MOST Ministries Sewing Teams Go to Costa Rica5 min read

In 2012 Mission Opportunities Short Term (MOST) Ministries received our first request for a sewing team to work in Costa Rica. Pastor Edmundo Retana and his wife, Deaconess Betty, were new in establishing this mission field. Their mission was primarily to reach the women in the communities of Cartago and Alajuelita near San Jose, Costa Rica. Culturally, women are more likely to attend church than men, so this made sense for the area and their ministry has seen fruit.

Why Sewing?

Why sewing? That’s what many women like to do for their families. Some want to be able to earn a little income. Many of the women are home with young children, some have part-time jobs, some are grandmothers, or, like the deaf woman brought by her sister, had nothing else to do. What is characteristic of women in any culture is that it is fun to learn and sew together. It spurs creativity and community. It provides a forum to share the Gospel story and to learn to be supportive of one another. It is part of Witness and Life Together.

[Tweet “Women in every culture have fun learning and sewing together. It spurs creativity and community.”]

A team of 9 women, mostly from Michigan, packed 10 sewing machines in suitcases, plus loads of notions and fabric, and hearts filled with enthusiasm to teach basic sewing skills and knitting to about 45 women. We found out that though many had never sewn before on a machine, they often were very creative in handiwork. If they had a sewing machine in their home it probably was a treadle machine.

 A Daughter And Her Mother

I recall one woman in particular who came to our first sewing classes. She had never sewn before. The first thing she learned was how to make a simple tote bag. Then she learned how to make an appliqued potholder and a purse with a zipper. She was overjoyed at her accomplishments.

thumbnail (3)

The second day she brought her mother along for the afternoon class. It was not easy for her mother to come because every other morning she had to have kidney dialysis for 4 hours, which left her wiped out. She would climb up the church steps and sit right by the door exhausted and puffing from shortness of breath. But, she wanted to learn to knit.

Each day she would take her knitting home to work on it and bring it back the next afternoon. It was always askew from either dropping or adding stitches. She would laugh and let her teacher help her start over.  Eventually her teacher helped her turn it into a purse. “Wow! She did it!” all exclaimed. Just as the daughter invited her mother to our sewing classes, her mother invited her granddaughters, other daughters and neighbors to come.

Risen Loaves of Bread

That illustrates the point Pastor Retana was trying to teach in his devotions before each class. In Pastor’s  first devotion from Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus talks about being a light in the world. The next day he shared Luke 13:20-21, how Jesus explained the picture of God’s kingdom.  It is like yeast that a woman works into dough for three loaves of bread and waits while the dough rises. We are like risen loaves of bread expanding and touching those around us. Pastor challenged the women to reach out to their communities; to be the light, to be the leavened bread that touches those around them.

[Tweet “We were challenged to reach out; to be the light that touches those around them.”]

It turned out that about the day after our team returned home we received an email that this mother with kidney disease had died suddenly of a heart attack. We all felt numb and saddened.  Betty shared in her email that her daughter said these last days learning to knit were some of her most joyful days.


My mission trips to Costa Rica have played an important role in my faith walk and understanding of missions. Completing the task or project had always been my focus, but when I began to discover the relational Jesus who continually modeled and instructed his disciples in how he called you by name, opened his arms to the Samaritan woman at the well, touched to heal, has already given you everything you need to serve, it has made my mission experiences filled with more joy than I can explain. I don’t see people as ‘people groups’ or of a particular culture as much, but I rather see them as moms with children, women who are widowed, grandmothers, each with their own story.

My prayers have changed, too. Now my prayer for each trip is, ‘Dear Lord, fill me with love for my team members and those I serve.’ I think about these women continually now and pray for Pastor and Betty in their ministry. We have skyped and shared on Facebook and emails. Each time I go back, I see this daughter and I know a little piece of her story … I knew her mother who died. She has continued to sew and now designs her own unique tote bags that she is able to sell.

[Tweet “I began to discover the relational Jesus … it began to fill my mission experiences with more joy.”]

There have been four sewing-teaching teams serving with Pastor and Betty since 2012. Each team has brought their unique gifts—themselves—to share besides teaching sewing skills. And Rev. Retana estimates that 70% of his church members are there because of these teams and the outreach they have fostered.

A new team is departing for Costa Rica at the end of this month. If you would like more information about their trip so you can pray for them, click here to follow Team 1502 to Costa Rica.

thumbnail (1)
thumbnail (2)

Subscribe to Blog Button

About the Author

Pat Carlson was the MOST Team Leader for the mission trip taken to Costa Rica in November 2014.

More by This Author

Debby Fall - February 2, 2022

To Donald Calvin who asked “How many hours of sewing time was provided?

Ruth Martin from MOST Ministries reported that 320 hours of volunteer sewing time was provided!