“And He [Jesus] said to them, Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race]. [Mark 16:15 (AMP)]
On Sept 10-17, 2016, I traveled to Ecuador with 9 others to do just that. This was a new experience for me. “What?” You ask, “He has been to Ecuador many times!” But that was for construction and medical missions. This was different. It was a concerted effort to plant seeds and harvest new Believers in Jesus. Yes, when I first became a Believer I took the requisite classes on witnessing, but I have never been part of a concerted effort such as this. We had been called to spread the Good News and to assist a fledgling church in the barrio of Orquideas (Orchid), which is part of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
What does a church planting team do? Just what name implies. We walk the streets of a neighborhood telling everyone we can about Jesus, digging and planting Him into the lives of those we meet. Praying as we go, quietly planting His seed in the homes of those who are not home and speaking with those who are. We did this 1) because He commands us to do so in Mark 16:15 and Matt 28:19-20, 2) because we had been asked to come by the Church of God organization in Ecuador, and 3) because we love the Ecuadorian people and want to see many of them in Heaven one day. (This is not to show any less concern and love for our close neighbors in the US.) We also held daily discipleship classes for the new Believers and anyone else who wanted to attend. These classes were designed to help them through the first steps of their walk with Jesus. Each new believer received a study book, a Bible, and a small gift bag of toiletry items.
The 10 of us flew to Guayaquil on Sept. 10, travelling in small groups on different flights. I traveled with two others and we were supposed to fly to Charlotte, where we were to meet two other team members for a flight to Miami, and then on to Guayaquil. I say “supposed” because as we taxied out the RDU runway, we heard a grinding noise. It is not unusual to hear the various controls being tested as you taxi, but this seemed excessive. And, the pilot soon announced that we had to return to the terminal due to a suspected mechanical problem. We had close connections in both Charlotte and Miami, so it was immediately evident to us that we would not make our connections. But the Lord had other plans in mind. “All things work to the good…” The flight was delayed, but American Airlines was able to transfer us, but not our luggage, to a direct flight to Miami that arrived about the same time as our original schedule. So, making our connection we arrived in Guayaquil at approximately 1:30am Sunday morning as planned. Unfortunately, our luggage was not so fortunate. It was delivered to the hotel while we were out ministering on Monday. This, in itself, was a blessing because usually we must return to the airport to claim luggage. I guess you could say we had divine appointments with our rebooked flight and our luggage. God is good!
Our daily schedule was:
- Prayer on the roof
- Go to Orquideas
- Assemble with the translators and locals who were working with us
- Minister on the streets from 10 until 12-12:30
- Honor siesta time from 12:30 until 2pm
- Minister on the streets from about 2pm until 4
- Conduct discipleship classes from 4 until 5:30 or so.
- Head back to hotel for dinner
- End the day with a time of sharing and prayer on the roof.
Simply put, the experience was awesome. Every one of those items on the schedule was full of divine appointments. Every moment in prayer on the roof was a divine appointment with Father God. Each person we met on the street was a divine appointment with both the Holy Spirit and the individual with whom we spoke. It is extremely inspiring to watch someone’s eyes as the Lord touches their heart through His message of repentance and salvation.
Our means of introduction was a simple flier inviting them, their family, friends, and neighbors to a free medical clinic on Sat, Sept. 17. The clinic was conducted by Hands of Compassion Medical Clinic in Guayaquil, which we helped found several years ago. They provide free medical care at their building as well as in various locations around the city. Saturday’s clinic was held in the park where we assembled and held the discipleship classes. Some of the funding for the clinic came from those who supported me on this trip.
Lest you misunderstand, we were not specifically soliciting people to become members of this church. Our goal was to introduce them to becoming a member of God’s family. They did meet the pastor, Luis Gonzalez, at the discipleship class and he invited them to attend the church he pastors. However, if they indicated they already attended a church, we assured them that we did not want to take them away from their home congregation.
