Three years ago, a group of indigenous pastors from the province of Chimborazo approached the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about having a Crusade in Ecuador.
That request started a relationship that resulted in the Festival of Hope being extended beyond Quito to the town of Colta, a four-hour drive south of the capital. During the three days preceding the Quito meetings, some 7,500 people, mostly Quichua Indians, gathered in a soccer field to hear the Good News of Christ, preached by Rafael Ortiz, chairman of the Quito Festival, and evangelist David Ruiz.
In recent years the number of Quichua believers in Ecuador has exploded. In 1927, missionary V. Raymond Edman–who later served as president of Wheaton College when Billy and Ruth Graham studied there–lamented, “The mountain people of Ecuador are impassive to the Gospel of the Son of God. … One generation of missionaries has come and gone and another is passing, and still converts are counted on the fingers of the hand.”
After World War II, more people started trusting Christ, but then in the 1960s, evangelicals began to face persecution for their faith, according to Pablo Gauchilema, president of the Council of Evangelical Quichua Pastors of Ecuador. Still, by 1988, one Christian gathering had 1,000 in attendance, and today the majority of Quichuas in Chimborazo are Christians, with nearly 700 evangelical churches in the province.
Richard Grover, a professor at the Quichua UME Seminary in Colta, said the growth has come because of the teaching of God’s Word. Quichua pastor Segundo Mocha added, “The blessing of the Lord has come over these people, because their lives have totally changed.”
But many who have grown up in Christian homes have not personally trusted Christ.
As a cool wind blustered across this high Andean soccer field, the message of Christ cut through the thin air and found its mark in the hearts of more than 750 who responded to the invitation.
An 18-year-old man who came forward on the first day said he didn’t really know what he was feeling, but he wanted to be a child of God. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he repeated the prayer of Pastor Ortiz: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Forgive me. This afternoon I put my faith and my trust in Your hands. Lord Jesus, I want to give You my life. … Change me, transform me and make of me a new creature.”