WORTHINGTON — A group from Worthington’s Solid Rock Assembly couldn’t have better timed their trip to the tropical climate of Ecuador last month, when southwest Minnesota was being pummeled with snow, wind and cold temperatures.
This trip, however, wasn’t spent sunbathing on the beaches or visiting popular tourist spots. It was, rather, an opportunity for local people to lend a helping hand for a church in need.
The mission team spent seven days in the south central Ecuador city of Cuenco, a four-hour drive through the mountains from the Guayaquil airport at which they landed on Jan. 19. Through a church connection — Karri (Wolf) Woolley grew up in Solid Rock, the daughter of Randy and Kay Wolf, and she and her husband, Josh, are now missionaries in Ecuador — the trip’s primary focus was to help construct an addition to a church in Sinincay, a smaller community outside Cuenca.
“The church has grown a fair amount and the space they were meeting in was really small,” explained The Rev. Scott Peterson from Solid Rock. “They needed some extra hands to help further this project along.”
The church in Sinincay was started by Pastor Julio. During their time with him, the mission team learned he founded the church 17 years ago because God told him to. When Julio asked how, the Lord told him to pray.
Those prayers resulted in God telling Julio to sell his truck and use the money to start the church. Julio did so, despite the hardship it created — the loss of transportation for his family, which includes seven children, and a now-required one-hour walk to the church. He takes the bus when he can.
Over the course of the week, the Solid Rock mission team worked to pour the concrete floor for the expanded sanctuary.
“We found out things are done a lot differently in Ecuador,” shared Doug Nau, a Worthington contractor who, with his wife Lori, took part in the mission. “They don’t have the tools and facilities we have, but they get the job done. Things worked real well.”
Individuals from the church in Sinincay told them how they wanted the project done and, with a wide variety of skills, the mission team went to work.
“It was, this is what needs to be done, let’s make it happen,” said participant Paul Thornhill of Fulda.
Several of the men on the trip had experience in construction, and some farmers had experience in welding. Over the course of the week, they mixed and poured about 40 yards of concrete by hand.
“You needed people to go get stuff, so my wife and a couple other women hauled sand and mixed cement for us,” said Nau.
“Everyone pitched in and was busy the entire time,” added Peterson.
Aside from the Worthington mission group’s work on the church addition, most everything else has been done by the church members, with help from Josh Woolley, who has done all of the electrical work.
“Pastor said they had 14 more Saturdays to work before they were going to do a major outreach in the community,” said Peterson. “We were able to get a lot done to help them move forward.”
Perhaps the hardest part of the job was leaving it unfinished, said Nau.
“You get attached to those people. They are brothers and sisters in the Lord, and you can just see their desire … to keep this project going,” he said. “We blessed them as much as they blessed us.”
In between the work, the mission team found time to enjoy the people, culture and cuisine of Ecuador. They attended a service at the church in Sinincay, and helped with a local food shelf and clothing distribution program at the International Church in Cuenca. The mission team hand-delivered several bags of donated clothing, and purchased groceries for the food shelf.
One afternoon they visited April’s Project, a rehabilitation ministry for individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol, or have experienced physical or emotional abuse. Another day, they joined children for crafts and games at a school for those with mental and physical disabilities.
“They all wanted to give you a hug,” said Thornhill, noting the visit with the children was his favorite part of the trip.
“Many of those kids had been abandoned and left there by parents or family members,” said Peterson. “When people come in to minister, they love that contact — just to have a hug and someone to spend some time with them is powerful.”
The trip also included a prayer walk through a park, a visit to a museum to see Inca ruins and local history, and a museum tour showcasing five generations of a fireworks-making family.
At the midpoint of their trip, they went to a location in the Andes Mountains, where they were served options of barbecued ribs, chicken or guinea pig. A finale to their journey was a spa day, complete with a mud bath and hot box.
During their time in Cuenca, the group stayed in a combination hotel-hostel that was built in 1802.
Peterson said most of the individuals taking part in the mission trip were first-timers.
The church now has a goal to take a mission trip every 12 to 18 months.
“About two years ago we felt led to start doing church mission trips,” Peterson said, adding that it’s been about 15 to 20 years since regular mission trips for adults had been led. Youth mission trips are planned every one to three years, he noted.
“Right now we have 35 missionaries that we serve as a church,” Peterson said, adding that the next mission trip is planned in August 2021 to Cambodia.
Judging by the response of those who took part in this mission, volunteers are already forming for the next trip.
“I got far more from that mission trip than they ever got from me,” said Thornhill. “The passion for the Lord that these people have — I haven’t seen it that genuine, that profound before.”
“They have little so they trust in the Lord more,” added Nau. “Here in America, if we pray and ask the Lord and he doesn’t answer in the way we want, we go buy it or whatever. They can’t do that there. Their faith has to provide.”
Solid Rock committed $5,000 toward the church building project from its mission fund. That money joined the more than $19,000 raised by the church in Sinincay — well over the church’s $5,000 fundraising goal.