After inviting them to the clinic, we inquired about prayer requests. We received many requests for jobs, family unity/reunification, marriage healing, physical healing, life direction, freedom from drugs for themselves or a family member, etc. Sure, we had those who took the flier and kept walking and those who ignored us, though we could see that someone was in the home. We prayed for believer and non-believer alike. Many of the non-believers with whom we were privileged to pray with and speak to about Jesus accepted Him as Savior.
It is hard to keep an accurate count, but we are confident that over 340 new brothers and sisters joined the Family of God that week, including at least 25 children through the special ministry that one of our team members, Beverly, conducted during the discipleship times.
I was paired with Pastor Dial, and we along with our translator and one or two members of the community, were privileged to pray with a lady concerning her son who is on drugs, for a 45-day-old baby experiencing a problem with her belly button, with a young widow who is seeking God’s man for her and her children, an 89 year old lady who is suffering with depression due to the recent loss of her sister, with an artist and his wife–for his wife, with a man walking down the street selling lottery tickets who wanted his marriage restored, and on, and on. And those are only some the requests that Pastor Dial and I received. There were four other teams out praying as well. (For a list of prayer requests from those to whom we ministered, see my blog post Prayer Requests from Ecuador.)
One particular prayer request that touched me was the man selling lottery tickets who wanted to be reunited with his wife, because that is what God did for Sue and I many years ago. We not only prayed with him for the restoration of his marriage, but he accepted Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Another special time was a young widow with three children. The key to her salvation was her children and her desire that they have a Believing man to help guide them into adulthood.
One day as we returned for lunch, we learned that a few minutes earlier, Mario, our translator, had taken a knife away from two young men. As I understand it, he discovered that they were planning to rob for drug money. We aren’t clear whether any of us were the intended targets. Somehow, he got both of them into a headlock, one under each arm, and witnessed to them. (I sure would have liked to witnessed that.) They accepted the Lord and were in my discipleship class. They were both very polite and attentive and thanked me afterwards. Maybe they were afraid of what Mario would do–he is Ecuadorian and pastors a church about three hours from Guayaquil. However, he spent many years on the streets of New York City. Need I say more? Seriously, I did sense that their commitment was genuine.
After praying, we continued with the presentation of the Good News and frequently a personal testimony. As I said earlier, it was very spiritually uplifting to watch the Lord work as we told them about His story.
The following are pictures of our activities:
Sunday morning we attended services at a church founded two years ago with the help of a church planting team. Their first meeting was in the street by a vacant lot where their building is now located. Last fall, Pastor Dial and a team worshiped with them in the borrowed building. After that service, they prayed on this empty lot for a permanent building (slide picture behind Pastor Dial shows this prayer time). The Lord provided that very lot and in one year they completed the building and already need to expand. So, after service, we went into the remaining portion of the vacant lot and prayed for an expansion of this building. Now we will look forward to see how God answers this prayer.
The team met twice daily for prayer on the roof of the hotel. You cannot be successful without prayer.
Each day, we ministered with these beautiful people:
In these streets:
And we met and ministered to many whom God loves:
Who were also taught in discipleship classes:
Some other interesting pictures:
Siesta time. Many Ecuadorians do observe a midday siesta and we honored that by not going out between noon and 2pm. Of course, we had to join them. Wouldn’t want to offend…. 😉
Finally, we received one more blessing to top the week off. Five of us were supposed to fly to RDU via Chicago, meeting up with one more of our team in Chicago. To make a long story short, we were all blessed to learn that there was a direct flight to RDU. A flight that would get us home three hours early. Yes!
One team member was rebooked on that flight when his Chicago flight had mechanical problems. The rest of us learned that our flight was overbooked. It was a no-brainer to volunteer to switch flights. We not only arrived home early, but had vouchers in our pockets. One last divine appointment! Isn’t God good?
Thank You Jesus for a blessed mission that resulted in so many new family members. May they remain true to you as You nurture and lead them on their walk with You!
Please pray regularly for our brothers and sisters in Ecuador. But never neglect to pray for our own country — still the greatest nation in existence today, and for both Israel and the Jewish people. (2 Chron. 7:14; Ps 122:6; Isa 62:6)
Until next time…“May the Lord Bless and Keep you. May He make His face shine on you and show you His favor. May God lift up His face toward you and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26)