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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missionary Pulse: Being The New Kid

As a parent, it’s painful to see your children struggle.

“While it’s a tough pill to swallow, it is a valuable life experience for the kids to know how it feels to be on the wrong side of discrimination and bullying,” says Sue, EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Costa Rica, referring to the challenges her three young children have faced in school.

“Hopefully, it will instill in them a compassion for others who are of a different race, culture, or economic or social status. It’s not the kind of lesson you hope your kids experience; but, at the same time, we are grateful that God has given them the perseverance to power through their struggles.”

When Sue and her husband, Dan, decided to leave behind friends, family and a comfortable income in Missouri to move their family to Costa Rica in December 2009, they did not make the decision lightly. Nor did they flippantly decide to send their children — Emma, Caleb, and Isaac — to bilingual schools this past February.

“It was a difficult decision to pull the kids out of Sojourn Academy, the missionary kids’ school where they studied during our first year in Costa Rica,” Sue says.  “However, we wanted the kids to have a better opportunity to engage in the Costa Rican culture, learn Spanish more fluently, and meet more kids who actually call Costa Rica home. So many of the students at Sojourn Academy are only here for a few months to, at most, one year, and we wanted our children to feel they had more stable, long-term classmates and friends.”

The transition has been hardest on 9-year-old Emma. As the oldest, she has the clearest memories of life and school in the States.

“Emma has shed many tears during the last school year,” says Sue. “Tears over new challenges, friends she misses both from Missouri and Sojourn Academy, and the desire to return to life back in the States.  But after many months of ups and downs, she finally has found a place in her new school and has made some solid friendships. Not to mention, she is excelling both socially and academically.”

“Emma has found her groove in after school activities, including art and gymnastics clubs,” Dan adds. “She seems to be naturally drawn to other international students, who understand her experiences as the new kid from a different country.”

Caleb, 6, has embraced the favorite Costa Rican pastime, soccer. Isaac, 4, has settled into the only home he really remembers — after all, he arrived in Costa Rica as a 2-year-old.

At the end of November, the three completed their first full school year at their new schools.

“We’re happy to put this first roller coaster year behind us,” Sue admits. The children will start next school year in February with improved Spanish, established friendships and a deeper understanding of their new culture.

“Thankfully, the difficulties are not something Emma, Caleb and Isaac have allowed to define their overall school experience.”

* * * * *

Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

* * * * *

CONNECT

latinamerica@efca.org

SERVE

Contact us to find out how you can serve in Costa Rica — individually or with a team — or consider opportunities to teach missionary kids.

PRAY
  • For Emma, Caleb, Isaac and all the missionary kids who face new challenges as new students in a different culture.
  • That God would use the difficult times to strengthen families and draw them closer to Him.
SHARE

Missionary Pulse: Celebrating Life

by Joshua S., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Mexico

Many American evangelicals have found a way to make peace with Halloween. Harvest festivals, Spiderman costumes, and generic pumpkin carving contests have provided a more biblically sound alternative to the gloom and doom origins of Halloween.

However, Mexico’s national Day of the Dead celebration was a challenge for our missionary family in Mexico City. We knew the day would come when the culture would clash with our Christian values, but we didn’t realize just how difficult this holiday would be for our three children.

The Day of the Dead is not about dressing up in costumes and getting candy. It is centered on three key elements: (1) an altar is built for the dead, (2) offerings are given in honor of the deceased — including pictures and favorite foods and (3) people communing with dead relatives.

As we talked with Mexican evangelicals, it became clear that there was little that could be done to redeem this holiday.

But it would also be impossible to ignore.

On the Day of the Dead, school is cancelled for the national holiday. The day before the holiday, though, school children are expected to participate in a school program focused on the dead. Much of the preceding month, the children prepare for this program — and that is where the struggles began.

Our children were repeatedly commanded to bring offerings for the school altar and engage in other activities associated with death. We encouraged our children to graciously refuse, and that seemed to be enough for the teachers of our two youngest children.

However, we knew something was wrong when our oldest son, Malachai, came home from school distraught. He had to do the assignment. He had to bring an offering, he told us. If not, his teacher had threatened to give him a zero on all related assignments. For our overachieving 8-year-old, this was too much. He was nervous and fearful to go to school.

So we talked with him. We talked about the importance of following Jesus no matter what and about how glorifying God is more important to us than good grades. We talked about pleasing God versus seeking man’s approval. We talked about death, about the dead, and about life and the God of the living.

The next morning, we read the story of Daniel. And then I walked him to school and waited to speak with his teacher.

Catching her just before the bell rang, we only had a moment, but it was important for Malachai that I not wait any longer. I told his teacher that I knew we were a bit strange in terms of Mexican culture, but that as a Christian family we would not be celebrating the Day of the Dead. I asked her to please give our son alternative assignments. And I told her that if there was no alternative, we would prefer that he simply receive a zero.

She gave him alternate assignments. That was the end of it.

We didn’t send our kids to school for the Day of the Dead celebration. And we didn’t celebrate the Day of the Dead. But we did spend two days at home celebrating life together, sharing stories from the Scriptures about the God of life, playing games together and enjoying the many gifts the Lord of life has given us as His people.

Perhaps we cannot redeem a holiday like the Day of the Dead. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot redeem the day on which it is celebrated.

