“Why Are You Not Working Here In Tababela?”

September 27, 2013
Foundation work for the new church building in Guadalupe began in June

Foundation work for the new church building in Guadalupe began in June

Activities in the park in Tababela

Activities in the park in Tababela

The FBC Wellston, OK group at the equator

The FBC Wellston, OK group at the equator

FBC Wellston Group's eyeglass project

FBC Wellston Group’s eyeglass project

Sixto sharing the gospel with a group who has just received new eyeglasses

Sixto sharing the gospel with a group who has just received new eyeglasses

Some of the Clear Creek group preparing rebar for the construction

Some of the Clear Creek group preparing rebar for the construction

The conversation that opened the door to ministry in Tababela

The conversation that opened the door to ministry in Tababela

I realize that it has been well over a year since I updated our blog.  It isn’t that we have abandoned our ministry in Ecuador, only that we are really busy maintaining ministries here in the States and also in Ecuador.  I can’t believe it has been two years now since we sensed the Lord telling us to move back to Tennessee to resume ministry while maintaining our ministry in Ecuador.  Just to update you on our current situation, Cathy is working fulltime managing a pharmacy in Adamsville.  Eli is enjoying his first year of college at Middle Tennessee State University and Olivia is a senior at Adamsville High School.  I am blessed to be the pastor of Carmel Heights Baptist Church in Crump, TN.  God is so good and has been so faithful, and we have seen Him continue to bless the ministry in Ecuador, as we’ve been able to coordinate and support the work through my ministry partner, Sixto Salcedo.

It has been incredible what God has done in Ecuador this year.  I believe we have seen Him do more through Sixto’s fulltime work (since graduating from the Bible Institute last October) and short-term groups than we could do when we were living there fulltime.  I had the privilege of leading two short-term groups back to Ecuador this summer.  God continues to open doors of opportunity, as we were able to work in four different locations. 

In June Bro. Chuck Castles and a group from Clear Creek Baptist Church in Selmer, TN ministered in Ecuador for the second year in a row.  We were blessed to be able to work at three ministry sites this time, one of which was not in our original plans.  We did VBS and other ministry at the mission in Guadalupe and at a small church in San Vicente, both in the area near the new airport in Tababela, east of Quito.  It was especially exciting to witness the excavation for the foundation of the new church building at Guadalupe following the purchase of property by the folks at the mission.  However, God surprised us with the third ministry location, in Tababela, as He revealed to us His answer to years of prayer.  I am very excited about what God is doing in Tababela and am amazed at how He started it!  Let me explain.

Our group was staying in a hotel in Tababela due to its proximity to the new airport and also to our ministry sites.  (My family and I had been praying about starting a Bible study and hopefully a church there, even before we had moved to a nearby town back in 2010.  Since we never had a contact in Tababela, beginning work there was never possible before we moved from Ecuador.)  As we walked through Tababela one morning, one of the group, Nicole Stoppa, handed a gospel tract to one of the residents.  I was soon drawn into a conversation with Nicole and the local lady, a pharmacist named Siberia.  She was very interested in our group and had a lot of questions about our presence in her town.  When I told her where we were working and what we were doing, she responded with a question that really challenged and convicted me.  She asked, “Why are you not working here in Tababela?”  I felt as if the Lord Himself had asked me the question through her.  As a result, I challenged the group to alter our schedule somewhat to make time to do some ministry there later in the week.

Space will not permit a detailed account of what happened in Tababela that week, but God was definitely in the details, setting things up and showing His power and glory as only He can!  To make a long story short, we received permission from the mayor to have a VBS-type event in the Tababela city park and with the help of the local school director, had over 250 children in attendance for the event.  Not only did the children enjoy fun activities and a Bible story presentation, over 100 adult on-lookers received gospel tracts.  We were in awe of how God had given us the contacts we needed and had opened doors of opportunity for ministry in Tababela.  And it had all been the result of the obedience of one person handing a tract to a stranger on the street!  I returned home to the States with that first group praying and wondering about just what the Lord had in store in Tababela.

I returned to Ecuador in July with Bro. Darrell Sullivan and a group from FBC Wellston, OK, excited about the possibilities.  We again stayed in the hotel in Tababela, and in addition to working at three other ministry sites, we scheduled another VBS-type event in the city park.  By this time the local children were out of school for summer vacation, but we took advantage of the summer school program, with over 100 children meeting daily in the municipal building adjacent to the park.  The children enjoyed lots of fun activities, including the acting out of a Bible story.  Following this presentation, I was approached by a lady, Isabel, who professed to be a Christian who believed in the power of prayer.  She requested that some of our group come to her home and pray for her husband, who was almost totally paralyzed as the result of a stroke.  Bro. Darrell, Sixto, and I went to her home and prayed and talked to her.  We learned that she was indeed an evangelical Christian who often attended a church in another town.  Through tears she lamented the fact that there was no evangelical church in Tababela and offered to open the doors of her home to a Bible study with the hope of starting a church! 

I stand in awe of how God worked through two short-term missions teams and a series of new contacts, step by step, in His own way and time, to place us in the home of perhaps the only evangelical Christian in Tababela, who opened her door to ministry in her town!  I am delighted to report that three people are now meeting weekly in Isabel’s home for a Bible study led by Sixto.  That number may seem insignificant to you, but to me it is huge and it is glory to God.  Please pray that the Tababela Bible study will grow into a mission preaching point and eventually into a church.

Although I am most excited about Tababela, God did some awesome work through the groups and continues to work through Sixto in the other ministry sites, too.  He continues to open doors of opportunity.  Please pray that God will provide co-laborers to help Sixto in these locations.  We appreciate all of you who continue to support our ministry with your prayers and donations.  We praise the Lord for what He is doing in Ecuador and that we and you, our partners in the ministry, can be a part of it.  We already have two short-term trips scheduled for next June and I am discussing possibilities with several other pastors.  We plan to continue reaching out to the children through VBS and to the adults through service projects like the FBC Wellston eyeglass project, which allow us the opportunity to share the gospel.  In the coming year we plan to incorporate Bible training for pastors and church leaders.

