Bill and Debbie Boling, Foursquare Missions International (FMI) missionaries to Costa Rica, have served in the beautiful Central American country of 4.5 million people for the past six years. Of the approximately 70 Foursquare churches and meeting places across Costa Rica—which is predominately Roman Catholic (76.3 percent)—the couple’s main focus is ministry among the 15 Foursquare churches in the Puntarenas zone, or province. Bill and Debbie, the parents of two adult children who are both married and in pastoral ministry in the U.S., live in the scenic town of Naranjito.
Foursquare operates 17 Bible institutes across the nation, and Bill currently teaches at four of them. Costa Rica is a “stage four” nation in the denomination’s Four-Stage Development Model. Stage four nations have developed to the point where they are sending missionaries to other countries. Statistics for 2010 reveal that 407 people in Costa Rica made decisions for Christ, 400 were baptized in water, and 117 were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
What is unique about ministry in Costa Rica?
Bill: Costa Rica is a “two-sided” nation. The side most people see when they visit looks like a tourist destination. The side we minister in is the “other” side, where working people live, not visit. These folks have a tremendous heart for learning; not only religious people who want to know more about God, but also non-believers. They have a thirst for knowledge.
The need for people to teach and disciple believers, preparing them for future ministry, is great. I am blessed to be a part of that process and have seen many of my students graduate from Bible institutes to become part of the leadership of various churches.
It is a privilege to minister in Bible institutes here. I also have the pleasure of teaching ESL courses alongside my wife, who directs our ESL outreach, an outstanding evangelical tool. We also partner with two local Foursquare pastors and provide English-speaking church services for them.
What does your day-to-day ministry involve?
Debbie: Besides training leaders and pastors, our intention is to bring the gospel to the community through ministry of practical needs. Costa Rica’s main source of industry is tourism, especially in the area where we live. We have found that teaching English to the locals is an excellent tool to reach the community with the love of Jesus and to bring the Word of God to them. If the locals can learn English, it can help them get better jobs and, in turn, have a better life.
We hold ESL classes in our home. During the past six years, almost 400 people have come through our doors to learn English and, in turn, have received the gospel message. Besides an English book, all students are supplied with a bilingual Bible, which is used during a short devotional time in class. A number of students have given their hearts to Jesus; some have even gone on to become students of one of the Bible institutes and are now in ministry in their local churches.
Another ministry out of our home is cooking classes. In this outreach, women from the community come in and learn new recipes that we cook up, and we enjoy the meal together. Again, this is just another way of casting our nets upon the water and then allowing the Holy Spirit to bring them in. We also do a devotional with this group; they really have enjoyed learning about how much God loves them.
An area of ministry that came as a surprise to us was working with the English-speaking community. Quepos Christian Fellowship is a small group of expats who have been coming together every week to study the Word of God. This ministry has grown, and we were recently asked to start up a new English-speaking ministry in one of the local Tico (Costa Rican) churches. To begin, we will be meeting with this group on the last Sunday of each month. We had more than 60 in attendance at the first service in September.
How receptive are people to the gospel?
Bill: It seems people here are more open to the gospel than in the US. Even the public schools have given us opportunities to minister during school time and on school property. We have been blessed to do construction projects and make purchases via our English-speaking church for such things as cafeteria equipment. They are so thankful for the help that they open up time and opportunity to minister to the children.
The meal that is served in the public schools is sometimes the only food a child may eat that day. That started us trying to help in a different way; the churches in the area have many children attending, and some come in quite hungry. Again, via the English-speaking church, we have been able to provide a good meal for the children in two of the churches when they come to Sunday school.
Have any short-term missions teams come from the U.S. to help out?
Bill: Last year, our home pastors, Ken and Wanda Swett from Modesto Foursquare Church in Modesto, Calif., came with another couple, Ray and Desiree, for a week. This year, we had teams from Hawaii, California and Colorado. There is also a couple, Jim and Diane, from Jackson Hole, Wyo., who found us on the Internet. Last year, they were with us for three months, and this year for two months.
What is your vision for the future?
Bill: We are really excited about building a ministry center here in this community. We have the land; we’re just waiting to start on construction. From this location, we will be able to minister in many ways to many people. We would like to build the center large enough to house teams, offer zone retreats, and host a variety of community helps such as ESL, childcare classes and counseling.
How to Pray for the Bolings:
- Pray for government leaders to serve with wisdom and stand strong with Christian ethics when they come to a vote.
- Pray for safety, as Costa Rica often suffers from natural disasters such as flooding, mudslides and earthquakes.
- Pray that the hearts of the people will be wise in discerning God’s Word.
- Pray that the Lord will continue to give the Bolings good health.
- Pray that the zoning of the agricultural zone where they want to build the ministry center will soon be changed to allow them to build.
- Pray for their residency. For more than five years, the Bolings have struggled to get their residency in Costa Rica. They are now with their third lawyer, and it is expensive and time consuming for them to have to leave the country every 90 days on a tourist visa.
How You Can Bless the Bolings:
Our Foursquare missionaries are always encouraged by and grateful for any prayers and correspondence they receive. Whether it’s a gift sent on a holiday, or simply a letter or note of encouragement, you can make a difference by expressing your support in a practical way.
To send correspondence to Bill and Debbie, email them or write to the following address:
Bill and Debbie Boling
P.O. Box 404-6350
Quepos, Costa Rica
Interview conducted by: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles