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How Did You Get to Ecuador?
By Adam and Carol Duncan
“How did you get to Ecuador?”
We have answered this question frequently over the course of the last year. In one sense, the answer is simple—we flew! Yet, the real question is “How did two kids from rural Missouri realize the ministry God prepared for them lies in a place they had difficulty finding on a map three years ago?”
God’s guiding hand has been on us every step of the winding path. How did we get from the childhood understanding missions is important, but not personal, to answering the call to Ecuador? It started in Columbia, Missouri.
We moved to Columbia in 2002 for Carol to attend nursing school. Once settled, God led us to Rejoice Free Will Baptist Church. Rejoice is a Missouri missions plant started by Steve Reeves. We had the pleasure (and pain) of being on staff as the church became self-supporting. We saw the mortgage paid by the cooperative work of God and Free Will Baptists. Along the way, Adam was both licensed and ordained. The opportunity to be discipled by someone with a heart for missions (in this case a former international missionary) is perhaps the most important feature of this first step, and one for which we will always be grateful. At this point, Ecuador wasn’t even on our horizon, but God knew what was coming next.
In 2016, we had a life-changing encounter with God at Camp Niangua. Our preteen camp evangelist was Myriam Le Louarn (now Reeves). As she talked about the influence of Jerry and Barbara Gibbs on her family and her call as a missionary to France; our daughter Moriah (eight at the time) walked to the altar and answered the call to missions. We still had no idea God was preparing a path to the jungles of Ecuador.
While at the Missouri State Meeting in 2017, Steve Reeves introduced Adam to Sam McVay, former missionary to Spain. Sam talked about a group he was leading to the Ivory Coast. Adam gave his standard deflection: God’s not leading us to Africa or China, but we’re happy to support those who are going. Adding, “If a group is going to Mexico or Central or South America, we might consider it.” Sam immediately told Adam about The Hanna Project trip to Ecuador. Fairly caught, Carol and I signed up and went in 2018.
Until this trip, we thought short-term missions involved painting a building or leading VBS. While those are valid tasks, they are not suited to either our skills or season of life. This trip changed our view radically. The medical team, including Carol, worked with the local health department, setting up mobile clinics in rural villages. They treated various illnesses and injuries, prayed with those suffering, and even held a couple of semi-spontaneous worship services.
This was helped dramatically because the local church planter was one of their interpreters. They formed a bridge of love between the church and the communities they wanted to reach. The construction team built a porch over the sidewalk at the middle school building at Antioch Christian Academy. We interacted with students, teachers, and volunteers, sharing the love of Christ in a tangible way. Having a professional carpenter helped immensely, too. (Thanks, John Heitz!)
When we left Ecuador, we had a clear sense God was leading us to return. We immediately began planning a trip with THP in 2019. This time, Carol coordinated the medical team, and Adam’s dad and sister joined the team. The pace of this trip was a little different. The medical team did not travel as far as the previous year, but intentionally visited villages where gospel outreach was occurring. Adam traveled with the medical team one day. In addition to treating a variety of illnesses (and witnessing the life-giving effects of clean water through a sand filtration system), we caught a glimpse of Heaven as we sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” in English, Spanish, and Kichwa simultaneously. Wow! does not begin to describe the feeling.
While debriefing midweek, Roberto and Charmai Davalos, founders of Antioch Christian Academy, explained two of their greatest needs were expanding the counseling program and adding a school nurse. Carol and I looked at each other in awe, thinking, “This is us.” When we returned, we prayed about our next steps. God soon made it clear He was leading us away from Columbia, Missouri.
Our dilemma was not what is good and what is bad, rather what is good and what is best. This is a dilemma all Christians face. The “what” of the Great Commission is clear, the “where” is much more individual. We believe meeting physical and social needs while failing to address spiritual needs defeats the purpose of any mission outreach. The method and context must change, but a quote from Clint Morgan reminds, “Through ministry we earn the privilege of witnessing.”
We also recalled Paul’s words in Roman’s 15:20, “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.” In fact, this became our deciding factor. We believe God uniquely equipped each of us for the ministry He laid before us. Finding the point where your great passion and the world’s great need meet (Frederick Buechner) is the answer to “where.”
Please indulge us in a case study for the sake of illustration. In our family, three different answers were found to this where question. The Hanna Project was vital in providing the answer to our where. Our answer is international missions. It was also vital for Adam’s dad. His role is short-term trips and mobilization. He uses his experience to encourage others to be more intentional in their daily walk. He started a discipleship group and reached out to heal damaged relationships. His where doesn’t require a passport or a plane ticket, it requires fulfilling his role at home, at work, and in the local church.
For Adam’s sister, The Hanna Project answered more of a where not. She found, while she grew from the experience, manual labor in a tropical climate is not the best use of her skills and abilities. She has not found her exact where yet, but believes it involves using her bookkeeping and auditing skills to assist groups in improving their efficiency in sending those who go. So, we see the impact of a trip in three ways: some go, some stay and help prepare and mobilize those who go, some work to enable the sending agencies to lengthen and strengthen their reach. All need to learn to pray, go, send, welcome, and mobilize.
If you are considering a short-term trip through The Hanna Project, ETEAM, or College Missions Program, we say without hesitation, “Do it!” The experience will change how you see your world and your ministry. Who knows? You might find your Ecuador.
About the Writer: Adam and Carol Duncan were appointed to a two-year IM internship in partnership with Jungle Kids for Christ. Adam, a trained counselor, will provide services for children from challenging backgrounds. Carol, a registered nurse, will supply year-round medical needs. Lean more about the couple’s plans at www.iminc.org/missionaries/aduncan