BMS Baptist Church in Ecuador Celebrates First Christmas
This year, the brand new Los Vergeles Baptist Church, planted by BMS World Mission long-term workers Peter and Vicki Butchers, will celebrate its first Christmas.
Los Vergeles Baptist Church is located in a community on the edge of the sprawling city of Guayaquil in the south west of Ecuador. It's home to about 10,000 families who live in poverty.
Vicki began running a pre-school education programme (PEPE) in a local person's house a couple of months ago. Using these contacts, Peter set up a small Exploring Jesus course with some of the parents.
An informal church service then started in November, and has been attracting between four and eight adults, plus children, each week, details a BMS World Mission report.
Peter says the young church is showing encouraging signs of growth. "We're excited that this church plant is beginning to happen but there is a long way to go.
"To try and understand the different cultures, attitudes and beliefs of the people in the poorer communities is difficult, but "poco a poco", ("little by little") we are making good contact with some of the neighbours."
On Christmas Day, Peter and Vicki, and their four children, Thomas, Charis, Alex and Zoë, are hosting a special Christmas dinner - which will include something for everyone.
"Family is very important in Ecuador and yet in the past the work in this community has been only with the children. We are trying to reach the whole family and the Christmas dinner is a way of providing an event which will bring families together," said Vicki.
"Very often children in the same family do not have the same father, so trying to get families involved with the new church can be difficult."
Christmas is rainy season in Guayaquil and the expected downpours are dreaded by the people of poor communities dread; it brings mosquitoes, dengue fever, impassable mud and disease.
During this period, maintaining contact with the people of Los Vergeles will be difficult; the Butchers say that it will be an important part of their ministry.
"What a great opportunity!" says Peter. "Just when everyone avoids the area because of the mud, disease and water, we will be actively looking at going into the community!
"Christ came to meet us at our point of need, and we need to show these people that we are here for them, to bring Christ to them whatever their circumstances."
The Exploring Jesus class has been studying Mark's gospel and seeing Jesus' power over sickness and disease. "Now", says Peter, "we are all praying every week for the health of the children during the bad weather. Please pray too for our health and safety as we work in Los Vergeles during this time."
It's the second Christmas in Ecuador for the Butchers family. Vicki says, "It is still strange to think of Christmas here being so hot and humid when we are used to Christmas with snowmen and log fires!"
She adds, "Whatever the weather and wherever we find ourselves, we celebrate the same Christ coming among us. We hope to share this truth with the people of Los Vergeles this Christmas time."