Effective gospel-sharing in Ecuador requires both hearing, seeing gospel

Effective gospel-sharing in Ecuador requires both hearing, seeing gospel

By Neisha Roberts
The Alabama Baptist

For Afro-Ecuadorians living in Ecuador, everyday life is often a mix of witchcraft, moral degradation and poverty. The people group was originally made up of Africans brought to South America to be slaves. For many years they lived in isolated areas of the country, leaving them marginalized and forgotten, and often taken advantage of.

It’s this people group that Johnny Maust and his wife, Donna, have been sharing the gospel with since 2013 through their work as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries.

But because areas of Ecuador where the Mausts work are especially “spiritually dark,” they don’t have any notion of being able to do the work alone. That’s why they enlist the help of volunteers from the United States. Right now they partner with groups from Alabama, Illinois, Texas, Missouri and Kentucky.

“We encourage these groups to come repeatedly and form relationships with the people, not just come for a one-week trip,” said Johnny Maust, who has served in different areas of Ecuador since 1999. “We want to develop these relationships and emphasize discipleship … and seeing the people that have (become Christians) to begin to mature in Christ.”

That’s where Mike Watts comes into the picture. Watts, who previously served as pastor of Cedar Hill Baptist Church, East Brewton, learned that Escambia Baptist Association sent teams to share the gospel in Rocafuerte, Ecuador, multiple times a year. Since only about one percent of the Afro-Ecuadorian population has heard the gospel, Watts felt called to go too and went on his first trip in spring 2015.

That year Watts and a mentor/friend, Charles Jackson, who is a deacon at Catawba Springs Baptist Church, Brewton, handed out Spanish New Testament Bibles and shared the gospel with people they met each day. The pair also invited people to small group Bible studies led by the Mausts on Sundays.

But one trip wasn’t enough for Watts. Now pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church, Foley, Watts committed to serve in Rocafuerte for three years in a row. Each year he’s fulfilled that commitment, serving alongside Jackson and others from churches across Alabama.

“It’s about relationships and we go and make new relationships and we reconnect with them from previous years,” Watts said.

Softening ‘The Bull’

During the 2015 trip, Watts and Jackson met a man near their hotel who “seemed very resistant and not interested” in anything the two Americans had to share. Watts and Jackson nicknamed the man “The Bull.” In 2016 the two men tracked down The Bull to say hello again, Johnny Maust explained. But it wasn’t until spring 2017 that The Bull began to soften.

Watts and Jackson brought The Bull a framed photo of him and Jackson from the previous year. The Bull “promptly hung it up in his home,” Johnny Maust said. “He listened to what they had to say and although he has not yet made a decision for Christ, he is a long way from where he was when they first met him. This man is now open because of the relationship they have developed over time.”

Watts said it’s amazing to see how the seed, the Word of God, takes root in people’s lives. During his 2017 trip, March 27–31, Watts witnessed five people choose Christ as their Savior, two baby dedications and two baptisms.

“The Holy Spirit is moving and people are becoming more accepting of hearing the gospel,” he said. “Three years ago we would have people slam the door in our faces but we kept coming year after year and we finally built relationships.”

Those relationships are vital not only for those who have yet to hear the gospel, but for those who are new believers, Johnny Maust said.

“We feel that many new believers here need spiritual intensive care,” he said, “because there are a lot of cults and churches with poor biblical doctrine. … It’s important that they hear the gospel but also see the gospel being lived out in a believer’s lifestyle. It has been slow work but we are now involved in eight communities on a regular basis.” And many of those groups have been “adopted” by churches and associations back in the U.S., he said.

Watts said he has now seen firsthand how those long-term partnerships are meaningful after observing “the Holy Spirit moving,” making people more accepting to listen and talk about Jesus.