Sent in the Spirit to Announce Good News: A Testimony of Grassroots Ministry in Costa Rica

Article excerpt

As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And how are they to proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your Lord reigns'".

It was in 1981 that a movement of the Spirit stirred and moved our hearts, opening up a new perspective in interpreting the gospel of Jesus Christ and a new option. Like clay in the potter's hands, and in order to hear this message of love and solidarity, I had to let the Maker of life break the vessel and with the same clay - but perhaps with a softer heart - reshape the vessel to be sent out to proclaim Good News to the poor and broken-hearted.

In the same year, the government of the time allowed the poor and homeless to take over land belonging to the state in zones where there was no profit to be made. This led to an invasion of the land by people with scant economic resources. Everyone took a small square and made their huts out of sheets of cardboard and tin. As God does not send out servants unprepared, the work of preparing the way had already begun. We started the process of getting to know the people and being alongside them, and as we did so we realized that besides the lack of decent housing, these families also had problems related to drugs, alcoholism, prostitution, incest, homosexuality and many other such situations. Many are families of single mothers with a very low level of education.

The Good News

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

What does the church do? True to its tradition, it holds services of worship week by week, organizes Sunday schools, campaigns, and the like. Our members come together to join in praise and prayer, hear the word and - in some cases - feel themselves anointed by it; then they go back to their homes and that's it.

This cycle repeats itself again and again without the members' ever realizing that they are part of a body which, like all bodies, lives and moves, builds, is happy and sad and many other things. If we ask ourselves, "What is my body for?" we would no doubt produce a long list of activities for which we use our bodies. Similarly the church, as the living body of Christ, must show that it is alive. A lifeless body does nothing, but a living body is dynamic.

To answer the question "What should the church do?" without entering into complicated theological considerations, we need only take the mandate of the great commission in Matthew 28:19: "Go and preach the gospel to all creatures". The church is sent to proclaim the good news to the poor, heal the wounded, open their eyes and proclaim the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:18-19).

Turning to God in our times means renewing our minds and not being conformed to the world, changing our way of thinking so that we may know God's will (Romans 12:2). It means sowing hope in people's hearts, continuing the good works which God has prepared, receiving the promptings of the Spirit to discern the signs of the times. The church as the body of Christ has been redeemed to continue the mission of the one who paid the price for it: Jesus Christ. In fair weather or in the midst of storms it must stand firm, ready to confront the reality around it and to incarnate Jesus Christ. To her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure which are the deeds of the just who have been made saints through his grace (cf. Revelation 18-19).

The church is a whole body made up of men and women, children, old and young, who are the leaven, the salt that gives savour to a world that has lost its savour through sin. Through the power of the Spirit they transform a world of death into a world of life - life in abundance, full of love and justice, as a foretaste of the kingdom of God among us (Luke 17-21). …