Ricky appreciates the simple joys of life. At 18, he is just now able to walk to the soccer field by himself and wear a hoodie and white tennis shoes. Just a few months ago, any of those everyday things would have gotten him killed. In fact, it was these simple things that resulted in the death of all his close friends in El Salvador. Why is Ricky still alive? He is alive because he had the opportunity to escape the dangers of his homeland. In February 2018, Ricky’s family was awakened by a gang storming their house in a home invasion. This was a scene all too familiar for this family. Sadly, the family endured this one other time. That time resulted in the murder of their eldest son, Omar. Four years earlier, after Omar repeatedly refused to join the violent gang lifestyle so rampant in El Salvador, he was shot and killed in a home invasion while his mother clung to him trying to tear him from the grip of gang members. Now, the family was living this nightmare one more time. This time, Ricky’s life was spared. He was told he had one more chance to join the gang. If he continued to refuse, they’d be back, and he would suffer the same fate as his older brother. Knowing just how real the threat was, the family contacted a development agency in Costa Rica. By the end of February, Ricky and his family fled El Salvador and landed in Costa Rica. They marveled at the similarities between their country and their new home. The landscape, the language, and the culture comforted the family as it was so like what they had known their whole lives. The one thing missing was the overt violence and tension. Going to bed that first night, the family experienced a peace that had long been forgotten. Conversely, the news they awoke to both shattered their hearts but also provided reassurance they had escaped just in time. Two teen boys from their neighborhood in El Salvador had been shot and killed that night. They knew Ricky had left in just enough time to escape death. In the months that followed, every one of Ricky’s friends were murdered. Some while walking out of school, some while at work, and even while playing soccer. Ricky’s family doesn’t take for granted their new freedom. They continually note the relaxation they all feel now in Costa Rica. Ricky can wear what he wants, he can go back to school, and do the simple things the rest of us take for granted. No doubt God spared Ricky for a purpose. Living as a Salvadoran refugee in Costa Rica, Ricky has an opportunity to not only breathe but to do something great. Ricky shines. His gifts pour from his being. Ricky has a story to share and a purpose to explore. Life has just begun for Ricky. You can use your gifts to support the efforts that directly impact the lives of refugees like Ricky. The work Group Mission Trips does in Costa Rica is helping refugees like Ricky find a better life through education, empowerment, and faith development. Check out www.groupmissiontrips.com/international to learn more.