The gospel impact on the Quichua is a modern miracle. In 1967, only 120 people out of 3 million followed Christ. Today some Quichua areas are over 50% evangelical! Avant Ministries worked among them for over 100 years. Over 240,000, people go to churches planted through Avant. Ecuador received worldwide attention in 1956 when the Waorani (Auca) killed 5 young foreign missionaries. Now almost all these tribes have churches and the Scriptures through the work of various missionary groups. HCJB Radio began in Ecuador in 1931, the first of the great Christian mission radio broadcasters. Today the ministry blesses Ecuador and the whole world.
The country's greatest need may be stable government. The seemingly endless carousel of presidents and finance ministers further undermines progress. Leadership needs the courage and stickability to tackle economic injustice, social problems and the deep-seated corruption which favours an entrenched elite.
The Catholic Church sees its privileged position erode, even as evangelical and marginal groups rapidly increase. There are sporadic, local incidents of mob violence, burning of churches and intimidation against evangelicals. Pray for continued freedom of religion, harmony among denominations and an increase in spiritual life among Catholics. There is a modest but growing charismatic movement in the Catholic Church in Ecuador.
Evangelical numbers are large enough to significantly impact society. The potential is great, but many in-house issues need resolution. Many churches exist independently, with no accountability or authority structure. Pray for the following:
- Vision and growth to continue - some churches have lost their evangelistic zeal. Mega-churches are springing up in urban areas, but not all are concerned with continued evangelism of the unreached.
- Unity within the great variety of churches. Issues of denomination, class, culture and personality often lead to division and parochial attitudes. For the Church to exercise a rightful impact on Ecuadorian life, these divisions must be overcome. The Evangelical Confraternity (COMEC) is a network linking most evangelicals in vision and in speaking out on issues of social concern.
- Cultural sensitivity and integration of Quichua and Lowland Indians into the national Church scene. Amerindians compose the lion's share of evangelicals, but much of the power and influence falls within the Spanish-speaking evangelical population. Pray that both groups would fellowship and cooperate without losing their respective cultural distinctiveness.
- Effective and appropriate ministry to children and young people. Poverty and child labour are particularly widespread, so ministry must be of a holistic nature and relevant to this generation, which makes up the bulk of the population.
False teachings seemingly prosper as marginal sects and Catholic syncretism rapidly spread, usually at the expense of traditional Catholics or evangelicals. Pray for the error of these groups to be made known; pray for ministers and laity to be equipped to address them with truth and love.
Missions vision is young but growing. The number of Ecuadorians serving in cross-cultural mission grew from 10 in 1996 to over 100 in 2005. This number continues to increase as churches catch the vision. Congregations are learning the commitment and cost involved. Foreign groups such as OM and SIM and national bodies such as AMEE (Evangelical Missionary Association of Ecuador) serve the Church through mobilization.
- The slum-dwellers of Quito and Guayaquil. Over 60% of the latter's population are extremely poor, and many live in slums built on a polluted marsh. Few Christian workers have a vision for these deprived people.
- The upper and middle classes are relatively unresponsive (CMA, OMS and others).
- University and school students. Over eight agencies are involved in campus ministries among the 250,000 students (on more than 300 campuses), including Cru, CECE (IFES), YFC, LAM and four denominational groups. There is still much room for growth.
- The Afro-Ecuadorian people are only 0.03% evangelical. Although there are many Catholics among them, Spiritism is the true spiritual power at work in their midst. Pray for a breakthrough among this unique group.
- The 28,000 people living on the distant and barren Galapagos Islands now have a growing ministry in their midst through MVI. The islands host many eco-tourists who, through Darwin's legacy, are often hostile to biblical Christianity.
- Loja province is isolated from mainstream Ecuadorian life and is only 0.1% evangelical. Operation Esperanza is a multi-agency effort to see fruit in this region through prayer, radio, evangelism and holistic ministry (SIM, OMS, WV). Good Shepherd Radio broadcasts the gospel to many isolated villages otherwise difficult to access.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.