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Going Further Together

How a simple prayer is bearing fruit in the Amazon jungle
Ecuador — May 2024 Update

In the beginning, the people of Kusutka, Ecuador, wanted to kill or beat pastor Diego Ushiña and his wife, Anavela Corrales. “But after 17 years, those who wanted to kill us or beat us are now pastors in many of our churches,” Diego said.

“It is something extraordinary. They’ve gone from wanting to kill us to planting churches,” he added.

What inspired the couple to pursue a seemingly difficult mission to share the love of Christ in the Amazon?

When he was 14 years old, Diego read a magazine article about people in the jungles of South America who needed to hear the gospel message. It mentioned MAF pilot Nate Saint and four other missionaries who had been killed when trying to reach the Waodani tribe of Ecuador.

Diego said the story ended by stating that few people were willing to give their lives to serve as missionaries in the heart of the Ecuadorian jungle.

After reading that, Diego recalled, “I bent my knees in my living room and said I want to go where no one wants to go to do missions.”

It’s all relational

A teacher by profession, Anavela said education has been their way of entering a community.

“In Kusutka, we started with a school where we could inject the Word every day,” Anavela said. This is how they got to work with the youth and disciple them.

The people in this community practiced animism and would visit the local witchdoctor whenever they were hurt or sick.

Diego and Anavela didn’t judge or tell people, “Don’t do this or don’t do that.” They simply wanted each person to know, “I’m interested in getting to know you.”

“Everything is through relationships,” Diego added. “Discipleship is by relationship so we begin there and, more importantly, with prayer.”

The couple shared how the local witchdoctor would often invite them to his house. They always went but never preached or tried to convert him. Anavela said, “We would go and just talk about normal things.”

Until one day, the witchdoctor came to them and said, “I want to know your God and I want to be baptized under the waters.”

There was also “an impetuous and annoying young man” who used to sit at the back of the church and make fun of them. “He was also one of those who grabbed the machete and wanted to attack us and get us out of the community,” Anavela said. “But today he is a loyal attendee. He plays the guitar in worship and works with the children.”

Those are just two examples of the many lives that Jesus has transformed through Diego and Anavela’s mission to reach the very ends of the jungle.

“Our vision is to disciple the local people in their own context so that they can make new disciples in their churches and communities,” Anavela said.

Diego added, “In every village, in every community, a church plant.”

Time- and life-saver

For Diego and Anavela, discipleship happens through the avenues of education, sports, and ministering to children and families. The couple opened their first mission base in Kusutka, and raised their two boys there. Over the years they’ve added two more, in Tinkias and Chiarentsa.

MAF helps them optimize their time. “It [flying with MAF] is an enormous help, that is to say, it is incalculable,” Anavela said. “We used to walk for two days to reach Kusutka.”

After walking 15 hours over two days, carrying supplies, they would arrive “completely destroyed.”

“Now we can say that the help of MAF has made it easier for us to reach the locations we have in Kusutka much faster,” Diego said.

Not only that, but over the years, MAF flights have saved lives. The couple remembers a young boy named Junior, who is now grown and married. As a boy, he would climb trees to pick fruit or get small animals. One day he fell from high up in a tree and cut a main artery in his forearm, and they could not stop the bleeding. They called MAF on the radio for an emergency flight.

Diego said, “They [MAF] saved his life because—”

“He was going to die,” Anavela added.

“He was bleeding to death,” Diego finished.

Reaching further

Looking back after so many years, Diego said, “I have the honor of serving with my beloved wife because of my simple prayer as a teenager. God took it seriously.”

And when he reflected on how the people who at first wanted to kill them are now planting churches, he said, “They don’t just plant churches, they contribute to world missions.”

Those church plants in the Ecuadorian jungle support mission work in nine countries.
And the indigenous people have gone to Colombia, Chile, and Honduras to do missions.

Diego thanked MAF for its service over the past 17 years, and stated, “You have seen us grow up, you have seen us grow old, you have seen my children since they were little. Thank you, MAF, for allowing us to be part of this mission.

“I end with a proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go with others,’” he concluded.


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