Posted by: calloftheandes | October 13, 2015

Learning Community Development, Missions through Water Projects in Ecuador

First Feature in a Series of Three Stories by Rachel Kunker

Six summer interns serving with Reach Beyond in Ecuador came with willing hearts, ready to learn about missions but not entirely sure what that teaching would entail. As the internship began, they started to understand how little they knew, ready to make the most of their experiences.

Connor Johnson throws dirt from a trench with help from friends.

Connor Johnson throws dirt from a trench with help from friends.

“When I first entered Ecuador, I had no practice in the medical field,” said Connor Johnson, a medical intern from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. “I simply had no experience with what it looked like to apply what I had been learning by ministering to people who need medical attention, especially in a Third World country.”

“I came into this internship not knowing anything about how engineering looks on the mission field,” added intern Tim Wolfe, a student studying mechanical engineering at Grove City College.

As the internship progressed, interns stepped out of their comfort zones to do unfamiliar things, including learning how to weld, constructing a water tower and integrating into the Ecuadorian culture. Countless opportunities arose and the interns seized them.

“I learned to respect the roles in the jungle for men and women and to recognize when to hop in and work and when to hold back,” said Jacque Zook, an engineering intern from Virginia Tech.

“I definitely saw many variations of Ecuadorian culture and subcultures within Ecuador. It was nice to work in the busy city of Quito, in a rural clinic and with the indigenous people,” stated Johnson who was presented with the opportunities to shadow doctors, and teach hygiene in the Ecuadorian jungle.

The numerous learning opportunities and experiences enabled the interns to learn about themselves and the missionary lifestyle. They also learned that serving God is not always glamorous.

Interns Kunker (left), Zook, John, Wolfe, and Navarro (right).

Interns Kunker (left), Zook, John, Wolfe, and Navarro (right).

“Missionary life is not what I thought it was,” commented Johnson. “It’s not just standing on the corner and preaching to everyone—it’s incorporating Christ into your work, your relationships and every aspect of your life.”

“I was able to read books like When Helping Hurts and experience how you can meet people’s physical needs and share the gospel at the same time,” added intern John, who studies civil engineering at Wheaton College.

Some of the interns said they also learned more about themselves while serving in the remote jungle community of Santa Rosa where they visited four different times and built relationships. Projects ranged from helping construct a water tower to digging trenches and simply spending time with community members.

“I had a chance to travel with Gladys, one of the Shuar women, to a local farm and talk a little about Christianity with her,” commented Zook.

Serving multiple times in one community enabled interns to see community development firsthand and to understand how to be the “hands of Christ.” In addition to working to bring clean water, the interns also had opportunities to share their faith through giving their testimonies, teaching parables and praying within the community.

“This internship with Reach Beyond has shown me how I can interact and immerse myself in community and culture in a meaningful way while also being able to do engineering mission work for the glory of God,” said intern Jerome Navarro, a civil and environmental engineering student at Calvin College.

“I’ve begun to learn how to do missions with a specific skill set,” added Bodett.

The interns learned that serving is not about what you know, but what you are willing to do, even when you do not know. The internship provided opportunities that have shaped interns into servants and has created lessons they cannot easily forget.


  1. […] studying community development in Ecuador’s eastern jungles for six months, four of the graduates of a mission agency’s newest training […]

  2. […] While teaching an April 2012 “Theological Foundation of Missions” seminar for Reach Beyond’s Community Development department, Gallagher referred to a “starving” need for missions texts unfettered by a Western […]

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