NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – Mennonite Mission Network workers Delicia Bravo and Peter Wigginton say they have discovered many surprises as partnership coordinators in Ecuador.
These surprises have forged new connections in a three-way partnership that includes Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (IMCOL), Central Plains Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Mission Network, in relationship with Iglesia Cristiana Anabautista Menonita de Ecuador (ICME).
Even as they lend their human hands to the coordination, the Holy Spirit guides them in ministering among indigenous and non-indigenous Ecuadorians, plus refugees of many nationalities, all while strengthening global relationships.
"'God's Spirit is as a wind permeating every corner of Ecuador,' as John 3:8 says," Wigginton wrote in a recent e-mail from his home office in Quito, Ecuador. "You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from, or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. We feel that we have found the Spirit in many surprising places. Sharing meals. Sharing stories of childbearing. Being community."
Part of being community means sharing gifts in ministry. Much of their coordination work involves encouraging others in using their gifts in the ministries of ICME's Quito Mennonite Church. But they also serve actively. Bravo teaches and prepares teachers for church and community work with children. She also works with and coordinates refugee women sewing cloth diapers for urban refugees and indigenous families living in the rain forest. Wigginton is part of the worship team where he encourages refugee youth to contribute with their talents; he teaches, serves on commissions, and encourages leadership.
As they enter the Spirit-breathed whirlwind, they also connect dots among church leaders, laity, Mission Network, and partners in South America and the United States.
For example, Wigginton helped to itinerate and guide a recent mission fellowship and learning experience that included people from Central Plains Conference, Indiana and Colombia. Two participants were Bob and Rose Love, members of Shalom Mennonite Church in Indianapolis, the home congregation of the Bravo Wigginton family. The Loves are supporters of the family, both individually and as part of their congregation.
During their trip to Quito, their group visited a Venezuelan refugee family that receives support from Quito Mennonite Church. The Loves and others delivered food and spent time listening first-hand to the Venezuelan family's stories..
"When they come home to Indianapolis, Peter and Delicia share stories about the refugees," Rose Love said in a telephone interview. "But it is so much more meaningful to hear the refugees share their own stories, breaking down in tears because they no longer can provide a future for their children and grandchildren."
Rose Love said she was inspired by the many stories of faith and courage to be Jesus' followers in the midst of deep pain, loss, persecution and social injustice. Her prayer list "has expanded for all those who shared personal journeys, and they challenged me to stay in God's word to feed my faith and actions," she said.
"Colombian and U.S. partners appreciate how coordinators living in Ecuador facilitate their ability to serve from a distance," noted Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network director for Latin America. "The partnership was birthed in 2000, though seeds were planted earlier."
Holly Blosser Yoder of West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa, serves as coordinator for Central Plains Conference's involvement in the partnership. She participated in the partnership's first worship experience with Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Ecuador (ICME). It is a new multicultural conference formed in 2018 by indigenous leaders who received Anabaptist theological education through the years. "Peter has been very crucial to the building of these relationships," Blosser Yoder said. "Because they trust him, they trust others of us who come to visit."
In Scripture, we are admonished to love one another, and to be in unity, and the Ecuadorian Partnership develops a very practical, international unity, Blosser Yoder said. "We are not only worshiping together, but working together side-by-side, cross-culturally, an area conference partnering with international churches and a mission agency," she said.
In their letter inviting the Bravo Wigginton family to another term of service, Quito Mennonite Church leaders wrote that the partnership coordination role is a "channel that allows us to strengthen our mission and mutual cooperation."
The Bravo Wiggintons and their young girls, Aliya and Ariana, plan to spend July through December in the United States and return to Ecuador in January 2020.