Day of children's event with a bubble cannon
Pointing Children to Christ in Ecuador
By: Jeanette Windle
In June 2023, Ecuador became BCM’s newest ministry field with the commissioning of Juan Fer and Rita Sanchez from the capital city, Quito, and Jose Quezada in the coastal megacity of Guayaquil. Participating in a week of inaugural events were BCM president Rick Rhoads and wife Naomi, Latin America director Carlos Odicio, president emeritus Marty Windle, and wife Jeanette Windle.
BCM Latin America began in Peru in 1993 with a very specific vision: “Pointing children to Christ and pointing churches to children.” BCM Quito missionary Juan Fer explains why this is so urgent for his country.
“Ecuador has become a heavily Christianized nation. But little emphasis is placed on children because there is a mentality they aren’t capable of understanding the gospel. If churches have children’s ministry, the focus is often just keeping them entertained until they are old enough to attend youth and adult events. Meanwhile our children are being flooded with false ideology on gender and sexual immorality. Divorce rates are over seventy percent. Extreme poverty leads parents to migrate for work, leaving children to be raised by extended family. It is imperative churches be awakened to the silent cries of hurting children in their neighborhoods.”
Jose Quezada with Gospel Clown volunteers
And God is indeed awakening the Ecuadorian church. It was 2016 when BCM Peru director Jonatan Odicio and his wife Shantal were invited to teach a children’s ministry training conference for almost seventy pastors and children’s ministry leaders at Iglesia Alianza Centenario (Christian & Missionary Alliance Church of Centenario) in Guayaquil (see A Border Crossing for BCM Peru, BCM World, March 2016). Among those attending was a university student named Jose Quezada.
By the time he was thirteen, Jose had joined four different churches. The youngest of three siblings, he grew up in an impoverished home abandoned by an alcoholic father. To keep her children from delinquency, his mother Ana Maria insisted they attend church. First, the local Catholic diocese. Then a Jehovah’s Witness hall.
One day two foreign young men showed up at their door. They explained that God’s real truth could only be found in the Book of Mormon. Soon Jose’s entire family was baptized into the Mormon church. Jose dreamed of becoming a Mormon missionary himself until a girl his older brother was dating commented, “Did you know the Bible says if even an angel from heaven preaches a different gospel than Jesus preached, they will be under God’s curse (Galatians 1:8-9)?”
Jose Quezada, street evangelism
This was a shock since Mormons taught that an angel had descended from heaven with a new “gospel” on golden tablets. Pulling her family from the Mormon church, Ana Maria decided it was time to read the Bible for themselves and find out what it really said. Some time later, she decided to visit just one more church right down the block which they’d been walking by for years.
Iglesia Alianza Centenario was like no church the family had ever attended. The pastor preached right out of the Bible. For the first time, Jose recognized that God loved him so passionately He’d sent His own Son to pay the price for Jose’s sin. At fourteen, Jose surrendered his heart and life to Jesus Christ.
Having relinquished his goal of being a Mormon missionary, Jose never dreamed that one day he’d serve as BCM Ecuador’s first full-time missionary. The 2016 children’s ministry conference gripped his heart as he knew what it was to grow up in difficult circumstances not knowing God’s love. He began volunteering in children’s evangelism around Guayaquil. In 2020, he enrolled in BCM Peru´s Center for Ministry Training. In December 2021, he attended BCM candidate orientation (see Taking the Next Step, BCM World, Spring 2022), then spent the next year learning every aspect of BCM Peru children’s ministry so he could replicate it in his home country.
The last three years haven’t always been easy, including trusting God for monthly finances. But as Jose expresses, “No one said following Jesus would be easy. Still, I can say with certainty that the joy of serving God has been worth all the cost.”
One recent children’s outreach Jose and his team held in Guayaquil was in a poverty-stricken, crime-ridden slum called La Trinitaria where shacks on stilts extend over a garbage-filled harbor and children live with flying bullets, drugs, and violent street gangs. More than fifty children were drawn by the colorful costumes, balloons, and snacks, a rare treat in their lives. They stayed to hear of God’s love and promise of salvation.
At the end, one small boy approached a volunteer to ask, “I just asked Jesus into my heart. Does that mean I am now God’s child?”
With a loving hug, the volunteer assured him, “Yes, little friend, if you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are now a child of God.”
It is such experiences that keeps Jose Quezada passionate about reaching Ecuadorian children for Christ. He summarizes, “Our Savior left us a legacy to go and make disciples, including children. My goal for BCM Ecuador is to motivate every member of every church with this vision even if that means pouring out my own time and resources until nothing is left.”
BCM along with the Iglesia Pradera de Dios hold children's outreach
Victor and Cynthia's son, Samuel, doing street evangelism
PASTOR VICTOR AND CINTHYA JAME
If you ask the senior pastor of Iglesia Pradera de Dios (Church of God’s Pasture) in southern Guayaquil, Jose is well on his way to accomplishing that task. Pastor Victor Jame shakes his head humorously. “Jose is like the Covid virus. He is so passionate about reaching Ecuador’s children that he infects everyone to whom he shares the ministry of BCM, including my own family!”
In the early 1990s, Victor and Cinthya Jame lived in a tiny apartment on the Centenario Alliance Church property. As caretakers, they cleaned bathrooms, set up chairs, made repairs. What they didn’t do was set foot in the church services. One day Pastor Walter Tapia stood in their doorway and told Victor, “I’m not moving until you agree to attend a service.”
