Intro and History
Steve and Carol Thompson are a picture of lives dedicated to missions and to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Originally from Texas, the Thompsons moved to Ecuador in 1987 to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board. Over the years the Thompsons have been involved in various forms of ministry and outreach in Ecuador, all with a primary focus of evangelism, church planting and church development. After 23 years of service, Steve and Carol remain faithful to their calling in Ecuador.
During the year, Steve and Carol work with local believers and pastors to spread the gospel through conferences, vacation Bible schools, and youth retreats. They also hold pastor-training classes and worship conferences to help strengthen and build up the local church.
While serving in Ecuador, God began to reveal to Steve and Carol a vision for a strategic location where they could provide theological education, space for church retreats, facilities for summer camps, and retreat cabins for Ecuadorian pastors. They began construction on their first camp in 1996 and quickly saw the benefits to local churches and believers. In 2001 God provided a second location for camp space in the central mountain region of Ecuador.
UNPES Jungle Camp was the first camp ground and is located on the edges of the Ecuadorian jungle. The Thompsons spend part of the summer hosting children's and youth camps from their jungle location and then move to the mountain camp for the latter part of the summer. Camp Chacauco is a beautiful, hand-built retreat center in the central mountain region of Ecuador. It was originally designed as a retreat center for local pastors, and has become a place for students to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ through youth camps and sports ministry.
Servant Life has been sending groups to Ecuador to serve with the Thompsons since 2006. Join us as we help the people of Ecuador know Christ and make disciples!
What will my team be doing? Groups traveling to Ecuador help to lead and facilitate the youth and children's camps alongside Steve and Carol Thompson and the UNPES staff. You'll have opportunities to minister to the local communities by leading Vacation Bible Schools and ministering to local churches either during Jungle Camp or at Camp Chacauco (indicated on the trips listed below). The children and teenagers stay for the week, so you will get a lot of interaction time with them! You will be support staff, so you could be asked to do anything from sharing your testimony to serving meals. Be prepared and willing to help serve UNPES with whatever they made need! At the end of your trip, you will have the option to spend a day shopping at the markets, hiking to a waterfall, and possibly visiting the Nate Saint house.
What does my cost include?
• In-country transportation
• Supplemental Traveler's Insurance
• Pre-Trip Training Manual
• Pre, During, and Post-trip Devotionals
Airfare is not included in this cost, but Servant Life does offer to book all airfare reservations.
Learn more about the ministry of UNPES (specifically Camp Chacauco) by visiting www.chacauco.org.
Contrary to the popular myth promoted in jungle and horror movies, you can safely swim in rivers where there are piranha. The carnivorous fish are not nearly as aggressive as they are portrayed on the screen and rarely attack something that isn't already bleeding.
The line on the pavement at the Mitad del Mundo (Center of the World) complex is not the actual equator. In the 1700s, Frenchman Charles Marie de La Condamine came awfully close, however, finding it mathematically. Several monuments have marked it, the most recent being the 90-ft-/30-m-tall monolith with a gigantic globe on top of it. But GPS measurements have determined it's just a bit off the mark.
As lush as the rain forest is, its soil is only about 4 in/10 cm deep. When cleared of trees, the soil washes away within a year, and the remaining terrain is as arid as a desert. Your participation in a responsible rain-forest excursion helps convey the message to the cash-strapped Ecuadorian government and people that the best long-term use of the rain forest is as an environmentally intact tourist preserve.
You are unlikely to find two groups of the same species of flora or fauna close to each other in the rain forest. If you come across a mahogany tree or a troop of monkeys, chances are the next tree or troop is at least a mile/kilometer away.
Population growth and overfishing in the Galapagos Islands have been of major concern. The 1998 El Nino phenomenon caused ocean heating, which forced the fish to migrate to cooler waters and has adversely affected wildlife dependent on the fish. There are continued tensions regarding the management of the Galapagos Marine Reserve and the rights of local fishermen.
In the remote southeastern town of Vilcabamba, people are known to live for a very long time—up to 120 years old. The town is also renowned for a hallucinogenic juice that comes from a local cactus. A connection between the juice and longevity has yet to be proven.
Ecuador was the first country in South America to adopt the U.S. dollar as its official currency.
Chimborazo Volcano, though not the highest mountain in the world, is the point farthest from the center of the Earth (it's because the planet bulges slightly at the equator) and thus said to be the closest spot on Earth to the Sun.
Expect to be doused with water if you are in Ecuador during Carnival (it's the custom).
All citizens in Ecuador ages 18-65 are required by law to vote. Ecuadorians who do not fulfill this obligation cannot get passports to leave the country and even cannot complete certain bank transactions. Members of the military and national police, however, are not allowed to vote.
