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Global missions vision drives thriving Costa Rican church

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (BP)–Suely Sirazawa Patricio switches on an overhead projector. At El Bosque Christian Community in San Jose, Costa Rica, it’s time for the weekly prayer focus on the “10/40 Window.” That’s the area sweeping from North Africa through the Middle East and much of Asia, where people have had little or no opportunity to hear the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Tonight’s prayer focus: an unreached Muslim people group in India. Patricio’s listeners include about 100 Christians — many of them new converts — from nearly 10 nations. Together they form a Baptist church that’s barely a year old. But this new congregation already has developed a mature vision for reaching the world for Christ.
Patricio and her husband, Calixto — Brazilian Baptist missionaries — have something to do with that. So do the four other members of El Bosque’s pastoral team — IMB missionaries Roy and Dirce Cooper and Barbara Carter and Costa Rican Baptist Rolando Vargas. While leading this congregation from its birth, they’ve emphasized the church’s responsibility in the Great Commission.
“A church without a world missions vision is a church that doesn’t have a complete vision of its task,” notes Calixto Patricio, who serves with Cooper as co-pastor. “At El Bosque our vision isn’t that of the ‘Dead Sea’ — just receiving, receiving, receiving. Our vision is to be like the ‘Sea of Galilee,’ a body that receives the water of the Jordan River and then sends it on out. We want to be a church that wins souls in Costa Rica but also sends missionaries to other parts of the world.”
It didn’t take long for both to start happening at El Bosque. In fact, after the first few services, the congregation outgrew its meeting place because new converts invited so many friends.
“We had prayed from the beginning that this church would be a church that would draw non-Christians to salvation,” Dirce Cooper says. “God truly is answering our prayers.”
At the same time, God is answering prayers that the congregation become an example of missions praying, giving and sending.
From the outset, each service has included a prayer focus on the “10/40 Window.” While leading these prayer times each week, one church member began to sense God’s call to the Middle East. Although El Bosque then was just seven months old, church members affirmed her call by sending her out as a missionary tentmaker. Soon the church also “adopted” a Costa Rican Baptist missionary couple in Honduras and voted to help support Costa Rican Baptist musician Noemy Roldan, now a missionary to Guyana.
“It’s been very exciting to see what God — and only God — is doing [through El Bosque]. It’s wonderful to be part of his miracles,” Dirce Cooper says.
About three years ago, the Coopers and two other IMB missionary couples began meeting weekly to pray about starting work among San Jose’s professionals, a largely unevangelized group. Later several Latin American Baptists in Costa Rica joined the prayer time. Together they studied about professionals and devised a strategy for reaching them.
Meanwhile, the Brazilian Baptist World Mission Board transferred Cooper’s sister and brother-in-law, the Patricios, to Costa Rica. After they arrived, the Brazilian couple joined the prayer team.
The Lord guided the prayer group to an IMB-owned house used previously by another congregation, now defunct. The team began meeting there weekly for prayer. They set their focus on excellent church music and meaningful worship as the means of attracting professionals and starting a church.
A week after holding an outdoor concert featuring a Baptist choir, nearly 80 people attended the first worship service, held in the house where they’d been praying. Soon the new congregation was praying about finding a bigger place for worship. They located a former supermarket on a visible corner in the neighborhood. Nearly 150 now worship there every Sunday.
Looking back on the church’s brief history, El Bosque’s leaders marvel how God answered prayer every step of the way. “We believe only God could do this. … Everyone wants to give their best to God, but, in the end, only God can give the increase,” says Cooper.

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