If you are interested in financially supporting either our ministry in Ecuador in general, or the construction of the church building in Guadalupe specifically, you may send tax-deductible donations to Global Outreach International, P.O. Box 1, Tupelo, MS 38802 with a note saying it is for the Prather family.  May God richly bless you!


Clear Creek Flows In Ecuador

July 26, 2012

 God continues to show His faithfulness as we’ve just experienced Him fulfulling another part of His plan for our missions ministry.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we returned to the U.S. in September of 2011 after almost three years of living and ministering in Ecuador.  When we came back, we felt God leading us to maintain our ministry there by continuing to support the work of my Ecuadorian ministry partner and national missionary, Sixto Salcedo, at Guadalupe Mission.  One important element in continuing our ministry there was to lead short-term missions teams there a few times each year.  I am thrilled to report that I recently returned from such a trip with a group of twelve from Clear Creek Baptist Church in Lawton, Tennessee (near Selmer).

After we began planning the trip back in March, God generously provided the funds that the group needed to travel and minister for a week in Ecuador.  The group (Bro. Chuck Castles, who is the pastor, his wife Gail, Terry and Angie Hill and their daughters Makayla and Maggie, Lisa Pearson and her sons Drew Pearson and Trae Smalley, Jamie Durbin, Nicole Stoppa, and Chris Pickens) and I flew out of Memphis on Thursday, July 12th and after a connecting flight in Atlanta, arrived in Quito around 11 p.m.  My ministry partner and his entire family greeted us at the airport.  Sometime after midnight we arrived at the HCJB Guesthouse, which would be “home” for the next few days.

On Friday we spent the day in Quito, acclimating and doing a little touring.  We visited the Panecillo, a statue of a woman and a dragon, based on a very bad misinterpretation of Revelation Chapter 12.  That afternoon we took a cable car up the side of Pichincha at the Teleferico to an overlook of Quito.  At more than 13,000 feet above sea level, the air was cool and thin.  However, the views were incredible!  None of us had ever been there before, including myself and Sixto and his family, who accompanied us.  Every time that Cathy and I had considered going, it had been cloudy.  Praise God for a beautiful, clear day!  We could see most of the city of Quito before us, with the new airport in the valley beyond, and at least 6 or 7 volcanoes on the horizon.  We could not help but praise the Lord as we stood in awe of the beauty that God had created.  After a typical Ecuadorian meal at a restaurant, we returned to the guesthouse, where the team prepared for the next day’s VBS at Gualalupe Mission.

On Saturday morning we made the almost 2 hour bus ride out to the mission for the first time.  Upon arrival, we put a tarp over a portion of the unfinished upstairs of the mission building, which is the home of Jose’ and Maria Caiza. The tarp would provide shade for the VBS classes and the Sunday morning worship service. Some of us began painting the walls of the two classrooms constructed a year ago by the team from FBC Wellston, OK. Everyone seemed to love the Ecuadorian tamales cooked in banana leaves that we picked up for lunch. VBS went really well, with games, Bible lessons, crafts, and snacks for the more than 40 children that showed up for the first day. We used three Ecuadorians to help translate the lessons, but the language of love transcended the language barrier as the entire group began to build relationships with both the Ecuadorian children and adults. We stopped at Ventura Mall in Tumbaco for dinner, allowing the group a variety of choices of food at the food court. This also allowed some of the guys to find a Leatherman tool at an outdoors store to give as a gift to Sixto. He had seen the Leatherman of one of the team members earlier in the day and was standing looking at them in the store window when they gave it to him. What a nice surprise! Sixto’s wife Elisa joked that they were turning him into a gringo. Upon returning to the guesthouse, the entire team spent a couple of hours preparing material for the next day’s VBS and this would become routine. I was impressed with their planning and preparation throughout the entire trip.

On Sunday I was reminded of God’s sense of humor. Sixto had asked Bro. Chuck to bring the message during the worship service and for me to translate. Wanting to get a preview of his message to prepare myself for any unfamiliar words, I kept asking Bro. Chuck what he was preaching on. He kept responding that he wasn’t sure, but had narrowed it down to two possibilities. At breakfast on Sunday morning I asked him again, adding that it didn’t matter to me as long as it wasn’t from the book of Deuteronomy. He gave me a funny look and said that it actually was from Deuteronomy Chapter 10. At first I thought he might be joking, as he is quite a joker, but soon decided he was serious. I had to explain to him that I always had trouble pronouncing Deuteronomy in Spanish (Deuterononmio) and had once told Sixto that I would never preach in Spanish from that Old Testament book. We all got a good laugh out of it. I was determined to be able to pronounce it, so I rehearsed it in my mind all the way to the mission. Of course, when I tried to say it the first time while translating the message, I butchered it. I think I got it right the other two times. Bro. Chuck had jokingly threated to repeat the word as many times as possible during the message; I’m glad he was joking.

The Sunday morning worship service was wonderful (in spite of my translation problems). The entire team sang a song, then others of the group sang before Angie and Chris shared testimonies. I fought back tears as the children of the mission sang “Todopoderoso” at the top of their lungs. I couldn’t help but praise the Lord for what He is doing at Guadalupe in raising up a generation to bring honor and glory to Him. After the church service, Jose and Maria, along with the help of the other adults at the mission, fed us a wonderful lunch of chicken, rice, peas, and carrots, topped off with some sweet strawberries, grown by Jose himself, for dessert.

During the afternoon, the team presented Day 2 of VBS. The balloon animals and face painting were a big hit with the children. Following another great session of VBS, we picked up pizza on the way back to the guesthouse, where the team worked again to prepare for the next day.

On Monday at Guadalupe we continued VBS, while others painted and applied mortar to finish the tops of some columns. Our attendance for VBS continued to increase as the word spread within the community. Both the children and the team were enjoying themselves. This was Drew’s birthday and Jose and Maria surprised him with a cake before we left the mission. Keeping with tradition, someone pressed his face into the icing on the cake.

I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the Zook family, who run the HCJB Guesthouse. When we got back there Monday night, Rene had baked a delicious chocolate birthday cake, which we used to celebrate not only Drew’s birthday, but Glenn’s (Sixto and Elisa’s youngest son), which was actually on Thursday the 19th.

