GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (BP)–In a matter of hours Sept. 30, a nation of 14 million people found itself at the mercy of gangs and hoodlums, ransacking and looting at will.
Ecuador, the South American nation I have served as a Southern Baptist missionary for 24 years, isn’t known for being politically stable. With eight presidents in the last 10 years, Ecuadorians have seen many uprisings, strikes, demonstrations and unrest. Trouble struck again Sept. 30.
That day, as we were going out to celebrate my wife’s birthday, we noticed people running down the streets. Traffic backed up along the side streets of our neighborhood. Within minutes, word spread: “The national police are striking. Go home immediately, lock your doors and stay there!”
Even as I rushed to get back to our house, businesses were locking up and people were jumping into their cars. When I stopped someone to ask what was going on, he shouted, “They’ve robbed the bank down the street! There is looting all along the shopping district a block away!”
With the threat of more than 40,000 national police walking off the job, chaos and terror soon reigned across the country.
Here’s the short version of the disputed events that sparked the violence: On Sept. 29, the National Congress did away with some of the benefits and pay bonuses police were accustomed to receiving. Angered, police officials called the strike.
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, went to the national police headquarters in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, that afternoon to challenge officials to get their units back on duty. After a tense exchange, Correa was roughed up and tear-gassed. He was taken — irony of ironies — to the Police Hospital across the street for medical treatment. While being treated, Correa allegedly was held against his will by the police.
Around 9 p.m., the military was called out to free the president. In an operation televised live to the nation, military units moved on the hospital. For more than 30 minutes, they exchanged heavy gunfire with the police inside. Eventually the president was whisked out in a dramatic rescue that left several dead and wounded.
Things have calmed down in the days since to about 70 percent “normal,” but the country remains under a declared state of siege.
After living in Ecuador for 35 years (11 as a “missionary kid” with my parents, 24 as a missionary) my heart has become closely knitted to the warm and gracious people I love. Along with our Ecuadorian brothers and sisters in Christ, my wife, Linda, and I felt deep sadness at seeing such needless destruction, fear and chaos.
While this latest round of political unrest is tragic, we ask Christians around the world to pray that it will become the catalyst for a long-awaited harvest of souls here in Ecuador. On Oct. 10, all evangelical Christians in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, will unite in a citywide evangelistic effort. We will blanket the city’s schools, parks, media, homes, government offices and sports arenas in an attempt to reach the entire city of 3 million people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Pray that the tragic events of Sept. 30 will prepare people’s hearts to respond to the Gospel. Pray that Oct. 10 will be used by the Spirit of God to usher in a spiritual awakening here on the coast of Ecuador that will spread to all the Americas — and to the world.
I believe with all my heart that Ecuadorians are one of God’s chosen peoples to take the Gospel to the nations. They are suited to the task in every way — much more so than we North Americans. For many years, however, Ecuadorian Christians have lagged in their willingness to follow Christ beyond their own borders. This recent political and economic “persecution” may well be God’s way to get Ecuadorians out of their “Jerusalems” and into their “Judeas,” “Samarias” and “ends of the earth” — as Christ commands in Acts 1:8.
Please pray that God will use this disaster to awaken the sleeping church of Ecuador to take its place in reaching the world!
Guy and Linda Muse are International Mission Board missionaries to Ecuador. To hear how one Ecuadorian Christian is working to reach his people for Christ, visit http://mediaviewer.mediasuite.org/?mvid=5002&mvidext=flv. To learn more about South America and its people groups, visit http://americanpeoples.imb.org/. Southern Baptists’ contributions to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the Cooperative Program support missionaries such as the Muses.