Being Christ in hard-hit Ecuador
May-2020

One of our partners, Darnelle Richardson, is in Ecuador, worst-hit by COVID-19 of all the South American countries. She writes, “Being restricted from having one-on-one contact with people I’d normally get to see, has been very hard — but then I found out about the red flags.”  People who need help, mainly with food supplies, have been hanging a piece of red cloth out. 

There in her close neighbourhood was a red flag, and she had just been to the supermarket.

     “I admit I was nervous going to their gate; I had never been there before. When I went in, three little kids greeted me, staring up with wide eyes.  I heard a voice telling me to enter, and as I followed the kids around a corner, there were about six adults sitting on benches. 

       “It was an awkward moment:  I looked at them, they looked at me with my bags of shopping.

       “I asked who the red flag belonged to.” Two sisters got up and came to take the bags from me and said thank you.  So I introduced myself, ‘Hi, I’m your neighbour from that building — OK, bye!’ and I left, because I wasn’t really allowed to be there. That is not normally how I am!” She has since taken food parcels to other families.

        As a children’s worker, Darnelle has bible studies, games and other activities at her fingertips, to share with children in her community. But since lockdown she has been busy putting a lot of this material online, so that former contact families still have access to it. “Thats a blessing,” she says, “especially because the Mums have had to read the stories with the kids and repeat things with them, so then they have been learning too.” Darnelle and her co-worker Amanda are now preparing new online training resources for children’s ministry workers which they plan to launch on May 25.

The president of Ecuador has announced at least 13,000 dead from COVID-19 so the regularly quoted statistics for this country are too low, only counting those who tested positive in a health clinic prior to dying.  In fact there are estimates that 1 in 3 people in the virus epicentre — the major port city of Guayaquil — are infected. Independently gathered figures from cemeteries suggest the death toll in Guayaquil alone was more than 8,000 last month, as bodies piled up in homes and at times on the streets.  It’s thought that the original sources of infection were often Ecuadorean students coming home from Spain.

        Darnelle is based in the southern city of Loja, where things are not so desperate as in Quayaquil, where SIM has a project buying and delivering food parcels, gas, water and medical supplies to families in need. “I have donated and would love others to join me,” Darnelle says. “Just use the project number below when giving.

       “And please pray for our team members who live in the middle of Guayaquil; pray for stamina and protection.” SIM Latinoamerica’s Director Julieta and her colleague Lola, who were spearheading SIM’s compassion project and were already physically and emotionally drained, now have been tested positive for COVID-19, and all the family have the virus.  Two have already died.  Julieta is the caregiver for her extended family, and asks for prayer for supernatural strength.”

       Last Saturday Darnelle’s landlord’s brother died from COVID-19. “He was a doctor living near Guayaquil, married with two children. Please pray that his wife may be comforted by the hope she has in Christ.”

        Darnelle concludes, “Despite having bad news crowding in on us, it has been amazing to see God open doors here, and opportunities to be able talk to others about him.  Thank you all very much for your ongoing support.”  To donate to the SIM Ecuador compassion project, go to sim.org.nz/donate/ and quote project #91902.