Our Costa Rican Marketplace Ministry that Today, Continues to be Blessed of God
More than 30,000 people daily walked in front of the building that housed our marketplace ministry. The building was used for nearly 30 years by "Christians Sharing Christ" to reach people in the marketplace of this Central American country.
These 1969 images, give you a sense of the surrounding neighborhood where our Costa Rican marketplace ministry was established. As you see, we were upstairs behind the sign, our windows protected with bars. The sign reads:
(The Upper Room)
"CRISTIANOS COMPARTIENDO A CRISTO"
(Christians Sharing Christ)
My family and I in 1969 were living in San Jose, Costa Rica. Over a period of six months I had become more and more concerned for the people in the marketplace of the capital city of this country. Each morning I had to drive through the heart of the main market area as I took my wife to her classes at the Spanish Language Institute.
Daily I saw thousands of people walking the streets. Many were homeless, barefooted, and with open running sores. These people in the marketplace had a very difficult time earning enough money to feed themselves and their family. As I drove through this area I became more and more burdened for this mass of people who had absolutely no hope in life.
As I prayed, God began to show me what I needed to do. Finally, I knew it was God's will for me to rent a parking lot in the middle of the red light and market district. The only problem was, every parking space in every parking lot in that area was reserved by store owners.
Over 30,000 people walked in front of one building every day, so you can see how great a demand there was for parking spaces. Miraculously God led me to a young man, who by the preaching of God's Word would later come to know the Lord.
He was willing to rent me his lot once a week during the two-hour lunch period when his lot was nearly empty. Using very limited resources, I was able to purchase a small portable amplifier and one used old-style speaker. We used the power from our battery in the back of our 1961 Volkswagen Microbus.
Sharing my God given burden with several pastors and laymen resulted in a few of them accepting my invitation to come down and preach with me. Most had a genuine fear of doing anything in this "dangerous" area.
There was a large house of prostitution directly across the street from the parking lot. This three-story, rock building had three big round windows on the second floor. The first few weeks, the prostitutes would take those windows out and shout obscenities at us.
Then several of these women accepted the Lord and the shouting and obscenities stopped. The windows were then full of women listening to the messages. Their responsiveness is what caused me to recognize the need for a full-time ministry to the people in the market places of the world.
One day, after having preached in the parking lot for several weeks, I noticed several policemen in the crowd. Two policemen walked up to me and said they had orders to arrest me. A teacher at the Spanish-language Institute, Claudio Rojas, said, "I will go with you, Don Carlos."
So off to jail we went. The Lieutenant or the booking officer said that I was being arrested for preaching on the street. I told him I knew my rights under Costa Rican law and that if he wanted to book me then I wanted to use his phone to call the American Embassy. My attitude surprised him, so he put us in a holding tank -- a windowless, smelly dark room behind a large steel door.
There were several drunks inside, lying on the floor. We decided to spend our time praying that God would use this for His glory and we also prayed that the fearful pastors would not be affected negatively by our being arrested.
For over an hour as we walked around the inside of this rather small and very filthy room we prayed. It required a real effort to try to avoid the drunks that lay on the floor. We knew at some point it would become necessary for us to join them on the floor, but we were going to hold out as long as we could.
Then the door opened and I was taken out to again face the Lieutenant. He repeated that it was against the law for me to preach on the street. Again I informed him that I knew my rights and that I had rented the parking lot and was complying with all the laws of his country.
The Lieutenant abruptly put me back in the tank. Claudio and I felt that we were in a chess game. We continued to pray. There was no one we could witness to, so we prayed that God would let us win the Lieutenant to the Lord like Paul and Silas had led the Philippian jailer to Christ.
After another lengthy period of time the door was opened and I was again taken to the Lieutenant. He picked up the phone and called a Major who wanted to speak to me. The Major forcefully informed me of the serious situation in which I found myself.
With equal conviction I replied by telling him that I knew my rights under Costa Rican law. He said that he had observed the large crowds of people listening to me and that I should go somewhere else to preach. He tried everything he could to get me to agree to stop preaching in that area.
Several times he said that he was going to transfer me to the "Peni" or penitentiary (which is that country's main jail). I was not the least concerned about going to the Peni. I had preached there several times and had several sons in the Lord who were permanent residents.
However, each time he repeated this threat, I would state that I wanted to talk with the American Embassy and he then would change the subject. We both recognized that we were at an impasse.
Finally the Major recognized the strength of my convictions so he released us. We walked out of the jail and to our great surprise we found a group of pastors waiting for us across the street. They had been praying for nearly two hours which had resulted in their becoming totally committed to preaching in the streets of their country. This conviction remained strongly entrenched in their ministries and lives.
The following week a young man in civilian clothes walked up to me and said "Don Carlos, do you remember me?" I said, "Of course! You are Corporal Guillen and you arrested me last week."
"Yes", he said, "but I was acting upon the orders of my Lieutenant. You may not recall, but I waited to arrest you until you finished giving the invitation."
The young corporal then told me that he was a brother in Christ and said, "When I saw you preaching to my people about Jesus I felt convicted that a North American was doing what I should be doing, telling my people about Jesus. Don Carlos, Sunday I went to my church, Calle Blancos Bible Church, and recommitted my life to Christ."
I rejoiced with him about his new and closer walk with the Lord. I then told him if he knew of any other Christian policemen that needed to get their life straightened out, as he had done, to tell them to come over and arrest me next week.
We both laughed and rejoiced at what the Lord had done.