some seeds fall in good soil
ONE ACCOUNT OF MISSIONARY WORK BY FREE WILL BAPTISTS IN ECUADOR
Find out more about Free Will Baptist International Missions at www.fwbgo.com.
I was born in Mera, a small town on the edge of the Ecuadorian jungle. When I was three, my parents, Alfredo and Piedad Villacís, moved our family to El Pindo, a small village a few miles away. I, Luz, am the sixth of 10 children. My father worked hard as a farmer (not a bit like farm work in North America) to provide our most important need: food. Mom stayed home, providing care for her growing family.
Photo: The Villacis' home on the edge of the Eduadorian jungle
El Pindo had no attractions and our only visitors were those who week after week bought the sole marketable product: naranjilla, a fruit for juice. We lived in misery and spiritual darkness. We were surrounded by hopelessness. My early remembrances are of life in this tiny village.
A Sower Went Forth
Ella Rae Jones, originally from Mississippi, arrived in Ecuador in 1966 under the Free Will Baptist Board of Foreign Missions on loan to World Radio Missionary Fellowship, better known as HCJB (their radio station call letters). An RN, Ella served a year in WRMF’s Quito hospital and another year in their Shell hospital on the edge of the eastern jungle.
After completing her two-year commitment to the WRMF hospitals, she traveled to the States for furlough. When she returned to Ecuador in 1968, it was under the auspices of her home church, Fellowship FWB Church, Richton, Mississippi.
Ella used her nursing profession to reach many communities. Preventive medicine opened doors for the gospel of Jesus Christ. El Pindo was one of the communities she visited.
THE SEED IS THE WORD OF GOD
The year 1970 stands as a spiritual monument in our family history. It marks a new beginning—one of salvation and hope and love and commitment. God’s love became real to us in the person of Ella Rae.
I was about four-years-old when I met Ella for the first time. My parents willingly opened their humble home for her and a co-worker to teach children’s Bible classes. I remember how eagerly I, as well as other children, anticipated Friday afternoons. These were the most wonderful hours of the week! About 16 children sat quietly—most of the time—to hear the wondrous story of God’s love and sing beautiful children’s songs. I was eight when I understood it was not enough to know about God’s love for me; I was a sinner and needed Jesus as the Savior of my life. Many of the children who attended each Friday accepted Jesus into their hearts, too.
Photo: Children fill the Villacis' home for a weekly Bible class
Ella saw the spiritual need my parents, older siblings, and other adults had and started a Bible class for them on Sunday afternoons. Some of them made decisions for Christ and Ella invited a pastor from the evangelical church in Shell to baptize the new believers.
A few years later, my family moved a short distance onto the main road nearer Mera, a small strong Roman Catholic town with a tiny evangelical church. Since Ella was on furlough, my parents began attending the fledgling church and became acquainted with the few believers. This church provided opportunities for our family to be involved in ministry. Upon returning from furlough, Ella joined us in attending this church. With no pastor and little organization, the Lord used Ella Rae’s biblical teaching to strengthen the believers and encourage Ecuadorian leadership.
During this time, I also met Shelia Williams, a FWB from West Virginia. Shelia had a unique gift for children’s ministry. Several times Ella and Shelia organized vacation Bible schools in the Mera church and the attendance of many children almost tumbled the small wooden building!
THE SOWER SOWS THE WORD
Ella and Shelia trained my older siblings to teach Sunday School. When I was12 years old Shelia encouraged me to assist her in a VBS in Arajuno—a jungle community accessible only by Mission Aviation Fellowship aircraft. This experience included teaching the missionary lesson for five days. I remember it vividly. I received more training, and soon after, I helped and later taught Sunday School as well.
My father played guitar and accompanied the worship time at church. Ella saw the need for other members to learn to play musical instruments and invited missionaries from Quito to give musical training. They came for a week at a time for two summers. I took guitar and music theory lessons, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Not long after, I started playing regularly during the services.
Ella became a close friend of our family. My parents often looked to her for counsel. They respected her opinions and knew Ella could give them biblical advice. Our large family and meager income led my parents to determine elementary school was the only education they could afford for their children. In Ecuador high school starts at grade seven.
I remember when Ella approached my parents, concerned my older siblings were not continuing their education. When she learned the obstacle was financial, she communicated with her supporters about the possibility of using some of her support funds for our education. Later this developed into the Ecuadorian Youth Education Fund. Several persons in the States responded and through this fund, six of us completed high school—three graduating with honors. Other youth received aid from this fund as well. One of my sisters lived with Shelia Williams and studied in Quito for a year. Shelia shared her support funds to provide my sister’s educational and personal needs.
When I was 16, I consecrated my life to the Lord’s service and upon high school graduation, the educational fund made it possible for me to receive biblical training at Rio Grande Bible Institute in southern Texas (January 1984-December 1987) where we studied in Spanish. One of my younger brothers, Pablo, also received his education at RGBI through the fund.
Seldom do beneficiaries of missions giving have the privilege of meeting those who invested in their lives. In my case, God allowed me this privilege. While studying at RGBI, I spent two summers with Ella and her sister Jarma Lee in Mobile, Alabama, and one summer with Shelia Williams in West Virginia. While with them, I met people from FWB churches who had been instruments for the Lord’s work in Ecuador.
