Viva Bolivia!

From the archive.

Henry Scriven, CMS mission director for Latin America, reports on his recent visit.

On my first visit to Bolivia in December 2011 I was able to visit all the churches and most of the leaders in the diocese.

La Paz is the capital city (although Sucre is the official capital) and is the highest capital city in the world. There are two churches in the city: Christ the Redeemer in Calacoto and Christ the Saviour in Sopocachi. The latter is right in the centre of the city near the university and occupies a couple of floors in a block of flats.

There is a lot of construction going on and there are opportunities for growth. Pray for an upcoming campaign with Franklin Graham involving many churches in which Pedro Villareal (Sopocachi) is very involved.

Bishop Frank Lyons (SAMS USA) lives in Cochabamba, where he is helped in Trinity church by Deacon Tammy Firestone (SAMS USA) and retired priest Pepe Zubieta.

The magnificent Cristo statue is bigger than the one in Rio, but does not dominate the city in the same way; the prayer is of course that Jesus will rule over a city with many social and economic needs. As in Peru many of the rural poor are now the urban poor.

Tarija in the south has the best vineyards in Bolivia and the owner of one of them is very friendly to the church. But generally the church is quite poor and needs to raise money to move from their rented building.

The new daughter church (Holy Cross) is in a brand new area on the outskirts where people are claiming land and building shacks. The pastor, Lito Justiniano, works with children and young people (mainly in after school programmes) in a very basic building surrounded when I visited by a lot of mud!

We have two Latin partners (both clergy) in Bolivia: Lico Bascunan works in Santa Cruz; his grown family are all involved in ministry. Walter Barrientos is at Redeemer Church in Calacoto and has in a short time seen the congregation grow. Hopefully, with increased links in the Birmingham diocese we can continue to support this small but growing diocese.

In Santa Cruz I was given a plaque. It expresses gratitude to me for my work in mission. But I was assured that what they meant was they are grateful to God for the help of SAMS in planting the church, Christ the Light of the World.

Santa Cruz is expanding rapidly and there is a whole new area by the airport where new factories, shopping centres and housing estates are going up. The church is there, too, working with children and hopes to buy a building to start services there as well. I went to a midweek prayer meeting and was impressed with the number of people (over 30) in small groups interceding fervently and listening to God.

Also in Santa Cruz the small daughter church, Christ the Bread of Life, is working with children and with a marriage course, which is attended by non Christians as well as church members. With 80,000 students in many different universities (including a Baha’i university) the churches are working with SIM mission partners in an adventurous multipurpose centre (El Alfarero).

So lots of things going on and always need for more prayer and support to meet the opportunities.

Published 2 February 2012
Latin America

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