TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Missionaries to Costa Rica visit Troy
Jose Villalta was mad or, for a better choice of words, angry. He was not happy and he could not find the happiness he desired no matter where he looked.
“Then, I found Jesus and my life changed,” Villalta said. “My heart that had been angry and empty was filled with love. Now, my heart is so soft that I cry.”
Villalta wiped a tear from his eye and added with a smile, “I have something in my eye.”
Before Jesus came into his heart, Villalta said he was smoking and drinking and doing other things he should not be doing.
“Then I read this book, ‘Angels: God’s Secret Agents’ by Dr. Billy Graham and God spoke to me, to my heart,” he said. “I asked God to heal this gray, emptiness in my heart and He heard me and healed me.
“I accepted God’s invitation and surrendered my whole life to Him and He changed me. Now, I’m like a big teddy bear with a soft heart.”
After Villalta surrendered his heart God, he found the peace he had been seeking and became involved in a prison ministry and other outreach opportunities. When Villalta learned about the need for missionaries in his native Costa Rica, he felt a tugging in his heart.
But life was good here in the United States. The Villaltas’ children were here and it was a good place for them to be together. But the calling was strong and Villalta answered with “Here am I, God send me.”
Leda joined her husband in his willingness to go and take God’s message of love and salvation to those in Costa Rica whose hearts were empty of God’s love and grace.
“Our nest was empty so we could go,” Leda said. “Our children asked why we wanted to leave them here and go back to Costa Rica. We said ‘because we have been called by God.’”
The couple returned to Costa Rica in 2011 and began the Barranca Ministry with a Bible club under a Mango tree in Esparzol. The ministry is now thriving in rented building with a feeding program, school sponsorship program sewing class for ladies, disciple programs, soccer club and events and activities that demonstrate God’s love and caring and the shared caring for those in the community.
“We are reaching Costa Rica for Christ,” Leda said. “Before the Bible club, the teens were drug dealers and leaders of gangs but now they share God’s love and are leading young people to Christ.”
About 95 percent of the children in the slum areas do not have a father around, Leda said. “People there do not marry but we recently have had three weddings and that is encouraging.”
The Villaltas have a bed and breakfast in the city that helps support the financial obligations of the house and property they rent for worship services and activities. The property and house are for sale for $40,000. Purchasing that property would give stability to the Barranca-Ministry and provided opportunities for future growth. Several churches in the local area are supporting the Barranca-Ministry and its efforts to purchase the rental properties.
The Villaltas were in Troy last week to visit at First Baptist Church and other local churches that support their ministry.
Morgan Drinkard said her relationship with Jose and Leda Villalta began in 2013 when she visited Costa Rica with a mission team from First Baptist Church of Troy.
“Brother Luke Lane, our lead pastor at the time, was leading a focus in our church on Acts 1:8,” Drinkard said. “This charge in the Bible is for the Gospel to be spread to the ends of the Earth.
Leda and Jose had just started their full-time ministry in Costa Rica and wanted to organize a Christmas party in this small community. They felt this outreach event would allow them to meet members of the community and invite them to a Bible club they were hosting.”
The Christmas party soon became an annual event that opened opportunities for Jose and Leda to grow their ministry through partnerships with community members. Over the next few years teams from FBC Troy and other places continued to visit Barranca Ministries.
What Drinkard said most people say about working with Barranca Ministries is that – “you think you are being called to help them, but they are the ones discipling you.”
“Jose and Leda are displaying active obedience to the gospel through their self-sacrificing dedication to their ministry,” Drinkard said. “They are pouring their energy, resources and leadership skills into the people of Esparzol.”
The Villaltas have built a community of support in the Troy area. People from different churches, different cities and with different interests are supportive of them and their ministry.
In their last visit to Troy, the Villaltas met with local pastors from a variety of churches, spoke to four area churches and spent time with many community members.
“I think it’s important that we understand the need for support and community in our own town and all over the world,” Drinkard said. “It’s not choosing to support international missions over domestic missions or one group over the other. Leda and Jose are a great testament to the fruit that can be produced when we sacrifice our own comforts and pleasures for the Gospel.”