Tuesday was so bittersweet, as it was the fourth and final day at the mission. The team tried to prepare themselves for the emotional goodbyes, but it just isn’t possible. Their relationships with the translators and especially the folks at the mission, had grown exponentially each day they’d worked there. Enrique, the husband of Cila, one of our translators, met us there Tuesday morning to help provide a list and obtain electrical materials for the permanent wiring of the classrooms, which he will soon be doing. We continued painting until we ran out of paint. Some of the team enjoyed fishing in a nearby pond and just spending time with the precious children they knew they’d have to say goodbye to later that day. Maria and some of the women of the mission cooked all morning and served us a delicious meal of chicken, potatoes and corn on the cob for lunch. Over 60 children showed up for VBS that afternoon. They enjoyed signing their names on the shirts of the team members, as well as the usual games, lessons, crafts, and snacks. Tears flowed freely among the exchanging of the words “te quiero” which had been much rehearsed by the members of the team. Hundreds of photos were taken of the precious little faces that will never be forgotten. We saw at least one come to know the Lord that afternoon as teenaged Christofer prayed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior after being counseled by Sixto. There was a deafening silence on the bus on the way back to Quito that night as everyone thought about the events of the past four days, perhaps trying to discern exactly what God was trying to show them. Many, no doubt, began to entertain the possibility of returning to Ecuador next year to visit their new friends. It was painful now, but what a great experience!

With our work at the mission behind us, we boarded the bus very early on Wednesday morning. Once again we experienced the hospitality of the Zooks, as Rene sent us on our way with sandwiches, fruit, and juice to take with us for breakfast on the bus. This was to be a day of sightseeing as we traveled to the Banos and Shell areas. We had been excited about it, as each day thus far had been mostly clear. We had dreamed of closeup views of Cotopaxi and Tungurahua along the way. However, this turned out to be our only cloudy day during our time in Ecuador. The temps dropped into the 30’s as we drove past Cotopaxi, the magnificent snow-capped volcano that remained hidden in the clouds. It began raining before we got to Banos, so Tungurahua, the active volcano, was also cloaked in clouds. Hoping the rain would soon end, we drove on to Shell and toured the Nate Saint House, the home of the pilot of the five missionaries martyred in the Ecuadorian jungle in the 50’s. We drove back toward Banos and enjoyed a lunch of grilled trout. The rain continued and we marvelled that it was somewhat cool, even in the normally hot and humid Shell area. We decided the rain would not ruin our plan to hike into the Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall. Fortunately, many donned raincoats before we started the half-mile journey. From the trailhead we could hear the roar and see the spray of the tremendous flow of water. We found out later that it had been raining there for three days and the volume of water was incredibly above normal. In fact it was difficult to get close enough to the fall to take pictures without getting wet. Some brave team members actually crawled through the narrow passageways to arrive behind the fall, where they found it difficult to breath because of the spray. They, of course, were thoroughly soaked. However, all agreed that it was worth it to view such an awesome creation of the Lord. We got back on the bus and headed back to Quito, witnessing a beautiful rainbow as it began to clear a little just before sunset. With the wet clothes, many began to get cold as the bus climbed higher into the mountains after dark. Since there was no heat on the bus, the driver, Franklin, had to open the engine cover inside the bus to provide a little warmth. We had expected to return to the guesthouse around 8:30, but an overturned gasoline tanker backed up traffic coming into Quito, delaying our arrival until after 10 p.m. It was a long, tiring day, but we were okay with that, knowing we had only one more day to enjoy in Ecuador.

On Thursday morning we went to the Middle of the World Monument on the equator, north of Quito. In addition to being a great photo opportunity, this would be the souvenir shopping time for the team. After everyone had experienced bargaining for reduced prices for their goods, we enjoyed lunch at a typical Ecuadorian restaurant. This was the much-hyped opportunity for everyone to sample the Ecuadorian delicacy of roasted cuy (guinea pig). I was proud of the team, as I believe every single one of them were willing to at least sample it. No one should go to Ecuador without at least trying guinea pig, in my opinion. On the way back to the guesthouse, we stopped at Mega Maxi, a large chain supermarket store, to buy chocolate, coffee, and jams to take back home. Returning to the guesthouse we had a couple of hours to get packed before the Salcedos brought supper to us, already cooked and ready to serve. Elisa had told me she would be serving beef tongue cooked in onions and mushrooms, but I chose to share this fact only with Bro. Chuck. I looked at her and smiled as everyone cleaned their plates. When asked what they were eating, I only offered that it was beef. Only after the meal did we tell them what they’d had for supper. Some said they would not have eaten it had they known, but most agreed that it was delicious. We said more tearful goodbyes to the Salcedos and other friends who had accompanied them. Sixto commented about how this team had impacted him and the folks at Guadalupe more than any visitors and more than the team could imagine. I have to agree.

This would be another long day as we took the red-eye (overnight) flight back to the U.S., arriving in Atlanta around 6 a.m. on Friday and finally landing in Memphis at around 10. We arrived back at Clear Creek a little after noon and everyone went their separate ways.

As I think back over the trip, I stand in awe of how God put it all together, how He provided the finances, how He chose the team members. Of all the short-term teams I have been involved with over the years, I have to say that the Clear Creek Baptist Church team ranks among the top. I want to thank them for being so disciplined, so prepared, so flexible, and so loving. They did a tremendous job of furthering the kingdom work at the Guadalupe mission. In addition to being blessed, they were an incredible blessing to all of the people they met in Ecuador. This group is also special to me because this is the church that I grew up in and where I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior many, many years ago. Clear Creek, may God richly bless you! It is time to begin planning for next year’s trip!

In God’s Time

May 28, 2012

Two new faces – mothers at Guadalupe Mission with babies born since we left in September

Bro. Chuck on the equator

Time doesn’t mean that much to Ecuadorians.  They live in a culture that doesn’t get in a hurry (except when they are behind the wheel) and where manana only means “not today.”  That’s why I (Lynn) hope my friends in Ecuador understand that when I left there in September, I told them I planned to return for a visit in December, but actually made it in May.  They probably just think that I was being very Ecuadorian.  In reality, I spent the past 8 months waiting for “God’s time” to return to Ecuador.  After waiting on the Lord much of our time as missionaries in Ecuador, apparently God thinks I still need some lessons in patience.  Of course, He is never wrong!

