February 14, 2023

Costa Rica Bible School and Baptisms

By Bro. David Collister, Link Brother to Costa Rica

I always look forward to the yearly Bible School in Costa Rica. I’m not too fond of the flight down since it is usually a red-eye flight, leaving just after midnight and flying all night, but the enthusiasm and spirituality of the group and the enriching experiences always makes it worth it.

The night before the Bible School began, we met at the ecclesial hall for an introductory evening, and were blessed to witness the baptism of Kenya Santamaria, daughter of Bro. Ronald and Sis. Roth Berly Santamaria. Bro. Ronald is the recording brother of the Costa Rican Ecclesia. It was a beautiful event culminating in delicious tamales and warm fellowship of brothers and sister from all over the Americas.

The next day, we left for the Bible School. The Costa Ricans are hard workers, and do an excellent job in the planning of the many activities, taking into account the many different age groups, from the very young to the elderly, and providing enriching spiritual experiences for all. In fact, in their usual way, those who planned the Bible School were able to integrate the Crossing the Desert theme into many aspects of the weekend.

This year, the decision was made to use a different campground than in years past, with a quieter main hall than the previous one (which was located near a main road). Most of the group met at the ecclesial hall on the morning of December 30th and boarded the bus to make the half-hour trip to the campground, while several went by car. The campground was interesting, with one building containing a large main hall and a dining hall where the camp staff made delicious meals for the group of over 80. The sleeping quarters consisted of a long building with several rooms, each with about 10 bunk bed and its own bathroom. However, there was no heated water in most of the cabins, so the cold showers were for the brave of heart. Another feature of the campground was a fairly large collection of farm animals, something especially interesting for the children, and the basis of an activity on the theme of the Bible School: Crossing the Desert.

The group this year included about 50 Costa Ricans, 20 Salvadorians, and brethren and sisters from several other countries including 4 from Canada, 6 from the US and one each from Bolivia, Honduras, and Peru. I should explain: each year, Costa Rica and El Salvador host Bible Schools on the last two weekends of the year. Each year, one of the two countries invites visitors from other countries to attend while the other holds a smaller school, mainly for its own members. This year it was Costa Rica’s turn to host the visitors, and thus, the large number of attendees from other countries.

I was asked to give the four main classes and an exhortation around the theme of the weekend. The first class considered how God manifests His Presence in the cloud and fire, following this theme through the Bible, and showing how God protects his people from their adversaries, providing light to His people, and darkness to their enemies. The second class looked at the way God patiently teaches his people to trust him, both Israel in the wilderness, and believers through the ages. Class 3 focused in on the war with Amalek and examined God’s dealings with the enemies of Israel. The fourth class followed Israel to the Promised Land, and considered the mission of the 12 spies. The exhortation looked at the rest God has promised in the future, and even gives to His followers in this life in a limited fashion.

Bro. And Sis. Jeff and Victoria Hibbs from Canada were visiting Victoria’s family in Costa Rica, and Bro. Jeff gave the classes to the young people on the subject of Daniel. The classes were very well received with the young people benefitting from Jeff’s enthusiasm and knowledge. Sis. Marcela, a very energetic sister from Honduras gave the classes to the children. Because of the blessings of the Zoom application, she is a regular teacher in the online Costa Rican Sunday School, and is well known and loved by the children.

Other activities adding to the weekend included games to bring the brethren and sisters together in fellowship and to help them to get to know each other better, as well as a tour of the campground to see all of the animals. This was especially fun for the little ones, but many of the adults enjoyed it too. On New Year’s Eve, after a musical presentation by the Salvadorian group and the little ones, as well as a skit including some hymns, put on by the Costa Ricans, we all made our way out to a bonfire where we enjoyed fellowship, snacks and hot chocolate as we waited for midnight. Just before midnight we had a prayer thanking God for His blessings, asking for His continued guidance and praying for the peace of Jerusalem, after which we welcomed the New Year with hugs and best wishes, and then made our way back to the cabins to sleep. On Sunday morning, we were blessed to witness the baptisms of Karen Arias and her daughter, Francela Ulate, before participating in the memorial service.

The Bible School concluded with a final presentation, including photos of the weekend, a talk, and a final activity. After this, we made our way to our cabins to pack up before heading home. Since the Salvadorians and others were not leaving the country immediately, there were several opportunities to further the fellowship, with some meeting up for meals together as well as other activities. All in all, everybody benefitted from, and was spiritually uplifted by this wonderful event.

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