The capital and second-largest city in Ecuador, Quito sits high in the Andes with an elevation of 9,300 ft/2,835 m. Because of its elevation, the city has a pleasant, moderate climate despite being just south of the equator. The first thing you will notice about Quito is the mountains (including the active volcano Mount Pichincha to the west of the city—its last eruption was in 1999) that surround the city. The next will be the air pollution, which is held in place by those mountains (Quito occupies a long, narrow valley). The smog is largely created by the hundreds of exhaust-spewing buses—local and intercity—that pass through the city. Quito is Ecuador's principal transportation hub, and although efforts are being made to improve air quality, it remains bad.
Quito's Old Town is a wonder—blocks of colonial architecture, some of it dating from the mid-1500s when the Spanish founded the city. (Before the Spanish arrived, Quito was an important Inca settlement, and before the Inca, other tribes lived at the site.) Vintage facades line the streets, and large open plazas are surrounded by cathedrals and stately public buildings. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty. As impressive as the exteriors are, the interiors of the buildings can be even more breathtaking, especially the churches. They gleam with gold—not paint but real gold leaf, and lots of it. Most of the standouts are located within a few blocks of one another. The Monastery of San Francisco is Quito's oldest church—construction began shortly after the city was founded in 1534. It's still the busiest, holding several masses a day.
Several museums are located in the Old Town, including the Museo de Arte Colonial, which features endless depictions of the bleeding Jesus and some amazingly intricate wooden desks. The Museo Municipal Albert Mena Caamano (with colonial and modern art) is another good choice. We especially liked Casa Sucre, the beautifully restored home of Antonio Jose de Sucre, who helped liberate Ecuador from Spanish rule. The displays of maps and weapons are interesting, but it's the house and its period furnishings that are the real attractions. A similarly restored old house is the Casa Maria Urrutia. Be sure to spend time on cobblestoned La Ronda Street, the oldest in town, and then take in Quito's most modern museum, the Museo de la Ciudad, located inside a renovated old mansion and showcasing the city's social history.
Outside of Old Town, Quito is modern and does not possess the beauty of the colonial section (in places, it seems like a study in the many unattractive things that can be done with concrete). What's usually referred to as "New Town," or the Mariscal Sucre, is where most visitors stay. It's home to a large selection of hotels, restaurants, money-exchange houses and upscale souvenir shops. Also in New Town is the Casa de la Cultura, a must-see attraction: It contains the Banco Central archaeological museum, an attached art museum, a vast musical-instrument museum, an indigenous-clothing museum and a modern-art museum.
Do not flaunt expensive jewelry or watches—leave them at home. Be wary of flashing your expensive-looking camera and video equipment, and keep them concealed and safe as much as possible when in crowds of people.
For the latest information, contact your country's travel-advisory agency.
Sanitary conditions in some local restaurants may pose problems for some travelers. Most hot, freshly cooked food should be safe, but peel fresh fruit and raw vegetables, make sure meat and shellfish are cooked thoroughly, avoid local dairy products, and assume the tap water is unsafe (stick with bottled or boiled drinks).
If you're flying into high-altitude areas, allow a day or two to acclimate yourself (avoid heavy foods and physical activities, and drink plenty of fluids). If you have heart problems, you may find the higher altitudes particularly distressing—check with your doctor before going—but remember that no one is immune to altitude sickness. Some say that the fitter you are, the higher the risk, because you're more apt to ignore the warning signs of this dangerous illness, such as fatigue and nausea.
Take along all prescription medicines needed for the trip. Though not always required for entry, inoculations against cholera, yellow fever, polio, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis might be recommended—consult your physician. If you're heading to the jungle areas, it's wise to take malaria suppressants, although much depends on the local environment you'll be in - consult your physician. Always remember to take plenty of insect repellent on jungle excursions, and drink lots of water. The sun can be very strong, especially at midday, so slather yourself in sunscreen and wear a hat (you can get high-altitude sunburn from a day's walk around deceptively chilly Quito). Don't forget to take along a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and a pair of polarizing sunglasses is a good investment.
Do's and Dont's
Do carry your passport with you when traveling between provinces in Ecuador. By law, visitors are required always to have their passports in their possession, but this is less likely to be an issue if you're not traveling long distances (do carry a photocopy of the passport at all times, as well as a copy of the page with your customs entry stamp/printout).
Don't point at people with your finger. Use your chin or your entire hand.
Do say "buen provecho" (enjoy your meal) to companions before a meal and to fellow diners when leaving a restaurant. Also say "con permiso" to get past someone.
Don't be surprised to see a lot of uniformed people toting machine guns. They might be soldiers, police or security guards at banks and money-exchange houses.
