I don´t remember exactly the year, but back in the early 70´s Cañar and the surrounding area was a stronghold against the Gospel. There were no known believers living in the region at the time.
As a fifteen or sixteen year old teen, I accompanied my dad and another missionary from Cuenca in what was to be the first known effort to attempt to reach this county seat city with the Gospel.
My dad had a large circus tent which he set up just outside of the city. During the day we would go through the streets and with a loud speaker attached to the car roof, announce the evening meetings.
People would throw at our passing car whatever handy pieces of garbage they could find. By their shouts and insults it was quite clear we were not welcome in Cañar.
The local priest handed out pamphlets all over town warning his parishioners of this 'sect of the Devil known as Baptists'. Any one caught attending the meetings would be excommunicated. It seemed to me like a hopeless venture to even attempt to have any kind of meetings in Cañar.
However, back in that period of time there was little to do in the cold Andean evenings. My dad's strategy was simple:
--Bright lights at the tent site, accompanied by loud speakers blaring lively Latin American Gospel songs to attract people inside the tent. Inevitably the tent's presence attracted a host of popcorn, cigarette and candy vendors, along with other local fast food delicacies roasting over charcoal fires around the perimeter of the tent!
--The meetings usually began with 3-4 short Gospel choruses. It was my job to stand on the makeshift stage and play my electric guitar for the out-of-tune congregational singing. I was always glad when that part was over.
--The main attraction, though, was when the lights were turned down, and the 16 mm evangelistic "Life of Christ" films where shown.
The desire to view these films, with Jesus speaking Spanish, proved to be more enticing than their fear of being excommunicated! Every evening as the sun set, people would quietly slip in under the cover of dark and take a seat to watch the miracles of Christ, hear Jesus' words, and see Him die on the cross, rise from the grave, and ascend to Heaven.
--After the film, the bright lights were again turned on, and before people could begin a mass exit, a short 10-minute Gospel message and invitation was shared by my dad or the other missionary.
I remember, night after night, the tent would fill to watch the evening's film. Most even stayed around to listen to the short Evangelistic message. But fear of the consequences of taking a stand for Christ, was like asking someone to turn their backs on hundreds of years of tradition, their family, their religion, their identity as Cañaris.
NO ONE in Cañar came forward during any of the invitations to give their lives to Christ.
After many evenings of meetings, the final night arrived. Once again the songs were sung, the film was shown, the message was preached, and the invitation given.
As long as I live, I will never forget what happened next. Almost as if preplanned, a group of about a dozen Cañaris men locked arms in a long human chain, and together came forward as a group. Through a designated spokesperson they announced they were giving their lives to Jesus Christ!
That dark, cold, windy night the light came to Cañar and the rest is history.
This past weekend I wondered how many Baptists in attendance at the annual meeting of the Ecuador Baptist Convention were probably aware of all the history that has taken place in and around Cañar and Tambo over the past 40 years. I was there at the birth of the church in Cañar. It is something I will never forget.