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by Mike Avitt
Early in 2018 I went on a mission trip to Trinidad and Tobago with MOVE (Men Of Vision Evangelize). MOVE is directly related to Open Bible Churches and that was my first foreign mission trip. I recently returned from my second overseas mission with MOVE, this time to Nazareth, Costa Rica.
There were forty-four men on this trip with twenty being “rookies.” There were eight pastors among us, including my pastor, Al Rusk, and three father/son teams. The age range was about twenty to eighty-three. Seven or eight in our group were Spanish-speaking. Twenty were from Iowa.
Those of us from Iowa took a charter bus to the Kansas City Airport because it is so expensive to fly out of Des Moines. We flew from Kansas City to Houston, TX and then to Liberia, Costa Rica. A two hour bus trip took us to our lodging, the Hotel Wilson, in Upala. The Hotel Wilson was about a mile from Upala, so we didn’t have ready access to retail except in the hotel, which sold ice cream, soda pop, and various other items.
My roommate at the Hotel Wilson, Gustavo Duarte, and I had hot water in our room about half the time. When we began to lose our lights, we were moved from that room and our situation improved dramatically! The hotel had about 65 units, a small pool, a restaurant, and a banquet hall. We were able to watch the Super Bowl in the banquet hall. The food was very good at the Hotel Wilson.
The road from Upala to our job site in Nazareth was so bad, the bus went into the ditch on our first day of work. This five mile stretch took about forty-five minutes to navigate and we broke a leaf spring on the bus about the third day. We began to take a different route, which was longer in miles, but about the same in length of time. We could reach speeds of thirty miles an hour on this road. But we did have to drive through one creek.
This area of Costa Rica was jungle, swampland, pastures, and fields. We saw a field of either wheat or oats and several cattle grounds. The houses were numerous in this rural area and were quite small. Nearly all had electricity and all had water, probably from wells. There were no water towers anywhere but, unlike Trinidad, we were allowed to drink the water.
Pastors Gustavo and Jenny Alvarez would be the pastors of the church we were building. They came to Costa Rica ten years ago from Nicaragua and have been leading a small congregation with services at the Alvarez home under an awning. These humble servants prayed for a church building and they got it.
On the two Sundays we were in Costa Rica, we attended Pastors Gustavo and Jenny’s church held at the Escuela Nazareth (Nazareth School). The school was about one-fourth of a mile from the new church and many were in attendance including children. Several of our pastors spoke with Armando Cruz Sanchez acting as interpreter.
Our vacation day of January 30 saw us rafting down a river and spending the afternoon in La Fortuna, a tourist town. MOVE members often buy souvenirs for the folks back home. On Sunday February 2, I went with members of the MOVE team and members of Gustavo and Jenny’s congregation to a park in Colonia, Costa Rica. Many baptisms took place in the Blue River here and people who were not part of our groups came and witnessed the baptisms. The adopted Bible verse of MOVE is Matthew 5:16 – “In this way, so let your light shine before men that they see your good deeds and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
The MOVE team was very generous with members of the Nazareth and Upala communities. Giovanni, a local welder, volunteered his services but he was paid with our donations. We know we will be here only a short while and these children, who may not understand who we are or how this church got built, will raise their children here and glorify our Father which is in heaven.
I do not know how Open Bible Churches operates or how they select which sites to build. But, I know that Nazareth, Costa Rica was not on the schedule for 2020, another country was. That plan had to be canceled for reasons I won’t go into.
And I know a pastor and his wife hit their knees praying for a miracle in a remote, impoverished corner of a Costa Rican jungle and their prayers were answered. And I know forty-four men who are humbled by the fact that our Lord used them to create this miracle.
So, today, if you live in Nazareth or are just passing through, you will see a big, beautiful, steel and concrete Open Bible Church rising out of the rocks and weeds. Everyone who sees it will know a miracle happened here.
The ministry of Pastors Gustavo and Jenny will grow stronger now and farther reaching. The Good News of Jesus Christ is alive and well in Nazareth, Costa Rica thanks to … prayer!