Pastor Sonia holds baby after the dedication
Part of the class in León XIII
Sue and colleague Guiselle leading an activity
A class exercise to demonstrate how we need to work together for change
Using thread to illustrate Ecclesiastes 4:12
ABC-GRR team and Baptist leaders who intoduced Sue to León XIII church
“For we are partners working together for God…” I Corinthians 3:9a (GNT)
The American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region (GRR) has a long-running partnership with the Baptist Federation in Costa Rica. In 2012, they began work on a construction project at the Baptist Church in the marginal neighborhood of León XIII. Since that time, several groups have labored side-by-side with the local church members. The ABC-GRR, work group members and León XIII church fundraisers have contributed money, enabling the congregation to move ahead on the project. In November we look forward to the dedication of the church building, but that´s a future story.
I am thankful for this partnership between ABC-GRR and Costa Rica as well as the work groups that have come since my arrival in mid-2012. They opened the door for me to continue visiting the León XIII church and establish relationships there. What a privilege when I was invited to dedicate a newborn during a service! It has been an eye-opening experience learning about how difficult life is in León XIII. The area is economically depressed with many immigrant residents, drug trafficking is rampant, and the women often work as maids (usually meaning unfair labor conditions). What a need for the Pastoral Care for Women courses!
The Women´s Group decided to use these classes as part of their program, so since July we have been teaching “Being a Woman is Marvelous”, the first basic course. The first night we read a poem by a woman who had a hard life due to her alcoholic husband. The group´s “easy answer” was to kick the man out and many laughed. Then an older woman said, “Laugh about it, but it´s not funny when it happens to you. I remember when I was newly married and my husband came home drunk on payday. He´d hand me a bag, saying “There isn´t any money left, but here´s what you have, some oranges.”
Every week we build more trust. One student is a recent widow who whispers about her pain after class. Another is a recovering drug addict who recently came to Christ and shares her struggles of whether God hears her prayers when she doesn´t have any food for her son. We try to encourage her and have given her an occasional care package. We have both young and older women in the class, a good mix. It´s a privilege to be able to come alongside this church in partnership, to encourage the pastor and members as they grow and minister to their community.
Even though this class ends, the partnership will continue. We see a great interest in the second class on “Healthy Relationships”, based on the questions asked about family life. Pastor Sonia has also requested me to give training workshops to church leaders after the dedication service.
Partnership Does Make a Difference
None of this ministry would have been possible without partnership. On one hand, the opportunity to enter this community came about through the regional partnership between the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region (including the support of many churches, individuals and work groups) and the Baptist Federation of Costa Rica. This partnership has allowed many people (donors and workers both) to bless this León XIII church as well as numerous others. (The Americans have also been blessed in return, I might add!)
On the other hand, people who give toward my regular ministry support, Matching Gift opportunities and those who give to World Mission Offering are partners with me. You are with me in the León XIII church as we help them grow their leadership and their ministry.
Yes, there are all kinds of partnerships: regions, churches, individuals, missionaries, work groups. But “we are partners working together for God” and it´s making a difference in a needy community in Costa Rica. Thank you!
P.S. Please remember to give to the World Mission Offering, it´s an important part of the partnership equation since it includes support for missionaries and for our international partners!