There they go, and I’m their leader. This is what comes to mind when I think about what’s been happening with Discipleship and Pastoring of Pastors (DPP) in Bolivia. It could mean that I’m not leading at all, or, as is the case, they’re taking initiative and doing exactly what I’d want them to. Leaders are taking initiative and keeping the DPP movement going, even though we are in Canada. I’ll come back to what’s been happening with discipleship groups a little later, but first I want to tell you about a few other developments.
There They Go–Covid Relief
When we last wrote you, the third wave of Covid had just peaked in Bolivia and we were dealing with the aftermath– 25 pastors having passed away from Covid, one family in our church having lost five family members, the financial struggles with huge medical bills, etc. In the end it affected people we work with most closely, like Goretty Jora, who heads up the Emmanuel Foundation, where Janice was teaching. Six members of her family had Covid at the same time. Her brother, Cesar, who had been struggling with cancer, passed away. Our colleague, Patty Nacho, ended up being the “nurse” for the family, getting groceries, arranging appointments, providing medications. In the middle of the crisis, there was not even time to grieve. The good news is that most in Goretty’s family have recovered and are back to looking after children at the Foundation. The other good news is that the expected CBM aid came through. In all, 150 pastors’ families received aid: 15 for funeral expenses, 65 for medications, 70 with food supplies. Our aid won’t pay for all expenses, but does let pastors’ families know we care, and helps a bit. Another 120 families associated with the Casa de la Amistad, the Jireh Project, and the Chagas project also received similar aid.
There They Go—Discipleship Training
A fourth wave of Covid is expected in Bolivia, but for a time they’ve had a bit of a reprieve. In that reprieve, they got busy. From August through October, Lourdes Salazar, my acting administrator, organized five in-person training events. I was somewhat reticent about those plans, but I’ve been quite proud of how they conducted those events, applying good biosecurity measures—social distancing, wearing masks, and even shields at times. The events have been a huge success. About 30 pastors and leaders were involved in the training event in La Paz, 25 in Oruro, 22 in Huanuni. Events were also held in Yacuiba and Cochabamba. As a result, 12 new groups have been formed. We’ve also seen an increase in attendance at the bi-weekly Zoom training events. Other events are planned, but temporarily on hold, as a fourth wave of Covid is threatening.
Here We Go—New Title, Role, Places
The final bit of news is not necessarily the least important. In the last year and a half, we’ve learned that it is possible to work from home, it is possible to stay connected to people via Zoom and to participate in and conduct training events. We’ve also been affected directly by Covid as our daughter continues to struggle with long-haul Covid symptoms. We have seen the threat from Covid continue in Bolivia. CBM has hired a new National Field Staff for Central America and the Carribean—Byron Velásquez.
Taking all of the above into consideration, CBM has modified our roles and given me a nice new long title—Latin America, Discipleship and Theological Education Specialist. What does this mean? It means that we will be based out of our home in Calgary. Our focus will still be on Bolivia for 60% of our time, but 20% of my (Bill’s) focus will be on new initiatives in Central America and the Caribbean, and 20% of my time will involve communication with churches in Canada, special interest groups, etc. I’m already enjoying working with Byron in Marketplace Ministries training and setting up a new Pastoring of Pastors group in Guatemala. We should have more to report in our next update.
Praise and Prayer.
- Health. Bolivia has been at the bottom of a wave of Covid cases, but numbers seem to be rising. Pray that people will continue to take precautions. Pray for perseverance as new waves of infection keep coming and as vaccines roll out too slowly at times—only 39% of the population have received one dose. Pray for hope as the end is still not in sight. Pray for God’s peace for those who have lost loved ones.
- Relations with Church Leadership. Keep praying for Pastor Lucio Arias as he leads the Bolivian Baptist Union (UBB) through the pandemic and beyond. He is very supportive of promoting the Discipleship and Pastoring of Pastors (DPP) in the UBB and participates in one of my weekly small groups. Pray for us as we consolidate a national leadership group that will oversee DPP for the UBB. Also, pray for me as I develop relations with church leaders in Central America and the Caribbean.
- Janice and Bill. Our daughter, Marigan, continues to struggle with long-haul Covid symptoms, but we all remain positive in our attitudes and faith. Pray for us as we make plans to go to Bolivia in February of 2022. Pray for health and safety. Pray for succession plans as Bolivians will need to take more leadership of DPP. Pray that people in Bolivia will understand. Pray that supporting churches and individuals in Canada will understand changes happening in our roles, home base, focus, etc. So far, we have only had positive feedback. Thank you so much for your continued support!
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