From time to time we will be hearing from individuals in our congregation who serve in different areas of the ministry of Church at Charlotte as they share the stories of what God is doing in and through His body. Today’s post is from Michael Sassnet, who serves regularly with ServeGlobal in our focus country of Costa Rica.
In September 2013, during a fact-finding trip to Costa Rica, Church at Charlotte connected with Dr. Jim Wilson, founder and director of Institutos Biblicos de America Central (IBAC). In 1999 Dr. Wilson, a member of ReachGlobal, was inspired to provide accurate biblical teaching for indigenous pastors and laymen throughout Central America. As cost and logistics for the pastors to attend IBAC are difficult, IBAC takes the Institute to numerous locations in Central America.
One of those locations is near the fishing village of Uvita, in southwestern Costa Rica. Starting in October of 2014, IBAC began conducting Bible seminars at the retreat/conference center of Refugio Solte, up in the primary rainforest. IBAC conducts a week-long set of teaching sessions twice a year, every May and October. The curriculum for the IBAC pastors is based on a seven-year program.
How does CAC fit into the IBAC program? Each May and October we take a service team to Refugio Solte. This “service trip” is a little different than most short-term mission trips. We go to be God’s hands and feet, cooking and serving all of the meals for the sessions. Along with the cooking and serving food comes lots and lots of dish washing. We prepare, from scratch, approximately 150 meals per day. To facilitate CAC’s participation with IBAC, we are partnering with EFCA Christ Community Church in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Teams from both churches travel together, sharing equally in the responsibilities at Refugio. Collaboration between our two teams has been wonderful from day one.
Each time we go to Refugio, we take a team of ten total. This is based on available lodging space. The CCC and CAC teams each provide a teacher for the Bible sessions, to facilitate the IBAC staff teachers. Since its inception in October 2014, the sessions routinely have 30 pastor/students. The students are very committed to their participation in the Bible program. Most of the students live within a few kilometers of Refugio. They all are pastors or laymen of small churches of various denominations. The pricing structure of each of our trips allows all of the pastor/students to attend at no cost. We feel that no one should be deprived of Bible training just because they cannot afford it.
We are convinced that CAC’s involvement with IBAC has a mathematical element….it’s exponential. Imagine one pastor being trained with biblical truths to share with his congregation, and each of the congregation sharing within their own community. Now imagine thirty biblically trained pastors going out to their communities. It is exciting to know that CAC is sharing in this tremendous gospel explosion.
We are building community in Costa Rica. We are building real family in Costa Rica. At the first sessions in October 2014, when our teams and the pastor/students first met, we were all strangers. Although we were all polite and cordial, there was not really a connection. Call that first week just a “fist bump.” On our second trip in May 2015, the teams and the students recognized each other and there were plenty of smiles and exchange of gifts. Call it a great, solid, firm handshake. By the third trip to Refugio in October 2015, there were many very real hugs between friends. It was difficult saying our farewells at the end of the week. There is no doubt, we have begun to develop real family. Our teams are truly no longer just “a group of Christian tourists.”
We are indeed Kingdom family.