During the month of October the Lutheran Church spends time remembering how Luther’s questions and concerns changed the church and the world with the idea that we are saved by grace through faith. While we stop to remember the church reformation of the past we also remember that the church is in a constant state of reforming itself.
As a member of the Women’s delegation to our sister synod, the Lutheran Church in Bolivia, in August we got to observe the continuing reformation of the church there. We spent most of our time with women’s groups. During the women’s retreat we heard how the words of grace are still being heard and believed for some people there on a first time basis. Learning of God’s love and grace for many of the women we heard, led to a big change in their self esteem. The women were eager to share their faith and continue to grow in faith and education. We tried to support the women as we listened and praised them for their work in the church. Bishop Jessica took time during the worship service in El Alto to really bring home the message that women and men are both made in God’s image and deserve respect and a place in the church.
The women and the whole national church have an emphasis on spiritual, mental and physical care and education of children there. Each church we visited had a school or after school program for the children. At the after school program children were welcome to come to a safe place and do their homework, do work that was created by the after school program and be involved in Bible Study. I had one kindergartener do his work while he sat on my lap. His work involved copying words in both printing and cursive. He did a great job. When we had a snack he saved some in his backpack for his family. I was reminded that one of Luther’s goals was for everyone to be able to read, so they could study the Bible for themselves. One young women helper at the school shared with tears in her eyes what this program had done for her.
Toward the end of our time together Pastor Presente Emilo shared with us his goals for the churches there. The first goal is to keep the churches and the schools they have functioning with thanks for the money we send for scholarships. The second goal is to be able to build a fellowship hall that will serve as a church and a school on the newly purchased property in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba in the outer areas where there are no churches at all. Since the school in El Alto includes a High School the government is requiring that the school include some vocational components. The school would like to add the components, languages, music, ballet and computer technology. This is the third goal.
The final goal Pastor Emilo shared with us is the need for the continuing education and training for the pastors. In Bolivia there are 110 churches with 40 ordained pastors including what we would call an LPA’s. There are also 100 lay pastor volunteers. The pastors are not salaried but rather are given a share of the churches offering.
I would ask that you pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ from Bolivia. Be assured that any offering that you give is being used wisely to share the good news of God’s love given through Jesus life, death and resurrection in what might seem like a far off place from us.
Pastor Alvina Olstead