Local man attends church fellowship tour to Equador

Thursday, May 16, 2019
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Darren Green recently returned from a fellowship tour to Ecuador.

A two week visit to Ecuador got off to a bumpy start for Darren Green who represented White Chapel Mennonite Church on a learning and fellowship tour to Mennonite churches in the South American country.

On his flight from Chicago to Houston, the plane was tossed around by 100 plus mile per hour winds, he said. Despite the turbulent flight, he arrived safely in Quito on Mar. 29, joining the rest of the group and driving to Quito Mennonite Church where they stayed during their time in Quito.

A refugee program was on the agenda for their first day. While Ecuador is slightly smaller in size than Montana, Green was told it has taken in 750,000 Venezuelan refugees along with refugees from Columbia. The small Quito Mennonite Church serves 70 refugee families a month and has about 100 applications each month, Green said.

He went with a group to deliver food to a Venezuelan family, 11 people living in a small four-room apartment, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a large open room with a hot plate and a washing machine and dryer. When asked if a refrigerator would be more practical than the washing machine and dryer, they were told electricity wasn’t dependable enough for a refrigerator, he said.

Distributing cloth diapers was also part of the refugee program of the church. They had started giving out disposable diapers but that was not very practical so they were able to find a distributor of cloth diapers who gives them a good price for diapers with designs that don’t sell well in the United States, he said.

Worshipping with the Quito church and a Quichua-speaking church, touring Quito, learning about the political situation in Ecuador and Columbia, hearing the history of Evangelical churches in Ecuador, and visits to the equator, a lake and a local market were also highlights of his time in Quito.

“I’m not sure that I did well haggling for prices, and the first time I did it, I was nervous and accidentally asked what time is it instead of how much does it cost,” he said.

Francisco Nates, from Bogota, Columbia, was Green’s roommate for much of the tour and also talked to the group about the situation in Columbia where Mennonites formed schools for the children of Protestants as they weren’t allowed to go to public school. Church services were held in secret until 1992, he said.

In 2015 the Mennonite church facilitated peace talks between the rebel FARC group and the Columbian government. A peace accord was passed under a government referendum, the FARC put down their weapons and several entered politics. However, the new government is not living up to its part of the peace agreement and conditions are worsening again, he said.

The group also spent time with the indigenous people who live in the rainforest of Ecuador, traveling there by boat. It was dark by the time they arrived at the village where they were staying, and Green said he was amazed how the crew was able to navigate the boat, which had no lights, in the dark.

Clever Mashiant, a Shuar pastor from the southern part of the rainforest, met with them and told them that when missionaries came to their area they told the people, “You’re a sinner. You are going to hell. Accept Christ,” he related.

After delivering this message the missionaries asked people to raise their hands and accept Christ. Usually everyone in the village complied. The missionaries were happy, but didn’t realize that the main reasons the villagers raised their hands were because they were frightened, didn’t want the missionaries to leave and take away the resources and technology they brought or because they wanted to collect all the gods they could and if all they had to do to gain another god in their pocket was to raise their hands, they would do it, he said.

In the 1980s the missionaries left, and most of the people returned to their traditional ways. Their reliance was on missionaries, not on God so there was no change in their hearts. There were a few who had been changed by God and they began to find others in different tribes, he said.

Mashiant was one who sought out Christians from other tribes and formed a group for indigenous church leaders to come together. Their desire was for authentic believers, self-lead churches and missionaries with materials created in their own languages.

“They believe that people need to work together,” Green said. “The indigenous people, the Ecuadorians and the foreign missionaries should all be considered to be on the same level and treated as equal partners in the church. They should be one people and one church working together.”

During their stay in the Cofan village, they learned that many groups who come to the village and want to “help” don’t really listen to the Cofan about that they need. For example, when they told one group they needed a house for their teacher, but that it needed to be built up off the ground as the village floods every year, the group agreed to build a house but built one on the ground and now the teacher has to move out of it every year during the floods and then shovel out mud when he moves back in, he said.

They also took a five-hour hike through the rainforest, seeing many cool sites, walking across a stream on a log, and learning how the Cofan used to make canoes and blow darts. Another day they had a seven-hour trip down the Zabalo River. At one point their way was completely blocked by a tree so one of their Cofan guides got out of the canoe with an axe and chopped it in two so they could pass, he said.

The Cofan people have a project to save river turtles whose population had dropped to less than 160 because of their many predators. Each Cofan family has a section of beach and certain days to collect turtle eggs. When the eggs hatch the turtles are protected until they are old enough to be released back into the river.

“I got to hold a few,” Green said, and then I got to release two of them into the Erissti Naiki. I named them Olivia (his fiancée) and Darren so we have turtles named after us swimming in the Ecuadorian Rivers.”

Other highlights from Ecuador included attending a Cofan church service and worshiping with and sharing stories, testimonies and songs in English, Spanish, Shuar, Kichwa and Huaorani at the Ninawachi Mission Institute on their way back to Quito, he said.

“This has been quite the experience and I have a lot to process,” Green said, adding that he would definitely like to visit Ecuador and the churches there again.

Reach Cindy Mullet at crmullet@midrivers.com.

“I’m not sure that I did well haggling for prices, and the first time I did it, I was nervous and accidentally asked what time is it instead of how much does it cost,”
Darren Green