On the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador sits a small church on the line between the haves and have nots. The church originally was a house enclosed in a walled, gated neighborhood. Once it became a house of worship, the other tenants worried that a church would bring in “undesirables” from the community.
A gate was put up to block the church from the rest of the housing. It keeps the “undesirables” out of one neighborhood, or maybe it just keeps them trapped with no escape from the poverty in which they live.
“The church sits in the Andes Mountains and overlooks shanties," Janice Clary said. "These shanties house the people that the congregation has chosen to walk along side and share the love of Christ. Their church provides the path to freedom.”
During a TBM trip, Clary and Becky Majors taught a group of 11 women here how to make handcrafted soap from resources available in their area. The all-natural soap is a unique product in their community, helping the ladies' up-and-coming business stand out as it seeks to sell soap as a business venture.
The ladies were chosen by the Baptist Convention of Ecuador to be part of this training and represented two churches and three foundations. Though the women were in different stages of life, and came from across the region, they quickly bonded and envisioned what they could accomplish together.
“I don’t think they all knew each other when we started class”, Majors said. “But we all became friends by the time we left. You could clearly see their love for Christ and a need to help others.”
In addition to helping support families, the women plan to send soap to remote villages where their pastor, Santiago Bustos, frequently goes to minister. Soap is not readily available in some areas. By giving them soap, they are creating opportunity to talk about Christ and how He can make you clean.
“When you make soap, you include lye (sodium hydroxide),” Majors said. “On its own, lye is a caustic acid. It will burn your skin. The oils and butters used in soap making go through a chemical process when lye is added. They actually consume the lye making it useful. Just like Christ consumes our sin and makes us disciples for Him.”
Clary and Majors repeated the class for ten women in Puyo, the gateway to the Amazon rainforest. These ladies came from one church and were excited to learn soap making. They picked up the lessons quickly and were inquisitive about more advanced techniques in the soap making craft.
The Baptist Convention of Ecuador will step in and teach both groups how to set up a business, how to divide profits, the importance of giving back and will be available to coach them through the process of being new business owners.
Whether serving in Quito or Puyo, Clary and Majors – who run their own soap company and partner with TBM’s ministries are also part of TBM’s staff – saw God bring women together.
“You could sense the Holy Spirit working as the ladies were stirring the soap and singing praise songs,” Clary said. “We came from different places. We speak different languages. But God brought us together as one. God is working in the lives of these ladies. ”