Held at Gunpoint…

Cristina had dinner sizzling in the kitchen while her toddler played nearby. As the Human Resource Manager for a major telecom company in Quito, Ecuador, cooking dinner marked her daily transition from high-powered boss to wife and mom.

Leandro was upstairs engrossed in a video call for one of his seminary classes. She and Leandro met at work before Leandro quit his high-profile job to pursue a calling to pastoral ministry.

Back downstairs, Cris heard a noise and thought it was Leandro coming downstairs. Leandro heard the same noise, but thought it was just visiting friends.

As Cris turned from the stove to address the “noise,” an unfamiliar voice rang out. “Give us everything you have. Right now! Or we’ll kill you!”

A lightning bolt of fear rocked her body. She began screaming hysterically.

The three men rushed toward her.

Putting a gun to her head, they yelled louder. “Give us everything. Right now. All of it!”

Cris’ hysteria escalated.

The commotion downstairs pierced through Leandro’s headphones. Pausing his class, he meandered downstairs expecting to see a broken plate that had slipped out of Cris’ hands.

When Leandro locked eyes with the intruders, everyone panicked. Threatened by Leandro’s sudden appearance and on edge from Cris’ curdling screams, disaster was seconds away.

The robbers forced the family into a corner of the kitchen. With one gunman trained on them, the others scrambled throughout the house taking cellphones, jewelry, computers—anything and everything of value.

In a flash, they were gone. Cris melted into Leandro’s arms, sobbing as she scooped up their toddler—her heart still pounding in her ears like cannons.

Fast forward a few days. Mark and Reatha Searing are raising support to join CMI’s staff team. They have a long history with the pastors in Quito, Ecuador. One of their goals is to equip the next generation of CMI church pastors.

As such, they had a scheduled check-in call with Leandro and Cristina, as Leandro leads his church’s High School and University ministry.

Leandro mentioned the “break-in” at the beginning of the call, but Reatha sensed something more. Her advanced training as a chaplain and trauma therapy gives her an acute awareness.

Finally, Cris broke her silence. She began describing what happened and how violated she felt.

On that call, Mark and Reatha mourned with them, ministered to them, and prayed for them. For the first time since the trauma, Cris felt safe enough to share her sense of pain and loss.

Our Latin American pastors face many challenges, including those added by the pandemic.  That’s why CMI is committed to “pastoring the pastors” in 2021 as one of our three strategic priorities for the year.

The future of our church plants in Quito, Ecuador, is dependent upon the next generation of Leandro and Cristina’s.

Traumatic events like these can sidetrack or permanently sideline young couples. It’s not lost on Leandro that this event happened while he was upstairs in a seminary class training for pastoral leadership.

Today, Leandro and Cris are on a path to healing. They feel more united and excited than ever about their calling to serve the church. They are forever grateful for Mark and Reatha, and CMI’s longstanding commitment to equip the next generation of Latin American leaders.