Since I last blogged I have had lunch on an active volcano, hiked deep into the Amazon jungle with a machete in hand and eaten termites just to be able to say I had. I stood on the equator with one foot in the North and one in the South. I have gazed on unparalleled beauty and been stunned by God’s creativity in design in nature. “For God’s invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20) and never has this been more evident to me than hiking through the Amazon jungle or standing 14,000 ft above sea level looking our over the city of Quito, surrounded by majestic mountains. But more than the grandeur and beauty of the landscape I have, once again, been surprised and apprehended by God’s sovereignty and grace through His desire and willingness to direct my steps and involve me in His grand story.
When I was invited to Quito, it was for the purpose of teaching discipleship to a group of pastors who do not have access to theological training. I had prepared and planned with this task in mind. However, just hours before the seminar was to began, I received word that work schedules had changed suddenly and none of the pastors would be able to attend. Certainly in such a situation it is not a surprise that I was a little disoriented and confused by an apparent wasted trip to South America. However, it would not take long before the promise that “man makes his plans, but God directs his steps” was ringing load in my ears as God begin to reveal His purposes.
Because of my abrupt change in plans, I was invited to travel to Shell Mara, which is about 5 hours away from Quito. Shell Mara was the headquarters of Jim Elliot and his team when they were attempting to connect with the Huaorani Indian tribe. My traveling companions had no idea of my life-long desire to visit Shell Mara and I had no idea where we were going until we had arrived there. This was an incredible blessing that I will never forget. I have long admired and been challenged by Jim Elliot and the other missionaries who were martyred for their faith and now I am deeply humbled that God would use me to water the fruit that was planted by the blood of my missionary hero.
As wonderful as all of these experiences were, the greatest experience continues. You see, one of my new friends is a pastor in the city of Quito. Remember, I had no plans to travel with him because of the other plans that we had made previously. But as we begin to talk and dream it was clear that we dreamed the same dreams and were committed to the same work. Before the end of the week I would find myself meeting with a group of leaders from this pastor’s church and before the end of that meeting it would become even more clear that this was the reason that God had brought me to Quito. This pastor and church are deeply burdened for their city but simply lack the training and examples of how to most effectively reach and disciple their city. Most of the pastors in, and around, the city do not have access to theological training and they are crying out for others to help them advance the gospel and teach the Bible on a level that they, themselves, have not been trained. Surprise! This is the thing that I am most passionate about and the thing that I feel most compelled to do. And suddenly standing before me was a pastor and church asking me to disciple them so that they might disciple others so that their city might be transformed with the gospel for God’s glory.
We are already making plans to return to this beautiful city in 2014, but in the mean time I will begin preparing short lessons on discipleship and posting them online for the church to use in training until I can return and teach them face to face. We will dialogue on a regular basis regarding questions that they might have as they engage with the lessons or real life matters of discipleship. The internet has certainly shrunk the world and changed the face of mission work.
Please pray for our continued involvement in Ecuador and especially for this church and missionaries like Carlos and Evelyn Ruiz who labor daily in this culture to make the name of Christ known. Pray that God would use us to strengthen the church and raise up strong men of God and families who will be part of a disciplining and church planting revolution in Quito. Thank you to all who partner with us to make ministry like this possible. You are making an eternal investment that you may never see or people you may not meet until we walk together in eternity.
My Ecuadorian familyThe headquarters of Jim Elliot and other missionaries martyred in 1956