One year ago this week, the country of Ecuador was struck with a massive earthquake. According to USAID, 660 people were killed, over 4,600 were injured, and more than 30,200 were displaced from their homes.
In the midst of catastrophic devastation such as this, it is difficult to see how God could possibly use the situation for good. But, He does indeed! Thanks to your faithfulness in caring for these suffering families, local churches and Ecuadorian mission organizations in the area are being equipped to rebuild homes and share the Gospel. And, God is working miracles amongst them.
Normally, we would summarize what progress has been made based upon the reports from our mission partners on the ground. This time, however, we felt we could more accurately communicate our partner's excitement by sharing our partner's story with you directly in their own words.
Throughout the rebuilding process, God has blessed our work and has opened doors to spread the Good News of Jesus in magnificent ways. Without further ado, please enjoy this story with us from IDES' mission partner in Ecuador:
"The earthquake in Ecuador on April 16 brought many tragedies, but we see how God is rebuilding eternal foundations in lives that are turning back to him.
Our first contact to the affected area was through the wife of one of our Ecuadorian pastors, Karen. Karen has family in San Vicente, a coastal town 7 hours north of Guayaquil. We soon received a plea to come and bring whatever help we could. We loaded up what vehicles we had available with food and basic need provisions and made the long trek on the earthquake damaged roads to the the edge of Ecuador. People were so eager to receive help, to see someone had thought of them. They weren’t forgotten.
On our second trip, we did more than just take provisions. We wanted our help to be more than temporary relief. We wanted to help rebuild the devastated community.
Through Karen’s family, we got an introduction to the mayor. We needed her to give us the permits to start building. We told her: “Our mission is to reconcile man to God through Jesus Christ. Our objective is to share the love of God with the community, in an active way, through the much anticipated reconstruction.” We showed her the housing plans and the project stages.
The mayor was so thrilled with our proposal, so excited that Christians would be mobilized to bless those in her community, she welcomed us with open arms. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Welcome to San Vicente! Please build a church in our area. I receive you with open arms and I thank you for your proposal. I give you my word that I will give you land to build that church.”
She pulled the strings with her team and gave us the construction permit within 24 hours. Usually, it’s a 30 day wait period. At the end of our meeting with the mayor, we prayed for her, for God to renew her strength and use her to bless the community. God is clearly at work, moving everything necessary so we can reach this town and the surrounding area.
We dream about raising a church in that area. We dream about expanding God’s kingdom. We understand that the earthquake has brought us the opportunity to share hope with those who have lost it. Through Jesus, God has given us hope of eternal victory.
We faced a big challenge as we were breaking ground on the first property. We had just finished the first day of labor, marking off the property lines and digging holes for the foundational pillars, when the next door neighbor said the property line was wrong. We decided to stop work right there. Any property line issues needed to be resolved before we went on. The young couple whose house we were rebuilding, Alfredo and Elizabeth, had been working side by side with us all day.
They were so discouraged to see us stop. Alfredo felt that this was just another set-back in his life full of set-backs. Samuel, our team leader, pulled him aside to encourage him saying, “God did not send us to bring you another defeat. He wants you to live victoriously in Him.” And broken Alfredo accepted Jesus that day! His wife, Elizabeth, and aunt accepted Christ the next day. And they helped us to work on their neighbor’s property, literally partnering in God’s work to bless others.
We have moved past providing basic staples to rebuilding homes and the community in San Vicente. So far, we have built 10 houses. We have planned 40 more for a total of 50 houses. The mayor who has favored us since our first meeting has come through with her promise to donate land. She signed over a large empty property and we now have the papers. We are drawing up plans and will begin construction March of 2017.
The church building will have a worship center, classrooms, offices, and restrooms. The property is large enough, we also plan to build a children’s center with classrooms, offices, restrooms, a kitchen and a multi-purpose athletic field. We have faced big challenges along the way with legalizing properties, obtaining construction materials, work crew illnesses,
but God is faithful. Every challenge we have faced has turned into a blessing.
We have earned the respect of the local government. The community sees that we are investing in them and are settling in for the long haul. God continues to open doors. As we continue to build homes, He continues providing resources and workers. We also see how He is expanding his kingdom in this part of Ecuador.
We look forward to continue partnering with you to accomplish what God has laid before us."