Earlier this year, just as I was beginning to think that perhaps I’d never get to return to Ecuador, God began to open the door of opportunity. For those of you who are familiar with our ministry, you know that we returned to the States in late September after almost 3 years as missionaries in Ecuador. We returned with the intention of maintaining our ministry there by leading short-term teams to go back and provide pastor training and discipleship in Ecuadorian churches.  Bro. Chuck Castles, pastor of Clear Creek Baptist Church in Lawton, Tennessee, and I began to talk about the possibility of a group from the church going to Ecuador on a short-term missions trip this summer.  I had grown up in Clear Creek Baptist Church and had come to know the Lord there, years before Bro. Chuck became their pastor.

After meeting with the church in March, we set a date for a short-term trip in July and began to make plans.  Soon afterward, I was invited to attend a meeting of my fellow missionaries of Global Outreach Ecuador May 11th – 13th in Patate, Ecuador.  I began to realize that this was God’s time for me to return to Ecuador.  Not only could I attend the meeting, but by staying for a week I could visit my friends and the ministry we support in Guadalupe and also make arrangements for the Clear Creek group’s July trip.   Not wanting to go by myself (Cathy had work obligations), I invited Bro. Chuck Castles to go along.

The excitement built as the time drew near to return to Ecuador.  My ministry partner, Sixto Salcedo had kept me informed on the progress of the ministry at Guadalupe via Skype and email, but at last I’d get to go back and visit this precious group that I loved, missed, and constantly prayed for.  We were also excited about  being able to carry homeschool books and some food items not available in Ecuador to some missionary friends who had arrived in Ecuador only a couple of months ago.  I was blessed by two of the members of our weekly Hispanic Bible study in Savannah when they gave me money prior to my leaving to be spent on the mission in Guadalupe.  What a blessing to see Mexican Christians wanting to reach and help their Hispanic brothers and sisters in Ecuador!

Bro. Chuck and I arrived in Quito late in the night of Thursday, May 10th, and were greeted by the entire Salcedo family at the airport.  We spent the night at the HCJB Guesthouse, but the next day we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and a time of catching up in the Salcedo home.  It was good to see that Sixto’s wife, Elisa, is doing better following some difficulties in the early days of her pregnancy, with a baby due around September 25th.  Wishing to spend as much time with my ministry partner as possible, I invited him to accompany us for the weekend to the Global Outreach Ecuador meeting.  We drove down that afternoon to Steve Thompson’s Camp Chacauco near Patate, where I got to see some missionaries I hadn’t seen in quite some time and to meet others that I’d never had the priviledge of meeting in person.  We had a good weekend of meetings there in the shadow of Tungurahua Volcano, which reminded us of its state of activity with an occasional rumble.

Following a great worship service in Steve’s home on Sunday morning, we departed  the camp and the 3 of us went to the nearby town of Banos.  On Monday we drove down to Shell, the “gateway to the jungle” and visited the Nate Saint house.  Nate was the pilot who was martyred in 1956, along with 4 other missionaries, by a group of Waorani tribesmen. There is a lot of Ecuadorian missions history to be found in Shell.
After returning to Quito on Tuesday, we finally got to visit the mission in Guadalupe on Wednesday. During the afternoon we observed the work that had been done on the classrooms since I last saw them in September and began to make plans to do more work with the Clear Creek group in July. In addition, they plan to conduct four days of VBS with the mission children. It was so good to get to see the folks at the mission again. Two babies had been born to mission members since we’d left, so there were at least a couple of new faces in the group. In the midst of celebrating my “homecoming” I was a bit saddened by ther faces of the children when they learned that Cathy wasn’t able to make the trip. Oh, how they love and miss Hermana Cathy! I had the priviledge of preaching to the adults at the mission that evening, something I’ve really missed.
By Thursday, we were able to make arrangements for the lodging and transportation for the Clear Creek group’s July trip. During the day, Bro. Chuck and I visted the Middle of the World monument, located on the equator just north of Quito. That afternoon we packed up before going to the Salcedo home for dinner prior to flying out at 11:30 p.m.
What a great trip! The Lord is faithful in that in His time he allowed me to return to Ecuador. I praise Him that He is fulfilling His plan for us to be able to maintain a ministry in Ecuador while living in the States. Now I am really excited about the trip in July. Please pray for the Clear Creek group as they make preparations for their construction and VBS ministry July 12th-19th at Guadalupe Mission.
If there are other groups who would like to participate in short-term missions with us in Ecuador, please contact us so we can begin making plans!

Continuing Ministry in Ecuador

January 10, 2012

Here we are in a new year already and I realize that it has been some 5 months since our last blog.   A lot has happened in that time as we have been readjusting to life in the U.S. since mid-September.  At this point, we are continuing to pray about and seek ministry opportunities here in Tennessee.  However, in November God allowed us to begin a weekly Bible study with a group of Hispanics in nearby Savannah.  We are grateful to Bro. Jason Martindale and Northside Baptist Church, who have helped make this possible, and for Nardo at El Rodeo Restaurant, who allows us to meet in a back room each Monday night.  We are praying about starting Bible studies with Hispanics in other nearby towns.

I (Lynn) have accepted a part-time secular job, but would welcome more ministry opportunities.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to do pulpit supply from time to time.  Cathy has been able to pick up a few hours of work occasionally.  Eli did a great job of transitioning to public school, as he began attending Adamsville High School last August as a junior.  Olivia continued her homeschool education until last week, when she joined Eli at AHS as a sophomore.  We enjoyed the fall colors, high school football, deer hunting, spending the holidays with our families, and the general small town America life since we’ve been back.

Although we have lost most of our support through Global Outreach since we’ve been back, we want to remind you that our ministry in Ecuador continues.  The weeks before leaving Ecuador were spent not only selling furniture, but planning projects and making arrangements to perpetuate our work there.  We continue to provide resources for Guadalupe mission, which was the center of our ministry in Ecuador.  The short-term group from FBC Wellston, OK helped us do a lot of construction there in July, as we were adding 2 classrooms and a restroom.  Since we left, the folks that attend the mission have completed a good deal more work on the facilities. Through our Ecuadorian ministry partners, the Salcedos, we were able to help provide a Christmas community outreach program at Guadalupe on December 17th.  The Salcedos also manufactured (in the small family-run factory in their home) and delivered school uniforms for all of the school students in the isolated village of Chol near Alausi.  The uniforms are required by law, but most of the folks in the remote rural areas cannot afford them.  These were presented along with candy for the children, at a community-wide Christmas program in Chol.

