Missionary Pulse: The Cabécar

Living the Gospel Within Another Culture

After a 24-hour trip in the mountains of Costa Rica, Brian Duggan was exhausted.

The arduous journey was worth it, though. He had witnessed something beautiful that day—the singing and dancing of Cabécar Christians.

The Cabécar are one of six distinct indigenous groups native to Costa Rica. They live scattered in remote mountainous regions within protected reservations—so distant from one another that it may take a day’s hike over difficult terrain to visit a neighbor. Growing bananas, creating hand-woven baskets and hammocks and doing day labor outside the reserves are their simple means of survival.

Cabécar people typically have little in the way of education or economic opportunity. They often speak quietly to outsiders with downcast eyes, as if they are inferior to other Costa Ricans.

Transformed through worship

However, when it comes to worship, the Cabécar are anything but quiet. Their voices transform into loud praying and singing the moment they begin to worship, creating songs in their native tongue.

Since the Cabécar people are so scattered, church is not a weekly event for them. Instead, they gather together once a month for an all-night celebration of singing, praying, preaching, dancing and eating.

It was a Saturday afternoon in May when Duggan found himself in one of these raucous services. Meeting in a small building with a dirt floor and planks for pews, the church asked Duggan to speak that evening. He kept his message short and to the point.

“Because I have been in so many churches of all kinds throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, I can encourage them with a simple truth: We are all one family and equal before the cross,” Brian says. “I bring them greetings from sister churches who are similar in many ways.

“Though geographically distant, with different languages and cultures, understanding that they have brothers and sisters in Christ who are worshipping along with them is a great source of encouragement.”

Traveling home

Following the service, which ended at 2 a.m. Sunday, Brian began his long journey home.

After walking for two hours down the mountain in the dark, Duggan and his group were covered in mud. They finally made it back to their creaky 4WD truck and drove for four hours over bumpy gravel roads to the capital city of San José.

Just before collapsing into his bed at 7 that morning, Duggan turned his thoughts to the Cabécar believers.

“They have learned to live the Gospel in the context of their own culture,” he says. “It is not an imported worship, but a heartfelt and natural expression of the grace we have received.

“Thanks to the provision of our supporters, I have been honored to be able to visit, encourage and share with churches all over this region of the world how they are God’s choice for the growth of His kingdom.”

© 2012 EFCA. All rights reserved. 








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