Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor
Five years ago when I first came on staff at Shiloh I was trying to learn as much as I could about my role here and those that I would be interacting with as a part of it. Being hired on as the Missions and Outreach Pastor I knew that some of the main relationships that I’d be engaged in were those with our supported missionaries. At present we have international missionaries living in Costa Rica, France, Latvia, and Papua New Guinea. We also have a handful that live domestically and work in various parts of the world. Our last but certainly not least of the group of missionaries are those that live and work domestically.
In my first year I did my best to get on the field with as many of our missionaries as possible and observe their work while building relationships with them. Another major focal point for me was ramping up short-term missions experiences at Shiloh. Over 80% of those serving full time on the missions field got their taste for missions on a short-term trip. From what I understood about Shiloh, we had a very strong belief in missions, and a strong support of them (12% of the annual budget). What I didn’t see as much of, was participation in the going. So after talking to Ted & Gracie about what a trip there could look like, we planned two for the summer.
During the previous summer I had led a team to the other side of the country of Costa Rica, but this was my first experience with the San Jose (capital) side of the country. Ted & Gracie explained that they lived about an hour and forty-five minutes Northeast of the capital in the heart of Dole country. I call it Dole country because every banana that I’ve had over the course of my life (very few) has probably come from this small farming community in Costa Rica.
Throughout my team’s time in Rio Frio we learned about the culture, the people, the local church, and also Ted & Gracie’s vision for their work down there. In the surrounding area (45 minute radius) there was only one healthy church and that was a full 45 minutes away. Many in their community have been led astray by prosperity gospel churches and many were steeped in the traditions of the Catholic church but had no relationship with Jesus. Ted and Gracie wanted to see that change. They wanted people to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus that changed they way that they lived. They had started this in the form of personal relationships and small group Bible studies but dreamed of seeing a healthy and thriving church in Rio Frio.
Fast forward to the next year when I brought my second team down to Rio Frio and many more prayers had been lifted heavenward asking for God to open doors. One major door was opened up while I was there that allowed us to travel to San Jose and sign for a piece of property 3 lots down from their current home where they would eventually build: a missions house, an outdoor meeting place (Rancho Ramon), a soccer field, and even further down the road a multipurpose room. This was a HUGE answer to prayer for them. God had opened up a series of doors, which enabled them to obtain the land that will be the site of incredible ministry for years to come.
Over the next two years teams from Shiloh, Desert Springs Bible Church (AZ), St. Andrews Presbyterian (TX), Mountain View Community Church (WA), and Summit Community Church (AL) all put in work on the land to help the dream of the missions house come true. Ted, Alejandro (primary disciple), Luis (local craftsman), and a handful of others put in countless hours of work and completed the house, the rancho, and a few other projects on the land.
This past week I was able to go back for the first time since praying over the land 3 years ago to see what has come about. It’s hard to put into words the joy that flowed from the depths of my heart when flubber (their old van) pulled through the beautiful gates to their new home. Years of prayer, hundreds of trips to the hardware store, hard work, closed doors, tears, broken bones (mostly Ted’s), and dozens of volunteers had brought a dream to life. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few times like this in my life where I was able to pray for something for years and years and then see it come to fruition but it never ceases to take my breath away and fill me with gratitude to our great and awesome God.
On Sunday May 14th , 2017 about 75 people from various parts of Costa Rica and 4 supporting churches in the US all came together to celebrate the dedication of the church, to commission Ted as a pastor, and pray for what God will do in the community of Rio Frio. I was given the privilege of sharing about the role of a pastor is, what the members of the church can do to represent Christ in their community, and finally to commission Ted as a pastor over the new church.
For those who haven’t gotten the pleasure of meeting or spending time with Ted, or Jefe (boss) as I affectionately call him; you’re missing out. This marine turned pastor has been so radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus that he actually got tears in his eyes when talking to those present about his journey to becoming a pastor. I can’t say whether or not any of those tears escaped his eyes but I’m pretty sure there is photo and/or video evidence that it happened. As a recovering emotional cripple I can appreciate seeing Ted express his emotion about what God is doing because it gives me hope. I see his love for Jesus, his wife, and the bride of Christ come through in the way that he speaks, leads, and loves. I’m so honored I got the chance to walk this journey with them and can’t wait to see what God does in Rio Frio!