SPRINGVILLE — The trip was not a sightseeing venture, they said. It was not about buildings or anything material.
Instead, according to Chip Thornton and Andy Waits, the eight days they spent in Ecuador were about only one thing: preaching the Gospel.
“It wasn’t a medical mission, and it wasn’t about building,” Thornton said. “Straight person-to-person evangelism was our purpose.”
Thornton and Waits — the pastor and associate pastor, respectively, at First Baptist Church in Springville — took five others with them to Ecuador, along with 11 from Prays Mill Baptist in Douglasville, Ga. Together the group spent more than a week spreading the Gospel in high-altitude areas of Ecuador.
“The Southern Baptist Convention has been trying to reach that area for a long time,” Thornton said. “We’ve not been able to reach it because we haven’t had the resources.”
The group’s primary targets were Zhud, where a church is already planted, and Gonzol, a village of around 1,000 people. Thornton said they were invited to the local school to evangelize.
“There were probably about 15 believers in the whole village,” he said. “We had so many people who would listen and say, ‘I’ve never heard this before.’”
Each day the group went “hut to hut” to share, until around 1 p.m. They also conducted a basketball camp at the local school as part of the mission.
“It was originally, soccer, but then they realized the local kids were better at it than any of us were,” said Thornton.
Waits said the trip was his first as a foreign missionary.
“The people were extremely hungry for the Gospel,” he said. “It was almost like they were waiting on us when we got there.
“It helped me to see the difference in the church from our country. Their faith was so rich and genuine and deep.”
The group is already making plans to return.
“I think we strengthened the church in Zhud,” Waits said. “I think we planted seeds in other villages, and other believers will result from that.
“To be able to see Gonzol, and to be able to possibly go back next year. God definitely had his hand on us.”
The group also held one important distinction during its visit.
“(Attorney) James Hill was easily the tallest person in Ecuador from the time he got there until he left,” Thornton said. “And (Judge) Jim says he’s planning to go with us next year.”