In 2015, God opened the doors for a few OMS missionaries serving around Ecuador to come together with the goal of reaching the unreached population of Loja Province, a mountainous area in southern Ecuador with less than 1% evangelical Christians. This team is actively working to make a difference in the lives of people who may never hear about Jesus Christ from anyone else.
OMS:Who makes up the Loja team?
BJ: The Loja team is made up of BJ and Andrea Williamson,Tom and Susan Stiles, and Jennifer Riggs.
OMS: What is the ministry focus in Loja? What do you hope to accomplish?
BJ: Our focus is to raise up house churches in areas where there is no church.We do this by discipling new believers as the leaders of these house churches.We look for key people who are interested in the Gospel and disciple them in the Word, and encourage them to make a list of people who need to know the Gospel so they can pray for those people on the list. Each week, we share a different evangelistic passage that they will, in turn, share with one of those people they are praying for.
OMS: When and why did you relocate?
BJ: Two years ago,we prayed about where the Lord wanted us to start a ministry and found out that the western part of Loja Province is one of the least reached areas of Ecuador. We have since then relocated to Catamayo, our center for being able to travel to those unreached areas.
OMS: What different cities or villages are you focusing on? How many evangelicals are in this area? How many churches?
BJ: Our focus is on the Chaguarpamba and Balsas counties and the northern part of Paltas county. Combined, these areas have a population of roughly 20,000, but they have only one small church. Even with the church,there wouldn't be 50 believers. This is truly an area untouched by other ministries.
OMS: What are the biggest challenges you face? Your greatest joys?
BJ: It is challenging to travel as much as we do and to adjust the traditional beliefs held by 99% of the people we are in contact with. The religion we often see finds its roots in Roman Catholicism, but it has been mixed with other religions over the years, making it an interesting combination of beliefs,practices, and superstitions. Most people fear the change that Christianity calls them to make because the religion they are familiar with focuses on salvation through practices or tradition. But, our greatest joy is seeing people reading God’s Word and getting excited about learning about Christ and putting their faith in him.
Editor’s note: We will be sharing several stories of changed lives in Loja in the next 4 weeks, so keep watching for updated blogs.
Also, to learn more about Loja and what the team is doing there, here’s a video that will help make you see it through the team’s eyes:
Loja team interviewed by OMS summer Communications intern, Mykaela Alvey.