Pastor Survives Threats to Start Churches

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CWN.org -- NARANJITO, Ecuador -- They came for him in the afternoon.

With torches in hand, 250 of Gabriel Mugmal's neighbors in their mountainside town in the Ecuadorian Andes threatened him and his family.

Gabriel had boldly shared his faith house to house with other Quichua villagers high in the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. He challenged them to stop the idol worship that permeated the area. They demanded that Gabriel renounce what he had said.

Moved by Gabriel's steadfastness to the Gospel, a local priest took Gabriel's Bible in his hand and said, "The Word of God shall be preached throughout the entire world. There is freedom to preach the Gospel. Keep preaching the Gospel so that everyone can know Christ."

As the crowd dropped their stones and sticks and trickled away, some families remained. "We want that," they said. "How can we receive Christ?"

That was 25 years ago. Today, more than 250 villagers worship less than 200 yards from the site where Gabriel's was nearly martyred. The people of Naranjito are now a light among the 300,000 Quichua of northern Ecuador. Gabriel and those he has led to Christ have started approximately 30 Bible studies and churches in the villages dotting the neighboring Andean ridges and canyons.

"He literally took the Great Commission in Matthew 28 that it was his responsibility to go to other communities and just talk to them," said missionary Darrell Musick.

He and his wife, Rogene, serve as International Mission Board missionaries among Gabriel's people, the Quichua of northern Ecuador. Formerly, they were ranchers in New Mexico. Darrell grew up at Jackson Avenue Baptist Church in Lovington, N.M. Rogene's home church is First Baptist Church in San Jon, N.M.

The Quichua, a colorfully dressed people known for their wool ponchos and pleated skirts, live in thatched-roof dwellings and farms at elevations up to 14,000 feet. The Musicks work alongside Quichua believers to share the Gospel, providing training and materials. They also use their ranching background to offer agricultural help.

The Musicks met Gabriel in 2004. He knocked on their door after walking three hours across mountain trails to their home. "God has sent me here," he said to the new missionaries. "I want you to train me to lead my people."

Within months, the Musicks trained Gabriel in church planting and discipling. Gabriel then asked them to train his fellow church members at Iglesia Bautista Cordero de Dios. Most of the church members - more than 200 - have received training.

As the people of Naranjito go about their day - shearing sheep or roasting cuy - Gabriel blends in, looking much like any other farmer. Only his ever-present Bible signifies his role as a spiritual leader.

"He is probably the most faithful, the most humble discipler I've ever met in my life," Darrell said. "When you give him instruction, or materials or Bibles, they don't stay in his hands long."

Gabriel and members of 27 church-planting teams he coordinates trek to Quichua communities each week to start Bible studies that will lead to house churches. On a bulletin board outside Cordero de Dios church, Gabriel posts the names of villages the teams visit each month. Seeing their progress helps him coordinate a comprehensive church-planting strategy among these unreached people.

He and fellow believers have trained more than 350 people scattered throughout the region by hosting seminars.

"We shouldn't just sit here with our arms crossed," Gabriel said. "We need to work and preach the Gospel."

Darrell added, "He wants every community to know the way of Christ. He doesn't care where they are or who they are, just whoever will allow him to tell God's plan for their lives."

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