By the time Rev. Bill and Aletha Green arrived at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, on January 9, 2013, they’d visited 18 churches since October. Pella was a stop on the way to give presentations at churches in Michigan on the last leg of their furlough trip.
At the beginning of February, they plan to return to Costa Rica. Rev. Green will resume his regular work as the Executive Secretary of CLIR (Latin American Fellowship of Reformed Churches). After 15 years as the Administrator of the TepeyacChristianSchool, Aletha will not be returning to that position.
“After a time of both spiritual and physical refreshment,” they said, “we’re looking forward to going back.”
At the Pella presentation, Mission Committee chairman Dr. Richard Posthuma opened the evening by reading Romans 1:8-17. Rev. Green remarked that Romans 1:16 was the theme verse the Greens chose that was printed on their prayer cards when they first went to Costa Rice 28 years ago.
Rev. Green listed two goals for the evening: that audience members would be informed about URC missions in Latin America and that they would be able to pray more knowledgably.
Although when first starting out in missions the Greens originally planned to be in Costa Rica only a short time while learning Spanish, they soon discovered that they had arrived during a time of great spiritual turmoil. There was no Reformed work at all in Costa Rica, where the stronghold of the Roman Catholic church was competing against new inroads being made by Pentecostal churches promoting a “health and wealth” perspective that Rev. Green called a “cruel gospel.”
There are now four Reformed churches in Costa Rica. Two of those are served by native pastors, one of whom was the first convert under the Greens’ ministry.
Out of a desire to help educate and bring the gospel to youth in a poor community, riddled by violence, the Greens helped begin the TepeyacChristianSchool in 1993. Now including both a grade school and a high school, construction for the secondary facility began in 2001 and is nearly complete.
“The school has been very challenging,” said Rev. Green, explaining that most teachers require a great deal of teaching themselves since they are first generation converts and that financial support is a “huge struggle.”
The year 1993 also marked the beginning of CLIR and its print shop in the Greens backyard. The distribution of thousands of copies of CLIR’s theological journal has been particularly effective over the years. CLIR additionally has printed over 70 other titles of Reformed works in Spanish. Rev. Green points out that CLIR’s materials have a wide-ranging impact since Spanish is the predominate language “from the Rio Grande to the tip of Chile.”
CLIR is a fellowship of Reformed federations that promotes church planting, leadership training, and cooperative evangelistic efforts. Rev. Green noted that MINTS (Miami International Theological Seminary) works with CLIR to help equip church leaders throughout Latin America. Rev. Nick Lamme, a 2007 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary came with his family to Costa Rica in 2008. He pastors a congregation, teaches at the school, and does writing, translating, editing, and computer work for CLIR.
The Board of CLIR met from November 26-27, 2012, in Orlando, FL. Lack of funds had prohibited the Board from meeting for the three previous years. During the meeting, which Rev. Green described as a “smashing success,” the Board discussed the financial crisis and noted with thanks a financial commitment from the Brazilian Presbyterian church. The Board also decided to focus on producing Reformed instructional materials for youth. In God’s providence, CLIR had already begun translating the new URC “Life in Christ” catechism curriculum.
Following concerns raised at Synod Nyack in 2012 regarding joint venture agreements and financial support between countries, the Greens want to stress that supporters in both the United States and Canada have unhampered avenues for contributions to their work. American churches or individuals can send gifts designated for “CLIR” or “Tepeyac school” to:
5401 Byron Center Ave.
Wyoming, MI 49519
Canadian churches or individuals can send donations to:
Thunder Bay URC
PO Box 32012, 572 Arthur St. W.
Thunder Bay, ON P7E 0A1
More information about the Greens and the various aspects of their ministry in Costa Rica can be found at their website: http://www.reformedmissions.org
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 of the February 6, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.