Last week we were blessed to have Ana Galindo visit and spend the week at El Refugio. We have been bringing short-term teams down to the Shell/Puyo area of Ecuador for several years now, yet I can still remember the day when we heard about Ana. I remember someone saying, “There’s an Ecuadorian woman who has picked up her life, moved down to Rio Negro, and is living there as a missionary to her own people! How great is that to have someone there year-round??” I had the blessing that same summer to head down to Rio Negro with a short-term team and met Ana for the first time. Since then we’ve had several opportunities to visit and connect, but none quite like this past week.
We visit our ministry partners throughout the year, continuing to build our relationships and seeing how we can best support them. I’ve been to several sites with other team members and the same invitation is always given: If you’re ever in Quito or want to make a special trip to come visit us at El Refugio, please come, let us know, and we’ll take care of you! To my knowledge, Ana is the first to actually take us up on this offer.
Ana has been in Rio Negro for 2 and a half years now and has done a myriad of different things. She started sewing classes with women in the community. She opened her home to youth of the community to play, use her computer, and learn about the Lord. She held informal church services in her home on Sunday mornings. She guards the famous hockey sticks of the town (donated by some Canadian mission team) and brings them out periodically for all of the kids to use and play floor hockey in the community gymnasium. She has distributed food and clothing to those in need. She washes dishes. She gives water or food to those working in the fields. She has given her life to see Christ move in this community.
Her most recent venture has been intentional discipleship with 4 boys around 13 and 14 years old. These boys have recently accepted Christ and Ana sees great potential in them. She has known about our ministry, and decided it would be a great experience to get these boys out of their normal routine, away from their parents for a week, and experience adventure in the mountains of Ecuador. So, Ana brought these boys to us and they headed out with our backpacking guides along with three other youth for a 4 day backpacking expedition.
All of our staff spent time with Ana while she was here: walking around the property, sharing a meal together, inviting her into their homes for dinner. At the end of the week I sat down with her and a videocamera, hoping to capture a glimpse of what it is she does in Rio Negro. I also interviewed the boys after they got back from the backpacking trip. It hit me when I asked Ana how she has felt about her relationship with El Refugio. She broke into tears as she quoted the scripture in Isaiah 55:8,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
She explained how she had been praying and searching for some place to help and support what she’s doing. God connected her with El Refugio, and she shared with me,
"This has been the perfect place. The boys are happy. They have discovered a reason to enjoy this journey. And the Lord blessed me as well– allowing me to be here. I’ve had many hopes, many dreams– many things I had thought were crazy. But talking with Jim, talking with Paul; The Lord has given me His response: They’re not crazy. They’re possible.”
This is why we partner with people like Ana. She has dreams. She has been faithful to God’s calling. She is investing in lives and making an eternal difference. It is our joy and privilege to come alongside her and others like her to provide the resources and tools we have at our disposal. That is the body of Christ.
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