Most of us like starting new things, and starting a new calendar year is one of them. As we write this, the first month of January is already waning and February is just around the corner. Things don’t seem to have changed around us much from last year yet, but sometimes turning over a leaf on a calendar isn’t what really brings change. In December and January, eighty-four Cofans made decisions to follow Christ in baptism! We are amazed and pleased to see how God has been working in lives to transform them. In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is truly the only way to put away the old and bring on the “new” in our lives, not turning over a “new” leaf on a calendar.
Ron was able to attend a baptism in the Cofan village of Zabalo on January 10th. With the recent baptisms in Sinangue and Dureno in December, there were many who wanted to be there for the celebration. Zabalo is one of the more remote villages. One can not get there by car, but needs to take a canoe with an outboard motor for about four hours downriver to reach the location. In this little Cofan village, there is a little wooden church with two church leaders, Iter and Carlos. The little church has struggled for quite some time, but with the help of another missionary family that spends several months out of the year in the village to encourage the church, there has been a gradual growth in numbers and spiritual maturity. Ron reports that three large canoes from Dureno, with about sixty people from Sinangue and Dureno, took the trip down to see thirty-four people baptized of all ages! He says it was glorious to have all the church leaders from the three villages, music teams and folks wanting to share testimonies – all sitting or standing in that little wooden building praising God together! Tears came to his eyes as he saw some of the older ones, who had been away from the Lord for a while, but back in the Church Body – one even giving a testimony of warning to those making the commitment to NOT do what he had done by turning away from the Lord for a time. The youngest one getting baptized was about eleven years old and from the village of Dovuno. This young man had heard about the baptism event, possibly from Ron’s work visiting that churchless Cofan village and working with the children, and wanted to make a step forward in faith. Is this the boy who will one day grow into a man and become a church leader we have been praying for Dovuno these many years?
Ron was able to get down to both Sinangue and Dureno again earlier this week. He sat down with Wilson, one of the church leaders in Dureno. Wilson is very encouraged to see the growth in the church in his village. Since the baptism there in early December 2020, he says eight more people have accepted the Lord! We feel so blessed and privileged to see the fruit of so many years’ labor from the time Ron’s parents arrived in the 1950’s to translate the Bible into the Cofan language to January 2021. Over this time, there have been periods of growth and periods of seeming dormancy – but God has been working!
We started back up with our youth groups again in January. Both have a “in person” and “online” option. Our homeschool group has the majority that meet in person. Our last meeting, January 15, we had a “Veggie Night” and were happy to see some great creativity, and surprised to see such reluctance to try new fruits and veggies! With such a variety here in Ecuador of fresh fruits and veggies year around, the lack of knowing what grows here and is available was a little shocking. Hopefully, it was a positive learning experience for everyone.
Coming up in February, Ron has a couple of people from the States he will be taking down on a quick trip to Sinangue, and later a longer trip he will spend in Dureno working on fixing up our old jungle house. In March, we have a group coming down from Quito to Dureno to put on a church leaders conference which will, Lord willing, involve all the Cofan villages. We will need our old house there for the speakers coming for the conference.
Another prayer request is for the coming presidential election here in Ecuador. The first round takes place on Sunday February 7th. We are a multiple party system down here so have around sixteen people running for president. There will probably be a run-off at a later date between the two people who get the most votes.
Serving Him in Ecuador,
Ron and Esther