Do ask for permission first before photographing Amerindians.
Do shake everyone's hand and peck everyone's cheek upon being introduced.
Do remember to take photos of your family and/or hometown. Ecuadorians are very family-oriented, and a chat about your relatives will always get the conversation going.
Do take lots of small-denomination bills with you (US$20 maximum). Changing a US$50 or higher is nearly impossible.
Official Name: Republic of Ecuador.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Passport, onward passage and proof of sufficient funds required for a tourist visit up to 90 days in one calendar year for citizens of the U.S. and Canada. A tourist stamp good for 90 days is issued upon arrival.
Reconfirm travel-document requirements with your carrier prior to departure.
Languages: Spanish, Quechua.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic).
Time Zone: 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.
Voltage Requirements: 110 volts.
Telephone Codes: 593, country code; 2, city code for Quito.
Ecuador is located on the equator on the northwest coast of South America, bordered by the Pacific to the west, Colombia to the north and Peru to the south and east. The fourth-smallest country on the South American continent, Ecuador encompasses four distinct regions: the Oriente (covers half the country and is a region of thick tropical forests in the eastern foothills of the Andes and in part of the Amazon River Basin), the Costa (flat plains along the Pacific coast), the Sierra (Andes Mountains and highland areas that cover about a fourth of the country) and the Galapagos Islands, which lie about 600 mi/1,000 km off the coast. The capital, Quito, is 9,200 ft/2.8 km above sea level on the Sierra plateau.
Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency.
Temperatures are determined more by altitude than by the calendar, so you should pack accordingly. The Oriente region and Quito remain constant year-round: Quito is always moderate (lows in the mid-40s F/6-7 C, highs in the low 70s F/21-23 C), and the Amazon is always hot and humid. Lightweight clothing can be worn year-round in the Oriente and Costa, and sweaters and medium-weight jackets are always needed in the Sierra. Whenever you visit, take a sweater for the cool mornings and evenings. Layers and a raincoat are also a very good idea because temperatures can vary greatly and storms blow up unexpectedly.
The most common forms of transportation that you will encounter are buses and taxis once you are in Ecuador.
Servant Life will take care of all of your in-country travel arrangements.
Servant Life has missions opportunities in Cuba, El Salvador, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Uganda, Kenya, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Haiti, United Kingdom, East Asia, Dominican Republic, Houston, Dallas, New York City, Memphis, St. Louis, Montreal, and Toronto Canada.
Who Can Go
If registering and traveling with their church group, students must be 14 years old or older to participate in a Servant Life missions experience. If registering as an individual participant without an adult, students must be 16 years old or older. Student groups, college groups, adults, and individuals are all welcome on Servant Life mission trips. Teams may be made up of groups and/or individuals.
Servant Life trips are priced at a BASE COST PLUS AIRFARE. The base cost varies per country and can be found by clicking on the link for a trip.
Servant Life will book all airfare through our travel agency. Everyone on your team must travel together. We book group airline tickets and cannot accommodate special requests for different individual flights. Due to commitments to our missionaries to have groups there on set dates, trip dates are not flexible. Once a ticket has been purchased in your name, it must be paid for regardless of circumstances. All tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable.
Servant Life works with missionary partners in each country. Your team will be helping our missionary partner with various needs, and exact details may vary from trip to trip. Specific details for each missions experience can be found by clicking on the trip's link.
We encourage anyone interested in a Servant Life missions experience to go ahead and apply for a passport. The amount of time it takes to get a passport varies, and we cannot book plane tickets without a copy of each person’s passport. Any costs associated with obtaining a passport are solely your responsibility. You can download a passport application and read instructions on obtaining a passport online at www.travel.state.gov/passport.
Immunizations and any costs related to them are the sole responsibility of the trip participant. All childhood immunizations must be complete (measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus). We also HIGHLY advise any immunizations recommended by your physician and/or the CDC for the area of travel. Both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are strongly recommended for all international travel. It is solely the traveler’s responsibility to obtain information on required/recommended travel immunizations and travel precautions for the area. The CDC website is www.cdc.gov and has up-to-date info on immunizations for every country.
Once You Register
Shortly after you register, you will receive an email from the Servant Life team with forms your group needs to fill out. These forms, along with a deposit of $250 per person, are due by November 1. If you register after November 1, the forms and a deposit of $250 per person are due within 30 days of registering. A registration is not complete until we have received your deposit. Registrations cannot be held beyond 30 days if the deposit has not been received.
Will my child serve alone or as part of a team?
Your child will be part of a Servant Life team, which can be made up of groups and/or individual participants. If your child is registering alone, he or she will join the team at a domestic or international airport, and stay and work with them for the remainder of the trip.
