Costa Rica
Republic of Costa Rica
April 17

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Area 51,100 Rich agricultural land, which straddles the Central American isthmus.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 4,023,422 +2.51% 79 per sq. km.
2010 4,856,685 +1.75% 95 per sq. km.
2025 5,928,508 +1.18% 116 per sq. km.

Capital San José 1,063,000. Urbanites 44%.


Spanish-speaking 94.8%. Caucasian 3.2 million; Mestizo 300,000.

English-speaking 2.5%. Afro-Caribbean 120,000.

Amerindian 0.7%. Eight peoples, only four still use their indigenous languages: Bribri 7,700; Cabecar 10,700; Guaymi 1,900; Maleku 500.

Other 2%. Chinese(4) 66,000; Europeans 23,000.

Refugees More than 600,000 Nicaraguans resident or working in Costa Rica.

Literacy 93%. Official language Spanish. English and Mekitelyu spoken on Caribbean coast. All languages 10. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 5NT 6por.


Decline between 1979-88, some recovery since then but 20% still live in deep poverty. Main exports are bananas, coffee and textiles. Tourism is also important. A leading country for ecological conservation. Unemployment 6.2%. HDI 0.801; 45th/174. Public debt 30.6% of GNP. Income/person $2,640 (8.5% of USA).


Independent of Spain in 1821. A long history of stable, multi-party democratic government. Costa Rica has exercised a stabilizing influence in the conflicts of surrounding lands.


Roman Catholicism is the official state religion and all limitations on the free exercise of other religions are illegal, but in practice other religions are not yet equal before the law.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 94.70 3,810,181 +2.4%
Chinese 2.24 90,125 +5.9%
non-Religious/other 1.73 69,605 +3.5%
Traditional ethnic 0.83 33,394 +6.1%
Baha'i 0.29 11,668 +2.5%
Jewish 0.11 4,426 +4.5%
Buddhist 0.10 4,023 +2.5%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 70 9.73 392 +12.4%
Independent 65 3.51 141 +6.3%
Anglican 1 0.03 1 -4.1%
Catholic 1 73.99 2,977 +1.2%
Marginal 10 2.60 105 +4.0%
Unaffiliated   7.31 294 n.a.
Doubly affiliated   -2.47 -100 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 250 1,575,132 2,977,000
Assemblies of God P 224 30,300 85,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 90 31,350 62,700
Jehovah's Witnesses M 232 20,000 52,600
Ch of God (Cleveland) P 450 19,302 38,000
Latter-day Saints (Morm) M 132 22,449 33,000
Assoc of Bible Chs P 134 8,772 18,000
Baptist Bible Fell P 30 5,169 15,000
Foursquare Gospel P 77 4,776 12,000
Evang Assoc of C Amer P 69 5,923 11,850
Pentecostal Holiness P 76 5,800 11,700
Methodist P 70 6,300 11,500
Churches of Christ [3] P 56 5,600 11,200
Council of Nat'l Ev Chs I 41 4,100 8,200
Baptist Convention P 45 3.545 6,000
Ch of the Nazarene P 33 2,006 4,000
Other denominations [130]   1,611 132,303 258,000
Doubly affiliated     -52,910 -100,000
Total Christians [148]   3,895 1,825,000 3,516,000

Trans-blocGroupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 12.4 500 +10.3%
Charismatic 18.6 750 +6.0%
  Pentecostal 7.0 281 +13.2%

Missionaries from Costa Rica
P,I,A 331 in 32 agencies to 27 countries: Costa Rica 120, Middle East 30, USA 20, Mali 18.

Missionaries to Costa Rica
P,I,A 433 in 73 agencies from 20 countries: USA 342, Canada 20.

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Answers to Prayer

1 Between 1970 and 1988 there was dramatic growth of Evangelicals from 3% to 11%. After problems, growth has resumed – some reckon 16% to be Evangelicals. From this revival was birthed one of Latin America's most effective foreign missions advance.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The tragic and sudden halt to evangelical church growth in 1988 led to a decade of little progress. There are now numerous unattached Evangelicals (6% of the population) and many more ex-Evangelicals who have returned to the Catholic Church, turned to sects or given up on Christianity. The causes need to be turned into prayer fuel.

a) Denominational rivalry and acrimonious divisions disillusioned many. Pray for love, humility and oneness in the Spirit to characterize the leadership in churches.

b) Inflexible sub-cultures and petty legalisms discouraged many new Christians and seekers. Pray for revival.

c) Secularism, materialism, post-modern and New Age mindsets are sapping the vitality of urban congregations.

d) The moral failure of evangelical leaders – both internationally known US televangelists and Costa Rican pastors. The challenge is to restore both holy living and credibility to the cause of Christ.

