He’s split up fights with street gangs in Costa Rica, but Keith Holder says his most terrifying experience came recently in England. The missionary was awarded an MBE in 2011 for the work he and his wife Joy have done in Costa Rica for the last 20 years.
Keith (63) says, ‘It was a nerve-wracking experience, meeting HM The Queen, even more so than when we were breaking up a knife fight in the shanty towns of Costa Rica. There have been other scary experiences we’ve been through too.
‘We went to Buckingham Palace to get the award and I was a bit embarrassed really, because although people congratulate us for the work we’ve done in Costa Rica, we’ve always just felt that all we are doing is obeying God’.
Keith, who is from Essex, runs Educación Plus, an organisation that is now reaching 500 children in Costa Rica through Bible clubs, weekly sporting activities and education.
He said, ‘It’s an interesting life and there’s rarely a dull moment. It’s not just about us overseeing 500 kids; it’s about inputting truth into them, so they are prepared for life. Some of the kids I work with are in their teens, but I started getting to know their families when they were just ten’.
‘We build relationship and liaise with their parents and schools. We get involved with the whole community.
‘For many of them, all they’ve ever known is poverty, so it’s about breaking the cycle. I don’t want to see them hooked on sniffing glue or taking marijuana, so I’m motivated to make a difference’.
As a trained pastor, Keith also hopes to see spiritual transformation in the children’s lives. ‘It’s a practical outworking of the gospel. Some of the boys who sniff glue have been in our Bible classes. We care for them and love them and show them the good news. Without being super-spiritual, we believe we are God’s presence in the shanty town.
‘As Christians, we’re supposed to be good news wherever we go. It’s not always easy being a missionary, but we know God’s called us to do this and it’s a great privilege’.
Keith and Joy are supported by Rope (‘Relief of oppressed people everywhere’), a Christian development charity founded in 1991, based in Buckinghamshire. Rope helps provide shoes and clothing for children who don’t fall under the Educación Plus remit, while they also give help to parents with food and medical bills.
Rope’s Chief Executive Jon Dobbs said, ‘Keith and Joy are an inspiration to us all. Working in these circumstances is not everyone’s call, but they are clearly gifted and called to the young people and families in Costa Rica’.