Seminary Students Get a Lesson in Missions

Post a Comment » Written on March 24th, 2006     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (March 24, 2006) – A work team of students from North Park Theological Seminary looked forward to getting an education in missions when they recently traveled to Ecuador. They got one – just much different than they expected.

The students had planned to spend their spring break helping a church and school in a rural mountain village. But political unrest broke out in the country and kept the team from reaching their destination, says Paul DeNeui, one of the team leaders.

The unrest began the night the group arrived in Cayambe, where they where scheduled to stay before traveling to the village the next day, says DeNeui, a Covenant missionary who is teaching at the seminary for a year. The team learned of the unrest problem when they tried to make the hour-long journey to the village.

The team barely made it out of Cayambe. Two miles into their journey, the team of nine – which included retired seminary professor Wayne Weld, six students, and one student’s spouse – were forced back. “People were rolling boulders, tires and branches across the highway,” says DeNeui.

The unrest was part of a protest by indigenous Ecuadorians, who blocked travel on numerous roads in response to their government’s decision to enter into a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The protesters believe the agreement would severely hurt their livelihood.

Weld told the group that such unrest is frequent and almost always lasts little more than 24 hours, so the group was prepared to leave for the village the next day. The strikes continued, however, forcing the team to change its plans.

Unable to travel, the team decided to minister in Cayambe. They did a prayer walk through the community and wound up painting at a local church, DeNeui says.

God used the time to give the team new eyes with which to see the world, DeNeui says. They first were frustrated with the situation, especially after three days of not being able to get to the village. During a prayer time, the focus changed from their problems to the struggles of the Ecuadorians.

“This is a life or death issue for the people there,” DeNeui says. “We started praying in a new way – that justice would be served.”

The students also learned of the indomitable spirit of the people they came to serve. To the team’s surprise, the villagers walked several hours down the mountain to Cayambe, carrying treats that included the specialty cuy – fried guinea pig.

“That’s the kind of hospitality we received,” DeNeui says. People in Cayambe also had offered assistance to the group, including lodging.

The time together with the villagers was too short, he adds, because the sun set around 6 p.m., and the hikers had to get back before dark.

A bus finally was able to take the team to the village for one day, when the road had been cleared. There were other obstacles that made the journey difficult, however. “The bus got stuck in the mud,” DeNeui says.

Although they weren’t able to get any work done, the team spent time with the villagers “praying, worshiping and singing,” DeNeui says.

The team wondered whether the blocked roads would prevent them from traveling back to Quito for their return flight. However, the roads to the capital had been cleared briefly when the team traveled back to the city.

While in Quito, they met with Covenant missionaries before returning home. DeNeui says the experience was important for the students because they were able to hear first-hand from missionaries while in the country after having seen the challenges to ministry.

On Thursday, Ecuadorian president Alfredo Palacio declared a state of emergency. That was followed by a decision today by the leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities to call off the protests after 11 days of unrest, according to the Associated Press.

Because nearly all of the unrest was far from Quito, Covenant missionaries and students at Covenant Bible College-Ecuador were not endangered, says Lana Heinrich, manager of short-term mission and Covenant Mission Connection. She added that the American embassy would let the missionaries know if the strikes threatened their safety.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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