Gracias a Dios

san rafeal church costa rica

¿Cómo estás? my neighbor asks me.

Bien, ¡gracias a Dios! I say, this time truly meaning it. I am well, and owe every bit of that to God's wonderful purpose and provision.

If you're reading this blog, you almost certainly know that ADE is a Christian organization and that Costa Rican culture is largely Catholic. You are also likely from Canada or the United States, whose cultures are heavily influenced by Christianity. Practicing Christians form 70% and 55% of the U.S. and Canadian populations, respectively. In contrast, 84% of ticos (Costa Ricans) identify as Christian. Despite the heavy influence of Christianity on U.S. culture, Christian religious motifs are much more common in nearly every aspect of Costa Rican culture, including in business and even government.

When I decided to join ADE and move to Costa Rica, I was already aware of these facts. I was prepared to enter into a culture much different than my own, especially regarding the prevalence of religious references. I even knew that ticos frequently use religious phrases in casual conversation.

congregation saint rafeal day costa rica
Church congregation during the Dia de San Rafeal.

It's probably been a while since you heard a pastor ask a congregation "How are you all this morning?" with a response of "Well, thanks be to God." (Thanks, coronavirus.) This type of response is so automatic, we often say it without actually thanking God.

When I arrived in Costa Rica, I was astonished to realize how often ticos reference faith in their daily lives. I can't count all the times I hear the phrases "Bien, gracias a Dios," (well, thanks to God) and "si Dios quiere" (literally if God wants, or more vernacularly God-willing) in a day.

Hearing those phrases in a language not my first makes me stop and think. It's hard to know whether the speaker means the full weight of these phrases, given their ubiquitousness.

katie host family costa rica

For me, the frequent use of "gracias a Dios" and "si Dios quiere" is a wonderful gift, and reminds me of God's very real presence every time I hear them. I've started to use these phrases myself. But because they are not automatic to me, their mention turns my gaze towards the Lord.

Our next EcoGuardianes event will be successful, si Dios quiere. This reminds me that it really will be successful, if God wants it to be. All the meticulous planning and list checking I do cannot make EcoGuardianes fruitful if it is not in God's will. Any success in my work occurs because God wishes it and makes it happen, usually in spite of me.

I challenge you to go forward with greater awareness of the words you use, religious or not. Our speech has power, so let's use it to turn our focus towards the Lord.

What do you thank God for?

bio katie liming



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