Of course, we still have plans to return to Ecuador, leading short-term teams to train pastors, minister to local churches and communities through medical and evangelistic programs.  If you are interested in taking part in one of these short-term trips, please contact us at 731-439-4573 or e-mail us at pratherl@globaloutreach.org.

July, Part 2 – The FBC Wellston, OK Team

August 4, 2011

I met Darrell Sullivan some 15 years ago when we were both students at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.   After pastoring churches in Mississippi, New York, and New Mexico, he has returned to his native Oklahoma to pastor FBC Wellston, some 75 miles north of where he grew up.  Darrell had been to Ecuador a few years ago as part of a short-term mission trip and was wanting to return with a group from his church.  Late last year he found out that I was serving as a missionary in Ecuador, so he called me to discuss the possibilities.  We did some preliminary planning and then visited FBC Wellston back in April during our furlough to give a presentation and to meet those planning to come to Ecuador in July. 

After we returned to Ecuador from our furlough, I stayed busy during May and June trying to plan and schedule the trip for FBC Wellston.  I had emphasized to them during our visit and in written information the need to be flexible.  It turned out that applied to me as much, if not more.  Situations and circumstances constantly changed as I attempted to finalize our schedule, but I truly believe the Lord’s hand was in it all, engineering the changes.

Darrell and his team of 10 arrived in Quito late Sunday night, July 17th.  Besides Darrell, the team consisted of his children Eli and Rebekah Sullivan, his youth pastor Jim Slaton, Joe Conaway, Jessica Gaitan, Kylie Space, Janice Wilson, Chad Hinkle, and Shawn Sullivan.  We put the team on a chartered bus and Darrell rode to the Hosteria Nevada in Pifo with me.  On the way I explained to him about our change in ministry direction (moving to the States, while continuing to work in Ecuador training pastors) and found affirmation in his interest in being involved in this as we plan to use teams to help.  We got the team settled in at the hosteria around 1:30 a.m.

On Monday we had the team over to our house for breakfast at 8 a.m., which would become the routine later in the week.  A lady at the hosteria had originally agreed to do all of the cooking for the team while they were here, but backed out at the last minute.  So, Cathy and Elisa (my ministry partner’s wife) decided to take on this chore for themselves, cooking breakfast and dinner for about a week.  We boarded the bus after 9 a.m. and headed down the PanAm south to Ambato and then arrived at Baños before mid-afternoon.  This Baños/Shell trip came about after the plan to conduct 3 days of VBS at a church fell through.  After grabbing some sandwiches, we drove out to see some of the beauty of God’s creation.  We rode the tarabita (suspended cable car) out over Agoyan Falls and then took another tarabita down to a suspension bridge and over to the base of La Manta de la Novia (Bridal Veil Falls).    As we drove back to Baños with darkness approaching, the clouds began to disappear, revealing a spectacular view of Tungurahua, the nearby active volcano.  And what a magnificent sight, with its snow-covered peak glistening in the fading sunlight, spewing a column of steam all the while!

After a good night’s rest and a wonderful breakfast (during which we celebrated Glenn Salcedo’s 11th birthday) at Hotel Sangay in Baños, we headed out for another waterfall.  We exited the bus and hiked for half an hour or so to Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron), whose incredible volume of water creates a mist that soaks everyone who comes near.  It is really neat to be able to go around behind the waterfall.  One is reminded here not only of the beauty of God’s creation, but the power of the Creator.  The hike out created quite an appetite, so the bus took us a few mile down the road toward Shell to a trout restaurant.  After we had placed our order, the owner harvested the fish from the trout ponds between the restaurant and the river, dressed them, then placed them on a grill so we could watch them cook.  What a delicious meal!  From there we drove back toward Baños to the Agoyan Falls tarabita, where 8 of the group rode the tarabita to the other side, then zip-lined (canopied) back across, suspended several hundred feet above the falls and river.

After spending the night again in Baños, we made our way to Shell on Wednesday morning, where we were privileged to be able to spend some time at Casa de Fe, an orphanage which is home to some 55 Ecuadorian children.  It was such a blessing to see the children being well-cared for in a great Christian environment.  I was also impressed that the children are learning English, which will greatly increase their potential for finding good jobs later in life.  Our group made a donation to help meet the operating expenses of Casa de Fe.  This is a great organization that needs as much financial support as it can get.

Before leaving Shell, we stopped to visit the Nate Saint House.  This was very meaningful, since most of the group was familiar with the history of the 5 missionaries that were martyred in the Ecuadorian jungle back in the 50’s, with Nate Saint having been the pilot who flew the missionaries as they made contact with the tribe that killed them.

After a short stop for shopping in Puyo, we headed across the jungle through Tena and back up into the mountains, catching good views of the volcanoes Reventador and Antisana, along with several waterfalls.  We got back to Pifo around 8 p.m.

Thursday kicked off our 3 days of VBS at Guadalupe mission.  We also were able to order some construction materials on Thursday for our project of completing 2 classrooms and a restroom for the children at the mission.  Indecision among the group at the mission had led to a delay in getting this project started.  We had a great VBS Thursday afternoon; I was quite impressed with the preparation and presentation of the team.  It is always good to see our visitors loving on the kids.

On Friday we were able to take delivery of the blocks during the morning and do round 2 of VBS that afternoon.  Our nights were spent huddled around the firepit in our yard.  The team certainly enjoyed the cooler temps, considering they had experienced several days of above 100 degrees before leaving Oklahoma.

On Saturday morning the men of the team started out with some hard physical labor.   A dump truck unloaded 10 cubic meters of sand in the middle of the road in front of the mission.  Our task was to get it out of the road and up the hill to a location beside the mission building as quickly as possible.  With shovels, wheelbarrows, and buckets, we had it moved in less than 2 hours.  Most of the men mixed mortar or laid blocks the rest of the day, while the others did the final session of VBS.  We had a great group of kids all 3 days and what a blessing to see this gifted team from Oklahoma working together!  Most of the men were tired and sunburned and chose to get in the bed earlier on this night.

