Having been raised in Anniston, Alabama, both Bobby and I were a bit surprised to receive notice that our local newspaper wanted to write a feature article on our family. It was a great trip down memory lane as we shared with the writer our story of how this journey happened. If you have ever wondered how we ended up in Ecuador, you might enjoy this article. (read here)
Recently, Tamitha and Jordan had the opportunity to visit Guayaquil (a large city on the coast of Ecuador) and help teach in a training session for children’s ministers from a variety of local churches. This conference, led by Danny and Peggy Thornton, offered a free, week-long training session to 600 people. Tamitha and Jordan were able to teach about using music and games in children’s ministry. It was great to see the people getting into learning the motions and playing the messy games. More importantly, it was great to talk with many individually, who shared that they had learned many things that would be helpful in improving their children’s ministry.
At the end of the day, the conference attendants dressed up as either a mime, clown or held a puppet. Then we all, more than 600 strong, marched several blocks through the heart of the city to reach the boardwalk. At the boardwalk, they practiced their newly learned skills doing outdoor evangelism, setting a precedent for the first Christian group to be granted permission for such an event in this location. Forty-five people accepted Christ as a result of this outreach.
This has opened the door for our team to travel to other locations and help with such training events. Tamitha was recently asked to serve as the leader for the 4/14 Window Network within our region of Ecuador. This means organizing more training events for those working in children’s ministry and helping to assure that each church recognizes the importance of reaching the children for Christ.
Pakarina (8), Giovanna (6), and Giovanni (4) are three children who attend the Agua Viva Kids Club. The three children are very well behaved and energetic. They are happy children and quite thankful for what they have.
The other day I walked them home after Kids Club. When I entered their home, I was shocked by their living conditions. They live in a two-room home. One room is the kitchen, and the other room is a bedroom for all 8 people in their home.
Recently, their mother had a difficult time giving birth to twin girls. When I visited, the twin girls were happily asleep even though it was quite noisy in the home. There was a special bond with all the children, and I could see that they were thankful in spite of these conditions. Pray for Pakarina, Giovanna, and Giovanni. May God’s peace and love continue to abide in them.
I thank God that He gave me the opportunity to meet and bond with all three of them. They are a joy to hear as they giggle and laugh out loud when I take photos of them with the funny effects on Photobooth. They are quite sweet and always greet me with a big hug. Pray that they will accept Christ as He will provide a better future for them. I am pleased to say that Pakarina, the eldest knows that she wants to study medicine. She seems quite focused and decided on her career, and she is only 8!
Written by Michelle Alvarez
(Michelle serves as the chaplain, art teacher, and curriculum developer at Agua Viva Kid’s Club.)
During the past few months, a women’s ministry, led by Jan Waldrop, has been birthed at Agua Viva for the women of the community. Jan is a retired teacher from Tennessee who has also spent her life serving in missions with her husband. She moved here to help with our ministry while her husband continues to travel and work and the seminary.
The women gather twice a month and participate in a variety of workshops like cooking classes, exercise and art projects. This has provided us an opportunity to minister in the lives of these women as they share details of their life struggles.
These workshops also help us build bonds with the community members. They get to hear about and SEE the love of Christ. It has proven to be a great help in breaking down the barriers of some in the community who are resistant to our message.
Please pray that this group will continue to grow in number and especially that they may be receptive to the power of God in their lives.
Previously, we have shared a little about how our ministry was encountering some resistance from the some of the members of the surrounding community. To better understand this, you have to realize that there is a long history of conflict within Ecuador between Catholics and Evangelicals. Oftentimes Evangelical Christianity is unwelcomed as it challenges some of the community’s traditions and behaviors.
During the latter parts of 2013, we watched the number of participants in our after school program (Kids Club) decline. Children, who had seemed excited about the program, suddenly disappeared. Eventually, we discovered that some of the community leaders were advising parents to not send their children to our ministry as we would “brain wash” and “contaminate” them. Events escalated to the point that a tense, emotionally charged meeting occurred where many parents were accusing us of corrupting their children and basically asking us to leave them alone. While this was incredibly discouraging and even a little frightening, there was a glimmer of hope. One father of 3 boys who attended our program stood up to speak. He shared how that in the beginning he had been against his boys attending because of all of the reasons everyone had mentioned; yet he had relented because they begged to come. He admitted that now he could see a huge difference in his boys as they are better behaved and are performing better in school. His statement did not change everyone’s minds instantly, but it did help to calm their fears and cause them to rethink.
I am happy to share that our numbers of attendance have doubled since then and there is much more acceptance from the parents who see the value in Kids Club. We consider this to be a huge victory. Obviously, the struggle is not over. There are still reports of a local school principal who punishes children (in school) who attend our programs. My heart is broken knowing that these precious little children receive discipline and scorn for coming to a place of love. We are continuing to try and show unconditional love to these community leaders who are against us and pray that God will open their eyes to see that ours is a message of God’s love.