In 1998, Youth World identified a need to develop a training and retreat center to serve the needs of the leaders in the national church, families, and young people of Ecuador. Late in 1999, a piece of property was purchased on the edge of Calacalí, Ecuador and it began being developed into what we know today as ‘Hacienda El Refugio.’
Rick Borman is the son of Bubs and Bob Borman, who were missionaries to the Cofan people of Ecuador beginning in the 1950’s. Rick grew up with the Cofan in the Ecuadorian jungle, and as an adult brought his youth group down from the US to Ecuador for Quito Quest mission experiences. Rick, along with Russ Cline, desired to reach the youth of Quito and envisioned a property to function as a ‘getaway’ from the busyness of everyday ministry. In 1998 Rick, along with his family, moved to Ecuador and began looking for a property to start a ministry with these goals in mind. Originally, they envisioned a piece of land the size of 20 hectares or so. They actually looked at the El Refugio property early on but thought it was too big.
The owner of the property contacted Rick, expressing their desire to sell the property. It had a fresh water source, a phone line, electricity, around 300 acres, lots of ‘mountain,’ and wasn’t too far from Quito. Funds were raised from a generous foundation to provide for half of the purchase cost, and the remaining funds came in and in 1999 El Refugio was founded.
Under the leadership of the El Refugio ministry team, the ministry moved forward in that process to provide a place that is conducive to training, that is a ‘refugio’ (refuge) from the noise and the busyness of the city and that will point people towards our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. El Refugio was developed to be a place that would serve national leaders and pastors, work and mission teams, and the international community of Quito. It was also intended to be a place to train leaders in the skills and techniques of outdoor adventure and how to apply these in a ministry setting.
El Refugio was founded with big dreams and the belief that God would use it to further His kingdom by providing a unique setting for people to hear His voice in a new way.
Jesus often withdrew to quiet places and prayed…” Luke 5:16
Quito is a very busy, noisy, and congested city. The hope of those who started the ministry of El Refugio was that people would come away from the busy pace of city life and find rest in this property of more than 300 acres, nestled between two Andean mountain ridges.
El Refugio was formerly a hacienda, complete with a working farm and ranch covered with trees. The property had been owned by a high-ranking general in the Ecuadorian army, and at that point was known as Hacienda La Virginia. This name and the founding year are still painted on the steps of the main building on site, known as ‘Casa Grande.’ It was because of this general’s status and connections that the property came with a phone line and electricity. To highlight how incredible it was that the property had these ‘basic’ services, consider this fact: we applied to receive a second phone line at El Refugio, and it took 8 years to receive it.