Blessings abounded for the recent Work & Witness team from Gateway Church of the Nazarene in St. Louis, MO. Former missionaries Stan & Sherri Hall, along with their two children, brought a team of 23 to work on the Nazarene church in Shell, Ecuador. Under the excellent leadership of missionaries Harrison & Jennifer Guamán, the team met all of its construction goals and had several ministry moments as well. Our team included 9 college students, 1 high school student and 1 elementary student. And God showed up to build their faith along the way!
The team worked on the fourth floor of the Shell church. They put on a roof and built concrete block walls for what will become the church parsonage. Since the Shell church is the tallest building in Shell, the team had incredible views of the Sangay volcano and the jungle every day they worked. The Halls have led teams to work on the Shell church before, so it was exciting for them to bring another team to fall in love with Ecuador and to complete a job that’s been in the works for many years.
After Pastor Stan spoke in the morning service, the team worked in children’s church, which included a puppet show, songs, games and treats. Then the team spent the afternoon at a second location in the jungle holding a kids club and having a mini-baseball camp. Pastor Angel wanted our team to teach him how to teach baseball to the jungle kids, so they set up various “stations” to teach skills and then ended with a fun game! The team was welcomed by a little boy and 4 little girls dressed in traditional dress that performed a ceremonial dance and served chicha (the real thing) at the end of their dance. Working with these children and sharing in their custom impacted the team in a big way!
We also visited Casa de Fe (House of Faith), a local orphanage. After a tour, the team played with and loved on the children as well as left many gifts behind for the orphanage to use. New Year’s Eve was passed with a special service with the church people, and was concluded with one American being paired up with one Ecuadorian, and each one praying for the other. What a powerful way to bring in the New Year!
There were also some fun tourism and shopping days. Through it all, God gave us beautiful weather, good health, and safe travels. The trial of the trip came at the end, once the team reached Atlanta. Due to a severe winter storm, all flights were cancelled, and many roads into St. Louis were closed. The airlines told the team on Sunday afternoon that they might have flights by Wednesday, for sure by Thursday! Obviously the team needed to get home before then as most had to return to either school or work. So the team decided to rent 3 vans, drive to Memphis and hope that the roads would allow them to go into St. Louis the next day. And it all worked out—even better than they anticipated. Although it took them about a week to get all of their luggage back, the airline decided to compensate them with cash (that never happens) for their cancelled flights. Almost the entire amount of the extra money spent on vans, hotels and gas were compensated for by the airlines. What a powerful testimony to our team that God is faithful!