Samaipata is a small town near the city of Santa Cruz, in the Bolivian foothills of the Andes Mountains. The area is known for its Inca ruins and as a legendary hiding place for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This scenic town recently served as a site for theological famine relief and leadership training.
For those in the affluent West, it’s hard to imagine the lean state of the Bolivian pastor or Bible teacher. Their country is in a difficult situation, with an increasingly growing gap between poor and rich. Landlocked Bolivia is one of the world's largest producers of Coca, used for medicine, tea, divination and cocaine. The plant is often the only source of income for poor farmers. Widespread poverty is coupled with a president who opposes free-trade, siding with communist Cuba and socialist Venezuela.
A Call for Help
Statistics show that approximately 16% of Bolivia’s population self-identifies as Evangelical. According to Rod Phillips, an American pastor with a heart for missions, theological resources for Evangelical leaders are slim.
Phillips is a teaching pastor at Gateway Bible Church, a young church plant in Castro Valley California. Although Pastor Phillips loves his calling, he also feels a responsibility to use his gifts and talents to help his brethren around the world. In the fall of 2012 he received a request he couldn’t ignore. Pastor Matias Mojica wrote: Brother Rod, would you please come to Bolivia and help train the pastors under my care to handle the word of God faithfully?
Phillips, who also loves training other pastors, called Randy Bachman, teaching pastor of Wellspring Bible Church in Waterford, Michigan. He suggested they combine their talents and efforts in behalf of Bolivian brothers and sisters in Christ. Nine months later, the two men led a team to Bolivia to conduct leadership training in Samaipata and Santa Cruz.
Teacher Training in Bolivia
Bolivian church leaders travelled through mountain villages on buses, bicycles, and even on foot, to make their way to Samaipata, where Pastors Phillips and Bachman held their first workshop, titled Preaching from the Gospel of Mark. The event attracted women too, teachers of Sunday-school and Bible studies who came hungry to learn how to better teach God's word.
The American team brought along books for the Bolivian leaders. The copies of R. C. Sproul's Now, That's a Good Question were supplied by Packing Hope, a project of The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach (TGC-IO).
“Solid, gospel-centered resources are hard to come by; and these brothers and sisters took their books eagerly and with joy,” Phillips said. “This resource will be a stable counsel for many who don’t have a concordance, a commentary or even an e-mail account.”
At Bible Baptist Church in Santa Cruz, the team held another seminar for 25 pastors and Christian workers. They gathered together, listening, engaging in questions, and working through passages from the book of Mark. This group also walked away with a copy of Sproul’s book.
Sharing Resources to Serve the Global Church
Many in North America have grown accustomed to big churches with big budgets and trained staff. But Pastors Phillips and Bachman show by their example that even small churches with small resources can work together to serve the global church.
The saints in Bolivia are hungry to learn in order to teach well—with rigor and faithfulness. Pastor Phillips reports that as much as they appreciated the books, they begged for more time in training.
“These brothers and sisters need encouragement, training and resources. Praise God we were able to be a part of that process. And yes, we are planning to return next year to continue the work.”
By God’s grace and the generosity of those aware of the global needs of the body of Christ, TGC-IO can partner with church and mission groups to feed the theologically hungry. All over the world.