It’s been over a month since the earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador and caused massive devastation to several cities. The death toll has reached over 650, with 7,000 buildings being destroyed and more than 26,500 people were forced to live in shelters. The government has had to step in and make plans as to how to face the destruction in the country financially. Millionaires in Ecuador are being forced to give the government 0.9% of their wealth to go toward the rebuilding and restructuring of cities along the coast. It’s rather surreal how quickly the atmosphere has changed.
One of the cities that was hit hard by the earthquake was Manta. This was significant news for Extreme. Currently on the field in Quito, Ecuador, a team of missionaries is in training to plant a church in the city of Manta. Extreme, along with several Nazarene Church groups from around Ecuador, were able to go into the city to tend to immediate needs a week after the earthquake. The team was able to give meaningful help to many people affected by the earthquake in Manta. They also hosted several evangelism events. Several of the people from Manta approached the team members to tell them they should come plant the church in their area of town. There was so much hunger in the city as the missionaries met many people interested in Jesus Christ and were able to get contact information to keep in touch.
A few weeks later, after the initial team went to Manta, another opportunity to serve in Manta came up. This time, instead of just providing food and material needs, a team would go to minister to the people of Manta. The missionaries spent a few days calling the people they met in Manta and lined up days and times for visits. For the first time in Extreme history, a church plant team went into their service city before the church plant officially started to build relationships.
On the 13th of May, the whole church plant team for Manta left to minister in Manta. This was an important experience for the Manta team, not just because it was their first opportunity to minister to the people of Manta, but also they were going to see each other in positions of leadership for the first time. With tasks to take on, and having to be flexible as events change, personalities were going to come alive and manifest in different ways than have been seen up to this point in the classroom. Maria Hardeman, 40/40 Church Planter for the city of Manta, shares a little of her experience of the weekend spent in Manta. “It’s so interesting. I mean, you want to be the perfect person on the field in the midst of chaos, in the midst of change. I knew that when I got on the bus I was looking at 30 leaders on the bus. And once we got to Manta, everybody’s going to want to describe what’s going on or the best thing to do. So, it was interesting to see some of that leadership.”
After 8 hours on the road they arrived to Manta and went directly to the area of the city where the earthquake caused the most destruction. At 9:00 pm without any reprieve between travel and ministry, the missionaries went directly to work.
“Our event was out in the open.” says Maria, “The streets were lined with mattresses and everyone was outside. It happened to be a hotspot. Our pastors Jeni and Luis went a little earlier than us and they were able to scout out a place that had a lot of people. It was cool to bring encouragement to them with the event.”
“People there were sleeping outside because they were afraid that their homes would crumble or thieves would come in looting.” shares Edi Gallegos. “It was a night full of great blessing. Many kids came to play games and participate in the dances we did. A message of hope and love was shared by Pastor Luis Espinoza. There were a lot of people that accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
Having gone from the road, directly into ministry, the team was absolutely exhausted and headed to the house of a kind local that opened their home to host the missionaries. The team spent the evening sleeping on the floors with just blankets and pillows and welcomed the amount of rest that they could get. The next day there were more opportunities and events, bringing smiles to children’s faces and helping people think about something else other than their difficult circumstances.
On the last day that they were in Manta, Pastor Luis gathered the team and told them they were going to the beach. When they got there, they set up speakers and burst out in praise and spent the evening singing praise to God. There were about 30 or 40 people there all praising God and lifting his name up. “It was just glorious,” said Maria.
For the team members, the reality of the earthquake began to sink in. This event that happened hours away from them is going to affect the nature of their ministry for the next two years. Seeing groups of people whose lives have been changed so drastically that normally would be seen through news articles on the internet or in print was impacting.
“Honestly, I walked away with a bit of discomfort.” reflects Maria. “How the people had been forced to change because they don’t have much anymore. Especially those who were affected by the earthquake. It is hard for me to see someone beg and know that a month ago they were just like me. They had a job. And maybe had a nice life and now they don’t have those nice things anymore. How do you minister to someone who for the first time [have to live] differently. It’s the idea of what would it be like to be [the me I know today] and then be a beggar tomorrow? At the events we saw some people who had nicer clothes on, but they were off in the distance just observing. [Some of the people have this look that says], I really do know what life is like with money and with a job and things like that. I don’t even have language for all this yet, but it was something that was a reality for me. It’s a world of firsts for everybody.”
There is so much to process for the team as they work through what the earthquake means for their future ministry. Now, the missionaries face being a support for Manta in different ways. From helping people to mourn the loss of loved ones to supporting others as they work to put their lives back together, there is a lot for the Manta team to consider as July nears.
God has an amazing plan, and we can see it in the way that this team has been put together. The leaders of the church plant team have a spirit of action and will guide the 40/40s successfully into the expansion of God’s kingdom. We are so thankful that the Manta team was able to serve in their city before their official term began. Seeds have been planted, and lives have already been changed. Though Manta has experienced a huge devastation, God is building a Kingdom in the city even now that is unshakable and will remain forever!
Please join us in prayer for the Manta team as they prepare to join the citizens of Manta full-time. Pray that:
- The 40/40s absorb the information from their studies so they can be sharpened tools on the field.
- God reveals his creative ministry plans to the team as they strategize how to minister and bless the people of Manta.
- Understanding and empathy floods the hearts of each of the missionaries the way that understanding and empathy move the heart of God.
- The team has more experiences that draw them closer into God’s presence and unity amongst themselves.
- They are protected against the schemes of the enemy to break apart their unity.
Who did we interview?
Maria Hardeman is a 40/40 Missionary for the Manta Church Plant. Currently, her and her team are in Quito, Ecuador, going through Spanish and theological training. In July, this group of young missionaries will head to Manta for 2 years and work to change the DNA of the city. Read more about Maria in her bio and meet more people on her team!