A couple weekends ago, we had the opportunity to visit Ibarra, Ecuador. The Extreme Team in Ibarra is a little over halfway through their two year assignment. We got to observe and help them with their normal and extra activities to learn what our jobs will be like in the future. There were extra activities this particular weekend because it was the first anniversary of their church, The Open Door Church of the Nazarene. Before we got there, the team had already held several evangelistic events throughout the week. We helped with a special children's event and a youth event.
|We sang many silly songs about Jesus. I think this one involved an elephant.|
In the morning, we hiked a ways from the church to a neighborhood with a preschool the missionaries had rented for the children's event. It was a small building with a kitchen, a classroom, and a bathroom. The outside space had a playground and a large cement area. We split up into teams to prepare the game materials, bag the snacks, and promote the event. Kensley, Damaris, and I were assigned to a promotion team with two missionaries from the Ibarra team. We walked up and down hills through the neighborhood avoiding dogs and knocking on anything that resembled a door. We talked with those who opened their doors and shouted with those who opened their windows inviting all to come to the preschool. We couldn't help but giggle at how absurd (and a little creepy) this would be in the states. Every person we invited smiled broadly and spoke enthusiastically about sending their children to a public space with complete strangers for the morning. The event itself went very smoothly and all the kids enjoyed themselves. My favorite part was watching the missionaries present the gospel and surround the children with prayer. They prayed over their hearts, their futures, and their families, making it very clear that God not only loved them, but wanted to comfort them and give them His purpose for their lives. My other favorite part was seeing a couple of the neighborhood kids at church the next day.
|Missionaries and children praying together|
In the afternoon, we went to a nursing home with the youth group. The guys broke off to play card games with the men, and we went to a different section to paint nails and chat with the women. I sat with one lady for a long time while she told me part of her life story. It started in Quito and ended in Ibarra and there was something about her son and selling meat, but the rest was a bunch of Spanish words mumbled barely above a whisper. I nodded and mirrored her emotions to the best of my ability, praying I wouldn't offend her in the process. After she finished, I excused myself to go talk with someone else. Krista then informed me that I had been sitting where another lady had had an accident right before I walked in. On average, I spent the entire day with small children and old ladies and I only sat in pee once, so I'll have to be content with that. Abi, one of the missionaries, was trying to talk with a woman in a wheelchair for a long time. The woman didn't seem too affected by the presence of visitors. When I walked by later, I saw the two embracing. The woman was crying and seemed to be trying to pull the young missionary into her. Abi told us later that she had finally tired of trying to engage the woman and had said a simple "God loves you" before standing up to leave. The woman had instantly burst into tears. It was a powerful reminder to us all of the need for God's love and the need to speak His love into each others' lives.
Extreme churches run on small groups called houses of prayer. Damaris, Rachel, and I got to go to one of Abi and Michaela's houses of prayer. These missionary partners are now attending the group as one of their disciples has taken over the leadership. Her name is Cecile. She is the oldest of four sisters. When Abi and Michaela first met Cecile's family, both parents and all three younger sisters were excited to devote their lives to Christ and begin learning more about the Bible. Cecile was the only hold out. She really wanted nothing to do with God and avoided the whole thing as much as she could. Months went by as Abi, Michaela, and the whole family continued to pray for Cecile. Slowly, her heart began to soften, and her attitude changed. She went to a couple events and then a couple services. Finally, Cecile surrendered her life to God. Now all six members of the family are strong leaders in the church. After telling us her story, Cecile begged us to have patience with the people of Cordoba. "Persevere! Please persevere! You will meet people like me. Don't give up on them! If Michaela and Abi had given up on me, I wouldn't be here. I never would have changed. Please have perseverance and patience. It will be worth it." We expected to learn from the missionaries in Ibarra. We never thought we would be so encouraged by a new Christian in Ecuador with such a heart for the lost in Argentina. We intend to follow her advice and make her proud.
The Sunday morning service was standing room only. The missionaries in charge of each ministry shared their goals for the future and introduced the local leaders who were in the process of taking over the ministry from the missionaries. I can't wait to hear what happens in this church during the next ten months that the missionaries are stationed there and what amazing things the local leadership will continue to do after they leave.