Although the Church of the Brethren mission work in Ecuador ended in the 1970’s, the name, Brethren, lives on in two institutions: Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU - Brethren and United Foundation), and Unidad Educativa “Brethren” (Brethren Educational Unit). FBU, located about 1 hour north of the capital city of Quito in Picalqui, is a non-governmental organization focused on environmental education for youth as well as teaching organic food production to women’s groups. Unidad Educativa “Brethren” is in Llano Grande, a community that is part of the greater Quito metropolitan area.
In 2017, following a visit by Dale Minnich, a former Brethren mission worker in Ecuador and the first executive director of FBU, the Global Food Initiative (GFI) began collaborating with FBU though two grants (2017 & 2018) supporting work with women and youth at FBU’s campus, and in neighboring communities. In January of this year, GFI manager, Jeff Boshart, made a visit to see firsthand FBU’s work, and to participate in a meeting of FBU’s board of directors as a newly appointed member.
Currently FBU is repairing and upgrading facilities on its campus in hopes of attracting more international volunteers and visitors. Boshart was able to observe a cooking class, meet with the principal of a local high school, and make several field visits. One morning was spent hiking near Lagunas de Mojanda – a crater lake in a protected biological reserve. Although deforestation is extreme in the area, the road leading to the lake was lined with over 500,000 native trees planted by students from local schools over the past 15 years with direction from FBU.
FBU maintains a tree nursery, a small dairy herd (12 cows), plots of blackberries, tree tomatoes (tomarillo), and vegetables. Larger fields produce wheat, alfalfa and corn. FBU is actively seeking those with farming or gardening experience to come spend some time working on the farm and in community programs. If interested, please contact Jeff Boshart at JBoshart@brethren.org.
Boshart’s visit to Llano Grande was brief, however he was greeted warmly by elders in the community who remember the work done by U.S. mission workers years ago. They asked about many U.S. mission workers by name. These elders were all educated in the Brethren school and remain fiercely proud of the education and formation they received in both school and church many years ago. Even though the church that was started by Brethren workers in Llano Grande is now affiliated with the United Methodist denomination, Brethren values of service, peace-making and concern for the most vulnerable members of society have become embedded in the DNA of this community. In parting, the elders sent their greetings and hopes for more news and communication from old friends in the near future.
See a photo album of the trip at www.bluemelon.com/churchofthebrethren/globalfoodinitiativeecuadorvisit. Support the work of Global Food Initiative at https://churchofthebrethren.givingfuel.com/gfi