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Teens help out in Costa Rica

August 02, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - When asked how she spent her summer vacation, 16-year-old Jessica Justus has an answer different from most.

While other teens may have logged hours at the beach or working part-time jobs, she was part of an area missionary team that traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, to help the underprivileged.

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The group is part of the Camp Joy-El program, with CBM Ministries, Greencastle, Pa., a Christian-based organization which provides spiritual guidance for people of all ages.

Each year since 1990, participants from the Tri-State area have gone to deprived areas such as Costa Rica, Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico and Bolivia to make repairs to buildings or property, share their values and spread goodwill.

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This summer a group of 14 Camp Joy-El members were in Costa Rica from July 10 to July 24.

"It was a lot of fun. I was very excited - I wasn't sure what to expect at first," said Justus, of Waynesboro, Pa.

Members of the group took a five-hour flight to Costa Rica and stayed at a seminary for the duration of the trip.

Their days were filled with projects such as repairing a church and its grounds and teaching with a local church parish.

Justus said she found the experience rewarding.

"I definitely got more out of it than I gave. I learned a lot about God and myself," she said.

Two years of high school Spanish allowed Justus to communicate on a basic level. Patience and a sense of humor helped smooth things along, she said.

The landscape of San Jose, Costa Rica was intense, she said.

"It was gorgeous. It was so green and mountainous. There were coffee plants and plants I've never seen before," she said.

For Camp Joy-El team member Daniel Bogle, the country's food and culture were unforgettable.

"The people were really friendly," said Bogle, 16, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Bogle said he plans to continue his missionary work with CBM Ministries next year. Tentative plans are to go to Bolivia, he said.

Alicia Womack, of Hagerstown, also went to Costa Rica with the group.

The missionary trips were initiated by Terry Ortman, 56, of Chambersburg, Pa., Camp Joy-El's public relations director.

"I wanted to give the teams a taste of foreign missionary work on a small scale," said Ortman.

The short trips let members know what to expect before taking on a six-month or year-long missionary commitment, he said.

Ortman supervised the trip to Costa Rica. He helped with the work projects and gave a gospel-theme balloon presentation for the children.

Each team member paid $1,200 to participate, which they raised by seeking donations from friends and family members, he said.

The trips are valuable because they allow the members to "demonstrate their love of Christ," he said.

Ortman said he will always remember the warmth of the residents who invited the group into their homes and hearts.

"It gives me a sense of doing something worthwhile. And though they (the Costa Ricans) are from a different culture, they are all brothers and sisters of the Lord," he said.

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