Stephen and Marta Deal are ELCA missionaries in Costa Rica. Stephen is the global mission regional representative for Central America. To support Stephen and Marta, or another of the ELCA’s over 200 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
Yesterday marked a significant milestone in our lives as ELCA missionaries. It was exactly 10 years ago — on Jan. 14, 2003 — that we moved from Guatemala to Costa Rica and began service with ELCA’s companion church, the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense.
Moving from one country to another — even within Central America — was a major transition for our family. My new missionary assignment as ELCA regional representative meant that I had lots to learn about four new countries in Central America and about the Lutheran churches and our other global mission companions in each country — beginning with the church in Costa Rica.
Likewise, Marta needed to find ways to put her gifts and talents to use in the Costa Rican church, which, in hindsight, turned out to be a fairly easy process. She found her niche in the La Carpio community and began offering artisan handcraft classes to a group of Women living in povety — principally Nicaraguan immigrants. While the size and composition of the La Carpio women’s group has fluctuated from year to year, it is a ministry that Marta has faithfully maintained for the past 10 years.
The Iglesia Luterana Costarricense is also celebrating its 25th anniversary as a national Lutheran church in 2013. A year-long schedule of special activities will kick off in mid-February when representatives of sister churches from the U.S. and Europe — including two ELCA companion synods — will gather in San Jose to learn about Iglesia Luterana Costarricense’s new strategic plan. This will be an opportune moment to identify new ways for our respective churches – the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense and the ELCA — to accompany each other in the coming years.
It will be a blessing for us to take part this church’s 25th anniversary celebration with our Costa Rican brothers and sisters, to look back and celebrate how God has used this small church to offer holistic pastoral accompaniment to poor and excluded communities throughout Costa Rica and also to plan for the future and ask for God’s blessing so that the Iglesia Luterana Costarricense is able to respond to the new mission challenges that lie ahead.
Please join with Marta and me in giving thanks for these personal and church milestones in 2013. Throughout the year, we will be remembering all of you who make it possible for us to serve among God’s people here in Costa Rica.