On Sunday morning, we attended La Conexion, a Baptist church planted in Cumbaya by our friends, the Davolls, whom we met in language school in Costa Rica a few years ago.  When we arrived at the church and introduced Darrell to Jeff Davoll, it was one of those “it’s a small world” moments.  It turned out that Darrell and Jeff knew each other from several years ago when they had both been pastors and had taught at the same school in upper New York.   Following the church service and lunch at McDonald’s, some of us hiked on an abandoned railroad (converted to a biking/hiking trail), while others rested.

Monday was another work day at Guadalupe, as the men of the team spent the day working and obtaining more materials for the project there.  We got off to a good start, getting the building to a point where, hopefully, the men of the mission can complete it by working  a few Saturdays.

Tuesday was the last day in Ecuador for the team.  We journied out to La Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument, located on the equator north of Quito. This was the opportunity for the team to do some souvenir shopping and to eat some cuy (guinea pig, a delicacy in Ecuador).  We returned to our house for pizza, followed by a time of sharing and prayer, before the team left for the airport around  8:30. 

What a wonderful 9 days spent with an incredible team!  They were everything we had hoped for and much more.  Not only did they help us to further our work here, they were a tremendous encouragement to us.  It was amazing to see God not only work through them, but in their individual lives while they were here.  We can only pray that God will send them back, or at least other teams like them!

July, Part 1 – Journey to 14 with the Gooches

August 2, 2011

Now that I’m in Tennessee and it is really too hot (or humid) to even be outside, I have the opportunity to catch up on my blogging by sharing about the busy month of July.  Our friends, the Gooches (Jeff, Belinda, and Zac), actually arrived June 29th to spend eleven days with us.  Not only are they close friends, they are former fellow church members and also fellow Global Outreach missionaries to Ecuador, although they have not yet made the move to Ecuador.  However, this was not our first time to work together in Ecuador; our families had participated in a short-term mission trip together in 2007.

On July 4th, as most Americans were celebrating Independence Day, we were traveling to the costal plain of Ecuador, along with the Gooches, fellow Global Outreach missionaries Alan and Fabiola Gordon, Pastor Horatio (brother of Fabiola, an Ecuadorian pastor for over 50 years) and his wife, my ministry partner Sixto Salcedo and his wife Elisa,  and some of Pastor Horatio’s church members.  In just a few hours we descended from the Andes Mountains surrounding Quito at about 9,500 feet to an elevation of less than 400 feet.  We traveled through expansive plantations of papaya, plantains, and African palms before arriving at a remote church near the small town of Catorce (literally “fourteen”).  We met that afternoon with some pastors and lay leaders from a group of nine independent churches in the area to hear them express the needs of their churches, which were overwhelmingly the need for basic biblical training at all levels.

We spent the night in a hotel in Catorce, which is said to be named after the number of the lot of land on which the town developed.  Otherwise, one might think there were fourteen cars, as compared to the hundreds of motorcycles (with only one rider in the entire town wearing a helmet) that created much dust, noise, and chaos in the streets.  The next day we were guided by Amable (name means “kind”, and he was) and his half-sister Maribel, as we visited some of the local churches.  The church that stands out in my mind was Damasco, or Damascus, a tiny little church located next to two or three houses in a remote area.  I found it interesting that according to the signs in place on the walls of the church building, the men sat on one side and the women on the other.  I don’t know if the seating arrangement had anything to do with it, but we were told that the congregation consisted of a handful of women, with no men other than the pastor.  It was hard to imagine that we were still in Ecuador; it didn’t look like the same country we were acustomed to, living in the mountains.  Most houses in the costal plain are built on stilts, not because of flood waters, but for air circulation and to keep the insects (and other critters) out.  I was amazed at the abundance of resources in the area.  We were told that this was one of the most resource-rich areas of the country, but that it just costs a lot to get everything to market.  On the road leading to the Damasco church, we passed acres of papaya and rubber (caucho) trees.  We spent an hour or so at the church as a member who lived next door allowed us to sample papaya, sugar cane, cocao, and other fruits picked from the trees and prepared as we watched.

We also visited the beautiful Cascada Salto del Armadillo (Armadillo Jump Waterfall), where we saw a “Jesus Lizard” run across the surface of the water from its sunny perch on a rock to the river shore without sinking.  Nearby we saw almond trees and sampled a nasty-looking breadfruit that tasted like a cross between pineapple and peach.  It was incredible to see such huge fruits hanging on the trees.  The same is true of the mate (not the Brazilian drink), a heavy gourd-like product that can be made into a bowl after drying for about a month.

  After a couple of hours of traveling on dusty roads, we crossed a lake on a ferry.  The road had been flooded out when a dam was built to create a reservoir.  This entire area has an interesting history and unique status.  The locals explained to us that they live within an area called La Manga del Cura (The Priest’s Sleeve) which is not officially within any of the provinces of Ecuador, a virtual no-man’s land.  We made it home around 8 p.m. after traveling along the dangerous, mudslide-prone route from Santo Domingo to Quito.

Besides our trip to the costal plain, we also enjoyed a journey to Banos and Shell, where we saw the beauty of God’s creation in the mountains and waterfalls.  We enjoyed a tour of the Nate Saint house in Shell, a place rich in the missions history of Ecuador. 

We also spent several days working at the mission in Guadalupe.  It was a great opportunity for the Gooches to get to know the folks there and to fellowship with them.  We also enjoyed the several days we were able to spend time with our friends, the Gooches.

A New Phase of Ministry

August 1, 2011

For the benefit of those who might not have received the July edition of our newsletter, The Prather Pages, I want to explain why Eli and I are currently in the States and give you the details of a new phase of ministry that we are beginning.  First of all, I want to make it clear that our ministry in Ecuador is not ending.  To the contrary, we believe that it is about to expand exponentially.  Let me explain what God is doing.

