Lutheran Church in Costa Rica
Who is the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica and what are its ministries?
The Lutheran Church in Sarapiqui
The Lutheran Church in Costa Rica (Iglesia Luterana Costarricense - ILCO)
, a member of the Lutheran World Federation
and the Communion of Central American Lutheran Churches (CILCA), centers its mission on the most vulnerable sectors of Costa Rican society: indigenous reserves, the urban poor, peasant farmers, Nicaraguan immigrants and people living with HIV or AIDS. Today, ILCO is present in nearly 30 communities in six different regions. Its holistic approach to ministry emphasizes the empowerment of lay leaders; community-based programs of education, legal aid, organic agriculture, natural medicine and artisan groups; disaster prevention and response; and advocacy efforts for economic and environmental justice. ILCO also has been instrumental in the creation of the Manu Center Lodge
and the Soccer for Life Foundation
.How do the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
A typical painted cart in Costa Rica
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions and stewards a church-to-church relationship with the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica. This relationship is deepened and extended by ILCO's relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the ELCA Southwest Texas and North Carolina Synods.Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by ILCO, including scholarships for church leaders, theological formation, rural community development, disaster prevention and response, children’s ministry and infrastructure improvements. One ELCA mission personnel serves in Costa Rica.Costa Rica: The context in which the ILCO serves
Bishop Melvin Jimenez in front of the church offices in San Jose
A women’s project making natural medicines in the Lutheran Church in Quitiritisi
Since gaining its independence from Spain in 1821, Costa Rica has enjoyed a high degree of political stability. Whites (including Mestizos) comprise 94% of the population. Only eight of the indigenous groups that existed prior to the Spanish Conquest have survived. They make up less than 2% of the population and live on indigenous reserves that account for 7% of the country’s total land area. The official language is Spanish. The country is 76% Roman Catholic with almost 13% of the population Protestant (Evangelical).
Compared with its neighbors, Costa Rica enjoys greater economic prosperity and the benefits of strong public investments in health and education, made possible by the abolition of its armed forces in 1948. The literacy rate is one of the highest in Latin America and the life expectancy of Costa Ricans is on a par with many developed countries. Notwithstanding these economic advantages, pockets of extreme poverty persist in urban slums and rural areas.
Costa Rica’s economic stability has attracted successive waves of immigrants – many from neighboring Nicaragua – in search of a better life. Official estimates put the number of documented and undocumented immigrants at 300,000 – 500,000 in a country of slightly more than 4 million people; unofficial estimates put the number even higher.
Indigenous youth in the Lutheran Church in Quitiritisi
In the 1990's, tourism and electronics surpassed agricultural exports (mostly coffee and bananas) in economic importance. Costa Rica’s extensive system of national parks and protected areas makes it a highly attractive tourist destination. It is home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity including over 10,000 plant species. More than 1 million tourists visit Costa Rica each year, nearly half of them from the United States. Costa Rica´s location exposes it to frequent natural disasters including earthquakes, volcanoes, the threat of hurricanes, and frequent flooding in low-lying areas during the rainy season (May – November).
For up-to-date information on Costa Rica, type “Costa Rica” into an online search engine or visit: