Last summer I went on a service trip to Costa Rica with my National Leadership Council class. The NLC is a multi-year leadership program, run by DiscoveryBound, for young students of Christian Science. (NLC is dedicated to fostering spiritual growth, leadership qualities, and a service approach to life.) We traveled to the village of Sarapiquí, to perform service projects that would help the children build friendships and have productive activities to get involved in, such as community sports.
One afternoon, after a morning of participating in service project work, our group went to a natural waterfall, Fortuna Falls (“fortune” in Spanish), in the middle of a dense tropical rainforest. Several days before, our group had been taught about poisonous snakes while on nature walks through the rainforest. We had been told that if you leave the snakes alone, they usually wouldn’t bother you.
I became peaceful because I knew that God was right there.
While my friends were playing in the crisp, beautiful waters at the base of the waterfall, I was on the shore writing about our efforts to help the people in Sarapiquí. I was writing to keep track of all my activities during the trip. I wrote about the service project we worked on that morning and several similar activities from earlier in the week.
Suddenly, I heard my friends start screaming from across the way. My friends looked terrified and began pointing to where I was sitting. At first I didn’t know what they were sounding the alarm about, but later I found out it was a poisonous snake close to me.
Right away, I started praying with this idea from the Bible: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). Knowing that God was keeping me safe helped me calm down and see the reality of the situation. I knew that I was safe because God was in control of any and all circumstances, which included this one. Soon our guide came over to where I was seated and told me to move over a bit so he could take care of a snake. As I moved, the guide removed it from some rocks near me.
I was inspired by a verse from the Christian Science Hymnal: “Let not fear thy thoughts employ” (Thomas Hastings, Hymn 97). This meant to me that I could be calm, collected, and fearless when faced with a difficult situation. I became peaceful because I knew that God was right there comforting and protecting me.
After the guide removed the snake, I told my friends that I was fine and expressed my gratitude to God silently as they went back to their activities. The rest of the trip, while not without other challenges, was joyful. Through this experience, I was able to conquer fear when facing situations later on, such as when we were camping and a rat snuck into my tent. In that startling moment, I was able to still my tentmate’s fears by telling her that God was right there loving us and assuring both of us that we were safe in God’s arms. The rat ran out, leaving us alone. And we had no more surprising meetings with creatures from then on.
This experience showed me that the kingdom of heaven or “the actual reign of harmony on earth” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 122) is right here within us. We only need to turn away from what is presented to us through our eyes and see that we are safe in God.
Sapphire Johnston is a junior in high school. She loves singing in choir and riding her bike everywhere.
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