Welcome to the ministry of the Church of the Nazarene in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
April 30, 2013
Mission Corps Missionaries Ian and Hillary Cole
ByEngage magazine on October 1, 2012
In August this year, Ian and Hillary Cole arrived as Mission Corps missionaries at Seminario Teológico Nazareno Sudamericano (South American Nazarene Theological Seminary) in Quito, Ecuador, on the North Andean Field of the South America Region.
Engage: How did you first recognize God’s call to be involved in missions?
Ian and Hillary: For us, the idea of serving with the church overseas in a Spanish-speaking country has been something we’ve considered ever since we were engaged about five years ago. The specific call to come to Ecuador and serve with the Church here came this past April when we visited the country for a few days (we were visiting Hillary’s sister who lives here). After the NILI program shared with us their needs for the upcoming year, we felt the Lord begin to work in our hearts.
After returning to the States, we could not shake the sense of “ought” we felt concerning the opportunities the Church had for us in Ecuador. As we shared that sense of “ought” with our families, our local church and other mentors in our lives, they confirmed the call we were sensing. Within a few weeks of returning to the States, we made a commitment to come and began our preparations.
Though things happened quickly, God continued to confirm our direction as we raised financial support, attended our Cross-Cultural Orientation, and made other preparations. And God has been faithful to us; He continues to confirm this calling each day as we serve Him here in Ecuador.
Engage: What is your favorite aspect of what you do in your present assignment? Share any relevant stories to illustrate this. Ian: We have only been in the field for about four weeks now, so we are still discovering what our present assignment entails. My favorite aspect of the assignment so far, however, is the staff we work with. Lucy and Salomon Lemache, Jenn and Harrison Guamán, Kyle Steinke and Jana Laughlin make a tremendous team. Their vision for the NILI Program is clear; their heart for the mission of God in the world is passionate; and their love for the Church of Jesus Christ, and especially the Church of the Nazarene, is deep. They, and all those who live on the campus of the seminary here in Quito, are a wonderful community to live among.
Hillary: It has been such a blessing to live within the community of believers here on the seminary campus. Every day I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to His people because we are able to see Him work in so many different lives. I have enjoyed learning about how our Church functions in Ecuador and how our students prepare for the ministry here. Through their example and the leadership of the staff of the seminary, my own understanding of missions and ministry is being deepened. One of my favorite parts of our daily life on the campus is eating lunch together with the seminary students and staff in our small lunch room. The conversations we have shared together over meals have been both funny and meaningful, and they have helped us in developing strong relationships with the people here.
Engage: What are some of the challenges that you face in carrying out your work? Share any relevant stories to illustrate this.
Ian: The biggest challenge for me right now is certainly learning Spanish. I have some background in Spanish, but not enough to fully communicate. Just last night I fervently attempted to communicate to our taxi driver that I wanted him to cross the street. I used the verb “crecer” to do this, not “cruzar.” Instead of telling him to “cross,” I told him to “grow.” Mistakes like this are common for me right now, but through it all the Lord has been inviting me into a deeper level of humility and gratitude than I’ve known before in my walk with him.
Hillary: I am still learning some of the ins and outs of the culture here. There are little things that are very important to know when you’re out and about in the city. During our first week in Quito, some of the NILI staff took us grocery shopping. After we had checked out, an employee asked if he could help us carry our bags out to the car. Since we didn’t have too many bags, I politely declined and said we could carry them. I didn’t realize until later, though, that it was this employee’s job to help customers out to their cars (and for this he usually receives a small tip, which helps supplement the small income he receives from the store). After I understood, I felt terrible, but through that experience I learned to let others help me when I am outside the seminary. (And I also learned to always carry around small change for tips!)
Engage: Please share a story of a significant event or moment that has happened in your current assignment.
Ian: Just last week I was privileged to be a part of the group of staff that took our NILI students into the Amazon Jungle. One afternoon, we flew as a group in two small six-seater planes from the town of Shell, Ecuador, into a village in the jungle where a small group from the Waorani Tribe met with us for an hour or so. During our brief visit, we were welcomed as brothers and sisters in Christ, though their native language is very different from Spanish or English and their life in the jungle is very different from our lives in Quito or in the States. In those moments, I had a tremendous sense of the deep communion we share as people washed by the blood of Christ and filled by His Spirit. I flew out of the jungle that day saying to myself, “If this God can make brothers and sisters out of such drastically different people, this is certainly the God I want to work for!”
Hillary: Two weeks ago, Ian and I went with the NILI students on a ministry outing to Betania, a home for older adults near the seminary. Over the course of an afternoon, we visited, read and shared games/art projects with about 15 or 20 different people there.
As I was sitting reading with one of the dear women there, I realized how broad my vision of missions had been. Before, when I had thought about doing missions work, I had thought about reaching great groups of people all at once for the Lord. But in that instance, I realized the value of ministering one on one with people in need. This experience has helped me see my relationships with everyone on the seminary—and everyone I minister to—in a different light. Every interaction with another person is important and can be ministry.
