"Ministries come of age in Ecuador"

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QUITO, Ecuador (Mennonite Mission Network) – Many people from many different contexts contributed to the joyful celebration of 20 years of Mennonite involvement in Ecuador, Patricia Urueña said of the festivities that took place in Quito, March 13-14.

Also recognized was the tenth anniversary of the Ecuador Partnership that brings together Central Plains Mennonite Conference, Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (Mennonite Church of Colombia) and Mennonite Mission Network in collaborative mission.

In 2000, the Colombian Mennonite Church sent Urueña and her husband, César Moya, to serve through the Ecuador Partnership. Urueña cited an impressive series of milestones as she reflected on the past 10 years of partnership activity. Activities that topped her list included:

   * establishing a relationship of trust with indigenous people that bore fruit in an invitation to train church leadership;
   * building a vibrant congregation in the capital city;
   * planting another congregation in the mountains of Riobamba;
   * multiplying Anabaptist believers through teaching in seminaries and workshops;
   * and assisting refugees.

“Sometimes we think we should stop with the dreaming, but God is always giving us visions and ideas,” said Moya.

In addition to supporting indigenous church leaders with theological training and planting churches, Moya and Urueña have provided vision and leadership to various other ministries, including the Colombian Refugee Project, which provides refugees with temporary shelter and microfinance loans for small businesses, and Edu-Paz, a collaborative project with neighborhood and school officials to help children learn positive values and conflict-resolution skills.

Since 2008, Moya and Urueña also have taught courses on peacemaking themes at Seminario Sudamericano, a Pentecostal seminary that draws students from many Latin American countries.

During the week of anniversary celebrations, members of the Mennonite churches in Riobamba and Quito hosted a partnership delegation, the eighth fellowship-and-work team to visit Ecuador. The visitors from Colombia and the United States attended partnership business meetings, worshipped with an indigenous church in San Antonio, met with refugee families who have fled violence in neighboring Colombia, visited the seminary, and heard stories of peacemaking from Edu-Paz participants.

Riobamba Mennonite Church, four hours southwest of Quito, began regular Sunday meetings in March 2009. The congregation took root in Bible studies that Moya and Urueña led with a group of people interested in Anabaptist theology. In 2008, Mission Network workers Don and Jan Rheinheimer arrived in Riobamba and helped the group grow from a small Bible study to a church of about 30 adults and children.

In September, Moya and Urueña will begin a sabbatical at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. Moya plans to work on his doctoral thesis comparing Anabaptist and Latin American theologies, while Urueña hopes to participate in a peace studies program. They will share some teaching responsibilities at AMBS and in congregations.

Urueña expressed great confidence in the leadership ability and spiritual maturity of the seven members of the Quito Mennonite Church council to shepherd the congregation during the absence of the pastoral couple.

The oldest of Moya and Urueña’s three children, Daniel, graduated from Goshen (Ind.) College in April and hopes to find work and service opportunities in northern Indiana. Juan Camilo and Andrea plan to study at Goshen College, as a sophomore and freshman, respectively.

Visitors represented the Mennonite Church in Colombia, Mennonite Mission Network and five Central Plains congregations: White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church, Busby, Mont.; Bellwood Mennonite Church in Milford, Neb.; Casa de Oración in Davenport, Iowa; Salem Mennonite Church, Shickley, Neb.; and West Union Mennonite Church, Parnell, Iowa.

Contributed by Holly Blosser Yoder with Lynda Hollinger-Janzen