TRANSFORMING THE VILLAGE OF LA ENTRADA
In 2011, an American couple, Shell and Marsha Spivey built a home on the Ecuadorean coast in the little fishing village of La Entrada. In April 2016, a catastrophic earthquake struck coastal Ecuador, killing over six hundred people and injuring many more. Even though little damage was done on the Southern coast, the economic impact was felt throughout Ecuador.
A few months earlier, the people of La Entrada began building a new church because their old one was very small and need repair. However, after the quake, the economy on the coast went into a tailspin and the project was in deep trouble. That’s when Shell and Marsha decided to help. They believed that building a larger church would help bring spiritual revival to the village, and a sanctuary overlooking the ocean could potentially increase tourism through destination weddings. The Spivey’s began to research destination wedding chapels around the world—the best incorporated glass walls to bring stunning natural surroundings into the church.
Desperate to obtain more funds for the project, the village reached out to the Province of Santa Elena. The provincial government agreed to help but with the condition that it would manage the construction. Shortly after they took over the project, Santa Elena officials told La Entrada’s leaders that there were not sufficient funds to build a glass wall on the oceanfront side of the church. The Spiveys attended that meeting. Shell told the officials that the glass could not be eliminated. In fact, he asked an interpreter to tell thecontractor, “God wants the front wall to be glass.” The meeting went silent until the contractor responded, “Then God could come up with the fifteen thousand dollars.” They negotiated down to $12,000 and La Entrada had three weeks to come up with half the money—the rest would be due upon completion of the church. The Spivey’s opened a crowd funding account and prayers were answered. By the deadline, enough money had been raised to pay for the glass.
Two years ago, many believed this project was an impossible dream—building the first church in Ecuador with a towering glass wall behind the altar and a view of the Pacific Ocean. The church is almost complete. It has enough pews to accommodate over 80 people and they have a goal of seating up to 160 when completed. It now accommodates the people in the village for church services and beautiful weddings have been held in the church with the glass front. The wedding revenue is helping maintain the beautiful church. Ongoing projects include raising money to build additional pews and air conditioning.
No one in La Entrada ever had a dream this big. However, Shell and Marsha Spivey, the new Comuna president, 26-year-old Armando Asuncion, and the rest of the Comuna Council forged ahead, believing that La Entrada could beat the odds and that the church would be the foundation of a larger project to transform the town. With that kind of leadership, people in La Entrada stepped up to the challenge.
The church changed everything. Not only is it the foundation for a larger mission, the completed church is evidence that the people of La Entrada are committed to revitalizing the village.
La Entrada is now plastering and sealing concrete block walls, repairing walkways and stairs, replacing bamboo walls with concrete, revitalizing the town square, landscaping, and painting all the buildings in bright colors with contrasting trim.
There are 128 structures in all (the core village, houses, and businesses on the coast road, plus homes north of the central village) that will be completed in stages over a period of 12 to 24 months.
The construction improvements will support new infrastructure including restaurants, stone ovens on the town square for cooking street food, and artisan shops. With a commitment to keeping everything authentic, La Entrada will be a unique attraction for tourists seeking a genuine Ecuadorean experience.
The community will hold workshops on how to start new businesses focused on producing goods and services that would attract tourists to the village.
There are 128 homes in the village that need to be plastered and painted on all four sides. When completed this will be the only village in Ecuador that will be completely colorized. La Entrada hopes to be a model community for many villages throughout Ecuador to emulate. The ultimate goal is to attract many tourists to La Entrada.
La Entrada may be a poor village where people don’t own much, however, the people here are happy and consider themselves fortunate to live in such a beautiful spot on the coast. There are 15 fishing families in La Entrada (between 45–50 fisherman); others grow fruit and vegetables on the mountainside nearby. No one goes hungry here.
Not many La Entrada children complete their education or go on to college, and work opportunities are limited to fishing and a few family-run shops. Parents and grandparents here are taking the leadership role in what Spivey calls a “spiritual and economic revival”. Their legacy will be in bringing more opportunities, building a better future for the next generation.
ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS
A former banker and a CPA, Shell and Marsha Spivey retired and moved from Arkansas to Ecuador in 2010. They operate a bed and breakfast, volunteer at an orphanage, and contribute both their time and resources to support the kids and senior citizens of La Entrada.
Comuna past-president Armando Asuncion makes his living as a jewelry designer. He sells his designs in his La Entrada shop and at fairs all over Ecuador. Armando’s workshop is also a school where he trains young people to make jewelry. For the younger generation in La Entrada, Armando is a role model and he’s only 26.
Current comuna president and another beloved role model, Benito Pincay started working in agriculture at age 10 with his father and left La Entrada at age 16. After receiving his culinary diploma in Guayaquil, he became a pastry chef and worked 12 years for four top hotels in Guayaquil. Eighteen years ago, Benito returned to La Entrada and established his famous bakery. He now has two other locations on the coast. People drive three hours from Guayaquil to Benito’s Bakery to buy cakes for special occasions.
Please consider helping us as we paint the casitas in our village.
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