I just returned from a trip to Calderón, Ecuador. My wife and I took a short-term mission team from Ninth & O Baptist Church, Louisville, KY to minister there during Spring Break. One of the greatest blessings of the trip was being able to take my daughter-in-law Carol and my grandson Abraham. He wasn’t able to enjoy the trip in the same way as the rest of us since he is not born yet, but at least he didn’t have to stress about luggage and where to sit on the plane.
It is always wonderful to be back in Ecuador, and this time was no different. We worked with a small mission that we helped to plant last July. They now have a place to meet and many in the community are beginning to attend regularly. We taught the believers New Testament classes, focusing on the “I Am” sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel and the timeline and significant events of Holy Week. We also taught them about Mormons and protecting the flock from cults. It was great to see them begin to grow and to show them how God’s Word speaks so clearly to their lives. We held evangelistic services in the evenings with praise and worship led by our brother Joselito. Some team members walked around the community inviting people to come to the services while others conducted a medical clinic. The children’s ministry touched our hearts as always, and on the last day, we were able to give out Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes filled with gifts sent from believers in the USA.
We also went into Quito and ministered in the Women’s prison one day. It was so sad to see that many babies and little children must live there with their imprisoned moms since there is nowhere else for them to go.
The spiritual needs in Ecuador are vast and overwhelming when considering the task with human eyes. As we walked around our mission’s community and lifted our eyes to the houses packing the hillsides in all directions, we were saddened to hear Joselito explain that there is no evangelical work in this area. So many people need to hear the gospel and those who have heard need churches and trained leaders to teach them. Even our burgeoning little mission in the rapidly growing area outside the capital city holds challenges for those of us who long to see a healthy New Testament church there. Who will pastor this work and disciple the believers? Sadly, this is not a solitary situation. We went up on top of Pichincha volcano and had a breathtaking 13,500 feet above sea-level bird’s eye view of the city sprawling through the valley below. As we looked down on Quito with its 2 million people, we were sobered to think that there are very few evangelical churches, and many have no pastor.
One day we drove up to Otavalo and toured the countryside of Imbabura province. While we reflected on the natural beauty there, Joselito remarked once again about the dearth of evangelical work and witness. Ecuador boasts some of the most beautiful country in the world, peopled with some of the most beautiful people, yet they sit in darkness, steeped in ChristiAnimism and superstition. The cults are eating away at the soft underbelly of their animistic fears, easily ensnaring them in hell-bound systems of lies. Most of you reading this blog could go and teach and never come to the point of exhausting all you know about the Bible to ready and willing listeners.
On the last day of the children’s Bible club, we gave out Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoeboxes. We were a little frustrated to learn that $1.00 had to be paid for each box since the brother in charge of distributing them throughout the country was forced to reroute trucks all over due to highway problems. Still, the kids’ reaction was worth the effort and expense. The kids were so thrilled to get the shoeboxes and many wrote thank-you notes. One little girl named Stefany wrote a note for me to send “to the United States.” It said, “Thank you for this gift. I am six years old and I like the gift that you sent very much. I live at this address . . .” At this point, she drew a picture of the street where she lives and where her little house is located on it. Her simple request and note captures the essence of her naïve innocence and the way she sees the world.
During the activities and worship, I looked around the tent we were using for a sanctuary at all of the children’s faces. Even through their smiles and singing, you could tell that many of them had already suffered some of the horrors that this fallen world offers. I could not help but reflect on the hard life that awaits most of them, even in the best-case scenarios of harsh poverty. I also thought about Stefany’s note with her address being a simple map showing the house where she lived. I wonder, what kind of map will she draw for where she lives one hundred years from now . . . or a million years . . . or a billion years? Will it be a house on a street paved with gold or in the fires of hell, amidst unutterable suffering? If she is in glory with most of the people who read blogs like this, will she be there because you went to tell her about Jesus or sent others who could? If she is in hell, will it be because you did not? Do not hide behind the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. No one believes that doctrine more strongly than I do, but He has chosen to use means, and we are those means. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” There’s the command. Jesus tells us where to go and what to do. You have the map to her house; I’ll meet you there.