For 25 days, I had the great privilege of visiting the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica (ILCO). I stayed at the hostel apartment above the main offices in San Jose, mostly, and also a few nights in the house for pastors in Sarapiqui in the north, and congregation members’ homes in two communities. I visited eleven congregations (Communities of Faith) and communities (Points of Mission) (list below), and also attended devotionals on Tuesdays with the ILCO staff when I was there- so in the 25 days I was able to worship 13 times!
I came with the intention of seeing how the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica worshiped outdoors, incorporated nature and environmentalism in their work, accompanied indigenous communities, and included children. I observed all of this and more and learned from the churches in this part of Central America. I also came with the intention of renewing my ministry at the outdoor church of New Life Lutheran in Dripping Springs, Texas, by taking some time away and a change of place and a cultural immersion. We called it a “mini-sabbatical,” and lay leaders handled ministry while I was away. The Southwestern Texas Synod supported me in this renewal with funding and preaching and presiding at New Life in my absence.
I first visited a community about an hour bus ride from San Jose, and a short, steep hike up a mountain, which is an indigenous Huetar community. I had a lesson on the culture and the situation in that community from a teacher of Huetar culture in the local school. I participated in the summer round up activities for the children (Circulo de Verano), with games, activities, music, worship and lunch, all in the yard of one home.
In San Jose, I visited the organic farmer’s market that is on Saturdays next-door to ILCO, and has a booth where indigenous Heutar women sell the herbal remedies and also soaps and shampoos they make from natural ingredients. Pastor Nehemías Rivera showed me the gardens at ILCO. He talked with me about worship outdoors and organic farming —and many other things— in our drive to Cabagra in the South, near Panama, and while visiting the Bri Bri people there. We worshiped around a campfire in the backyard of one of the families, and were graced to have representatives of all three local clans in attendance. We spent time with the communities at the rivers, swimming and sharing food, and talked about the river as a gathering place and a place of spiritual significance. These first two visits expanded my vision of outdoor ministry and accompaniment of indigenous people, including working to help establish schools and legal advocacy for land rights. Guatuso, the last community I was able to visit, is a Maleku indigenous community. I did not make it to the Bri Bri community in Talamanca, in the Atlantic coastal region.