RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The Quichua people of Ecuador have traveled all over the world, says one International Mission Board missionary, but few, if any, have gone for the sake of the Gospel — until now.
Sam and Chelsea Cordell* recently left 10 years of mission work with the Quichua in Ecuador to start churches among slum dwellers in a South Asian city of 14 million people. Before they left, 18 Quichua Christians committed to help the Cordells spread the Gospel in their new location.
“They go to other countries for education and work — many times illegally — but none have gone as missionaries,” Cordell says of the Quichua people. “Now is the time … these young men want to be the first of many Quichua believers to go for the one true God and share Jesus.”
Sam and Chelsea Cordell, from Texas and Montana, have immersed their lives and hearts in the Quichua culture and its people, known for their felt hats and colorful ponchos. In time, more than 80 new house churches sprung up among a segment of the Quichua. Last year, the Cordells and IMB leaders decided that the growth meant it was time for the couple to start churches in another area, and the Cordells felt drawn to South Asia. Cordell recalls how touched their Quichua friends were by the move to South Asia.
“They began to come to me one at a time in private and say, ‘I hope I have a chance to go with you,'” Cordell recounts.
“I would say, ‘If that’s what God wants, God will provide a way.'”
Since then, church leaders, students, farmers and businessmen have committed to serve two to three years in South Asia with the Cordells. Making the move from Ecuador to the “other side the world” won’t be easy for the Quichua team.
Most Quichua don’t make much more than $200 a month. Some students don’t make much more than a couple of dollars a month.
The Quichua team will rely heavily on financial support from their churches, families and others willing to help. Most members of the Quichua team plan to go sometime between 2011 and 2013.
Cebrian Bolivar* is one who pledged to help the Cordells in South Asia. His father, however, was hesitant to let his son leave Ecuador. One of 10 children, Bolivar would be the first to venture so far from home.
Bolivar approached his father with a proposal, Cordell recounts, “Dad, you have 10 children. Give me as a tithe, an offering to serve the Lord.”
After days of “battling, crying and calling out to God,” his father agreed.
“God was faithful and spoke to us from the Word about Abraham giving his son,” the father told Cordell. “Now I understand why we should not lose the blessing of what God wants to do through us.”
Though involvement in overseas missions is new for the Quichua, sharing their faith outside their homes is not. Some Quichua have traveled to as many as nine different provinces throughout Ecuador to spread the Gospel.
The Quichua will fit in well among the people of South Asia, Cordell contends. Their lower social and financial status, darker complexion and ability to survive more easily on less will allow them to blend in better than most Westerners.
Even the simple task of taking a bus puts the Quichua, who often view public transportation as a luxury instead of an inconvenience, at an advantage.
“They say, ‘Wow, a bus,'” Cordell says. “‘Hey, I got lucky today. I don’t have to walk four miles to town.'”
The Quichua Christians’ willingness to join the Cordells’ work is still rare, says Terry Lassiter, an IMB strategist for the American peoples.
“This is an exciting example of what we want to see more and more from the Americas,” Lassiter says.
“The idea of minority indigenous peoples doing this shows us that the Great Commission task is for all peoples.”
“These are experienced and fruitful church planters,” says another IMB missionary who will be supervising the Cordells in South Asia.
“This has great potential for the Gospel in South Asia,” he adds. “We are standing on the threshold of a Great Commission breakthrough.”
*Names changed. Alan James is a writer for the International Mission Board.