The Backpack Story

Our journey to Costa Rica on Monday started out innocently enough.  The small miracle of a favorite song played twice on the car radio in 20 minutes, chorusing the benediction “Let the future begin.”  A laughter-through-tears farewell at the airport.  Two low-key flights sandwiching a leisurely layover and McDonalds fries.  We were given a shortcut through the immigration line (may have been the squirrelly kids or the soccer jerseys we wore), hugged the ministry founders, Tim and Dena, rejoiced that they had ferried all of our stuff in good condition from Hogar de Vida, met our wonderful Big Sisters from language school, and loaded our baggage into the van rented to drive us to our house.

I was admiring the city lights as we drove down the highway, eagerly tuning into the conversation about something Costa Rican when Matt said it, veiled urgency in his voice:

We don’t have our backpacks.

A quick call to Tim and Dena confirmed it.  They didn’t have them in their vehicle either.  The bags stuffed with all of the things too important to let out of our sight were in fact still sitting on a bench outside of the San Jose airport in the traffic of new arrivals and taxi drivers.  In the relief of long anticipated greetings and hugs, the unsuccessful scramble to find working seat belts in the van for the children, and the busy loading of 50 lb. bags, we had let our guard down and simply forgotten to take a count.  Total rookie mistake.  We had driven around 20 minutes away, and the return trip seemed to last an eternity.  Praying with everything that an overtaxed me could muster, I called down God’s goodness over us, His plan for our time in Costa Rica, His angels over our bags hiding them from the sight of anyone on the prowl for theft.  I knew the odds were impossible.  This was San Jose, where a bag left on the seat of a locked car is an embossed invitation, and even backpacks being worn aren’t impervious.

My mind took inventory of the stakes: our passports, our laptops, the immigration paperwork, our phones, about $2,000 of cash for rent payments, and my wallet topped the list.  I pushed back the nausea and kept praying.  The city lights were an agony passing by in reverse.  Finally we entered the drop zone and saw what we had hoped and prayed for–the most beautiful lineup of colorful backpacks sitting on the bench.  We burst out of the van and collected them like prodigal children, praising God every step.  Searching through the various compartments, we found everything exactly where it was supposed to be.  Relief washed over us, with a cream rinse of exhaustion.

Backlit LarkspurWhat do you do in the wake of a miracle like that, where God has shown Himself so big, where disaster was averted only by His grace? Is there a thank you note magnificent enough?  All we have to give Him is ourselves.  So we open our hearts on a deeper level and lean more fully into this plan He has for our family to walk out His love in Costa Rica.

Bring on the cockroaches.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 58:8


  1. I have done similar things–I can only imagine the initial panic before the prayers. I’m so thankful your back(packs) were covered by God! How wonderful to know we ALL can be covered that way.

  2. God is SO good! This is an incredible testimony that His love covers us in EVERY situation. I love your heart, Kris Gnuse; thank you so much for sharing it in your blogs. <>>

  3. Just like the Israelites started their journey to the Promise Land, God shows up to let you know He is walking with you. Love you guys and will try to keep up.


  4. What an exciting journey that was . . God’s protection right from the get go! The view out your window is amazing! I hope your spanish is coming right along! The kids will probably pick it right up and you’ll feel left in the dust. In 3 months you’ll feel like it was your first language. God’s Blessings to you all!

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