Cuban believers make disciples in Ecuador
About two years ago, International Mission Board missionary Johnny Maust began arranging for partnering mission teams from the U.S. to have lunch at Lupita Diner in Montalvo, Ecuador. He had befriended the owner, Hermida Cabeza, 70, a Christian, and showed a video at the restaurant depicting the Book of Matthew, but he wanted to establish a more consistent presence there.
When Cuban Baptists Javier Carballea and his wife Yaima came to serve with the Mausts, Lupita Diner welcomed them. U.S. missions teams from churches such as Central Baptist Church in Opelika, Ala., also provided names of contacts they had made in the town.
Javier and Yaima spent time at the restaurant to get to know the locals, such as Cabeza's daughter, Yadira Tello.
Yaima invited Tello to the couple's apartment to cook together and talk one on one. Tello, 30, became the first person the Cuban couple led to the Lord in Montalvo.
Tello and about a dozen other new believers attend a Bible study that Javier and Yaima started at the restaurant.
"They have had quite an impact," Tello said about the couple, "because they are always looking after our spiritual growth, they are always teaching us [about prayer], and they are always making sure that our bond gets bigger and that we are focusing on our goal of growing closer to God."
The Mausts serve among more than 600,000 Afro-Ecuadorians in a geographically large, unreached area of coastal Ecuador that is less than 1 percent evangelical Christian.
"There are other areas we want to reach, but we need the resources and the workers," Maust said. "To the Cuban convention, I would like to say that we would like to see two or three couples here working together in a group, in a team, to reach the Afro-Ecuadorians."
There's a big need for Spanish-speaking church planters, Maust said, not only to share the Gospel but also to stay long term to help people grow and reach spiritual maturity.
"What would Montalvo look like if we had a lot of Javiers and Yaimas working here? It would transform this area," Maust said. "And I think it would also motivate the Ecuadorians. They would say, 'Hey, if these guys can do that, why can't we do that?'"
"With a team, we can reach more people," Javier said of his and Maust's dream of a Cuban Baptist church-planting team based in Ecuador. "Why do we need a team? Because I believe there is strength in unity.... There are times when we are down and we need someone to encourage us, to push us, and I think a team can do it.
"It depends on God primarily ... and on brothers that can give so that we can come and do this work," Javier said. "And we are counting on those brothers who can provide support, so that we can [be here] and so that others can come."
As IMB missionaries, the Mausts are funded through the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
But as Cuban Baptist missionaries, Javier and Yaima are relying on support from Cuban Baptists, as well as individual donations to the Cubans to the Nations strategic project promoted by IMB, to be able to serve in Ecuador. Special projects like this one aren't included in IMB's basic budget of Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering funds but are additional, specific giving opportunities highly strategic to reaching particular peoples.
Javier and Yaima were already traveling evangelists in Cuba, going out to rural areas, often by foot or bicycle, to share the Gospel each week. Javier and Yaima led a church-planting team for their home church, the Iglesia Bautista San Juan y Martínez, in the province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba.
Before Javier knew that he and Yaima would serve in Ecuador as missionaries, Javier named the Cuban church-planting group Punta de Lanza after the 2005 movie "End of the Spear." The movie chronicled the martyrdom of five U.S. missionaries, including Jim Elliot and Nate Saint, in an Ecuadorian jungle. Since the formation of Punta de Lanza a few years ago, Javier and Yaima helped start two churches and 19 Bible study groups, some of them now mission congregations in Cuba.
They have the same goal in Ecuador. They hope the small group of new believers in Montalvo will spread throughout the region.
"We want to work with that group so that they will help us reach others," said Javier, in keeping with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention's missions theme, "Christ's disciples making disciples."
"We want to develop disciples," Javier said, "to get people going out and sharing and making disciples."
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Ecuador on April 16, killing more than 600 people, injuring more than 3,000, and destroying homes and city structures. Although those mentioned in this story were not directly affected, they are involved with pastors engaging in recovery ministries and have plans to help with local efforts. IMB worker Johnny Maust is encouraged that through recovery efforts in rural areas, local Ecuadorian pastor Ruber Bamba discovered villages of Chachi Indians, an indigenous people group that is unreached and unengaged with the Gospel.
"This is good information for us get to a hold of," Maust said, who is already in contact with a supporting Southern Baptist church that is interested in partnering to help these villages. "It's a very difficult community to get into because of it being indigenous, but through this disaster we will be able to give them some good help, make some contacts, and hopefully share the Gospel with these people."
Pray for the Ecuadorian people as they recover from the April earthquake that killed more than 600 people. Pray for the villages of Chachi Indians that were discovered by pastor Bamba during relief work. Pray that as they receive help for material and physical needs, they will also accept the message of the Gospel, and many will come to know Christ. Pray for partnership possibilities with Southern Baptist churches to reach these villages.
Cuban Baptist churches want to provide full financial support for their own international missionaries, but that's a tough challenge since most Cubans earn only about $22 a month. To learn more go to netcommunity.imb.org/giving (search for "Cuba") or email CubaToTheNations@gmail.com
To learn how you can share the Gospel with unreached people in the Americas, email firstname.lastname@example.org