I must admit I was a little concerned about how the first Central American Missionaries Conference was going to turn out. All the plans had been made, the cost had been covered, the day of departure had arrived and still I wondered if it would help the missionaries and their families and if those going from the States would appreciate meeting these great workers in the harvest field of Christ and getting to know their families. As our group from Philadelphia arrived at the airport in San Jose to meet up with those flying from Atlanta and some who came a couple of days earlier, I could feel the excitement and see the anticipation in the eyes of our group. My spirit began to lift and my hope began to rise as we spent the day together Saturday sightseeing and shopping in the city.
There were so many blessings from this conference that it would be impossible to relate them all to you in one article so lets start by saying that the missionaries working in Central and South America were overjoyed with the fellowship, blessing, teaching and prayer support they received during our time together and I will give you two special works of God that will remain with us for some time to come.
On Thursday our entire group of fifty-two was invited to a meal at a restaurant just over an hour from the conference center to be given to us as a gift from the owner. His name is Johnny and he had recently been saved and is a member of Alex Melendez’s church. The setting was beautiful and the food was outstanding. We feasted as the waiters continued to bring plate after plate of traditional Costa Rican fare. Everyone was amazed as we ate, enjoyed the open air dining room and fellowshipped together on what seemed to us a perfect day. After we left, the owner of the restaurant was so impressed with our presence there that he asked if Bro Carl Hewlett, our Spanish Speaking Missions Director, could come have dinner the following Monday and speak to the workers and their families and friends after the meal. Bro Hewlett and his wife Nancy were staying a few extra days and they gladly accepted the offer.
After the meal had been served the owner closed the restaurant early and over fifty people gathered to hear Bro Hewlett preach the gospel and at the end he gave an invitation where four souls were gloriously saved. God was at work here and He wasn’t finished. Johnny asked Bro Melendez if he could hold Wednesday evening prayer meetings in the upper dining room with the hope of one day establishing a church there, at the time of this writing those meetings have been going for over a month and God has blessed in wonderful ways. Johnny also said that when the time comes to build a church, he has a piece of property he would give to be used for the site of that church, God’s blessings never cease to amaze me.
On the Thursday afternoon of our conference a number of the national missionaries from Costa Rica went up to visit Jorge Varela, a national missionary pastor who had just a couple of weeks before the conference suffered a heart attack and after returning home from the hospital suffered a second heart attack and was struggling for his life. That evening the doctors told his family that the damage from the heart attack was too great and said Bro Varela would not live long and would continue to grow worse day by day. I stood and listened as a man, who had been a friend to Jorge for nearly a lifetime, weep as he shared with me how brokenhearted he was over his brother’s condition and how greatly his church and community needed him and the great loss this was going to be for the work. I prayed with him and an untold number of prayers went up on his behalf. On Saturday a number of men went up to the hospital to visit with him again expecting to see him in a near coma and failing even more than he had been before. Much to their surprise he was sitting in a chair and eating lunch. He spoke to them with strength they simply would not have believed possible just two days before. Then they learned that another doctor had examined him and said that he needed surgery but that he should be able to recover in time. A few days later it was determined that surgery might not be needed and three stints were placed in his heart and now our brother is home and planning many more years of service to our God.
My heart is filled with joy at the way in which God blessed, I have had many calls and messages from those in Costa Rica and from those here in the States telling me what a blessing it was to be part of this conference and how God has used it in their lives. I trust that the results of this conference will continue to be felt in the weeks and months ahead and I want to thank all of you who prayed and supported this work; your willingness to be used of God has made a great difference. I only wish you had been there to see it all for yourself!