In the shadow of an active volcano in Ecuador's Andes mountains, 44-year-old Pedro Roche addresses his tiny congregation with the power of God rumbling behind him. Roche, a house contractor by day, is a spellbinding preacher at night. In his passion, he shifts from Spanish to his local Quichua dialect without missing a beat.

"This is the beginning of birth pangs," he says. "Things will grow more difficult as the end times come."

Roche's sermon is about the gurgling volcano Tungurahua, 24 miles northeast of where the church is situated in Chalan, a small village in the mountains above Riobamba, a city of 120,000. In recent months, 25,000 people have been evacuated from the foothills around the 16,475-foot mountain.

Residents of Riobamba wear masks and goggles when they go outdoors to protect them from the smoke and ash.

Roche believes Tungurahua—just one of Ecuador's 31 mostly inactive volcanoes—is a sign of God's wrath because of immorality and corruption among his people, the Quichua. With 13 million people in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the Quichua comprise the largest indigenous group in Latin America. (They are known as Quechua in Peru and Bolivia.)

But the volcano has also given members of the congregation an open door to evangelize in Riobamba. Roche tells how he has preached in the plazas and open markets of the city and found a receptive audience. "People are eager to hear under these circumstances," he says.

History Of Oppression

Vibrant growth of Protestant churches among the Quichua in Ecuador began in the 1960s. In the last 30 years, there has been a twentyfold increase among Protestants, according to Operation World. But the success of Quichua mission work did ...

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