(Newsletter June 22, 2003)
Today’s stroll along the river near our apartment was particularly cultural. Because of yesterday afternoon’s rains, the water was running more swiftly and clearly than normal, so whole family groups were gathered to do their laundry. The atmosphere was unusually merry, though, because of a religious fiesta going on in town this weekend, so everyone seemed to be in a party mood. We suspected that the picnic baskets would be coming out shortly. We stopped in at the fish market, as well as at the fruit and vegetable stand. Business at both was brisk, probably in preparation for big family meals in the late afternoon. We sat on a bench to watch the world go by, and a young boy and his herd of goats came within a few feet of us. He was having quite a time keeping his stubborn, independent charges out of the street. A few yards further down we noticed a taxi parked beside the river and saw that the driver had gotten out to take a bath and had his hair completely lathered up — right there in the middle of the river! On the other side of the river, 4 or 5 cows were grazing, and some happy little boys were playing soccer. You talk about a great place to have a Backyard Bible Club?? This would be it! For us, it seems so good to be “home” again, among familiar sights, sounds, and smells, after being away for the past 2 weeks.
June 10-16, we were in Salinas (on the Pacific Coast) with all of the Southern Baptist missionaries serving here in Ecuador for the annual general meeting. Spending time with our colleagues, hearing about their work and swapping stories and advice was great fun. A former missionary and his wife, now serving in a pastorate in Texas, were there to teach Bible studies and preach. Being able to sing in English and hearing preaching in our “heart” language was absolutely wonderful. Maybe you haven’t thought about it, but missionaries are pretty much responsible for their own spiritual growth and development, so this was a much-needed time. We also had hours everyday for training and information, and meals were spent sharing and laughing. All of the missionaries who have moved to Ecuador since the last meeting were asked to give their testimonies, so Steve and I enjoyed telling our “story” on Friday night. There was a wide range of experience from which to glean wisdom — two couples planning to retire in another year, those with one year on the field and those with 30+ years, all the way to one new family with 5 children! A volunteer group from First Baptist Church, Trussville AL, was there to hold Vacation Bible School for all of the MK’s. That ministry allowed the kids to grow spiritually while their parents had a chance to get renewed without being distracted. The Trussville group also brought lots of grocery items from the States that are unavailable here, so an auction was held with the proceeds going to the Lottie Moon Offering or for the home missionaries we have in Ecuador. It was amazing what jars of crunchy peanut butter sold for! Steve was a mighty happy camper when he got 6 cans of potted meat for $11.00!
From Salinas, we went directly to the small town of Chunchi to join a medical team from Oklahoma, which was already at work. This group of thirty consisted of 3 medical doctors, 2 dentists, 2 eye doctors, several nurses, a pharmacist, assistants for each of these and children’s workers doing puppet shows, playing games, blowing bubbles, teaching songs and taking lots of Polaroid pictures (a treasure since so many of the children have never had a photograph of themselves). I was so impressed with the focus, stamina and dedication of the volunteers. The place where we stayed and the food we ate was “challenging,” but I never heard a word of whining or complaint. Clearly, they had come to be servants. Eight different villages were served by this team, and the very good news is that some of the best response came in a place with NO evangelical work. Steve and I hope that this experience will open the door for planting a new church in that community. At each location, Ecuadorian pastors were there witnessing and giving spiritual counseling. I don’t know how many total professions of faith there were, but at the last location on Friday afternoon, there were 9. The doctors all acknowledged that what they were able to do for the people was only a temporary fix, but the spiritual advances were eternal. Praise the Lord!
“To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12