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HCJB Ministers to People Living Near an Active Volcano

by Duane Birkey

I recently had the opportunity to travel with a relief and ministry team from HCJB to a small village located near the Volcano Tungurahua in central Ecuador.

Over the last several years, many small villages have been adversely affected by ash spewing out of the volcano. While it is difficult to know the extent of damage related to volcanic ash, it has been estimated that some 30,000 people have suffered from various skin and respiratory irritations.

Volcano Tungurahua (16,452 ft.) spewing out ash.
This photo of Tungurahua was taken from the top of a nearby ridge about 5 miles away from the crater. At times it sounded like a jet airplane taking off.
Perhaps the most serious problem is the economic damage from volcanic ash to livestock and crops. One estimate by the Ecuadorian government stated that some 132,000 acres of cultivated farmland and 14,000 cattle have been directly affected by the volcanic ashfall.

For some people, the amount of ashfall is so bad that they have had to either sell their livestock or transport it elsewhere. Not only does ash cover grass and plants, but the acidic nature of the ash essentially burns or damages their crops to the point where they produce very little.

HCJB has felt that we should try to do something to help at least some of those people most affected by volcanic ash and has led several trips to bring relief aid.

On this past trip, the HCJB relief group included staff from HCJB, several pastors from nearby towns and two guitarists who sang various duets of Ecuadorian melodies.

Giving out bags of food provides a great opportunity to share that Jesus loves them and it also gives the chance to speak to an entire community.

Marco Bravo and Mike Bishop handed out 100 bags of food to members of the community. The bags included such things as flour, oatmeal, oil, macaroni, sardines, rice and sugar.

This photo was taken while several of these men were praying out-loud to receive Christ.
When one of the pastors presented the gospel, many of the 200 people present prayed to receive Christ.

The biggest task now is follow-up for all of the new Christians in that community. Fortunately, that should be taken care of by the local pastors who were invited by HCJB to take part and help coordinate this relief trip.

Among the many who accepted Christ was the leader of the community and his family. After professing that he will follow Jesus Christ, the community leader then asks how many people would like someone to return to teach them more about the Bible. After virtually everyone of the 200 people in the room raise their hands, he asks HCJB to please return and teach them more whether or not they brought food.

This community was one with no believers and one where no one was known to have ever shared the gospel!!!

For me it is amazing to see how God works using volcanic ash, bags of food and many different people to spread the gospel and build His kingdom.

The leader of the community asking HCJB to return.

Duane, Cheri, Rachel and Nicole
Family News

by Cheri Birkey

At Christmas time, we enjoy hearing updates from family and friends. So we thought we’d do the same and share some Birkey family news.

Duane continues to work hard and play hard. This past year he started doing some mountain climbing with friends. Twice he hiked up Mt. Pichincha (15,416 ft.), which is the volcano Quito is built on. Then he made it up one of the peaks of Mt. Iliniza, which is 17,272 ft. above sea level. The attempt at Mt. Cotopaxi (19,342 ft.) was cut short due to altitude sickness. But he still got some good pictures while he was there. He hopes to attempt that one again another time, maybe this December.

I am enjoying staying at home with the girls. They definitely keep me busy and are a joy to be with (most of the time!).

Although I’m not working in the office, I still find time to help people with financial matters - budgeting, federal taxes, medical insurance forms, etc. It seems like there are always people who need help.

On Tuesday afternoons, I attend a women’s cell group from our Spanish church. Many of the women are young Christians and have many questions regarding Christianity and what the Bible says on certain topics. It’s challenging and refreshing all mixed together.

My one escape continues to be scrapbooking. My friends and I get together regularly to "crop." I do family albums, a ministry album (which you can see when we’re back in the U.S. this summer) and pages for Rachel and Nicole’s grandmas who don’t get to see their granddaughters as much as they should.

Speaking of the girls, they are doing well. Rachel loves Kindergarten and learning to read. But most of all she loves doing things with her friends. She’s our little social butterfly! The highlight of many weeks is going to a friend’s house to play or having a friend over to our house. On Wednesdays, she goes to Awana Sparks and enjoys that immensely, especially because that means she can stay up late!

Nicole turned one in October. She started walking around her first birthday and hasn’t stopped since! She really keeps us on our toes as she’s into everything! She loves to clap to music, look at books and play with Rachel.

We’d love to hear from you this Christmas if you have the chance to drop us a card or email. We appreciate your friendship, encouragement, prayers and support! Have a Merry Christmas!

Praise Items: We praise God for another good year of ministry in Quito.

We are thankful for overall good health, safety and faithful prayer partners and supporters.

Praise that Mark Russell, a photographer and working visitor from England, is helping in Duane’s department for a few months!

Praise God that the Christian Center of Communications (where Duane teaches photography) is now accredited as the result of a partnership with Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. This boosts the school’s credibility and moves it a step closer to offering bachelor’s degrees.

After a 15-year search for speakers, just a few months ago HCJB World Radio began broadcasting the gospel into Afghanistan in two languages: Southern Uzbek and Turkmen. Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages spoken by about 8 million people, is the next language scheduled to be added.

Prayer Items: Pray for the people near Tunguragua as they face many hardships. Pray that the new Christians would grow in their relationship with Christ. Pray for HCJB’s Annual Children’s Christmas Party which will be held on Saturday, December 15. We are expecting about 500 children from HCJB’s satellite medical clinics to attend. Cheri is in charge of the refreshments this year.

The Birkeys’ prayer letter

Current Address:
Duane and Cheri Birkey
HCJB World Radio
Casilla 17-17-691
Quito, Ecuador

Home Phone Number:
(593-2) 225-6269

Email addresses:

World Wide Web Sites:

Merry Christmas
From Our Home
to Yours!

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and wish you all the Lord’s best in the new year!

Love in Christ,

Duane, Cheri, Rachel and Nicole

Duane’s Photographs of Ecuador

Contributions may be sent to:
HCJB World Radio
P.O. Box 39800
Colorado Springs, CO
Account # 110375

On Location Fall 2001