Do Our IMB Missionaries Make a Difference?
On October 31st Susan, Abby (our youngest daughter) and I travelled to Quito, Ecuador, where we met up with Susan’s parents, Stewart and C. L. Pickle, who had travelled from Conroe Texas. Our arrival brought back memories from 20 years ago since we were last in Quito. Susan had spent most of her childhood and teen years there as her parents had been IMB missionaries there for 19 years from the mid 1970s to the early 1990s. They had not been back since resigning from the field in 1992. From Quito we boarded a fight to Cuenca (a city in southern Ecuador) and enjoyed spectacular scenery as the 45 minute flight took us over and around the 15,000 to 20,000 foot snow capped mountains that dotted the landscape between Quito and Cuenca. As we disembarked, we saw a family in typical Cañari dress obviously waiting to meet someone. Susan commented that it was probably a family from Tambo that had come to greet her parents as they arrived. At that moment their eyes lit up with excitement as they saw her parents who were following a distance behind us. That moment began what was a wonderful reunion for the Pickles with the people to whom they brought the gospel as IMB missionaries many years ago.
El Tambo (46 miles from Cuenca) is a town of around 10,000 people situated at about 9600 feet in altitude in the province of Cañar (population 225,000 most of which are of Quechua descent). The Quechua were poor uneducated subsistence farmers who eked out a living on the steep hillsides in the High Andes. Their religion was Catholicism mixed with Tribal beliefs and they had been without a gospel witness and were without hope for centuries.
Stuart and C.L. Pickle’s friends invited us to spend Sunday with them in Tambo where the churches they saw birthed more than 30 years earlier had prepared a celebration. What a celebration it was. In typical Quechua tradition the celebration began with a dinner featuring roasted Guinea pig and lamb prepared by the WMU. It was followed by a worship time with around 200 folks and which featured groups from the churches performing traditional songs in traditional Quechua and testimonies from the pastors. Around 9:45 p.m. an elderly pastor began sharing his story and this is the story he told.
In mid 1970s a Quechua man (himself) in Tambo heard a Christian radio broadcast through which he obtained a Bible. With Bible in hand he went to the local Catholic Church and asked them if they could tell him what it meant. They told him that they could not but if he wanted to know what it meant to go find an evangelical. His search for someone who could tell him what the Bible taught led him two hours away to the city of Cuenca where he was told of someone who could tell him what the Bible means. That person was an IMB missionary who gladly received him and shared the good news from the Word of God with him. That day he received Christ and became, as far anyone remembers, the first Cañari believer.
After that an IMB missionary began focusing on the Cañari people and the work began to grow amidst significant persecution. The Pickles built on that work by moving to Tambo and establishing a mission center where they focused on Discipling church leaders and literacy training. Throughout that time the Word spread and the lives of people were lifted both spiritually and socially. We met a son of one of the pastors who, though married at age 14, had so benefitted from literacy training and a gospel changed life that he had become a medical doctor and his wife, a pharmacist. They have a child who is currently an exchange student in Germany. Last year he was elected Mayor of El Tambo even though he did not campaign for the office. The work of God in transforming lives was so great that the people who once persecuted believers now elected them as their leaders and representatives. From the Christian community there were those elected to national office and others to local leadership. One pastor’s son had become a missionary to Maryland where he was starting a church among Quechua immigrants. Seeing the maturing work of God in Cañar reminds me of the words of Paul in I Thessalonians 1:8 where he wrote, “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.”
As my family and I left Cuenca early Tuesday morning we left encouraged. We saw fist hand the power of the gospel to save souls and transform communities in powerful ways. We saw first hand what happens when God’s people respond to God’s call by sends a preacher with the Good news. I cannot help but rejoicing as the words of Jesus are fulfilled again as He quotes Isaiah ….“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” Because by the grace of God Baptists responded to the call of God to send and because a preacher responded by taking the Good news, light shines where there was once darkness.
I have no doubt that IMB missionaries have experienced stories like this from around the world. I encourage you, in this season of missions giving to give faithfully and sacrificially because your giving does matter and is being used to take the good news to places like El Tambo so that the light might shine in the darkness and many may receive His light in their hearts. You can learn more about our trip and other mission opportunities on our web site www.hephzibahba.org.