The man who has mentored me for the last two and a half years is a piece of Ecuadorian Church History. He was the first Ecuadorian pastor in my province and planted many of the churches from which my current students come. His name is Victor Molina.
In my job as a missionary professor in Ecuador, I have the privilege of teaching pastors and church leaders all over the country. I was not long into ministry here when I began to hear stories of Pastor Molina.
Most of the stories went something like this: “Pastor Molina and my dad started our church,” or “Pastor Molina baptized me and married me and my wife.” Recently, I had lunch with the head of theological education for the Ecuadorian Baptist Convention who lives four provinces north of me. He told me that Victor was the man who shared the gospel with him, baptized him, married him, trained him for ministry, and sent him as a church planter. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I hear these kinds of stories all the time!
There is much to learn from the life of a man so greatly used by God, so here is a brief history of Pastor Victor Molina.
In January 1962, as a 24-year-old living in the capital city of Quito, Victor heard the gospel from a Baptist missionary and believed. He, as is still common to this day, was immediately rejected and shunned by his Catholic family for his new faith. Undeterred by this and eager to serve his Lord, Victor moved to the coastal city of Guayaquil to prepare for ministry at the Baptist Bible Institute.
Victor remembers, “They didn’t make it easy on us; they wanted us trained well.” He had to work hard to read huge theological books, often with tears, but he wouldn’t trade that training for the world.
After completing his three years of study in Guayaquil, Victor moved to the northern coastal city of Manta to help a missionary named Doyle plant the first Baptist church there. On the coast, he married his wife and had his three children. For 20 years, he used Manta as his base while he started pioneer church plants in many coastal cities including Jipijapa, Pajan, and Balzar.
In the middle of his coastal ministry, a seminary opened in Cali, Columbia. Victor immediately went to study, noting how important it is in ministry to be well-trained. He studied for four years of seminary and one year of post-graduate work while in Columbia and pastored a local Columbian church. After completion of his studies, it wasn’t long before he received a request from the 1st Baptist church in Cuenca, Ecuador to be their pastor. He refused this request for almost a year, knowing how hard work was in the mountains and not wanting to pull his coastal wife away from her culture. 11 months later, though, his wife and he agreed that God was calling them to move.
When Victor arrived to pastor the church, there was some evangelical ministry going on in the city, but there was not one other pastor. Knowing that the future of the ministry would rely on faithful laborers, he set to work making a Bible institute in Cuenca. He trained men and started many churches with them, including the 1st Baptist churches of Paute, Macas, Salinas, and Santa Barbara.
The Lord has worked mightily in this man’s life, and you would never know it when you met him. I didn’t know it when I went to his church on my first Sunday in Ecuador. He seemed to me to be a humble old Ecuadorian pastor… and really that is who he is.
He is a humble old pastor who has been mightily used of God. He took the necessary time to be trained well and has plodded along in the ministry for almost 60 years now. I know it might be too often said, but the saying is true: “In ministry, we too often overestimate what we can do in 5 years and underestimate what we can do in 50.” Victor’s life is a picture of that truth.
This Saturday, I have some marriage counseling to do with a couple that Victor married 17 years ago, and Victor chose to cancel a preaching trip to a new church plant in Cawashun that he had planned, so he could be there. He is often in other cities now, helping to start new churches or strengthen the ones he previously started. 80 years young, he continues in the work of the ministry, and when he has left this earth, the echoes of his life will continue to reverberate.
Praise God for his work in Victor’s life!