Left: Guests and hosts gather around the table to share stories of God's work in Ecuador.
Right: CPMC Conference Minister David Boshart receives the gift of a traditional woven
mantle, which hosts described as signifying leadership.
Photos by Linda Shelly and Holly Blosser Yoder
Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network Director for Latin America
Twenty years ago in November 1998 in Quito, Ecuador, leaders of the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL) and the predecessors of Central Plains Mennonite Conference (CPMC) and Mennonite Mission Network recommended forming a partnership. That partnership came alive a little over a year later when César Moya and Patricia Urueña were sent from Colombia to serve in Ecuador.
They arrived in January of 2000 to begin work in indigenous theological education, yet by April 2001 also held the first worship service of the Mennonite Church in Quito. One of IMCOL’s contributions to the partnership was a strong sense that the long-term future would depend on developing an Ecuadorian church with a vision for ministry with indigenous people, refugees and others in need.
In the early years partnership meetings were long and arduous as there were many decisions to be made and priorities to be set. In contrast, the partnership meeting in November 2018 was a relaxed time of sharing together and seeking to understand how the partnership can be most supportive. The difference can be attributed to the shift from the partnership operating the program in Ecuador, to the partnership supporting the work in Ecuador.
The church planted in 2001 now has Ecuadorian leadership and has formed a legal conference in Ecuador (ICAME--Iglesia Christiana Anabautista menonita de Ecuador). The partnership welcomed this change and the Covenant signed in April 2016 committed to "work together in the best ways to support the vision and direction of ICAME," recognizing the value of ICAME making the primary decisions related to the ministry in Ecuador.
Ministry with indigenous churches has also taken on new forms. Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer and their family arrived in 2015 to work with indigenous churches in the Eastern rain forest region. Over the past several years indigenous leaders have also visited ICAME and talked about their growing desire for an Anabaptist conference. They were present for the dedication of the ICAME building in February 2018. Considering legal complexities, they formed their own multicultural, primarily indigenous, Mennonite conference Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Ecuador (ICME). While indigenous leaders of ICME date their Anabaptist theological roots to early Gospel Missionary Union missionaries recruited from Mennonite churches in the 1950s, they developed their Anabaptist convictions primarily through the teaching ministries of partnership personnel. During this visit the partnership had an opportunity to attend a church service at an ICME congregation Camino de Salvación (Way of Salvation) in the southern part of Quito.
Honoring the covenant with ICAME, the partnership supports ICAME’s vision, which includes developing a relationship with the new ICME conference. In November these two conferences, along with the older conference on the Coast (IEME--Iglesia Evangélica Menonita del Ecuador) participated together in a workshop on Pastoral Care (caring for those who care for others). As we see these conferences emerge from seeds sown long ago, we are encouraged in thinking about their potential impact in the Ecuadorian context.