Thursday, December 27, 2007

Costa Rica, my introduction

I spent two weeks in Costa Rica helping shoot video footage for a promotional video for MAF and one for ProMETA, one of our ministry partners.

In my mind the time was divided into two sections - my time in San Jose, the country's capitol, and an unexpected excursion out into Shiroles, an indigenous reserve in the interior of Costa Rica.

The first week I spent in San Jose, the capitol. The second week I traveled into the interior with some Costa Rican pastors to interview them while they worked on an orphanage for Bribri children. (Both these photos were from Shiroles)

The first week I was introduced to the learning technologies ministry in San Jose, Costa Rica and some of our ministry partners - ESEPA and ProMETA. Jim and I videoed some meetings where MAF-LT and these ministry partners got on the same page and explored how we might continue to help each other provide training to Latin-American pastors. ESEPA and ProMETA both work in several Spanish-speaking countries, and so I saw how distance education is helping bring people from all over Latin America together to train.

One of the most encouraging interviews the first week was with Pastor Esau Bonilla, a senior pastor in Cartago. He was so encouraged and blessed by the opportunity to take Masters courses by distance education, he was passionate about helping others get the same opportunity. In seeing Pastor Esau and his church, I was able to see in person someone who really needed the type of service we help provide, and how really distance education was his only option. There were SEVERAL barriers for Pastor Esau in receiving training - including some stigma in his congregation against it - but distance education gave him a way to do it from his church office.

Eating dinner with Pastor Bonilla in Cartago

The second week I spent on an unexpected excursion into the interior of Costa Rica with a group of Costa Rican pastors from different parts of the country who were joining together to help work on an orphanage in Shiroles. Shiroles is a small village in an indigenous reserve 45 minutes from the nearest town. It is an agricultural area that produces/exports plantains, cacoa, and bananas. This area made up mostly of indigenous people who speak the language Bribri. There are not many indigenous people left in Costa Rica, so parts of this area (especially deep in the interior) speak only Bribri and have little exposure to outsiders.

I realize that an opportunity like this comes only by invitation, and I am extremely grateful I was allowed to come along. We worked all week long on an orphanage for Bribri children, preparing it for electrical wiring, boarding up the outside, and installing windows. During this time I was able to interview four church leaders from remote parts of Costa Rica to get a feel for what their ministries are like and how we might be able to help them. I also interviewed several people from the Shiroles community to see if we might be of any future assistance there.

I shot a lot of footage in this area and nailed down as many details about it as I could, because it seems that it is ripe for growth. There are no pastors in the area who speak Bribri, and the missionary we worked with has been cultivating the area there for a pastor who will be able to speak Bribri and reach out to them. Interestingly, while I was there, one of the pastors I was with felt a strong call to return to Shiroles, learn Bribri, and begin ministry there, as a "church plant" from his congregation back home.

Me doing something I'm clueless about, and then something I'm actually trained to do.

It is difficult for me to say exactly how meaningful this trip was for me personally. I really wanted to see two things... a pastor who couldn't train before, but because of on-line training and our tools was able to do that. And I wanted to personally see the connection between the training we are helping with and the remote villages. Those were personal desires... I was committed to just going along with whatever we were given. For me it was quite miraculous that these two desires were met specifically in the interview with Pastor Esau and the trip out to Shiroles. Throughout the week I was able to see these things met in other ways as well, but those two experiences nailed it. I was able to witness the complete range of what we do... from the huge seminaries with libraries and computers and pastors with laptops, all the way out to an orphanage on an indigenous reserve where an unreached people group is being served. That was far more than I had even dared to hope for, and I'm very grateful it worked out.

I was able to see the full range of the ministry - from the teaching at the university level all the way to how pastors were living out ministry to their own people.

Traveling across a river with Pastor Jorge

(click here for more photos from the trip)