One church, one missionary and a new chance for children in Ecuador
Here she tells us about the progress that has been made in starting a new PEPE (the BMS-supported pre-school programme) in San Carlos del Sur - a deprived area, previously hostile to the idea.
"I'm going to pray that lots of children come and that the rain stays away," Susy said to me, smiling outside the church as I hastily pulled on my waterproof - San Carlos del Sur seems perpetually to be under a layer of rain clouds.
Cobbled together with planks of wood and sheets of tarpaulin, the half-constructed houses and huts of this ´barrio´ look forlorn under grey skies. It seems another world away from the high-rise buildings, tarmac roads and shopping complexes of Quito, Ecuador´s capital.
San Carlos del Sur is just one of many poor districts that has sprung up in the folds of the mountains, only a few miles above central Quito.
Generally, few people brave the weather and those that do are wrapped up under ponchos, hats and in wellington boots - not the ideal scenario for a morning of games for children.
However, Susy and the 20 other church members at San Carlos del Sur remained confident and determined. There was excitement about serving God and the families and children of their neighbourhood.
Fun and games
And the rain did stay away that morning when we set out, clambering along tracks and over rusted barbed wire, to tell local families about the church´s morning of activities.
Soon a stream of children gathered and followed us back down the slopes. Many wore rough, dirty clothes, older brothers and sisters holding the hands of younger ones.
One mother, barely 22 herself, accompanied her three children - her face was full of the same delight as theirs. Only a few were not allowed to come, amongst them one boy who was given the task of scrubbing his family´s clothes - I glimpsed his sullen face as we passed.
The modest church building filled quickly with the sounds of laughter as the children chased after balloons, ran around the room and listened to the story of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Relationships were forged with the community and church members talked about the possibility of starting the PEPE project, aimed at reaching out to poor families.
It was a moment of encouragement to the church of San Carlos in a long struggle against hostilities and opposition.
Small in number and with minimal resources, the church has persevered through a number of trials, firm in its desire above all to obey God and to show Christ´s love in action.
Now, the church at San Carlos del Sur hopes to open its first pre-school class this September, starting with a small number of children - but with their eyes set on the faithfulness of God.
Despite personal difficulties, the PEPE teacher, Alex, is full of hope for the future. "I know that God has a purpose for my life and for the church and he will do good things through this project," she told me recently with a smile on her face.
Please pray for:
The church of San Carlos del Sur as it makes its final preparations to open the PEPE.
For the PEPE teachers, Alex and Susy.
For the children and families that get involved in PEPE, that above all God´s light would shine in all their lives through this outreach project.
[Source: BMS World Mission, printed with permission]