“But Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God… He is not God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matt.22:29, 32b).

* * * * *

Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

* * * * *

CONNECT

mexico@efca.org

SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Mexico City. Or contact us about serving long-term as part of the Mexico City Team.

PRAY
  • That God’s truth would penetrate through cultural barriers and traditions.
  • For the missionaries in Mexico and throughout Latin America to have wisdom in navigating the culture while always honoring God.
GIVE

Make an online donation to the Mexico City general ministry fund.

SHARE

Missionary Pulse: What Would I Do?

by Brian D., EFCA ReachGlobal International Leader, Latin America/Caribbean

“What will you do when ‘they’ tell you to leave or face death?”

A godly Mexican pastor (we’ll call him José) was asked this question by a trusted mentor in reference to the work he is doing to expand his church’s ministry in a difficult area in Mexico. José and his congregation are running Awana programs for kids, job-skills training for adults and other outreach ministries in an area of town controlled by drug gangs.

I was struck by how open José was when he told me, “It took two months to think through the answer. I discussed it with my family and we came to a decision together.”

Their answer is evident as the ministry continues to reach those without hope in a region facing daily threats to life.

To this point José has not personally received death threats, but he knows what his answer will be when they come. Far from being a theoretical possibility that invites glib responses, José and his family know it is just a matter of time before the threats become reality.

As I travel all over Latin America and the Caribbean, there is theoretical danger — but the risk is miniscule compared to that faced by José and other faithful believers like him. While I come and go quickly, these amazing servants increase their risk the longer they persevere in reaching the lost and hopeless.

And still, it makes me honestly consider — what would my response be if asked the same question?

* * * * *

Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

* * * * *

CONNECT

latinamerica@efca.org

SERVE

Contact us about serving in Mexico City or in another part of Latin America or the Caribbean.

PRAY

For God’s servants, like José, who risk their lives on a daily basis to proclaim the name of Christ in their home countries and to the ends of the earth.

GIVE

Make an online donation to the Latin America field ministry fund.

SHARE

Missionary Pulse: Live Like You Were Dying

by Diane D., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Brazil

“Live like you were dying…”

I recently saw those words written on a church bulletin, and it reminded me to always be ready.

It says in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

I’ve been attempting to be more ready these days. I’ve been keeping an EvangeCube (a Rubik’s cube type gadget that shares the gospel of Christ in pictures) and an extra Bible in my purse and intentionally looking for opportunities to share about Christ.

So in June, while out evangelizing on the streets of Ipanema, a famous beach community in Rio de Janeiro, my husband, Jeff, and I had the privilege of meeting Rosie.

This energetic Brazilian woman was selling refrigerator magnets and key chains while dressed in Carmen Miranda attire. Like the famous Brazilian singer, Rosie was wearing an eye-catching fruit hat and outfit.

After we had spoken for a while, Rosie wanted to give us gifts — key chains with the picture of the Christ the Redeemer statue. We gladly accepted, and I then asked her if she had ever seen an EvangeCube. She said she would love to see it because she is an evangelical Christian.

I showed it to her and told her that I wanted to give it to her as a gift, but that she needed to share it with others. She immediately began to cry. When I asked her why she was crying, she told us that she works at a hospital for terminally ill cancer patients and would love to use it there to share the gospel.

When I saw her a few months later, Rosie told me that the cube helps her share Christ using pictures.  She has held many children in her arms as they pass from this life into the arms of Jesus.

While Rosie is already a Christian, it greatly encouraged her and touched her heart to know that she is not alone as she strives to share the best gift of all — the gift of eternal life through God’s son, Jesus Christ.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit works through Rosie at the hospital and that many people hear the true gospel message.

* * * * *

Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

* * * * *

CONNECT

latinamerica@efca.org

SERVE

Contact us to find out how you can serve in Brazil — individually or with a team.

PRAY
  • That God uses Rosie at the hospital to bring His life-saving word to those who need to hear the gospel.
  • For Diane and the ReachGlobal team in Rio de Janeiro as they strive to live each day like they were dying, making the most of every opportunity to proclaim the name of Christ.
SHARE

Missionary Pulse: It Will All Be Beautiful

by Naomi S., EFCA ReachGlobal missionary in Mexico

I was talking to a kind friend the other day about how I was adjusting to life in Mexico, and I told her that I can compare my transition into my new culture to meeting someone new.

Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone new, and you notice some flaws about her. Maybe she laughs too loud or she has crooked teeth (or maybe she is very short and has freckles)…

Then, time goes by and you spend time with this person. You laugh with her and cry with her and pray with her. And before you know it, she is the most beautiful person you know — her smile is lovely and her laugh is magical.

So I think I’m there in my transition to Mexico.

I’m noticing the flaws, but I’m also hopeful because I know that day will come when it will all be beautiful to me.

* * * * *

Missionary Pulse is a column dedicated to reflections directly from the ReachGlobal Latin America missionaries on the field. See archives.

* * * * *

CONNECT

mexico@efca.org

SERVE

Bring a short-term team to Mexico City. Or contact us about serving long-term as part of the Mexico City Team.

PRAY

For missionaries who are new to the field and adjusting to a new culture and way of life — that God would use them in great ways.

GIVE

Make an online donation to the Mexico City general ministry fund.

SHARE