Darwin Jimenez boards a ship for the three-hour journey to Isla Campo Alegre, an island off of Ecuador’s coast. Suddenly, the wind picks up, and a violent storm pummels the ship. The Pacific Ocean rages and waves crash over the ship, rocking it from side to side. The captain’s wife screams.
Rather than being gripped by fear, Darwin, a BGEA film evangelist, prays. He remembers the story from the Gospels of how Jesus once calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were terrified by the raging sea when Jesus, who had been asleep in the back of the boat, woke up and simply commanded the sea to be calm.
Darwin prays, “God, if You want me to die here, I’ll die here. Just take care of my family.”
But in his heart Darwin believes God is sending him and his films to the island for a reason: The only church on the island closed years ago, and God wants to use the films to revive it.
“You control the seas,” he prays, “and if You want me to, I’ll take the Gospel to the people of this island. This church has been closed for so long, and the devil may be using this storm to try and stop me.”
When Darwin opens his eyes, the water is calm. The ship arrives at the island without further trouble. Using stones, rocks and moves better suited to an acrobat than an evangelist, he sets up a 6-by-6 meter screen in the center of the village and shows the film Road to Redemption. Some 300 people gather to watch, and 120 respond to Darwin’s invitation to receive Jesus Christ. The following morning is Sunday, and for the first time in many years, the people of the village open the doors of the church building.
Darwin and his wife, Anita, quietly tell this story and half a dozen others in a hotel lobby in Guayaquil, while their sons, 6-year-old Abraham and 18-month-old Amiel, play together on the floor. Despite Darwin’s quiet voice, the speed of his words shows his excitement at being part of God’s plan to change lives during his family’s five years of film evangelism.
In 2002, Darwin and Anita felt compelled to get involved in evangelizing their home country of Ecuador. They mentioned this desire to a Peruvian Christian friend, and the friend gave them an old reel-to-reel projector and two evangelistic films. The Jimenezes began to take the movies to churches, schools, public plazas and anywhere else in the country they could show them. Sometimes people they thought would never discuss spiritual issues would stop to watch the movies, and afterward they would say that the film reflected situations in their lives. At that point, they were willing to talk about Christ.
After about two years, the couple heard that BGEA’s My Hope World Television Project was coming to Ecuador. The World Wide Pictures film Road to Redemption would be shown, in addition to evangelistic messages by Billy Graham and Franklin Graham. Darwin and Anita joined the more than 53,000 people trained to host an Operation Matthew party, where Christians invite non-believers into their homes to watch the programs and then share their own testimonies and invite their guests to receive Christ.
The couple began saving money and soon were able to buy a video projector. On the evening Road to Redemption aired, Darwin set up the projector, a TV and a large screen at his father-in-law’s church. They packed about 180 people into the church, and some 100 people accepted Christ.
When Darwin and Anita learned that BGEA had other evangelistic films, they saw a way to further their efforts. Darwin contacted BGEA’s International Film Ministry and at the ministry’s request sent some photos and reports of the work he and Anita had already done. Soon he received several BGEA films and began showing them all over Ecuador.
The Jimenezes’ vision grew, and Darwin cut back on his teaching job so he would be free to show more films. But the demand for the movies continued to increase, so he made the difficult decision to quit teaching completely. “I’m going to work for God,” he told his puzzled co-workers.
Anita, who works in the children’s ministry at their church in Machala, was concerned. “How are we going to live?” she asked him. Darwin assured her that if God put this vision in their hearts, He would provide a way.
Mountainous terrain and jungles make traveling throughout Ecuador difficult, but the Jimenezes minister together whenever possible. Their son Abraham eagerly helps set up the projector and audio system and hands out fliers in the cities they visit. Sometimes, because of the boys’ schooling or the difficulty of the journey, Darwin travels alone on long trips by bicycle, bus, taxi or boat to reach far-flung villages and churches. Most of the churches are small and only able to give Darwin about $10–usually just enough to cover travel expenses–and put him up in a believer’s home.
A 4-by-4 vehicle would make the work easier, but Darwin is reluctant to buy one.
“By now I would have gotten a car, but I would prefer to get another projector, because many people will accept Jesus through the projector,” Darwin explains. He and Anita are praying that God will provide the vehicle some other way.
The couple has been able to save enough money to buy three additional projectors. They gave one to Darwin’s brother, Geovanny, who lives in Ambato, the capital of the province of Tungurahua; one to a pastor who lives in the Los Rios province, 16 hours from the Jimenezes’ home; and another to a pastor in the Amazon region’s Pastaza province. Each evangelist shows at least 10 films a month, and Darwin hopes to extend this model to each of Ecuador’s 22 provinces. Each evangelist would be outfitted with the same equipment Darwin uses–a portable screen, a projector, six BGEA DVDs, a voltage regulator, a DVD player and an audio system.
Each month, Darwin and the other three evangelists show films to as many as 4,000 people, and about 800 make commitments to Christ. The evangelists document their efforts with reports and photos, which Darwin eagerly shows as he talks about what God has done in churches across the country. He picks up one particular picture and smiles, pointing to someone who looks like a woman but is really a 22-year-old man.
“This man was a homosexual and believed that he was a woman. After watching The Climb, he accepted Christ. He said that as he watched the film, he felt so alone. When it ended, we prayed for him. He accepted Jesus Christ and began attending church, reading his Bible and acting like a man.” Flipping to an “after” photo of the young man, Darwin adds, “Now, a year later, he’s getting married!”
Darwin looks at a photo of another young man wearing a black T-shirt, baggy jeans and a bandana. The young man had been raised by his mother because his father had abandoned the family. He was a rebellious teenager full of resentment when an uncle took him to work near the Colombian border. After a while, he and some friends crossed the border into Colombia and joined a guerrilla group, where he began working with drug laboratories. After a year, he returned to Ecuador with plans to start a similar group.
“We were showing Last Flight Out (a drama about guerrilla activity in Latin America) in Rumiñahui, a neighborhood in Machala, and some friends invited him to watch the movie,” Darwin says. “He accepted the invitation because he wanted to know what the movie was about. While watching the movie, he began to remember all he had gone through in Colombia. When the invitation was given, he accepted Christ into his life.” Soon his resentment and hatred began to subside.
Darwin flips through several more pictures, reflecting on how he has seen God deliver people from alcoholism, restore fractured families and renew the strength of churches. “We have a lot more testimonies,” he says. “There just isn’t time to tell them all!”
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