Victor and Cinthya finally accepted an invitation to an evangelistic campaign. That night both gave their hearts to Christ. Back at Centenario, Victor often answered the phone after the pastor had gone home. As callers poured out their problems, he wished he had more biblical knowledge to help them. Pastor Walter encouraged him to enroll in Guayaquil’s Alliance Bible Seminary. In 2000, Victor became part of the Centenario pastoral team. In 2014, he began pastoring Iglesia Pradera de Dios.
Gospel Clown outreach
Victor’s wife Cinthya, three sons Christian, Victor, and Samuel, and daughter-in-law Leidy Giraldo all participated in the 2016 BCM training conference and became committed members of the children’s evangelism outreach. Victor was deeply impressed with the new vision for reaching children he was seeing in his own church as well as other participating churches across Guayaquil.
Which was all fine until Victor’s youngest son approached him about volunteering for BCM Peru’s camp season. Barely seventeen, Samuel had never been so far from home. To his father, he seemed much too young to travel alone all the way to Peru. Victor shared his concerns with an Alliance prayer partner in Colombia. Instead of agreeing, the Colombian pastor commented, “Sometimes we parents are why our children don’t follow us into ministry because when they do want to serve God, we don’t encourage them.”
Well, that can’t be God’s voice, Victor determined. A short time later, he asked another pastoral colleague in Guayaquil to pray about his son’s crazy desire to do short-term missions in Peru. After prayer, the other pastor said thoughtfully, “You know, it was at youth camp that I first received God’s call to full-time ministry.”
Okay, that can’t be God’s voice either, Victor thought. But for peace of conscience, he agreed to speak with Samuel’s school principal. Since no school would allow a student to miss a month of classes, that would be a clear answer God didn’t want Samuel to go. To his shock, the principal responded, “That’s not a problem. He can do his homework online. After all, this is serving God. The only requirement will be taking his exams, which he can do by Zoom.”
There was one more obstacle. A plane ticket to Lima could run a thousand dollars, money they didn’t have. After much prayer, Victor told his son, “If we can get a ticket under five hundred dollars, you can go.”
By this point Victor wasn’t surprised when a family friend found a ticket for just four hundred dollars. Today he says with a smile, “If God could take so much time to make clear that serving in BCM camp ministry was His will for Samuel, how could I say no? My son came home from that trip with a new perspective and maturity. Now we count ourselves privileged to be part of the BCM family, and as a church we will always be ready to partner with BCM ministry here in our city.”
Iglesia Alianza Norte children's event
Juan Fer and Rita commissioning
JUAN FER AND RITA SANCHEZ
Juan Fer and Rita Sánchez had a similar calling to BCM. Juan Fer accepted Christ during a children’s camp at age seven. Throughout his teen years, he volunteered in church ministries and began serving as youth pastor while studying agricultural engineering. Rita came to Christ while completing a degree in architecture, the first Christian in her family. That same year, three siblings went through marriage breakups. Seeing the emotional consequences of broken homes deeply impacted Rita with the urgency of reaching children with God’s love.
Juan Fer and Rita met while he was in seminary. By the time they married, both felt called to full-time ministry. While working professionally, they also began helping with a new church plant, Iglesia Alianza Norte (Alliance Church of North Quito), which today runs 1300 in Sunday attendance. Their original plans were to serve in youth ministry. But as they witnessed the impact of soaring divorce rates and dysfunctional homes, they felt God calling them to marriage and family counseling.
They were first introduced to BCM while visiting a church that family members attended in Canada. BCM’s vision of pointing children to Christ and churches to children spoke to the great need they saw in their own country. In August 2022, they attended BCM candidate orientation in Bolivia (see Expanding Territory for BCM Latin America, BCM World, November 2022). On Sunday, June 4, 2023, they were officially commissioned by their church leadership, BCM president Rick Rhoads, and BCM Latin America director Carlos Odicio.
That same weekend, the BCM Ecuador team in conjunction with Iglesia Alianza Norte held a Gospel Clown event in celebration of Ecuador’s Day of the Child. More than 225 children attended, of which a third were unchurched. Dozens of children and parents received Christ during the evangelistic invitation. 170 parents also attended a panel on raising emotionally and spiritually healthy children led by IAN senior pastor Javier Silva, Rick and Naomi Rhoads, Marty and Jeanette Windle, and Carlos Odicio.
Presentation of BCM's ministry to local pastors
Radio interview with HCJB
Other inaugural events included pastoral leadership gatherings to present BCM ministry in both Guayaquil and Quito as well as multiple interviews on Ecuador’s globally renowned Christian radio station HCJB. In consequence, dozens of churches have already expressed interest in partnering with BCM for raising up children’s ministries.
Jose Quezada encountered his own adventure while setting up one particular pastoral leadership conference taught by Rick Rhoads and other BCM personnel. He’d sent out electronic invitations to pastors all across Guayaquil but hadn’t received a single response. Printing invitations, he decided to visit each church and invite the pastors personally. That’s when he discovered his vehicle was broken down. Without funds for a mechanic, he set off on foot across this city of almost three million. The following day, a friend drove him to some of the more distant churches. In total, he hand-delivered invitations to eighty churches, but two days before the event, only five churches had confirmed they would be participating.
The day before the conference, BCM leadership was able to announce the event during a radio interview. Within hours, registrations began pouring in. Ultimately, almost two hundred pastors and leaders from over twenty-five churches showed up to learn about God’s heart for children and the potential for children’s ministry in their churches.
“When it seemed there was nothing I could do,” Jose expresses, “God did everything. For that I am so thankful.”
The BCM Ecuador team sums up their vision for the future: “As a new ministry here in Ecuador, we have many dreams but also many challenges. It is our prayer that through BCM’s ministry local churches will become a light in the darkness of their neighborhoods where hurting children will not only hear the gospel but by God’s glory find a place of spiritual protection and growth.”
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