Of the 299 FMB/IMB missionaries who have served in Ecuador, few have made a greater and more lasting impact than BARBARA LYNN RIVERS (April 9, 1954 – February 5, 2017).
Barbara arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1986 and returned to the United States for health reasons in February 2010. Prior to her service in Ecuador, Barbara was a missionary Journeyman in Guatemala and studied Spanish in Costa Rica.
During the 24 years she was in Guayaquil, Barbara served her Lord in a variety of roles: theological education, work with the national Women’s Missionary Union (UFBME), SAS (young women in missions), counselor with the Teleamigo counseling center, ministry to troubled institutionalized youth (María José), ministry to women in prostitution, founding of the Dorcas Foundation and her work with the elderly, teacher of a wide range of Christian Education subject matters, Bible teacher, writer of training materials/lessons, prayer warrior, and trainer for the house church planting movement in Guayaquil and on the coast of Ecuador.
What I will always remember about Barbara was the great love she had for the Ecuadorian people. Her heart language was truly Spanish. On many occasions we would be talking and Barbara would not even notice she was conversing in Spanish rather than English! She preferred reading and studying her Spanish Bible. Most of her closest friends were Ecuadorian and she considered the Humberto and Isabel Riofrío family as her own family. Barbara was a fanatical sports lover (especially anything Longhorns), and had an infectious laughter wherever she went.
In April 2011 Barbara returned to Guayaquil for the last time to say good-bye to the land and people to whom she had given her life. Were it not for the serious illness that ended up taking her back to the USA, I am confident she would have continued living and serving in Ecuador to her dying day. During this farewell visit, the City of Guayaquil honored her in a special ceremony for her years of service and the many social and spiritual contributions she made to the people of Ecuador. As far as I know, Barbara is only one of two Christian evangelical persons to have ever received such recognition.
For my wife and I, Barbara will always be one of those exceptional “under the radar” missionaries that God uses to touch the lives of many people. We worked closely together for many years and learned much from her experience and wisdom, truly admiring her level of commitment to the Lord. She has been missed since leaving us seven years ago, but we truly rejoice Barbara is now whole and with the one Person to whom she gave her meaningful and well-lived life.
--J. Guy Muse
February 6, 2017