the streets. I craved the raw vulnerability and
authenticity and prayed that God would provide in bringing freedom to these workers.

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Six months later, I am astounded to say that my prayers were answered ten-fold.
Without knowing the Costa Rica program was in its developing stages, I decided to
intern with Free the Girls, a brilliant non-profit that directly answered the deepest
prayers of my heart for these desperate women.

As we have labored to set up this program, I am reminded that these women are not just statistics or theoretical people.

I know these women, prayed over these women, and cried out for their very liberation. I
pray that each of your hearts would break for their deep, lovely, intelligent, kind, silly
souls and that you would love and embrace them as we launch our new Costa Rica
program.

Let’s open doors and proclaim freedom for these women as chains are being broken in Costa Rica!