What do you get when you send a clown named, Bubbles to the banana capital of the world? Sounds like the opening to a very funny joke, doesn't it? Well, as funny as it may sound, it's not a joke; it's something that really happened as part of a short-term mission trip to South America. Earlier this year, Charis Bible College sent a team from Colorado to Machala, Ecuador. The 16-person group, led by CBC-Colorado's School of Missions Director, Dr. Delron Shirley and his wife, Peggy, were hosted by Charis alumni and full-time missionaries, Mickey and Suzan Cartagena.
Because schools in the region had just been released for summer break, the team spent a good deal of time ministering to the local children. Having a clown on the team was really a great way to reach the kids in a light-hearted manner. In one neighborhood, the CBC students shared the love of God with the children by hosting a three-day Vacation Bible School. In another area, the team ministered at a care facility for children that have been rescued from abusive situations. In both places the CBC students enjoyed spending time with their young audiences. They sang and played games with the kids, made balloon animals, served them a meal, and prayed for them.
The Charis students were also given the opportunity to minister in churches and small home groups. These settings gave them time to teach the Word, perform Gospel-centered skits, and share personal testimonies. These opportunities opened the door for the people of Ecuador to experience God and his love in down-to-earth ways.
Team host, Suzan Cartagena said, "We watched the students connect with different people in Ecuador who didn’t know or had forgotten that God is pleased with them. People everywhere are discouraged, lonely, abandoned, rejected, and filled with guilt and condemnation. They are angry with a God who does not seem to care."
During each outreach, the CBC students were able to introduce the people of Machala to a God who does indeed care—often connecting through the shared experience of their own testimonies. "It was amazing to see CBC students that have overcome rejection, naturally reach out to those that felt rejected; to see students that have experienced condemnation, reach out to those who walk in self condemnation, and to see students who have been angry with God or had given up on him, reach out to those who have searched for God and not yet found Him," said Suzan.
There were moments when the interaction between grown men, embracing battered children so perfectly mirrored God's heart for all His people that team leaders watched in awe as the children responded to the love that was being transmitted. "We heard students say, 'God just wants me to give you a hug,' and watched as the people on the receiving end instantly became connected to the love of God that they had been so desperately longing for," Suzan shared.
"As the CBC team members prayed for the people, we saw them give their lives to Christ, receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and be healed," said Peggy Shirley. She also noted that the team saw several dramatic deliverances as people were set free from demonic oppression.
CBC's mission trips are always full of unique moments and special memories. One of the unexpected blessings on this trip was a request from a CBC student to be water baptized. When the team leaders made arrangements for her baptism, two others students joined her! All three were baptized in a pool by a local pastor named, Alfonso.