Even the 'Beast from the East' could not deter our friends from Bolivia from joining us for a couple of weeks in February and March this year.
Bishop of Bolivia Raphael and his wife Michelle enjoyed a warm welcome from the Church of England - Birmingham, despite having to battle the snow to get here.
An exciting link is developing between Birmingham and Bolivia. Bishop David and a team spent time in Bolivia last March, building relationship with Bishop Raphael, Michelle and others. The Anglican Church in Bolivia is only 40 years old and there are no official seminaries or theological colleges. Our two Dioceses share similarities, however, in the diverse, multicultural nature of parish contexts and rapid population growth in urban areas. Bishop Raphael and Michelle told me that their home city of Santa Cruz is the fastest growing city in South America. Its population has more than doubled in the time they have been there - areas that were previously jungle are now rapidly developing business and residential districts.
The Birmingham - Bolivia link holds a particular emphasis on the training and discipleship of both lay and ordained leaders, so Raphael and Michelle were welcomed to experience a variety of the flavours of ministry across the Church of England - Birmingham during their stay; from Men's Breakfasts in Selly Park to meeting the Mother's Union, preaching in Edgbaston and enjoying 'Fun & Faith' - a Messy Church style service at Elmdon Church (pictured).
Interchange of visits continues to be vital to this partnership. Already all the five Bolivian congregations and three church plants are linked with congregations in Birmingham for the exchange of news and prayer topics. More churches here are welcome to join in. Their vision for intentional discipleship fits very well with our focus on intercultural mission in Birmingham, so it is hoped that a partnership into the future could prove very fruitful.
Contact us if you want to find out more about getting involved in the Birmingham-Bolivia link: firstname.lastname@example.org.