In January 2011, Minnesota's winter seemed a distant memory compared to the vibrant tropics of Costa Rica that surrounded DeNae Van Westrienen. She had joined other members of Faith Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids, on a nine-day global mission trip — her first. Leaving her husband and two small children was difficult, but the call was too great to ignore.
"While in college I wanted to join the Peace Corps. But then I got married, had children and put that dream on hold," she said. The Van Westrienens had even considered becoming missionaries. "Then Costa Rica fell into my lap via the mission trip through Faith," she said.
Van Westrienen didn't know what to expect: "It blew my mind. This was a time of cultural exchange, of learning and partnership."
|Judy Knutson (right), a member of Faith Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids, Minn., makes a new friend in Allajuelita, Costa Rica.|
The 20-year-old Lutheran Costa Rican Church (Iglesia Luterana Costarricense) is a member of the Lutheran World Federation and the Communion of Central American Lutheran Churches. The connection between Faith and Costa Rica began in 2006 when one of its pastors, Kiri I. Solberg, and her husband, went there on a mission trip. They were accompanied by another couple and Stephen Deal, ELCA representative for Central America.
"We fell in love with what we saw," Solberg said. "Typically we measure a church by its size. But in Costa Rica, the church is actually the community, not a building."
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