Thank you so much to those of you who gave towards the purchase of a car, to help my friend Edwin get back on his feet following the earthquake. He is in the process of looking for a good, reliable vehicle that will enable him to continue his taxi business. I will keep you posted on the progress of his story.
But this past Sunday, I asked Edwin if I might visit his church in Manta, and he heartily agreed. The previous week, I had messaged him and asked if he knew of any families that would be able to temporarily take in some displaced orphans from an orphanage that was destroyed up north in Bahia. He responded that he would ask around and see, but then said, “The church I go to, the people are very limited in resources and many of them are in shelters. It is getting rough. People are running out of their savings and desperation is knocking on their door. I hope they understand God never leaves us in difficult moments.” That morning, as I thought about the orphans and the people at Edwin’s church, I started feeling overwhelmed. I cried out to God, begging for Him to provide help for both of these situations. Shortly after, I emailed a close friend back home who regularly prays for me and told her what Edwin said and asked her to pray for his church. She then responded, “I know a church that might want to help.” We discussed it further and she is now looking into it.
But in the meantime, I wanted to visit Edwin’s church to get a better feel for the needs. He had told me their building was damaged and they were worshipping in the parking lot. My friend Kelley (the one who Edwin helped buy a car just before the earthquake) agreed to go with me and drove. We arrived just as they were getting settled and starting. Over the next two hours, as I listened to the men who read scriptures, prayed prayers, led songs and gave lessons, I was humbled and moved to tears. Over and over, each person who got up exhorted the people to remember that no matter what, God would not abandon them. The Bible lesson started with Romans 8:28-29 (two of my favorite verses): “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” The pastor himself kept reminding them that, “Crisis brings opportunity.” The pastor specifically mentioned individual people in the congregation with different professions and skills and encouraged that they should all come together to help each other with whatever needs they might have amongst themselves. They were giving thanks that nobody had lost any family members. They were encouraged to remember that no matter what happens in this life, nothing can separate them from God’s love. I wish I could do a better job of recounting for you all that I was able to understand that was being said, but it was so moving. Here were people who were already poor by most of our standards, made poorer by this recent tragedy, and they were singing, praying and praising God with the confidence that He would see them through this.
Afterwards, we all went to visit my friends Jim & Jane where they are now staying at the Donkey Den (the first opportunity I’ve had to see them since the earthquake). We all had lunch together, and I was able to ask Edwin a little more about his church. He told me he and his family had come to faith in Jesus there nine years ago and that he was a completely different person now from who he was before. I asked if the building would be able to be repaired and he stated that the structural damage would require the walls to be taken down and for it to totally be rebuilt. When I asked how they would have the funds to do this, he said, “We would normally raise them amongst ourselves over time, but there are other needs now. We will still do it, but it will just take more time. But God will see us through.”
I then told Edwin that I would like to try to help, but that I can only do what God enables me to do – to which he responded, “Amen!” I shared with him my plan and vision, and now I’d like to share it with you.
Most of you that are friends and family of mine back in the states are connected with a church in some way. I’m asking if you would be willing to pass along the story of Iglesia Bautista del Palmer in Manta, Ecuador, and see if your church would be willing to help. Edwin will help me by finding out which families are most in need. As I’ve stated before, many people not only lost their homes, but their businesses in one fell swoop. But a little goes a long way here in helping people to rebuild and become productive again. I will find out the specific needs of individual families and if your church, Sunday school class, small group, etc. would be willing to sponsor a family to get back on their feet, I am happy to work with them to let them know specifically how they can help. In addition, if a church would like to be involved in helping rebuild the building, that is very important too.
The needs are great here and I am only one person with limited resources. But what I do have is connections to other members of the body of Christ, who I can be a link to, and together our God can help us do “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Please share this post with people in your church, link this appeal on your Facebook sites and pass it along to your friends to share with their churches. This is an opportunity for churches to help their brothers and sisters with earthquake relief efforts in a direct and personal way, and I promise to be very specific about the individual needs and how they can help. Don’t worry about the answer in advance, just please, PLEASE simply ask. And may God take our “mustard seed” efforts and multiply them greatly for His Kingdom and glory – THANK YOU!