César Moya and Patricia Urueña didn’t come to Ecuador in 2000 primarily as church planters. But 14 years later, the couple leaves a new Ecuadorian Mennonite conference.
Moya and Urueña emphasized a gospel of peace in the communities where they worked. This belief meant more to them than an antiwar stance or believing others shouldn’t be mistreated.
“It is a lifestyle,” Urueña said.
Through the different ministries they helped organize, Moya and Urueña realized the Anabaptist message of peace brought together three cultural groups: indigenous people, Ecuadorian people of mixed ancestry and Colombian refugees.
“There were many nationalities at the church in Quito; it was very multicultural,” Moya said. “Many people had prejudices about those who had different backgrounds, but they were able to break these stereotypes by gathering with each other.”
The church has also been a space for reconciliation, Moya said. Some Colombians who come to the church had been enemies in Colombia — one may have sympathized with the government, while the other sympathized with the guerrilla groups.
However, in the church in Ecuador, they could eat together, sit together at a table and worship together.
Alba Silva, a leader of the Mennonite church plant in the Jardines del Inca neighborhood, credits Moya and Urueña as the ones who taught her how to live a life with Christ. They gave her the courage and sense of purpose to leave her abusive husband. Silva got involved in programs at the church before starting her local church plant.
This changed her life.
“They taught me the true way to walk with Christ through their total dedication to the church, through their advice, and by the way they practiced justice daily,” she said. “Above all, they had peace within themselves and shared that peace with us all. They’re much loved here in Ecuador. I will miss them a lot.”
Peace through respect
Moya and Urueña believe social justice is crucial to the gospel of peace. This influenced their interactions and work with indigenous churches; they brought peace in the form of respect for the autonomy and culture of the indigenous churches.
The couple, along with their three children, Daniel, Juan and Andrea, originally went to Ecuador in 2000 to serve with the Consejo de Pueblos y Organizaciones Indigenas Evangelicas de Ecuador (Council of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations of Ecuador, or FEINE) by providing theological and leadership training for indigenous churches.
“We weren’t interested in changing or proselytizing the indigenous people, who already had many evangelical churches,” Moya said. “Instead, we recognized that they had their own wisdom and lifestyle. We weren’t there to be the ones who convert or plant churches.”
This attitude helped forge strong relationships with FEINE. The trust that Moya and Urueña demonstrated with the organization has led to continued respect for Mennonite Mission Network and the Ecuador partnership.
FEINE has invited another family from Mission Network to serve with FEINE.
Moya and Urueña responded to needs in their community in Quito. After their Bible study group increasingly encouraged them to plant a Mennonite church, they started the Iglesia Menonita de Quito (Quito Mennonite Church), recognizing that a church could carry on ministries long after they left.
By the end of 2002, the church began ministering to the Colombian refugees who started to attend. The ministry has become one of the largest ministries of the Iglesia Menonita de Quito, now offering assistance to refugees with microloans, housing and applying for asylum.
Ten years ago, the congregation started a monthly program, called Educación para la Paz (Education for Peace), for neighborhood children and youth aged 5 to 14. The goal is to help prevent violence, drug abuse and gang membership.
At a neighborhood meeting, parents told how their children had changed and demonstrated the values they were learning.
“Their home life is much better,” Urueña said. “Some children started when they were young and still come even when they’re 13 or 14 years old.”
Not an easy path
Not everyone has embraced the gospel of peace with open arms. Moya said the church loses people who don’t understand that peace requires lots of patience and tolerance.
Despite the extra work it takes to truly live out an Anabaptist theology, Urueña saw their experience in Ecuador as “an affirmation that the Anabaptist theology and way of being a church is a response to the needs that one finds in Ecuador.”
During their time in Ecuador, Moya and Urueña worked cross-culturally with the Ecuador Partnership that supported their ministry, consisting of the Iglesia Cristiana Menonita de Colombia (Colombia Christian Mennonite Church), Central Plains Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Mission Network. They moved back to Ibagué, Colombia, in May.