Planted by His Kind Hands
Árbol de Vida Community celebrates its 30th Anniversary
By Claire de Mézerville
“Fue un pequeño árbolSowing seeds
The words above come from a song written by community members Marco Ulate and his wife, Lorena, a song especially composed for the 25th anniversary of the Árbol de Vida (Tree of Life) Christian Community. This year, 2007, our celebration reflects back on the 30 years that have witnessed: how we, a people of God, were born as believers and have grown into disciples, always maturing and changing, acknowledging our profound need for the grace of our Savior.
Costa Rica is a small country, with a population of about five million — more than half of whom live in the capital cities of its seven provinces. It is a land rich in volcanoes, beaches, mountains, and landscapes of exotic beauty, and a wonderful display of ecological life — which regretfully has not always been well taken care of. Our tropical land is populated by numerous fruit-bearing trees. Their abundant seed guarantee a fruitful harvest for generations to come.
When the Lord began a new work among us, he planted a spiritual seed in the hearts of a small group of young university students in San Jose. When they began to meet together for prayer and fellowship in 1976, the Lord gave them an image of a great seed-bearing tree. They saw, for the first time, their present and future story reflected in the metaphor of a tree that bears the fruit needed and craved by the people of their land. And this tree only bears fruit as long as it is nurtured by the streams of water that come from its Creator.
That same year, a Costa Rican, Gastón de Mézerville, who was studying in Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan, USA, became a member of what would later be the Work of Christ Community in Lansing. Through the letters exchanged between Gastón and the leadership of the “Agape” group in Costa Rica, the “Agape” began to learn about the covenant community call that was being lived out in the Work of Christ Community, as well as in the Word of God Community in Ann Arbor.
On March 19, 1977, a young group
of Costa Ricans from the “Agape” Group made their first community
commitment to one another in San Jose, in response to a prophecy they had
received a few months earlier:
of disciples on mission
In 1983, the Agape Community was one of the first few groups to become part of the Sword of the Spirit. The community has pursued various expressions of Christian life together as part of the same goal — to be a community of disciples living the mission to follow Christ and to spread His light. A university outreach (CEM, “Christians on the March”) began in 1981. The Servants of the Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord, established a household in 1986, which lasted for some years. And a program for young adults, named Shalom, has continued since 1987.
In the wake of our 10th anniversary, the community took on the name it now has, Árbol de Vida, which means “Tree of Life”. The prophecy given in December 1976 was not forgotten, and the new name continues to inspire all the members, and by God’s grace will do so for new members in the future as well.
The song composed during the 25th anniversary of Árbol de Vida keeps on saying:
“Creció muy fuerteAnd, only because of the mercy of our Lord has this tree endured storms…
The beginning of the 21st century gave Árbol de Vida new directions for growth — a new perspective to extend the hope of salvation — so much needed by our country and our region — expressed in various ministries of missionary outreach and new alternatives for evangelization. The construction of a community-owned facility for our gatherings was finally accomplished, and in April of 2001 Árbol de Vida was able to start gathering in a building of its own for the first time.
For Such a
Time as This
During the year 2005 an important campaign for evangelizing married couples was launched, and by the time the campaign ended more than 30 couples had made their initial commitments to our community.
I am 25 years old and have been a
part of the community all my life. I have gotten to known people of various
ages who met the community and became a part of this “tree”, and I have
seen how the life that brings us together does not come from human efforts.
We are all seeds, trying to die to ourselves in order to bring new life.
We are all soil expecting God’s holy work among us, and to quote the slogan
of our 30th anniversary, we are all “witnesses of God’s work.”
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