A Taste of Heaven in Equador for the Saylors

A Taste of Heaven in Equador for the Saylors

It was in 1976 that we first met with a handful of Highland Quichua believers for a Bible study in a hut so small that Reatha and I could only stand upright in one corner. (The Quichuas are short in stature.) That small group grew through conversions and much persecution and soon we established a church.

Three men emerged as possible pastors. These men were all named Pedro (Peter), so I (Woody) dubbed them, First Peter, Second Peter and Third Peter. I worked with these men each week and they took turns preaching the following Sunday. At the same time Reatha was working with the women and the children. None of the women had the opportunity to have an education and as a result, they weren’t able to read.

The church grew and we needed a place to meet. Pedro (First Peter) and his wife Anita an their family were poor, but they owned a few acres of property in a rural setting and donated some of that land for a church. Friends from the US donated money for the project, a construction team came from the States, and in two weeks the shell of the church was built!

The church grew spiritually and, numerically, to about one hundred. We served among a people whose sacrifice and love for their fellow believers was an inspiration to us daily! Then the mission with whom we were serving, Wycliffe Bible Translators, came under attack from Leftists and as a result we were forced out of the country and had to leave Ecuador. On the day of our departure most of the Quichua church came to the Quito airport that morning in 1982 to say a heart-wrenching goodbye to us.

We continued to support the ministry through another missionary, but when that missionary left the country, we lost contact with the church. (The Quichuas had no way of receiving mail or phone calls.) That was thirty-six years ago. We didn’t know if the church had gone forward, or even if Pedro and Anita and others were still alive. So, when I (Woody) retired as Associate Pastor at Faith and you wonderful people gave us this trip to Ecuador, one of our main purposes for going was to find the church and the people. We had no idea how difficult that would be.

Ecuador has changed dramatically in thirty-six years – with high-rise apartments and office buildings dominating the landscape. When we left in 1982, the population of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was 445,000 and today it is over two and one-half million! We had a difficult time identifying places that had been very familiar to us. Phil, who had lived with us during his school years in Quito, and who is now a missionary with ITEAMS, along with his wife Debbie, and Sue and Ed Davis (formerly members at Faith), picked us up on Saturday morning. The goal we set before us that day was to find the house where we used to live outside of Quito and to find the Quichua church near that area.

After a long and disappointing search we were unable to find our house as urbanization and new freeways had taken over the area. Disappointed, we proceeded to the area where we thought the church used to be. What had been open country with only a few humble homes and out-buildings was now a metropolis crammed together and totally unrecognizable! We stopped to ask a man if he knew of such a church. He didn’t, but referred us to another location “down the street and only a few blocks away.” That pattern repeated itself until on the fifth enquiry when we met a fellow believer. He thought he might know where the church was located so we jumped back in the car and followed him. When we arrived in the general area, we recognized nothing.

We walked up and down the street but could get no one to respond to our inquiries. Finally, Reatha noticed a small dusty patch of land about twelve feet wide amongst all the buildings and saw two white goats gnawing on the bushes. Immediately she remembered that Pedro and Anita used to raise white goats. She screamed to me, “This is it! I know those goats belong to Pedro and Anita!” At that very moment, Anita came walking down the path from her house and Reatha called out, “Anita!” Anita stopped, looked and then screamed out “Senora Rita!” Pedro was close behind yelling to me, “Senor Saylor!” We all hugged and cried and the people with us cried as well. At that moment, there was no doubt in our minds that God had led us to that spot!

That day and later on Sunday, we had a wonderful time reminiscing with Pedro, Anita and all the believers. They now have over two hundred people in the church and have four daughter churches. The three “Pedros” and Pedro and Anita’s son, Reuben, plus another man, Manuel, are pastors of the churches. Pedro and Anita’s other sons have good jobs and their daughter went on to earn her master’s degree in education and has started a Christian school with over 200 students in that community. Their granddaughter is a physician now and their grandson is an electrical engineer. All are walking with the Lord. After the church service, Anita prepared us a meal of choclos (corn with large kernels), small potatoes and yes, goat cheese!

Someone in our group said they felt we had a little taste of heaven that day. When we get to heaven, we will be able to see how God has taken our small loaves of bread and fished and multiplied them for the good of humankind and for His glory! During that night a verse came to mind that brought new, personal meaning: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Thank you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for your part in helping us to experience this truth this side of heaven.


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