FIA in Bolivia
Pastor Elmer traveled on the medical riverboat El Misionero deep into the remote villages along the Amazon. Stopping to assist people with all types medical, dental, and vision ailments, especially de-wormings and prenatal care, the riverboat team services over 1,100 people each year. On his recent trip, Pastor Elmer explained the Gospel, and an indigenous man trusted in Christ as his personal Savior.
After servicing many other villages, El Misionero stopped again at this man’s village on their return trip. There they found the first man waiting with two other friends, who he brought to also hear of the love of Jesus. All three men trusted Christ as Savior!
Friends in Action partners with a dedicated group of believers (like Pastor Elmer) who are focused on reaching their corner of the world with the gospel of Christ. The town of Guayaramerin is the staging arena for three ministry venues (El Misionero, Inspiracion, and the Indigenous Training Center) bent on reaching the least reached people in this part of the world. Sometimes we literally go where no one has gone before… at least where no church, believers, pastors or Christian teachers exist.
Learn About Bolivia
Recently, the mission riverboat was given woodwork, electrical, and painting updates, as well as a new kitchen in preparation for the trips. The riverboat is in constant need of maintenance, but the labor-intensive work is so worth the effort. The boat is our “boots on ground” to share the Gospel to the least reached people in this corner of the world, and one of the most effective ministry venues. Hundreds of people have accepted Christ as their Savior!
This is not the only venue bringing new life to those in need. FM Radio station, Inspiracion, is broadcasting 24/7 reaching some very remote people as well. Building and operating a radio station in the Amazon is not without difficulties, but few ministry venues can reach over 115,000 people deep within the jungles of Bolivia and Brazil all year long.
Most of our teaching has been broadcasted live over Radio “Inspiracion” FM 90.7 from the local church in Guayaramerin. Miles out in the jungle, Salustiano Chayana lived in his isolated adobe home with dirt floors and thatched roof. He came across the frequency one night and started listening to the broadcasts. For an entire month, he listened and considered what he heard. All on his own, he decided to trust in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior! He came into town and shared his testimony with Pastor Saul Peralta, and then the entire church. Next, without hesitation, he said he wanted to join the church immediately! Salustiano is planning to be baptized as soon as possible.
Because most remote people don’t have a high school diploma, they cannot afford and are not permitted to attend seminary. Many of those saved through the Riverboat or radio ministry have no way to attend church or receive the discipleship needed to become spiritual leaders among their own people. The Indigenous Training Center is focused on training those with a heart for ministry, but who lack resources. $15,000 was donated to finish building and equipping the Indigenous Training Center, which is now a reality! We completed two student dorms and equipped the main teaching hall with a cement floor. Today, people are training for the ministry and being equipped as pastors and teachers ready to take the Gospel further into the Amazon by sharing with their neighbors and families.
Also in 2002, in cooperation with national pastors, FIA began work on “Inspiracion” radio tower. After three volunteer work teams continued construction throughout 2006-7, 24/7 broadcasts in three languages began in 2008! Previously unreached people (many without any opportunity to attend church) could now receive daily biblical teaching. In June of 2013 (new satellite dish and antenna repair) and again in 2016, the radio tower was repaired and rebuilt to 110 ft. for increased reception. After lightning strikes in October 2017, the tower was renovated again to 300 feet and now broadcasts to over 115,000 people in remote communities of Brazil and Bolivia.
In 2008, construction on El Misionero, the 14’ x 54’ two-story riverboat, began. By May of 2011 and 2012, medical mission teams infiltrated regions along the Amazon in Northern Bolivia using the boat. In August 2012, 20 Spanish Stanley Study Bibles,100 Spanish Bible PDA’s, and a 4 x 4 pickup were delivered to be used by local pastors reaching remote jungle villages. After renovations to the boat in 2016, more medical teams were dispersed in Northern Bolivia and Western Brazil treating over 1,200 people (100 accepted Christ and were baptized; 50 radios were provided; 5 church groups started).
With hundreds coming to Christ each year through the Riverboat and radio ministries, many indigenous people needed further biblical discipleship. In March of 2010, a work team made progress on a missionary guest house (new ceilings, fans, floor tiles, windows, and painting) and were involved in outreaches to eight churches in the area. While a Bible school existed in town, most indigenous villagers do not have the high school diploma required to attend. Partnering with local pastors in 2016, FIA began constructing an Indigenous Training Center. By 2018, housing structures, kitchens, bathrooms, and two dormitories were completed. Hundreds of indigenous people from the “bush” outside of Guayaramerin have been equipped to evangelize their neighbors, taking the Gospel even deeper into the jungles!