For months we had prayed that God would show us a way to continue our ministry in Ecuador, while giving Eli and Olivia the opportunity to be better prepared for college.  We discussed sending them back to the States to live with relatives while attending public school, but simply did not want the family to be separated for months at a time, or for them to be a burden on anyone.  We had come to realize that after the years of homeschooling, it would probably be better for them to experience the public school classroom to be sure they were adequately challenged and disciplined enough to study in preparation for college.  However, as we returned to Ecuador in May following our last furlough, we just didn’t see a way to do it. 

God had already given us a burden for training Ecuadorian pastors and we were trying to find a way to establish this work.  God suddenly began to answer our prayers by opening doors of opportunity.  It began when a missionary friend contacted us about working with him and an Ecuadorian pastor in this very area.  The pastor knew many other pastors all over the country literally begging for Biblical training.  We already had a plan, based on a successful model,  to use teams from the U.S. to come and teach pastors, and now we had the contacts we needed.  God had showed us a way to continue our ministry in Ecuador without actually living there.  We believe that this ministry will be much more effective and efficient than our current one.  If we can touch the lives of several pastors by teaching and training them, they will in turn touch hundreds and thousands of others as they disciple their congregations.  We came to realize long ago that discipleship is the greatest need among the churches of Ecuador.

After discussing our plan with the folks in the office at Global Outreach, we found out that it was possible, but would require some changes.  First of all, our status with Global Outreach will change from career missionaries to missions project coordinators.  This means that we will lose our salary and insurance, thus, we will have to find jobs when we return to the States.  However, we will still be able to raise support to continue our ministry in Ecuador.  We hope that everyone, especially our supporters, understands this important point.  We are not abandoning our work in Ecuador, although we will be living in West Tennessee.  We plan to return to Ecuador at least once every month or two to put on pastor training conferences or to work with individual pastors and churches, all with the assistance of short-term teams from the U.S.  We still need the financial and prayerful support of Christians who love the Lord and love missions to be able to carry out this work the Lord has called us to do.

We began to put this plan into practice as Eli and I arrived in the U.S. last Friday.  He will begin classes at Adamsville High School on Thursday.  I will stay with him until August 16th to be sure he is settled in before I return to Ecuador.  He will live with his grandmother until we can sell the furniture and close things out in Ecuador.  We hope our family will be reunited in the States by the end of September, if not earlier.  Olivia has chosen to continue homeschooling until January, since it is not as critical for her to immediately receive the credits toward high school graduation. 

Again, I want to emphasize that we are not abandoning our ministry in Ecuador, but are, in fact, expanding it.  We plan to continue our current work at Guadalupe mission as we return to Ecuador frequently, plus concentrate on training Ecuadorian pastors and working to meet the needs of their individual churches.  Short-term teams will be a vital part of this new phase of ministry.  We have also been praying that God would provide opportunities to begin a Hispanic ministry here in the States.  We have already seen some interest among local pastors as God begins to reveal His plan to us.  If you are interested in being a part of any of this, please contact us.  If you have any questions about these changes in our ministry, please don’t hestitate to contact us. 

We are excited about the opportunities the Lord is giving us to serve Him!  God is good!

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!” they say.

August 1, 2011

I had not experienced the Mid-South summer weather since 2007, a few months before we left for a year of language school in Costa Rica.  After Costa Rica, the past two summers were spent in the coolness and low humidity of the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains.   I have really come to appreciate the “natural air-conditioning” which normally consists of highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s.  Perfect temperatures, if not a little cool at times.  In fact, we had huddled close around the fire pit in our yard each night for the past two weeks or so with the short-term team from FBC Wellston, OK.    As I soaked up the heat of the fire, I couldn’t escape that feeling of dread, knowing that in a few days, as I returned to the States, the air temperature would probably feel about the same as that fire!  I wondered if I would be able to take it.

Last Friday at 6 a.m. local time, Eli and I stepped off the plane in Atlanta and there it was, just as oppressive as I had remembered it – that dreaded humidity.   I really believe the sun is more intense there on the equator in Ecuador, but things just don’t heat up like they do here.  I believe I could take the heat, but as they say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!”  I’ve been relieved to rediscover that it is not unbearable all day long, everyday, so far.  I am thankful that there are times when it clouds up and cools off and at times there is a good breeze.  However, I catch myself planning around the heat, and haven’t been brave enough to get on my bike yet.  No wonder I’m looking forward to returning to Ecuador on the 16th!

Yes, I’m in the States for a few days.  I don’t know how many of our blog readers receive our newsletter, so in a subsequent post I will offer an explanation and the details of the changes as we are entering a new phase of ministry.   Also, since we have not posted anything since May, I will try to catch you up on what we’ve been doing recently in Ecuador.

The Violin

May 14, 2011

Olivia and the "answered prayer" violin

Katie Beth and Annie McWilliams practicing violin for the symphony

Several years ago, Olivia began to take lessons to learn to play the piano.  While we were in language school in Costa Rica, she took a few guitar lessons and a generous family friend later gave her a nice guitar.  Her music and singing have always been a source of delight in my life.  I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her say a few months ago that she wanted to learn to play the violin.  I´ve always loved to hear the violin.  We looked at violins here in Ecuador, but decided to seek advice and perhaps purchase one while we were in the States on furlough.  Secretly, Cathy began to pray that God would provide one.

When we returned to the States in late February, we were delighted to find out that Callie Dudley, a wonderful violinist, lived half a mile down the road from us.  We were so grateful that she agreed to give Olivia lessons once a week.  After just a few lessons, I was enjoying hearing Olivia playing Amazing Grace, one of my favorites, on a borrowed violin.  In the meantime, Cathy continued to pray.

In mid-April we spent a couple of days near Glenwood, AR with our friends, the McWilliams family.  Gary, Lynna, and their four daughters may be one of the most musically talented families I know.  Gary can play any type of stringed instrument, and in fact, makes his own unusual instruments.  His oldest two teenage daughters play violin in the symphony orchestra in a nearby town.  Everyone in the family plays musical instruments.  When we told Gary about Olivia´s aspirations to play the violin,  he immediately produced an old basic violin, without strings, bridge, or anything.  It was the violin on which Gary had learned to play and he gave it to Olivia so she could learn on it, too.  The only problem was, we weren´t sure we would have time to have the missing parts replaced before we returned to Ecuador.

