In 2008, Ecuador wasn’t really on Chris Yancey’s radar, and he wasn’t sensing a general missions call either.
“I went to Ecuador on a short-term trip with my church that summer, kind of just because the church offered the trip,” said Yancey, M.Div. ’13, who at the time was a member of Southcrest Baptist Church in Bessemer, Alabama, and a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
He never would have guessed that years later he and his wife, Madeline, and their children would invest their lives in the South American country.
It all started when he said “yes” to a week at Camp Chacauco.
A growing call
While Yancey was visiting the camp with his church, he noticed college students were serving as summer interns there.
“That intrigued me,” he said.
He had just finished his sophomore year at UAB, and after his junior year, he went back for the whole summer.
“When I went back there, I felt a call,” Yancey said.
He spent another summer there after graduating, then two more summers while he was studying at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. He spent a fifth summer in Spain serving with an International Mission Board missionary. Along the way, he learned Spanish.
Now he serves full-time in the place where his journey started—Camp Chacauco.
“We are primarily church planters—that would be our first role,” Yancey said. “We identify villages and communities that don’t have a gospel presence and start churches there.”
They do this from their home base at the camp, working alongside seasoned missionaries Steve and Carol Thompson.
“They’ve planted around 50 churches along with Ecuadorian nationals,” Yancey said.
Passing on his theological training
Part of what the Thompsons and Yanceys do in partnership with the Ecuadorian Baptist Convention is to offer theological training for national pastors. Yancey is an adjunct professor in that effort, rotating with others to teach a class every other year.
“I think the best thing Beeson did for me was to teach me how to study the Word and study in the original languages,” he said.
Now Yancey constantly studies and preaches, and he also shares that knowledge with other people, helping them study the Bible for themselves and teaching pastors how to prepare sermons.
“When I was at Beeson, they prepared pastors to preach in local churches, and that’s what we’re doing here,” he said.
In 2016 Beeson Divinity added a missions certificate to the Master of Divinity degree program for those students who want more intentional training in cross-cultural ministry.
“The missions certificate has allowed us to maximize cross-cultural training, both in class and in real-life practicums, within the structure of the community-based Master of Divinity program,” said David Parks, director of Global Center and Contextual Learning at Beeson Divinity. “Missions certificate students aren’t segregated from the rest of the school, but at the same time they are in community with each other every Friday morning as we learn about and pray for the nations.”
Breaking new ground
In addition to theological training, Yancey said he and his partners also see fruit from their camp ministry, which drew in nearly 1,200 children and youth this past summer.
“We use them for discipleship,” he said of the camps, which take place at Camp Chacauco and Camp Unpes, another ministry facility several hours away in the jungle.
“The kids and youth will come to summer camp and make decisions to follow Christ, then local churches can follow up with them on those decisions,” he said.
Yancey added that they also go into villages in the area and show the love of Christ through community development projects like medical clinics and Vacation Bible School. Many people they talk to have never heard the gospel before, he said.
“They take some time taking it in and thinking about it, but we see an openness,” he said. “We see fruit from events and see churches started in communities.”
Yancey said they are looking for more ministry partners to come alongside them, churches who are interested in sending short-term teams and who could help them go into new villages and break new ground.
“Our ideal partner would be someone who is interested in church planting in Ecuador,” he said.
Yancey also asked for prayer for their family as they look forward to the birth of their third child in November and that “God would continue to provide opportunities for us to get into the communities to see churches started where we know people are hurting and need the gospel.”
To prepare for cross-cultural ministry, go to Beeson Divinity School’s website and take the next step.