Mennonite mission presence in Bolivia grew directly out of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) involvement in Sunday schools and other spiritual ministries and MCC's request for specialized help. Prior to 1971 special visits by Nelson Litwiller, Frank Byler, and Argentine Mennonite youth workers augmented the MCC contribution. Those involved concurred in the MCC request for longer term mission personnel.
In 1971 Jose and Soledad Godoy arrived. They were supported conjointly by the Argentine Mennonite Conference (Iglesia Evangélica Menonita), Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church) and the Commission on Overseas Mission (General Conference Mennonite). Between 1971 and 1975 they worked primarily in evangelization in eight different rural communities from their base in Tres Palmas Mennonite colony: Itapaque, Los Tajibos, Cosorió, El Vi, Las Gamas, Zafranilla, La Cruceña, and Don Lorenzo. All of these communities had had MCC workers living in them previously.
From 1975 to 1982 the work of the mission focused primarily on discipleship. In five of the communities in which Godoys worked, leaders were identified and discipleship courses were offered to help them grow in their spiritual understandings. Groundwork for several congregations in the greater Santa Cruz area (767,000 population) also began.
From 1982 to 1987 the work consolidated more and moved more specifically to leadership training in four established congregations. The other communities in which contacts had been made earlier were dropped due to disinterest or the work was assumed by other groups or consolidation. Leadership teams became the backbones for the following congregations: Las Gamas, Los Tajibos, San Julian/Don Lorenzo, and Santa Cruz. Training efforts included theological education by extension and much counseling during weekly visits. Special weekend seminars were held three to four times per year on selected topics. Approximately one-third of the leaders have been women. Young people are beginning to complete high school and several have attended seminaries of other denominations.
In 1986 Leonidas Saucedo, a leader in the Santa Cruz congregation, was elected chairperson of the Administrative Board—a position held by North Americans until that time. Las Gamas has had a church building since 1976. The other three congregations were involved in meetinghouse construction during 1986. In 2003 there were seven congregations with 500 members. In 1988 the conference was known as Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Boliviana (Bolivian Evangelical Mennonite Church).
A joint church planting and development project was started in 1984 by MCC and the two North American mission boards. It is located in semi-rural outskirts of Santa Cruz in the neighborhood known as Heroes del Chaco. In 1986 approximately 40-50 people attended services regularly.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 56.
Mennonite World Conference. "MWC - 2003 Caribbean, Central & South America Mennonite & Brethren in Christ Churches." Accessed 21 February 2006. <http://www.mwc-cmm.org/Directory/carcsam.html>.
Cite This Article
Mumaw, Gerald. "Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Boliviana." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 18 Apr 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Iglesia_Evang%C3%A9lica_Menonita_Boliviana&oldid=88162.
Mumaw, Gerald. (1987). Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Boliviana. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 April 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Iglesia_Evang%C3%A9lica_Menonita_Boliviana&oldid=88162.
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