Once we returned from our trip, someone told us to take it to Maxine´s House of Music in Savannah.  We left the violin there, and in a couple of days they called to say it was ready.  When we went to pick it up, Olivia picked out a case, bow, tuner, and portable music stand.  When we got ready to pay for the parts, labor, and the accessories, Jeff Hart told us that everything was already paid for!  We couldn´t believe our ears!  We stood there and cried tears of joy as we realized that we were experiencing answered prayer.

Initially, we thought Jeff or someone else at Maxine´s might be the source of this blessing.  However, I had the opportunity to talk to Jeff again when we did our presentation at Northside Baptist Church just a few days before we left.  He told me that we were blessed by someone not connected to the store, but he could not reveal their identity.  Cathy and I have discussed this and feel confident we know who the person is.  If you, that person, are reading this, you know, and God knows,who you are.  We want you to know how much you blessed us, and how much we appreciate you.  We want you and Gary McWilliams to know that God used the two of you to answer a secret prayer.  There´s just something about the secret, unspoken things that remain between an individual and God.  We are grateful for not only what you did, but the way you did it.  It gives God all of the glory!  That´s something we all should practice more.   Thanks, however, for being a channel of blessing!

Speaking of Jeff Hart, I have to add that his obedience to the Lord was a blessing to us, too.  After hearing in our very last presentation that we could use a small sound system in our work in Ecuador, he promptly met our need.  After the service, he called me aside and privately gave me his own personal system to take back with us.  What a blessing to us and the mission at Guadalupe!

I mention these people because they are connected to the violin story, but there are countless others that blessed us by giving sacrificially during our furlough.  You and God know who you are and we are grateful to each of you.  May God richly bless you in return!  As they say here in Ecuador, “May God repay you!”    My prayer is that I am blessing others more than I am being blessed, but there´s no way that could be possible.

Furlough 2011

May 13, 2011

Well, in yesterday´s post, the first in several months, I wrote about reverse culture shock.  Maybe that was the first thing I thought of regarding our furlough and I just had to clear my mind.  Today I want to spend some time on the specifics of what we actually did during the 10 weeks or so that we were in the States.

We returned to our stateside “home base” in the Gilchrist community near Adamsville, TN on February 24th.  The strategic location allows us to be near the majority of our family members and is also central to most of the churches we would visit.  We hit the ground running, with presentations almost every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night for the duration of our furlough.  We had the privilege of visiting 24 churches, 6 of them for the first time.  It is always an honor to be able to return to supporting churches to give a report on our ministry.  We also participated in a local missions fair and had the opportunity (especially Cathy and Olivia) to share about our ministry with several small groups.  Our travels took us over 3,300 miles to churches in 4 states, the most distant being First Baptist Church in Wellston, OK.  We were blessed to get to meet their short-term team that will be coming to Ecuador to work with us in July.

As always, it was so good to get to see old friends and to make new ones.  We were blessed by the hospitality, encouragement, prayers, and support of so many people.  We are so grateful to each church and individual who blessed us in so many different ways.  Thanks for being channels of blessing, but we have to give God the glory and praise for always being faithful.  We thank Him for His provision, His protection, and all that He has done. 

As I think back on our furlough, I´d like to list just a few of the many events that stand out in my mind.  It was a busy, but wonderful time of visiting and having fun. 

After obtaining his driver´s permit last year, Eli passed the test and received his Tennessee driver´s license in March, shortly after his 16th birthday.  Congrats to Eli!  Although he was able to spend a lot of time hanging out with family and friends, Eli was obviously preoccupied with a special female friend, Hannah.  Besides her meeting him upon arrival at the airport, they were able to spend some time together, including a Redbird´s ballgame in Memphis in April.

Olivia enjoyed hanging out with family and friends, practicing her photography, and learning to play the violin.  The story of the violin is just a “God thing” and will be the subject of another post.

Although fall is my favorite time of year, spring runs a close second.  It was amazing to witness the transformation of the bare trees of winter in late February to the blooms of spring in March and April, and then to the fully leafed trees in April and May, something we could never witness in Ecuador.  God is an awesome Creator and His creation is marvelous!

In the past, we had made road trips to Arkansas to do presentations and visit friends.  This year, we extended our road trip through Arkansas to Oklahoma in mid-April.  It was a long trip, as we left on a Saturday and returned late the next Thursday, but we certainly enjoyed it.  We were able to spend most of the weekend with a pastor friend in Malvern, AR and do a presentation in his church on Sunday.  We spent Sunday night with some old friends near Glenwood, AR and relaxed with them kayaking and fishing on a river the next day.  We stayed in a cabin in rural Arkansas for a couple of days without internet, television, or phone service, and lived to tell about it!  There were times I thought the kids might not make it, but it sure was a nice change of pace during a busy furlough.  On Wednesday we drove to Wellston, OK, where we did a presentation at FBC that night.  We were excited to get to meet their short-term team that will be coming to work with us for a few days in July.  We are looking forward to seeing them again in Ecuador!

As for me, it was good to get back on my bicycle again after riding my stationary exercise bike for the past year in Ecuador.  I enjoyed several rides to Shiloh Park and around the backroads of our area.  Although there were times I doubted if I´d be able to pull it off this time, my cycling climaxed with a 100 mile ride the Friday before we returned to Ecuador.  I am grateful to my two “preacher buddies” who invited me again to turkey hunt with them in Wayne County on opening day.  We didn´t kill anything, but it was a great time of fellowship and just enjoying being in the woods.  I also enjoyed getting to do a little fishing and target shooting with my uncle.

In late April, we had the privilege of getting to have lunch and spend a few hours in Corinth, MS with our fellow Global Outreach missionaries, the Folks.  Jacob, Courtnay, and their children were also on furlough, as they serve in Costa Rica, where they were our next-door neighbors for a few months while we were in language school at the same time there.   This was the first time we had seen them since we left Costa Rica in December of 2008.  God is really using them in Costa Rica, as Jacob amazingly has 12 Bible studies meeting on a weekly basis!

So many good memories!  It´s back to work for us, but we won´t soon forget the good times of our 2011 furlough.  Thanks, everyone!