World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) project strengthens communication rights in Bolivia
A two-year project coordinated by the WACC used communication and information rights to help two historically marginalized groups — indigenous peoples and the disabled — access social services.
Bolivian Youth Confront Their Realities in Relation to Water and the Environment
The “Water School” developed by the Bolivian Joining Hands network encourages youth to protest the degradation and contamination of water resources…
Read a letter from Sarah Henken about women in the church in Bolivia
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is present in Bolivia primarily through the Joining Hands (JH) program of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, which is funded largely through the One Great Hour of Sharing. The JH network in Bolivia, UMAVIDA, connects Presbyterians from the United States with communities in Bolivia to fight the root causes of hunger and poverty and to promote fullness of life for all. Mission personnel serve with UMAVIDA as facilitators for our work together.
Read a brief history of Bolivia.
Independent Presbyterian Church in Bolivia (IPIB)
The PC(USA)’s partner church in Bolivia is the Independent Presbyterian Church in Bolivia (IPIB). This small and determined denomination was born in 2004 when a group felt compelled to split from a larger Presbyterian denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Bolivia, or IEPB. The IEPB was formed by Korean Presbyterian missionaries who began working with the Aymara people in 1982.
Due to conflicts with the Korean missionaries, a group of pastors and members left the IEPB and formed the Independent Presbyterian Church in Bolivia. The dream of the IPIB founders was to be a truly Bolivian church and to engage in the quest for justice and peace for indigenous Bolivians.
Through partnerships, scholarships and financial support, the PC(USA) has been in solidarity with the nascent Independent Presbyterian Church in Bolivia in its quest to become an independent and authentically Bolivian church—self-sustaining, self-propagating and self-governing.
One of the IPIB’s goals is to prepare pastors and leaders for church growth. In the city of La Paz sermons are in Aymara and Spanish. In Cochabamba, they are in Quechua and Spanish. The IPIB is committed to ecumenism and works fraternally with the Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL) and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).
UMAVIDA (Uniendo Manos por la Vida)
The focus of PC(USA) ministry in Bolivia is through the Joining Hands (JH) network, an initiative of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Besides the Joining Hands network in Bolivia, there are JH networks in seven other countries. In each case, the PC(USA) appoints a facilitator to work with the network. The aim of the program is to build bridges of solidarity between the network and PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries. The networks are made up of churches and grassroots community groups. They share a commitment to fight against the root causes of hunger and the search for alternative economic activities that promote human dignity and self-sufficiency.
The name the Bolivia network chose reflects their positive approach and the value they place on life. It’s called UMAVIDA (Uniendo Manos por la Vida), which means “Joining Hands for Life.” UMAVIDA has nine member organizations and others in the process of joining, four of which are national churches, including the IPIB.
The PC(USA) presbyteries of San Francisco, Newark and Cascades are partners with UMAVIDA and have learned much about the realities of Bolivia. The Rev. Brad Kent and Alegria Kent were interim partnership facilitators (January–June 2009). They built on the work of mission co-workers Bob and Julie Dunsmore (2005–2008), who in turn built on the work of Susan Ellison (2001–2005). Chenoa Stock, who recently served in Sri Lanka in a similar position, has been appointed in 2010 as partnershp faciitator.
UMAVIDA has chosen to focus its work on fair trade, gender equality, environmental issues, and democracy and citizenship. PC(USA) churches have presented overtures to the General Assembly on fair trade agreements, have prayed and lobbied for clean drinking water in Bolivia, and have supported joint strategies with indigenous artisans.