Ruth and Jim Padilla DeBorst

Missionaries to Latin America 

Ruth, Jim, Maya, Anton, Jonathan, Maria Isabel, Luana and Natalia

About Their Mission (pdf)

The Institute for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education in Latin America (pdf)




A 2016 Christmas Letter from James and Ruth

Subversively good news

But the news today
is anything
but good...!


Aleppo (Syria) has fallen, and millions are on the run. Hundreds of Costa Rican and Nicaraguan families are still trying to regain their footing after hurricane Otto washed their homes and loved ones away last month. Thousands of children are being packed behind fruit boxes destined to the US, fleeing gang violence and recruitment. Hundreds of refugees from the Central American “triangle of death” are arriving in Costa Rica. How does one celebrate Christmas in the midst of these realities? Not tinsel nor Santa; not gifts nor hams; not even carols and Christmas pageants, none of these customary marks of this season in Western societies have the power to dispel the darkness or grant us the strength and hope we need to walk through humanity’s brokenness.

Thankfully, however, there is good news even today. The amazingly subversive good news is that God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, in Christ, squeezed into time-limited, earth-bound, suffering, human form.

God could have remedied all the world’s maladies in one grand swoop of life-giving power. But that’s not the God of the gospel.

God could have spoken justice into our unequal world. But that is not the God of the gospel.

God could have decreed sustenance for all that lives –from above, from outside, without getting God’s hands dirty. But that is not the God of the gospel.

God could have extended a compassionate hand from a distance. But that is not the God of the gospel.

Instead, consistent with the relational nature of the Community-of-love, God chose to enter the world God so loves and, in this way, to bridge the greatest divide of all, the one that separates a broken, fumbling, wandering humanity from its Source of Life, from itself, and from the rest of the creation of which it is a part. Further yet, far from entering through the splendorous gates of a Roman imperial family, with all its trappings of grandeur and dominion, God approached a poor Palestinian woman in an occupied territory.

God became a working-class boy

and was first visited by simple shepherd folk.

God became a fearful refugee in a foreign land.

God became an anonymous worker,

carving stone and wood for wealthy folk.

God became an itinerant teacher,

with no place to rest his head.
God befriended women, despised foreigners,
and hated imperial lackeys.
God knelt and washed the dusty feet of bewildered
and treacherous fishermen.
God became a criminal, executed
to demonstrate the fate of anyone
who dared disturb the deathly Pax Romana.

And it was from there, from the bottom up, from inside, from underneath, that God sovereignly effected the most astounding reversal of all times. By entering the darkest darkness, the abyss of death and alienation and sheer aloneness –Father, Father, why have you abandoned me?!—God broke those chains of death and alienation and sheer aloneness. God, the Community-of-Love, worked a true peace into the dough of a fractured society, not one precariously pounded together by iron nails and grueling taxation. In Christ, the Creator continued the work of creation. God began fashioning a new humanity by effecting peace, Pax Christi, weaving together the unlikeliest assortment of women and men --slaves, slave owners, freed slaves, manual workers, wealthy home-owners, Jews and Greeks—into a new humanity.

Our calling and our possibility today is to live as that new humanity, following Jesus into the darkness without fear. The community of Christ followers can shed light and plant hope,

not as the sources of these
but as reflections of the Community-of-love;
not as all-powerful patrons of the poor,
but as humble ferment,
serving from the bottom up, from inside,
from underneath,
alongside the Master we follow.

This is our prayer for ourselves as a couple as well as for you, and for the communities of which we are a part, Casa Adobe, CETI, the Cohort of Missioners, and INFEMIT. 


CETI: Theological formation from life and for life  

Another year for which to be thankful. CETI continues to grow by leaps and bounds, reaching people throughout Latin America and equipping them for deeper, more committed service in their communities. We are especially grateful for a stronger team and an increasingly supportive and engaged board.

