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Machachi, Equador, leaves impact on First Baptist Church in Camden

Part II of II

Posted: November 8, 2013 4:33 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Since 2011, First Baptist Church (FBC) of Camden has sent 56 Kershaw County residents on 19 mission teams to Machachi, Ecuador. Some of them have been to the South American city multiple times. Those participating in FBC’s missions there say the trips are having a lasting impact, not only in Machachi -- located some 25 miles south of Ecuador’s capital, Quito -- but back in Camden as well.

The first part of this story related how FBC chose to mission in Machachi and the teams it sent. In today’s conclusion, a look at what happens in Machachi, what team members have to say about traveling there, what FBC is planning next and that lasting impact there and here at home.

What happens in Machachi

Team members travel from Camden to Charlotte, fly to Miami, and then fly to Quito, Ecuador. From there, they travel by rented van to Machachi. Total travel time from Camden to Machachi is 12 to 14 hours. Team members stay in a small hostel and get around mostly on foot. Since the language there is Spanish, the teams employ a translator who assists with their efforts to communicate.

Maureen Kohn, currently chairman of First Baptist Church’s Machachi Missions Project, credits prayer and God for making connections for teams in Machachi. “We prayed that God would open doors and bring us people of peace who would agree with our goal to bring the gospel to this town. We also prayed for gatekeepers who would give our group credibility among their neighbors,” Kohn said. These prayers have been answered, according to Kohn, by the connections they have been able to establish with government officials, school administrators, and Machachi citizens -- both believers and non-believers -- who have been receptive and appreciative of their work in their community.

Since 2011, First Baptist teams have presented the gospel to more than 1,800 people, held 75 Bible studies, and been invited into 20 homes and businesses for Bible study and fellowship. They have taught English classes in the elementary and high schools, taught hygiene classes, held Vacation Bible School, worked in two day care centers and a school for special needs children, held business seminars as well as a home repair seminar, conducted drug prevention classes, met with local evangelical churches, worked with the elderly, and been interviewed for both television and radio programs.

“Our teams have discovered God in a new way. We have been wowed by the way He has proved over and over that He wants our church in Machachi,” Kohn said.

What team members say

Talking to Kershaw County residents who have been to Machachi reveals they share a common sentiment about their experiences there. “When you first get involved you feel that you are going there to serve the Lord, but what happens is you receive so many blessings from the love of the people there and seeing God at work with them. You think you are going to give, but you are heaped with showers of blessings,” Kohn said.

Lynn Ammons, who served on a team with her husband Billy, stressed the feelings team members develop for Machachi and the people they encounter there. “When you go home, you leave a piece of your heart in Machachi,” Ammons said.

Brittany Bullard, a rising college sophomore, and Callie Neal, a recent college graduate, spent five weeks this summer serving in Machachi. Both had been to Machachi once before as team members and felt led to go back for an extended period. During several weeks of their stay, they were the only team members there. They faced both victories and challenges during that time.

“It was a great period of spiritual growth for me,” Bullard said. When Neal became ill with a severe bacterial infection, Bullard, while worrying about Neal, had to complete alone the work to which they had committed. “I really relied on Callie as the older and wiser one of us two. Her attitude and guidance always helped me. When she got sick, I really had to rely on God and my faith that He would work through me and help me. I learned to feel the Holy Spirit and what He wanted me to do.”

Both Neal and Bullard also praised each other for their support during their five-week stay. They stressed that they appreciated the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week prayer group organized by First Baptist to pray for teams when they are in Machachi. More than 150 church members are committed to pray daily and at certain hours, so the entire time team members are in Machachi, they are covered with prayer.

For Neal, her time in Machachi altered her world view by helping her understand people who grow up so differently than those in America. “It helped me realize not to be discouraged if we do not see immediate results of our efforts. We are still changing hearts there even if the change does not come while we are there,” Neal said.

One example of this change of hearts occurred the night before they left Machachi. Bullard was able to lead, at their request, three members of a family through the prayer of salvation. First Baptist teams had been interacting with this family for more than a year. “I was unsettled about leaving Machachi when the time came because I just didn’t feel like my mission was complete. When this happened, however, I felt like God was showing me it was OK to go home now,” Bullard said.

Team members realize that they are planting seeds which may not grow in their presence. Cody Davis, a member of the First Baptist youth group that travelled to Machachi this summer, was called on one night to preach a sermon in one of the churches the team was visiting. He told the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Weeks after Davis left, one of the men present the night Davis preached told Neal that “after hearing that blonde boy tell the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, I knew I wanted to worship the same God he did.”

FBC Minster to Students Kevin Lott traveled to Machachi in June with Kohn, Kim Gill, and youth from the church that included Cody Davis, Jansen Simmons, Riley Kohn, Kayla Cook, and Taylor Gill. “To witness our youth at work there was an incredible blessing. A lot was accomplished through their work and God’s strength and power,” Lott said.

What happens next

Two more teams will travel to Machachi before the end of the year and will begin training soon. When a team returns from Machachi, they meet together to debrief and share what they believe the next team needs to do. This feedback helps Kohn and the future teams analyze what is working and what needs to be changed or added.

This extended partnership with specifics being designed visit to visit is a relatively new approach to international missions, explained Pastor Bruce Hancock. Traditionally, a group would go to an area to assist established missionaries with a specific task such as physically building a church. “With this strategy we are first creating relationships with people in Machachi and supporting the local efforts of those interested in spreading the gospel,” Hancock said.

According to Kohn, a church mission partnership such as this one usually spans three to five years, but there is no required closure date. “Our goal is to help the people of Machachi be successful in taking on the work we are now doing,” Kohn said. “We are very encouraged that Bethesda Church in Machachi is interested in having our teams help them as they begin evangelism in Machachi. They hope to start 400 house churches in and around the city. We want to help them with this effort.”

Lasting impacts

Team members come home with a passion for missions and a realization that, as church member Douglas Wyant, who has been to Machachi four times, said, “We need to do here also what we are doing in Machachi.”

The impact of the effort on mission participants, as well as their prayer partners, has been significant, according to Hancock. “I have seen that participants who have gone to Machachi return with a deepened faith and are excited about sharing the gospel and their ability to be used by the Lord,” Hancock said.

As the tapestry of this Machachi partnership continues to be woven by the connections of First Baptist Church members and the Ecuadorian people they meet, it becomes clear, according to Kohn: “Not only do these trips change lives and hearts in Machachi, but they also change and grow those of us who go.”

(For more information about the First Baptist Machachi partnership, visit www.firstbaptistcamden.org and click on Ecuador Partnership.)

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