Reflections of a former Student Missionary

October 01, 2002 | Kim Unterseher

Kim Unterseher writes from Walla Walla College, in College Place, Wash., excerpting highlights and transition points from her diary as a student missionary at Universidad Adventista de Centro America (UNADECA), in Costa Rica. This is the final installment of a four-part series on her experience.

January 4

We have begun a new program here at UNADECA. I am now going to be teaching English to the first-, fourth-, and fifth-graders, as well as a college class.

January 25

I love teaching the first-graders. Every afternoon, I am greeted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, before we begin singing lots of songs. One of their favorites is “Jesus’ Love Keeps Bubbling Over.” I don’t think they understand what bubbling means, though, and when I try to explain it, the kids just stare at me blankly.

March 2

An amazing breakthrough! As I was once again attempting to wash dishes in freezing cold, contaminated water, a cockroach was scurrying about my dishes. This time, instead of reaching for the Raid, I just let the cockroach be. As a matter of fact, it’s still there.

March 23

I have actually never felt so relaxed and stress-free. I feel God led me here, and I know I have changed because of this experience. I am going to miss this place when I leave.

April 21

I taught the lesson in Sabbath school this morning. I had the class that could barely speak any English, so we had to simplify the lesson to basically “God is love.” So simple. Shouldn’t Christianity be this way, too?

May 18

It’s the night before I leave. Good-byes can be easy, if you’re not good at them. The hard part comes later, when you think of all the things you should have said. Saying good-bye to the kids was especially hard, but I swung them around for one last time, and we ate ice cream, so it was a little easier. I can’t believe how much I am going to miss this place, this experience, and the people.

May 19

Today, I went to get my exit visa and had to pay an unexpected $41, which I did not have. Luckily, Janine Fetke, a student missionary from Monteverde, was there, and she loaned me some money. At the airport, crying, I lugged my huge suitcases, my Costa Rican-made guitar, and my camera, filled with memories, through security.

As I sat waiting for my plane, I apparently had a terrified look on my face, because several people asked if I was okay, which I am not. I am terrified. Terrified to re-enter a society I may not relate to anymore. Scared to be in places that are time-orientated, but happy to be surrounded, once again, by people that understand where I come from.

Most of all, I feel sad to leave a place that has taught me so much. How to think for myself, to be open-minded, to speak Spanish, to relax. How to see that God has the ability to touch your heart even if you don’t always reach out to Him.

Houston (almost home)

I am surrounded by English-speakers, and it’s so weird to be able to understand everyone’s conversation. I feel as though I’m eavesdropping. I’m also watching people spend one fifth of my monthly income in Costa Rica on one lousy meal! It seems a little outrageous to me.


I can remember leaving 10 months ago for Costa Rica as if it were yesterday. The smells, the good-byes, the preparation, and anxiety. As I am coming back, it seems so strange, as if I’m watching someone who looks like me returning from a long vacation.

I’m going home looking the same, and yet, everything is different. I realize it is over. I can’t believe I had this opportunity. I can’t believe how God has worked in my life and the lives of the people around me.

Since I’ve returned, people have asked me if I enjoyed being in Costa Rica. To all those people and to those wondering, I can only nod and simply say, “If there was ever one right decision I made in my life, this was the one.”

Thank you for all your prayers. There were many times when they were needed. Not every day was an easy one, but looking back, every day brought me one step closer to my heavenly home.

P.S. It is so cold here! •