One quick vignette. While training a new group of facilitators in Brazil, we were studying John 4 and the Story of the Samaritan Woman. CETI tends to bring a wide variety of folk into committed Kingdom living with a new set of neighbors, often bridging huge socio-economic gaps. The passage recounts Jesus crossing several borders and astonishing even his disciples. So, it should not have been that much of a surprise when, while some of the male pastors were speculating about who the Samaritan woman might have been, Rosa spoke up and said, “I was a prostitute.” Rosa: a leader in a tough community, a CETI facilitator, a committed follower of Christ, a woman who used to work as a prostitute. The room was shaken by how we were all thrown directly inside the story. But again, and again our program, our Christ, surprises us and invites us to open our hearts wider to embrace all he would bring to his table and make agents of God's rule of justice in a broken world.


Family update 

Our family continues to lift flight! Maya continues in Boston, and Anton in Houston. Jonathan is home for Christmas on his way to an internship in a nature reserve outside Mar del Plata, Argentina. Maria Isabel is visiting her mother during her break from her Sociology studies at the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia. Luana is visiting friends in Paris, Berlin, and Madrid during her break from studying International relations and Theater at Oxford University. And Natalia is home, finishing up college applications for colleges in education and art. So, although we continue sharing community life in Casa Adobe, we will soon officially be empty nesters! We're inaugurating that stage with our first ever extended couple vacation. Three weeks lost to the world to engage with each other, with the rest of creation, and with God, to dream together, discern and set priorities for this new phase of life.

Another "child" was born out of our family this year. We are glad to have delivered this one successfully! It took far more than 9 months in gestation, and depended on the life-support of many communities to develop, and we intend to share it as widely as possible. Intrigued? Well, I (Ruth) am referring to my doctoral dissertation. I defended September 1 at Boston University and was granted my PhD in Theology (with a focus in Missiology and Social Ethics). I am grateful to God, to those supportive communities (of which you are a part), and especially to my husband, Jim, for the grace of this "birth," and pray the "child" will serve many! It is available in the BU Library and online at OpenBU


Looking to 2017

Another year of training, trips, car repairs, coffee, paper and white board markers. Another year, we trust, of changed lives. Certainly another year of bills to pay, salaries to meet. Another year during which we need your support in prayer and encouragement to continue living out the Good News. 

With gratitude,
James and Ruth
with Natalia


New Year 2016 Pondering with James & Ruth Padilla DeBorst

Some New Year pondering...

This planet 
we did not inherit 
from our ancestors.
We are borrowing it
from future generations.

So commercial Christmas has come and gone with all its fuss and flurry, tinsel and trappings. And before the New Year rolls in, perhaps we can take a moment for a deep, deep, refreshing breath. And for some deep pondering. Pondering at the wonder of God stepping into our fussy, flurried world. Pondering what that might mean for our life in this gorgeous and pained planet... Perhaps, as we set new goals and dream new dreams  for 2016, we might choose to quit accumulating debt with our kids and grand kids and commit instead to caring for the world God so loves and to working so that every living being may be at home in it. 

Photo: Playa Zancudo, Península de Osa, Costa Rica, December 29, 2015

Yearly briefs

Between accidents, surgeries, illnesses, and a dissertation-in-the-making, 2015 has been a challenging year for our family. So the last few days of family fun and refreshment have been very welcome ones. Although we miss the 2 who could not make it, we are grateful to have 4 of our 6 kids home for a few days, along with grandkids from El Salvador and other friends.

Jonathan (home from Olympia, WA), Luana (home from New York), Natalia (last one at home!), Anton (home from Houston). Hopefully next time: Maya (in Boston) and Maria Isabel (in Bogotá, Colombia). 

With gratitude,
Jim and Ruth Padilla DeBorst
with Natalia

A HUGE word of thanks to churches and friends who are faithfully and generously giving! We are still significantly underfunded. So would you please pray and consider if you are able to (further) support our ministry? 

You can donate by check:
CRWM (for the Padilla DeBorsts) 1700 28th St SE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49560

or online


Feliz Navidad from the Padilla-DeBorsts

Unto us a child is born

“Merry Christmas”, the greeting automatically rolls off people’s tongues and jingles through crowded malls full of stressed consumers. We are told this is the season to be merry, joyful, happy… But I wonder:  have you ever tried to measure water with a ruler? Well, sometimes we attempt to evaluate happiness with the measure given to us by our consumer society. Happy is the person who has all she desires, a house of her dreams, the body of a model, the cutest kids, the power job. Happy is he whose health, future and success is insured. Happy are those whose security is guaranteed.

