As Rembrandt's "The Prodigal Son" painting captures God's unfathomable love and infinite patience, so Ron Borman's photo of Pastor Ramón Umenda illuminates the power of God's word to transcend time and cultures. Young Esteban Mashacori listens spellbound as Pastor Ramón draws on the day's experience of white-water rafting to talk about the Jesus Way.
Indigenous youth from Ecuador's rain forest were participating in their first retreat. The day had been spent bonding as retreat participants maneuvered through rapids on the Jondachi and Hollin rivers. Afterward, they gathered to worship with believers from four ethnic groups and five international locations.
Jerrell Ross Richer, in the shadows at the left, holds a light so Pastor Ramón can read his Bible. Since 2015, Jane and Jerrell Ross Richer and their four children have been engaged in two-way mission between God's people in North and South America through a partnership that includes Mennonite Mission Network, Goshen College, Central Plains Conference, Mennonites in Colombia and Ecuador, as well as God's people in Ecuador from diverse theological beliefs. They spend January through June in Ecuador, listening and learning, teaching and building relationships. The second six months of the year, they share what they have learned from God's people in Ecuador with students and congregations.
Jane and Jerrell helped our indigenous brothers and sisters to imagine something they had never experienced, a youth retreat. The Ross Richers helped bring resources together. But, having served as the catalyst, they watch God's work of transformation, unique to each context.
I am framing this photo to hang in my bedroom to remind myself daily of how I want to engage in God's mission. I want to hold the light, stay out of the way, and watch what God is doing.
Ron Borman grew up as a missionary kid among the Cofán people. Ron, his brother, Randy, and other leaders of the Cofán Survival Fund were instrumental in negotiating with the national government for the Cofan's traditional way of life. A million acres of rain forest are now under Cofán control, off limits to oil drilling and other extractive activities that have decimated much of Ecuador's tribal lands.