NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Having arrived safely in Loja, Ecuador, after a 12-hour journey, the Spring Break Mission Team from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary wasted no time in finding the school that had been reserved for them to use for eight days of revivals and other evangelism efforts.
Accompanied by Southern Baptist missionary James Smith, the group eagerly walked onto the property, dreaming of the adventures and ministry opportunities ahead of them.
Adventure and ministry began sooner than they thought. Smith barely had entered the facility when the school’s caretaker insisted on a bribe before the team could begin using the school. They refused, of course, and simply walked up the street, praying and searching for another location to hold revival services set to begin that evening.
Smith came across a soccer field, found the owner and asked her if the evangelism team could use the field — complete with electricity — to share the gospel of Christ. The woman, smiling and excited, said, “Certainly. I’ve been praying for a year for someone to come and tell me about Jesus.”
All in all, 182 professions of faith in Christ were recorded during the eight days of ministry in Ecuador by the NOBTS mission team of 15 students and 2 professors.
“This underscores the sovereignty of God,” said Chuck Register, team leader and director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth at NOBTS. “He knew who we needed to see and what hearts were ready to come to know Christ.”
Register and Michael Sharp, assistant professor of music theory and piano at NOBTS, led the mission team to the South American country during Spring Break week, March 15-22. Once in Ecuador, Register led one team in the southern part of the country in the city of Loja, while Sharp led the second team to the north in the city of Coca on the western edge of the Amazon jungle where they traveled by dug-out canoe along the river.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission Board co-sponsored the mission trip along with the NOBTS Center for Evangelism and Church Growth. Students received two hours of academic credit for the mission trip, counting towards evangelism or field education requirements.
While in Ecuador, each of the two teams shared the gospel message through evangelistic films, music, street preaching in the city square, distribution of gospel tracts, revival sermons, drama, puppets, personal evangelism and house-to-house visitation.
As the methods of ministry varied, so did the settings for ministry and the mode of transportation to and from various locations.
The team in Loja ministered to the 4,500 residents where there is no running water and no established evangelical church.
The team in Coca ministered on the western edge of the Amazon jungle. One day of ministry consisted of literally going from hut to hut as they navigated up an Ecuadorian river in a dug-out canoe.
One evening, the group in Coca traveled two hours in two Toyota pick-up trucks through the jungle in order to conduct a worship service. As the team sloshed across the rugged terrain, the number of people wanting to attend the worship service grew and soon nearly 50 people were riding in the two trucks.
“Their central focus was on worship and not on themselves,” Broadwater said. “I’m pointing my finger at myself when I say many times we (in the United States) do just the opposite. The focus is on ourselves, not on worship.”
The group also learned to appreciate Ecuadorian music style in worship. “There was freedom and creativity in musical expression,” said Alicia Farnham, who completed the master of arts in Christian education degree in 1996. But most importantly, Farnham said, “the people were sincere in their desire to give God their best.”
Seeing the people have such a hunger for the word of God reconfirmed Paul Scott’s call to be a foreign missionary. Scott, a master of divinity student from Savannah, Tenn., said it was refreshing to be out of the Bible Belt and to meet people who were not only receptive to the gospel, but also appreciated having someone willing to share the gospel with them.
One lady was so appreciative for their visit that she chased down two chickens in her yard, wrung their necks, cleaned them and then served them for lunch. “I saw these two chickens go from the yard to the pot to my bowl,” Scott said.
Departing was not easy, Sharp said. As the group left the hotel and even tried to board their plane home, people continued to ask how they could be saved. “It was obvious God was orchestrating and preparing the people,” he said.
Other NOBTS Spring Break mission endeavors included ten student-led revival weeks in small bayou towns in south Louisiana at churches that could not otherwise afford a revival, yielding 38 professions of faith; a choir tour by the Seminarians, an all-male choir, to colleges and churches in Mississippi and Alabama; and a week-long tour of nearly 20 New Orleans ministries to learn first-hand about the diversity of Baptist work taking place in the area around the seminary.