Up until the week before we left for Ecuador we were unsure who God had prepared to be a part of the design team and we were not even sure what the dates of the trip would be. Two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, two of our volunteers dropped out on us within an hour of each other, which left us scrambling to either find last minute replacements or postpone the trip. To top things off, our remaining architect who had been on one previous EMI trip, Mark Soroko, realized his passport lapsed and needed to be renewed. The deck seemed stacked against this trip leaving on time. We had commitments from Mike Young, a seasoned civil/structural engineer with lots of EMI experience and Mike Magill, a PhD professor in structural/mechanical engineering who also had volunteered on one EMI trip several years back. Unfortunately, if we were forced to postpone the trip (which was looking very probable) it might mean having to replace one or both of them as well.
Fortunately, God was preparing the exact right people to go on this trip at the exact right time. On the day we had to order plane tickets in order to keep the current trip schedule, God came through on the delivery of Mark’s passport AND our electrical engineer vacancy was miraculously filled by a first time EMI volunteer, Russ Bogardus. Suddenly, (after all the uncertainty of whether we would have to postpone the trip) we realized, we have a lot to do before we can leave in a week! The trip leader and professional surveyor, Bob Smith, who I am learning from in a co-leader role on this trip assured me that all EMI trips are not like this. Together with our two EMI interns, Devon Hall (mechanical engineer grad) and Jihea Kim (architecture grad) we managed to get everything done for an on time departure to Ecuador.
One of the great things about EMI trips is that the design teams have usually never met before the trip. We all met up in the Houston airport and flew together to Quito, Ecuador.
We arrived in Quito at midnight after a long day of travel and slept in guest dorms at the ministries seminary. The next day we went to a 2.5 hr church service that was entirely in Spanish and I NO HABLO ESPANOL. I literally thought it was about to be over at least 2 times before the actual sermon STARTED! But, it was great to worship in a different cultural context and see yet again that Jesus transcends our many differences. There is something about singing worship songs and hymns that I know in English while everyone else is singing a different language that brings a sense of unity (at least to me). The rest of the church might have thought I was singing in tongues (and I guess I was), but technically it was interpreted simultaneously and no one seemed offended ;).
After church we ate lunch at the church and then got on the road for a four hour trip to Quininde, Ecuador where we would be spending the next week to serve Corporacion Mision San Lucas (CMSL). After arriving, we ate dinner and got to hear the ministry share the vision God has given them to reach the people in this area of Ecuador.
Quininde is a small urban community that has a population of about 55,000, which is about the same size as Auburn, AL. It is situated along a river in the mostly rural coastal region of Ecuador. Quininde is rampant with extreme poverty, drug use, sexual abuse of children, STDs, prostitution, gangs, hired murder, and racism. A large portion of the population in Quininde are actually Africans that ended up in South America in the 1500’s when a slave ship wrecked off the coast of Ecuador. The African Ecuadorians are heavily discriminated against and are treated as outcasts in the community.
The primary religion in Ecuador is Catholicism, but the country is marginally evangelized. While most have a basic knowledge of Jesus through the Catholic church, very few have a personal relationship with Him. I was surprised to hear that the Catholic church is actually the main source of persecution for Protestant churches and ministries in Ecuador, including CMSL (which I will explain in further detail in another post). The adverse relationship certainly makes sense when you look at the history between Catholic and Protestant churches, but it is not something I have seen or experienced in the US.
God has given CMSL vision to serve some of the poorest areas of Quininde, which are also the areas with the highest concentrations of major sin strongholds. The ministry in Quininde was born out of the heart of an Ecuadorian doctor named Yeny (pronounced Jenny) and her husband Ruperto. CMSL starts by actively praying for the communities they are engaging in ministry. Next they begin Bible studies for the women of the community, followed by ministry programs for the children. They bring hope to the community by loving them, giving them biblically based training and education, providing a place of refuge for the abused, providing a support system within the community, providing medical care and health training, providing meals, and much more. The same things that Jesus did in the communities He visited. Also, by bringing people within the community to Christ and making disciples of them, they are able to train them to lead the ministry projects and provide ownership of the ministry to the community.
CMSL has asked EMI to come and design a master plan for a 5 acre site that the ministry has acquired that they are calling the House of Hope (Casa de Esperanza). They have the vision to build a full service medical clinic that can serve the poor in the community, some storefront areas along the road frontage to provide ministry support services and rental income, and a shelter for abused children at the back of the property. The storefront areas could include a Christian bookstore, a pharmacy, an internet café that would not promulgate pornography and gambling (as the others in Quininde do), and provide a space for micro-industry training. The storefronts and medical clinic would be available for public access at the front of the property and the structures would serve to close off the remainder of the property for private access to the abused children shelter and a children sports area in the center of the property. It is a huge vision, but Yeny and her incredible team have already proven that God is able to accomplish the impossible with a little faith in Him (I will elaborate more on this in the next post). A vital part of her team is a Canadian missionary couple, Fred and Arlene Jonkman, who have been instrumental in getting EMI involved and bringing other ministry work teams in to assist with the incredible things God is doing in Quininde.
I am excited to have an opportunity be a part of this ministry this week!