Costa Rica: Elise Kemp

This Mission had the honor of sowing into Elises trip to Costa Rica

Last night on the streets I met a girl named Karisa*. Even from a distance, I was alarmed by how small she was.

I immediately could see the youth in her eyes. I could see she was searching, and that the light in her eyes had dimmed. She told us she was 19. I’m turning 20 in 3 weeks.

I was paralyzed. I knew God moved me to this new place for the purpose first and foremost of moving my own heart. The reason that God moves his people from one place to another, throughout the entire Bible, usually means that He is about to change someone’s heart.

When he moved the Israelites out of Egypt, it moved Pharaoh’s heart, which had previously been hardened.

When he empowered Ruth to move with her widowed and childless mother-in-law to a nation that she knew would probably disgrace her, God changed and shaped her heart to become inclined towards his, and he sent her and Naomi a redeemer, Boaz. This story became a link in the lineage of Jesus–– a redeemer for the whole world.

These are just two examples, and for this reason, when God has moved me from one place to another, I am expectant for my heart to be shaped in such a way that conforms more to Him.

The Lord has made his defense known to me. The Lord has made himself known as worthy of my full surrender. He defends me even when he calls me out of safety, and for this reason he moves me to move with him in compassion. That being said, He has also made it known to me that the protection from harm that I have experienced has not been the norm for many of the world’s most vulnerable. For this reason, I am moved to Central America yet again to extend the Lord’s defense to girls who do not have fathers looking out for the defense of their bodies, their sexuality, or most importantly, their hearts.

So, when I stood face to face with Karisa* on the streets in Costa Rica, and felt paralyzed, I was so frustrated.

“God, you brought me here, and you’re moving me to be in direct contact with those you’ve called to yourself. Why can’t I do anything? Why can’t I say anything to bring her out of this situation? Why can’t I give her a refuge to sleep in?”

The strength with which I felt for this sweet girl’s situation compelled me to hug her, tell her how valuable she was, and then proceed to break down in a heartbroken mess in the car.

There is no reason that she couldn’t have been me. In the eyes of Jesus, she is the very same image that I am. Jesus leveled the playing field because He himself became the image with which humans could become seen through. To be human means to once be broken, but to be replaced with the very image of God.

In order for me to play a part in righting the wrongs such as young girls being prostituted, it starts with a humanizing strategy. The reason her situation exists in the first place is because of a detrimental cycle of dehumanization. Somewhere along the line, this sweet girl received the message that her value was less than the image of God. She believed less than her full value, and so she is willing to put a price on the most intimate parts of herself.

This is a tender situation to talk about, and I believe that the sensitivity that the Lord granted me in this situation is in fact strength. My only strength is to myself become vulnerable, and submit myself to the One who will always be the only One to move someone out of one situation to another.

He moved his people through the wilderness to the Promised Land. He moved the world’s most disgraced to a place of power. The whole Bible is a story of least likely coming out honored. He moved me, even in a season of feeling inadequate, to be here.

My strength in this tender situation is to tap into the heart that He moves with. Sometimes His heart is just compassionate, tender, and sensitive.

I’ve never felt stronger while my heart literally broke, and tears poured down my face in a van in the middle of the night in San José.

In the gospels, one of my favorite phrases is when Jesus was “moved with compassion.” The Greek word here refers to the insides, the guts, the deepest parts where emotion is felt, and it always precedes the miracle.

Henri Nouwen writes an entire book on this characteristic of Jesus, one that is absolutely beautiful.

“Jesus’ whole life and mission involve accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God’s love. Here we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.”

Build a home in the Heart of tender compassion. It will allow you to face the broken world without despair, but instead with compassion.

*name changed for the privacy and protection of the people mentioned

--post originally from Elise’s blog at

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