by Jacob P. Klassen
After six to eight brainstorming meetings, plans for an informal Bible training institute for Quichua leaders in Imbabura province were developed.
How do you train leaders for a rapidly growing church with no official workers? And how do you do it when your only local options are unacceptable for historical, educational, linguistic, or cultural reasons? In our situation, the answer was a two-rail fence — cognitive input and "real life" field experience — and seminars.
In their first 55 years of work among the Otavalo Quichuas of Ecuador, Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries saw few converts. Those who did respond did not have the forceful testimony of a transformed life.
The Otavalo Quichua Mountain Indians live in Ecuador’s Imbabura province, about 60 miles north of Quito, the national capital. They are a proud, hardworking, hard-drinking people, whose ancestors fought the Incas to a standoff. The Quichuas eventually made peace with the Incas, but later succumbed to the Spanish, although never completely dominated by them, nor their Roman Catholic religion.
However, since 1969, a growing number of Quichuas have demonstrated that the Lord Jesus Christ could make fundamental changes in an Indian. Better yet, the Quichuas themselves noticed that the Indian did not have to become "white," meaning Spanish, in order to be saved.
Conversions were made through extended families, who in turn reached friends and whole communities. The fact that other family members or friends were freed from alcoholism and other vices gave greater credibility to the gospel and to the Quichua lay witnesses than the missionaries had previously enjoyed. Alliance missionaries soon had a people movement on their hands.
By January, 1975, the movement had grown to the point where the need for Quichua leaders was obvious. Mike Welty and I met with five key lay leaders to brain-storm about leadership training.
First, we discussed possible training formats. We suggested holding Theological Education by Extension meetings every week. But the Quichuas noted that many men travelled all week as merchants. Therefore, those we needed to train would not be able to attend.
Then we introduced them to the programmed instructional material produced by the Anglicans in Argentina. However, the Quichuas insisted that only a handful would be able to understand this six-volume, 150-lesson Bible course. (This was set aside and used five years later as an advanced instruction for lay pastors.)
Second, we brainstormed on how to make the training program indigenous in both form and function. We also talked about how it could best meet their felt needs.
First order questions raised by Ted Ward and Samuel F. Rowen were discussed. These included: "What constitutes a valid theological education" in a rural, mountain Quichua Indian setting? "What does the student need to learn to know, to do, to be? How can learning experiences be structured to achieve these goals?"
The committee also considered the people who would be involved: who would organize and supervise the training program, who should be part of the advisory council, and who would be the director and teachers. Other factors included prerequisites and entrance requirements, financing the program, teaching materials, board and room, and length and frequency of teaching sessions. Future plans were discussed: Would they teach only potential lay pastors and local church leadership? What about training for the women?
THE AGATO LEADERSHIP BIBLE TRAINING INSTITUTE
After six to eight brainstorming meetings, plans for an informal Bible training institute for Quichua leaders in Imbabura province were developed. Some of the defined principles and guidelines included the following:
1. The predominantly Spanish National Ecuadorian Church of the Alliance would permit the Imbabura Quichua congregations to set up their own requirements for church membership, discipline, worship, and the training of the lay leaders necessary to evangelize and nurture the believers.
2. The missionaries would not import nor impose a curriculum or a preconceived program of instruction for these leaders.
3. The director and the institute’s advisory council would be Quichua leaders from the beginning. The C&MA missionaries were invited to sit on the advisory council without vote "to help us think," as the leaders expressed it.
4. The institute would consist of an intensive training program to be taught four times a year for the men. Later on, the advisory council proposed two one-week sessions for the women leaders. This meant that some men would lose six weeks of work per year – four for the men’s Bible training institute sessions, and the other two when their wives attended the women’s sessions. This was a momentous decision because usually the women had to stay at home to take care of the babies, tend the few animals they owned, and to protect the crops against thievery.
5. The provincial advisory council, not the missionaries, decided on who were qualified to attend. Even a recently converted believer could take part, provided that he was recommended by leaders of his local congregation, taking baptism classes, showing signs of true conversion, and working through the process of legalizing his current marital status.
6. Academic qualifications would not define who could or could not attend. Once, I noticed a father taking part in a session, accompanied by a 12-year-old. I questioned the director about whether the boy was old enough to be a student. He replied, "You don’t understand. The father cannot read or write. The boy takes the notes for the father and will write the test for him on Friday." This man led a small congregation in his hut that was some 18 to 20 miles from the mission station. When I visited that group, I saw that the father led the services. All the songs were sung from memory. The son read the Scriptures, and the father then gave a short message.
