Strawberry pie leads to soap making, salvations, new business in Ecuador

Strawberry pie leads to soap making, salvations, new business in Ecuador

By Melanie Clinton
International Mission Board

When International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Donna Maust relocated to a new town, she entered a strawberry cheese pie into a cooking contest as a way to get to know people.

She won second place, and a government leader asked her to start cooking classes in his house. The classes were a success and led to the start of a Bible study in the home, which is now a healthy church.

Maust recognized gospel-sharing opportunities, so she kept her eyes open for more outlets to build relationships and share with people.

She learned to make soap using local ingredients like aloe vera, milk, oats and honey, and she started soap-making classes in five communities.

In one rural area, the class led to a Bible study group of 15–20 adults. In other areas, people made decisions to follow Jesus Christ or deepened their commitment to live for Him.

The classes were so successful that the students formed a co-op and developed a soap brand — Nectar.

They received an order from a hotel for 500 soaps and plan to start selling the soap in supermarkets soon.

The young woman who serves as president of the co-op was recently accepted in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, a program of the United States Embassy that was offered to 30 women in the Maust’s province.

“She attended weekly classes in business practices and marketing for three months,” Maust said. “At the end of the three months, the U.S. Embassy representatives chose one business to provide more help and support. The soap project won.”

Caring for people

The fledgling business, which now includes 12 women, will receive further training and contacts for marketing and distribution, Maust said. The classes surpassed Maust’s expectations both economically and spiritually. Communities now see that she and her husband are “not just standing on street corners preaching. … We actually care about the people and are doing what we can to help,” she said.

And it all started with a strawberry pie.