By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN Seven people from the Evangelical Covenant Church in Dassel took a vision trip to Ecuador recently, encouraging those who are in the mission field and learning about ways to partner with area churches.
“The love for Christ is all around the world,” Pastor Keith Carlson said. “We need to have a global view of what it means to be Christian.”
Carlson, Bonnie Eng, Tim Paulson, Karee Anderson, Kristin Carlson, Sue Hammar, and Lisa Nordberg left Minnesota early March 18, and arrived in the capital city of Quito, Ecuador a day later.
“We met with the president of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Ecuador, and then went north to Cayambe,” Eng noted.
There, the team toured the construction site of a children’s home and a soon-to-open medical clinic.
They also visited a school where Compassion International provides a hot meal, rest and play time, spiritual teaching, and tutoring in academics for up to 300 students every week.
The next day was spent visiting three churches in the rural Quechua district.
“They have sanctuaries for meeting, but often lack Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, and bathroom facilities,” Eng noted.
“We discovered that there’s a lot of ways we can partner with these churches,” Carlson said, explaining that the Dassel church may be able to provide children’s Bibles and other resources.
“Visiting with some of the small congregations in some of the poorer parts of Ecuador was very enlightening,” Paulson said. “It was inspiring to see their faithfulness. They have humble surroundings, but they seemed content with the simplicity of life they live.”
Saturday of the trip, Carlson had the opportunity to preach at a small church in Ecuador, with the help of translator Joel Delp, a Covenant missionary who lives and works in Ecuador.
“That was delightful to worship with them,” Carlson said.
Delp is an integral part of the Santiago Partnership, the foundation that is building a home for at-risk children in Cayambe.
According to the Evangelical Covenant Church website, the first Protestant missionaries entered Ecuador in 1896.
The Evangelical Covenant Church began to work in the Upper Andes area of Ecuador in 1947. At that time, Quito had only one Protestant church, and there were only about 1,000 evangelical Christians in the entire country.
Today, The Covenant Church of Ecuador (IPEE) has grown to more than 90 local congregations.
“We’d like to return and partner with one of the churches in the area,” Carlson said.
During the recent vision trip, the group learned about mission work that is currently being done, and explored ways they can be of assistance in the future.
“We prayed with them, met with them, and listened to their stories,” Carlson said.
They also gave handmade crosses as gifts of encouragement.
“Tim did a beautiful thing; he brought little LED flashlights and handed them out to children,” Carlson added. “They just loved getting something like that.”
The people of Ecuador shared what they had with the group, as well.
“We were deeply moved by the gracious welcome that we experienced at all of the places we visited,” Eng noted “We were served typical Ecuadorian food at many places, but also enjoyed new restaurants at modern shopping malls.”
Eng said the group spent one night at an old hotel that was neat, but didn’t have hot water.
“The next night was spent in a hostel, and the owner cooked supper for us, had a large fire in the fireplace to warm us (it was cold and rainy), cooked pancakes for breakfast, and had hot water,” Eng noted. “The cost per person for all of this was $12!”
The Dassel church members also visited the mitad del mundo the equator which featured a museum and large monument.
“We went to the Otovalan Market on Saturday,” Eng noted. “This is the prime artisan market for souvenirs. We had fun bargaining for our purchases and were overwhelmed by all the choices.”
For Eng, the vision trip was a return to a country she had lived in for a year, more than 40 years ago.
“I participated in a program that the Covenant had just started back then,” she noted, explaining that the short-term missionary program allows volunteers to aid and assist career ministries for one year or more.
Eng, who is fluent in Spanish, taught English as a second language.
“Without the year in Quito, I would never have had the career or life experiences that I have been blessed with,” she noted. “I felt richly blessed by being able to return and to share the experience with six other friends from church. I look forward to even more people experiencing the Covenant evangelical work in Ecuador as we plan a project trip.”