God goes ahead
Often we think the work of ministry begins when the mission worker arrives on the field, forgetting that God is always at work and he doesn’t need us to accomplish his perfect plan; really the privilege is ours. Our family came here to Loja over a year ago, joining SIM Ecuador with the goal of launching a business that would reach out, building relationships and sharing Christ’s truth in what we understood to be unreached areas.
In our first month the city’s “Festival de Artes Vivas” – a two-week cultural event – filled almost every plaza with vendors selling handicrafts. My mind was racing with interest. One booth was selling black chamba pottery which I thought was from Colombia. But when I asked the young woman where her ceramic pieces were from: “Here!” was her response. In my 15-year experience of exporting ceramics I had never seen anything like this from Ecuador.
I walked across the plaza and saw another booth with the same black ceramics. When the woman there confirmed that her town, Cera, was only 45 minutes away, I asked if my family and I could visit some day, took their card and eagerly ran home to tell Marco, my husband.
About ten days later we organised a trip with our team leader Mark to visit the family’s studio. From what Mark knew there were no known followers of Christ in Cera. On arrival we met an older woman named Lida, who welcomed me into her small ceramics store, then invited us to follow her to the house of her son, Fernando. After a half-hour conversation with Fernando about designs and exciting business possibilities we felt so thankful that God had given us this opportunity to connect with rural artisans in Loja.
But then God surprised us. As we were leaving, Fernando asked Mark what he did. Mark said he worked with Radio Esperanza (Radio Hope). “Are you a believer then?” asked Fernando without flinching. Mark confirmed it immediately. “Me too!” shot back Fernando. Then he looked at Marco and I, “Are you guys believers too?” “Yes, we are!” we replied. Fernando could not stop smiling.
At that time Lida, Fernando and his wife Monica were the only believers in Cera, meeting for prayer and biblical instruction with a pastor who visited weekly. They shared how they felt “dry” – searching for a change in their faith walk. Fernando and Monica were praying about moving to the city to allow their children a chance to be part of a larger faith community. We said we could provide resources and a weekly bible study if they so desired.
So, for the past year, we have been holding a regular bible study in Cera, training these three courageous believers to lead a bible study themselves and make disciples. In partnership with our local church here in the city of Loja we will also be launching a sports ministry to reach out to pre-teens and teens in Cera. All the while we have been working with Monica and Fernando to design ceramic stoneware samples for the North American market.
God led us to Cera, a place he was already at work. It is a privilege to partner with brothers and sisters in Christ, in fulfilling his commission in their own community through a missional business. We remain thankful.
– Francesca Barbee
- for the launch of the sports ministry, for young leaders from the Barbees’ church to make deep relationships with young people in Cera.
- for the bible study the Barbees lead in Cera, that God would multiply disciples