This is the story of a calling to be God’s People in the World.
It began with Rev. Chuck Graff leading a mission team from FUMCFW in 2006 to work on a Children’s Worship Center in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a relationship between our Church and the people that we served in Costa Rica. The first four years FUMCFW worked on the Agape Evangelical Methodist Church which opened its doors in August, 2010. This Church serves as a place of worship, educational center, feeding kitchen, clothes closet to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui and surrounding areas. This community has approximately 20,000 children under the age of 18. Most are Nicaraguan immigrants which have come to work in the banana and pineapple plantations located along the Nicaragua and Costa Rica border.
In 2011 FUMCFW continued working at this site, but on a new project. A Medical Clinic is now under construction to provide care to the unemployed or undocumented people living in this area. The Costa Rica Government provides medical care for only those who are employed. Also, many smaller Methodist Churches are being constructed or being added on to. A starter Church in Costa Rica most likely is a slab of concrete with a metal roof.
Each Mission Trip we not only provide construction, we provide the gift of sharing the Word of God. It is asked and it is their priority that we present a Bible message to the children each day at a different church. The team members begin preparing activities in the spring, once the Bible story is chosen. Songs of praise and joy, crafts made by the children, and stories of Goliath and Joseph are told through skits and puppet shows. The children sing, laugh and steal our hearts. The 2011 team learned how to make balloon animals and this craft was received with much joy.
The ministry of growing the Methodist Church and serving those in need in Costa Rica is lead by a young couple, Ray and Lidia Zirkel. This young couple is at the core of our commitment to the Methodist Church in Costa Rica. Ray and Lidia both graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1994. After graduation, Ray was invited to teach at the Methodist Seminary that was founded by Bishop Luis Fernado Palomo in San Jose. Ray and Lidia began their life together working in San Jose with a dream to build Methodist Churches throughout the area. During the seventeen years of ministry which includes raising two beautiful daughters, this couple has been a constant beacon of hope to the people and orphans of Costa Rica. They have given their lives to the Methodist Church and the community it serves.
In addition to the various Churches, Children’s Worship Center and Clinic, the Zirkels have started a Methodist Children’s Home just outside of San Jose. Sitting on seven acres will be five homes with ten children in each home. There is room for farming and soccer fields and is close to the Methodist School which they will be able to attend. There is a growing need for the children who live on the streets in San Jose either from being abandoned or living in an abusive home. The first home opened July 2011.