When people ask how Costa Rica was, the response from these lips is something like: this trip was the best. Those words cause only one of a person’s eyebrows to raise with a jovial voice delighting to hear an explanation. No doubt, those from Shiloh might wonder, beneath their breath, “If so, then why so little posts?” Which deserves more than a shrug and a “my bad.” Certainly, you are curious for an explanation. As you should be.
The work being done by Ted and Gracie is nothing short of remarkable. It has to be witnessed, admired, and imitated. Just as they have witnessed, admired, and imitated from Christ’s own life.
This is my explanation…
Three years ago, these feet stood on what was once barren soil. Taking hold of a sharpie, I scribbled on the drab concrete walls something I do not remember (probably what I thought to be revolutionary at the time but would consider today to be childish). The missions team followed suit before spreading, like seed, prayers of hope and risky expectancy. Lots of it. On this land lay a dream that seemed to burst from ambition.
Three years later and the payoff trumps even the highest of those ambitions.
Let’s brag on the Quiocho’s ministry. Many years ago, Ted and Gracie came to Rio Frio with one goal: to share Jesus through friendship. This would manifest itself through making the children laugh in kid’s club, counseling a family out of dark waters, or men’s and women’s bible studies over coffee. Locals would meet Ted and Gracie at their doorstep and soon after meet Jesus in conversations about love and friendship. There is something deeply theological beneath all this. More on that later.
Those in Rio Frio saw something in the Quiochos that was both peculiar and enchanting. Without heralding the title, people would call Ted, “Pastor Ted!” To which he’d respond, “No, no pastor. Just Ted.” God has a sense of humor, because the foundation of that home I stood in three years ago had become a church. Ted, who came to make friends and introduce others to Jesus became their pastor. As he should be, for the love that Ted and Gracie have for their people runs deep.
A minister’s passion should not only be measured by the breadth of their ministry but also the depth of their discipleship. For seven years, Ted and Gracie have poured into a couple named Alejandro and Jendri. In short, these two come from a place of deep darkness and getting to listen to their story for two hours barely covered it all. Tears are shed because of where they came from, but they are soon met with tears of joy of the redeeming work of Christ in their lives. This change of direction began with a conversation they had with Ted and Gracie. Many years of discipleship and faithfulness has proven the perfection of God’s Word and the care of their Lord. These two now are the youth leaders in the Quiocho’s church. Ted and Gracie have not only become missionaries and friends; Ted has not only become a pastor; Ted and Gracie have become, according to Alejandro and Jendri, a father and mother.
I do not want for you to miss the theological truth that we are seeing in Rio Frio. Though we all are affected by this truth, we rarely know its there. It is this: living the Incarnation. What does this mean?
First of all, God chose to become a man in Jesus Christ…
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” – John 1:14a
Before us is the daunting truth of where heaven came down to bring mankind up. Further, what is intriguing is that the Lord includes us in His mission (2 Cor. 5:19-20). We are reconciled to God through the payment of Jesus Christ and (not, “but”) we are called to be sanctified (1 Thes. 4:3). The work of sanctification is done through the fires, against our pride, in fervent joy, to meld us into the person of Jesus…
“For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” – Romans 8:29a
All in Christ will blessed at the completion of this in eternity and (not “but”) we are blessed that He is performing this work now.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is your’s in Christ Jesus…” – Philippians 2:5
Literally, “think like Jesus.” Further, on the incarnation, we are called, as His Body, to love one another in the Church, especially those who rub us the wrong way and are different (Eph. 2:13-14). Jesus proves the great equalizer in that as we seek to love others who are hard to love, the tension, like sandpaper, rubs away the hard edges of our flesh. As we seek to love others as Jesus loves us, putting walk to our talk, we find ourselves looking a little more like Christ.
A cool thing about intercultural ministry is that the truth of living the incarnation is amplified.
“The lesson here is that becoming incarnate in another culture will be a trial by fire, a test of inner strength, of personal faith, and most of all, a test of the veracity of one’s love.”
Are you starting to get it?
That is what we see taking place in the Quiocho’s ministry. That is why this trip was the best: I started to get it. Not only in my brain but in my heart. It took me visiting Costa Rica four times over the course of five years. This is not something for the missionary. It is for the Christian. That through the incarnation we may be conformed into the image of the Son of God. Conformed as One into His Church Body. And seek to conform with (not “to”) the world around us. This way, Heaven may be brought down in order that mankind would be brought up.
I encourage anyone who reads this: visit the Quiochos on a future trip. See their ministry. Learn from it. Bring it home. And apply it.