AMBATO, Ecuador (BP)–The baptism of 11 Ecuadorian believers and the conversion of at least 30 Quichua people were evidence of the eternal impact left by more than 100 International World Changers (IWC) volunteers this summer in Ambato, Ecuador, a city nestled among five volcanoes in the Andes Mountains.
The new believers were baptized in front of more than 100 IWCers and Ecuadorians gathered to celebrate the occasion. Volunteers with IWC -– an International Mission Board program that connects high school and college students with overseas missions opportunities –- spent a week ministering to the Quichua, Ecuador’s largest indigenous group.
“Nearly 20,000 Quichua at more than 82 ministry sites were presented with the Gospel in a simple way,” said David Butts, a missionary to the people group.
Ministry teams made up of students from five churches in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas trekked through local markets and five mountain villages to open new areas for the Gospel in Quichua communities.
The teams visited markets boasting everything from mandarinas (tangerines) to medicinal herbs in the city known for its fruit and flowers. Using witnessing bracelets of colored beads -– each representing an aspect of the Gospel –- the teams shared the love of Christ, often with translation help from Ecuadorian believers.
During the week they gave out more than 5,000 witnessing bracelets and 17,000 tracts.
Their testimonies touched young and old -– at least 30 Quichua accepted Christ, including several Ecuadorian nationals working with the teams.
In the shadow of Chimborazo -– Ecuador’s highest inactive volcano -– women and children hiked ash-covered mountain trails to see a drama set to music called “Redeemer” that gives a visual depiction of man’s relationship with God from creation to Christ’s resurrection. A similar scene was repeated in five Quichua villages. Eager children imitated the actors’ motions to learn the story they told.
In some communities, the mere sight of a bus filled with the crews prompted children to come running from their cinderblock homes. In one community, a loudspeaker attached to a church steeple announced the group’s arrival.
During the trip, live Web broadcasts from Ecuador occurred on Sunday and Wednesday nights to the participating churches -– First Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.; First Baptist Church in Clayton, N.C.; Salem Baptist Church in Apex, N.C.; First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Tenn.; and First Baptist Church in Salado, Texas. In addition, staff, volunteers, church members and friends posted updates, comments and questions through a blog section at iwcstories.com, a website established for the outreach.
Over the coming months, the missionary and local believers will train new leaders to start house churches in the villages.
Using a simple, interactive teaching guide, “everybody can participate,” Butts said. “People don’t even have to know me. They can teach and train others in places I’ve never been.”
IWCers traveled to some of these new places and helped connect people with national believers. Alfredo Chicaiza, a Quichua church planter, often uses IWC groups to expand his ministry in Ambato.
Camma Booth, a volunteer from Salem Baptist, said God used the week to offer clarity for her future.
“This trip has really affirmed my call to spend at least a portion of my life in overseas missions,” Booth said. “Despite rejection [from some], I know seeds were planted in the hearts of many Quichua.”
Jim Snyder, project coordinator for the trip, said results like these make the six months of planning worth it.
“While it’s just a week’s work, the lasting effect is much more,” Snyder said. “Discovering the needs of the people is something the students will take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Lydia DeGozo is a writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. Dea Davidson, also of the IMB, contributed to this story. To see the places, hear the voices and learn more about this International World Changers trip, visit www.iwcstories.com.