Tell It On The Mountain

The McGinnises hiked seven hours into the mountains of Costa Rica to minister to the an isolated group of indigenous people…

From Message magazine issue "The Doctor Is In"

Missions work requires a heart for God, feet willing to go, and—as Costa Rica missionary Jon McGinnis recently discovered—legs that can climb mountains.

Last spring, God introduced Jon to a Costa Rican pastor named Edgardo who ministers to a group of indigenous people called the Cabécar Indians. Rugged terrain keeps them isolated, and although many missionaries lack the ability to make the long, arduous trek through the jungles to reach them, Edgardo leads a group a few times a year to minister to the Cabécars. Jon’s interest was piqued, and he told Edgardo he’d love to tag along sometime.

Two weeks later, Jon found himself trekking with Edgardo to the remote Cabécar village of Hockey for the first time. The seven-hour hike is a non-stop incline and decline that feels like being put on a never-ending StairMaster. When they finally arrived in Hockey, Jon saw a loose community of huts spread throughout a steep valley. The Cabécar people live very primitively in thatched-roof homes made of bamboo or wood milled from local trees and survive on fishing, hunting, and farming the land.

“This is old school missions stuff,” said Jon who was hooked after just one week with the Cabécars. He returned to Hockey five months later with his wife, Joni, and has been back five more times in the past year.

They are very responsive to the gospel, but they are very confused as to what the gospel is.

Jon’s first two trips were focused purely on evangelism. The team shared the love of Christ physically by bringing them supplies, as well as spiritually through evangelistic Bible studies in their language of Cabéca. With 15 vowels and a very nasally sound, Cabéca is difficult to learn and bears no resemblance to Spanish — the primary language of Costa Rica. Jon and Edgardo’s ministry was made possible by the translation work of the Jones family, missionaries who came to live and work with the Cabécars in the 1950s. While the Joneses finished the translation of the New Testament in 1993 and were active evangelists, very few Cabécars have come to an authentic faith in Christ.

“They are very responsive to the gospel, but they are very confused as to what the gospel is,” said Jon. “Their understanding is muddled. I’m not sure they’ve made the distinction between who Jesus Christ is and any other story they’ve ever heard in the history of their animistic culture.”

As Jon and Joni’s passion for the Cabécar people grows, so does their vision. They recently returned to Hockey to help build a 30-by-20-foot shelter that will provide them and other pastors a place to stay during visits and also serve as a place for the local people to meet for Bible studies. Jon, in partnership with Edgardo and five other churches, is in the process of developing a long-term strategy to not only minister in Hockey, but also to equip and empower the Cabécars to share the gospel with their own people.