What kind of supervision will my child have?
Servant Life teams are led by our in-country ministry partners. This partner serves as the host and leader for the team from the time they land in-country at the airport until they depart at the end of the mission experience.
How safe are these trips?
Servant Life makes every effort to keep your child safe during their entire experience with us. We visit every location before sending a group, and work with partners in the country who are familiar with the area we will be staying in and working in. We research and plan the safest places for your student to eat, stay, work and play.
Who will the teams work with?
All teams work with established Servant Life ministry partners. These are either missionaries or ministry leaders who have a history of service in the country and programs that fit with the mission of Servant Life. To read more about our ministry partners, click here.
Who do I call in case of emergency while my child is traveling?
All Servant Life participants will be given a list with emergency contact information and numbers. This list includes the contact information for Servant Life, as well as our ministry partner serving on the field with your child. If an emergency arises where you need to reach your child, please contact Servant Life first, and we will work closely with you to reach your child.
Will my child be able to call home and email while on the field?
Access to phone calls and email may be limited, and varies from location to location. As your child's trip approaches, more information will be given on phone and internet availability for that specific trip. In the event of an emergency, Servant Life will contact parents immediately. So remember that no news is good news!
We have a frequent flyer program. Can we use those miles to cover my child's ticket?
Possibly. We cannot guarantee which airline each team will use, as we are watching for competitive pricing and schedules. Please contact Servant Life if you are interested in learning more about using frequent flyer miles on a mission trip.
When should my child apply for a passport?
Your child should apply for a passport immediately after registering for a Servant Life mission trip. Passports can take up to 8 weeks to arrive. Costs related to obtaining a passport are the responsibility of the participant.
Is a visa required for my child's trip?
The only country that Servant Life is currently sending teams to needing visas is Kenya. Visas can be obtained prior to leaving or when arriving in country. Specifics will be provided to team leaders and/or students traveing on their own.
Will my child receive any training?
Servant Life will send a preparation manual filled with detailed information regarding your child's mission trip. Hands-on training will take place with the ministry partner once the team arrives at their destination.
Why should my child go serve over seas when there are so many needs here in the United States?
The first and primary reason we believe in sending teams on international mission trips is that God has commanded His followers to make disciples of ALL nations (Matt 28:19). Knowing that we are commanded to play an active role in global disciple-making, we have found that missionaries and ministries around the world have needs that short-term mission teams can easily and uniquely fill, thus helping to advance the kingdom of God in those countries. We also hope that participating in an international mission trip will leave such an impression on your child's life that they will become supporters of mission work for the rest of their lives, whether through prayer, financial support, church leadership, or even life service.
What is not covered in my child's trip cost?
The only expenses not covered in your child's trip cost are meals in airports on travel days, any souvenirs or snacks that your child may wish to purchase while in country, and any expenses related to obtaining a passport and immunizations.
Are there scholarships available for my child?
Servant Life does not offer scholarships. If needed, we encourage participants to raise support through fundraising efforts such as church partnership and personal support letters.
Servant Life is committed to providing a quality mission experience at the lowest possible price. Our goal is not to entertain, but rather to bring the teachings of Scripture to life.
The cost of the mission experience includes in-country costs, such as:
• In-country transportation
• Supplemental Traveler's Insurance
• Sponsoring local students to attend camp
• Pre-Trip Training Manual
• Visa, if applicable
• Exit tax, if applicable
Costs not covered in base cost of the trip include:
• Immunization Shots
• Personal expenses while traveling and in-country, including meals in airports
• Any additional costs associated with the trip before you arrive and after you leave
Deposits of $250 per person and a copy of the front page of your passport are due November 1. If you register after November 1, a deposit of $250 per person and a copy of the front page of your passport are due within 30 days of registration.
Deposits are non-refundable.
Servant Life will secure all airline transportation through our travel agent to insure teams arrive together. Once your group is in place, let us know as soon as possible so we can secure your tickets at the lowest possible rate.
You are responsible for the payment of any purchased tickets. Once a ticket is purchased, payment for that ticket must be in our office within 5 business days.
All tickets must be secured and paid in full 60 days before departure. Payments for airfare must be made via check. We cannot accept credit card payments for airfare purchases.
Summer Missions Payments:
The first payment, which is half of the base cost, is due March 1.
The second payment, which is the balance of the trip cost, is due in the Servant Life office no later than 35 days before departure. If your final balance is not received by 35 days out, a $100 late fee may be applied.
PLEASE NOTE: All checks and money orders must be made out to SERVANT LIFE. Please mail all payments and donations to PO Box 36307, Birmingham, AL 35236.