Friends in Action (FIA) partners with national pastors in a three-fold outreach that crosses these natural jungle barriers to help indigenous people who have no doctors, pastors, or Christian workers. Working in Northern Bolivia and West Brazil, FIA provides resources for national pastors who have a passion to reach these people groups with the Gospel of Christ.
Bolivia is located in the heart of South America and is one of only two landlocked countries on the South American continent (the other is Paraguay).
The country has three main geographic zones: the Andes mountains and “Altiplano” (high plateau) to the West; the semi-tropical Yungas (jungles) and temperate valleys descending the eastern slopes of the Andes; and the tropical lowlands which cover the entire eastern half of the country.
Roughly the size of California and Texas combined (twice the size of Spain).
A country of statistical extremes, landlocked Bolivia is the highest and most isolated country in South America. It has the largest proportion of indigenous people, who make up around two-thirds of the population.
The official language of Bolivia is Spanish. About 40% of Bolivians speak Spanish as a mother tongue. As a result of mixing with its indigenous rivals, Bolivian Spanish differs from region to region. The vocabulary and pronunciation varies according to where in Bolivia you are, i.e. highlands (Altiplano and valleys) or the lowlands (Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando).
However, there are some 39 other living languages used in the country. Among these languages, the Aymara (in the plane) and Quechua (in the mountain areas) are the most spoken. In the towns and communities near to the border with Paraguay, languages of Guarani origin are spoken. Approximately 37% of the people still speak Quechua and 24% speak Aymara, although an increasing number of Amerindians also speak Spanish.
Over 80% of Bolivians claim to be Catholic (especially in urban areas), although many of these mix Catholicism with traditional beliefs and customs. Most of Bolivia’s ethnic groups are animist (their deities are animals or birds) or worship important landmarks, natural resources or celestial bodies such as mountains, the sun, the moon, and others, as their deities. In addition to Catholicism, other religions are gaining strength in Bolivia. The Mormon Church is present in every major city. Bolivia is also home to the largest concentration of Bahai believers in the world. Bolivia’s current socialist government, and especially indigenous president Evo Morales, has hinted at abolishing religion, or at least the Catholic religion, and has stated that religion must be kept separate from the Bolivian government.
Many of the remote regions that FIA is involved in have never had the Gospel clearly explained to them. What a blessing to be able to reach this tucked away corner of the world with such Good News!
Nearly 40 percent of Bolivians live below the poverty line. Though rich in mineral and energy resources, Bolivia is one of South America’s poorest countries. Wealthy urban elites, who are mostly of Spanish ancestry, have traditionally dominated political and economic life, whereas most Bolivians are low-income subsistence farmers, miners, small traders or artisans.
Although the Bolivian church lacks the expendable income that most of us enjoy in North America, they have a passion and vision to reach their world for Christ. Although FIA’s ministries would be unaffordable for the church in Northern Bolivia, the vision and prayer of the indigenous pastors made them a reality. Our resources coupled with their life, vitality and vision is extending God’s Kingdom in our generation!
Resource-rich Bolivia has enjoyed strong economic growth from exports of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina but also faces deep-rooted poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug activity. The country imports are mainly industrial supplies and inputs such as chemicals, spare parts, and unfinished products. Bolivia also imports steel, machinery, and plastic products. The major import partners include Brazil, Argentina, China, and Chile.
The consequences of Bolivia’s poverty can be seen in the vices of her people. FIA’s medical mission boat El Misionero encounters many impacted by teen pregnancy, child neglect, unsanitary living conditions, contaminated water, poor nutrition, parasites, and drug and alcohol abuse.
The traditional staples of Bolivian cuisine are corn, potatoes, quinoa and beans. These ingredients have been combined with a number of staples brought by the Spanish, such as rice, wheat, and meat, including beef, pork, and chicken.
Bolivian cuisine differs by geographical locations. In Western Bolivia in the Altiplano, due to the high, cold climate cuisine tends to use spices, whereas in the lowlands of Bolivia in the more Amazonian regions dishes consist of products abundant in the region: fruits, vegetables, fish and yucca.
FRIENDS IN ACTION INTL-USA (FIA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supported by and dependent on the continued faithfulness of God’s people.Financial support for our missionaries and projects come through the interest and participation of churches and individuals. We are firmly committed to a good stewardship of funds entrusted to us. Online donations can be made using this secure site. Donations are tax deductible and a donation receipt will be issued.
You can volunteer and get engaged in the work that God is doing in Bolivia. For more information and future dates, email Gary and Donna Ferch.