Back in 2005 I was in seminary and making plans to do a directed study in Costa Rica that included a mission trip to Los Diques. After much preparation and great support from family, friends, and a church who caught the vision, in January 2006 the first team made their way to Costa Rica.
Since that first trip in 2006, my experiences in Diques have influenced my preaching, teaching, leadership, and ministry in general in various ways. It’s not uncommon for me to share the story of Don Victor, the pastor at the Church of the Light of the New Day in Los Diques, when teaching or preaching.\
Don Victor claimed the promise of the resurrection this week.
On the news, I began to think and reflect on him once again. Over 30 years ago, Don Victor moved his family into a shantytown known as Los Diques, leaving behind a comfortable lifestyle to live in a place with no electricity, no running water, and streets and floors made of dirt. Why? That’s the question that so many Costa Ricans and Americans have asked for years. Why would he do this?
Because he was called by God.
When Don Victor would tell the story you could almost imagine him as a modern-day Noah. But instead of being called to build an ark during a drought, he was called to build a church among the churchless.
Don Victor saw something in Diques that few others did. Where others saw prostitutes and drug dealers, Don Victor saw children of God. Where others saw run-down shacks, Don Victor saw the Kingdom of God. Even with this new perspective, Don Victor’s story is not a warm, cuddly one.
He was met with a lot of resistance.
He received very little support from other Christian leaders because he was doing ministry in a ghetto. During worship services, neighbors would play loud music or run loud machinery. At times rocks would rain down on the building during services. There were days when dead dogs were thrown at the building, landing right at the front gate.
As he was welcoming the outcasts into the Kingdom, he was unwelcome. Now, he is Home.
Pura Vida, Don Victor
I’ll have more thoughts and reflections on Don Victor this week.