UMC Mission Volunteers, Shari (far left) and David (3rd from right) with members of the Pijal Methodist Church in Ecuador, in the valley of Imbabura Volcano. (Photo: Courtesy of the Nelsons)

ATLANTA – In the shadow of the Cotopaxi Volcano in the Andes highlands south of Quito, Ecuador, Ecuadorian Methodists maintain an elementary school called El Sembrador (“the sower”). The school has about 100 students enrolled in Kindergarten through 7th grades.

David and Shari Nelson, Mission Volunteers from Colorado, have developed a passion for the ministry of this school, its students and teachers. They spent two months in Pastocalle in 2023 to assist the English teacher and establish a computer lab, which has been helping the children in their classwork, and basic computer skills and literacy. They returned to Ecuador in January this year.

Both David and Shari are lifetime Methodists with a long history of volunteer service in their church and community. One of their many goals for retirement was to remain active volunteers. David remembers, “in May 2022, while surfing to make a donation to UMCOR, we stumbled across a volunteer link on its website. That led us to discover Global Ministries’ Mission Volunteers (MV) program, and the rest is history!”

Last year, the Nelsons visited several Methodist churches in Ecuador and became familiar with some of the pastors and congregations. They have been slowly learning Spanish for years. After their immersion in the country, they have become conversant in Spanish, which has helped them develop deeper relationships.

A praise band at an Ecuadoran Methodist Church leads the congregation in worship. (Photo: Courtesy of David and Shari Nelson)

The Methodist Church in Ecuador is a small denomination with about 20 churches and ministries to support childhood education, families, Christian education and leadership development. Pastors and church workers often have second jobs in addition to their church work to support their families.

“This year, we continue working with El Sembrador school and a few churches, and helping the national church create a presence on the internet,” Shari said. They have also organized a national praise team retreat partnered with the Ecuadoran church, which will include an ecumenical team through Broomfield United Methodist Church, their home church. The retreat will encourage church growth through strengthening faith, leadership skills and technical skills of the members of the Methodist praise teams. Forty-five musicians from across Ecuador are expected to attend the three-day event in April.

Broomfield UMC dedicated a portion of its 2023 Easter offering to support El Sembrador, which allowed the school to install secure doors on the new computer room and make much-needed repairs to the roof of the bathrooms at the school.

Global Ministries has appointed two missionaries to assist with the school. Sara Flores Quinones, a full-time Global Missionary from Bolivia, works with the Methodist Church in Ecuador as the Children’s Accompaniment Ministry coordinator. Mary Grace Luna from the Philippines, is a Global Mission Fellow (GMF) assigned to El Sembrador through the spring of 2024. Another GMF from India is scheduled to arrive later this year.

El Sembrador School, in the shadow of Cotopaxi, an active volcano in Ecuador. (Photo: Courtesy of Shari and David Nelson)

For more information about how to become a Mission Volunteer, possible placement sites and the schedule for the next training and orientation session, visit the Mission Volunteers website.

Christie R. House is a consultant writer and editor with Global Ministries and UMCOR.

Mission Volunteers

Global Ministries Mission Volunteers are individuals or couples (ages 18 and up) who seek long-term partnerships with communities around the world and fund themselves. Mission Volunteer opportunities are diverse and range from working with refugees, children and youth to serving as a teacher, pastor, camp director or health care professional. The length of service ranges from two months to more than two years, depending on the volunteer’s availability.