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After 5 Decades Nate Saint Memorial School Set to Close in Ecuador

April 17, 2017

After 5 Decades Nate Saint Memorial School Set to Close in Ecuador

April 17, 2017
(April 17, 2017 - by Ralph Kurtenbach)  After educating missionary children for five decades, the Ecuador-based Nate Saint Memorial School (NSMS) is due to close at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

This crowd of students, parents, teachers (past and present), administrators and friends gathered in Shell, Ecuador, in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of Nate Saint Memorial School.“We are thankful for the 51 years that it has served the missionary population,” said the school board’s president, Renee Fogg, in a March 7 recommendation to the managers of Reach Beyond’s Latin America Region. “The Lord has been very faithful.” The board cited as rationale for the closing a continual decline in enrollments.

Their recommendation was accepted and formalized by Dan Shedd, the region’s executive director, who observed that “even with the CHILI (Community Health Intercultural Learning Initiative) program, we don’t necessarily see a huge influx of families with young children coming to Shell.”

Adding to Shedd’s comment, missionary Hermann Schirmacher said that “some—or more—missionaries do homeschooling now.”

A dozen students currently attend the school, including two in high school, six in middle school and four in elementary. Two of them are children of Renee Fogg and her husband, Eric, of the mission’s community development office in Shell.

The enrollment number compares to 15 students a year earlier. In the last few years, attendance was in the 20s, including 29 students in the 2012-2013 school year—around the same time that Reach Beyond closed its Shell hospital after five decades of operation. The projected enrollment for 2017-2018 was three full-time students, according to Fogg.

Nate Saint with the Piper aircraft that he used while flying as a missionary pilot in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship.Both the school and the hospital had been envisioned in the 1950s by Nate Saint. In fact, before his death in 1956, he had helped construct Epp Memorial Hospital, later called Hospital Vozandes del Oriente (HVO).

Of NSMS’s origins, Nate Saint has been quoted as saying the dream sprang from “purely a question of having children at home in their tender years” while their missionary parents served in Shell and the neighboring Amazon rain forest of Ecuador.

When piloting a plane above Ecuador’s jungles, he could execute a series of pylon turns in the air as a bucket extended on a rope found a place calm enough for those below to reach into it for the contents.

The recipients were the then-uncontacted Waorani of the Amazon region, known by a pejorative term, “Auca,” which means “savage” in the Quichua language. Through gift drops and later outreach, Saint was central to facilitating the first contact made between the Waorani and Protestant missionaries.

Shedd says the NSMS decision was not related to the fact that Reach Beyond was already negotiating a transfer of the school’s property to CENTA, an Ecuadorian foundation formed by missionaries Chet and Katie Williams.

CENTA will serve as a training and empowerment center for tribal groups of Ecuador, including the Waorani. The school’s continuance was not contingent upon new property ownership, Shedd said.

In an internal memo to Reach Beyond staff, Shedd reiterated the thoughts of Fogg, giving thanks to the Lord for the NSMS teachers, board members and parents who have made a lasting impact on the lives of hundreds of missionary children throughout the years.

Teacher Jennifer Kendrick plans to move to Quito next fall to begin teaching at Alliance Academy International. As of this writing, the future plans of other staff members at NSMS are not known.

Source: Reach Beyond