Note from Santo Domingo
What a week it has been for our team! We flew into Quito Friday night, and on Saturday drove down the mountains 4,000 feet in altitude to Santo Domingo de Los Colorados (of the red people, named for the Tsachila people, who paint their hair red with coriander seeds). We are staying in a lovely hotel with very nice staff, and God has allowed us the privilege of ministering in several ways we expected, and others we did not anticipate.
John, Nik, and Josh have now conducted four sections of the pastoral training seminar. John begins each session with a meditation on worship, helping ground our theological discussions in the worship of God. Nik has covered the doctrines of God, salvation, and Christ. Josh taught the doctrines of creation, man, and resurrection. These pastors, their wives, and church leaders who come for the training are hungry for truth and it is an encouragement to us to see them glorify God as we study His truth together.
Michele, Janine, Lauren, Abby, Bethany, and Amy led a women's ministry conference on Saturday. Michele spoke to a group of approximately fifteen women, encouraging them to love God in their homes, marriages, and families. She also focused on the equal bearing the image of God between men and women. Sunday night, Lauren spoke to a group of teenage girls and older women on biblical sexuality. Everywhere we go Amy, Bethany, and Abby quickly attract circles of girls and small children who want to talk and play with them.
We were invited to come visit a local private school, and on Monday and Wednesday we went and worked with 120 children. Michele and Janine headed a team working with crafts and bible stories, while Nik and Josh headed the team playing dodgeball and then doing a devotional (the second group was slightly older). Children are children everywhere, and Ecuador was no exception. We were greeted with bright smiles and excited faces as we attempted to use our minimal Spanish to share the love of God with His smaller image bearers. Cody and Maria both worked with us, helping to translate and organize.
The Whitaker family has been a highlight of our time in Ecuador. They are dedicated to spreading the gospel, working with local pastors to enhance biblical knowledge and faith, and Cody in particular is always on the lookout for moments to share the gospel. When we were in Queninde Sunday night, John accidentally caused a potential insult by refusing a gift of papayas. Cody took this moment and turned it into an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with two young Ecuadorian men. His evangelistic zeal is an example to us. He and Maria are the only Reaching and Teaching personnel in this region of Ecuador, and we have been able to spend a good deal of time encouraging them in their work. Missionary efforts in a cross-cultural context can be incredibly lonely, and it has been our joy to encourage the Whitakers in their work. Cody and Maria have three children: Isabella (11), Jacob (5), and Gabriella (11 months). They are sweet children, and our team has grown quite fond of all three.
Saturday night we worshipped with Pastor Esteban's church. They welcomed us warmly, and because they projected the lyrics on the wall we were able to worship through song with them. It was a beautiful moment showing how the gospel transcends national and linguistic boundaries. On Sunday, we worshipped with Pastor Jorge's church in Santo Domingo (this church is also hosting the pastoral training seminar), and then we visited their church plant in Queninde. This plant is among an indigenous people, and was noticeably more poverty stricken than the church in Santo Domingo. Pastor Jorge and his Pastor's College students began this mission church six months ago, and they regularly have around fifty community members attend. During the bible study hour, many team members played with children do that parents could attend the adult bible study. During the service, Josh preached on the Prodigal Son with the help of Pastor Jorge's translation.
Tuesday was our cultural awareness day. We visited a pineapple farm (Pastor Jorge arranged the tour), and we tasted better pineapple than ever reaches the United States! The fresh fruit alone is an excellent reason to visit Ecuador. We also visited an indigenous tribe tourist reservation. The Tsachila are a traditional people with shamanistic animism as their tribal religion. One of the men attending the pastoral training seminar is a pastor in a church among the Tsachila people - pray that the gospel would continue to go forth among them.
It has been a wonderful week so far. God opened further opportunities for the ladies to visit an orphanage and minister to the children there. As we continue to visit with some of the local churches and have the pastoral training seminar for a couple of more days, please pray for us as we search for opportunities to share the gospel in Ecuador and be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters here!
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