Photo: Luz (on the bottom step) with her two sisters
Ella’s sister, Jarma Lee Young, faithfully served behind the scenes doing all the office work for Ella’s account as treasurer and secretary. In June of 1987, Ella and I traveled to Illinois and Missouri where we visited churches and individuals who faithfully continued supporting the educational fund. What a blessing it was to meet them personally. For years, my family and I heard about the faithful believers who were committed to the Great Commission and supported the ministry in Ecuador, and now I could see them face-to-face!
SOME BROUGHT FORTH FRUIT
Upon graduation, on February 14, 1988, I married César Quiroz from Ecuador. César graduated from RGBI as well. Two months later, we began pastoring a small church in Latacunga, Ecuador, a city one and a half hours south of Quito, the capital. Some individuals and churches started supporting us and have continued faithfully until now. In August 1991, we moved to Canada where César studied at Briercrest Bible College and Biblical Seminary. He earned his BRS in April 1992, and later his MA in Biblical Studies, majoring in Old Testament. I was able to take several courses as well. As of May 2005, I am blessed to have graduated from Azusa Pacific University with an MA in Social Sciences. This degree has better equipped me for my ministry with women and with my own children.
In May 1993, we were appointed as career missionaries with Avant Ministries, formerly Gospel Missionary Union. Under Avant, we served in Ecuador in leadership development, teaching in a Bible school and in other training centers, mentoring pastors, counseling, women’s ministry, and music. These ministries became necessary as the evangelical church in Ecuador started to show a steady growth.
The Ecuadorian church is equipped to continue preaching the good news of the gospel. After 11 years of missionary service, my husband and I felt it was time to leave Ecuador and go where the need is greater. The Lord has placed us in a team of nine adults and seven children for a short-cycle church-planting ministry in a metropolitan chain of cities along the Mediterranean coast of Spain. We count it a great privilege to serve the Lord and follow the good example of missionaries like Ella and Shelia who were obedient to God’s call.
Photo: The Villacis family with grandchildren
I cannot imagine how life would have been for me, without the light of Jesus in my life during my early childhood. I was among thousands of hopeless children in Ecuador and because of His great compassion and mercy, God sent Ella to show our family the way to salvation. He has not only chosen me to be His child, but His servant as well.
My testimony is only a small part of the fruit of FWB missions in Ecuador. My oldest brother Antonio has been an elder in the church in Mera for several years. My sister Clelia is married to a godly man who is the chief elder of a church in Quito and uses his education as a psychologist in Christian counseling. Pablo, my youngest brother is now co-pastoring a church in Monterrey, Mexico. Iván Vaca, another member from the Mera church, is pastoring a church in Latacunga, Ecuador. The rest of my family follows the Lord and serve in different capacities in their churches. Hundreds of children touched by Sheila’s and Ella’s ministries are now reaching others for God’s kingdom. Only eternity will reveal the complete fruit.
Photo: Luz and her family today.
I cannot express my gratitude for Ella Rae Jones, Shelia Williams, and the many churches and individuals who sacrificially gave and prayed for the ministry in Ecuador. For all of you, I’d like to say:
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave. —Ray Boltz
FWB Missionaries in Ecuador
Three women represented Free Will Baptists in Ecuador:
Patsy Tyson (served 1964-1974)
Born Pitt County, NC
Rowan Memorial Hospital Nursing School (RN),
Free Will Baptist Bible College (BS),
Ella Rae Jones (served 1964-1981)
Born Richton, MS
Bob Jones University, Mobile Infirmary School of Nursing (RN)
Free Will Baptist Bible College (BS)
Columbia International University (Masters)
Sheila Williams (served 1971-1983)
Born Long Branch, WV
B.A., Free Will Baptist Bible College (1968)
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Concord College (1986)
Masters in Special Education, Marshall University (1990)
Both Miss Tyson and Miss Jones were appointed as medical missionaries to Ecuador in April 1964. Their assignment hinged on working in World Radio Missionary Fellowship’s hospitals. After a year of language study in Costa Rica, each served one year in a hospital in Quito and one year in a hospital at the edge of the Amazon jungle (Shell Mera).
After a year of furlough, the Board evaluated their reappointment in 1969. The women wanted to return to Ecuador and work in the eastern jungle areas. The Board did not feel they could release two single women for this type of ministry. Both ladies returned to Ecuador, sponsored by their home churches, serving independently from 1969-1974.
In 1974, Patsy wed Tom Willey, Jr. and began serving in Panama under the Free Will Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. Miss Jones continued to serve in Ecuador under the auspices of her home church (and other donors) until 1981, when she returned home to care for her mother who was diagnosed with cancer.
When Sheila Williams applied to Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions in 1968, the Board had placed a moratorium on sending single missionaries to the field. As a result, Sheila served with Child Evangelism Fellowship under Christian & Missionary Alliance for five years. She was supported by Woodhaven FWB (formerly Ecorse FWB Church), Woodhaven, MI, and various West Virginia churchesas an independent missionary from 1977-1983.
Williams returned to the States in 1983 to care for her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Currently living in West Virginia, Sheila attends Bradley FWB Church, where she coordinates toddler and children’s ministries.