In the late 1960’s, a need was seen for evangelism and discipleship among missionary youth. Responding to that need, Latin America Mission (LAM) missionary, Betty Mauger and others began English Bible studies in homes among these mostly missionary kids. As this effort grew, then nearly died out when George and Betty Mauger left Costa Rica, John & Leah Huffman, also LAM missionaries, began what today is known as the International Youth Group in 1970. In addition to Bible studies, the youth began meeting for social activities, retreats and weekly large group fellowship. This group expanded outside the missionary community to include other English speaking expatriates and Costa Rican youth. Eventually this youth group became the backbone of the Asociación Ministerios Cristianos a los Anglohablantes or the Association of Christian Ministries to English Speakers (AMCA), one of many independent field ministries associated with the LAM.
As other missionaries joined the ranks of AMCA, the vision for ministries began to expand. On December 8, 1975, during an English Ministries staff meeting, a prophecy was received, encouraging the missionaries to look for a large house. The prophecy states, “It is to be a holy place reserved for My use….I will use it to heal many lives.” In response to this call, in 1976 AMCA began renting a large house on 10th Avenue in Barrio Gonzalez Lahmann. The Lord indeed used the Christian Ministries Center, also known as La Casona, to bless many. As Leah Huffman reflected after 10 years of ministry there, “…hundreds of feet have crossed the threshold, lots of beds have been made-up and slept in, many baskets have gone through the hoop, innumerable meals served, weddings performed, receptions and other big meetings held, and a church was born. Behind the doors of the office, over coffee in the kitchen and meals in the dining room, spiritual battles were waged, marriages saved, lives were put back together and reclaimed from Satan’s grip and God’s work was done in the flesh and blood and sweat.”
Out of the original vision for reaching English speaking youth, grew a tremendous L’Abri type hospitality ministry which touched the lives of the increasing numbers of travelers passing through Costa Rica searching for life’s meaning. Live-in hosts helped tremendously to allow the Lord to minister to people through relationships.
In addition, Maranatha Fellowship, an English language church, and the Costa Rican Comunidad PAS church were planted. In total, AMCA had around 17 different ministries reaching youth, university students and adults. The Casona became a model in San Jose as a ministry of people meeting weekly, utilizing a large home, to reach those who would not likely visit an Evangelical church. This entrepreneurial approach to ministry has continued with conversational coffees and Bible studies reaching women in the 90’s and English as a Second Language classes currently.
Because of a desire for a place outside of urban San José to hold youth group retreats, a large, mountainous, rural property in San Gerardo de Dota was bought in the late 70’s. This property, originally named Camp Savegre, was used for tenting until a lodge with bunks for up to 60 campers was built in the late 80’s. Later, the name was changed to Camp La Cumbre (The Summit); its facilities grew. Ministries expanded beyond the AMCA Youth Group to include a retreat facility for Costa Rican churches, open camps for Spanish speakers and many other ministries among Latin Americans.
By the mid 80’s AMCA became known as a ministry seedbed, often using the Casona to sow and cultivate new efforts. Driven by a burning desire to meet the needs of people, AMCA staff developed a number of ministries which later spun off and became independent organizations. Some, like Comunidad PAS, continue to exist while others have since ceased to function. During its 30 years of ministry, the Association of Christian Ministries to English Speakers has been used of the Lord to impact many lives. God has been faithful to His promise!
— Nancy Mauger, April 7, 2005