Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

I’m in Costa Rica, volunteering at a Christian mission on the eastern outskirts of San Jose, the capital city. The mission is called YWAM San Jose (Youth With a Mission), and it’s my home for the next three weeks.

I’ve been given a small, minimal room with a shared bathroom, a bed, a chair, some clothes hangers, a bench, an alarm clock, two towels, a candle and some matches.

It’s quiet time from 10 p.m. onwards, and the wifi is turned off at 11 p.m. Breakfast is at 6:30 a.m. and so far I’ve made it up every day for fresh pineapple, guava, toast and jam, burnt coffee, and the oddest breakfast cereal I’ve ever seen.

The plan is to stay here until mid-May, volunteering. Mostly on the Web site but also on other tasks that need doing.

You might be wondering, what the hel—heck I mean, what the heck I’m doing here.  Good question.

I’m not Christian.  I’m not religious at all, really, and though I describe myself as having Taoist philosophies, I’m an atheist. And yet here I am, sitting next to a fellow at lunch who just got back from distributing Bibles along the western coast of the country, as part of an audacious project to put a bible into every house in Costa Rica.

Well, here’s the story.

About two months ago, I decided I needed to get out of Vancouver, and my own head, and soon. I wanted to do something positive, something for other people, some volunteer project. I looked at some of the tourist volunteer programs, but nothing seemed to match, nor to be affordable, either. I also wanted a personal connection to the charity work in some way.

I wanted a chance to focus on other people in a non-selfish way, to do something purely for others, because I felt like I’ve been pretty deeply wrapped up in myself for the past 6 months… or longer.  And in a way, this is about as selfless as I can be—I’m volunteering for a cause I don’t believe in for a group I don’t belong to.

Which isn’t to say, I disagree with what they do—or even why they’re doing it—just that I’m not on the same page with some of their beliefs around, you know, God and stuff. However, this mission is involved in a number of worthy causes. They help bring medical and dental services to some of the poorest areas of San Jose. They build homes for those who are in need; they are also involved with exposing and challenging some of the human trafficking going on in San Jose.

And while I have been an atheist most of my life, there’s a reason I’m questioning some of my rather big base assumptions lately, as you might know. I think this is a healthy process—a scientific process, in fact, to revisit established truths and re-verify what you think you know. The last time I went to church regularly was back in the 20th century, and it’s entirely possible I will look at it differently now.

In preparation for this trip, I’ve gone several times to a gospel-centric, Mennonite-based, new urban church in Vancouver. The church itself is a recent “planting”—it’s been around only about 5 years—and it’s significantly different from the United Church I went to as a kid. I’ll explain how in another post, though, this is already getting long.

But in the mean time—I’m breathing tropical air in a very quiet and still room tonight, preparing to experience something brand new with a group of people that seem pretty darn happy to have me here.  I’m really looking forward to it.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?




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