Daughters celebrate their mother's graduation
Lovely scenery along the curvy road
Class in the church sanctuary
Check out the plywood table over pews as well as our guest student
Practicing communication and teamwork
The proud graduates
I was privileged to be introduced to the mission church in Boca Arenal, Costa Rica, last year and to see what wonderful ministry was being carried out. This Baptist Federation church is a three-and-a-half hour drive north of the capital, San José. The twisty windy roads which are sometimes foggy even during the day are my least favorite part of the trip. But the people who we meet upon arrival make it all worthwhile.
Pastor Rigoberto Aguilar already has a Recovery Ministry which draws many people who have suffered from addictions or abuse. Of particular concern in this pineapple and sugarcane-producing area (where workers are frequently hired short-term and/or receive low pay) is helping women be financially independent. So the church has also taught women how to earn money by baking bread or making clothing.
God laid this church on my heart for months, and when special funding appeared, I approached the pastor and church leaders about offering a course for women to help them be emotionally healthy as they face many life challenges. I felt God had called me to “come over and help”. The church accepted the class and invited women in the community to attend.
I spent four weekends teaching this course. Several women were so excited that they invited neighbors to come with them. Many are Nicaraguan immigrants who suffer discrimination and now feel better prepared to stand up for themselves. Most women felt they were communicating better with their families, especially being better role models for their children. Most importantly they recognized that they are made in God’s image, and as such, have great value. This is a liberating thing for women who have been put down and badly treated most of their lives.
After class, Pastor Rigoberto shared how the course was helping the women as well as the church (which had gained three new families). Obviously he knows the women’s backgrounds and told how some had been abused as girls, others had been abandoned by husbands and had to learn how to bring in money to support their children, as well as one woman who had tried to commit suicide three times. Despite their difficulties, the students persevered and fourteen finished the course.
While American Baptist Churches were celebrating Worldwide Communion Sunday, Boca Arenal was celebrating a graduation! The graduation affirmed these women’s accomplishment of finishing a course, but it also served another purpose. It was held at the end of morning worship because the church wanted to publicly support these women as well as holding them up as role models. What a joy to see husbands, children and church members congratulating the women with big hugs.
As financial supporters of missions, you, too, were present in Boca Arenal because you made it possible to “go over there”. In the same way, your gifts to the World Mission Offering are vital! This Offering provides recruitment and training for new mission initiatives as well as support for on-going workers and projects. Let’s all “Rise to the Challenge” to participate in God’s mission in the world.