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Lutheran Church–Canada at work in Costa Rica

January 13, 2012 One Comment
Rev. Edmundo Retana and his wife Deaconess Betty Retana pose with the congregation in Cartago, Costa Rica

by Leonardo Neitzel 

Officially, the Republic of Costa Rica has 4.64 million inhabitants. Some estimates, however, put the population closer to six million, with nearly two million of them being Nicaraguan immigrants. The country shares borders with Nicaragua and Panama and stretches along the coasts of the Caribbean and Pacific seas. The capital—San José—is located in the central province, and its population was last listed in 2006 as approximately 366,000 inhabitants. Including its extended metropolitan area, however, brings the number to nearly a third of the nation’s entire population.

Costa Rica is a unique country with beautiful sea shores, vegetation, birds of all colors, sizes and shapes—as well as a great number of volcanoes. The country also boasts the most stable democracy in Latin America. Since 1993 it has had no standing army. Coffee, bananas, and textile products are its main exports, and a source of major revenue. San José has several museums, theatres, and large government buildings, and is proud of its architectural, cultural, and educational advances.

Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) started its mission in Costa Rica several years ago when it commissioned its first missionary in partnership with the Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN – “Lutheran Church Synod of Nicaragua”). Today Rev. Edmundo Retana and his wife Betty carry on the mission work with great blessings and vision for the future. The mission is situated in Cartago, in capital of the province with the same name. Betty graduated as a LCC deaconess in 2011 and started her work in September of the same year. Her main focus is the coordination and development of Christian children’s education in Cartago. She also leads Bible studies for a small group of women. They gather regularly for Bible study, worship and fellowship.

Rev. Retana and his wife are reaching out to their surrounding communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Currently a group of 15 to twenty people gather regularly for worship, and their goal is to have a congregation officially established by the year 2013. One of their main focuses is the training and equipping of lay leaders who already becoming involved in the front line of mission outreach. They have identified three potential candidates for theological training, but the difficulties of travelling to Nicaragua for education are significant: work schedules, schools, and families all make it difficult to leave Costa Rica. In some ways, the Costa Rican Lutheran church is calling out for help to Nicaragua in the same way Paul once heard in a dream: “Come to Macedonia and help us.” We pray and trust that the Lord will show us the way to solve this problem.

The small group in Costa Rica is growing spiritually and has a high mission vision for their country. Their short-term focus is to establish a church base in the capital San José. Currently, they rent a small place where six people gather weekly for Bible studies. They hope to publicize the place better so that in time it becomes a national centre for Lutherans in the country. They also intend to offer free music lessons, and invite people from the Cartago congregation to join them for special celebrations fat Advent, Christmas, Easter, and the commemoration of the Reformation.

Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel conducts a baptism during his recent trip to Cartago, Costa Rica

They acknowledge and rejoice over mission growth in Nicaragua and are grateful for the support they receive from LCC and the ILSN, but they do not want to be compared to Nicaragua church’s extraordinary growth. They are growing slowly and steadily, and their long-term goal is to establish mission outposts in each of the seven provinces of Costa Rica.

The Costa Rican church received the assistance of three short-term mission teams, and hopes to receive the same number of teams in 2012-13. They are grateful for the support they have received over the years from the Lutheran Womens Missionary League—Canada and the Concordia Lutheran Mission Society. One of their major needs at the present is a vehicle for missionary work, since transportation expenses are very high. At current, they rely on taxis and buses, but bus service between mission locations is very slow. Another need is additional financial support for the children’s education program, especially as related to Christian education resources and food.

We thank our Lord God for His mission work in Costa Rica and pray that He would continue to bless the sowing of the Seed of His Word in the lives of Costa Rica’s people. If you would like to know more about LCC’s mission in Costa Rica or to support our mission there, please, contact Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel at missions@lutheranchurch.ca.


Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel is the executive for missions and social ministry for Lutheran Church–Canada.

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