Aaron & Cassie Gortmaker
Aaron and Cassie are both from Michigan and were raised in loving, Christian homes. Each accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior at a young age and met while at Cornerstone University in their home state of Michigan. Married in 2002 their dream was that one day the Lord would lead them to serve in full-time camp and youth ministry. They love sharing stories about how deeply their lives were impacted by experiences they had at Christian camps while growing up.
Thirteen years and many adventures later, the Lord called them into full-time ministry. They were commissioned by United World Mission in 2015 and moved to Costa Rica in 2017 to enter language training and start building relationships with local churches. In 2018 they moved to Guanacaste to begin camps, classes, and conferences that would encourage and equip pastors to effectively care for their local communities. Currently, they teach classes, host, and facilitate events, and disciple individuals; however, through joining Árbol de Vida, God provided a way to resource local pastors in a central location, which will undoubtedly benefit many more families, churches, and communities.
Aaron and Cassie have 5 children: Micah, Mia, Merry, Manna and Mercy and live near the 2nd largest city in Costa Rica, called Liberia. Their passion is to serve the Lord and the people of Guanacaste…to see an emboldened generation of Christians who all fulfill the great commission. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not just for pastors or missionaries – it’s God’s call for the body of believers to do together. The focus of Árbol de Vida is to train God’s people TO LIVE LIKE CHRIST, in the light of the gospel, and to conquer the darkness through the unity of the Church.
Phil and Durley Hogan
Board President & Secretary
Hobe Sound, FL
Phil & Durley Hogan first moved to northern Costa Rica in the mid-70s to operate a farm & ranching business. During this time, the Lord planted a desire to start a ministry in the region. Years after moving back to the states, that dream became reality as the Lord affirmed their prayers with an opportunity to return to Costa Rica and launch the ministry of Árbol de Vida. Since 2005, they have hosted over 30 mission teams, evangelizing and supporting local communities and churches near the camp property in Guayabo de Bagaces, as well as on the Macarrón Island of Nicaragua. Phil and Durley believe this ministry fulfills the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus, found in Matthew 28. Their hope is 1) that Árbol de Vida would be a center for education, encouragement & growth in principles of Jesus Christ and 2) that God would reveal Himself in powerful ways through this ministry – even beyond their comprehension!
Singer Island, FL
Marcia Mata has served with Árbol de Vida since 2014 alongside her husband, Lou Ritchie(Founder & Investor of Árbol de Vida). During her many trips to Costa Rica, she enjoys helping as a translator. Marcia sees the power of cross-cultural relationships in ministry, especially as she’s helped facilitate different seminars for pastors – one which welcomed 350 people. Originally from Brazil, Marcia remembers how special it was to host a large group of Brazilian pastors and connect them to the people of Costa Rica. Marcia believes the Lord has great plans to continue deeply transforming pastors, families and local communities through Árbol de Vida.
Josie has served more than 8 years with the ministry of Arbol de Vida. She first became involved with missions through serving on trips to Honduras. By working alongside full-time missionaries, she saw how God could use part-time service to accomplish His will. Josie is a Florida born gal, who loves the Lord and the people of Latin America. She says she has been to Costa Rica more times now than she can count! The “Hardy House” at Árbol de Vida is named in honor of her late husband, Ron Hardy.