I want to share a little about each of these leaders, and then comment on the future of their communities. All of them are pastors, seminary graduates, and have been students of mine at one time or another.
Antonio is the pastor of Capulispungo. I taught the bible course FLET in his church for over 4 years. He and his wife Rosa had to migrate to Guayaquil for over a year in order to pay off a debt. With God’s help, he was able to continue pastoring the church, traveling back and forth from city to countryside. They are now back at home in Capulispungo, although their children remain scattered among Guayaquil, Riobamba, and Quito.
Abel is also from Capulispungo, but lives in Quito with his wife Jessica, and works in health care. He pastors the church of migrants from Capulispungo. I helped him set up the bible course FLET in his church. Around five families congregate regularly, but it’s difficult because they don’t live close to each other. In the Pandemic, they had to give up their church site, since they couldn’t continue to pay the rent. They stored all the church furniture at our home, and occasionally hold a service in our back yard.
Segundo, in Santa Julia, is unstoppable. He was a student of mine at the seminary in Riobamba. He lives in one of the most rural areas of Chimborazo, but organizes workshops, conferences, and VBS continually among the dozen or so communities in his area. Since he’s still single, he enrolled in a university program.
Luis recently married Maria. When single, he studied with us in Capulispungo. Now that he’s married he can be considered as the pastor of his church in Sablog. He makes a living as a farmer, and often calls me to “see what’s happening in the outside world.”
Ruben and Noemi are incredible church leaders in Cachisagua. I met Ruben as my student at the seminary in Riobamba. Although the church has an elderly pastor, Ruben does most of a pastor’s work: preaching, leading music, organizing, and counseling. We helped them with the downpayment to get an internet antenna installed in their community. Now Ruben calls me on Messenger. They still don’t have a cell phone signal on their side of the mountain.
Geovanny and Sandy are “second-generation” migrants in Quito. Their parents are from Chillanes, a community we have never visited, and they have spent most of their lives in the city. Geovanny has his own car mechanic shop, and pastors a Quichua church. They were both single students of mine at a seminary course in Quito, and later married. We stay in touch and they often invite us to their church.
Danilo is one of several students I have tried to mentor while they are studying at the university in Riobamba. I have tutored students in English (no problem), Calculus (nice try), Programming (I once worked as a computer programmer.), and Statistics (really had to brush up). The challenges are many: paying rent for a room, obtaining a computer (a cell phone isn’t really adequate), finding academic help (I do what I can), and staying single (not easy for a lonely student away from home). I had three promising students I was tutoring. One failed two semesters straight (never asked for help), another got married (I spent hours counseling him and helping him with his coursework), but Danilo remains focused on God and his studies. He is a leader and teacher at his church in Shobol Llin Llin, and runs a weekend restaurant with his mom in their home.
Personally, I see two phenomena affecting the future of the church communities: nominalism and migration.
The migration is non-stoppable, but has to be taken into account as their reality. The Quichua church needs to realize that ALL their youth will eventually migrate to the city for a better future. Small-farming is no longer profitable. In twenty years or less the churches will consist only of old adults. The solution? I don’t know. One thing I pray for and work for is to help Quichua students in Riobamba graduate from the university with the hope that they can and will return to their communities and set up businesses there that will attract migrants.
The other problem?
Nominalism plagues the churches. Two symptoms are: lack of attendance and teenage pregnancies. From studying Paul’s letter to Titus, I have concluded that the church doesn’t need better programs or new materials. What the church needs is examples of godly couples who create Christian homes. What can we do? Since we can’t visit the communities during the Pandemic, turns out, they come to visit us! Our back yard with a large shelter has proved an idea site for visitors and small groups. Many have already enjoyed here a day of food, fun, and fellowship. We hope and pray that here, they will see us as an example of how to make a house into a godly home. Pray with us and for us!
These are our Quichua contacts and our prayer for their future. 2021, here we come!
“You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thess. 2:10-12