My Account
Close this search box.

Faith Grows in the Jungle

How God is using MAF Ecuador to transform lives in the Amazon  

Story by Jennifer Wolf
Unless otherwise noted: Photos by Lemuel Malabuyo

Pilot Danny Correa overseas the unloading of cargo after flying an MAF discipleship team to minister to the Panintza community in the Amazon jungle.

Sixto Quiñonez called out in his jovial, megaphone voice within the Amazon jungle, inviting the people of Panintza village in Ecuador to come to the evening service. Entire families started making their way to the small church.

In no time they had filed in and were seated on wooden planks with tree stumps for legs. Then they began shouting out the numbers of favorite worship songs, starting with a Spanish songbook and then transitioning to Shiwiar, their native language.

Their voices rose in praise to their Savior Jesus, accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a choir of jungle birds, cicadas, and other buzzing insects.

Sixto preaches at the Panintza church in Ecuador.

A call for help

Samuel Mayancha was born in Panintza and attended elementary school there. As an adult, he went away to the city to be trained as a teacher and gain experience. During that time he also gave his life to Christ.

When he returned to the village to teach the children, Samuel found the community divided over religious ideas. There was no spiritual work happening, and there was no one to teach them God’s Word. He desired to start a congregation but wasn’t sure how to do that.

Then he heard that the MAF team in Shell had a jungle ministry. MAF would adopt a village in which to plant a church and disciple the people. Samuel and the leaders in Panintza desperately wanted this for their community.

Children’s Sunday school in Panintza led by MAF chaplain Sixto Quiñonez.

Samuel made a video stating their need for missionaries to come and teach them about God.

Sixto, the MAF chaplain, says they had just finished three years of ministry in a small jungle community and it was time to choose the next location. They had already received many requests.

Then Samuel’s video arrived, imploring MAF to come to Panintza.

“And I remembered in Acts, when the Macedonian cried out to Paul to come over to them and help them,” says Sixto.

MAF doesn’t force its ministry on villages. They wait until they’re asked to come. It was obvious that Panintza was desperate for God’s Word.

MAF accepted Samuel’s request and, two years ago, Sixto and Wilson Cuvi, the MAF base maintenance manager, started making monthly visits to Panintza. Other teammates joined them as schedules permitted. MAF staff also donated their own money toward the trips and provided gifts of food, medicine, and school supplies.

Doors opening

MAF first started doing these jungle outreaches back in 2010, when an expatriate water engineer—a believer—was working in the Quichua/Sapara area of the jungle. At that time, many communities rejected the gospel and were opposed to having missionaries come. But in this area, the people began to ask the engineer about Jesus. He tried to answer their questions, but eventually suggested they talk to MAF, which they did. They invited MAF to come to their community one weekend each month to help them study the Bible.

Wilson was the main teacher then, and the fact that he is Quichua and spoke the language opened doors to preach the gospel there. Trust was built between MAF and the neighboring communities, who later asked them to come and work with them as well.

To date MAF has done this type of discipleship ministry in 15 communities. People have chosen to follow Christ in each place, but in one village in particular—Suraka—the teaching had a profound impact. Out of 30 families, ten couples made the decision to unite in marriage before God, committing their partnerships to Christ. MAF never told them they needed to do this. They just felt convicted to do it. Along with this special celebration, many were baptized that day.

Top left: Wilson Cuvi officiates the wedding of a couple in Suraka, Ecuador. Top right: A baptism in Suraka. Bottom: An MAF Ecuador plane on the Suraka airstrip in the Amazon jungle. Photos by Chad Irwin.

“It was a joyful and connected experience,” said one of the MAF pilots who attended. Three MAF airplanes flew in with civil authorities, and MAF staff raised money to buy rings for the couples.

Wilson stresses the importance of working in these smaller villages, which tend to be neglected. He says there are more than 400 small communities within the Amazon jungle of Ecuador that need someone to disciple them.

Challenges and rewards

When Sixto and Wilson began ministering in Panintza, people’s lives were a mess, home situations were not good, and there were complex sins.

“But the moment they knew and accepted Christ as their only personal Savior, it was different for them,” says Wilson. “Although there are struggles and there are still problems, they are feeling the love of God.”

At first Panintza’s new believers were meeting in the community gathering place, where there were all kinds of activities and parties. But Sixto challenged them to build a church because it would make a statement that they are Christians now. It would be their “light on the hill.”

Now, here they sat during the evening service, in the church they had built with their own hands. Bibles were open on their laps, as they followed along and took turns reading verses out loud for the group.

Top: The evening service in Panintza, Ecuador. Bottom: Families study God’s Word and worship together.

After the main message, Sixto asked for volunteers to come up front for a friendly competition to write the New Testament books within a certain amount of time—first the men, and then the women. As an added challenge, the men each had to blow up a balloon and then pop it before they could even start. 

Laughter abounded as both groups completed the task and then checked each other’s work.

There was joy and a comfortable connection as they worshipped and studied God’s Word together—18 families united by the love of Christ.

Story ran in the Vol. 2 2024 edition of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here:


Persevering in hard places

Just over a week after a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked southwestern Haiti, MAF pilot Eric Fagerland landed in the town of Jérémie with a load of relief supplies.

Read More »

Search this Website

Notify Me of Upcoming Adventures


Share This