Seventeen days, twelve flights, five cities, four broadcasts, two sermons and a suitcase full of gifts made up an exhilarating mission tour to some of the highest inhabited places in the world.
Wherever we landed we were greeted with banners and hugs by our local Christian hosts and whisked off to a kaleidoscope of church, social and political activities.
Anglicans are rooted in four of Bolivia’s larger cities, where they focus on church growth amongst the middle classes, enabling significant outreach and church planting in some of the poorest areas.
Each place has its own context and spiritual and practical gifting. From La Paz to Santa Cruz and Cochabamba to Tarija common themes include discipleship, clergy and lay leader training and establishing permanent buildings for worship and mission.The range of strategic partners in mission impressed us too, ranging from Al Farero, Christian Aid, Latin Link, and SAM, to CMS and Marcello Vargas’ Mission College.
TV and Radio broadcasters took an interest in our visit and gave us airtime to tell our story, in refreshing contrast to much of agenda-driven UK media.
We encountered politicians and learned of their ambition to integrate the majority indigenous population under the leadership of the current President. Lack of access to the sea and world markets via Chile is a major issue. Recognition of the small Anglican Church by the Governor and Department MPs in La Paz, and by the Mayor and Ex-President Jaime Paz in Tarija was remarkable. Discussions included the economic reliance on natural gas, environmental challenges of water quality, droughts, floods and climate change and the agricultural dependence on Coca with its narcotic drug connections balanced by delicious wine.
Bishop Raphael Samuel accompanied Bishop Maurice Sinclair, Archdeacon Simon Heathfield, Communications Director Steve Squires and I for many of our visits.
To follow up my interest in Mining Justice, the three bishops made an expedition to Potosi, city of the silver that boosted the Spanish empire from 1525 onwards. We had a dignified official welcome from the Cooperative and then went underground to meet the zinc miners working in risky conditions. I am now the proud owner of a hard hat, which might be considered to be of more use for a bishop than a mitre!
We have returned encouraged by Christian fellowship across the world and a renewed commitment to share in prayer, disciple making , social justice and church growth.
To watch films of some of our experiences please visit www.cofebirmingham.com/bolivia.
To see a few more photos of the trip please click here.