WEEK OF PRAYER: Nurturing 'fishers of men' in Ecuador

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Nov. 30-Dec. 7 with the theme of "One Sacred Effort -- Find your place in God's story" from Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB). The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches support approximately 4,800 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $175 million. Johnny and Donna Maust, the focus of this story, from Alabama and Louisiana, are among the featured missionaries in this year's Week of Prayer.

IMB missionary Johnny Maust (left) reads from God’s Word to new believers Luis (left) and Marlon (right) while the women of the family listen, waiting to see how the father and son will be changed by their new faith in Christ. IMB PHOTO Wilson Hunter
IMB Photo by Wilson Hunter
LAGARTO, Ecuador (BP) -- Amadeo Torres took Jesus' command in Matthew 4:19 literally: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

When contemplating how to share the Gospel with an unbelieving friend in an Ecuadorian fishing village, Amadeo asked IMB missionary Johnny Maust to help him buy a fisher's net for the friend.

In return for the net, the fisherman continues to give Torres and Maust a portion of his yield of shrimp and lobster.

Torres and Maust, his key church-planting partner, began visiting Luis Quintero each Sunday afternoon at his hillside home overlooking the waterway he fishes in his canoe-sized boat.

IMB missionary Johnny Maust (left) visits the home of Amadeo Torres (right) and his brother Exequiel, who have teamed with Maust to share the Gospel in Ecuadorean coastal communities, introducing him to friends and community leaders. The three of them attend a home church group that meets on a believer’s front porch.
IMB Photo by Wilson Hunter
They concentrated on sharing the Gospel of Matthew with him. In addition to their personalized example of a fisher's net, Maust brought a DVD of the story of Matthew to show the Quintero family, along with other books of the Gospel.

Quintero says the Word of God had an effect on him, and that's why he has placed his faith in Christ. His 12-year-old son Marlon followed suit. Marlon's mother, however, is holding back from making a similar decision, waiting to see if Quintero's newfound faith in Christ results in him becoming a better man.

That's why Torres and Maust return to visit the home each week -- to disciple the family about what it truly means to follow Christ.

Southern Baptist missionaries Donna and Johnny Maust visit the village of San Vicente in Ecuador, walking across a swinging bridge. The Mausts use a SUV provided by Southern Baptists’ giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to drive across flooded roads to reach villages year-round. I
IMB Photo by Wilson Hunter
"Amadeo's introduced me to a lot of people in the area I wouldn't have known otherwise," Maust says.

'You come in friendship'

When Maust met Yoryi (pronounced Georgie) Cortez, a community leader in the town of Lagarto where Maust and his wife Donna hope to guide U.S. partnering churches to plant a church, the missionary knew Cortez was "a person of peace."

Cortez is not a Christian but has agreed to participate in and possibly host a Bible study.

"Your groups are different than others [religious groups] who come here," Cortez tells Maust about the U.S. partnering churches. "That's why I accepted your invitation to Bible study. Other groups come in and preach to us. You don't come in with [preaching] fear but with friendship. Your churches come in doing something for the community."

Cortez owns a discotec (music/dance club) on the first floor of where his mother Gloria lives, a few houses away from him. In her second-story home, U.S. church groups have eaten many a meal prepared by members of a weekly cooking class Donna Maust teaches.

"If you want to use my home, you are welcome," Gloria tells Johnny during an English-as-a-Second-Language certificate ceremony led by ESL teachers from Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

The Mausts envision the rectangular dance floor of the discotec converted into a venue to show the "JESUS" film, teach Bible studies and eventually house a church of new believers.

"They are recognizing we are here to share the love of God," Donna says. "When problems come in people's lives, they know they can rely on our friendship to give them guidance, to talk with them about God and to pray together."

Kate Gregory writes for the International Mission Board. At imb.org/offering and hispanos.imb.org/lottie (Spanish language), there are resources for churches to raise awareness for and to contribute to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, along with a Donate Now button for online giving to join the Author of all history in "One Sacred Effort — Find your place in God's story."
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