Go Ye Into All the World: Costa Rica

I once heard during a missionary report given on another country that Costa Rica is the “forgotten country” of Central America with regards to assembly missionary work. Whether that is true or not, Costa Rica is a country with tremendous spiritual needs and tremendous opportunities for the spread of the gospel. The current local assemblies in the country are all situated within a very close radius of the capital city of San José, which is located in the aptly named Central Valley, right in the heart of the country. When one looks north towards the Nicaragua border or south towards the Panama border, there is nothing but untouched terrain for the gospel. Likewise, east to the Atlantic coast and west to the Pacific are numerous small towns where the gospel could be shared. One of the biggest needs in Costa Rica, like many places, is the need for labourers. The opportunity for us to work alongside local believers has been a great blessing and encouragement and a time for spiritual learning and growth, but it has its limitations. Many believers work six days a week just to make ends meet, which only gives them a small window for service outside of their rigorous schedules. “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mat 9:37-38).[1]

When Doug and Kathleen Reid arrived in the country in the 1970s from Canada, there was just one small assembly about an hour and a half from the Atlantic coast in a town called Guapiles. While small, it has continued to this day by the grace of God, and the assembly there remains very active in youth and children’s work. When one visits that assembly today, these words of the Lord ring true, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mat 18:20). We give thanks to the Lord for the continued testimony of the dear believers in Guapiles. The Reids worked in an area to the west of San José called Ciudad Colón, where they laboured for close to 50 years, until they both went to be with the Lord within the last few years. The assembly in Ciudad Colón continues their testimony in that part of the country, and we attempt to help and support them whenever possible. Since those first years, there have been new assemblies formed. Some have grown and seen blessing while others have had difficulties and remain very small; some have even closed their doors.

Since arriving in 2017, we have found ourselves focusing on gospel work in and around San José, where we live and where roughly 50% of the country’s population is. While the work we have been engaged in has taken different forms over the last several years, whether gospel and children’s work in new areas or supporting the local assemblies, the focus has always been the same: “that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col 1:18). We look to the Lord for wisdom and guidance in how best to serve Him in the work to which He has graciously entrusted us.

When one thinks of the foreign field, oftentimes one would envision gospel campaigns packed full of people and a much greater response to the gospel than what is seen in North America. While true in some cases, of Costa Rica that would not be true. Costa Rica is a country of relative peace in comparison with other Latin American countries and this has resulted in a great indifference towards the gospel. Aiding in this indifference is the stronghold of Roman Catholicism that has been in the country for generations. While many would be nominal Catholics, there is still a sense that if one is Catholic, one does not need the gospel as they already are doing their part for their soul and for eternity. That being said, God, in His goodness and grace, is still saving souls one by one in Costa Rica. While at times we can be impatient or wish for “greater” results, the Lord is redeeming a people for Himself. We also need to constantly remind ourselves that only eternity will reveal the results of the thousands of gospel texts, tracts and calendars that have been distributed in the country over the years.

When we look to the future, there is reason for hope and encouragement. Within the last year or so, there has been a renewed effort as well as a good response in children’s and youth work. Special children’s meetings in different assemblies have led to new contacts and, in some cases, increased weekly Sunday school attendance. While at times fruit in children’s work is not seen in the short term, we know the value of filling these young souls with the Word of God and the gospel. This renewed interest and growth in children’s and teen work has also been seen in the response to the several camps that are hosted each year at the Bible camp owned by one of the believers. These camps are often gospel focused, and it is encouraging to see new faces each time at the camps; a number continue to attend regular meetings at the assembly where the contacts were made. Even amongst the assemblies, as an older generation is passing away, we see the tremendous need for new believers and for younger Christians to take up responsibilities. The camps have been a great reflection of that, as the large number of the organizers and those who run the camps are the younger believers. Our prayer is that even during this time of sowing and watering the precious seed, we, along with the believers here in Costa Rica, may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pe 3:18).

[1] Bible quotations in this report are from the NKJV.