For slide presentation in PDF format, click here: Institute for Ministerial Excellence Slides
While Costa Rica is considered to be “middle class” in relation to other areas of Central America, in this rugged corner of the world, there is much poverty and unemployment. Economic refugees from Nicaragua, many of whom are undocumented, make up a significant portion of the non-native population.
Not only are the people of Sarapiquí neglected, so are the pastors, ministry leaders and their families. They lack basic resources such as access to vocational training, teaching and study materials, and transportation—things taken for granted in the USA. Many are also bi-vocational, holding down full-time jobs during the week to earn a living. It is interesting to note that, when asked what they needed most in terms of support for their ministries, money was only occasionally mentioned. Instead, they expressed a desire for a place where they could go for vocational support and spiritual growth—an “institute” (their word) or “resource center” that they could turn to, so that they may become better equipped for ministry.
San José, a large city just two hours away, may have such resources, but since many of the pastors and ministry leaders in the Sarapiquí lack even a high school diploma, accessing traditional seminary education is not an option for them. Furthermore, San José is a lifetime away for someone without a vehicle and few economic resources to travel by public transportation. These servants can minister to their communities better than any “foreign” missionary can, so SIGA´s goal is to invest in them, their families, and their ministries, so that they in turn can invest in their communities.
The formation of the Sarapiquí Institute for Ministerial Excellence, will be a cornerstone ministry of the future SIGA Sarapiquí Retreat Center. The Institute will offer a well-rounded suite of ministerial training and leadership development programs, comparable in breadth and scope to those offered by traditional theological seminaries, but which takes into consideration the educational levels, cultural context, and doctrinal diversity of program participants. In its endeavor to offer programs of the highest caliber, SIGA seeks to partner with reputable educational institutions that will provide guidance in developing a contextually appropriate suite of course offerings, and help to recruit volunteer educators and ministry experts to teach. Participants will have the option to audit courses or earn a diploma in Christian ministry.
In addition to its more formal educational programs, the Institute and Retreat Center will offer learning opportunities to current and future lay leaders. The facilities will also be available for church retreats and “encuentros.” The Retreat Center will be a place that invites rest, reflection, and spiritual renewal. The vision for this ministry includes:
1. Leadership development seminars, retreats and training opportunities to equip both clergy and lay persons for ministry, as all Christians are called to ministry in one way or another.
2. A theological library of educational materials for Bible study, discipleship, leadership development, spiritual growth, and pastoral counseling and care.
3. During idle times, the facilities will be offered, free of charge, as a place of refuge for pastors, spouses, and families, so that they might be the recipients of, instead the givers of, physical, emotional and spiritual care.
4. A place where Christians from abroad can join together with local brothers and sisters in ministry and fellowship. When we learn to appreciate not only our common bonds but our diversity, we grow as Christians and as servants of the risen Lord.
“… but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality: As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing left over; and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Corinthians 8:14-15, NKJV).
That is the vision. We have faith that the Lord will reveal to us those whom He is now calling to join with us in this ministry. We also know that He will further refine this vision as we move forward, and it will be through the power of God that this vision for ministry will become reality.