7. The Bible training institute would be held at the C&MA mission station, which was only a short distance from Otavalo, the hub of the Imbabura Quichua population. Though the facilities were limited, there was one small church a one-room school building on the property. Since the Quichuas sleep on woven reed mats at home, there was no need for a dormitory. The director bought several rolls of mats and stacked them in the church and school. At night, the benches and desks were stacked to one side. Each man was guaranteed at least one mat and his heavy poncho was all the bedding and covering he needed. The cafeteria also functioned in the yard of the mission station. The director and advisory council decided that board and room costs would be the equivalent of three dollars U.S. per each weekly session. (This was later raised to four dollars U.S.) In addition, each student would be responsible for any books and/ or materials that were needed, as well as his transportation. (Later, those active in local congregation ministries such as preachers, evangelists, and Sunday school teachers, were sponsored by their congregations.) Out of the funds generated, the advisory council paid the cooks, bought the sleeping mats, firewood, and provisions, and gave a small honorarium to each teacher.
THE CURRICULUM AND FACULTY
The Quichua leaders at first insisted that the courses meet perceived needs in their congregations. High on their list of priorities were sin, fornication, family life, parenting, salvation, God, conversion, evangelism, church discipline, literacy programs, and hygiene.
As a result, no structured curriculum was developed. For example, when we noticed that some churches placed believers on an open-ended discipline – tantamount to excommunication – we helped the leaders "think about" this problem. The result was a course on reconciliation and reinstatement of disciplined believers. During that week’s session, leaders and trainees fanned out to some ten congregations to visit those who had been disciplined. Consequently, several families were restored to the church.
Since most of the Quichua men had minimal skills in reading and writing, "homework" was done as part of the course right in the classroom. Basic Scripture passages for assurance of salvation and for evangelization were memorized.
Evangelistic outreach was an integral part of the curriculum. One afternoon per session was set aside for evangelism. Leaders who had an evangelistic gift and some experience would role-play door-to-door, or do evangelism. Then the students would fan out on mission vehicles, public transportation, or bicycles to evangelize. They usually went in groups of four or five, with one "trainer" per group. The first homes to be visited were those of relatives of anyone in the group, and many conversions resulted from these efforts.
Another part of the program during the week-long session, which, by hindsight, formed a portion of the curriculum, consisted of group early morning devotions and nightly studies at the school or evening evangelistic services held at the church.
Women’s leadership sessions were taught by missionary women, and three or four Quichua women who had at least four years of Spanish education. Since the women’s literacy level was even lower than the men’s, even more emphasis was placed on learning by singing, memorization, dramatization, and role-playing. More advanced women and those already in leadership were discipled by missionary and Quichua women. At present, most of the material is written by the missionary and Quichua leaders.
Has the leadership developed? Does training in ministry work? A large number of those who attend will never progress beyond being enthusiastic song leaders, choir or quartet members, or ushers and helpers. But they are encouraged (and they want) to attend the ongoing sessions because these also function as social and spiritual retreats.
Others have become effective lay leaders in the congregations. Spontaneously, in 10 years the Quichuas have built several large concrete block church buildings opened a total of 22 churches and chapels.
Annually, between 100 and 120 men and 100 and 110 women are taught in this leadership training program. This represents 10 percent of the total baptized adult membership.
About 20 men have developed to the stage where they are recognized as pastors. By 1979, 10 to 15 of these had improved their reading and writing skills to the where they were able to handle correspondence courses, programmed instruction lessons, and other types of workbooks.
More than six of the Quichua leaders are supported jointly by most of the 27 congregations, so that these men can dedicate themselves more fully to ministry. Two have been ordained by the National Spanish Church in Ecuador of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, after formal oral examination.
If the Bible training institute weeks are regarded as the equivalent of the TEE seminars, then the Otavalo Quichua program could be judged as dangerously weak. But since there was a "real life" curriculum – ministry contacts, studying, evangelizing, and helping key leaders think through problems-then the program could be judged to be much stronger.
Within this particular context, the interaction of the three basic ingredients-cognitive input, field experience and seminars-were reinforced. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, a sturdy, two-rail fence was built that has met some of the basic needs for leadership that wasn’t preparing for ministry, but was already active in ministry.
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