Once our mission team was on the ground in Ecuador, they learned that some serious political changes had taken place during the last year. In 2008, Ecuador adopted a new constitution (which happens there about every 8.5 years). This new constitution is much more socialistic than the previous one. For all practical purposes, it puts in place a soft dictatorship under Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The majority of seats in the new government were also won by the men who pushed for the new constitution.
Part of the change involves the requirement that all ministers who preach or lead churches must be registered with and licensed by the government. It is anticipated that part of the requirements for licensing will be some degree of formal religious training at the college or seminary level. Unfortunately, 95% of the Baptist pastors in Ecuador have no formal training and are thus unlikely to secure proper certification status with the new government.
It is expected that these new restrictions will begin to be enforced within 2 years, after enough time has passed for the registration process to be completed. After that, pastors who are caught preaching without government certification will be arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Right now, the Baptist network in Ecuador is working with the government in an effort to establish certification criteria that most Baptist pastors could achieve through training seminars and classes.
The good news is that the classes that our team will be leading with 22 pastors this week will count as credit toward their certification. In terms of our future involvement, it means that the Pastor Training efforts we have initiated in Ecuador are now absolutely critical to sustain the preaching of a biblical gospel in that region of South America.
What can we do right now? First, we can add this new development to our prayer list for our mission team that is on the field right now and for our missions ministry here at Morningview. I have no doubt that God is using these political developments to create in us a sense of urgency that should guide all of our missions efforts. Furthermore, we are privileged to see His providence at work through this situation. He sovereignly put this burden to train pastors on our hearts long before we were ever aware of the needs resulting from this political shift. What else might He providentially have in store for us?
Second, each of us should consider how we can help meet this need. As Dr. Sills told us at our last missions conference, if you can teach Sunday School in the United States then you can train church leaders on the mission field. Perhaps God would lead more of us to be invested in this work in Ecuador. If we cannot go, there are also others ways to be of help.
One of the greatest needs that now exists for these pastors is the availability of training resources. The average pastor in Ecuador earns only $200 per month, yet the books they need are the same price as they are here in the states. It would take their entire monthly income just to purchase a dozen textbooks, leaving them nothing left with which to feed their own families. Thus, one of the most immediate needs we can continue meeting is for theological books and resources in Spanish, like those we just sent with our mission team.
There will be other needs and ministry possibilities that arise from these developments in Ecuador, and I look forward to bringing them to our attention as our Missions and Ministry Team prepares to respond. I truly believe that God has chosen Morningview to be in this partnership “for such a time as this,” and I am excited about how He will lead us and use us. I love you all!