I (Ethan Champlin) was born in the jungles of Suriname the first year my parents Darrell and Louise Champlin were here. I was two months premature and almost died, but the Lord spared my life for a reason. My mother led me to the Lord at the age of six, and I surrendered to the mission field when I was in the 8th grade. At that time, I also began praying for the Lord to give me a wife who was called to the same country where I would go. The summer after my freshman year in college, I visited Suriname and the Lord confirmed to me that this was where He wanted me to work. I also met Kim that summer when she was visiting Suriname with her parents, Bob and Liz Patton, on their "survey trip" of the field before they started deputation. When Kim later wrote to my parents (after her return to the US) sharing that she had surrendered to be a missionary, I was impressed. The Lord provided the funds for me to return to Suriname the following summer as well, the summer in which the Pattons arrived on the field. Well, a week after Kim's arrival in Suriname, we became engaged. Kim stayed on the field for almost 10 months studying the language and helping her parents when they started their first church.
Kim returned to the States for our wedding on June 6, 1987. I completed college the following year. We raised our support in a year and have been ministering in Suriname since August of 1989. All eight of our children have been born here.
When we arrived, the country was in the midst of a guerilla warfare, so we were unable to move into the interior as we had originally planned. We were asked by our fellow missionaries to move to the mining town of Moengo to re-start a church that my father had planted many years earlier. Since the guerilla warfare “centered” in Moengo, most of the inhabitants had fled to either French Guiana or the capital city of Paramaribo. Now, people were starting to trickle back into town, and we were asked to re-start the church for those people. We ministered in Moengo until June of 1992, when we were finally able to move interior to the village of Bakoe.
We spent five years in the village of Bakoe, seeking to plant a church in that area. Unfortunately, although the nationals wanted us to stay there due to the physical benefits we provided (simple medical care, mechanical help, etc.), it became very clear that the village leadership was doing its best to stop any real spiritual impact we could have on the community. After much prayer and counsel, we finally felt the Lord leading us to leave Bakoe. That was the most difficult decision of our missionary career.
When praying about where the Lord would have us to serve in Suriname, the Lord made it clear that He desired us to return to Moengo to continue with the church plant we had begun in 1989. By this time (1997-98) refugees were flooding back to Moengo. Thus, over the past 11 years, we have been working in the mining town of Moengo to establish a local church here. It is going very slowly, as developing male leadership is quite difficult due to many cultural issues. However, we are seeing progress. The church now averages 80-100 in attendance. We have four national Sunday school teachers, and several national men who help in other areas. At this point, we do not have a “potential” future national pastor, but we continue to pray toward that end. My brother and his family joined our team in 2005, and my parents have now “retired” to the field (after years of preaching/teaching missions in the States) and are also helping here in Moengo as well.
I also have a great burden for several areas of the interior where we have national pastors ministering, and I am involved in helping/encouraging those pastors as well.