There’s no question why Jonathan and Maggie Hunter are smiling these days. After waiting more than two and a half years between applying to ReachGlobal and landing in San Jose, Costa Rica, they’re glad to finally have reached their goal.
Jonathan and Maggie, who have been married for almost four years, have a toddler son, Patrick, and a baby girl on the way in January. Jonathan, 25, who grew up as a missionary kid (MK) in Ecuador, serves as the director of the AMCA youth ministry in San Jose. AMCA ministers to about 75 expat and Costa Rican (Tico) teenagers in the San Jose metro area. While Jonathan takes over the reins of the youth ministry, Maggie is attending full-time Spanish language school at The Spanish Language Institute in San Jose.
The couple took some time recently to talk about their journey and what they’ve seen God doing as they dive into full-time youth ministry.
Their call to youth ministry:
J: During the application process, we spent a lot of time in prayer. There was something inside us – we knew this is where the Lord was bringing us.
M: Both of us have known we wanted to do something with youth ministry. The Lord led us to missions, and we didn’t necessarily see youth ministry in missions. [But] this position is just a perfect fit, because we’re able to serve students, and with Jonathan himself being a missionary kid, a third culture kid, he’s able to be a resource for the students and the parents in our youth group.
Value of Jonathan knowing Spanish:
J: It’s really been invaluable. It helps you relate to students, because there is a little bit of a clique, in one sense, when you have the long-term MK’s who already speak Spanish and have integrated with the Tico students and youth group. So knowing Spanish and being an MK gives me an instant credibility that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have been there.
It also helps me communicate with a lot of the parents of the students who won’t speak English or can’t speak English. Just being able to speak the language breaks down a lot of barriers that you might otherwise have when you’re trying to work with parents.
J: Some people come into a new field, and they’re kind of overwhelmed and entirely lost. We’re familiar with Latin cultures and Latin cities, but we for sure didn’t know where to go to buy groceries. We had no idea how to put chips in our cell phones – we didn’t know you had to have your passport with you.
Our ReachGlobal team was really spot-on. When we got here, our team leader [Jim Wilson] met us at the airport and drove us to the apartment that [Jim’s wife] Melanie helped find. We had people to show us around the first day.
M: We had our Internet installed within 24 hours of making our first phone call, and in the states it took two weeks for that to happen. Other people where have had longer experiences, having to wait a week or two as well. Melanie Wilson laughed – she said, “What are we going to do to make this more of a missionary experience?” I responded, “Good luck. We’ve had people praying for two and a half years about this transition.” The Lord definitely has had a huge part in how smooth it’s been.
J: Our first [goal] in the ministry is to make the transitional into the director role, and that means not changing too much at one and getting a lot of feedback from people.
Another immediate goal that I have is really helping the people that I get to work with in Bible study and whenever we do the big group teachings to, even at a young age, develop a good hermeneutic Bible study methods and to help form an expectation with how people are going to be approaching the Bible.
Long-term team goals – we have three of them:
First would be just discipling students and helping them mature in Christ and in their walk with the Lord.
Number two, supporting families: A lot of them are missionaries, and one of the main reasons that missionaries leave the field is problems with children. If we can help provide stability and discipleship by being there, if we can help support the families in their everyday ministry life, hopefully we’ll be able to see them remain in the field. If we can in any way strengthen the family unit through youth ministry, that’s a huge plus.
Finally, helping the students in their transitions …
M: We have many people in the youth group who are here from anywhere form just three months to a year while their parents learn Spanish. A huge part of our ministry is to help people through the transition, as they transfer into Costa Rica and prepare to transfer out to where their parents do ministry or to go to college.
The whole thing about the youth group is that it’s the place that you’re not alone in that emotion or in that frustration. Also having Ticos there, you can’t just reject the culture that you’re a part of. You can learn to incorporate and adjust in this transition. Going through that process is something that’s completely normal.