Costa Maya Ministries began long before it had a name. It began with people who wanted to share the saving love of Jesus with many who had not heard the beautiful truths of Scripture.
In August 2007, Hurricane Dean, a category 5 storm, struck Mahahual, Mexico, an underdeveloped and relatively new frontier area in the Yucatán Peninsula. It caused much damage to the area and nearly destroyed the home of Lynn and Jerry Zimpelmann, seasonal residents from Wisconsin. In retrospect, we can see how the Lord used that storm to bless His Church and His people.
Because of the storm, Deb and Hugh Blackburn became on-site caretakers for the Zimpelmanns’ property. Deb, not a Christian at the time, joined the Zimplemanns in their daily worship and fellowship. The Holy Spirit began working in her heart and she continued fervently in God’s Word after Lynn and Jerry departed for the States. The Spirit then sustained Deb in her new faith walk while she studied--virtually alone. As she grew and tried to share her faith, it became apparent that this might be a place to plant a mission.
While church officials in the States were supportive of starting a mission, they could offer no monetary support. Nevertheless, a small core of praying believers decided to go forward. In the months that followed, they watched in amazement as one barrier after another was lifted and things “fell into place.” A new seminary graduate, Brad Krause, received a gift from an individual to fund a two-month Spanish immersion in Puebla, Mexico. Brad did not speak Spanish but mastered the language very quickly and was able to preach a sermon in his new language after just three months. Shortly after Brad and his bride, Heidi, arrived in Mahahual, Deb secured a facility they could use at no cost on Sundays—the Corona House Cantina and Restaurant.
And so, Iglesia Luterana Cruz de Cristo (Cross of Christ Lutheran Church) was born in the Casitas neighborhood of Mahahual. The little group of believers grew, Bible Studies were offered, and new prospects were contacted every week. Within six months a second outpost was opened in Pulticub, where church was held on the beach under the shade of coconut palms. Here people who had never heard of their Savior were moved to learn and worship.
When it was time for the Krauses to leave, Ralph and Roxie Marten arrived. Ralph, a missionary of 40 years, stayed for 10 months until a native Mexican pastor, Jorge Briones, and his American wife, Kerry, arrived in 2011. Here the Lord used Jorge’s gifts with children to grow the mission through youth Bible studies and activities. In 2012 they added their own baby, Zoe, to the number being baptized. In 2014 Pastor Martens returned when Pastor Briones took a call to León. Pastor Eduardo Vazquez was kind enough to come down from Monterrey to serve Cruz de Cristo for several months in 2015. The current pastor is Martin Valleskey who, God willing, will be a long-term, constant presence in bringing the Word to our community.
Realizing that Jesus fed the body as well as the soul, church members opened a “soup kitchen” on Friday afternoons. Many volunteers have worked tirelessly, obtaining the help of a local restaurant owner who prepares the food while they gather children and adults in whatever vehicles are available. Two years later as many as 50 people join every Friday for soup and fellowship. The mission has happily outgrown its space.
Since 2007 visitors, friends and supporters from the U.S. have spent time in Costa Maya because the qualities that kept it a frontier also have kept it free from the tyranny of the drug trade. Its safety has been a beacon for groups from Wisconsin Lutheran College, Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Christian Aid and Relief, as well as many congregations and small groups. Caring people have canvassed, held Bible School, decorated the worship area, and taught English classes. All of these ventures have provided opportunities to tell the people of Costa Maya about Jesus.
The mission has recently secured additional space, more than doubling its size. In addition, a grant from Christian Aid and Relief allowed us to purchase a used 15-passenger van to transport members to the various activities. As the ministry expanded into more than Sunday church services, we created “Costa Maya Ministries” as a name that would reflect the larger scope. Our outreach opportunities continue to grow, and visions of a community center, health clinic, and Christian school dance in our heads. We don’t know where the Holy Spirit will take this work, but we have already seen that nothing is too big or impossible for Him.