Posted by: calloftheandes | April 3, 2017

First CHILI Commissioning Service Held in Ecuador

by Harold Goerzen

After studying community development in Ecuador’s eastern jungles for six months, four of the graduates of a mission agency’s newest training program are set to serve in the mountains of a closed country for the next 1½ years.

It was a drizzly afternoon in the Amazonian community of Shell on Sunday, Feb. 26, as dozens of people gathered—some in person and others online—to view the inaugural commissioning service of Reach Beyond’s new Community Health Intercultural Learning Initiative (CHILI).

Four of the five graduates will serve together as a unit, working alongside local partners in an unreached country while graduate Heidi Salzman will remain in Ecuador. She will focus on studying Spanish, writing promotional materials and helping with the next program set to begin in September.

“I was sad to see the classes completed, especially since I would soon bid goodbye to the team I’d grown so close to,” said Salzman, whose parents, Paul and Shari Salzman, serve as Reach Beyond missionaries on loan to partner Inspiracom in El Paso, Texas. “However, I was thrilled to see my team take this beautiful opportunity to share Jesus in a closed country.”

Some 25 people were present for the send-off while another 17 people witnessed the event online from places as diverse as Germany, U.K., Turkey and Alaska.

“Participants included teachers, leaders and some of our family members—all of them from many different parts of the world,” Salzman explained. “Sheila Leech, vice president of global healthcare, and Martin Harrison, international projects coordinator at Reach Beyond-UK, were also there to see us off.”

The hour-long service included a sermon by Wim de Groen, head of the community development office in Shell and the CHILI coordinator, who focused on 1 Timothy 4 which exhorts young people to set an example for other believers while seeking to become more like Christ.

Wim de Groen

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” exhorted de Groen. “People are watching what you say and how you interact, whether in the market or conversing with a taxi driver. You need to set an example for both believers and unbelievers.”

He also encouraged the young graduates to “keep close to God” while putting the gospel message at the forefront of all they do.

“No matter what the circumstances, you need to share the gospel,” de Groen added. “It’s not your message, it’s God’s message. Don’t forget, your role is to share, to teach and to preach…. First He saved us, then He gave us a holy calling. He set us apart with a holy purpose.”

After the sermon, de Groen, along with Leech and Eric Fogg, a member of the community development team in Ecuador, wrapped their arms around the graduates as he gave a closing prayer.

“I felt the tears coming on as I listened to him pray for the remaining 18 months that the graduates had before them,” Salzman related. “The CHILI program had reached a huge milestone. We were trained. We were ready. We were overflowing with blessings and showered with prayers. But it was hard to leave, to say goodbye. Even the leaders showed emotion at this departure.”

To conclude the service, each participant received a memento of their time in Ecuador with photos and personal notes from many of the 64 instructors who were involved in the program.

“So you are gone, sent and commissioned, well prepared and fired up and with a burning passion to reach the lost using the skills you have been entrusted with,” Leech stated in a Facebook post. “We got to love you and now we release you, but we hold you all in our hearts and in our prayers.”


  1. […] and formalized by Dan Shedd, the region’s executive director, who observed that “even with the CHILI (Community Health Intercultural Learning Initiative) program [based in Shell, Ecuador], we don’t necessarily see a huge influx of families with young […]

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