For months the church that meets in the house of Manuel had travelled every weekend to the small rural community of Churute about 40-minutes outside of Guayaquil. Their purpose? To plant a church in this roadside town where Manuel owns a piece of property.
After fruitless weeks of door-to-door evangelism and doing everything they had been taught by us missionaries, Manuel was about ready to give up.
But then God stepped in to the situation.
Manuel owns a nice piece of land in Churute. By the carelessness of a neighbor, "Don Carlos", Manuel's land was set on fire. Everything was burned to the ground...including his valued Mango trees. The whole community was prepared for a tense confrontation, and possibly violence due to the indifference Don Carlos had showed towards Manuel's property and his total economic loss.
Manuel was of course quite distraught by what had taken place and was unsure of how to proceed. Get the police involved? Sue the neighbor? Demand restitution? Confront the callous neighbor and give him a good tongue lashing? Before doing anything, Manuel decided to pray for a week seeking God's mind on how he should proceed.
Once the Lord had given him the answer and peace of mind, Manuel made a trip to Churute. Word quickly spread in the community that the "fireworks were about to begin."
Upon arrival, Manuel announced that he wanted to see Don Carlos. Neighbors stirred, whispers ensued, and someone ran to get the man who had burned Manuel's field to ashes.
Don Carlos arrived expecting a confrontation. Before Manuel could say a word, Don Carlos began blurting out excuses and defending himself about what had happened. Manuel lowered his head, listened a while, then chuckled a bit and interrupted him in mid-sentence... "Oh that, don't worry about it...I realize it was an accident...could have happened to anybody...just be a little more careful next time... What I came to talk to you about today was that we were wanting to enlist your help in trying to get the whole community together to see a film on the life of Christ. We were hoping you might help us with the refreshments. Could you provide some bread and maybe something to drink for the kids so that it might be a good time for all?"
To say the least, Don Carlos was stunned and at a loss for words. All he managed was, "Uhh, of course...count on my help...when did you want to show the picture?"
A week later, Manuel came back to Churute for the planned evening event. Word had spread about what had happened between Manuel and Don Carlos. The entire community turned out to watch the film on the life of Christ. After the movie, Manuel gave a short evangelistic message and an invitation for people to give their hearts to Jesus. EVERY PERSON PRESENT stood to their feet, raising their hands towards heaven, praying aloud--including Don Carlos!!!
The long prayed-for church was born that evening in Churute. That evening the Light of the World came to Churute. Jesus Christ was glorified as His church was planted in this tiny roadside community. A blip on the map overlooked by the world, but not forgotten by God.
UPDATE: What has happened since then? There are now THREE other churches besides the one in Churute. Manuel is moving forward with his plans to have a church in all the neighboring towns! The last time I saw Don Carlos he was assisting Manuel in a marriage ceremony of two new believers who had been living together out of wedlock. Don Carlos role was to read the assigned Scriptures aloud to the assembled wedding party!