Engage: How do you maintain a close relationship with God and your family in the midst of the demands of missionary service?
Ian and Hillary: In terms of our personal development as disciples of Christ, times of solitude are definitely key to maintaining a right relationship. We have been blessed to have decent accommodations and a nice place to retreat to when we need to be alone. We know that our spirits couldn’t survive without these times of solitary prayer and contemplation. On the flip side, however, we’ve found that we deeply need those around us—even those we’re just now learning how to communicate with—in order to keep our spirits strong. As important as those times of solitary prayer are, depending on our brothers and sisters in Christ is also a key component for having healthy spirits.
In terms of maintaining our relationship as a couple while we’re abroad, we’ve found that we are a refuge for one another in the midst of an unfamiliar place and daily challenges. We retreat to one another and keep the lines of communication open. Being in a bad mood with each other is felt so much more acutely now that we’re the only truly familiar faces either of us sees throughout the day. We try to resolve any conflicts quickly and seek the leading of the Lord for our time here together so that we can be one in our mission, not divided.
In terms of keeping up with friends and family back in the States, thank the Lord for Skype! It makes the physical distance between us not seem so great.
Engage: What are the rewards of what you do?
Ian and Hillary: Again, we’re in the early stages of our assignment, but already we’ve reaped rewards in our relationships with our brothers and sisters here at the seminary. It is so rewarding when, after putting yourself out there with a foreign language, a brother or sister understands you and you build a friendship. We’ve already begun to develop good friendships with those we work with, and these relationships are some of the most rewarding aspects of our work thus far.
Engage: What are some aspects of the culture where you live that you have come to love or embrace?
Ian: I love that the believers here regularly refer to one another as hermano and hermana (brother and sister). It doesn’t matter if someone is just saying hello in passing; often they’ll say “Hello, brother.” “How are you, brother?” That constant reminder that we’re a family because of God’s work in our lives is a daily encouragement to me.
On a lighter note, I love empanadas! These little cheese-, chicken- or otherwise-filled pastries are to die for!
Hillary: I love exchanging greetings with other believers here on campus. For women, this means giving/receiving a quick hug and a kiss to the side of the cheek as a greeting. And often this is followed by Dios le bendiga (God bless you) or Bendiciones (blessings). This has been a meaningful part of interacting with the brothers and sisters on campus and at church in Ecuador so far.
Engage: What do you like to do for fun?
Ian: It’s fun to travel and see the city of Quito or the surrounding areas of Ecuador. This country is magnificently beautiful, and we look forward to exploring as much of it as time will permit while we’re here. Ecuador has great outdoor/extreme sports opportunities, and we’ve already enjoyed great hiking, rafting and ziplining. This upcoming weekend we hope to visit the nearby city of Mindo, which is known for its butterfly houses, “cloud forests,” and orchid groves.
Hillary: It’s been fun to spend time with the female seminary students here on campus. Whether it’s cooking/baking together, painting pictures together, or having a pajama party and staying up late playing games, we have enjoyed getting to know each other better through these fun activities! (Photo left: NILI slumber party.)
Engage: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Ian: While I am slowly struggling through Spanish right now, I do already read ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek (the original languages of the Bible).
Hillary: I am a twin! And though my sister Lauren and I are fraternal twins and don’t look anything alike, the Lord is using us both as we serve Him in the same city: Quito, Ecuador.
Engage: What advice would you have for others exploring a possible call to missions, or embarking on their first missionary assignment?
Ian and Hillary: If your church is offering short-term Work & Witness trips for teens or adults, sign up! There’s no reason not to go through the process of worrying about how you’re going to raise the funds (but then finding that the Lord provides), experiencing the culture shock of heading to a foreign land (but finding that God was there before you arrived and that He’ll take care of you), and realizing just how much bigger God’s vision for His church is than your own. We believe short-term opportunities like Work & Witness provide great opportunities for God to give you insight you just can’t get anywhere else.
If you’re one of those folks blessed to be dealing with a call to missionary service, realize first of all that, in reality, this is your calling whether you leave your home or not. We believe that God wants all of His disciples to realize that they are already missionaries, equipped to invite people to participate in the life of God made available to us through Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. If you still feel, though, that the Lord has a more specific call in mind for you—for instance, international missions work—talk with your pastor or local NMI president. We believe that when God calls us to specific missions, he places pastors and ministry leaders in our path to help us clarify that call. That has certainly been our experience, and we could not have fully embraced our call without the support and guidance of church leaders.
If you’ve already embraced a specific call and are on your way, then you’re not too many steps behind us! For now, the most important thing I could tell you to do is to BE FLEXIBLE! The service you’re planning on performing and the service you’ll probably actually do are not necessarily one and the same. Nevertheless, the God who called you knew what He was getting you into. If that call has been received, confirmed in your own spirit and by the church, and you are staying close to the Lord in your daily walk, then don’t worry when things do not turn out like you thought they would. The God who called you is faithful. (At this point, we’re truly preaching to ourselves. This is a lesson we’re learning day-by-day, even now.)