Ecuador Trip – August 2019
In August of this year, I visited the province of Manabi on the coast of Ecuador. From the indigenous city of Jipijapa (which means “Indian Chief”) to the modern city of Manta, people are warm and glad that we have come to visit their country. Cities like Portoviejo date back to the 1500s, and other cities have an older and richer history. The food is delicious with tuna and swordfish and seafood being staples. In Manabi, you can be sure to find peanuts or peanut sauce in almost all dishes (interestingly, allergies among children to peanuts is not common). Fruits are large (very large) and tasty, making for delicious natural juices. Even the humpback whales like coming to the warm waters off the coast of Manabi, migrating over 4,000 miles from Antarctica to give birth to their calves.
Ecuador has had its share of natural disasters, the earthquake in 2016 being the last one that caused the death of almost 700 individuals and left 6,200 severely injured. As expected, pastors and churches ministered with food and shelter and gave spiritual comfort. Various church buildings collapsed. In Manabi, the epicenter of the earthquake, one can still see the many empty spaces where large buildings once filled its busy streets.
As with all Latin America, Roman Catholicism predominates, while evangelicals in Ecuador make up 30% of the population. Evangelical churches celebrate one or two services on Sundays, depending on tradition. They are also busy during the week with church activities. I was told that in the Sierra (highlands) it’s common for indigenous groups to have worship services with their dances and scriptural readings which can last up to five hours!
One church where I preached was rather traditional with songs from the hymnal while in another church the music was livelier with a band and God-glorifying music. All in all, believers are faithful and focus on growing in their knowledge of the scriptures. One example of this is the practice of having all the Sunday school classes, starting with kindergarten, youth and adults come to the stage to recite the Bible verse for the day right before the start of the worship hour.
Yet Ecuador is also in great need of leadership development. Seasoned leadership recognize the need to produce a new generation of young Hispanic leaders that will plant new works and pastor churches. As a result of this, Leadership Outreach has been given the opportunity to invest in the training of men and women who are currently involved in local churches and missions in the Province of Manabi. We currently have students from five cities:
- Ayacucho (Santa Ana)
The training of these leaders began with volume 9 on Church History in our B.T.C.P. curriculum. We are about to begin the study of volume 10 on missions, evangelism, and discipleship.
During our time there we visited each of the towns, some two hours away from our home base in Manta. Pastor Marco Pinargote, Vice-President of the Baptist Convention in Ecuador has agreed to coordinate all the centers for us. He kindly spent the week with me showing me the different towns and introducing me to our student-pastors. Pastor Marco’s church in Manta became inhabitable after the earthquake. They are now building a new sanctuary.
One of the pastors I met is Pastor Humberto Cevallos of Portoviejo. He and several of his mission leaders (pastors in training) are participating in our training program. One of these young men is Luis, a sharp leader with a passion for evangelism and discipleship. Together with the three missions, the church in Portoviejo is reaching the lost and serving the needy. They are thankful for Leadership Outreach.
I also met a young adult, Shirley Mora, who wants to prepare to be a missionary. She’s praying to discern how God wants to use her, whether in national or foreign missions. She would like to study at a Christian college here in the United States. We are praying that Shirly can join our training program in January.
I’m encouraged with the caliber of the students we have in Ecuador. More than fifteen pastors and mission leaders make up this group of over fifty students. And many of the lay leaders being trained are part of core leadership teams planting churches. For example, Guido Sanchez in Jipijapa is helping a church without a pastor in Jipijapa, while Pastor Rivera, who pastors in Manta, is older but recognizes his need for further theological training. He has encouraged others in his church and in Manta to be part of our training.
I was encouraged by the outpouring of gratitude and appreciation our ministry is receiving in Manabi. God has been gracious with us in extending our training. Plans are in place to promote our ministry in other cities and towns in Manabi, and possibly in other parts of Ecuador. Once again, I am humbled that the Lord would use me to train these leaders. We hope to be back in Ecuador next year.
Thank you for your prayers for the Church in Ecuador and for your financial support.
Roger P. Felipe, D.Min.