From Costa Rica

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog from Costa Rica

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 1: My day started early with a flight to Houston, where I met with some other members of our group. There are a total of eleven people in our group. We were blessed with a smooth flight and met up with the driver who has worked with our region’s mission trips before. San Jose is a very nice, modern city, though I haven’t seen it in the daytime yet.

Tomorrow we leave at 6:30am to meet a staff member from International Ministries, who will accompany us to the church in Sixaloa. Sixaloa is near the Southeast coast right on the border with Panama. We will then travel to Limon, which is also on the east coast, where we will meet the leaders of the Costa Rica Baptist Federation. We’ll stay the night in a hotel there and return to San Jose Thursday. I’ll be sure to post plenty of pictures tomorrow. Keep us in prayer!

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 2: Today we got up early and enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast before making the six hour trip to the farthest southeast city in Costa Rica: Sixaola. Sixaola is right on the border with Panama, and it often floods when the rain is heavy.

We were accompanied by Nidia Rodriguez, president of the Costa Rican Baptist Federation, Johnny Suarez, who oversees the Baptist Seminary in San Jose, missionary Sue Hegarty, and two other Costa Rican pastors.

We were met at the Baptist church in Sixaola by Adalia Gutierrez, who oversees all the ABC mission work in Latin America.

The people at the church served us lunch: rice and beans, a potato salad, and fried plantains. I talked with President Rodriguez over lunch and asked her what kinds of problems their churches were facing. Her answers were very telling:

She said they have a very hard time convincing young people to become pastors. Some churches have no pastor and rely on a pastor to come from another church to lead the worship service.

The second thing she told me is that their churches are facing intense competition from megachurches. Those churches have newer buildings, and the church services are more of a production than a traditional service. I told her we can comiserate.

The third thing she said was that younger people are having to work more on Sundays than they used to. Again, I told her we could relate.

The strange part for me was that many churches in the US have aome of the exact same problems.

After lunch we heard from the people of the church and their pastor, Ingrid Roldan. It was interesting to hear how the church was the building everyone flocked to when the town flooded a few years ago. The whole first floor was underwater. They’re hoping for the money to build a kitchen upstairs so they can feed everyone when the next flood rolls through.

We went from there to the port city of Limon, where we visited First Baptist church. It was founded by Jamaican immigrants in the late 1800’s, and the congregation is still all English speaking Jamaicans. The people served us dinner – beef and chicken and red beans. It was delicious. We went upstairs for the worship service. Pastor Marlene preached about the story of Simon the Pharisee and the sinful woman in Luke 7. Some of the woman shared stories of how God protected them when their houses were being broken into. Great stories about the reality of living a life of faith in a sometimes dangerous place. We were very inspired and touched.

Tomorrow we will leave Limon and return to San Jose, stopping at a church whose pastor I had dinner with tonight. I’ll tell you all about the Baptist church in Paso Ancho tomorrow.

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 3: Today was an early day in which we returned from the coast back to San Jose. We began our day by touring Gethsemane Baptist Church in Limon. We met a pastor named Dennis, who is descended from Chinese immigrants. The time that he has spent there has seen great improvements to the building, and the church has grown tremendously. Their latest Vacation Bible School brought in 150 children from the community. Pastor Dennis is the leader of the local pastors Council.

The next church that we toured was New Hope Baptist Church, a Jamaican congregation that is currently meeting in a funeral parlor. They already have plans for a new building that seats 350. They are trying to raise the money to build it.

The third church we toured was the Baptist church in Siquirres. The building was abandoned by the Southern Baptist Church and gifted to the Baptist Federation. It has an amazing story that shows just how far God will go to help maintain the church’s presence in the community. This church has a small house in the back which was built by the ABCGRR. They are finishing it now so that they can house people and/or teach Sunday school classes there. I was proud to see how much our region had blessed that congregation.

The last church we toured was in Guapiles. The building was built as a sports center for the town, but the Baptists are using it for a church. They also want to remodel it with classrooms and offices.

Please know tha the Baptists in Costa Rica have an incredible heart for God and are constantly involved in real mission in their communities.

Tomorrow we will be touring the Baptist seminary and meeting our ABC missionary Ruth Mooney.

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 4: today we visited the biblical theological seminary of Latin America, a school that is partially supported by the American Baptist churches. It is a seminary where students from all over Latin America attend and get training to become pastors.

Our missionary, Ruth Mooney teaches at the seminary, and she gave us a tour. We also had the opportunity to listen to the stories of four students who are attending the school. They all told us about how they had suffered in their own countries of Guatemala and Honduras. One of the ways they wanted to respond to their suffering was by going to seminary and helping out others who have suffered by sharing the message of Jesus with them.

After touring the seminary, we traveled to the denomination offices for the Confederation of Baptist churches in Costa Rica. We toured the offices and had lunch. I was able to have a good conversation with our missionary Susan Hegarty. We were able to meet with the president and director of the Confederation of Baptist churches, and hear their stories, especially about one of the churches that we visited. They showed us pictures of what it was like before the American Baptist churches of the Great Rivers Region came in and did construction. The renewal of that building was incredible even though it had been abandoned.

After that visit we went to a church in a low income high crime part of town called Paso Ancho. I had spent dinner one night talking with the pastor of this church, and he had a great story to tell us about the way in which that Church was moved to action by construction that was done by the Great Rivers Region. It was an incredible story, and we celebrated that unity we had with that congregation by singing together in English and Spanish. It was a very deeply spiritual experience, and I was overwhelmed by the depth of relationship that our region has with the church in Paso Ancho.

Tomorrow we will be attending a seminary graduation for students who are preparing to have a career in ministry. I’m looking forward to seeing their excitement as they complete their studies.

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 5: Today we attended a graduation for a ministry training program designed especially for women who had suffered from domestic abuse. Our missionary Susan Hagerty is in charge of this program, and she has had an incredible impact on the lives of many women. It was incredible to hear the stories that these women told about the way in which they had been lifted out of lives of abuse to independence and safe tenable relationships with their families.

It was interesting because the people who were in charge of the program used a lot of music to illustrate the way in which these women’s lives were improved through this program.

Tomorrow we will be attending a church service and I am very excited to see how the Costa Rican people worship. Here are some pictures of the graduation ceremony. God bless.

Pastor Jim’s Travel Blog – Day 6: This morning we attended a church service at one of the Baptist churches in San Jose. It was very inspirational. They had a praise band that led the service in praise songs. They had their children stand up in front of the church and recite a memory verse from the Bible. They collected an offering, and have a special offering for a mission project they wanted to do at a neighboring church. Then the pastor got up and preached from the book of 1st Thessalonians. He talked to the congregation about loving one another, and about how that love would make them more mission minded. I was already very impressed with how emission minded that congregation is. They are already involved in helping a sister Church about 15 miles east of where they are right now. And they are starting another ministry in a small town that does not have a Baptist church right now. And yet he wants them to be even more mission minded. It was a terrific time, and the church service was very similar to ours in many ways. We have a great deal in common with the Baptist churches of Costa Rica. And it is clear to me just how deep our relationship is with that region. After church we went to visit the Baptist camp, which is just outside of the town of San Jose. It is a beautiful camp out in the country, up in the mountains. The American Baptist churches of the Great Rivers region have been very instrumental in building and developing that camp. That is all the touring of Baptist facilities that we will be doing on this trip. It has been a very inspiring and exciting time for us. It is incredible to see the way in which God has changed and worked through the lives of the Costa Rican Baptists, & I can’t wait to come back home and share their stories with you. I am posting some pictures of the things I saw today. If you have any questions, make sure you post them here. I’ll answer them as soon as I can.