They prayed for a church for 25 years — 25 long years with no indication that they would ever get one. That persistence in prayer paid off. With tears in his eyes, the head elder exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!” It surely is a miracle when God moves people out of their comfort zones and into the mission field.
Doug Franzke, Ohana Christian Fellowship pastor, and his wife, Kim, led their church mission team to Nicoya, Costa Rica, this spring. They were connected to the Nicoya region through Brian Gosney, Oregon Conference under-treasurer, and Ramon Canals, North Pacific Union Conference vice president, who knew of the desperate need for a church in that area. The Franzkes saw firsthand the group's small, humble meeting shelter. A badly cracked and now-unusable foundation for a future building had been laid about 20 years ago.
Doug believed that the Lord was leading Ohana to offer to build a church for the people of Nicoya and to hold evangelistic meetings and Vacation Bible School at two locations. This turned out to also be a great opportunity to instill the mission spirit in the hearts of the Ohana children. Members focused on encouraging the children to see the rewards of doing mission work and to be ready for the eventual turnover of this great work to the next generation.
Many details go into making a mission trip happen. Hours and hours of sermon and VBS preparations, accommodations, transportation, meals and the like are also necessary elements. These things could only happen with the cooperative spirit of the Nicoya team. Samuel Wiltshire, pastor of seven churches in the region, assisted with this coordination. His excellent fluency in English was a blessing in making arrangements and translating for the mission team. Bible workers in Nicoya and Santa Cruz were sent out a few months ahead to let people know of the upcoming meetings. One worker had 29 Bible studies underway when the team arrived.
The work on the building started immediately, with the younger building team members assisting at their own levels of ability. Doug Franzke's son Joshua, 9, enthusiastically helped his uncle Rick Hervig bend rebar. Jonah Franzke, also 9, worked on building relationships with the local children and took Polaroid photos of them. The children would proudly display the images to their friends with huge grins of delight.
Ava Hervig, 8, along with her brother, Ranger, 4, and cousins Hannah Franzke, 5, and Elijah Franzke, 4, faithfully watered the walls to keep them from drying too soon and cracking. Elijah and Ranger took up the task of filling holes in the ground with rocks and leveling them where people might trip. If the children had not been there to assist with these important tasks, the adults working on the really heavy work would have had to stop their building efforts to do them. All hands are needed to build a church.
While the temperatures rose to 108 F, the workers found that rising early was the best way to beat the heat of the day and get the majority of the work done in the cool of the early morning hours. “The church building just seemed to materialize from the ground day by day,” says Nancy Franzke, Ohana member.
Bob Hessong and his wife, Shirley, who had just returned from two weeks in the mission field of the Philippines, boarded the plane to Costa Rica to serve another two weeks after just one night’s sleep at home. They have been serving on missions with Ron and Nancy Franzke for 25 years, and they haven’t missed a trip yet. Rosie Franco, Pleasant Valley Church (Happy Valley, Ore.) member, and Stephanie Diaz, Woodburn Church member, assisted the team with translating wherever their skills were needed. Thirty baptisms were realized, with many more studying for baptism. A new church, dedicated on April 5, 2014, by Milton Castillo, conference president, has been built that will serve as the Nicoya Seventh-day Adventist Church as well as a regional place to meet for other church-sponsored events.
One lady, a member of a local Methodist Church, happened to wander into a meeting one evening. She told the speaker afterwards, “My head is so full of new ideas I just have to tell everybody I see about this message.”
“The purpose of our mission trips is to work together with the local conference, leaders and pastors to help them in our worldwide mission to spread the gospel of Jesus. Our corporate church is uniquely structured to allow mission to happen in such a cooperative way,” says Ron Franzke, Ohana member.
“There is a camaraderie and a mutual goal no matter what country we go to or what nationality the people are,” adds Nancy Franzke.
Doug Franzke related how impressed he was with the Ohana kids. They worked hard every day and made a significant contribution. They also got to see firsthand what it means to serve in the mission field. As part of their homework assignments at Rivergate Elementary School, Joshua and Jonah Franzke and Ava Hervig kept journals of their experiences and were interviewed by Franzke during a school chapel to relate their work in the mission field to their fellow students. When Hervig was asked what she left behind in the mission field, she replied, “We left Jesus behind.” The gospel really is a miracle.