The story of Christmas, however, offers us another measure. This is an unlikely, surprising, even upsetting story: God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, enters into human history not as a king or a victorious warrior, not as a successful merchant or a prestigious philosopher. “Unto us a child is born,” the prophet had anticipated. A poor child, born into a working class family. A refugee child. So unexpected was this choice that few recognized Jesus as the expected Messiah. Few saw in his lifestyle, his teaching, or his healing the coming of God’s rule of peace, justice and abundant life. We too today may be blinded by the mirages of our consumptive society to such an extend that we fail to recognize God’s work from below, from inside, from unlikely places and unexpected people.
This days, may God grant us another ruler to measure happiness. May God give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and enough trust in God’s unexpected provision that we may enjoy the happiness that does not depend on lights and gifts, food and mirages of security. May we enjoy the happiness of living as citizens under God’s rule, seeking first God’s justice and trusting God for all the rest.


That is the word for this season in Casa Adobe. Mayita, our youngest community member, turned three. Maria Isabel and Luana head into their last term in high school and Natalia is readying herself to be the only daughter of our family still in Costa Rica. Dear members of our community, Rachel and Kelsey, have moved on. There is loss in that change: their friendship, work, ideas and simple presence are sorely missed. But there is also joy, because after a season of learning and growth they are now ready to continue serving and stretching in new places. Both will spend a few months in the US, reconnecting with family and raising support for their new ministries in Central America as partner missionaries with Christian Reformed World Missions. Rachel will be working with Seeds of New Creation in El Salvador while Kelsey will join the Nehemiah Center team in León, Nicaragua. As some leave, others prepare to come for shorter and longer terms, as guests, volunteers, interns and missioners. Meanwhile, Maya continues in Boston, Anton in Kansas, and Jonathan in California.
Through it all we treasure your prayers for the educational efforts, for the cohort of missioners, for the continuity of the Bola Bola project and the young people who are heading it up, for relationships within our community and beyond, for adjustments and adaptations on everyone’s part as group dynamics change with new faces and new personalities, for shared vision, joy and laughter along with fruitful ministry.

For all your support, thanks! And please consider a year end gift; we REALLY need your support!

Looking ahead

2014 promises to be a year full of new challenges and opportunities. Among them:
  • The launching of the Masters in Urban Ministries, a joint effort of the Institute of Christian Studies (ICS, in Toronto) and CETI.
  • The expansion of CETI Diploma into Colombia and other countries
  • The inclusion of new students from around Latin America in the CETI Masters program.
  • The consolidation of the cohort of missioners, serving in various Central American countries.
  • Growing partnership with the Latin American Theological Fellowshiphttp://www.ftl-al.organd the International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation

News from the Padilla-DeBorsts in Costa Rica...

Master's in Urban Ministry 

From Jim

I have been working recently—with the help of Joel VanDyke from Guatemala and Dawn Wolthuis, the President of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) in Toronto—on an exciting new opportunity for study here in Central America.  This new program will be a pilot ICS Master’s program in Urban Ministries. ICS would be working in conjunction with CETI, the Center for Interdisciplinary Theological Studies, and CTM Guatemala, the Center for Transforming Mission in Guatemala.  The idea is that this first pilot group (our guinea pigs, so to speak) will do all of their coursework in English while serving as volunteers in Latin American communities in Costa Rica and Guatemala, putting their classroom studies into practice.  While the details are still a bit on the fuzzy side, we have finally chosen a start date: January 2014!  Thankfully, that gives us a few months to dot all our i’s and cross all our t’s, as well as recruit our first group of willing students.  If you know anyone who would love to spend the year 2014 in Central America, serving while getting a Master’s Degree in Urban Ministries, PLEASE tell them about this amazing opportunity!  We can then get the ball rolling with CRWM and get them signed into the program.  I’m very excited about what opportunities and possibilities this program will bring, not only to our students but also to our communities! 

