I don’t believe that distance or difficulty should ever be what prevents us from going on a mission trip. Christ commanded us to make disciples, and there are no “exception clauses” in my Bible about the countries that are far away and hard to reach. At the same time, I have to admit, the trip to Costa Rica sure was an easy one.
The flight from Atlanta to San Jose, Costa Rica took a little over three hours, so we landed in- country just after noon. Our Servant Life Partner, Joe Pent. Jr of La Montaña Christian Camp, met us at the airport and we traveled about an hour and a half to the La Montaña encampment. Spending time with Joe is a treat in itself because Joe is a visionary and a man with great passion. He was born in Costa Rica and spent much of his youth there. He came back to the United States for college and served as a youth pastor before returning to Costa Rica to continue spreading the gospel there and eventually start La Montana. He has been back in Costa Rica for 15 years now, and his love for his country is evident.
Last year about 15,000 Costa Rican teenagers came through La Montaña, which is an incredible testimony to the quality of their ministry. Joe and his staff have made the camp a place that teenagers want to be. There are incredible recreation opportunities: “the blob,” a giant water slide, a bike ramp that launches into a lake (how cool is that?), options to play volleyball, basketball, foosball, ping pong, inline skating, and perhaps the most exciting option of them all —a mud run adventure course! But the beauty of La Montaña is not found in these activities. The focal point of the camp is the good news of Jesus Christ. Students participate in Bible studies and devotions, and each night there is a worship service for the whole camp, led by dynamic speakers and worship leaders.
I fear that Costa Rica is often overlooked by Christians because it is known for its nice beaches, fishing opportunities, and tourism. It is often labeled as a “Christian” country. However, only about 15% of the country is evangelical Christian. The majority have inherited Christianity or Catholicism as a cultural tradition, which means they have no problem talking about God, but could not clearly articulate what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ and to trust in him alone for salvation. These teenagers want to be at La Montaña because it is a fun camp, but it is also a place where they will clearly hear the gospel message and have an opportunity to surrender their lives to Christ.
Joe estimates that as many as 50,000 teenagers have trusted in Christ through the ministry of La Montaña over the years. When asked, he said that he has no plans to retire from this ministry. “Maybe I’ll retire when every teenager in Costa Rica has responded to the gospel. Wait, no, nevermind,” he corrected himself. “Then I will move on to the rest of the world who hasn’t heard.”
Don’t you see why we love Joe’s attitude and the ministry of his team? La Montaña would be a fantastic place for any group to serve. Your team could work as the support staff for one of these camps, spending time with recreation, in the kitchens, helping with the mud run course, and ultimately building relationships that point to the greatest relationship of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.
– Zac Condie, Servant Life Director
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