2 The Roman Catholic Church has been deeply impacted by charismatic renewal. Many came to a living, personal faith in Christ. On the one hand, attendance at mass and the number of indigenous seminarians and priests has increased. On the other hand large numbers left the Church for evangelical groups. Pray that charismatic Catholics may be able to inject greater spirituality through their 're-evangelization' programme. The great majority of Costa Ricans remain very nominal in their faith and in spiritual need – immorality, alcoholism and spiritist practices are widespread.

3 The signs of hope are:

a) Increased cooperative efforts for outreach and mission despite lingering hesitations on the part of some Evangelicals. The Costa Rican Evangelical Alliance, representing the majority of denominations has initiated a programme 'Costa Rica Century XXI' for promoting the development of churches at every level. Pray for a cutting edge to this vision, and for the leaders of this ambitious programme.

b) Improved leadership training. There are 26 Bible schools and seminaries and an extensive TEE programme. IMDELA (Missiological Institute of the Americas) has opened a residential and extension programme in missions. Pray that there might be a new generation of godly, effective leaders for the churches that will commend the gospel.

4 Special evangelistic challenges:

a) Students have proved less responsive to the gospel, and drug addiction has become a serious problem. Christian student leadership has been weak in the past. There is a growing national student movement linked with ECU(IFES), Alfa y Omega (CCCI), Maranatha (a Pentecostal student work) and others.

b) All Amerindian tribes are being evangelized but most are either nominally Catholic or animist. There is, however, a vocal, syncretistic, indigenous church among the Cabécar, and evangelical missionary input to the Boruca, Bribri, Guaymi and Maleku. Pray that truly indigenous churches using their mother tongues may be established.

c) Chinese have increased in numbers, many immigrating from Taiwan and mainland China. Some have become Catholic, and there are now a few Evangelicals in three small groups. The Chinese Christian Mission started a work among them in 1985. Pray that cultural and spiritual barriers to faith may be broken down and churches multiply among them.

d) The Mekitelyu Afro-Caribbean community on the Caribbean coast is nominally Protestant, but few people have a vital, life-affecting faith in Christ. Pray for ongoing evangelistic campaigns and that these may result in Mekitelyu-speaking congregations.

e) Muslim immigrants are few, but increasing. Mainly Arab, Iranian and South Asian.

5 The Federation of Evangelical Missions of Costa Rica has become a shining example of God's grace in envisioning the Church for world evangelization. Alcance 2000 was a vision to mobilize 12,000 prayer warriors, target 50 unreached peoples around the world and send out 500 cross-cultural missionaries. Over eight years the number of Costa Rican missionaries doubled to more than 260 in 1997. Pray for the growth and maturity of this movement.

6 Missions. The largest agencies are LAM (81), IMB-SBC (36), AoG (31), YWAM (28), CoN (26), CRWM (19), CAM (19). The stability of the country has made this a good base for many regional and global ministries. Pray for cooperation and close fellowship between agencies, as there is a frustrating duplication of effort and a dominance of North Americans in many supportive agencies. Visas are becoming more difficult to obtain.

7 Christian help ministries:

a) Radio and TV. There are four Christian radio and two TV stations; other secular stations air Christian programmes. Pray that efforts to restrict this ministry may fail. Also pray that broadcasts may lead to conversion among the unsaved and growth among the Christians.

b) LAM's 'Christ for the City' vision. This has resulted in short-term team ministry abroad, and in child care clinics and outreach to shanty towns at home.

c) The Bible Society. Demand for Scriptures is strong and growing. Pray that no opposition may succeed in preventing the distribution of Scriptures.

d) The Spanish Language Institute where many missionaries learn Spanish. Pray for staff and missionary students.

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