We believe in supporting the local church and creating strong, reciprocal partnerships where we serve. We also desire to see adventure ministry grow in Ecuador and around Latin America. One of the ways in which we live out these concepts as a ministry is partnering with and supporting other ministries and locations that exist locally and around Ecuador. Part of the typical short-term team experience is to travel off-site and work in conjunction with these various ministry partners. Below is a brief description of these different locations and what ministry could look like at these different sites.
Calacalí – Calacalí is the town where El Refugio is located. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk to the center square of Calacalí from El Refugio. The town’s population is between 2,000 – 3,000 people. The town has a Catholic church and a small Baptist church. Various members of the El Refugio staff attend this Baptist church, which has an average attendance of about 25 – 40 people. Our strongest contact in Calacalí is this local church. In the past, in terms of outreach, we have worked together in planning and having VBS programs directly at the church. We have also held VBS programs, english camps, sports camps, and day camps on the El Refugio property for Calacalí youth. As much as we can, our hope and goal is to work in conjunction with the local church to support and build them up as a connecting point for the community.
Rayocucho – Rayocucho is a small community that’s a 5-10 minute drive down the road from El Refugio. Rayocucho in reality is a stretch of road that is lined with historic Haciendas. Today, these Haciendas are mainly used as family gathering places for holidays or weekend visits. As a result, the people who live in Rayocucho year-round are those who are caring for the Hacienda properties or farming the land for these families. Our partnership has been with the 2-room school that is in the town center of Rayocucho. There is one full-time teacher who teaches all of the students from 1st grade until the start of high school. Each year the government assigns a university student to assist, in order to complete their student-teaching practicum. On average there are about a dozen students in this school. Ministry here can range from English lessons to work projects to a VBS-type experience. The school has been very open to partnership in the past.
Oyacachi – Oyacachi is a small, remote town in a valley on the back flanks of a mountain resting in the region between the mountains and the jungle. We have a strong relationship with Pastor Leopoldo, the pastor of the only Christian church that exists in this town of 700 people. Our partnership here is with Leopoldo and his church as well as the school located in the town. The church has several bunks where we stay while serving in Oyacachi. Ministry is usually a combination of playing with kids at the school, spending time with town youth at planned gatherings, and taking part in the Compassion International feeding program held at the church or attending church services held on Sundays.
Chaco – Chaco is a jungle town that has some incredible waterfalls to hike to and a great outdoor multi-use sports field/complex. Chaco has a church that we’ve partnered with over the years that began a Scout program (similar to Boy Scouts) a few years back with the intention of instilling outdoor skills, Christian values, and leadership training in the youth that attend. Ministry here usually takes place at the church, at the sports field, and with the Scout program. Muddy, jungle hikes with the Scouts have been a highlight for teams in past years, as pictured above.
Río Negro – Rio Negro is a town in the jungle where Don Wolfram, another US missionary, has focused his time and ministry in the past years. He owns a property a few minutes outside of town in El Topo, where we typically stay. All ministry that we do in Río Negro, Shell, and Puyo is really coordinated with and through Don. He is our primary point of contact and connection to this area of Ecuador. In early 2013, Ana Galindo moved to Río Negro. She is an Ecuadorian from the Quito area. Ana was moved to relocate here and be a missionary to her own people. She delivers food and basic necessities to people living in the hills around Río Negro and has a strong ministry to the children and youth of the town. She holds informal church services in her home as well as other intentional gatherings and always has an open door. Don left several hockey sticks with Ana and historically when the hockey sticks make an appearance in the community, kids come out of the woodwork to come and play. Ministry here is in conjunction with what Ana is doing– it can range from sharing testimonies during/after an impromptu hockey game, to leading music/Sunday School, or doing a VBS style program on a Sunday morning in her home. At times what is needed or desired is simply spending time being with people in the community.
Vida Joven, Shell – Vida Joven in Shell was the first Young Life chapter in Ecuador. Shell is a deeply rooted ‘missions’ town, (Nate Saint and his family lived there) as they have an airstrip where many planes leave from to transport individuals deeper into the jungle. Shell is geographically located near Puyo, a somewhat larger jungle town in this region. The Shell chapter of Vida Joven meet on the property pictured above. Ivan is the Vida Joven director and we have had strong ties with him since the beginning of his ministry. His team, in addition to doing relational ministry, are key to expanding adventure-based ministry in this area of the jungle. Members of their staff came up to El Refugio and went through our facilitator training to learn the ropes of facilitating low and high-ropes course/team-building challenges. They regularly bring groups up to El Refugio for retreats, and have held their summer camp at El Refugio in the past as well. Ministry with Vida Joven in Shell can range from work-related projects to financially supporting their ministry by ‘hiring’ members of their team to show us cultural and local spots of significance. The funds that they receive for these services are used as scholarships for youth to attend their Young Life camps.
Vida Joven, Puyo – Vida Joven continues to grow, and one of the ways in which they have grown is in beginning a new club in Puyo. The leaders of the Shell and Puyo chapters function as one team, though they meet at two different locations. When we do ministry through Don in conjunction with Young Life, it will typically be with both chapters and the leaders who work at both sites. We’re excited to see how God continues to bless and grow this ministry in Puyo!