This week I learned about the death of Don Victor, a pastor who answered God’s call on his life to be in ministry of people in a shantytown. I’ve been reflecting on his ministry this week.
Where pavement meets gravel in Cartago, Costa Rica, is where you enter the shantytown of Los Diques. This is a place where people with no other means go. Families escaping abusive fathers. Mothers addicted to drugs. Grandmothers raising grandchildren. Young boys whose only way out is to join a gang; young girls whose only way out is to sell themselves. And this is a place the government would rather not exist, which is why they have been so reluctant over the years to give the basic necessities for these people.
Yet, none of this mattered to Don Victor.
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.\
“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)
Who is innocent?
Who is guilty?
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.'” (Genesis 8:15-16, NRSV)
For forty days and forty nights Noah and his family, along with an ark full of animals, floated. Finally, the rains stopped and the waters receded. And then, God said to Noah, “Go.”
“Go out of the ark.”
They had gone into the ark to seek shelter from the coming storm. They had gone in obedience to the word of God. But once the waters receded, it was time to go out.
They had been inside long enough.
Too often we choose to stay inside the ark. Read “church” or “comfort zone” or “pew.” And it’s comfortable in our arks. It is safe and familiar. We know what to expect inside our ark.
I started writing this while sitting in a hospital waiting area. Thankfully, there was a Starbucks in the building, so a very tall coffee sat next to me.
My one-year-old nephew went into the ER this past weekend. Once he was in a room, and I was able to see him, I was slightly taken aback. He was hooked up to so many things. And meds were being pumped into his little body. All to help him be more comfortable as they ran various tests.
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash
It was hard looking at my little Buddy lying in a huge hospital bed. I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about my dad. Some eighteen years ago he was in and out of the hospital due to prostate cancer.