Family Whereabouts

From Ruth
As I write, our family of 8 is spread out in 5 different cities. Maya continues in Boston; Anton in El Salvador; Jonathan in Deep Springs College (California); Maria, Luana and Natalia at Casa Adobe (Santo Domingo, Costa Rica); Jim and I in Cartagena, Colombia.
The big –and for some surprising—family news is that we have just celebrated a wedding! No: none of our kids for now. Instead: my dad! Widowed for three-and-a-half years and now 80 years old, René has embarked on a new adventure with his new wife, Beatriz Alvarez. She will be leaving her native Colombia and her lawyering practice to join my dad in Buenos Aires. I never imagined I’d be walking my dad down the aisle! But in the midst of all the adjustments this change demands, we celebrate that it’s never too late for new life and love!
And as we all work, study, figure out vocations and live them out, we all continue learning, growing, and needing the prayers and support of our extended family and community.

Let's Talk

From Natalia

It’s not easy to keep children of many different ages to
listen to you, especially when they are not particularly interested in what you want to teach them. This past month we had a “taller”  (workshop) with most of the kids involved in the project, Bola bola. The point of this workshop was to help them with their presenting skills, both for the project in itself and the kid’s future necessities. The children who attended this event are between the ages of 6 and 14. They are very kind children who have an incredible amount of energy and for this reason have trouble sitting still. We decided to do this workshop in an interactive way, so that the kids may learn and enjoy themselves at the same time.

This workshop covered only 4 presentation qualities, which included, notes, projection, eye contact and body position. We played different games for each of them, such as making their voice heard over those of all the people surrounding them and molding others into the right body position. It was very interesting to watch the children do these activities, starting with their shyness and insecurity, which then ended with confidence. I could see how they were enjoying themselves, by their smiles and giggles when others would say or do something funny. I could see them soaking up the information we were giving them, trying to make sure they did not mess up in front of everyone. They were having fun and so was I watching them enjoy learning.

Once all the activities were over, we asked the general question: which were the four points we discussed here today? Most of them raised their hands, wanting to show of what they had learned, to show us how they knew it and they were paying attention. We felt that we had managed to teach them what we had planed on teaching them with much success and only hoped that in our next meeting with an adult they would employ these technics and make the presentation more formal in this way.

Prayer Requests

We ask for prayers for one of the community members here--Damaris--as she is considering leaving Casa Adobe along with her husband, Luis, and her daughter, Izayana.  We ask for wisdom and patience to be with all of us as we decide the next steps that need to be taken as well as God's love and peace to be with us no matter the outcome.

We ask for prayers of safety as Ginna, another member here at Casa Adobe, has gone to Michigan to work with the community at *culture is not optional ( a couple of months.  Pray that her time there is blessed and that she comes back to us healthy, happy and in one piece!

We also ask for prayers for Lady, one of our goats here, and her new baby Sage!  Sage was born just last week and is healthy and adorable.  Please pray that both mom and kid will continue to be healthy and happy here at Casa Adobe.

We Need Your Help

In the past, CRWM career missionaries had a support raising goal of 60% of the yearly worldwide average missionary cost. Now career missionaries will see the goal gradually rise to 90% of their individualized budgets. Newly appointed missionaries will need support commitments at 90% of their individualized budgets before being sent to the field. This new missionary support system will enable CRWM to replace retiring missionaries and send out new missionaries when they’re urgently needed.
The budget will cover basic needs and costs such as salary, taxes, housing, retirement contributions, insurance, travel to and from the field for the missionary (and spouse), and minimal support staff costs.  All other expenses (from continuing education and training to children’s travel and education expenses) will be “above basic costs” and will be funded by other means. 

Our budget for this coming year (July 2013-July 2014) is $128,124 with a minimum goal of $71,749.  Would you prayerfully consider helping us reach this goal?  For more information on what projects your financial contributions would help support, please visit



November 2012 Newsletter from the Padilla-DeBorsts


December 2011 Newsletter from the Padilla-DeBorsts


Feburary 2011 Newsletter from the DeBorsts


November 2010 Newsletter from the DeBorsts


September 2010 Newsletter from the Padilla-DeBorsts

Download PDF (4.3 MB)


April 2010 Newsletter from the Padilla-DeBorsts