Having been blessed by our rich Reformed heritage, and growing up in our homes and in the Free Reformed Churches, Arlene and I had the opportunity to share some of our background by teaching in the area of family ministry in Orlando, Florida, during my studies at Reformed Theological Seminary. It was through the friendship of a fellow Ecuadorian student and his wife, who had attended our parenting course and our family worship seminar, that we were introduced to, and subsequently invited by, the Iglesia Reformada Presbiteriana del Ecuador (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ecuador) to do Family Ministry among their denomination. After a visit to Ecuador, we accepted their call to us in dependence on the Lord and now, after spending one year learning Spanish at the Spanish Language Institute in Costa Rica, we and our six children are living in Quito, Ecuador, having arrived here at the end of August.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church is quite small and young here in Ecuador. The first church was planted by the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) approximately eight years ago. At present there are a total of 5 churches, all of them in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Their need for our ministry exists because of the relative brief introduction the churches have had to Reformed theology and practice. Most of the members of the churches have been converted recently from Roman Catholicism, or at best, been introduced to charismatic theology prior to coming to the Reformed faith. Although they are now learning more and more Reformed theology, and deeply appreciating it, their lack of heritage is felt as they try to put the Bible into practice. What we take for granted, and sometimes even resent, is desired by many here. The families here are hurting and lack the teaching and example of how covenant theology is put into practice in the Christian home. Many of the families are divided by divorce, or are affected by divorce in some manner. There are others where one of the parents is a believer and the other is not, or parents believe and the children are still in the Catholic church. Our children have friends in the youth group who believe, but their parents are still Catholic.
All are struggling with their Catholic past. The families that are intact have only the faintest idea of how to put covenant theology into practice. More than anything, they need to be taught and see an example of how God would like family life to be. The leaders of the churches here have called us to help in this area. With the help and blessing of the Lord, we hope to actively begin this ministry soon.
You may ask, "Why soon? Why not start right away?" This is a good question, so let me explain. First, though we have been in language school for one year, we confess we are far from fluent in Spanish. We can get by very well in this culture with what we do know, but to teach, counsel and translate material, our Spanish needs improvement. So our first priority is to concentrate on learning the language better and soon intensive tutoring lessons will begin for me.
Secondly, to minister in a different culture takes wisdom and sensitivity. I need to spend some time to learn the history and culture of the Ecuadorian people, so that I may know what has affected their families, their thinking and their practices. All of us carry cultural baggage from our backgrounds, some of it being very good and some of it bad. The Ecuadorians also do, and it is my duty to discern biblically what is really only cultural (not sinful), and what is sinful.
Thirdly, to work with families and individuals, we need to build relationships with them in order to gain their confidence and trust. Don't forget, we are the outsiders coming to their country, and supposedly we come because we have something "better" than they have at present. So again, we cannot come as those who are superior in our ways, but we need to show them what God has done in our lives by His grace and power, and let the Holy Spirit work in their lives through the ministry He has called us to.
Currently then, we are becoming involved in church life here. We are attending San Marcos church, which is the first church planted and at present the largest and closest to our home. This church consists of predominately middle to upper class Spanish professional people. This social/economic group in South America is literally unreached. Most missions focus on the indigenous Indian groups. It excites us greatly to see God working among this class, since they would be able to bring a Christian influence to other areas in their country.
Our three oldest children are happily involved with the youth group and are gaining many Spanish friends. The younger ones are attending the weekly Sunday school. Arlene and I are attending a weekly home Bible study group, a weekly leadership course on doctrine, and a counseling course, the latter being held one morning a week. I have been promised an office at the church (though I still am not in it) from which I will work, but daily I go to the church and set up my laptop on the desk in the consistory room to work on the three priorities listed above.
Quito, the city, is modern in many ways and yet the aspects of the third world are readily seen and felt. Even though we are situated on the equator, the temperature is moderately cool, year round, because of the altitude (9,000 ft. above sea level). Being up in the Andes Mountains we have no snow, ice, or mosquitoes.
We are happy to be here. The adjustment has gone well and with the arrival of our household goods, we have settled nicely into our apartment. At present we miss the blessing of having a vehicle, so we are limited in ministry outreach, and also with our family size, the use of pubic transit becomes an inconvenience and a costly affair. Please pray with us that God will provide the funds for this soon.
We are blessed to be God's servants here. Although we have often felt unworthy to be called to the task and have felt fearful at times, as we made each step in the process of preparation, we are grateful for the faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God. He has been gracious, merciful and good to us. We also thank those who have prayed for us and support us financially. As we begin our labours here, we covet your prayers. We ask for His help as we continue to learn the language, to adjust and to be protected in this large city. The family structure is being severely attacked here as it is everywhere. Pray for this ministry, our family, our marriage, and our children, that we may be protected from the onslaught of Satan's devices in destroying the Christian family, and that we would remain a faithful testimony to our God. May He receive all the glory.
Fred, Arlene, Michelle, Jason, Anita, Jodie, Carolyn and Erin Jonkman
Postscript: The financial support for the Jonkmans comes in part from the Orlando, Florida Presbyterian congregation they worshipped with when Fred studied there and the balance comes from churches and individuals from various Reformed denominations, mostly in southern Ontario. Their work and support is organized by the Jonkman Mission Committee which operates under the supervision of the Brantford Free Reformed Church. As noted from the above letter, their immediate need is a vehicle. They live 25 minutes from the nearest bus stop and it is dangerous to be out walking at night. Requests for information and how to contribute towards their support will be thankfully received by