This article is part one in a series highlighting the recent work of the Latin American Mission Partnership. Links to the other pieces are listed below:
In September, Dina, Oscar, Joseph, and Charlie traveled from Talamanca, Costa Rica to Bangkok, Thailand to join the team of RMM workers already in the city. Their first few weeks in the country have included the usual challenges of adapting to a new culture, but overall the group is doing well. RMM Regional Director, Tom, reports that they have found the common “language” of soccer to be a valuable tool in connecting with their community and making friendships in their new neighborhood. Following is the story of how these four individuals ended up in Thailand through LAMP.
When a person answers God’s call to the ministry, whether in the local church or in overseas missions, you can never know what impact that ministry will have. I’m sure Dave and Pat Sharp never dreamed how many lives their ministry would touch when they moved to Shiroles, Talamanca in the jungles of southeastern Costa Rica in the mid-1970s. How could they have known that what they set in motion in Talamanca would continue to multiply, eventually reaching halfway across the world?
In 2005, RMM invited the CMC-affiliated conferences in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Ecuador to cooperate in the mission effort in Thailand. Dave Sharp saw potential in a young man from the church in Shiroles: Raul, the grandson of one of the first members of the church there. In 2007, with Dave Sharp’s encouragement, Raul left for Thailand. He was soon joined by other mission interns from Nicaragua and Ecuador. Raul spent two years in Thailand and made many Thai friends. He was instrumental in leading a friend, Pon, to Christ, who in turn led his friend Lan to Christ, and now Lan is an active evangelist in his native country in southeast Asia.
After returning to Costa Rica, Raul served for a number of years as a leader with Delynn and Gloria Hoover’s ministry, Vida 2:20. In 2012 he and his wife, Kimi, answered God’s call to move back to Talamanca where they started a ministry called Esperanza1513. They began an outreach to the local youth through organizing soccer tournaments, and then began discipling them through the Alpha course, a video series that explores the Christian faith from a global perspective. Later they added a ministry to children, then to senior citizens, as well as outreach to the indigenous communities in the area. Esperanza has grown as people from the community have become involved, and brothers and sisters from other parts of Costa Rica, the U.S., and Canada have come to volunteer their services.
“We thought that maybe they could send one missionary, but right away Raul said that four of his best leaders had a call from the Lord for missions.”
Early in 2017, my wife, Mayela, and I traveled out to Talamanca to visit Raul and Kimi. When I asked Raul about the possibility of partnering with LAMP to send missionaries from Esperanza to Thailand he became really excited. Even though 10 years had gone by since his experience there, Thailand is close to his heart, and he still keeps in contact with several friends there. We thought that maybe they could send one missionary, but right away Raul said that four of his best leaders had a call from the Lord for missions.
After much prayer and soul-searching, Dina, Oscar, Joseph, and Charlie began their preparation for an initial mission assignment of three years in Thailand. Raul gave them some training in the Thai language and culture. They prepared spiritually also. To acquire funds they raised chickens and then butchered them and sold them door-to-door. The goal was set to be ready to leave by August 2018. Many prayers were offered on their behalf as they applied for their Thai visas, and then again when they applied for transit visas for the U.S., since they needed to change planes in Los Angeles. What a feeling of joy when they finally got all their paper work approved!
On September 13, Mayela and I, Larry and Dot* (LAMP directors), Dan (retired long-term worker in Latin America and Asia), and Tom (RMM regional director for Asia) met in a video conference with Raul and Kimi and the president of the Esperanza board to pray for and commission the Costa Rica team to Thailand. The following day the team left for the long flight to Thailand. What an exciting time! Who knows where this next step in the journey of faith will lead?
Please pray for grace and patience as the Costa Rica team in Thailand learns a new language and adapts to the Thai culture. Pray that they would receive long-term visas and opportunities for employment. Pray that God directs their steps as they begin their ministry in Thailand.
*Names omitted for security